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You don't know how proud this makes me of my own children...

 

If you only had a video of this to send to that boy's children when they are in sixth grade.  But then said future-child will probably not know what a video was...

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Well, I can sort of understand. Kid lives in Highlands Ranch, a southern suburb of Denver, where one might well think that poor people don't exist, much less cowboys... although I will admit that his disbelief in private detectives was a bit of a stretch. Turns out his grandmother loves old reruns of shows like Rockford Files and stuff, and the kid got it into his head that PIs were a thing of the ancient and lost 1970s...

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I had a similar experience with friends north of the border, adults mind you, who believed that everyone in Texas wore spurs and a hat, and rode horses everywhere. 

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9 minutes ago, Inarah said:

I had a similar experience with friends north of the border, adults mind you, who believed that everyone in Texas wore spurs and a hat, and rode horses everywhere. 

 

Wait...they don't???

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 Clearly, the child is going to grow up to be a Flat Earther who believes we faked the moon landing...

 

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Believe it or not, the Yellow Pages are still around - one gets delivered to my apartment door once every couple years, though I can't remember the last time I've ever actually used it, and I have to imagine its days are numbered.

 

I was told several years ago that when children outside the U.S. are told to draw pictures of Americans, the picture usually looks like a cowboy... I don't know how true that ever was or if it's still true, but I kind of like to imagine that most folks think "cowboys!" when they hear "American"....

 

My brother emigrated from the U.S. to Canada; his office does a sort of "ethnic pride" thing where the multicultural workforce are encouraged to dress like their traditional culture and bring traditional food for a potluck lunch.  My brother wondered "how do you dress up like a 'traditional American'?, and decided to dress like a cowboy and bring a pot of pinto beans and cornbread... the whole thing apparently went over really well, with the folks from around the world instantly recognizing the cowboy boots + jeans + belt with giant buckle + country/western shirt + cowboy hat costume, and getting very excited about it, asking many questions and getting pictures with him and the works.

 

It's not something I think about often, but as charming as Dr.Bedlam's daydream about robots on motorcycles rounding up domesticated cattle with cattle-whistles so they line up and jump in a grinder one-by-one is, it's kind of reassuring to know there are still professional cowboys out there in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere (my sister-in-law is related to a couple professional Canadian cowboys!)   It's kind of sad to think about how much of the food production industry has become more like factories, than traditional farms and ranches, and for some reason knowing that there are still cowboys out there does lend things a human touch.

 

I wonder if it's possible to take those know-it-all sixth-graders on "career day" field trips to visit a working ranch and private investigator's office to meet real professional cowboys, private investigators, and such in person and ask them about their jobs?  Or perhaps invite some professional cowboys or private investigators to speak at the schools?  (At least, back in my day, we had a "career day" thing at school where professionals would stop by and talk about what they do and answer kids' questions... it was actually kind of cool; I remember the undertakers' presentation vividly!)

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11 minutes ago, YronimosW said:

Believe it or not, the Yellow Pages are still around - ....

 

It's true. We got ours yesterday.

 

"The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! The new phone book's ...

 

*Plonk*

 

"... in the trash."

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My daughter didn't believe in lightning for a while in preschool, she figured it was all Photoshop.  :rolleyes: The problem with teaching kids skepticism is that they will apply it in ways you don't anticipate.  

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1 hour ago, Inarah said:

I had a similar experience with friends north of the border, adults mind you, who believed that everyone in Texas wore spurs and a hat, and rode horses everywhere. 

Imagine my shock the first time I went to ReaperCon, and found that Dallas was not in the middle of a desert with cactuses everywhere. Lots more trees than expected.

 

I never watched the TV show "Dallas" when I was young (aside from the opening credits), so the subtleties of the environment escaped me.

 

5 minutes ago, Doug Sundseth said:

It's true. We got ours yesterday.

 

"The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! The new phone book's ...

 

*Plonk*

 

"... in the recycling bin."

FTFY. Let's be civilized after all.

 

They still find use in propping up a table or a shelf.

 

4 minutes ago, LittleBluberry said:

My daughter didn't believe in lightning for a while in preschool, she figured it was all Photoshop.  :rolleyes:The problem with teaching kids skepticism is that they will apply it in ways you don't anticipate.  

It's part of what makes children so disturbingly amazing sometimes. They don't have the life experience to know what can or cannot exist. It's the same reason why children are sometimes the hardest to impress with magic tricks, they just accept everything they see as a Real ThingTM.

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Just now, Cranky Dog said:
18 minutes ago, Doug Sundseth said:

It's true. We got ours yesterday.

 

"The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! The new phone book's ...

 

*Plonk*

 

"... in the recycling bin. trash"

FTFY. Let's be civilized after all.

 

No. There is no value to putting paper (a completely renewable resource) into any sort of recycling stream. Which is why nobody will pay you to do it.

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1 hour ago, Doug Sundseth said:

 

It's true. We got ours yesterday.

 

"The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! The new phone book's ...

 

*Plonk*

 

"... in the trash."

 

Hey, the yellow pages have an important purpose. 

 

I sometimes used them as booster seats during flying lessons so that I could reach the pedals. 

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I find they are much more useful as fire starters when I need to get the smoker going.  F- FR is going to be some pretty sweet brisket....

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    • By Dr.Bedlam
      The last time I felt like God was back around 1984, ‘85, or so.
       
      I was working for the news department in the campus radio station. On my first day, they showed me the Zombie Wire, the AP ticker where periodically, a bell would ring and the teletype would begin spitting out copy. My job was to rewrite the copy into short lucid bursts suitable for the news reader to read live on the air. One bell meant a standard news feed. Two bells, something important; a Presidential speech, a bank robbery, something. If TWELVE bells were heard, at an odd time, it was something of TRANSCENDENTAL importance, World War III, or something.
       
      Whole time I worked there? Never more than two bells.
       
      But that semester, they’d installed a new toy: the AP Newsfeed. It ran off this “Internet” thing, a continuous signal, through the phone lines via a dedicated modem at a lightning fast 56k, into a green CRT monitor at the news desk. Since I was usually the only person in the office, I got to monkeying with it one afternoon in an idle moment.
       
      And it utterly shocked me to my core.
       
      I quickly learned how to sweep various AP outlets in various locations, various countries, EVERY major city on the planet, and I realized I could access NEWS, in REAL TIME... everywhere.
       
      This was a jolt. CNN existed by then, but it was a rather new thing, and simply rebroadcast the news every half hour, with any fresh happenings plugged in. Most people still got daily newspapers, or just watched the Six O’Clock News on their local stations. But I could access the soccer scores in Nice, France, examine police blotters in Barcelona, Glasgow, and Zurich, and get neighborhood reports from Nairobi, with nothing less than fifteen minutes old, if I wished it. Anything on THIS side of the iron curtain? I could know it in seconds. All as fast as it took me to read that little eye murdering green CRT screen.

      No one... ANYWHERE... was as well informed as I was. Except the other newsmen, sifting the AP feed for copy for their next broadcast. The entire PLANET was under MY SCRUTINY, for as long as I cared to WATCH it!
       
      No graphics, no video, just text. But I still felt like God.
       
      Today, I have color, high resolution, video, audio, and the iron curtain ain’t there any more.
       
      And nowadays, I feel more ill informed than ever...

    • By Dr.Bedlam
      I died fairly quickly, that spring of '83. I was, to my shame, only the second to fall.

      *******************************************************

      It was the sort of thing that wouldn't be tolerated these days. NOWADAYS, you see some yahoo running around on the quad with a gun, someone calls 911 and before you know it, you have the cops, the NSA, and Homeland Security on the scene.

      Back then, it was just another day as a dorm rat.

      The game was called "KILLER." And it didn't involve real guns, of course. Back then, we didn't even have paintball guns. It was played with water pistols, toy dart guns, and suchlike. And more. The rules were well suited to bored college students, fresh out of high school and drunk on their newfound freedom: hunt down your buddy and kill him.

      We, the third floor of Butler Hall, west wing, Men's Section, met in the TV room to sign the Compact and draw names. The Compact indicated that we, the undersigned, had read the rules and acknowledged them. Copies were provided for all contestants.

      1. To play, five bucks is put in the kitty by each player. The last survivor claims the total.

      2. Players will draw a name from the hat. The name is your victim. If you successfully kill your victim, he must give you HIS slip of paper, and that becomes your NEW victim. And so on. There Can Be Only One Survivor.

      3. The following places are off limits: the third floor day room, your personal dorm room, and classrooms. Anywhere else, you're fair game.

      4. Assassination methods must be methods that would work in the real world, but are UTTERLY HARMLESS in reality. A hit with a dart gun or water pistol to the torso is assumed to be lethal. For safety's sake, do avoid head shots with dart pistols. Other assassination methods are allowable as long as they are more or less reasonable (and harmless in reality). Water balloons, for example, may be considered "grenades," but observe Rule #5. Particularly esoteric murder weapons must be labeled in some way, for the comprehension of the victim, where necessary.

      5. A gentleman assassin does not inflict collateral damage. If a bystander is splattered, hit, or otherwise "harmed or killed," the assassination shall be considered invalid, and the intended victim gets a pass.

      There were twelve of us, that day. And we solemnly put the money in the kitty, drew our slips of paper, and signed the articles. And the game began.

      *********************************************

      Rocket Boy, surprisingly, was the first to fall. Wild Man nailed him with a water pistol as he left his room that Monday to go to class. Everyone expected Rocket to last a while; he was a very clever fellow, and we had discussed much about weapons, ballistics, and range the previous day.

      Most toy weapons of that time were pretty limited. Water pistols had an effective range of no more than maybe ten or fifteen feet; dart pistols even less, with their little springs and suction-cup darts. You had to get CLOSE to your victim. Bobo had a rubber dagger he kept on his person at all times; he swore that whoever got HIM was going down WITH him.

      Super Soakers? Pffft. Not invented yet. We didn't even have those battery powered squirt guns that would become so popular in the mid to late eighties, and Nerf guns weren't even a dream. We were primitive, savage murder creatures. And our time had come.

      **********************************************

      I was the next to go, I'm ashamed to say. I was headed to a class that afternoon, when I felt the kiss of cold water on the back of my neck. I spun around to see the Creature grinning at me, holding a clear orange plastic .45. BUGGER! I was a gentleman, though, and gave him the name of my intended victim. I hadn't even got around to killing anyone yet...

      The Creature, however, did not enjoy his victory long. As he returned to the dorm that afternoon, and approached the side door, a pillow landed on his head. Confused, he picked up the pillow. Taped to it was a sheet of notebook paper, upon which was printed: BABY GRAND PIANO. CRASH. YOU DEAD.

      He looked up. Grinning at him from a fourth floor window was Wild Man.

      A meeting was called; the Creature bitterly complained that there was no way in hell that, realistically, one man could drag a grand piano over and throw it out a three foot by three foot window. He was overruled. The assassination had been legal, and NO one was willing to put anything past Wild Man.

      Wild Man was called Wild Man for a reason. He had earned the name by being the first one in the water, no matter what. Zorro had hung it on him when Wild Man had flung himself off a cliff into the river at Five Mile Dam... without bothering to find out how deep the water was, first. (It was, in fact, more than deep enough, but most of us would have checked before making a thirty foot drop). The same week, he'd done the same thing at Pepper's At The Falls, diving headfirst off the waterfall into the river below. Rocket Boy was sure he wouldn't live to graduate.

      If any of us could stuff a baby grand piano out a three foot window, it would certainly be Wild Man.

      ************************************************

      Tuesday was a cruel day.

      Zorro took out the Dewy Eyed Wonder with his trusty Star Trek Tracer Gun, a toy that shot plastic discs and looked nothing like anything ever seen on the TV show (although it did have a picture of Mr. Spock on it); Zorro loved it because it was quiet and surprisingly accurate within thirty feet or so, assuming you were using it indoors; breezes tended to send the little frisbee discs wide. Zorro would later learn to use this to his advantage, claiming he could shoot around corners if the wind was right, but I digress.

      Mr. Zulu fell victim to his own weapon; he tried to supercharge a water pistol using a CO2 cartridge haphazardly affixed to the water port, and the cheap plastic toy had simply exploded. A meeting was called, and Mr. Zulu was declared to not be dead, since the rules did not allow for death by misadventure. He celebrated by going and shooting Izod in the face as he came out of the dining hall.

      Izod had made his mark, however, as earlier in the day, he had killed the Prepster with a concealed dart pistol; the Prepster had been eyeing a jogging pretty in a tube top, and had foolishly allowed his assassin to get way too close.

      Bobo was on his way to class when his backpack had begun making a metallic clattering sound; he stopped and opened the pack to find an old fashioned windup alarm clock in it... going off like mad. Taped across the face was a scrap of duct tape, bearing the magic markered words: BOMB THAT COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE TRACED TO WILD MAN,

      At the same meeting that exonerated Mr. Zulu, Bobo lost his appeal; he argued that the bomb COULD have gone off in CLASS, but it had not; the group agreed that that was kind of the point of using a clock as a timer, wasn't it? It had gone off in the hall, ten minutes BEFORE class, and Bobo was therefore, theoretically, a wet red mist. He argued that a bomb in the hallway could have claimed other victims; Wild Man cheerfully pointed out that no one else had BEEN in the hall ten minutes before class... and provided a polaroid picture to prove it. In the picture, Bobo was opening his backpack... alone in the hall.

      Wild Man had gone from being a lovable loony to being someone to watch.

      ********************************************************

      No one died on Wednesday. This is because everyone had taken the concept of "paranoia" to a high art form.

      At one point, I saw the Troll enter the main hallway on the third floor where our rooms were by doing a tuck and roll out of the stairwell, ended by leaping to his feet with a water pistol in either hand.

      Wild Man had taken to carrying a net bag hung on his belt. In it were three brightly colored water balloons, each neatly magic markered with the word GRENADE. He said he could throw further than any water pistol or dart gun ever made, and his enemies had best beware.

      Mr. Zulu called a meeting; someone had put a rubber scorpion in his sock drawer bearing a little paper sign reading STING! YOUR DEAD. The committee reminded the assassin (Tom Slick) that one's own dorm room was considered off limits for assassinations, and therefore Mr. Zulu was, again, declared to be alive and still in the game. They then declared the method quite clever and otherwise legal, although a separate decree condemning Tom's spelling and grammar was also accepted by the committee.

      Mr. Zulu celebrated his second close shave by attempting to kill Zorro, who outran him on the quad and therefore survived. "Durnit," Mr. Zulu was later heard to say, "it woulda worked if I coulda got the CO2 cartridge thing working. Guns got no RANGE!"

      *********************************************************

      Thursday was filled with tension. Wild Man simply barricaded himself in his room and refused to come out for classes.

      Zorro survived close brushes with the disappointed Mr. Zulu and Tom Slick, and commented at length later about how he couldn't sleep or focus on anything for fear someone was going to come climbing in a window with a rubber dagger in his teeth or something.

      The Troll was sitting at the Student Union, trying to study while glancing up every few minutes to make sure none of his dorm mates was anywhere near him. No one was ANYWHERE near him, except for four guys he didn't recognize at the next table.

      ...one of whom suddenly said, "I leap to my feet and seize the Troll!"

      The second said, "I grab his gun arm! He can't reach his weapons!"

      The third said, "I grab his legs! We drag him out of the chair!"

      The fourth said, "And I grab his torso! Over to the window! CRASH! Down he goes, ten floors to the pavement!"

      ...a meeting was called. Troll complained bitterly about how he'd never had a chance, and that no one had informed him that hirelings could be used for assassination. Wild Man, grinning like an orgasmic shark, simply said that there were no rules against hiring henchmen, and that the murder had been carried out safely and harmlessly to bystanders.

      The committee reluctantly ruled in Wild Man's favor. Wild Man took his henchmen -- all Theatre majors -- out for beers in payment. Mr. Zulu later bitterly regretted not thinking to sneak down to Valentino's Pizza and shooting Wild Man in the face.

      *************************************************

      And Friday.

      Mr. Zulu and Tom Slick met and made a pact, I later heard. They'd reached the breaking point. They agreed that they would not murder each other until at least an hour after Wild Man had been dealt with; he was NOT going to claim the kitty, durnit!

      And they went to seek him out.

      On the whiteboard next to his door, the message: TED I AM IN THE GIRLS DAY ROOM FOR DAYS OF OUR LIVES

      Could it be? They conferred with one another. It was well known that Wild Man loved his soaps. Was he really dumb enough to watch TV over on the girls' side? That was NOT a protected area! Maybe he'd misunderstood and thought ALL the day rooms were safe zones...

      It bore checking out.

      They sneaked over to the third floor girls' side TV room. They glanced in the doorway.

      Wild Man sat alone, in the front couch, watching TV. The only thing that could be heard were the soft dialogue of a commercial, and the two or three fans running to cool the place. No one else was in the room.

      Golden opportunity. Mr. Zulu and Tom Slick entered the room, silently, guns in hand... and began to move towards the couch...

      And Wild Man abruptly spun in his seat and hurled a water balloon.

      And Mr. Zulu and Tom Slick dropped fast. They'd been expecting this. The balloon would sail over their heads and harmlessly into the hallway.

      ...if Wild Man had thrown it at them. He hadn't. He'd thrown it at the rotary fan next to the doorway. Which had had its safety cage removed, and been turned towards the doorway.

      BLAT! The balloon hit the blades, and its contents sprayed the entire area around the doorway.

      Exit Mr. Zulu and Tom Slick, dripping and fuming.

      Later discussion revealed the facts: Wild Man had turned the brightness down and wasn't watching the show; he was watching the reflections off the big glass screen. It'd been a trap all along. Zulu and Slick didn't even call a meeting to appeal.

      *******************************************************

      ...which brings us to Saturday.

      Wild Man was well ahead in the races. It was down to he and Zorro at this point. But Zorro was smart. Zorro was clever. And Zorro wouldn't go down without a fight. Wild Man had a half dozen plans in his mind to deal with Zorro.

      ...but Wild Man had a problem. His roommate. His roommate wasn't playing the game, and Wild Man had avoided the bathroom all week, thinking it to be just too good a place for an ambush. Wild Man hadn't bathed since last Sunday, and his roommate was threatening violent action. It was time to bathe, and then some.

      Wild Man planned it carefully. He took soap, towel, and shampoo to the main bathroom ... at 4:30 that Saturday morning. Who'd be up and mobile at 4:30 on a Saturday morning?

      But Wild Man took no chances. He had his net bag of balloon grenades, and a squirt gun for good measure. Plus, it was a bathroom. If his assassin happened to get some spray off the shower, who was to say Wild Man hadn't shot him? This could work out to his advantage...

      And Wild Man undressed with one hand... a grenade in the other. Just in case.

      And Wild Man stepped into the bathing area, and into one of the shower stalls, still holding a grenade in his left hand, and his pistol clamped in his teeth. Backwards.

      He reached behind him and turned on the water. URRRRRGH! COLD! ALL over his shivering back! Still, though, he faced OUTWARDS, not INTO the shower stall. If he fell, his wounds would be in FRONT!

      But as the water warmed... he began to relax. It was 4:40 in the morning, for potato's sake. Who'd try anything at this hour? And even if anyone did, he was ready for them!

      The water was hot, now, spraying across his back. Keeping his eyes open, he let it wash across the back of his head, wetting his hair. Ahhhhhhhhh. After a moment's thought, he put the pistol down, but kept the water balloon firmly in his left hand. He reached up to wash his face... and stopped.

      His hand was bright green. Green rivulets ran up his arm, and green water dripped off his elbow. What the &%$#@???

      He spun around. The water gushing from the shower head was rich emerald green. And so was most of Wild Man, at this point.

      He snatched up his gun and ran out into the main bathroom area, where the stalls, sinks and mirrors were. And written in lipstick across the mirrors were the words: SULFURIC ACID SHOWER. The words hadn't been there when he'd come in.

      ...and this is where I came in; I was comfortably asleep in my room when I heard the scream. I staggered out into the hallway, along with a few other worthies not so hung over that they couldn't respond, to see Wild Man erupt from the bathroom, stark naked, stained a bright and runny green from crown to foot, dripping more green in his wake, clutching a water pistol in one hand and a water balloon in the other, and screaming and cursing with such vehemence, volume, and richness to turn the AIR green in his wake.

      I would later find out that Zorro had assumed that Wild Man would use the shower stall furthest from the door; it provided the best view of anyone coming in. Zorro had then waited until quite late at night, when he was pretty sure no one was going to be washing up... brought a hefty container of powdered tempera paint, wetted it into a putty, and had unscrewed the big industrial shower head in that stall and had coated the inside of the shower head with the green putty. It wasn't blocking the water flow, but when the water turned warm, it dissolved the putty, turning it into green paint... and....

      I remember those big clunky old shower heads. There was room in there for a pound or more of powdered tempera paint.

      He never did tell us how he knew Wild Man would be using the shower bright and early that Saturday morning; it remains a mystery for the ages...
    • By Dr.Bedlam
      A feghoot is a subcategory of “joke” and “pun,” and is sort of a fusion of both.
       
      In the case of a standard “joke,” you tell a short story that leads up to a “punchline,” a twist that renders the preceding story funny. A “pun,” on the other hand, is a humorous play on words.
       
      A short joke, for example would be “I went to bed last night, and dreamed I was eating marshmallows. Then I woke up, and my pillow was gone.” A pun, on the other hand, would be, “I’m sick of bad chemistry jokes. Let’s barium.”
       
      A feghoot is both, with the added element that the recipient may or may not know that he is being TOLD a joke; feghoots tend to be considerably longer than ordinary jokes. The laughs come from (a) attempting to spot the clues and put the pieces together before you get to the punchline, or (b) being completely unaware of the joke until the punchline arrives, and it’s a blatant pun.
       
      A feghoot is NOT a shaggy dog story, because shaggy dog stories do not end with puns. A feghoot ALWAYS ends with a pun based on the information provided in the story. If it ends with a pun, it’s a feghoot. Length is arbitrary, but it tends to be longer than most jokes.
       
      TV comedy writer Mark Evanier, for example, told a story on his blog recently that qualifies, in which he mentions that a friend of his was the second lead in a stage production of “Sunset Boulevard,” and sent him a pair of complimentary tickets. Evanier decided to call up a woman he knew and ask if she wanted to go. The lady says, “The big production downtown, starring GLENN CLOSE?” Evanier said that this was so, and the woman broke all records getting to his place, and they went and saw the play and had a great time.
       
      A week later, another friend was visiting, and she sees the playbill on his coffee table. And in a frosty tone, she says “You went and saw Glenn Close without me?” in a voice that could shave the electrons off an atom. Evanier sheepishly admitted it, and the woman says, “You will get more tickets and take me to see Glenn Close.”
       
      Evanier tries to explain that he only had the two complimentary tickets, but the sharp woman is not having any, and thus Evanier has to call his friend and see if more tickets can be had, but he will gladly pay for these, yadda yadda, and tickets are found, and a date is made.
       
      And on the evening in question, our happy couple steps out to the theatre... but upon arrival, there seems to be a problem. People are angry. There are loud voices among the gowns and tuxes. The box office person is looking hunted. It seems that Glenn Close, for whatever reason, will not be appearing tonight; the role will be handled by her understudy, and the crowd is NOT happy about this. One man is shouting that he traveled halfway across the country to see Glenn Close, and now she’s not performing? Another is angry that he paid premium prices for the tickets, and now the main reason for doing so is gone.
       
      The theatre manager comes out and attempts to calm down the crowd, but they aren’t having any. He explains that he cannot FORCE Ms. Close to perform, but the crowd seems to think that he should.
       
      He offers to validate parking, free of charge, but that doesn’t accomplish much.
       
      And finally, in desperation, he whips out a pocket humidor and offers one particularly loud gentleman an expensive cigar.
       
      “I don’t WANT a &%#$& CIGAR!” shouts the angry man. “I want GLENN CLOSE!”
       
      And Evanier, standing nearby, shows the wit -- and wisdom -- that made him a TV comedy writer, and quips, “Cigar, but no Close.”
       
      *rimshot*
       
      If Evanier had ended the story here, it would be a classic example of a feghoot. As it is, the crowd didn’t think he was very funny, and he reports that had he and his date not done a fast fade, he might well have been the first person ever lynched over a bad pun...

      My personal supply of feghoots is limited. Anyone know any?
    • By Dr.Bedlam
      So I hear they're making another Star Trek television series. Apparently, they think this one is so good, people will pay to watch it, like HBO and Game Of Thrones. I have my doubts, but I haven't seen it, so what do I know?

      Star Trek has had several spinoff series of varying quality. I didn't expect to like Next Generation, but they lucked out with a combination of a cast that could do ANY durn thing (Patrick Stewart's one of the few actors I know of who can literally carry a one man show) and enough good scripts in the first two years to carry them past the bad ones (planet of the black people, anyone? How about the toga people who wanted to kill Wesley for stepping on flowers?)

      By the third season, though, the show really shone, and even its detractors had to admit it was some good television. So they decided to make ANOTHER one, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And, again, after an uneven first season, it did some mighty good episodes.

      ...and then they tried yet again with Star Trek Voyager... which... was less good. More uneven. I don't know what it is about TV executives thinking that people want to see people on a spaceship all lost somewhere in the universe. I don't WANT to be lost. I liked Star Trek because they KNEW where they were, and could go home ANY TIME THEY WANTED. But, no, the TV execs think I want to identify with people stuck a zillion miles from home. But I digress.

      ...and then they tried again with Star Trek: Enterprise. Which... well, they tried.

      And now they're trying again with another prequel series. And I just don't know. This "prequel series" thing presumes I want to know what led up to Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock and everyone. 

      And I was thinking about this when I saw that one episode of the original series where Captain Kirk gets shanghaiied by the glowy brains to be a gladiator. Remember that one? The glowy space brains that have tremendous cosmic power and can't think of anything to do with it except set up sporting matches and bet on the outcome? And Captain Kirk convinces them that setting everyone free and setting up a civilization would be more interesting than betting on sports?

      First saw that episode when I was, I think, ten. It was good enough when I was ten. Now, I just wonder what the hell Captain Kirk was thinking, handing a civilization over to a race of glowy space brains that couldn't think of anything better to do with amazing cosmic powers than bet on how American Gladiators is going to turn out today. What kind of civilization are THESE people going to set up?

      And then I thought about it: what if a Federation spaceship happens to come back some hundred years later? What kind of civilization DID they set up?

      And that's when it hit me: they wanna do a new Star Trek series? Everyone I talked to agreed that Enterprise stank, all the way up until they remembered all the OLD Star Trek stuff... the Gorn, the Tholians, the Mirror Universe... all that old stuff left over from when Shatner and Nimoy were on board.

      What happened to all the Thralls on the planet of the gambling-addicted space brains?
      What happened to the planet of the Space Gangsters?
      What happened to the planet of the Space Nazis?
      What happened to the planet of the Space Romans?
      What happened to the planet of the Space Children who were actually 200 years old?
      What happened to the planet of the Space Indians?
      What happened to the planet of the Space Hippies With The Big Pompadours who worshipped the Computer Snake Monster Cave Thing?
      What happened to all the space women that Captain Kirk had, um, diplomatic relations with?

      It occurred to me that Captain Kirk alone left enough weird floating around in space that a whole new Star Trek series could spend the first couple seasons just finding out what happened afterwards. Did any of these planets join the Federation afterwards? Is there a whole planet of people who look like six year old Clint Howard? More importantly, are there a zillion space babies out there who resemble William Shatner?

      And lastly, is this new series going to be more interesting than finding out what the Space Hippies with the Big Pompadours did?

       
    • By Dr.Bedlam
      I teach special education. And sometimes, I use Dungeons and Dragons.

      Why not? It's a great multifaceted tool and addresses a variety of core standards and diagnostic purposes.

      1. You HAVE to read and write in order to play. In particular, if you HAVE a thing, but it is NOT WRITTEN DOWN? You don't have it. I don't care if Odin himself showed up and handed you a zillion gold pieces and the Spear of Destiny, if it isn't written on your sheet? Didn't happen. And if I can't read your handwriting? Didn't happen. Be happy I don't make you put it down in complete sentences. There, see? Now you have a plus-three spear that comes back to your hand! Oh, and the wizard handed you a scroll! Here, here's the play aid. What? I dunno what it says, YOU'RE the one holding the scrap of paper I gave you! Better read it CAREFULLY, it might be important...

      2. Mental math. You want to know if your roll of 12 plus your +3 for strength can hit AC 16? Figure it out yourself. Afraid you'll get it wrong? Don't worry, I'll let you know... Hell, at some point, I mean to snakehip the James Bond Roleplaying Game to a more kid-friendly version; it uses a multiplication table to resolve skill checks, and it runs on percentile dice!

      3. Rewards. Did everyone get their day's work done? Did everyone earn all their points? How many of us had behavior incidents this week? What? We're all lookin' good? Well, who wants to play a game...? It helps that it's a game that requires teamwork, and it's a game EVERYONE CAN THEORETICALLY WIN, which means that one kid who always tantrums if he loses doesn't necessarily have something to go off about.
       
      4. Diagnostics. Roleplaying is nothing new to psychiatric work, but D&D is uniquely suited to creating immersive imaginary scenarios and seeing what a child will do in reaction. Example:
      "I slay the Orc! Does he have any treasure?" isn't uncommon.
      "I talk to the Orc, and tell him if he stands aside, we won't bother him!" is actually pretty healthy.
      "I slay the Orc! And then I keep stabbing him! And I laugh! And I stick an arrow up his nose!" may be indicative of some anger management issues.
      "I slay the Orc! And then I look for more orcs to kill! I don't care about treasure! Is there any more killing?" may be indicative of feelings of powerlessness or resentment towards someone.
      "I slay the Orc! And then I yank his pants down and saw off his..." may be indicative of issues I'll need to mention to the social workers.

      5. Interpersonal/social relationships. Y'know what? It's a helluva lot safer and easier to manage when two kids' characters get into a ruckus than when the two actual children start pummeling each other. Furthermore, I find that immersive roleplaying is a HELLACIOUS teambuilding exercise, and tends to reflexively teach problem solving and managing interpersonal issues. Sure, you get "If you don't give me your potion of healing, my next character will kill YOUR character!", but compared to some of the scrambles one encounters in elementary school, this is a walk in the park.

      6. Narrative Structure. There are children who just want to go find a monster that it's okay to maltreat. That's fine. Every generation has had its version of cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, whatever. But these kids are learning about genre, setting, characters, STOCK characters, protagonists, antagonists, and everything they'll need to know when it's TAUGHT to them... without even realizing it.

      So, yeah, D&D is a useful thing, the kids eat it up, and it gives us all something to look forward to at the end of the week. And I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

      ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************
      The Knight, the Warrior, the Ninja, the Cavalier, and the Wizard* have been wandering in the woods for three days. They have gotten good and lost by their own efforts and lack of forethought, and they are now beginning to regret the decisions that led them there. They defeated their enemies in the Red Caverns, but chose to force their way out a new exit rather than backtrack to the way they knew, and are now not even sure which side of the mountains they are on, or how to get back to the Red Caverns. The Cavalier is fairly sure that the town is east, but none of them have any idea how to determine which way IS east.

      The Ranger would be a handy addition to the party right now -- as a sixth grader, he's the eldest, and knows how to track and find his way -- but since he blew off his math homework all week, he's busy catching up instead of enjoying Friday Fun. The group went hunting three days ago, and brought down a wild boar**, but since none of them have any idea how to preserve meat, the rations they didn't cook have gone a bit high. They have enough bacon and ham to feed the party for ONE more night... and after that, they will begin to find themselves a bit hungry.

      The party are all Minecraft veterans. They know quite well what happens when your character starts getting... hungry. And so they're on the lookout for food.

      The lack of the Ranger is keenly felt. Precisely what constitutes wild food? The group has been checking the trees of the forest; none seem to be fruit bearing trees. No apples or pears. Vegetable trees seem short as well; not a single potato tree, carrot bush, or Twizzler flower can be found. The Cavalier seems certain that some varieties of tree can be eaten, but so far, all they've found are the regular wooden kind. Still, hope runs high, although a low level argument is simmering about whether strawberries are plants or animals.

      Abruptly, the DM begins rolling dice. The Knight warns everyone to stop cold; he is aware that this means SOMETHING, although the DM has refused to explain what. Low numbers on the D6 seem to indicate animals or monsters, and the DM has rolled a one. Then he rolled a D20, twice. "You are not surprised," the DM said.

      "Meat!" giggles the Knight. "I get an arrow ready. Is it a deer? Or a turkey?"

      "I hide in shadows," says the Ninja, rolling a stealth check. Successful.

      "Is there such a thing as a wild cow?" asks the Cavalier.

      "Cows could mean we're near a town," says the Warrior. "Or is it a buffalo?" 

      "If I throw burning oil on it, will the meat cook itself?" asks the Wizard.

      "Ew! That would make it taste horrible," said the Ninja. "Just use Burning Hands spell."

      "You are not surprised," continues the DM, "but neither is HE." He puts a miniature on the table. It is a hideous, warty green humanoid, easily three times the size of any of the players. It is a cruel, monstrous looking horror, all claws and fangs and warts, and it fairly sweats malevolence.

      The group, uncharacteristically, falls DEAD silent. What IS that thing? They've encountered ogres before, but they weren't this big... or this green.

      *beat of horrified silence*

      And then, the Ninja speaks in a small, solemn, eight year old voice: 

      "We are NOT eating THAT."

      And the game had to stop for a minute because the DM fell out of the chair laughing.



      *Three Fighters, a Rogue, and a Magic-user, highest level is fourth. Mentzner BECMI system.
      **It was only after finding out what they were eating that three of the group realized that "boar" is in fact "pig, aka pork." One of the group seemed to think that most breakfast foods came from pigs, and was disappointed that the boar did not also provide toast. The conversion of "dead pig" into "edible foods" was not covered in detail, although the entire group seemed to understand that smacking it with a sword did not simply result in a pork chop floating in midair, like in Minecraft. Education continues.

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