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NICHOLAS, DUKE OF NOMADS
SYMBOLISM: Craftiness, ambition, facial tattoos
When reversed, do NOT give money to panhandlers today. When upright, today is a good day to look for treasure in the usual locations, particularly Hot Topic and your favorite hobby shop, but NOT used bookstores; to a Nomad, a book is something you use to level a table with one short leg.
QUOTE: "I have something in which you may be interested..."
PIFFLE, FOOL OF DRAGONLORDS
SYMBOLISM: Humor, fun, sheltered idiocy
When reversed, do NOT get into arguments online, and stay away from the comments sections. When upright, it's a good day to do something fun, but as always, avoid teh stoopidz unless you have a higher level of protection than most of us, who are bogged down with consequences.
QUOTE: "I say, I say, I say!"
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...
“Well, there’s no such thing as cowboys,” the child said. “They’re imaginary, they’re in movies and TV and stuff. They’re not real. Like Santa Claus and dinosaurs.”
The conversation between the sixth graders had been about Halloween costumes, and whether or not Li’l Shannon could reasonably go as a cowboy. Not a cowgirl; a cowboy. Jeans, boots, and so on. She seemed to feel that cowboys were cool, whereas cowgirls were lame, and where does one find pink jeans and pink Stetson, anyway? And Josh blew it all out of the water with “I don’t believe in cowboys. They aren’t real.”
And it was at this point where I had to ask, “Josh, what makes you think cowboys aren’t real? I grew up in deep south Texas. I knew lots of cowboys. Who do you think raises the cattle that go to make your hamburgers?”
“Well,” said Josh, a little taken aback, “There USED to be cowboys, sure. But now all that is automated, and stuff.”
I had a bizarre vision, out of nowhere, of robot cowboys riding motorcyles, herding cattle, and squealing ‘yee haw’ in electronic voices.
“So... you’re honestly telling me to my face that you believe that cowboys are extinct?”
He looked troubled. Contradicting one’s teachers isn’t normally standard procedure for sixth graders, but he felt like he needed to stand up for his belief system. “Well, I said there USED to be cowboys,” he said. “I mean, someone had to fight the Indians*, and fight at the Alamo**, like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, and all that. But now, there’s just people who dress UP like cowboys. They don’t carry six shooters, they don’t ride horses, and they don’t have anything to do with cows. Nowadays, it’s all about being in movies about old timey days, back in cowboy times. There aren’t any cowboys NOW. It’s like dinosaurs, you know? We know there USED to be tyrannosaurs, but now they’re only in MOVIES. Y’know? Like private detectives.”
I may have stood there with my mouth open. Admittedly, I can’t say I knew any private detectives in high school, but...
“Um... Josh,” I began, as gently as I could. “Cowboys exist. So do private investigators. Look up PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR in the Yellow Pages, and--”
“Yellow what?” he said, confused. Errrgh. Okay, I stepped into that one. Sigh.
“Josh, you live in Colorado. Colorado has mountains at one end, and plains on the other. Those plains are full of farms and ranches. The ranches are infested with cattle. You’ve seen them, every road trip you ever took. Who do you think looks after those cattle? And you can hire a private investigator any time.”
“Well, that’s just silly,” said Josh, indignant. “Why would you HIRE a detective when you can just call the cops for FREE? Private detectives aren’t REAL, they’re just in TV shows and movies. Like cowboys. Or dragons. It’s all PRETEND. You dress UP as one, you can’t really BE one. And cattle are domesticated, these days. You just CALL them, right?”
I had yet another unbidden vision of a rancher blowing a whistle, and the cattle queuing up neatly to jump into a meat grinder. He was so durn sure of himself. Howthehell do you explain the truth to a child who’s quite sure you’re wrong? I know that insurance companies employ hordes of private investigators to check insurance fraud, even if they don’t look like Tom Selleck or Humphrey Bogart, I know you can hire a PI to see if your spouse is cheating on you and get photos for the divorce lawyer, and I went to HIGH SCHOOL with cowboys, fa potato’s sake, but how do you explain all this to a SIXTH GRADER--
He smiled at me. “Look,” he said. “I appreciate you want to help preserve my sense of childish wonder. My parents felt the same way about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But it’s okay. I’m grown up***, now. And you have to let go of your childish dreams sometime.”
And that was how I witnessed the Twilight Of The Cowboys, right there in the sixth grade...
*Actually, cowboys did not often fight Indians. Usually only on long trail drives, and even then, they’d rather negotiate than try to fight anyone while trying to keep a herd of skittish cattle from stampeding.
**I do not know how many cowboys fought at the Battle of the Alamo. I do know that neither Sam Houston nor Davy Crockett were cowboys. Sam Houston, in fact, grew up among the Cherokee Indians, and was not at the actual battle... and Crockett was a woodsman and bear hunter who later held a seat in Congress. And while cowboys and Congressmen do have some things in common, they are far from the same thing.
***Don’t talk to ME about grown up, ya little broccoli, with half your education still in front of you, and just WAIT till puberty gets involved...
****Did I mention that this child plays Dungeons and Dragons? But still doesn't believe in cowboys?
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.
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...
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.”
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?
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