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Saturday, October 16, 2021

FAIR AND BALANCED

 There was a loud, “Achtung” and I heard a hand slap on a table. I had to check it out. Went in and who should be all outfitted with lederhosen and other accoutrements than C.W. in a perfect imitation of the WWII German Minister for Armaments and War Production Albert Speer. He was busily pounding my laptop.

“What the …?”

“Shhh, he said. “Have a paying job going on.”

“A what?”

“A paying assignment. For money. Just for writing a novel.” I heard a hum. "Mucho Dinero."

“A novel? Who’s paying you for writing a novel?”

“A state government. This,” he pointed at the computer,” will be required reading for every student in the state.”

“What state government would pay you to write a novel?”

“Not at liberty,” he said, “but tell me something.”

“What?”

“What would be a good name for a beautiful commandant of women at a Nurture Center for displaced war refugees during World War Two? She’s a little bit headstrong but well-intentioned and basically loving. The men all chase after her. The women there all adore her, except for the other commandants. They are jealous of her.”

“At what kind of center?”

“You know. Where they keep abandoned women until they are … until their families unite with them.”

“Where are these centers?”

“Mostly in Poland. Some in Germany.”

“And the centers are designed for care and protection?”

“Yes. Our heroine watches over her charges with the assistance of a portly, but kind-hearted assistant named Oma-Greta. She’s always telling our heroine ‘Nicht Richtig’ when our heroin does something untoward.” He grimaced. “Wait a moment,” he said. “My Galactic Universal Translator is acting up.”

I waited. In a moment, he said, “Nicht Richtig: That means ‘It isn’t acceptable,’ or ‘It’s not proper,’ or ….”

“Tain't Fittin’?”

“Yes,” he said. “How did you know what my GUT was telling me?”

“Guessed. Are you writing a novel about Nazi Germany?”

“We don’t call it that.”

“What do you call it?”

Gutemenschenland.”

“Do you know what that means?”

“The ones who hired me say it means ‘holy’ or ‘righteous’ depending on the context.

“What does your GUT tell you?”

“I haven’t consulted it yet. Anyway, sometimes my GUT misleads me.”

“Tell me,” I said. “How is this novel going to end?”

“Our heroine, I’m thinking of calling her Scharlachrot Harren, her boyfriend Rolf Spieler, and Oma-Greta lead all the inmates of the Nurture Center safely back to their homes amidst great rejoicing. There well be this grand scene at a trainyard where they all unite. And they all live happily ever after.”

“You’re not going to tell me who’s paying you to write this?”

He looked around as if to see if anyone was listening. “Let’s just say, in your parlance and between you and me, it’s from somewhere people are large with cash but a little lacking on other things.”

Friday, October 15, 2021

PRIORITIES

 The Alien C.W. doesn’t use profanity often, but I swear I heard him growling “What the [something] from my office/music room. I went in to see.

There he was, shaped like a confederate army officer or some such getup. I stared.

“Hello Big Dope,” he said.

“Morning, What’s up?

“Shtoopdbool++scheat”

“Say what?”

His Galactic Universal Translator hummed.

“Communal insanity.” He glared at my computer screen.

“What’s your GUT telling you?”

“Have you seen this?” He pointed at the screen.

“What?”

“All three of your so-called major news outlets.”

I sipped my coffee. “What?”

“The widows and orphans of my homeland weep.”

“Why?”

“Our fatherland falls, and nobody cares.”

“Elucidate.” He hates that word.

“Would you care to know what the major news of your species is today?”

“Of course.”

“Would you think starvation of our abandoned families?”

“Maybe.”

“Alas no. Those in our ruined cities facing homelessness?”

“Maybe.”

“Alas no. Our veterans coming home to a parched landscape?”

“Sounds possible.”

“Alas no.”

“What then?”

“A fat old washed-up actor flying a wee bit above the ground.”

“A wee bit? What the …?”

“I learned that term somewhere. Has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say?”

“So, what did this, uh, actor do?”

“Some rich man flew him into the air a negligible distance.”

It dawned on me. “A negligible distance? They called it going into space.”

He turned and shook his head at me. “I walked farther to get on my spaceship bringing me here than he went into space.”

“Did you make the newspapers back on Falloonia?”

He failed to see my humor. “Is your species totally incapable of ranking … .” his GUT hummed. “Prioritizing what is important?”

I thought. “Not incapable as much as not inclined.”

He sighed, turned of the computer, and said, “And you wonder why they call Earth a third-universe planet.”

Thursday, September 16, 2021

INVOLVEMENT

 The Alien C.W. was très upset. I could hear him from the next room.

“Shtoo++pitdazoles+,” he said, loud enough to be heard outside. I walked in and found him shaped much like a middle-aged Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Say what?”

“Foul increment,” he practically screamed it at me.

“Bitte?”

“Listen to my GUT,” he said. I heard his Galactic Universal Translator begin to hum.

“Never mind,” I said. “I think I get the picture.”

“What is it with your species?” he said, aiming the question at me like he thought I might answer.

“¿Qué?” I like to screw with him when he gets like this.

“What does it mean,” he said, “when one of your leaders talks about waging a war with ‘no boots on the ground’ in some foreign country peopled by your own species.”

“It refers to using war to settle international differences with another country without actually having our military personnel involved in that country, so to speak.”

His GUT hummed and he listened. “And how is this accomplished?”

“Remotely,” I said. “We can send planes from ships and unmanned drones from Iowa, wiping them out like cleaning a windshield.”

“To settle differences?”

“Yes.”

“And if that doesn’t work?”

“Then we send troops.”

“And who comprises these troops? Do they hunt down individuals to conduct these ‘boots on the ground’ operations?”

“Uh, no. They rely on volunteers now.”

“Such as the children of the leaders?”

“Uh, no. Others.”

“Like you?” he said. “No, I remember now. You actually volunteered for war, didn’t you?”

“Kinda sorta.”

His Gut hummed. “Elucidate.”

“I reluctantly volunteered for what I thought would be an assignment that wouldn’t involve my boots being on the ground, i.e. naval forces.”

“So what happened?”

“They sent my boots and my ass to be on the ground.”

He thought for a moment. “Can you see why Falloonian Elders think your species might need recalling?”

Sunday, September 12, 2021

A HOME

 The Alien C.W. and I were walking about the farm talking, he in his best impression of Albert Einstein and I as, well, I'm stuck with myself. We were taking bets on whether we could solve the pressing crisis in the availability of affordable housing.

He had been silent for a spell, but then turned and began to speak. “Someone once said that ‘the poor will be with us always.’ Is this not true?”

“What? That someone said it or that we are stuck with the poor and huddled masses that Lady Liberty welcomes with such graciousness?”

“This is no time for levity,” he said. “Did someone say that?”

“Yes,” I said, “the Galilean is credited with that bit of wisdom.”

“Was he correct?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he missed it this time. Or maybe he’s changed his mind during the last two thousand years.”

“You are familiar with this Abraham Maslow and his so-called ‘hierarchy of needs’ are you not?”

“A passing acquaintance,” I said. “We’re not joined at the hips, or anything like that.” I forgot about his beloved shape of Lefty and Lucky, the conjoined twins.

“You know… you are still being pissy.”

“I think you mean ‘pithy’ don’t you?”

His Galactic Universal Translator hummed. “I’ll stand by what I said.”

“You always trust your Gut, then?”

“Consider the need for basic shelter,” he said. “That was one of Herr Maslow’s most basic needs, am I right?”

“So far so good.”

“I’ve done some research,” he said.

Oh hell. I hate it when he does this to me. “And?”

“The places that currently have affordable housing available are those where many people do not want to live.”

“To a large extent. Some neighborhoods in pre-Katrina New Orleans broke the pattern, and ‘pre-gentrification Greenwich Village. A few still exist.”

“And the places that need affordable housing are the places where many want to live.”

“One might say so.”

“Ostensimately in order to have homes that appreciate in value along with basic retail and services?”

I think you mean ‘ostensibly’ but yes.”

He consulted his GUT. “Ostensibly, they want services, but don’t want the service workers nearby.”

“One might say so.”

“ And if we could  build affordable housing in those very places to which people are fleeing in such droves …,”

“That’s not a likely prospect.”

“Why?”

“Another day. Another walk.”

“If we could place said affordable housing there on the free market, experience indicates that it will not remain affordable for long.”

“That seems to be the case.”

“Then why does a new study indicate that if we just made it easier to build low-cost housing in high-growth cities, the problem would solve itself?”

“Because the study was done by east-coast grads of ‘Ivy-League Schools’ and not by people who need basic shelter or those who profit from housing.”

He stroked his chin and drew on his pipe. After exhaling a dense, choking cloud of smoke he said, “That doesn’t make any sense. Helping the poor from a comfortable room on a full stomach doesn’t actually scream empathy, now does it? Clichés will not solve the affordable housing crisis, only bold action that has, to this point been only voiced by prophets, philosophers, and penniless preachers. Am I correct?”

“Let me get back to you on that.” He was on a roll but I was wearying of our talk.

“I mean, wouldn’t that be like appointing a group of women to create laws addressing this sexual addiction among the males of your species? Is this how you seek the truth?”

I turned to look at him. “Hey,” I said. “Let’s go check on the football scores.”

Friday, September 3, 2021

CHOICES

 The Alien C.W. had been hiding from me since that incident over the antique sewing machine. I was looking for him.

“Oh wow.”

I heard that from my work area and knew it meant trouble. Surely enough, I walked in and found Arnold Awesome at my computer. Yeah, it was the Alien himself in one of his favorite shapes. He turned and saw me.

“Hey sir,” this is beyond awesome. Come look.” he said, pointing at the screen and seizing the initiative in one swift move.

I looked. “What? And don’t use the word ‘awesome.’ It makes you sound like a sophomore.”

“I am a sophomore,” he said. “But never mind that. See here?” He pointed at the computer screen.

“It’s just the daily news,” I said. I’ll read it later, after you have straightened up your mess in the sewing room.”

“Mrs. Big Dope said for me not to worry about it,” he said. “All is forgiven. Now check this out.”

“What?”

“I’m special.”

“No way.”

“Way.”

“How?”

“I’m a man, least I will be in four more years. This is, like, great.”
“Don’t insert ‘like’ into your sentences. It makes you sound illiterate. Besides, you are an alien.”

“Exactly.”

“Elucidate.” He loves that word.

“Means I have choices now that I didn’t have.”

“What choices?”

“In Falloonia, we have no choice about ‘Shtukwida++kreap,’ don’t you see?”

“With what?”

His Galactic Universal Translator hummed. “What you might call ‘marriage’ in your society.”

“Ahh.” I sipped my coffee.

“So look what I can do here. Your Elders say so.”

“What?”

“What are the main two things in choosing a mate-partner?”

“You tell me.”

“Making sure you like them and making sure you can procreate with them.”

“That’s the way you see it?”

“Yeah, but the order is important for us men.”

I felt my eyes start to roll but controlled them. “How so?”

“Some guys tell me that it seems that you like one until you procreate and then find out that you were wrong. By then it’s too late. You are left with all sorts of responsibility.”

“And?”

“Your Elders say now we can procreate first—a man like you or me can—then decide if we like them.”

“I’m confused. What happens next?”

“If you don’t like them after the unit is born, you just try another choice. What is it you say, ‘No harm, no foul’ or something like that?”

I sighed. “And what happens to the object of your first attempt?”

“Who?”

“The other half of the species required for procreation?”

“What do you mean?”

“The non-male bearing the child from the experience.”

“Oh,” he said. “They aren’t among the chosen.” He closed the computer. “Look,” he said, “I have to run. I wasn’t being exactly truthful about Mrs. Big Dope forgiving me. I’m lighting out for the next territory over with some buddies.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, we’re trying out for parts in a movie they are filming there.”

“A movie, you say?”

“Yeah, it’s one of those ‘coming of age comedies’ about a boy like me spending his summer vacation seducing his girlfriend to win a bet with his pals.”

 

 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

POWER

 I worry when he gets like this.

The Alien C.W. was buried in a pile of papers and notes this morning looking much like a harried professor at “publish or perish” time. He paid no attention to me. I sat, sipped my coffee, and watched. Actually, I sometimes like it when he is quiet. We are still under a restraining order on account of the “garage band” he started despite the fact that we have no garage.

Anyhow, he finally looked up and saw me. “I’m busy,” he said.

“I can see.”

“Minor assignment for the Falloonian Elders.”

“Don’t mind me. I’ll not interrupt you.”

“Good,” he said. He returned to his work.

He shuffled papers, wrote a note, and turned back to me. “It’s a report tracing the development of mental cognizance in your species, from the end of the Neanderthals to present. Pardon me if I’m too busy to visit.”

I nodded. Minor assignments require concentration as well as major ones.

He struck through some writing and looked at me. “It was developing well for a while, cognizance was. Now excuse me.”

I nodded.

He retained his stare. “You were making great progress.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Your ancestors discovered that dances didn't make it rain and sought the physical facts. This led to findings that allowed the Egyptians to forecast flooding phenomena that led to a stable civilization lasting for a longer time than that which has passed since their last great empire. Now if you will excuse me, I’m busy.”

I nodded.

He didn’t return to his work. “I found it amusing at first that your ancestors tried to turn lead into gold.”

I nodded.

“But then I discovered, from reading this,” he held up a worn copy of The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer, “that this seeming folly actually led your folks to a development of the Scientific Method in research.”

“So our development went well?”

“Not really. I’m sorry. It faltered, but I can’t go into it now.”

I nodded.

He put the book aside and turned to me again. “Seems apparent to me that religion hindered the development.”

“Oh? How?”

“Can’t you see I’m busy?”

I nodded. He started to go back to work but stopped.

“Seems that religion led to an understanding of power, and how to use it, as opposed to the seeking of knowledge.” He reached and held up a copy of the Bible. “These folks weren’t very high on knowledge.”

“No,” I said. “No they weren’t. You can ask Paul of Tarsus if you happen to run into him during one of your enphasngs. ”

He ignored me. “That set the stage for rule by force, over rule by reason, as a method of retaining power.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes, all because of religion. When the dark side of politics joins the anti-cognizance stance of religion, all hell, pardon the allusion, may break loose: darkness and destruction, with the aid of religion as a tool. Now you’ve bothered be enough. I must work.”

“Fine,” I said. “But I wouldn’t publish your findings here on Earth.”

“Are you kidding?” he said. He buried his nose back into his notes.

Friday, August 27, 2021

FAME

 I came through the living room and C.W. was reading news on my wife’s Ipad. He was in the somewhat unusual shape of a well-dressed, and very attractive, teenage girl. He/she was shaking his/her head.

“What’s up,” I asked.

Seelishkrepi++sar,” he said, being himself, the alien. Then I heard his Galactic Universal Translator hum.

“Say what?”

His Gut was Telling him something.

“Bizarre,” he said.

“What?”

“There’s a feature article in your news source about the passing of a woman who became famous for having sex with every member of a Rock and Roll band in one night. The lead singer mentioned it in one of their hit songs.”

“I seem to remember,” I said. “So?”

“Did you know her?”

“Someone pointed her out to me in a bar once,” I said, “but I can claim neither acquaintance nor recipience.”

“And she was famous for that act?”

“Well, that and stories she told about performing same-same for other bands and famous musicians who came to town. They call them ‘groupies’ and she was the national heroine.”

“So what worthwhile achievements garnered her such notice? How did she earn the acclaim?”

“Just being famous, I suppose. You aren’t the first visitor who asked me about her.”

He retreated into his character.

“So,” she asked. “If I do the same, can I, like, be famous? I mean, like, you know, for, like, having sex with a famous person or maybe more than one.” The eyes that looked into mine were as blue as a quiet winter’s sky and beaming from a face as fresh and innocent as a newborn lamb’s. “My friends, like, tell me I should become somebody, and I’m, like, I don’t know how.”

“Why don’t you read something besides the news,” I said.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

COGNIZANCE

 When I walked into my office/music room this morning, there sat Charles Darwin. Of course, it was the Alien C.W. shapeshifted, but gosh, he looked like the photos of Charles Darwin. I couldn’t think of an appropriate greeting. I finally managed, “Dude.”

“I never said it,” came the reply.

“Never said what?” I sat my coffee on the desk and sat.

“Most of the things they attribute to me.”

“The ‘Mark Twain Effect’ you mean.”

“What’s a mark twain?”

“A person,” I said, remembering that C.W. sometimes gets deeply immersed in his character when he does what he calls “enphasing.”

“Elucidate.”

“False attribution,” I said.

“Expand.”

“Saying someone said something they didn’t.”

“Clarify.”

“Like when you said my wife said you could borrow our car when you said I said it would be okay.”

“Embellish.”

“Misquoted. Now what’s up?”

“I never said it.”

“Said what?”

“That evolution was ‘the survival of the fittest.’ That counts for two misattributes or whatever you call them.”

“Two?”

“Yes. I never used the work evolution.”

“I think I read that somewhere.”

“Then you know I never attributed descent through modification as ‘survival of the fittest’ or such nonsense.”

“So I understand.”

“How silly,” he said. “If it occurred over millions of years that blindness would allow some of your species success in surviving on scarce resources, causing a change in sight characteristics, would that mean they were fit in all respects?”

“Not by the standards of the film industry.”

“The what?”

“Never mind.”

“And what if it happened that the unknowing, uneducated, unlearned, and non-cognitive were to prove more adaptable to seizing political power? Fitness or extinction?” His face dropped, the long white beard forming a cushion. Then his head rose. “Tell me,” he said. “If A equals B and B equals C, does A equal B?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” he said. “There’s hope. But you have no power, do you?”

“Not a bit.”

His head dropped again. After a long silence, I rose and turned to leave the room. As I reached the door, I heard a soft snoring.

 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

COUNTING

 The Alien C.W. was bent over my desk this morning looking much like a harried accountant. He looked up, raised his green visor, and stared at me. “Ah,” he said. “Just the person I wanted to see.” He stopped, took a pencil, and drew a line under a line of figures and returned to staring. “Did you find out?”

“About what?” I sipped my coffee with a great deal of deliberation. I like to mess with his three minds.

“About the census that your people take ever few weeks.”

“Ten years,” I said.

“Earth years,” he said. “When are you going to switch to Galaxy Time?”

“In ten seconds,” I said. He didn’t laugh.

“Well, was it accurate? Did you ask her?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“She’s been retired for some time,” I said. “In Earth years. She said it was a bit different this time. Said the census was a good as the people and institutions that undertake it.”

“And it is important?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“To orient government aid.”

“Your government does that?”

It used to. Now the main purpose of the census, according to the news, is to determine legislative power.”

He stared.

“Oh,” I said, “And bragging rights.”

He leaned back and put his fingers over his eyes in the universal gesture of exasperation. I could tell he missed his other two sets of eyes and hands. He took a deep breath and spoke. “You Earthlings,” he said. “Bragging rights?”

“Yes.”

“Elucidate.”

“It’s like this: If your community, city, or state is growing in population, it is a good place.”

“And if it doesn’t?

I made a gesture of a knife being drawn across my throat.

“Do your people understand the principle of Skroodeep++,” he stopped. Thought and stared at the ceiling. I could tell his Galactic Universal Translator was speaking to him. He nodded and said, “The principle of ‘cause and effect’ at all?”

“A few do.”

“When they do, how do they assign a cause to population growth?”

“Most often they attribute it to what they call a ‘quality school system’ and leave it at that.”

“A quality school system?”

“Bingo.”

“What?”

“That means you are correct.”

He stopped. A frown of thought contorted his face. Then he relaxed. “Wait one,” he said, turning to a note pad on his far side. He scribbled something and turned back. “Okay,” he said. “Where were we?”

Before I could speak, he said, “Just a second. I forgot something I was supposed to do for Mrs. Big Dope. I’ll be right back.” With that, he arose and left the room. He no longer takes promises to that individual lightly.

I couldn’t resist. Checking to make sure the wasn’t watching, I walked over and checked his note pad. On it he had written a brief note, which puzzled me.

“Falloonian Elders' Report,” it started. Then, “Dog whistles.”

Friday, August 20, 2021

JOBS

 I found the Alien C.W. picking my new guitar when I arose and went to my "music room" this morning. You won't believe what I saw. He had chosen the shape of a country singer and was belting out a marvelously weird rendition of the old standard "Working Man Blues."

He stopped when I walked in. "Tell me something, Slick," he said.

"I told you once not to call me that."

"Oh yeah, I forgot, Hotshot."

I ignored him. "Put that guitar down, I had to lie to the Commanding Officer about how much it cost. It's not for you to destroy."

He returned it tot the case. "Tell me something, Sport."

"As in, what?"

"Hit's Fridee, ain't it? trrying his best to imitate a southern drawl.

"All day."

"Why do your people hate their jobs so much that they only live for Fridays?"

"Not all of them do."

"Then let's you and I write a song titled, "I Love My Job" and see how it sells."

He had me there. "Don't you have something to do?"

"I'm doing it. It's called 'research.' You ought to try it sometime."

"Tell that to the Magahatters."

"They hate their jobs the most, don't they?"

I sensed a rocky road ahead. "Do Falloonians love their jobs?"

"You wouldn't understand. Why don't employers make the jobs more fun?"

"I don't know. Profits I suppose."

"But look," he said, pulling a worn and dusty book from a table, "This says that happy workers produce more."

"I'm going to leave you to your research now."

"Good," he said. "I'm working on another hit."

"I don't think that's a good idea," I said. "You had the Political Correctness Police descending on us with your last."

"This one's different," he said. "It's called 'How You Gonna Walk Straight With This Job Up Your A…?

"Stop it," I said.

"Asset account," he said. "What?"

I walked out, closed the door, and went for breakfast, walking straight as I could.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

 THE ACT OF  WAR

An old friend showed up this morning. Yes, it was the Alien C.W. Showed up, best as I can guess, as Mark Twain. He was still up to his old tricks. Said he had been visiting other galaxies where the craziness wasn’t as severe. He acted as if nothing had happened, which was unsettling.

“Had a question,” he said, “how long do your wars last?”

“What do you mean?”

“What is the Standard Unifying Consistency Kinetic for engaging in a war. Your government must have an SUCK factor for controlling costs and casualties. And the private sector must have a metric for projecting Pundit Underwriting costs. The PU factor must be severe in times of war.”

“And you want to know how long they last?” I asked.

“It’s a phenomenon unique to your planet,” he said. “Same as your penchant for knowingly being burnt by overexposure to sunlight.”

“They last as long as they last,” I said. “No longer. Once side just quits and then the other has to as well.”

“Sort of like your standard act of sex?”

I stopped to think, and he continued.

“If you don’t have a SDF, they, wars that is, could last 20, maybe 100 years,” he said. See, some of the other galaxies are wondering about your planet passing the Chiroptera Scat Stability test. Too low on the CSS might bring about serious action. The ship from Tulegria that dropped your Initiation Cells on Earth are beginning to fear they have made a mistake.

“The what kind of test?”

“It’s named after a joke about bat dropping and insanity. Tulegrians have this weird sense of humor.”

“You mean like bat sh--?” I stopped.

“Precisely. Now our research shows that not only might these irrational acts be indeterminate, there is also the profit motive. Is it really true that both sides in these CSS acts are financed from the same sources? If so, that will increase scrutiny and accelerate repercussions.”

“What sort of repercussions.”

“You are familiar with the concept of a virus, aren’t you?”