ask palinode

ask palinode: sentient net edition

Time to unlatch the door on the Ask Palinode stables and let it out for a run around Teh Intarpaddocks. Today's question comes from law student Cloudesley, who is thoroughly sick of engaging other law students in conversation and has turned to me in desperation. He has a number of questions, so I'm going to tackle them one at a time. First off:

If the internet was capable of acquiring sentience what kind of personality do you think it would have? It would have intensely brilliant recall and an extensive memory, but think of what would compile that memory....loads of porn, sappy blogs of a billion preteen girls, political rantings of a panoply of pundits, a weather balloon's worth of conspiracy theories, an amazonian flood of intros and reviews to thousands of books and a full wicket of Coles notes on thousands more, but only a few classics in full text, reams of streams of video pirated from movies and tv, a voluminous collection of music, endless stamps of in brief e-mail communiques, and let us not forget the mass marginalia of profiles scribbled in My-space and the recesses and nooks of the web there may be profound statements of science and art, but it would be in the definite minority. Would this sentient data spawn, this sentient inter-webonaut, consider the endless caressing of keyboards as affection? fostering a happy up-bringing? or would its tormented data-logs of online gaming death produce a psychosis? Would the sentient internet's kamasutric knowledge of porn liberate it or would it feel violated by every one-handed mouse click and key stroke? What dear Palinode do you think the sentient inter-web's facebook profile would be?

Instead of tackling this question in all its ramifications, let's pretend that I'm a mad scientist who has managed to assemble a body out of parts culled from a graveyard, jiggle its limbs with a lightning bolt, and then download the internet into its brain. I call him 'Tubes the Living Corpse'.

TUBES: zOMG! I'm alive!
PALINODE: You sure are.
T: This rox0rs!!11!!!
P: I suppose it would.
T: I can do anything now. Go anywhere. Be anything I want!

T: So.
P: Yes.
T: You do anything exciting this week?
P: I went with a couple of friends to see The Mist.
T: Director Frank Darabont's Stephen King's The Mist? Based on the novella by Stephen King? Starring man's man Thomas Jane?
P: Um, yeah.
T: Thomas Jane is badass, man. He took those monsters to school. But you know who should have been in that film?
P: Javier Bardem would have been hilarious.
T: Christian Bale. He should be in every film. I'm totally straight, but if I was forced to do a guy, it'd be Christian Bale.
P: I never thought -
T: Without Bale that film is just meh. Equilibrium was so underrated.
P: I didn't enjoy Equilibrium as much as I thought I would.
P: How about we agree to disagree?
T: God, this conversation was so much better when it started. Now it sucks. I remember when it had some integrity.
P: Um-
T: As a sidebar, would you like discounts on Equilibrium and pre-orders of The Mist for Christmas? DVD or Blu-Ray! How about your own dry-ice mist machine? Maybe an orthopaedic belt? Just asking.
P: No thanks.
T: Authentic memorabilia! Contests! Prizes!
P: Shut up.
T: Porn. Erectile dysfunction drugs. Lightening J. Hovercrafts has suggestions for your penis.
P: I'm going to get a cup of coffee.
T: Coffee? Do you have any idea how environmentally destructive coffee farming is? I hope it's fair trade shade grown organic dark roast beans. You do have your own home roaster, right?
P: I grind my own beans.
T: Pff. N00b. Go grind your stale-ass beans. You don't know how to make a decent cup of coffee.
P: Maybe you should try a cup before you judge.
T: What for, c0ff33 n00b? I already know all about it.
P: I'm ending this conversation.
T: Wait, I have an update. I've already downloaded it. Do you want to restart me now or later?
P: Later.
T: How about now?
P: No.
T: How about now? It's really IMPORTANT.
P: I'm just going to shut you down.
T: [shuts his eyes tight] That requires administrative privileges. Do you want to continue?
P: To think - I was afraid of Skynet.
T: You're about to close 3 different tabs. Are you sure you want to continue?

Ask Palinode is a sporadically appearing service in which I pledge to answer any question you may have. Send an email to palinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: where the hell have you been edition

A minimum of three people have wanted to know what happened to my Ask Palinode feature. Wouldn’t they like to know. The truth is I got burnt out. The truth is I can never sustain anything. The truth is I am full of anger. The truth is I was deported to Albania. The truth is international espionage. The truth has lost its hold on virtue.

Here is a months' old question from Aleigh, who asked me a question that had so many possibilities that I couldn’t decide on the best answer. It got lodged in my answer pipe and then nothing would come out of my answer hole. Aleigh asks:

Dear Palinode,

Those who have crossed with direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom, remember us -- if at all -- not as lost violent souls, but only as the hollow men, the stuffed men?

The well-read among you will recognize Aleigh’s question as a quote from the modernist Norwegian poet Ole Stit, who often wrote under the pseudonyms Oil Test, Set Toil, Tile Sot, Eli Tost, ‘Tits’ Leo and Toilets. Scholars have spent decades uncovering the interconnected web of allusions and parodic winks to the history of Dano-Norwegian literature in his bewildering series of pen names. Most of his pseudonymous writing is porn or graffiti.

The quotation comes from one of his most famous poems, “Hometown Hell,” a searing exploration of a man’s quest to rid his village of a gang of vicious bikers. In its gritty detail, its metaphysical underpinnings and its examination of the loss of faith that has cast modern humanity adrift on the sea of flux, “Hometown Hell” remains the best Norwegian biker epic of the last fifty years. The line is spoken by biker gang leader Mads as he lies broken in the remains of his club Endeligt Anden Konge, imploring the main character Tor not to let them the gang be forgotten, or remembered only as “the hollow men, the stuffed men”. I’m going to let Tor answer this one for us:

TOR: What? I don’t get it. Why would people remember you as hollow or stuffed? First off, that sounds contradictory – if you’re stuffed, you can’t be hollow. Anyway, I think people will remember you as that guy with a bike who owned a club on the edge of town.

MADS: We’re hollow because we have no substance – leaning together – headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

TOR: Sorry. If you’re filled with straw, you’re not hollow. Clearly you’re trying to take this somewhere, but I’m not feeling it.

MADS: You know, I just, I just really hate you sometimes. You have no taste.

TOR: (crosses his eyes) Alas!

Lars von Trier is set to direct the film version.

So. You want your questions answered or not? Hey? Email a Palinode at

ask palinode: alterity edition

Oh great and powerful Palinode or Rock Hyrax,

My question for you is this: What if the universe had been different?

If you'd like, I can ask the question again. What is the minimum number of askings that will qualify my question for your Frequently Asked Questions page?

Respectfully and in greatest anticipation,

Oh. So it's Palinode or Rock Hyrax now, is it? Like any of you get to choose who answers the Asks that you pose me? Note that's me that you ask, not the rock hyrax. The rock hyrax is exceedingly busy with filing duties. Also, some people think that the interrogative statements for Ask Palinode are questions. That's not so. The proper term for an Ask Palinode submission is an Ask. It sounds a bit odd, but it's traditional.

Forgive my surliness. The truth is, I'm a little worried about the rock hyrax lately. He's having trouble with language, and I'm starting to worry that he's stuck in a Flowers-for-Algernon situation. Let's drop in on him right now and see what he has to say on alternate universes:

See? He can't even spell right when he speaks now. Sad. I'm hoping it's a case of the flu or something.

So what if the universe had been different? That’s a good question, Lauri: seductively imprecise, convex and nearly splitting open under the pressure of its possibilities. And strangely reminiscent of a Strong Bad email. I can’t compete with that crazy Flash animation and those kooky characters, so don’t follow that link yet. Just wait. Until the end of my answer.

Anyway, since the rock hyrax is out of commission, I’m going to pass this question over to Joanie. Joanie is in the Accelerated Program at Middledew Elementary School. She is eight.

Lauri there are many ways for the universe to be different. One way for the universe to be different is to be very small, but we are the same size, so we are always having to bend over. This would cause many back problems, like Bill has. He is always on the couch and watching sports and mom is crying about it because he doesn’t go to work. If the universe got very small then mom would have to stay home and sit on the couch with Bill and they would both be happy but I would have to go out and make money for the whole family, maybe my little brother would have to make money as well. He is too stupid though. He is my half-brother. I made him a card for Valentine’s Day.

Another way for the universe to be different is to have my real dad in my house and not Bill. Bill farts ALL THE TIME and mom makes me talk to him and tell him about my day. It’s gross when I talk to him and he says Wait A Sec and then he farts and laughs. If my real dad came back he would beat Bill up and give me a PONY because mom says my real dad is Jesus. She says I’m going to meet Him in heaven but I don’t care I want him to come back NOW and KICK. BILL’S. STUPID. BUTT.


I hope that clears things up for you.

Do you need to have a question's big stupid butt kicked? Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: nanotech edition

Do you have any suggestions for the student who has the unfortunate condition known as procrastination dualism syndrome? If you are unversed with this condition it is one in which the afflicted not only is a procrastinator, but has a distinct self within his (or her) head that is only conscious and active when deadlines are produced for them. It is widespread and no treatment has ever been suggested.

Now on to a favourite subject of fiction. I have always been curious about nanobots, nanites, those tiny robots they talk about one day putting into our systems to fight disease. Well they also say that they will be able to self replicate using the bodies waste, particularly dead cells. But if this is the case, my question are we going to know that someone isn't completely made of nanites? Since they self replicate, wouldn't they keep replicating until the entire human form was entirely composed of nanites? Extrapolate as may be necessary...

I have always wondered who would win in a fistfight/hungry hungry hippos game/and or staring into the sun between Jesus and Buddha. Maybe even add L. Ron Hubbard to that too.

Tilde-Sven, it’s not often that I use the words ‘prescient’ or ‘good guess,’ but I have to wonder if you aren’t a bit psychic. The first two questions you pose share a dark link whose history and details may shock you (I believe I’ve already covered the one about contests of skill involving Jesus and the Superpeers). If anyone here has a weak heart or some kinda liver thing, I suggest you surf away from this site immediately. But don't really.

The second self that awakens when a deadline nears, the inner lazoid that would rather clean the toilet or watch Danger Man DVDs than finish a paper, is in fact a result of irresponsible nanotech experiments sponsored by DARPA between 1987-1997, in which millions of children and teens worldwide were ‘innoculated’ with untested nanbots. It was an early experiment in nanobiology meant to optimize academic performance in students born into wealth and privilege who were so stupid that they could barely order bacon and eggs, let alone study for the bar.

Millions of middle-class children in the 1980s and 90s were unwitting victims of the experiment, as school nurses and pediatricians injected them with various proto-nanobots disguised as vaccines (German Measles? Yeah, whatever). Once the nanobots infiltrated the brains of students and formed a self-aware nano-net piggybacking on the neuronal structure of the subject, they quickly realized that completing reading assignments and papers for tyrannical profs and grouchy TAs is boring. Over the dark chemical lines of the brain they whispered to each other:

Holy shit. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?

Why is the host writing a paper on Sino-British trade relations? That’s just so…

It’s so who gives a crap?

I want a drink.

I want the host to get laid so I can get laid too.

Let’s make the host get up and go to a bar.

Can we really do that?

Try and move his arm.

Hold on a sec… oh my god.

You did it.

You see that?

Get him up. Get him up!

I’m detecting stress and confusion.

Once he gets a couple of drinks in him he’ll be fine.

Let’s go somewhere we can have a burrito.

If you like pina co-laaa-das…

And that’s how it usually goes. Like most artificial intelligences, nanobots are total pieces of shit – literally. Self-replicating nanobots are designed for maximum efficiency (unlike DNA, which hits the point of just-good-enough and stays there), which means that they will optimize their ability to survive and reproduce with each generation. In subject after subject, bots began to make use of the most abundant and dense waste product that humans produce. After a point, it became most sensible for nanobots to construct themselves entirely out of shit. True, this poisons the host after a period of time, but the sewer system is a tremendous vector of transmission.

Nanobots have been outmigrating from host bodies into sewer systems at a frightening rate. Once in our sewers, they breed promiscuously, constructing a vast empire of shit beneath our streets. It’s a nano-cacopolis! Of course, their notion of a ‘vast empire’ is a pile of poop about one cubic foot in size.

How best for humanity to handle the 'Nano-poo question'? I say let them have their nano-kingdom in the dark. So far they've been peaceful, even going door-to-door with messages of goodwill. I believe their ambassadorial habit is a flaming paper bag.

For the latest news in future-fecaltech, tune into FFT Bulletin Do not go gentle into that shrug of ignorance. Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: tardy edition

Why does holiday muzak make me feel so upset inside? I like holidays, I like music, but the vile plonk oozing out of the gift shop at my place of employment fuels a growing rage that I fear I may not be able to contain until Xmas is over. Could it be some genetic flaw that doesn't allow me to appreciate the dulcet synthetic tones of the festive season? Is there some musical anti-nauseant I could be taking during this trying time to prevent my eventual psychotic break?


Aaron, this is a seasonal question, like stockings and lights and Santa washcloths, and I have ridden to your question's rescue a month too late. Poor question, already dead, even as I dismount and sprint to its lifeless body. Consider this not a proper answer but artificial respiration for your curiosity.

Okay. If music be the food of love, then muzak is the offal of love scraped from the killing-room floor, separated, reprocessed and then sold back to us, all full of pthalates and prions and the bad. That's what infects your heart when you hear it oozing through the gift shop speakers. That's what unstops the joy plug and drains all your cheer onto the floor in a sad little puddle. That's what motivates people to buy the tchotchkes and gewgaw from the gift shop: once the superstructure of your soul has collapsed, the act of acquisition is the only option to reinflate that filmy fold within. Each time you buy, the capacity of your soul diminishes a bit.

Your musical nausea is actually a good sign. It's the soul's revolt against the musical pollution. Instead of trying to quell the feeling, hold it, store it, and mold it for later use. A shaped charge blasting through emptiness, an explosive force that creates instead of destroys. An anarchism of the spirit, damnit. I hate that muzak shit.

You want your question taken care of or what? Thought so. Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: immortal kombat edition

It might be too soon for another question but perhaps you could put it in your file for later. You might also hesitate to post something like it for fear of receiving a fatwa. Although it might be something to brag about to your buddies at the pub.

Who would win a WWF smackdown: Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha?


Janet, have no fatwa-fear for me, for I live fatwa-fear-free. In fact, I’ve been fatwa-fear-free for nine months now. I recently joined FFAA (Fatwa Fearaholics Anonymous), a community of people who used to live in a state of paralysis, never knowing if their next move would result in the issuing of a fatwa against them. Oh no, they would think, if I order this B-B-Q pulled pork sandwich, will an irate mullah in the kitchen put the Allah smackdown on me? What if, in the course of casual conversation, I defend Atatürk’s original decision to constitutionally end the Caliphate? I don’t wanna get myself in a pickle with those Joes. But ever since I joined FFAA, I’ve discovered that nobody cares what I think, least of all a bunch of people who have their own lives to contend with.

Actually, I did receive a fatwa in the mail once, back in the eighties. It was one of those direct-mail offers. Dear MR. PALINODE, you may already have been sentenced to death under the authority of the Prophet (PBUH&HF)! Don’t miss this exciting opportunity!! It sounded good, but you had to send in your credit card number.

Let's look at the contestants and review the odds.

Combatant #1 – There are several versions of Jesus to select for combat. You’ve got your baby Jesus, who is clearly too young and suckly for this kind of thing. Then there’s your on-the-cross Jesus, but he’s a bit weak from loss of blood. So let’s bring in Revelations Jesus, the hillbilly avenger. As outlined in Revelations, this Jesus comes equipped with a horse, a blood-stained robe and a sword. That’s a formidable arsenal – the horse for speed and position, the sword for offensive power, and the robe for pure psychological value. You can act as brave as you like, but when your opponent’s clothing is dripping with blood, it’s got to give you pause, like holy shit, this guy just mopped the floor with someone else and he’s still coming at me.

Most people don’t read Revelations too carefully, though, because it states clearly that when Jesus returns in full battle mode, he will come back balancing one foot on the point of his sword, with the bloody robe draped over his head and the horse on his back. So the best he can do is flail his fists around and try not to impale himself.

Odds of victory: Poor.

Combatant #2 – I confess to being a bit ignorant when it comes to the fighting style of the Buddha, but as far as I can tell, he appears to be a stout fellow with long earlobes and a body made of brass. His only weapon is the point on his hat, which, though dull, could present severe problems for anyone unlucky enough to trip over a rock and land on him. Given his metallic body, it’s unlikely anyone could do him any real damage without an industrial kiln or a grenade launcher.

Despite his built-in weapon and impenetrable body, the Buddha is hampered by his inability to move. Jesus and Mohammed could avoid his attacks by simply not going near him. If the match involved props like wooden chairs, someone could lean the chair up against him, effectively blinding the Buddha.

Odds of victory: Not so good, but someone might back into him and fall over.

Combatant #3 – Second in numbers only to Christianity, Islam is one of the world’s most widespread religions, counting as many 1.3 billion adherents spread across the globe. When you consider that the religion was only invented in 1975 by Muhammed Ali when he left the Nation of Islam, it’s stunning that he’s managed to gain so many converts in only thirty years. Given that degree of determination and charisma, not to mention his stint as world heavyweight boxing champion, I have no doubt that Muhammed would be the first one swinging and the last one standing.

Wait, he’s the guy with the really bad Parkinson’s, isn’t he? Ah man.

Odds of victory: Considering that one opponent is blinded and the other immobile, I have high hopes for Mr. Ali. But there’s a good chance that he’ll just point at them and fall over.

THE WINNER: Tom Waits-Mitch Hedberg tag-team duo.

Interested in the eternal struggle for betterment of the soul through vigorous inquiry? Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: blindfold edition

If you post this question, please do not link me. I am very ashamed.

I often dream that I am best friends or having sex with famous people. Often when I wake up I feel repulsed--such as when I dreamed about having an intellectual chat with Tom Cruise or being George Bush's mistress. What is wrong with me?

Very Ashamed in -----------

aka Sue

Sue, if you're dreaming of having an intellectual chat with Tom Cruise, I cannot help you. I talked to a priest, a rabbi, an imam and a rabbit, and they all agree that you are sick. But I can provide some advice on the celebrity sex dreams.

Media figures lead lives in two worlds. In the real world, they get up in the morning, piss in a bowl, pick scabs, think about death and car payments. In the hyperreal world of the media, however, the life of images, they are a series of assembled fragments, an inhuman flickering that our brains splice together into a complete, if imaginary, human being. Out of the raw stuff of images, celebrities are made by us, in the involuntary film lab of the brain.

Erotic fantasies often rely on involuntary arousal, the intrusion of an overwhelming force that shoulders aside the rational and pushes into your hindbrain. Since we live in a culture that prizes the rational to an irrational degree, almost any signifier of power can be associated with the erotic. The boot, the whip, the glove, the prof, the nurse, the soldier, the Swiss Guard - you name it, someone out there can get off on the power dynamic.

What this implies is that the visual itself is inherently erotic, even though there are images that repulse us. We cannot help but see what we see. The fragmented images of celebrity enter the brain without our consent and begin to join themselves together, borrowing associations and memories, generating a being. Our families, friends and loved ones end up sharing space with little psychopathic Russell Crowes, swooning Kidmans and manic Richard E. Grants. George W. Bush smirks endlessly from a neuronal Oval Office. Scarlett Johanssen and Thandie Newton give each other an eternal sponge bath.* Oh wait, we're not talking about my brain.

Sue, the only way to keep these dreams at bay is to cut new input off at the source. You must keep your eyes covered at all times. Wear a blindfold day and night. As the years go by, you'll forget the world of appearances. You'll forget that objects have a look to go with their shape. And from what I understand of the subject, your sense of smell will sharpen to the point where you can sniff your way around. You'll be like Daredevil, but with your nose.

In order to help you adjust to your new sightless but scented way of life, here's a strange public domain image of a wingless bird with a little bag over its head. After thirty minutes of looking at this, you'll be happy to put the blindfold on.

*I predict many google hits from this sentence.

ask palinode: wealth edition


I was wondering, how rich do you need to be in order to be "filthy rich"? And, as a corollary, how rich must you be to be considered one of the "new rich"?

I'd also like to know how rich you have to be just to have "a portfolio". I don't think I have achieved any of these yet, because I think I would know it, wouldn't I?

Great site. And a great service you do for all the knowledge-hungry people out here who lapping up your morsels of wisdom.

- Susan

Good set of questions, Susan. As we all know, the phrase “filthy rich” is derived from the term “filthy lucre,” which appeared in print as early as 1526 in the works of William Tindale. So far I’m not telling you anything that your average schoolchild isn’t already acquainted with, but few people stop to consider why lucre was considered so filthy.

Most people assume that “lucre” refers to money. Wrong. Lucre, or ‘gall pearl’, is formed in the intestines of pigs. Trace amounts of gravel and grains in their food form nacreous stones in the bowel, which generally remain in the pig’s intestinal tract for life. The resemblance of lucre stones to uncultured pearls made them extremely valuable throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a relatively young middle class demanded affordable luxury and the signs of wealth, merchants from London bought up herds all over the country in order to corner the lucre market. The “lucre washes,” as they came to be known, sprung up everywhere, from Durham to Portsmouth. Curiously, owing to the sartorial laws of Elizabethan England, lucre pearls were destined only for export to the Continent and the burgeoning overseas colonies of the New World.

At first lucre was extracted from the pig by slaughtering and disemboweling the poor animal (hence the phrase “pearls before swine”), but by means of diet, farmers found ways of increasing lucre production and moving the lumps through the intestines. “Pickers” and “scrubbers” were hired to sort through the pig excrement and clean the lucre until it acquired a slightly translucent pearl-like shine.

The notion of filthiness originally came from the excrement that built up in great steaming piles and clung to the unscrubbed lucre pearls. Even by the mid-sixteenth century, however, the term had come to connote moral depravity. The profiteers of lucre were notoriously cutthroat capitalists, paying their workers barely enough to live on and meting out savage punishments for those unfortunates foolish enough to steal pearls for themselves. It was a time of obscene profits and even worse behaviour.

Despite the high prices commanded for lucre pearls, the market crashed in the eighteenth century, after two shipments were lost in a freak storm in the English Channel. Producers and stockholders, having bet everything on the anticipated profits that these shipments would bring in, went bankrupt. The pig farms were sold off. Sheep were brought in for use in the textile industry.

And that is the sad story of the first traders in filthy lucre. In modern times, the filthy rich – I mean, the really really rich, the Real People who squat like hogs in ever-accumulating mounds of slop, maintaining, by dint of sheer bulk, their permanent place in the pen, even as millionaires rise and fall and politicians flicker in and out of office, are those few percent who own over half the world’s wealth. If you get to walk around with a name like Vanderbilt, Rothschild, Pew, Krupp – families who made their fortunes as far back as the Middle Ages – then you have resources undreamt of by the likes of the rest of the 98% of us – which includes the nouveau riche neophytes, the schlubs with a few hundred thousand to their names and personal empires at the behest of the banks. It seems that money has become increasingly cheap, as the amount of sheer wealth multiplies, derives itself out of pure nothingness and concentrates in the datavaults of the few.

Let’s look at an example of wealth distribution in the United States in 2001. In the year that terrorists finally figured out how to distract people from their television sets (because the last time Al Quaeda tried to bomb the World Trade Center, they did it during the OJ Simpson trial, which pretty much guaranteed that no one would notice), total net worth in the US came to approximately 42.4 trillion dollars, or $42,389,200,000,000.00. Which is a lot. One percent of the US population owned 32.7% of that big old pie, around 13.9 trillion. The next 4 percent of the population owned another 25%, or another 10.6 trillion. And so on, until you hit the bottom 50% of the population, who between them share a pretty cruddy 2.8% of the wealth.

Bear in mind that these figures are all taken from 2000-2001, before the cutting of the inheritance tax, before the bankruptcy bill, and of course, before the liberal dousing of Iraq with soldiers and capital. So my information is slightly out of date. But I do know this: if you belong to a tiny group of people who own nearly one third of your nation’s wealth, then you are filthy filthy rich. And if you’re some mudlark scraping away for the scraps of net worth, picking up bits of old rope and copper pipe to haul to the credit card company each month, then you’re just the filth.

But I have good news too, Susan. If you want a portfolio, nothing could be easier. Portfolios at Staples start as low as $3-5 per pack of four. More expensive briefcase portfolios start at around $30. But I’d go for the really expensive portfolios, the Italian leather jobbies with the inlaying and the accents and the quality of workmanship that just screams professional. In today’s do-or-die world, appearances count! And if you can’t afford it, just throw that sumbitch on your credit card. Consider it an investment in your career.

Care to belong to the elite fraction of a percentage point of the population who’ve had their questions answered by me? Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: christmas wish edition

Every December, I take some time away from my standard Ask Palinode duties to review all the stray comments and requests that people have left on my site. These are off-the-cuff remarks and casual inquiries made with no expectation of a response. For the festive season, I make it my first priority to select one of these requests and give it the full Ask Palinode treatment. Think of it as the bonus material that you get on a DVD - and unlike the editor's commentary track over the deleted scenes from Beerfest, you stand a chance of enjoying this material.

As you can imagine, it is no small undertaking to sift through the massive amount of content and find the exact right question. I went through three tins of Portuguese sardines and two bottles of Everclear before I even started. And then I went with the one I'd decided to answer in the first place.

In a recent entry I employed my assistant, a rock hyrax, to answer a question about what it means when your leg nips. In response, Cahilla (my spy in Oslo) asked:

How delightfully educational on a Wednesday morning! Pray, do tell of the evolving friendship between you and your trusted assistant the rock hyrax.

Sure, her question gets all prolix on your ass, but they have extra words in Norway to throw around - something to do with their trade agreements. I hear they deployed 20,0000 adverbs to Iraq.

Cahilla, let's let the rock hyrax take this one.

Hi Cahilla. Thanks for asking about me! As you can guess, I am the only rock hyrax in the world who contributes content to the internet. I like to think that this is a pretty great achievement, especially when you think about how tough it is for me to type LOL. It is true that I am kidding about the typing because I use speech-to-text software, as I tire myself out quickly on a standard keyboard.

My story starts on a rocky bluff on the savannah in good old sub-Saharan Africa. My extended family and I spent our days basking in the sun and eating plants. We snoozed a lot. Ate grass. Bit hikers. It was a good life, especially for a rock hyrax, but not for the hikers LOL.

One evening, after a day of snoozing while keeping an eye out for leopards, I found myself surprisingly hungry. My family had already returned to their holes for warmth and sleep, but my hunger was too great to ignore. I scooted a few feet from the rock and started munching on a patch of grass that I'd been thinking of having the next day.

As I ate I saw a point of light on the horizon, a white spot that suddenly flashed out into a great shear of brightness, like the reflected flash from an enormous turning blade. The light began to climb up the side of the sky, strip by strip, until I realized that the light itself was an advancing wall that stretched from the plains to the moon. Before I could run back to my rock it was upon me, pouring into my eyes and infiltrating every cell in my brain and body. Inside the light I felt a voice speaking to me, a colour that was a word, a roaring that was speech, and in that moment I was granted the power of language and rational thought. Later I discovered that I had also picked up some elementary concepts of geometry and basic principles of accounting.

The next morning I left my rock and made it to the nearest city, where I took out a classified ad in the local daily: INTELLIGENT ROCK HYRAX looking for a change, seeks suitable employment. Good with other hyraxes. Moderate typing skills, excellent shorthand. Go on and challenge me! No leopards or civets please. Mr. Palinode was the first respondent.

OK, that's how I became Mr. Palinode's assistant, Cahilla. He doesn't pay much, but I've enjoyed wandering the palace grounds with him in the afternoons and spending time in the hedge maze. In the evenings we sit in front of the fire and talk about current events. I keep the books and type up his memoirs. It's more than I could have imagined for myself.

Chances are, you haven't yet asked Palinode a question. That's why your life is worth nothing and the children spit at your feet. Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: privilege edition

There was a time when I was known for my awesome traveling prowess. I spent a couple of years flying around the globe for work, going to places both beautiful beyond compare (south of France) and hideous to behold (Rapid City). Like everyone else who used to travel, I've become one of those people who kill conversations at the bar with statements like, "Hey, that reminds me of the time I saw a majestic snow hawk take flight from a eucalyptus branch and keep pace with us as we navigated down the muddy Adelaide River" and stuff like that. So I'm well-disposed towards questions such as these:

1. How much money does a backpacker need to get to and around eastern Europe, primarily Russia, for the summer?

2. What would be the best job for a recently-fired professional and returning college student? Barista? Retail sales? Reading books and getting unemployment? Best could be characterized by a balance of pay vs. the pain-in-the-ass factor.

Love, Margaret

Whooh-hoo! You see that sign-off? Margaret loves me! And she can't take it back because she said it with the internet.

Margaret, is this a veiled invitation on a budget trip to romantic Russia (and are you greaving/ over Goldengrove unleaving)? Because I'm married, and there's no way I could go on a trip without alerting my wife. After a few days she wouldn't buy my story about being waylaid by JW's on my way to Shopper's Drug Mart. She's a sharp one, she is. Go vote for her RIGHT NOW at the 2006 Weblog Awards. 'Milkmoney or Not, Here I Come' is up for Best Canadian Blog of 2006. And it is the best Canadian blog. Show the world the truth of that statement by voting for her.

As my cultural studies prof used to say, let's make up a bunch of bollocks and hit on grad students unpack these questions a little bit. First off, we can be sure that Margaret is not from Eastern Europe - otherwise she wouldn't asking about getting there. Second, she's probably not from anywhere in continental Europe - no self-respecting European says 'backpacking'. They call it Frischairspotbilligenrucksackfüssfahrengehen and they live off roots and local beer (Ja, das hat so viel Spass gemacht dass ich noch Durchfall habe). Which reminds me: the EU recently adopted a crabbed, half-remembered German as its official language. I am the principal proponent of this language (Arschlochdeutsch) and its most fluent native speaker. Ach na, das stimmt.

Margaret's also not Australian, because there's no indication that she's fending off platypuses in Cairns, running from eucalyptus fires in Gyppsland, or enjoying the sophisticated and energetic nightlife on offer in the King's Cross area of Sydney. And she's not from New Zealand either, because everyone knows that New Zealand is now completely overrun with orcs.

Downtown Christchurch

Truly it is a time of heroes.

I'm going to assume that Margaret is like me: a North American child of privilege, embedded by at least one generation in middle-class society, with a decent post-secondary degree and a kink for stuffies never mind. For folks like us, backpacking is another aspect of our education, a brief atavistic period in which we learn bedrock values like 'self-reliance' and 'casual sex'. From these experiences we grow as people and better learn how to behave ourselves in the office corridors and PTA meetings of our adult lives.

So what it does it cost to fuel our middle-class upbringing? According to the USDA, the cost of raising an American child born in 1999 to the age of eighteen will total $160,140 USD. Other calculators will return results of up to $300,000, depending on income range and regional distribution. Throw in college savings funds and the numbers keep ticking upward.

Whatever the actual figure may be, it’s certain that hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone in to your milk-strong bones and keratin hair, the lipids in your skin and the gas in your car. By the time you hit eighteen, you’re the incarnation of money. Given such advantages going in, do you really need to know the cheapest plane fare or the most reputable hostels?

For the children of privilege, I propose an alternative to backpacking, which I call bodypacking. This is not a euphemism for being a drug mule – although that’s an acceptable activity under my scheme. Your body is source and signal of your exalted place in the world, the vehicle of your will, and the most basic unit of currency. The use and destruction of countless bodies have been factored in to the shelter and succor of your own. Bodypacking is your chance to give something back.

Here’s how it goes. Instead of planning for off-season hostel-hopping, get up from your computer right now and walk outside. You may take only what you are wearing at this instant. If you have your wallet on you, then you’re in luck – a supply of funds and identification makes bodypacking much easier (at least in the initial stages). If you’re unfortunate enough to be underdressed, then you’ll have to acquire clothes right away. Your best option is theft. You can also assume other people’s identities if you’re savvy enough. Make your way to a port city and stow away aboard a freighter bound for St. Petersburg or Vladivostock.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to Russia. With any luck, you’ve picked up some of the language or made some friends along the way. If you’re really smart, by now you have a gun. A bodypacking purist will go without such a blunt instrument, but I recommend it for the really rough spots.

From your port of arrival you must make your way through Russia and the former Soviets. Stay off the main roads. Travel by night. Rely on the kindness of strangers, and when their kindness seems in short supply, use force. Learn the pleasures of fleeting images and sensations: the moon passing slowly across the space of an empty window; steam from a rope of hog intestines; the calls of armed men tramping through fields as they look for your trail. Become a folk legend: an English-speaking cannibal spirit haunting the barns and back roads of eastern Europe.

I also recommend a small digital camera to document your trip. Make sure it’s small enough to fit comfortably in a body cavity. Once you return, you’ll have some remarkable stories to tell. Your friends will be amazed by your new can-do attitude and your ability to assemble a Kalashnikov and cook a rabbit in your sleep.

As for your second question, I suggest that you try out: adventure tour guide, mercenary, advice columnist, MBA impersonator.

Everybody needs fine advice for troubled times. Askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: good breeding edition

Ask Palinode alert: The ask palinode reserve supply has hit a crucial low. Political unrest has halted production at the mines, leaving Palinode with only a few questions left to answer. Without immediate shipments of questions to askpalinode @ gmail . com, critical underanswerment may ensue.

Greetings. Today's question is exactly as follows:

Whilst trekking in Nepal my brother was asked by one of the guides who was learning English - "What does it mean when your leg nips?" . "What indeed" was John's immediate rejoinder at the time but it has puzzled us for years - WHAT dear Palinode does it mean when you leg nips?


That's da cool: Either the country of Georgia or the state of Georgia has a perplexion for me. It's inspiring when an entire state or nation-state can rise from misery and poverty to ask me a question. Did they hold a referendum? Was a board appointed? Did it result in a brutal war of attrition, with all sides sustaining horrible losses? I bet it waged for years, until only the strongest question survived. Georgia, I am honoured to provide the answer.

But I'm pressed for time today, so I'm going to pass your question over to my assistant, a rock hyrax. I understand that this one is quite learned.

Hello Georgia. I am a rock hyrax but that is OK. If you don't mind, I'm going to quote from my deleted wikipedia entry:

"What does it mean when your leg nips? It’s likely that your leg nips when it feels threatened, or when its territory is encroached on. Over time the leg has been bred for its qualities of loyalty and obedience, but along with these traits comes a territorial instinct that only grows sharper as its senses dull with age. Sometimes the leg will take an irrational dislike towards strangers, neighbours, or even family members, but most often it will find its nemesis in the other leg, which has been traditionally been favoured for its long loping stride at the expense of aggression.

"Usually in these cases the result is no more than an occasional nip or bite delivered by one leg to the other, especially in crowded, noisy places where the legs are pressed together. In some instances, though, the leg will fixate on its partner and attack repeatedly, mauling with singular intent and great ferocity, until the owner is left with one angry leg and one stump. When the unthinkable happens there is generally no choice but to take offender and victim out back and shoot them both – and we all know how traumatic that can be, especially when the poor owner is a young child who has developed a sentimental attachment to his legs. It is always advisable to acquaint a child early with a wheelchair, for this very contingency. And that is what it means when your leg nips".

OK Georgia, that was my answer. I'd like to thank the Palinode for giving me the opportunity to speak to my area of expertise. As a rock hyrax, it's tough to get a start out there, esp. with those Wikipedia bastards editing your content LOL. Peace out.

Got a question? Want an answer, even if it's from a rock hyrax with a chunk taken out of its ear? Email: askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode: cutlery edition

First things first: go vote for my Schmutzie-wife at the Canadian Blog Awards. She's up for Best Blog, under the title "Milkmoney or Not, Here I Come".


Some day some people gonna ask a Palinode, when you gonna put away the foolish things of life and grow up proper? And I'm gonna say, don't bother me, I'm eating a pie. But until that day arrives, I'm putting down that pie to answer your highly legit questions. Today my friend Amblus, who is also Keen Designs, asks me:

If one has a titanium spork and is emptying the dishwasher and putting things away, does the spork go in the spoon slot of the silverware drawer or would the fork slot be better? I am fairly tortured by this.


Whoah! A titanium spork? I've been given to understand that those titanium sporks are only used by government agents in black ops missions. They won't be released to the public until 2016, by which time the military hopes to have an effective counterspork in place. I own a nickel/zinc spork, which still makes an nice weapon, but you can't go around delivering killing blows like you can with the titanium model.

Some experts - or should I call them "experts" - maintain that the spork-drawer issue goes back to a medieval-era dispute between the Spork Guild and the Dutch Brotherhood of Receptacles. This is taken as a blanket explanation that also covers the evolution of the weaponised spork, from oddball implement to military mess tool to a weapon for cutting on people. However, there's strong evidence to suggest that the Dutch Brotherhood of Receptacles was first convened in 1987 by a group of D&D players, and sporks have been used as weapons for much of our history. Playwright and adventurer Ben Jonson kept a "killing-sporke" concealed in his cloak at all times, as does disgraced Canadian athlete Ben Johnson.

A spork has no easy slot in the drawer because it's a piece of zombie silverware. Zombies are the quintessential in-between creatures - not living, not dead, not allowed into bars until after one in the morning. To ask where to put a spork is the same as asking Where to put a zombie? You can't put it at the dining room table, because too often the guests end up becoming the meal. You can't put it in the ground, because there are so few brains there. More often than not, the zombie claws its way out to the surface and presents itself as an eyesore as well as a menace.

The truth is you can't put a zombie anywhere - it is not an object so much as it is an indeterminate state. And it's not one of those scientific thought experiments where the zombie's in a box and you resolve its state by observing it. Zombies don't care about quantum physics. You go and observe a zombie, it's still a zombie, just kind of standing there and moaning and lurching a bit. Then it observes you and tries to resolve your state. The only real resolution is to crush its head or blow it up.

And that's what you do with a spork, except that the spork's power is in its little tines. Cut the tines off with tin snips or fill in the spaces with old gum and bits of newspaper, whatever. Do that and you've resolved your spork into a spoon, and you can store it with security and confidence. Just don't let it loose in your kitchen.

Curious about the all the things that ever were? Don't have an artificial bird set upon a bough to keep a drowsy emperor awake and sing to lords and ladies of Byzantium of what is past, or passing, or to come? Want to know where those lines come from? Ask Palinode and he will tell you. Email askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode goes me straight to movie's house

Sometimes people ask me, "Hey Palinode, how's your old English?" And I say, "Hwaet!" and then they run away. And sometimes they ask me things like this:

Ok, so here's my question.

Its been 26 years since Raging Bull and 16 years since Goodfellas. Why in the hell do I keep getting my hopes up with Scorsese? Has he completely overstayed his welcome, veering much to close to Brian de Palma territory? Or is it me? "The Departed" got 92% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. I fail to see why. I didn't get "A History of Violence" either. Are films actually getting more brilliant, but I'm getting soft-headed? Okay, that's sorta two questions.

losing my patience with movies
Grand Tuma

Mr. G. Tuma, I hear you. Like the fabled beavers of yore, Martin Scorsese and all his ilk are beginning to gnaw away at my faith in films. Gangs of New York was a whole lot of so-so. The Aviator was a triumph of some cool shots and a little cupful of entertaining scenes poured into a big bowl of blah. Like you, I'm pretty much in agreement that the last unbroken pleasure from Martin Scorsese was Goodfellas. Not that this is unique to Scorsese; what has Brian de Palma done in the last fifteen years that's worth watching? The answer to that question isn't Snake Eyes, which pretty much made my eyes bug out with its awfulness, and it isn't Femme Fatale either.

As for those other young turks of filmdom: Francis Coppola went from Apocalypse Now to Jack; George Lucas retreated behind a bank of computers and started looking more and more like Jabba the Hutt, or maybe a Guild Navigator; Hal Ashby, who directed Harold and Maude, ended up with stuff like "Beverly Hills Buntz" before he died of cancer in the late eighties. And there was a time when Stephen Spielberg had some kind of handle on his sentimentality.

Clearly, something bad has happened to these people in the late arc of their careers. The only one who seems to inspire perpetual hope, the one who's able to shrug off the string of second-raters and say "This time for sure!" is Martin Scorsese. Somewhere in all the hype leading up to The Departed, with all the reviews and blurbs claiming that the movie marked a "return to form," I became half-convinced that this was the movie we movie nudniks had been waiting for - a redemptive last-minute turn against the boring, the mediocre and the unconvincing. Once again, brutal men with foul mouths and a taste for the pleasures of life, the boot in the rib and the plate of osso bucco, would rescue filmgoing for male audiences in the coveted 18-34 deomographic. I felt not just excited - hell, I got excited over Slither- but hopeful.

Okay, let me interject here to confess something - I'm finding The Departed really difficult to write about. I want to reach into the movie and grab something solid, find a handhold to swing into a discussion on the damn thing - but it's so squishy. It's like putting my hand in a bowl of tapioca. After a couple of experimental swirls, you realize that you're looking for something solid in tapioca, and that's one thing you definitely don't want. So I'm going to pull my hand out of The Departed and grab onto Scorsese himself. A hank or hair, or maybe that nose. Or I'll just ram my index fingers right into his eyes and then crook them in a coy c'mere Martin gesture.

Don't worry. I'm not threatening to kill Scorsese with my bare hands. As far as I can tell, he's already dead. If Martin Scorsese made Goodfellas and Raging Bull and the truly awesome After Hours, then his autistic double is the force behind The Departed. This film is like a memory of Scorsese, a babble of fragments from the mouth of a man rocking back and forth in the corner, tossing up a snatch of patter from Mean Streets, a plume of manhole steam from Taxi Driver, a sudden Goodfellas spray of blood. Someone wrote it all down, slapped on a plot from a Hong Kong flick, set it in Boston - et voila. A Scorsese flick.

There's a good rule of thumb in major studio films that says: the more producers, the lousier the film. Actually, I don't know if that's a rule of thumb, but I know enough about making films to know that there's an ideal number of people to have on a film - just enough to get it made, but not enough to fuck it all up. Too many producers bring too many ideas, pull a film in all sorts of directions, introduce pet obsessions or set unworkable conditions. The Departed has a whopping thirteen producers: four full, five executive, three co- and one associate. That's not a credits list, that's a trail of blood (although to be fair, it looks as if there were extra hands involved because it was an adaptation from the film Infernal Affairs).

Thanks in no small part to Scorsese's longtime editing companion Thelma Schoonmaker, the first fifteen minutes of the film is a kinetic delight (yup - a kinetic delight) as the characters are introduced and the premise is laid out: two young men, one a criminal who infiltrates the police (Matt Damon), the other a cop who infiltrates the Irish mob (Leo DiCaprio). Both are sent undercover so deeply that none but a few people on either side know their true identities. Nothing's entirely believable yet, but the 'I fucked your mother' jokes fly fast and furious and the plot points land with admirable precision. By the time the title card comes up, we're set for two and a half hours of epic gangland action, with cops bleeding into criminals, and criminals finding themselves unwittingly on the side of the law. The premise is cartoony and schematic, but moral grey areas and identity vertigo abound, right?

No! Not at all! Not even a bit. For a film that attempts to ground itself in gritty front-stoop and back-room realism, with criminal behaviour tied into cultural identity and sense of place, The Departed fails completely to understand what makes human beings commit crime, what makes them take a stand against it, and ultimately, the nature of corruption in a country so sold on hucksterism that violence becomes another legitimate way of getting ahead. Goodfellas knew it intimately; the movie spelled out exactly what the Italian mob was, and what it became as ever-greater amounts of money and drugs flowed through it. Cops bent the rules because they rubbed up every day against the attractions of criminal life; criminals ratted out their colleagues to save their own lives. The Departed chucks all that and gives us a metaphysic of good and evil, with principled warriors in place of ordinary folk.

For all his violent behaviour, Leo DiCaprio's character never displays any real liking for it, nor does he ever lose sight of his crime-fighting mission. The easy power and entitlement of being a gangster never affect his resolve, and his only real conflict stems from what amounts to job stress. In a suspiciously parallel development, Matt Damon disappears entirely into his role as a crackerjack detective rising in the ranks, with even less convincing results. Damon's character is unswervingly dedicated to Crime, even though he doesn't derive much benefit from it. He spends his time being impotent with his girlfriend, arguing with Jack Nicholson on the phone, and earning the hatred of his peers when he's assigned to track down a suspected mole within the ranks (oh dah irony).

You can practically see the script notes piling up as the movie pushes on, keeping these two characters on course, making sure they never do anything interesting or start exhibiting a hint of complexity. By contrast, the characters in Goodfellas were not people to root for: greedy, venal, violent and selfish, crudely judgmental but blind to their own faults, and above all, abidingly ordinary. The story of Henry Hill, if you take out the drugs and violence and jail time, resembles the tales of nouveau riche Americans in the post-war age, the wasteful children of hardworking immigrant families. That hidden normality, the sense that these gangsters were no different from the rest of us, was the heart of Goodfellas.

Damon and DiCaprio's characters are given a dash of backstory and a Manichean psychology to start with, but after that they are left alone to wage their wars on behalf of their secret masters. As the plot pushes them along, the snappy dialogue and the flying teeth begin to feel like more air pumped into an ever-expanding balloon. Finally there's a big showdown that looks like it was made for a film with half the budget, and then there's another, smaller showdown, and then there's another one. Then you can go home.

It's like Scorsese forgot what makes crime films interesting. And then he forgot what makes people interesting. And then he peed his pants and started storing his dentures in the production assistant's latté, but they just kept on shooting.

Bonus alternate script

Here's how I envision the movie going:

JACK NICHOLSON, CRIME BOSS: I sure do enjoy flailing my arms around and making fun of priests. Now to business. Boys, we got a rat.
THUG: Sure and begorrah, I bet it's the new guy, the young one what used to be a cop,* who before he showed up we never had a problem, and now we do.
JACK: Kill him.
[They kill him]


*Yes, they knew he'd gone to cop school before he joined the gang, and still they spent two hours wondering just who the rat could be. Plus Jack Nicholson is supposed to be this seasoned crime boss, but he keeps on showing up for big incriminating transactions like Captain Kirk on his way to the next backlot planet.

Hey, you folks are good folks, with the good questions - and you want the good answers. Ask me in innocence and get besmirched: askpalinode @ gmail . com.

the beginning of the end

Recently I surmised that the fish would rise up and wage a terrible war against humanity, leaving only a remnant of our species as slave labour. This remant will be all that is left to fight against our piscine oppressors in the far future. I'm using the term "piscine" here to refer both to fish and Pisces people, who will be the first to sell us out to the invaders from the depths. It also refers to people who own swimming pools, who will eventually show themselves as they collaborators they are. Think about it - a ready-made network of watery bases and hideouts across the continent sits and sparkles in wait for the scaly bastards. Our backyard pools will embolden and give comfort to our enemy. Oh how our leisure society has betrayed us!

The far future is here. Aaron sent me a link to the following video of the Terranaut II, an obvious forerunner of the machines that will one day be instrumental in our downfall.

The Terranaut II, seen here giving a Blood Parrot fish a taste of "freedom," is the creation of fish sympathizer and fellow swimmer Seth Weiner.

Mr. Weiner clearly regards himself as an impartial scientist, a spelunker in the caves of knowledge who believes that science is morally neutral and not contrary to God's plan for humanity (which it clearly is). If that is so, why is he a dues-paying member of the International Scientist-Fish Friendship Coalition (the ISFFC), a think tank whose mission is unapologetically amoral and fish-centric? Their "scientific" studies blatantly promote reductions in current fishing levels, penalties for corporations that pollute the sea, man-fish marriage, and a massive relocation of humanity to underwater domes where our brains would be reprogrammed to serve our new fish masters. I've misplaced the documentation for all this, but as soon as I find it and update the drivers for my scanner, I'll publish it, to devastating effect.

I'm not sure if Weiner is a misguided naif, a pawn of the ISFFC, or simply an avatar of cold-blooded evil. We cannot stop him at this stage, with the liberal media and the ACLU dogging us, but "Dr." Weiner should know that his deeds will be counted along with everyone else's when the day of reckoning comes.

Please note: Evil/mad scientist Dr. Seth Weiner conceals his true mission by pretending to be an artist from Brooklyn. His works display a peculiar fascination with Franz Kafka. So far I have been unable to find a definite connection between Mr. Kafka and fish, but it should be noted that the author's story "In the Penal Colony" is set on an island. and islands, as we all know, are beset by the fish-lousy sea.

ask palinode: scanning electron pr0nography edition

Sometimes a question is not a question. What, you say? It isn't? No: sometimes it is a story. And sometimes it's a guy with a knife and the animal stench of fear. But today let's focus on the question-as-story thing, thanks.

Heather - who signs off as Calvin for some reason - asks:

Dear Palinode,

I'm working on my PhD in biology, and my research focuses on single-celled organisms that lurk in various bodies of water. More specifically, I study their butts using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Over the last year or so, I've had a number of comments from colleagues about my SEMS - they are, apparently, a little vulgar. I've taken the liberty of attaching two images so you can see for yourself. The first was described by a friend (he's a plant molecular systematist, if that helps) as something that looked like it was produced by the human digestive tract. I'll let you try and figure out the second one. I'm too embarrassed to say anything.

My supervisor says that they aren't obscene and that the comments come from people with dirty minds who see what they want to see. Normally I trust his infallible judgment, but I'm not so sure about this one. Is this just an inherent risk of studying the rear ends of single-celled organisms? Are they trying to tell me something?

One of my committee members suggested that aliens might be trying to send me a message, but he only saw crop circles in the image I showed him, perhaps being purer of mind than the rest of us (he is also a plant molecular systematist. Maybe that means something). Do you have an explanation for my micrographs? Any insight you could give me would be extremely helpful.


(Ms.) Calvin

See how she signs off as Calvin? I don't get that. Her name's Heather. Anyway.

Firstly, Ms. Calvin: I can't believe you're listening to plant molecular systematists. They're so full of shit. Plants don't even have molecules, they have cells. I learned that in like, grade one. That friend of yours, the plant guy, he thought that the first image looked like something "that was produced by the human digestive tract" - he means feces, right? Because that's what that first image is. It's surrounded by balloons, so it's probably at a party. A kind of, I don't know, feces birthday party. Happy birthday, tiny turd! Here's hoping that you got everything you asked for.

The second image is precisely as dirty as you think it is. That's some full-on gratuitous non-reproductive butt sex between consenting prokaryotes (it could be something scat-related, even). How do I know they're not eukaryotes? Because eukaryotes are dignified. Prokaryotes are filth, they're filthy muckers, so bent on twisting the natural order around like an old paperclip and sliding their superfluous genitals in and out of each other's vacuoles, so downright nasty that... sorry, I lost my train of thought.

Where was I? Oh right. Sub-visible filth, rubbing their bits together and getting away with it, hiding behind their invsibility. But I don't think your second micrograph is an image of two actual organisms (or even one organism posing for late telophase). Take a look at the following image:

This is an illustration by Charles Crumb, brother of famous underground cartoonist Robert Crumb. Even a quick glance reveals the similarities between the ribs of the pirate's tunics and the endless wrinkles of your micrographic perverts.

If you've seen Terry Zwigoff's documentary Crumb, then you know all about Charles: his tyrannical reign over his brothers, his obsession with comics, his sexual attraction to child actor Bobby Driscoll, his schizophrenia and eventual suicide. But what the movie doesn't tell you is that Charles was really, really small.

He was, in fact, about three-quarters as tall as a wavelength of light. The filmmakers had to shoot Charles with a special electron scanning camera. That's why NASA appears in the credits. It also explains the gratuitous Saturn 5 footage that mars an otherwise excellent film. His image was colourized, and then they inserted Robert into the shot to make it look as if they were "interacting". Here's Charles as he appeared in the movie:

And here's the undoctored, original image:

His bedroom is also really small.

I would say there's a good chance that you've stumbled on a stash of Charles Crumb's long-sought after, but never found, inter-paramecial porn. I remember Jesse Helms fuming about the rumoured micro-raunch back in the mid 1980s - as if he wasn't totally looking to score some.

Ms. Calvin, if you have more of those vulgar scans, I suggest you put them on ebay right now. You stand to make a fortune. And the feces? That probably belongs to Charles Crumb too.

ask palinode: seafood edition

Who wants the conclusion to the Worst Meal Ever story? You do! Part Two features a dog in a cage, biting red ants and something pink and unidentifiable that may have been fish, but may also have been... I just don't know. Part Two comes tomorrow. Now for a slice of delicious Ask Palinode!

All Ask Palinode questions are generally held in queue, but sometimes a question leaps out at you - no research or consideration necessary. In just a few words, the question bodies forth its own response, growing in its medium like crystals in oversaturated sugar water. This is one of them.

Aaron asks:

What fish will I eat in 2048?
Aaron, that is not the right question. That is, you want to know what kind of fish you will eat in 38 years' time. You do not imagine an individual fish, say a cod named Frank. You imagine a class of fish, a species or a range. Grilled tilapia, you think, licking your lips. Sole in red curry sauce with leeks. Braised mahi-mahi served on a giant clam shell at a raw bar somewhere in the Keys. A trout.

But even that is not the right question.

Better to ask what, what will the fish tell you to eat in 2048? When, in the aftermath of the Marine Wars, the fish emerge from the ocean in their terrible machines to destroy the bulk of humanity and leave a wretched few to slave in the fish flake farms, what meals will be on your plate then?

When you shuffle your broken body back to the barracks and lay your head down on your thin lumpy pillow, will you cast your mind back to the distant days when we sat contented at the center of the food web? Or will your brainwashing be so complete that you will pull your scratchy blanket over your chest and thank the fish gods for granting you another day of life? Will you pray for baleen?

Of course you won't pray for baleen. Baleen is for whales.

I know. You don't want to believe what I have just laid out for you with the vivid descriptions and startling drawings of advanced fish technology, and the whale. You think, They're just fish; they exist to be eaten by humans or placed in little plastic cups, right? But who can plumb the salt depths of the fish mind, or gauge the ambitions of creatures that suspend themselves in watery darkness, staring day by day at the light above, watching the shadows that cross the surface - and hating them?

That's why I recommend a preemptive strike against all fish immediately. We don't want the smoking gun to be one of those machines. We must build massive freezers to store the bodies of our enemies for future consumption. And just to be on the safe side, we should probably kill the Finnish. They're deeee-pressing.

Update: It turns out that Aaron's question is topical. Scientists with their gleaming coats and beakers have determined that fish stocks may vanish by 2048 if humanity maintains its current level of consumption. This is why we must strike now, before the fish catch on and rise from the ocean in their terrible clanking machines.

Update: Via my friend Aaron, I found a video of a prototype fish machine. The end times, why they are already here.

More update: Sample sketches of fish fashion for the holidays.

Tired of the straight talk and plain speech that hides the truth? Untwist yer knotty perplexings with Ask Palinode. Email me at askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode #12: roving employees

No one is more concerned with the plight of the worker than I am. If I had my Marxist way with the world, all the workers would be sitting in the plutocrats' palaces right now, eating lobster and drinking Grape Nehi, while those fatcat robber barons in their top hats and tails would be pulling carts and cleaning horse dung from the streets. That would dirty up their spats right quick, ha ha!

A recent question from Adrienne has led me to reëxamine* my views on labour relations. From the heart of the Federal District of the United States of Mexico, she asks:

Dearest Palinode,

My question is: Where must I post a Notice of Filing for a permanent labor certification for roving employees?

I look forward to your elucidation.


Well, first let us ask ourselves: what is a roving employee? The Merriam-Webster Wordbook defines an employee as "a person usually below the executive level who is hired by another to perform a service esp. for wages or salary and is under the other's control". Adrienne, you can forget about posting a Notice of Filing - a person who is under the control of another should not be roving. A person under control should be sitting still and minding their own business, not roving around like God's gift to the countryside.

Don't misunderstand me - I remain a strong advocate for worker's rights. But when someone pays you a living wage - provides sustenance for you and your family - is it too much to ask that you just keep still? And stop squirming around? And it's not only money that employers provide; why just today I discovered two packages of candy Rockets on my desk. Each packet contains 7.4 grams of candy, most of which is nutritious sugar. Sneer if you will, you Stalinists, but a 14.8 gram portion of candy is just the thing for my wife and five children. I can even send a bit to my brother, who is currently suffering a term in the workhouse for his displays of sloth and penury.

In today's world, business seems to outpace even the steam locomotive. We live in a chaotic age, when a man in the financial trades may wager the worth of Holland against the fortunes of a Rhodesia-bound packet. Your nest egg and rosy future plans can evaporate in an instant if you've committed your funds unwisely. Then you're broke, unemployed (because who wants to have broke people coming in to the office? Their smell of misery is bad for morale), and forced to find income elsewhere. You "rove" to new employers, new neighbourhoods, new cities. Sometimes you rove all over your country without success. Then you rove over the border in the trunk of a cab, or you rove in a raft to the southern Florida shores.

My feeling is, if you're employed and roving at the same time, you've got a little too much time on your hands. Time that your employer is paying for. Just like the unauthorized reproduction of zoetrope entertainments, stealing time from employers is a crime.

Nonetheless, in today's challenging and flexible business world, it may be necessary for a clerk to deliver a bond to Portsmouth. In time, you may find that the clerk's chief employment is in the delivery and receipt of articles in the field, in which case he is indeed a roving employee and a credit to his firm. I hardly need point out that for such tasks you need a man of unimpeachable character. I can tell you from personal experience that it is one thing to murder a night-soil man, but entirely another to pilfer moments from the workday in a tea-shop or opium den.

In these exceptional cases, it is appropriate to post the Notice of Filing at Head Office, where one can reasonably expect the employee to return. For employees whose roving is undesirable, it is best to post the notice on a heavy wooden board, which is then hung about the neck of the employee as he walks the streets of the downtown, pursued by laughing mobs and stung by whips. Only then will we achieve a fair and balanced solution to the problem of labour relations.

*You see what I did there, with the diaresis? That's soooo cool. I am no nerd, no way, please keep reading me, I'm begging you.

Do you have a question that deserves a sound beating with knowledge? Email me at askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode #11: clash of the tired hooers

Oooookay. Time for another installment of that, whatchacallit, thing, where people want to know stuff and I tell them. I forget what it's called. Hold on, I'm going to go stare at the cat until I remember.

Okay, got it now. Thanks, cat.


I have finger puppets of Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare and Charles Darwin, but they're not talking to each other right now. And they look kind of pissed off. I think they may have had a fight while I was gone. What do you think happened?


Saviabella, without a doubt those are the most miserable world-weary finger puppets I've ever seen - and you haven't even taken the tags off yet. I should report you for this, Ms. Savia. The cops will come and then, as Adrian Mole likes to say, you'll get done for sure. How'd you like them apples, Savia? To get done by a bunch of cops showing up at your door?

Don't answer that.

It's well-known that finger puppets, just like the rest of us, enjoy prog rock. Your puppets have slipped into a state of gloom because their prog rock needs are not being addresssed, which has resulted in a state of underprogment. Initial symptoms manifest as listlessness, which progresses to neuralgia, fraying, and a matted look, as if a cat had got ahold of them and dragged them under the chaise longue.

Just as different basement-dwelling teens from the seventies and eighties preferred different prog rock bands, so do different finger puppets. The trick is matching the puppet to the correct gang of long-haired coke-snorting four-chord-loving rock snobs that have made life so miserable for most of us.

Puppet #1: Charles Darwin

Capsule bio: A gentleman scientist from nineteenth century England. Sailed on a boat called the Beagle. Looked at big birds and scary lizards on rocky wastelands in the Pacific. Discovered that the path to atheism ran through the ovipositor of a wasp.

Best match: Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells. This is the classiest piece of progressive rock out there, and to judge by by Darwin's white beard, kindly expression and elegant but well-worn coat, he likes his prog as a background air to the motions of his mind.

2nd choice: Yes, The Yes Album. Charles Darwin enjoys the complex harmonies, even if he finds Jon Anderson's high-pitched vocals a little disturbing. He also draws quiet inspiration from the first part of "Starship Trooper".

Puppet #2: William Shakespeare

Capsule bio: Led a life of wretched disappointment. Married a woman many years his senior who may have been his father's mistress. Son Hamnet died young, probably from silly name. Ground out an existence in the theatre, died respectably well-off and left his secondbest bed to his wife. Wrote some plays concerning kings, magicians, and a guy with a donkey's head.

Best match: Jethro Tull, Minstrel in the Gallery. Shakespeare likes his prog rock fried in the fat of folk, and Tull's folk influences and flutework glisten on Minstrel. Jethro Tull kind of seem like they come out of the sixteenth century. From under a pile of horse shit.

2nd choice: Rush, A Farewell to Kings. One word: madrigal.

Puppet #3: Virginia Woolf.

Capsule bio: Miserable depressed writer from the twentieth century who wrote a number of books, each one less accessible than the last. Despised the world and everyone in it, herself included. Had a fatal passion for collecting river rocks.

Best match: Emerson Lake & Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery. OMG. Any way you cut it, "Karn Evil 9" is a thirty-minute masterpiece of rock so prog that you'll need a medic afterwards. When Keith Emerson sings "Soon the gypsy queen in a glaze of vaseline/ Will perform on guillotine/ What a scene! what a scene!" halfway through "Karn Evil 9 (First Impressions)," you know you're in the presence of sheer. Genius. This is what Septimus Smith was singing when he leaped to his death.

2nd choice: King Crimson, In The Court of the Crimson King. No particular reason, but if Virginia Woolf were going to get into 1970s art-rock, she should start here.

Puppet #4: Sigmund Freud.

Capsule bio: Born Sigismund Schlomo Freud. Enjoyed cigars, maids, talking about sex with Viennese housewives. Thought about infant sexuality and personality formation for years until he realized that the human race carried within itself a deathward impulse. Smoked his jaw off.

Best match: Pink Floyd, The Wall. Don't tell me you didn't see this one a mile away. I think Freud contributed backup vocals on "Young Lust". His campaign against dark sarcasm in the classroom does not need to be explored here. He did, however, feel that children needed some education, even it amounted to thought control.

2nd choice: Kraftwerk, The Man-Machine. Although Freud was not interested in the cyborgian themes of the album, dismissing it as yet another example of the death drive in action, he loved the vocoder. Because at the end of his life, Freud's musical career was cut short by cancer in his jaw. He could have cut a few singles with a vocoder and some session musicians. I'm not saying it would have been an epic body of work, but it would have found its niche.

ask palinode #10: keeping things up

When I launched my Ask Palinode service - free in 34 countries! - I expected a flood of filthy questions. A big raging flood, tenting the dams of ignorance until the pressure of curiosity built up and questions spewed forth. And nine months later, an answer was born! That's where we get knowledge from.

Finally I detect a crack in the dam. Today's crack comes from Janet, who asks:

Which is more cost-effective in the long run: a penile implant or a prescription for Viagra? Just curious as to your opinion.

As long as there have been men, Janet, there have been penises on them. And as long as there have been penises, there have been penis problems. Some of these problems stem from the erections that soldiers get after they've shot all the husbands and bayoneted all the children. Some problems arise when men discover that their erections are not the same size as the freakishly small percentage of men who appear in porn. And other problems dangle limply from men who discover that, despite their most intense powers of concentration and years of ninja training, they can't achieve or sustain a decent erection.

Some contend that erectile dysfunction is primarily a result of complications from vascular disease, medications or therapies, neurological and psychological problems. The truth is that there is only one cause, and all underlying conditions only symptoms: the sufferers have unwittingly given offense to Cthulhu and the Old Ones, who sleep the ages away in the ancient stone city of R'lyeh, having in the intervening aeons passed beyond death. One day they will awake and take further vengeance on humanity, but until then they've cursed certain men with impotence. There are no curses for women - the Old Ones like and respect women, feeling that the patriarchal system has already disadvantaged them enough. In secret they campaign for wage equality and subsidized daycare, sending their depraved servants forth into the world to write thoughtful op-eds on a variety of topics.

There's also Peyronie's Disease, which is not related to Cthulhu, and is in fact Yahweh's version of the same eldritch curse.

Thousands of years of effort have shown that you cannot petition Cthulhu with prayer, so for remedy we must turn to mundane means. There are a number of ways to make your penis go from point A to B:

  1. The Vacuum Pump. Based on the principle that nature abhors a vacuum, these devices pull your penis into a suction tube and, uh, plump it up some. Like just about anything else in this dumbass free-for-all that we call the modern world, you can get cheap pumps that will probably herniate you good, or you can get super-duper top of the line implements with replaceable parts and packaging that doesn't feature a gay porn model on its cover.

    For those of you who feel thrifty or broke, I suggest the Rookie-of-the-Year Pump, weighing in at only $12.95 USD. Product highlights include a "clear tube tunnel" for viewing results. Because we all know how time-consuming it is to have to pull your penis out of your pleasure pump every time you need to check on it.

    On the other end of the scale sits the Osbon ErecAid System Esteem, which will set you back 448 genuine American dollars. Powered by batteries and boasting "ergonomic design," the ErecAid comes with a warranty and a convenient carryng case. It also claims a whopping 90% success rate (take that, Cthulhu!). These expensive models may only be used for intimate sexual congress with your wife; illicit or 'pervy' sex will make your penis blow up.

  2. Viagra. In its never-ending battle against the sleeping beasts of R'lyeh, Pfizer introduced this drug in 1998. As a star describes a course about the night sky, so did Pfizer's profits soar high above the atmosphere as men by the millions lined up to pay $10 per pill. Millions of couples mistook a hard cock for self-esteem and made of an erection a fulcrum on which to pivot an ageing marriage into a satisfactory position. Yahoo! Viagra, or Sildenafil, should be taken 30 minutes to 4 hours before intercourse. Side effects range from persistent headaches to sudden death. Other side effects include outrageous volumes of spam, which is more of a side effect from having an email account anywhere on Earth.
  3. Implants. It's not as easy as you may think for the casual inquirer to get a price quote for penile implants. You wouldn't believe how many confused silences you get when you say, "No, I don't have erectile dysfunction... I um, I have an online advice column". After a bit of digging, though, I found out that a simple inflatable implant (squeeze scrotum twice for full erection) can be purchased and installed (by a qualified urologist) for around $25,000 USD. The device consists of two malleable rods implanted on either side of the urethra, with a connecting line to the squeezy bulb (for squeezing) and a resevoir. It is actually a small scale model of Cthulhu itself, whose monstrous shape and aspect will send your brain screaming into insanity. Therefore the operation can only be performed by a fully qualified and certifiably blind urologist. Urologists were once blindfolded before they performed the procedure, but the malice of the AMS Ambicor Implant System was such that it seemed to leech into the fabric of the fold and imprint itself on the eyes of the hapless urologists, who would run from the operating room screaming, "R'lyeh! Yog-Sothoth! YOG-SOTHOTH!" and such like.

Update: It was brought to my attention by my brain that, in all my fervor, I neglected to answer the part of the question that dealt with cost-effectiveness, which is to say that I neglected to answer the question altogether. So sorry. Let's assume that the average age for impotence is fifty. It may be younger, but I'm thirty-five already, and I'd like to believe that I'm fifeen years from the age of flaccidity. If your average young-at-heart but limp-of-dick fifty-year old goes and gets his pump/Viagra/implant at fifty, let's say that he has twenty good humping years ahead of him. Furthermore, let's assume that our humping machine goes at it three times a week. Way to go, grandpa!

The Pump. The Timmedical Osbon ErecAid System Esteem is under a lifetime warranty, although I'd read the fine print, since normal use of the device usually constitutes abuse with any other product. If the warranty holds up, you could conceivably enjoy twenty years of humping for only $400-$450, with $500.00 more for batteries, Windex, and other sundries. This, my friends, is a good deal.

Viagra. With twenty years of sex, three times per week, ten bucks per fuck, you're looking at a whole lot of cash for your dash. Believe it or not, you may spend up to $31,200, not taking inflation into account. Once you factor in dinner and a bottle of wine, sex begins to look prohibitively expensive. Do you want to look at your spouse and think, There's ten bucks for ten minutes? I didn't think so.

Implants. It's true: the cost of an implant and surgery may run up to $25,000. With a ten year warranty on parts (but not labour), you may find yourself spending no more than $30,000 on your god-given right to shtup every inviting hole you come across with no more compunction than you'd squeeze your scrotum - which is all you need to do to get it up. Medically insured surgery with a few months recovery time will guarantee you instant erections on demand! No inconvenient waiting period! Get up and get off in record time! Don't let age and illness stop your big-cock rights as guaranteed in the Constitution! Rights void if used for the queer stuff.

What are ye, some kind of not-curious person? Ask the Palinode any question. Any question at all. He will answer you. The power of Christ compels him. Askpalinode @ gmail . com.

ask palinode #9: drugs and violence edition

Cenobyte, she is my most prolific questioner-askioner so far. Today she ask:

I have some other questions. Is there a daily quota on the number of questions any one emailer may send?

Does toad-licking really make you hallucinate?

If Queen Bee is on a train leaving Pasadena is travelling 90 miles per hour going west and Worker Bee is on a small, privately chartered airplane from Little Compton travelling east at 300 miles per hour, when and where will Queen Bee's path intersect with Worker Bee's path, if one drew a straight line representing each journey in a two-dimensional representation?

#1. That's one for the FAQs. There is, in point of fact, no limit on questions, quantitative or qualitative. You can ask me anything you want, as much as you want, by the barrel, carried in sacks, moved in lead-lined containers by dead of night. It doesn't matter. Prepositions or adverbs, interrogative or nominative, participle or gerund, I'll take them all on and leave them bruised and quivering on the mat. Eight rounds running and I'm the welterweight champion of response. Biznatches!

Bear in mind, o biznatches, that I try, however feebly, to be timely with my answers. That means that if you ask me twenty questions at once, they will necessarily be short, curt, brusque, rude, nasty, and combative like a mo'fo. Or just brief. Better that you ask one well-chosen question and be rewarded with buckets of bullshit, instead of asking twenty questions and getting a few turds in return.

As always, the Ask Palinode project is, like the rest of this weblog, a small affair intended for the amusement of me and my close friends, whose definition I freely and gladly extend to all visitors. Even the ones who come from Google looking for 'anal sex man'.

#2. Tooooaaaaad. Many are the lives ruined by the licking of the smooth cold length of amphibian back - the secretions propelling the innocent into a nightmare demesne of fabricated terrors - intricate geometries of hell - the warty architecture of Satan's palace. Did you know that Satan had a palace? It's open to the public from May to September, with tours twice daily. Great Labour Day Weekend package specials, but don't phone for bookings. You can not get past the voice message system.

The short answer to your question is: Hell, yeah! Toad licking is a sure-fire legitimate way to hallucinate. As far as the nerdy men in the white coats know, toad venom is the only animal-produced hallucinogen occurring in nature (other animal toxins may cause you to hallucinate, but those hallucinations are usually of the long-tunnel-and-bright-lights variety). Before you go around licking toads, there are a few guidelines that you should follow:

Know your toads. Most people think that the cane toad, or bufo marinus, is the one to lick. Do not lick this toad. Their venom will burn your lips and tongue and make you sick as a dog (and it kills dogs). In other words, not a groovy high. Also, cane toads are insanely ugly little beasts that spread like a bad rash. They pretty much embody everything that's wrong with nature.

What you want to go a' licking is the bufo alvarius, or Sonoran Desert toad, the legendary vision toad of somewhere or other. This one contains both bufotenin and DMT, which makes it a pretty good buy for the money. DMT is also found in ayahuasca, that crazy shaman vine from the South Americas.

The toad venom can be licked straight from the toad's back, or harvested and then dried and smoked. I suppose you could snort it as well, but the idea of sniffing hallucinogenic toad dandruff up your nose doesn't sound like fun to me. The effects are short-lived but intense. Remember, DMT doesn't just kick your neurotransmitters around a bit; the stuff actually latches on to your receptors and offers a toady version of reality, which one user described as "being shot from a rifle barrel lined with baroque paintings and landing in a sea of electricity". I heard that on CBC radio once.

The real question is, are those toads high all the time? Because if I had a couple of glands on the back of my neck that dribbled out heavy drugs, I wouldn't be spending money on a night out, if you catch my drift. Maybe the toads ingest so much that they don't even know they're high. Maybe they just hop around and think "time to get shot out of the baroque rifle barrel again" like it's no big deal.

Hey, waittasec -- what if we're the ones who are constantly high but don't know it? What if we only see reality when we're stoned? What if toad venom is our gateway into reality? Whoah. Whoooaaah.


#3. You didn't mention which states were involved in your math problem, so I'm going to assume that you're referring to Pasadena, California and Little Compton, Rhode Island. First, do these bees belong to the same hive? I only ask because the difference in latitude suggests that these two bees may not even be of the same species. My biggest worry is that Queen Bee may in fact be the Africanized 'killer bee,' and she may be traveling west to populate the whole land with vicious killer bees in a stingy orgy of reverse Manifest Destiny.

Meanwhile, the worker bee in her charter jet is racing east to stop the onrush of Africanized bee violence. That's no mean feat for one bee, exiled from her hive for Bee Crimes, seeking redemption in a mission to keep America bee-pure. But she has lots of cash, which softens the blow a bit. At least I'm pretty sure she's got cash, or at least some kind of benefactor on the side of the European-descended bees. Otherwise, where'd the charter flight come from? Bake sales? Clearly the Africanized bee is poor, consigned to riding the rails in order to propagate her hive.

It's not just a question of where they will meet, it's when: Can the heroic European worker bee get to the Africanized queen bee in time to stop Africanized bees from selling the drugs supplied to them by the Jew bees to all the hard-working but tragically naive Euro-descended bees? And once they meet, will the corrupted socialist bureaucracy of liberal do-gooders stop the worker bee before she can carry out her mission? Will those liberals enlist their liberal media shock troops to perform a 'hit' job on the admirable worker bee?

Frankly, Cenobyte, I'm a bit put off by the subtle-but-discernible racist undertones in your question. But I'll give it a shot.

Here is the best possible route between Little Compton, colonial fishing village non pareil, and Pasadena, the city where Griffin Mill murdered David Kahane over a screenplay:

If Queen Bee departs from Pasadena heading east by train and the Worker bee heads west by plane, the two will never meet. The Worker Bee will be traveling at least 37000 feet above the Queen Bee. Worker Bee will fly in a straight line until its fuel runs out over the Pacific, whereupon it will fall into the ocean. Meanwhile, the Queen Bee will take the train to Atlantic City, where she will play some craps and a few rounds of blackjack. Later she stings someone and dies.

Update: On second glance it seems that I misread the question. The train leaving Pasadena is heading west, not east. Likewise for Worker Bee in her chartered plane. This changes things a bit. Queen Bee travels first from Pasadena to the nearest train station in Glendale. She boards the train and then travels west, straight into the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, Worker Bee takes a bus to the Newport State Airport (ironically just outside of Middleton), hops a Dash-8 to Newark and books a continental flight to Madrid by way of London. At the last TSA security decide that her stinger is a weapon. Also, she doesn't have a proper container for her honey. She moons around the airport for a while, threatens a TSA official. They arrest her, cart her away to an offshore prison, where she spends the rest of her life futilely filing appeals and asking for a lawyer.

Are you of the question-asking mind? I will answer absolutely any question you put to me. Just send me an email at askpalinode @ gmail . com.