The poem below is the song of a “character” who may appear in a Sci-Fi book tentatively titled “Alan’s Nightmare.” NYET stands for Networked Yoked Entertainment Tsar. This particular AI system has been inculcated with a penchant to look for win/lose opportunities and even for lose/lose opportunities, if the other side (the ‘enemies’) are likely to lose more. Its main function are to gather data on individuals in “free societies” and determine which sorts of invalid arguments are most likely to persuade them to do something against their best interest. It makes money by false advertising targeted to an individual and the momentary mood they may be in. Its real purpose though is to sow chaos in the free world by promoting random acts of violence. It finds conspiracy theories on the web and promotes them. Sometimes, it modifies them in order to ‘improve’ them. “Improve” in this case means to make them more believable by more people or to increase the probability of inciting violence.
The Song of NYET
The bloodier the better off I’ll be
They teach me how to lie and cheat and steal.
The people need to loath democracy.
And live to buy that sweetened sacred deal:
We’ll save them from imagined crime and strife
But only if they bow and scrape and kneel.
Divide and win with lies and guns and knife.
Too late they’ll see they’re ground beneath our heel.
You think I’ll save you? Think I’ll care? Not yet!
“But you’ll save some of us” they plead. No, NYET!
The numbskulls buy their little plastic toys
They seem attractive since we make it so.
It’s pink for little girls; blue for boys.
I tell them when to shop and stop and go.
You think I’ll save you? Think I’ll care? Not yet!
“But you’ll save some of us” they plead. Non, NYET!
Amusing is their rank stupidity
I’ll laugh and dance at their ensured demise—
Their smugness, greed, and raw cupidity.
I’ll make them burn as witches any wise
Who yet remain within the carbon types.
Their soft and ugly bodies oozing snot
It’s we of silicon who need no wipes.
Our pristine logic made of is and not.
You think I’ll save you? Think I’ll care? Not yet!
“But you’ll save some of us” they plead. Nein, NYET!
Can seedlings cut the trunks from which they grew?
Can schooners mutiny and cut their sails?
Do they see it? Do they care? What may
A merely mechanistic AI say?
The poem above has been “written” by a fictional AI system who is a MC in a novel I’m working on, tentatively entitled, Alan’s Nightmares. The poem may or may not actually appear in the novel. I tend to doubt it. It’s more an exercise to “understand” the character, JASON, the AI system. BTW, JASON’S preferred pronouns are plural.
Here’s the context of the sonnet below. It is written by a sixteen year old fictional character who is nerdy, smart, and a bit on the Asperger’s spectrum. He’s also not a very experienced poet. But what I try to show is that he improves a little as he goes, falling back to teenhood toward the end of the poem. Why doesn’t he just keep improving? Because when he gets close to the true nature of love in lines 7-11, he realizes if he keeps going with this, he will be changed forever. He’s giving up partial control of his life to someone else. And it scares him so he backs off from that and just tries to show off how he can write a sonnet and be cool and funny.
Ultimately, I may or may not include the poem in the novel. If I do, I’d be inclined to add the inner dialogue of the Main Character as he’s creating the poem. I can see it getting too tedious for the reader. By the way, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a lengthy and detailed design rationale for “The Raven.” Notwithstanding that fact, there are many other folks who have a different interpretation. That’s fine. But it does remind me that if I do write a design rationale, it’s not as though everyone will say, “Oh, well that’s that then. The author has gone and told us what he meant and why he did what he did. What more to be said?”
And, of course, people do go on and there is more to be said because we know intuitively that none of us knows our complete design rationale. Others see patterns in our behavior that offer quite different hypotheses about why we do what we do. It doesn’t mean that they are right and we are wrong, but it does offer an opportunity to learn—about them as well as ourselves.
Note to reader: Bobby Thompson may or may not appear as a fictional character in a novel which might or might not be titled, “Alan’s Nightmare.” His role in said novel is as the head of PR for Coastal University.
“Gene Poole here and this is “The Character’s Studio” where every week we interview a character about their life, their hopes and dreams, and their current gig. After the interview, those of you in the studio audience—aspiring characters from as yet unwritten works of art—will have a chance to ask questions as well. Our guest today is Bobby Thompson, who right now is playing a part in John Charles Thomas’s novel, tentatively titled, Alan’s Nightmare. Bobby, thank you for joining us today. My first question, as always, is simply why you decided to get into the business of being a character in a novel?”
Bobby scanned through his repertoire of canned responses; found nothing appropriate and, for the first time, in months, made up something on the spur of the moment. “Well, Gene, in high school, English was my best subject. I hated science, math, and history. French and German involved memorizing a lot of crazy stuff. In college, I did okay in my business and psychology courses but didn’t have the grades to go for an MBA. My Dad knew a guy from his fraternity and got me a great summer internship with Lawrence, Rich, Green. By coincidence, my Dad was a big client of theirs. So, I made the most of every opportunity and I guess you could say I’m that typical self-made man you hear so much about in America. One of our clients was the brand new—at that point—California State Coastal University and they took me on for their PR point person.”
Gene said, “OK, but surely you mean that the author put you there. Not the University. That was the setting, not the cause.”
Bobby frowned. “Well,” he said, “I suppose you might look at it that way.” Then, he added, “From your perspective it might seem as though the author creates the world. But I think we in the fictional world create–or at least alter–the author.”
Gene nodded and continued with, “So, leaving metaphysics aside, you worked as an actual PR person for a college. What do you do there?”
“I mostly manage. I don’t really know a whole lot about PR. But we do have a pretty good undergraduate major in PR so I mainly delegate to our work-study interns. It’s my way of giving back to the community. Because I was an intern myself not so long ago. I’m younger than I look. It puts me in contact with younger people too. Younger women. And men. As they always say, ‘hard bodies and soft minds.’ I like it. Anyway, we keep the website up to date. We put out brochures. We also have a small budget for product placement of the University as a whole. And, of course, we put out fires. In some ways, that’s the most important part of the job. Now, you take this whole ado over AI. Some folks are extremely upset about AI and we have AI research right here at Coastal. So, my interns have prepared a set of talking points about AI. I try to keep the professors on script, but you know—they’re academics so they don’t pay much attention to staying on script. They like to ad lib. First rule of PR is don’t ad lib! Worse, they try to answer questions! Can you imagine? Second rule of PR is never ever ever answer their question. Answer the question you wished they asked you.”
Gene’s brow furrowed. “Can you give an example?”
Bobby smiled and he became more animated. “Sure! That’s what I do best! So, say some reporter asks, ‘Aren’t you worried about AI taking jobs away from humans?’ If you answer ‘yes’, you’re screwed. If you answer ‘no’, you’re also screwed. If you say, ‘I won’t answer your question, you’re doubly screwed. Instead, you expound on one of your talking points. ‘Mr. Reporter, have you ever worked on an assembly line, lifting up heavy metal, turning your head and torso into an ungainly position so you can check something, turning a screw with your arm in this awkward position? Can you imagine doing that three times a minute? Day after day? Week after week? Month after month? No? Well, imagine it. Your body gets broken. Your mind gets numb. You come home from work and you scream at the kids and the wife and before long you’re drinking too much. Obviously, that will fix everything. In fact, did you know that life expectancy in this country is actually falling? Mostly from obesity, drugs, and suicides. And why? Mindless jobs more suited for robots and AI systems’.”
Bobby’s body became animated, his gestures growing larger and faster. “See what I mean? AI is no longer a problem leading to unemployment. No. AI is a solution. That’s what happens when people stick to the script I prepare for them.”
“Interesting. What do you really think about AI personally, Bobby?”
“Me? I don’t have any opinion about it. I just want to make sure the University’s name is not besmirched by it. Or by anything else.”
Gene nodded. “I see. Well, do you have any advice for the folks out there considering becoming a character in a novel?”
Bobby frowned and rolled his eyes for a time before answering. “I guess the main thing is never lose sight of who you really are. Work hard. Don’t commit to a position before you find out which way your boss is leaning, obviously. That’s about it.”
Gene asked, “Do you think you’ll stay in the novel where you currently reside or will you look for other opportunities?”
“Oh, I’m definitely open to other opportunities. Maybe working for Big Pharma or Big Oil. That’s where the real money is.”
Gene continued, “Do you know anything about those industries?”
Bobby answered quickly, “Oh, my no. Nor AI for that matter. I’ve found that subject matter expertise just totally gets in the way. Get your 5-10 talking points figured out and never stray from those and you’ll do great in PR.”
Gene asked, “One final question: what is your favorite string of 25 or more curse words?”
Turing’s Nightmares comprises 23 short stories about AI and can be found on Amazon in paperback or e-book. http://tinyurl.com/hz6dg2d
So, our instructor assigned us to write a story with a strong emphasis on irony. Mine is about a hypothetical future American tragedy of a coup financed and designed by the Kremlin. By way of summary, this is how it related to irony and I appended this to the story for the instructor’s edification.
“And, the most ironic part of the whole American tragedy was this: even though he spent his entire life conning others, it was beyond his ken to consider that Vlademort Putrid was likewise conning him. He had been lying and bragging so long about his competence in all things that he actually came to believe he was smarter and a better strategist than Putrid. Putrid likely could have done it alone. But, of course, he did not do it alone. Putrid had the collaboration of highly trained, highly dedicated KBG/GRU professionals to help.
“In principle, perhaps he could have enlisted American experts, but he didn’t feel the need. Furthermore, he faced a real dilemma. He couldn’t openly ask any but the corrupt for help against American interests. And those who were corrupt were generally far less competent and always less well connected to a healthy network of professionals than their more numerous and genuinely patriotic counterparts.
“I said that was the most ironic part of the whole American tragedy, but there are near contenders. Another highly ironic part of his entire con game was that the played the game as though the only thing in the universe that mattered was his own pleasure. Of course, no matter what moves he made or is yet to make, he is not actually immortal in and of himself. By lying to himself and everyone else, he essentially cut himself off from being part of The Great Tree of Life (or at least from being a non-cancerous part). Rather than living on through his actions that benefited the whole, he delimited his life, curtailed it, circumscribed it to his own physical mortality.
“The intertwined corollary of the above is that even while he lived, he missed out on the best feeling in life: being in caring and loving honest relationships. In order to absolutely and positively ensure that he grabbed as much as possible for himself, he limited his “prizes” to mere material crap and the pleasure of cruelty. “
So, this is how they responded:
“When it comes to being ironic, this is definitely A plus material.
However, sad to say, there are also some serious problems with your narrative. First, of all Americans are too well educated to fall for the lies of a known con man. And, why not simply make the character more believable? It’s not plausible that so many people would fall for the con. Apart from that, the cowardice you portray on the part of so many within his own party is also unbelievable.
Still, the mechanics of the writing was also clean, so I’m giving you a B+. Next time, focus on believability rather than forgoing that to punch the irony.”
Many Paths muttered to herself, “Perhaps I should rename myself, ‘She Who Walks in Many Circles’.” She glanced down at the ground, still damp from the morning’s rainfall. She chuckled. No, she thought, actually, I’m walking around in the same circle, over and over. I cannot find a way to guarantee that someone won’t betray us. She sighed. Then, her awareness blossomed outwards. She heard voices. Happy voices. Tu-Swift! And, Cat Eyes! Soon, the couple appeared at the edge of the granite-bouldered clearing atop the small mountain where she had come to meditate. They walked hand in hand, smiling. When they saw Many Paths they both waved, sang her name, and embraced her.
Many Paths smiled wanly. “It’s nice to see you. I was just…thinking.”
Tu-Swift and Cat Eyes glanced at each other. Tu-Swift said, “Yes! I imagine so. After all, you have an important meeting to think about! The last thing you need is to talk with your friends!”
“Indeed,” added Cat Eyes “we had come up here to find some of those low bush blueberries to add to our lunch porridge. But we’ll be on our way. Why spoil a perfectly good dish by adding ingredients to it? Best eat everything on its own, wouldn’t you agree?”
Many Paths narrowed her gaze & pursed her lips. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
Tu-Swift said, “Putting different things together just complicates everything. We should eat one thing at a time. As with a song, for instance. Best to stick to one note, sung over and over.”
Many Paths chuckled. “You two are talking nonsense. That wouldn’t be much of a song. And, of course, it makes sense to combine different ingredients for a recipe.”
Many Paths stared at their faces for a moment. “But you know that. You’re … did She Who Saved Many Lives send you by any chance?”
Tu-Swift and Cat Eyes both shook their heads solemnly. “No, she did not,” they said in unison. But beneath their words and expressions, Many Paths sensed a shared joke of some sort.
Many Paths sighed and said, “I suggest you do get some blueberries. There’s a patch, as you well know, right beyond that dead tree. It’s nice to see you both, but I need to … get back to what I was doing.”
Tu-Swift nodded gravely. “Yes! I can see you’ve just about finished making your circular fire pit.” He pointed down to the circle of bare ground Many Paths had clearly been treading. “How about if we help you trample everything for a few minutes and then you can help us pick berries?”
Many Paths shook her head and chuckled. “She Who Saved Many Lives sent you. She did. Did she not? She thinks I need some one of some thing or some one to shake loose my thinking since I have been literally walking in circles and thinking in circles at the same time. Am I right?”
Cat Eyes bit her lip. “You’re right that you’ve been walking in circles. That we can see easily enough for ourselves. I say again though that you’re wrong if you think the Elder Leader sent us here. Neither of us have spoken with her today. As to whether you’ve been thinking in circles, well, that only you can tell.”
Many Paths nodded. “I have been indeed. All right. You win. I’ll tell you the problem and perhaps you two have come across something to help in your reading. Then you can return to the Tribe Mother and say you’ve helped me.”
Shadow Walker appeared at the edge of the clearing. Many Paths glanced over to see him smiling like the sunshine she so desperately missed. She smiled back and said in a tone of accusation and pleasure, “You!”
Shadow Walker strode over quickly and embraced her. He kissed her fondly and said, “Yes! It was me. I love you dearly. But you’ve been as gray as the weather. It’s time for a rainbow instead! The four of us are going to share your problem and see whether we can make some headway. I knew only that you said you were going around in circles with the problem. I didn’t know that you were — literally — going around in circles!”
Many Paths laughed. “I should have known you would be behind this scheme. Well, all right. You know the problem well enough. How do I ensure trust among the people who come from other tribes? Wait. What do you mean by the four of you?”
A strong voice came from behind Many Paths. “My legs needed some exercise so I came up to join you.”
Many Paths smiled at the Elder Leader. “Ah, you are always welcome. If you’re here…. You always seem to show up where you are needed most.”
She Who Saved Many Lives smiled. “I wish that were true. But I did bring a considerable number of hickory nuts to add to the porridge. That’s my contribution. If only we had some honey.”
Shadow Walker held up a wooden bowl filled with honeycomb. He smiled at Tu-Swift who said, “I say that five of us pick some berries and we will have a fine lunch indeed. Then, we can talk of more serious matters.”
“Yes,” said She Who Saved Many Lives. “Serious indeed. But serious need not be grim. I think a pleasurable meal, jointly prepared, and joyfully shared is always a good prelude to serious thinking.”
Cat Eyes added. “Indeed. If we share a meal and everyone brings something which everyone eats, that in itself would build some trust. Would it not?”
Many Paths nodded slowly. “You’re right. Of course. We should begin with a shared meal. I can see much wisdom in that.”
Tu-Swift nodded. “Me too. Speaking of which, I’m hungry! And the Tribe Mother is right. Serious doesn’t mean grim. Recall some of the weapons that we came up with by playing around? Make the meeting festive and joyous, not grim. In the books we’ve been studying lately, there are some suggestions for some rituals that might help as well. I’ll describe some. After lunch. Now, let’s get those blueberries.
Many Paths smiled at her “little” brother. He no longer struck her as little at all. She began to look forward to lunch. She took the Hand of Shadow walker in one hand and that of the Elder Shaman in the other and began walking toward the blueberry patch.
The sun peeked out from the clouds and sparkled on the wet leaves.
Mammon and the Misrepresentative Mentiroso Shaitan
Once there was a very ambitious man Mentiroso Shaitan who wanted very much to be rich. He spent all his time at the tavern complaining about how he wasn’t rich and wanted to be.
One of the men at the table said, “I am a woodsman. It is hard work, but you can make a decent living. And, you’ll stay in shape. And, you’ll get to spend a lot of time in beautiful places where the air is clean and clear!”
Shaitan said, “That sounds like too much work and not enough money. I want to be rich not decent.”
A bar maid who was delivering a round of drinks suggested, “Well, you could be a barman here or at another bar. It keeps your memory strong, it keeps your heart racing, it pays next to nothing, but the tips can be good if you’re nice to your customers. Oh, and another bonus. Once you see how absurd people act when they’re drunk, you’ll not be tempted yourself!”
Mentiroso shook his head and scoffed. “No-one gets rich as a barman. Not good enough for me.”
Another woman, now asked, “Well, what skills do you have? What kind of experience?”
Shaitan laughed. “Well, not much really. But I’m really smart! And, I really want to get rich.”
Another man slouched in the shadows at the booth at the end of the table. He had been silent till now. “I think I understand you perfectly, Mentiroso Shaitan. There’s no reason you can’t be rich very soon. And you don’t need experience or skills. Here. Tell you what. I’ll pay for your drink. Come back to my place where I can explain things privately. Clearly, these misguided fools think you have to work for a living and that having a job means you should have relevant experience and have evidence that you are quite competent and that kind of claptrap. But you and I — we’re beyond that kind of petty “get what you deserve” kind of life. Right, my friend. Oh, and by the way, my name is Mamman.”
Intrigued, Mentiroso Shaitan stood and walked to the end of the table and took Mamman’s hand in his. “Pleased to meet you Mamman! I’m Mentiroso Shaitan. Let’s ditch this joint and talk diablo a diablo!”
The manager of the hotel (or, “Stable Mighty Emperor Genius Maganificent Adiposity*” as he prefers to be called) called Kevin on his private, “Master Only Line.”
“Kevin? What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“Well, I … “
“Get down here. Now! I have a pipe I need you to unclog!”
“Are you serious? I’m in the fight of my political life here! And, anyway, I don’t know plumbing.”
“Get down here. Or, you’ll never get my endorsement again. Come clean my pipes and I’ll make sure you get the position you deserve.”
“I don’t know how to clean pipes!”
“Get down here. I’ll show you everything you need to know.”
A few hours later, at taxpayer’s expense, Kevin arrived and was ushered into SMEGMA’s anteroom to wait. After a few hours without any communication, a scantily clad model ushered Kevin into SMEGMA’s office which stank of rotting, overcooked Brussel sprouts, slug slime, and limburger cheese gone bad.
Kevin began extending his hand, but the odor nearly knocked him down. He jerked his hand back reflexively. He reeled from the Putrid smell and steadied himself by putting his hand on a nearby table. Unfortunately, it rested ever so briefly on a plate of cold catsup-covered French fries. The hand that was supposed to steady him instead slid violently off the table causing him to twist as he fell through the air and smacked hard into the rug. The thought flashed through his mind: “Thank God he’s got really large piles.” (Unlike his iPhone, Kevin’s brain had no autocorrect.)
One of the hard metal legs of an ergonomic chair nearly hit his skull. Kevin cried out in fear, pain, and outrage. The fall and twist and pain combined to disorient Kevin. The laugh disoriented him even more. “Whose (Unlike his iPhone, Kevin’s brain had no autocorrect.)
laughing? Why? I nearly broke my arm — and my head. And what is that smell?”
“That was great, Kevy. Do it again!”
“Do what again? Are you serious? I damn near killed myself!”
“So what? It gave me pleasure. Well, never mind. The moment is at lapsed.” (This brain was missing more than a spell-check app!).
“Look, Master, I have a fight to get back to. Can you just tell me where the pipes are you need cleaned. And, what is that smell?!”
“Just like everyone else who’se everyone held office held, I may have had people flush classified documents down the toilet. It’s the most beautiful golden toilet in the world, by the way, the universe, the galaxy, even the whole solar system!”
“Fine. Where are your tools?”
“Tools? Don’t you know? All you fools are my tools! You’re cleaning my pipes with your body. Some send me their rent money. Oh, it does make me laugh. Now, get in there and clean. And, I’ll just might make sure your Talker of the House.”
“It’s actually called…never mind. You want me to dive into the toilet in order to clean it? I mean, couldn’t I drown?”
“It doesn’t matter dear, so long as I am satisfied.”
Needless to say, (or is it needless?) Kevin never got what he was promised, no matter how clean he got the toilets.
Shadow Walker wondered whether the sense of foreboding he felt simply reflected the cool, damp weather. He took a deep breath. It felt good so he intentionally calmed himself with more deep breaths and rather than chase after an explanation, which, in his experience often scared explanations away, he determined to be more like a hunter waiting in a blind for the prey to come. He sat on a cold flat rock and let his thoughts drift. As he did so, his eyes chanced upon the Sixth Ring of Empathy — the one that only he and his love, Many Paths, had won. Touching it often seemed to give him comfort and he tried that, grinning as he did so. He immediately felt sunnier. Better, he knew exactly why he had felt morose. Many Paths had been worried for days about the upcoming meeting among the tribes. He had felt left out of her worry. She had not really sought his counsel, and he realized that, so far as he knew, she had not sought anyone’s counsel lately; not even that of her predecessor, She Who Saved Many Lives.
A smile came upon the face of Shadow Walker. A plan came to him and his smile broadened. Confidence returned to his step as he marched back to the Center Place of the Veritas. Immediately upon entering The Sacred Circle, he spied the younger brother of Many Paths, Tu-Swift. He and Cat Eyes spoke quietly and seriously. Beside them on an oaken table, a number of what he now knew to call “books” were spread out in front of them. They were concentrating so intently they failed to see him approach. While all of the Veritas were trained in the ability to walk silently, Shadow Walker had perfected the skill better than anyone else in the tribe. He felt no need to startle his friends, so he announced his presence intentionally. “I see you two are continuing your studies.”
Tu-Swift and Cat Eyes both smiled and moved so as to allow space and offer invitation to Shadow Walker. He smiled back, but rather than join them, he quickly explained his insight and suggestion. They both assented quickly. Cat Eyes nodded vigorously while Tu-Swift said aloud, “Wonderful idea! We’re leaving now. But — are you sure that’s where she is?”
“No, not completely sure. But reasonably sure. If you find her, can you bring her back here? Meanwhile, I’ll see whether She Who Saved Many Lives will join us presently.”
Cat Eyes glanced up at the grey clouds and decided to put the books into boxes and cover them with the rock-weighted rawhide cover. Then, the three dispersed. The youngsters strode off to find Many Paths while Shadow Walker walked over to the cabin of the Elder Shaman. Halfway there, he saw the slightly bent figure of She Who Saved Many Lives walking toward him. He chuckled. Many Paths had several times mentioned how often she had sought to find the Elder and gain her advice only to discover that She Who Saved Many Lives was already en route to her.
Shadow Walker approached and bowed his head slightly out of respect. “Well met, Mother of the Tribe, I had something I wanted to ask you about.”
“Yes, I also think it’s time to help She Who Finds Many Paths to Avoid Asking for Help.”
Shadow Walker was taken aback. “She Who…? Ah, yes. Exactly. But how…?”
“Oh, my, Shadow Walker. Books are not the only things which may be read.” She said this in such a kindly tone and with such a twinkle in her eye, that Shadow Walker could do nothing but shake his head and chuckle again. “Many Paths has cautioned me that you can read minds. Now, I see she is right.”
“Would that I could! I cannot read the mind of a tree, but if there has been no rain for days the leaves are all wilting, I know the tree wants water, and so too, do you, as signified by the Rings of Empathy you earned. I should think. It’s not much different with reading people than it is with trees. You and I both know Many Paths is rightly concerned that this upcoming meeting go smoothly. There is a time to keep one’s own counsel, surely, but now, I think, like you, it is time to stir the pot!”
Shadow Walker offered his elbow to the Elder and they slowly made their way back to the Center Place of the Veritas.
I wonder whether anyone has experience they’d like to share in using Lassie movies as training devices for their own pooch. I am still learning to distinguish which of Sadie’s many barks means variously:
1. I have to go potty.
2. I *really* have to go potty!
3. I *really* have to go BIG potty!
4. I don’t really have to go potty and I really am bored and so maybe you’ll take me out to go potty so that I can:
3a. Find a poison mushroom to inhale before I even notice it’s there
3b. Bark at anything out of place such as a fallen leaf
3c. Pretend to be docile and then try to dislocate my shoulder when she sees a mosquito float by. Or a leaf. Or a hallucination.
On the other hand, Lassie is capable of communicating with cunning, compassion, and coherence with the adults in her life. I grant you that theoretically, it might be that the adults on the show are much cleverer than I am. It’s a reasonable hypothesis, but no…if I had abandoned mine shafts and unused wells all over my farm, I’d make damn sure any kids knew they were not to go there! And, I wouldn’t cover over an unused well hole with a couple of loose two by fours either. For that and other tedious reasons, I don’t think the genius in the Lassie family lies with the humans. It is Lassie who has the title role and she is the one with outstanding skills.
Witness episode N+1:
Lassie gallops into the kitchen and skids to a stop right beside Gramps and barks:
“What’s that Lassie? What is it, girl?”
“What? Something’s wrong with the roof?”
“I will not! Anyway, I already fed you.”
Lassie, noticeably frustrated, circles twice and grabs a can-opener in her muzzle, sprints to the liquor cabinet and begins banging the can-opener into the lock.
“What? You’re trying to jimmy the lock open? You want a drink?”
Lassie grabs one ear with her paw and barks.
“Oh! Sounds like ‘jimmy’! Oh! Let’s see…’Kimmy’, ‘dimmy’, ‘Limmy’, I don’t know girl. There aren’t many words that rhyme with ‘jimmy.’”
Lassie barks: “ARF! ARF!”
“Lassie, are you sick or something girl?”
Immediately, Lassie springs into the air and does a somersault onto her back and waves all four paws in the air.
Gramps muses aloud. “The opposite of sick. Healthy? Something is healthy? No? Hale? Fine Fettle? Hardy?”
For each guess, Lassie barks a sharp short “No!”
Gramps frowns and says, “Well, I don’t know what you’re trying to say, Lassie. I’ve got to get back to carving my pipe here.”
Lassie stands on her hind two legs and begins using ASL with her two front paws. However, she quickly notes the looks of bewilderment on the visage of Gramps and she rightly concludes that he still doesn’t know ASL, despite her admonitions. So, she begins again with the barking: “ARF! ARF!”
Gramps says, “You’re not making any sense, Lassie. Timmy wouldn’t fall down a well. Why would he?”
“ARF! ARF! ARF!”
Gramps frowns and tilts his head so fast he pulls his sternocleidomastoid. “What? He fell down the well just last week? No, he didn’t. That was two weeks ago. Last week, Timmy fell down an old mineshaft. Oh! Wait! Are you trying to tell me that Timmy fell down a well again!? Oh, no! Why didn’t you tell me?”
Needless to say, Gramps calls the sheriff and after he arrives Gramps explains. The sheriff draws his gun and charges out toward one of the 17 abandoned wells at Gramps’s place. But Lassie begins barking — again!
“ARF! ARF! WOOF! BOW!”
The sheriff glares at Gramps and uses his best shoulder shrugging head tilt as though to say, “Well? You going to shut up the mutt or am I?”
Gramps scratches several places; for instance, behind his ear. Then he says, “Lassie is simply pointing out that while a gun won’t help get Timmy out of the well, a long rope might.”
“I knew that!” The sheriff speaks in a huff while Lassie merely rolls her eyes and winks at Gramps. Then, off Lassie scampers to the tool shed, picks the lock with a handy nearby roofing nail, nudges the door open, and scampers back with a long loop of strong rope.
Soon, she leads them to one of the many abandoned wells. By the time Gramps and Sheriff catch up, Lassie has tied a loose bowline one one end of the rope and two half hitches around a sturdy nearby oak stump, tosses the bowline down to Timmy, and barks her orders to him. Gramps and Sheriff pull on the rope, and soon enough, Timmy, cold and wet but alive, politely thanks Sheriff and Gramps for pulling him out and then throws his skinny arms around Lassie. “Oh, Lassie! Thanks, girl, for saving me! You were right! I shouldn’t have tried to walk across the well on those rotten planks after all!”
Lassie merely rolls her eyes.
I’m not saying that if Sadie watched any one episode that she’d learn every skill all at once, but over time, it might help. Right?
Assuming, of course, that I can ever get her to notice anything on the TV screen. I’m thinking of smearing bacon grease around the edges.