Ask General Kang: Do you own a typewriter? And do you have 999,999 co-workers?

Ask General KangI have neither, nor do I have an infinite amount of time, so don’t expect to see me write Hamlet anytime soon.

I do, however, have this gripping script about an intergalactic overlord who comes to Earth, starts writing an advice column, and finds himself forced to beat one of his letter writers senseless after he makes a joke about the overlord’s hirsute back, bow legs and penchant for banana cream pies.

But back to your impertinent question: can a million monkeys typing randomly create a work of Shakespeare? No, Shakespeare has already written his oeuvre, so the best they could do is make a copy. (Which would be silly, because it’s now all available on the Internet.)

Some people have done the math, and believe it is impossible, thus proving the existence of God. Others believe that it demonstrates how the universe has evolved. Personally, I’ve watched a few movies by Million Monkeys Studios (a subsidiary of Fox), and I have to side with the first group.

Not only does God exist, It has a cruel sense of humor. More vicious even than Kragnarok the Icky, whose favourite pastime was eating the deep-fried skin of his victims while he bathed them in lemon juice.

Next time: Is it true that putting you face near a quasar will clear up acne?

Alltop could never be written by a million monkeys. Apparently a few thousand is enough. Originally published June, 2008.

A writer writes

writing with giant pencil

Ignatius was working. That was the first rule for writers. It wasn’t about the tools, his teachers had said, back in school. It was about discipline. Work.

A writer must write, even if, as Thomas Mann said: “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than for other people.”

Of course, he might find a pen somewhat less of a challenge than the over-sized novelty pencil. And he’d heard great things about something called a word processor. Maybe regular-sized paper?

No! he thought. It’s not about the tools.

Another tiny sheet of paper ripped apart, unable to withstand Ignatius’s impatience and the giant pencil. He sighed, and started his to do list again.

Alltop does not know this “pencil” Ingatius speaks of. Photo by Natalie Down.

Pirate Therapy

Pirate flagLaurence arrived a few minutes late for his regular Thursday morning session, but his therapist usually ran late, so he wasn’t worried.

From behind the door of his therapist’s office, he heard a blood-curdling scream, and then a thump. A door opened somewhere, and Laurence heard a strange sound, almost as though something heavy was being dragged. He heard grunts, scraping, and the rhythmical percussion of something booming on the floor. Laurence looked around, and realized the secretary was not there. He also realized he was standing, tense.

The door to his therapist’s office creaked opened, and he heard a rough voice shout: “Ahoy Larry! Be ye out there laddie?”

“Uh. Yes.”

“Come in, matey.”

Laurence walked unsteadily to the door and opened the door fully.

A pirate sat in his therapist’s chair. He had wild, unkempt hair held in by a greasy red bandanna, and a full dread-locked beard that looked like it was made out of black steel wool. He was wearing a stained white silk shirt, a sash of what was probably once a lovely dark green silk and pantaloons. He had one black boot, and he was missing a leg, which was replaced by a wooden peg that was carved into the shape of …

Laurence looked away.

“Arr matey, don’t ye like me leg?”

“Uh, it’s very creative,” Laurence said. “Um. Um, where is Dr. Glick?”

“She’s in-dee-sposed,” the pirate said. “She’s asked me to take care of her sessions today. Now, repeat after me: Arrrr!”

“Ar?”

“No, like ye mean it. Take a deep breath. No, don’t sit down. Ye won’t be sitting down this morning Larry, ye’ll be workin’! Now, say it: arrrr!!!”

“Arr.”

“Avast!” the pirate stood, the obscenely rounded end of his peg leg booming on the floor. A cutlass lay on Dr. Glick’s desk, and he picked it up. “I want to hear a real pirate yawlp before ye leave, ye bilge rat!”

Larry suddenly understood what that dragging sound had been. He looked around wildly for a weapon to defend himself; he picked up a pillow from the couch. Perhaps it would work as a shield.

“Would ye like a blankie too Larry? I won’t be caring if ye need to carry around a stuffed bear, as long as I hear ye. Now take a deep breath, and say it: arrrr!” The pirate’s voice was incredibly loud.

Laurence dropped the pillow and held his ears. He started shaking.

The pirate took a step closer and pointed the cutlass tip at Laurence’s throat; he lowered his voice and said menacingly: “I’ve slit the throats of better men than ye, Larry me boyo. Now say it, smartly lad, smartly!”

“Arr!” Larry managed, terror driving his voice several octaves higher.

“Grand! Grand!” the pirate enthused. “Now, let’s pretend you’ve got a pair, and say it again.”

“Arrr!” Larry shouted.

“Again!”

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“Arrr!”

“Again! Louder!”

“Arrr!” Larry screamed.

“Arrr!” the pirate joined in.

“Arrr!”

“Arrr!”

“Arrrrr……..” Their joint shouting tailed off, and Laurence realized that the pirate was grinning at him.

“So how do ye feel matey?”

Laurence wanted to say he felt good, but he know that wasn’t the right answer, so he just muttered: “arrrrr.”

The End

Alltop be wanting yer attention too, the scallywags. The title story in my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.

Ask General Kang: What is the penalty for plagiarism on your planet?

Ask General KangPlagiarism is the “act of stealing the ideas and/or expression of another and representing them as your own,” though I can’t remember where I got that quote from — just Google it for the source.

On my home planet of Neecknaw, this is not only an academic offence, but it is also a capital crime.

This stems from the days of Kargnak the Betrayed, one of the great warlord monkey rulers of the ancient days. Legend has it that Kargnak was an impressionable young screen-writer before he became the first in a long line of bloodthirsty intergalactic conquerors from the Planet Neecknaw.

As it happens, he wrote a promising screenplay called, “Planet of the Hairless Hominids”, about a dystopic future in which all good Neecknabian chimps were ruled by self-absorbed, ecologically retarded hominids he styled “humans”. (We had yet to discover the Milky Way Galaxy and your backwards corner of it in those days.) A producer showed some interest in it, but alas, did not buy the manuscript.

And wasn’t Kargnak surprised when the next summer, “Planet of the Humans” appeared at his local Chimpaplex? It was a huge hit, and made millions, and was (of course) based entirely on Kargnak’s original screenplay. He didn’t see a single banana skin for it, and thus Kargnak gave up the writing game for the bloodthirsty and cruel warlord business. At which he was moderately successful, taking over all of Neecknaw and some of our neighboring planets.

Actually, he didn’t give up writing completely, as he penned the Kargnakian Code, which for the first time set out all of our laws in a logical and ordered way. Under the Kargnakian Code, plagiarism is a capital crime, and the condemned are put to death by having all their hairs plucked out (very painful when you’re covered with them), then having a thousand unpublished writers slicing them with the sharpest paper they can find, while lemons are crushed in a massive press above them made of all unpublished writer’s manuscripts. Oh, and hot pokers are inserted wherever paper cuts cannot be administered.

Good god, that’s horrible! What about self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is style, baby. (*)

Next time: What should I say when my girlfriend asks me, “what are you thinking”?

*) Alfred Hitchcock said this defending repetition of his filming techniques in the London Observer, 8 Aug., 1976. Actually, he said “self-plagiarism is style.”

Alltop is 100% original. Originally published November, 2008, and it appears in my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.