Category Archives: Features

Scenes from the Boda Dome: Job Interview (System transcript 18552.3b-OCT/22/40)

HITCHENS: You’re Edward.

EDWARD: Um, yes. Uh… yes.

HITCHENS: Edward, do you know who I am?

EDWARD: Um… You’re, you’re Mr. Hitchens.

HITCHENS: Hitchens.

EDWARD: Hitchens. That’s, um… I think that’s what I said.

HITCHENS: It’s just Hitchens, Edward.

EDWARD: Oh, it, it–

HITCHENS: Why do you think you’d be right for this job, Edward?

EDWARD: Why do I, um… I think that, um… Well, I think that… Um, Mr. um…, er, Hitchens?

HITCHENS: Just Hitchens. Yes, Edward.

EDWARD: They actually didn’t tell me anything about the job. So…

HITCHENS: I find that hard to believe, Edward.

EDWARD: Oh. But… No. They didn’t tell me.

HITCHENS: I admire your honesty, Edward.

EDWARD: Uh… thanks, thank you.

HITCHENS: However I deplore unpreparedness. Though apparently it’s not your fault, is that right?

EDWARD: No, I… They said you’d explain the job.

HITCHENS: Let me ask you something, Edward. Do you have quick, dextrous hands?

EDWARD: Hands, sir? I…

HITCHENS: Edward.

EDWARD: Sir?

HITCHENS: Hitchens.

EDWARD: Hit– Hitchens.

HITCHENS: Do you have quick, dextrous hands, Edward.

EDWARD: I… do?

HITCHENS: And are you tolerant of extremely high temperatures?

EDWARD: I… I don’t know, sir. I don’t… I don’t think so. Not particularly.

HITCHENS: Your letter says you are.

EDWARD: It… It does?

HITCHENS: The letter from Employment. It does.

EDWARD: Oh. Well, um… how high? The temperatures.

HITCHENS: Very high, Edward.

EDWARD: Oh. Oh, in that case–

HITCHENS: Let me ask you, Edward, whether you think you could maintain manual dexterity over extended periods in high temperatures.

EDWARD: Um… sir? I’m really not sure I could.

HITCHENS: Edward.

EDWARD: I’m sorry, sir, I’m not trying to… to… I’m not hoping to get out of the job, sir, it’s just I’m really not sure I could… could…

HITCHENS: Edward, of course no one enjoys working under adverse conditions. But you go home at the end of the day to comfort. To everything you need for sustaining a fulfilling existence. And in exchange you work. That’s how we run a society. It’s how society has always been run, Edward.

EDWARD: Yes, sir, that’s true, I just–

HITCHENS: Edward, you dealt cards in Recreation for three years. I have no reservations about your dexterity. Neither should you. This is substantially the same thing, except instead of cards you’ll be working with organics.

EDWARD: O- Organics, sir?

HITCHENS: Living tissue, Edward. Ergo the heat. Incubation.

EDWARD: Sir, I– I–

HITCHENS: I’m awarding you the post, Edward. Please be here tomorrow for standard schedule. Entry is on level 6.

EDWARD: Thank you, sir.

HITCHENS: Hitchens, Edward. You’re welcome.

The Magician

The magician walks with a very long stride. When he takes the stage – which in deference to his fame and the many paying customers it attracts is quite large – he needs only five steps to reach its center. The audience falls immediately silent; the magician’s shows are known to be both short and spectacular, and no one wants to miss anything.

That the magician’s voice carries as well as it does is a surprise; even those seated in the balcony’s last row are enveloped by the sound of it. He asks for a volunteer, specifying that she be a female virgin. After a minute or so of mumbling from the audience, a girl from the fifth row makes her way the short distance to the stage, climbs a stack of moveable stairs placed there for the occasion, and walks to stage-center where the magician has directed her to stand. Her long hair blends almost perfectly into a simple black dress beneath which her figure explores the beginnings of womanhood. The magician takes two long steps away from her and faces the audience. He says, “Since I was boy I�ve enjoyed luck with those of the opposite sex. More than a few of them have I ushered across the river of sexual fruition, from the isle of innocence to the crowded, communal mainland, each girl leaving behind her marooned life and ambling gently into a world of shared flesh.” He waves his wand, a long leather stick reminiscent of a riding crop, with a flourish. “Chalk up another one!” There is a stir of bemusement from the audience, and the girl wears a patient look sarcastically. From offstage comes a man in a long white coat, a medical doctor who sets down next to the girl his case of instruments, rummages therein, and then subjects her to the briefest examinations before verifying, to the crowd’s gasping amazement, that the she has indeed lost her virginity.

By the time the girl, her cheeks flushed becomingly, finds her way back to her seat, the magician is dangling a large white rabbit aloft by the ears. In the other hand, he holds a sharp knife. The rabbit strains slightly to get a look around, but on the whole appears quite calm. The magician says, “Now I want you to tell me everything you know, little rabbit.” He arches one long eyebrow, then eviscerates the rabbit with a graceful, understated gesture. The stroke is so clean that the rabbit doesn’t swing side to side even a little. Another round of gasps from the audience as the rabbit’s guts slough onto the stage. The magician says, “You spilled your guts. It’s rare that interrogations go this well. I’ll reward you with a nice, relaxing vacation inside my hat. It’s just what you need.” The magician removes his hat and places the rabbit inside, without releasing the ears. He says, “Feeling better?” then slowly raises the rabbit back out of the hat to reveal that it is alive and well, with no sign of a fatal abdominal gash. The magician sets the rabbit down at his feet, and there is great applause as the rabbit hops healthily offstage.

The magician says, “I feel like a smoke.” He takes a pack of cigarettes from inside his jacket, removes one, and replaces the box. With a golden lighter that has appeared in his hand, he lights his cigarette. He then encloses the lighter in a large fist and lowers it to his side. He proceeds to smoke in silence and with very little movement, the cigarette never leaving his lips. He smokes. He does not ash the cigarette. When the tobacco has been completely smoked, the magician does not remove it from his mouth and continues to stare straight ahead. The ember continues to creep along the cigarette’s butt, until protruding from the magician’s lips is a three-inch column of ash. Smoke continues to rise from the point where ash now meets human lips. Slowly, the magician’s lips begin going gray. Slowly, the cinder organism expands, creeping out from the lips toward the chin and nose and cheeks. The magician’s eyes blink occasionally, but he is otherwise motionless, concentrating on some point near the back of the theater. His eyes give one final blink just as the upper lids transmute, and the lashes snow to the floor. Within a few minutes, the magician’s neck, shoulders, torso, hips, arms and legs have combusted, so that he appears from any distance to be the grisly mutilation of a statue, hands of living flesh and black leather shoes somehow grafted onto the cool granite. And when finally the hands and shoes have receded completely before the creeping cherries, the magician’s form disintegrates like an overburdened sandcastle, the golden lighter clattering to the stage.

More Fascinating Scholarship from the We Are Scientists

Following is a list that we — in our linguistic trolling — have turned up of once-popular aphorisms that, for one reason or another, have quietly dropped out of use. Some are too confusing, some too obvious, and others appear simply to have been replaced by better sayings that cover the same wisdom. Sounds rather dry, doesn’t it? Actually a lot of these are pretty fucking funny, because we favored humor over realism when we made them up. We’ve indicated in parentheses our guess as to why each phrase went extinct.

A chicken in your basket is similar to two of them in another place that you don’t control, but better, if only slightly. (Likely outmoded by Franklin’s “A bird in hand…”, which is after all a bit more gracefully phrased.)

She who drives not forth when it is for forth that is called, shall be damned. (This is both a little confusing and, once the meaning has been extracted, not at all intuitive.)

An early bed-time and a similar variety of rising-from-bed-time make a person a good, solid person. (Again, Franklin saw an unwieldy phrasing that nevertheless contained promise and improved it immeasurably.)

What with brute force you doodle, in time will surely noodle. (This one is actually pretty good and should in our opinion be considered for resurrection.)

Marzipan and little hands make for stubbly porridge. (Ditto this one. Very nice. Succinct, witty, informative about porridge and so forth — very nice.)

The mangy dog is ill-advised who, on his barely tolerant master’s new carpet, poos.(We tossed out another keeper, people. What the fuck’s wrong with us English-speakers, huh?)

What is done daftly in deed, indeed may deftly be done. (How perfectly splendid and true! Fuck it, we’re just going to start using this one, obsolete or not.)

How fortunate the sapling that, deprived of water, finds a way to GET that water, whether or not, all for one. (This is not so much an aphorism as an awesome, awe-inspiring story that totally makes us want to do better. For instance: enough sitting around and bitching! About nothing most of the time! Granted, certain very real burdens have been beyond our ability to shrug off. We’re thinking here of the gimpy leg we were born with, which prevents us from competing successfully in a foot race with even a spritely turtle, and which dangles there like a shrivelled, gnarly branch, and which like a branch is made of wood, because it is a fake leg, the cheapest one Father could find, we’re assuming, damn him to hell. But another aphorism we’ve always hated is “Be yourself,” which is maybe not an aphorism, but deserves mention because it’s so fucking stupid, because of course you’re going to be yourself, that being your single, solitary, exclusive option, so it’s hardly a choice, and if it were you would, in our case certainly, choose immediately to be someone else — anyone, anyone else at all.)

Scenes from the Boda Dome: New Cat (Intracranial AutoDiary record #6:51-55P-JAN/11/36)

What’s with your cat?

Why’s he keep bucking around like that? What the hell’s he up to?

Is he trying to tell us something? Do cats do that?

What’s he doing now? Crap, how’d he do that?

You don’t think he can wield that thing, do you?

Oh shit, looks to me like he’s wieldin’ it.

Man, that cat is fucking up your table.

Dude, this is unreal. I’ve never seen anything like this.

What the hell’s got him so riled up?

Sounds like he’s saying rad. Raaaad. Raaaad.

Is he deliberately changing the channels, or are his swats just hitting the channel button by accident?

Wow, Charles in Charge has him entranced.

He’s like, waving at Buddy. And telling him he’s rad.

Man, he hates Nicole Eggert.

I honestly think he’s hissing at Nicole Eggert. Look, as soon as she’s gone he stops.

God, he loves Buddy.

Nooo, really? Nooo.

It looks totally normal…

Can I pick it up?

Wow, it’s heavy.

Vulgarity Charted

There is a longstanding and well-respected tradition here at this We Are Scientists website which prohibits the use of profanity. We run a clean site and we’re proud of it. However we are also scientists. And so, when intellectual curiosity and humankind’s patent need dictate that we study and document the world of spoken vulgarity, we comply. It has not been easy. Our ears bled, if only metaphorically. However the results of our enquiry are so enlightening that we not only feel vindicated, but also have decided to suspend our cherished editorial doctrine and print them here. What you have below, then, is an actual chart showing, in fascinating detail, the spectrum of vulgarity as it is used in American english. We’ve sifted the data and found that all American vulgarity falls into one of seven categories. We give you a comprehensive catalog of what fits where, the better for you to understand both the confusing spray of filth that assaults your ears whenever you go into public, and your aversion to it.

It should go without saying that if you are among the more puritanical and principled of our readers, you would do well to discontinue reading this feature. If, like us, you have been bitten by that amoral bug Science, however, then by all means dive in, your shame secure behind the shield of intellectual exploration.