MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter V


Previously:

  1. Chapter I
  2. Chapter II
  3. Chapter III
  4. Chapter IV

And now the conclusion of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.

>
>
> V

TOM: It was.

CROW: Maybe the real punishment was having to be Fatty Coon all along.

>
> FATTY COON GOES FISHING

MIKE: A very special episode.

>
> One day Fatty Coon was strolling along the brook which flowed
> not far from his home.

CROW: Swift Creek?

TOM: Foster Brook.

MIKE: That’s … actually too new a reference for this.

> He stopped now and then, to crouch close to the
> water’s edge, in the hope of catching a fish.

CROW: ‘What if a fish was a goshawk egg pie?’

> And one time, when he
> lay quite still among the rocks, at the side of a deep pool, with his
> eyes searching the clear water, Fatty Coon suddenly saw something
> bright, all yellow and red, that lighted on the water right before
> him. It was a bug, or a huge fly.

MIKE: Or a tiny flying saucer.

TOM: Fatty eats the aliens’ peaceful expedition before they get started.

> And Fatty was very fond of bugs—to
> eat, you know.

ALL: We *know*.

CROW: As opposed to the ones he trains for pets.

> So he lost no time. The bright thing had scarcely
> settled on the water when Fatty reached out and seized it.

CROW: But he already seezed it! It was right in front of his eyes!

> He put it
> into his mouth, when the strangest thing happened. Fatty felt himself
> pulled right over into the water.

MIKE: Finally he crosses the Chandrasekhar limit and collapses into a black hole.

>
> He was surprised, for he never knew a bug or a fly to be so
> strong as that. Something pricked his cheek and Fatty thought that the
> bright thing had stung him.

CROW: Then this family of nutrias comes up and slaps Fatty silly.

> He tried to take it out of his mouth, and
> he was surprised again. Whatever the thing was, it seemed to be stuck
> fast in his mouth.

TOM: He’s delighted by something wanting him to eat it for a change.

> And all the time Fatty was being dragged along
> through the water. He began to be frightened.

MIKE: Hungry and frightened: the Fatty Coon story.

> And for the first time
> he noticed that there was a slender line which stretched from his
> mouth straight across the pool. As he looked along the line Fatty saw
> a man at the other end of it—a man, standing on the other side of the
> brook!

CROW: ‘I don’t know how but I caught a human!’

TOM: ‘That’ll be eating for *hours*!’

> And he was pulling Fatty toward him as fast as he could.
>
> Do you wonder that Fatty Coon was frightened?

TOM: He didn’t have a license to catch men.

> He jumped
> back—as well as he could, in the water—and tried to swim away.

CROW: ‘Dive! Dive! Dive!’

> His
> mouth hurt; but he plunged and pulled just the same, and jerked his
> head and squirmed and wriggled and twisted.

MIKE: *Extremely* Chubby Checker!

> And just as Fatty had
> almost given up hope of getting free, the gay-colored bug, or fly, or
> whatever it was, flew out of his mouth and took the line with it.

CROW: I wonder if Fatty Coon will go on to learn nothing from this?


> At
> least, that was what Fatty Coon thought. And he swam quickly to the
> bank and scampered into the bushes.

MIKE: And ate his cover.

TOM: ‘Needs peanut butter!’

>
> Now, this was what really happened.

MIKE: Our story begins with the Algeciras Crisis of 1905.

> Farmer Green had come up
> the brook to catch trout. On the end of his fish-line he had tied a
> make-believe fly,

CROW: For the discerning fisher who doesn’t exist.

> with a hook hidden under its red and yellow wings.
> He had stolen along the brook very quietly, so that he wouldn’t
> frighten the fish.

TOM: He brought some presents in case he did, to reassure any scaredy-catfish.

> And he had made so little noise that Fatty Coon
> never heard him at all.

CROW: [ Fatty ] Hey, it’s hard to hear someone over the sound of my deep-fat fryer!

> Farmer Green had not seen Fatty, crouched as
> he was among the stones. And when Fatty reached out and grabbed the
> make-believe fly Farmer Green was even more surprised at what happened
> than Fatty himself.

TOM: Sammy Squirrel falls out of a tree, laughing.

MIKE: Fatty eats him.

> If the fish-hook hadn’t worked loose from Fatty’s
> mouth Farmer Green would have caught the queerest fish anybody ever
> caught, almost.

CROW: Well, there was that mermaid-cerberus this guy down in Belmar caught but that was something else.

>
> Something seemed to amuse Farmer Green, as he watched Fatty
> dive into the bushes; and he laughed loud and long.

TOM: See? Fatty Coon brings joy to the world, at last.

> But Fatty Coon
> didn’t laugh at all. His mouth was too sore;

MIKE: And full.

> and he was too
> frightened.

CROW: And awful.

> But he was very, very glad that the strange bug had flown
> away.

MIKE: And he learns the most important lesson of all, which is …

CROW: I dunno. Preferably food things.

TOM: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

MIKE: Yeah, before Fatty eats it.

[ ALL exit the theater. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. TOM SERVO, MIKE, and CROW at the desk. ]

MIKE: Well.

TOM: So.

CROW: Well *and* so.

MIKE: So in his defense —

[ TOM, CROW groan. ]

MIKE: OK, but name something Fatty did that a real raccoon —

CROW: Don’t care.

TOM: Look, we already know Nature sucks. That’s why we have indoors. And animal stories where we like the animals.

CROW: And that is *all* the reminder of the cruel nature of the world that we ever need. Thank you.

MIKE: I .. well, over to you, Pearl.

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, OBSERVER, and BOBO cackling. ]

PEARL: They don’t even suspect!

OBSERVER: Why would they?

BOBO: Suspect what?

[ PEARL, OBSERVER glare at BOBO. ]

BOBO: What?

OBSERVER: Chapters Six …

PEARL: Through Twenty.

BOBO: [ Not getting it. ] Oh. [ Getting it. ] Oh!

\ | /
\ | /
\|/
—O—
/|\
/ | \
/ | \

BOBO: [ Off screen ] Of this?

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and settings and concept are the property of … you know, I’m not sure. It used to be Best Brains but now I think that’s different? Well, it belongs to the people it really and truly belongs to and this is just me playing with their toys. _The Tale of Fatty Coon_ was written by Arthur Scott Bailey and published in 1915 and accessed via archive.org, which is why I am reasonably confident they’re in the public domain and can be used this way.

Keep Usenet circulating.

> Fatty Coon’s eyes turned green. It was a way they had,
> whenever he was about to eat anything

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped four points today, in trading that people suspected was just a repeat of yesterday’s. Some are speculating that the leading traders are hoping to make a regular thing of taking the weekends off and while I can’t blame them I also don’t think we want to encourage that sort of reckless talk.

101

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter IV


Previously:

  1. Chapter I
  2. Chapter II
  3. Chapter III

And now the next part of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.


>
>
> IV
>
> FATTY COON’S MISTAKE

TOM: Not getting editorial approval on this hit piece.

>
> Fatty Coon was very fond of squirrels.

CROW: Oh, Lord.

> And you may think it
> strange when I tell you that not one of the squirrels anywhere around
> Blue Mountain was the least bit fond of Fatty Coon.

MIKE: Is there anybody here that likes Fatty Coon?

CROW: There’s flocks of locusts that admire his work.

TOM: But even they won’t share a room with him.

> But when I say
> that Fatty Coon was fond of squirrels, I mean that he liked to eat
> them.

CROW: Yeah, yeah, we kinda saw that one coming.

TOM: People reading other stories saw *that* one coming.

> So of course you will understand now why the squirrels did not
> care for Fatty at all.

MIKE: Because the last three chapters didn’t make it clear?

> In fact, they usually kept just as far away
> from him as they could.

TOM: It’s as though they aren’t looking for chances to die.

>
> It was easy, in the daytime, for the squirrels to keep out of
> Fatty’s way, when he wandered through the tree-tops, for the squirrels
> were much sprier than Fatty.

CROW: But then the trees are sprier than Fatty.

> But at night—ah! that was a very
> different matter. For Fatty Coon’s eyes were even sharper in the dark
> than they were in the daylight;

MIKE: And his mouth was twelve hours bigger.

> but the poor squirrels were just as
> blind as you are when you are safely tucked in bed and the light is
> put out.

CROW: Now I want to get squirrels their own night lights.

MIKE: I want to check I’m not going to get eaten by a raccoon in my bedroom.

>
> Yes—when the squirrels were in bed at night, up in their nests
> in the trees, they could see very little. And you couldn’t say they
> were SAFE in bed,

TOM: Are they literally beds or nests or? I’m trying to work out the anthropomorphism level here.

> because they never knew when Fatty Coon, or his
> mother, or his brother, or one of his sisters, or some cousin of his,
> might come along and catch them before they knew it.

MIKE: Oh, good, it’s not just his protagonist he hates, Arthur Scott Bailey has it out for every raccoon.

TOM: The important thing for children’s animal fantasy is make your lead character as much like a serial killer as possible.

>
> Fatty thought it great sport to hunt squirrels at night.

CROW: He loves his reputation as an unstoppable random death-bringer!

> Whenever he tried it he usually managed to get a good meal.

TOM: So frogs stump him but squirrels are easy?

> And after
> he had almost forgotten about the fright the goshawk had given him in
> the tall hemlock he began to roam through the tree-tops every night in
> search of squirrels and sleeping birds.

CROW: It’s like they say, when you fall off a bike you have to get back up and eat it.

>
> But a night came at last when Fatty was well punished for
> hunting squirrels.

MIKE: At this point any punishment is a good start.

> He had climbed half-way to the top of a big
> chestnut tree, when he spied a hole in the trunk. He rather thought
> that some squirrels lived inside that hole.

TOM: ‘I’d leave then in peace but it’s been two hours since I ate the last five hundred passenger pigeons!’

> And as he listened for a
> few seconds he could hear something moving about inside. Yes! Fatty
> was sure that there was a squirrel in there—probably several
> squirrels.

CROW: Maybe one squirrel, two chipmunks, and a groundhog serving in an advisory capacity?

>
> Fatty Coon’s eyes turned green.

MIKE: Whoa!

TOM: Cyborg raccoon!

> It was a way they had,
> whenever he was about to eat anything, or whenever he played with his
> brother Blackie, or Fluffy and Cutey, his sisters; or whenever he was
> frightened.

CROW: Or when his laser batteries are running low.

> And now Fatty was so sure that he was going to have a fine
> lunch that his eyes turned as green as a cat’s.

TOM: Cyborg cats?

MIKE: This is why nature just isn’t a good idea.

> He reached a paw
> inside the hole and felt all around.

CROW: ‘Hey, there’s nothing in here but a paw-remover!’

>
> WOW! Fatty gave a cry; and he pulled his paw out much faster
> than he had put it in. Something had given him a cruel dig.

TOM: A … ?

CROW: Somebody really got at his paw’s emotional weaknesses.

> And in a jiffy Fatty saw what that "something" was. It was a grumpy old tramp
> coon, whom Fatty had never seen before.

MIKE: Buh?

CROW: What makes a *tramp* raccoon?

TOM: Raids the trash bins on a freight train I guess?

>
> "What do you mean, you young rascal, by disturbing me like
> this?" the ragged stranger cried.

CROW: He can call Fatty that because ‘rascal’ is a raccoon word.

TOM: They’ve reclaimed it.

>
> "Please, sir, I never knew it was you," Fatty stammered.
>
> "Never knew it was me! Who did you think it was?"

MIKE: I dunno, but I’m reading this with a W C Fields vibe.

>
> "A—a squirrel!" Fatty said faintly. And he whimpered a little,
> because his paw hurt him.

TOM: He sees what it’s like to get eaten some.

>
> "Ho, ho! That’s a good one! That’s a good joke!"

CROW: [ As the tramp ] ‘Thinking a squirrel might be hiding in a squirrel-hole in a tree! A rich jest, yes. Now let me get back to eating these squirrels.’

> The tramp
> coon laughed heartily. And then he scowled so fiercely that poor Fatty
> nearly tumbled out of the tree. "You go home," he said to Fatty. "And
> don’t you let me catch you around here again. You hear?"

MIKE: Or your paw shall get more digs and a few sharply barbed comments!

>
> "Yes, sir!" Fatty said. And home he went. And you may be sure
> that he let THAT tree alone after that. He never went near it again.

TOM: Wait, was that his well-punishment?

MIKE: Sometimes having to talk to someone is punishment enough.

[ To Conclude ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While the Another Blog, Meanwhile index did drop four points in the course of trading, analysts are optimistic, insisting that those four points were just holding everyone back and that things are going to be much better now that they’re gone.

105

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter III


Previously:

  1. Chapter I
  2. Chapter II

And now the next part of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.

>
>
> III
>
> FATTY DISCOVERS MRS. TURTLE’S SECRET

TOM: Oh, tell me this is about lingerie.

>
> After his adventure with the goshawk Fatty Coon did not go
> near the tree-tops for a long time.

MIKE: Not until the trees put some elevators in.

> Whenever he left home he would
> crawl down the old poplar tree in which he lived;

CROW: Achieving speeds of up to 400 miles per hour.

> and he wouldn’t
> climb a single tree until he came home again. Somehow, he felt safer
> on the ground.

TOM: ‘You know, nobody ever drops a pie onto a tree. The ground, though, that’s some prime stuff-being-dropped territory!’

> You see, he hadn’t forgotten the fright he had had, nor
> how the goshawk’s claws had hurt his back.

MIKE: Emotionally.

>
> It was just three days after his scare, to be exact, when
> Fatty Coon found himself on the bank of the creek which flowed slowly
> into Swift River.

TOM: Suppose that’s named for how fast it is, or for its discoverer, Carol the Swift?

> Fatty had been looking for frogs, but he had had no
> luck at all.

MIKE: The frogs’ early warning system was in good shape.

> To tell the truth, Fatty was a little too young to catch
> frogs easily, even when he found one;

TOM: Except for the one he grabbed last chapter.

MIKE: Hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

> and he was a good deal too fat,
> for he was so plump that he was not very spry.

MIKE: Also last week he ate the creek.

CROW: ‘Well, last week we had nacho cheese popcorn seasoning to sprinkle on it!’

>
> Now, Fatty was hiding behind some tall rushes, and his sharp
> little eyes were looking all about him, and his nose was twitching as
> he sniffed the air.

CROW: ‘Wawa has paninis? This changes everything!

> He wished he might find a frog. But not one frog
> appeared. Fatty began to think that some other coon must have visited
> the creek just before him and caught them all.

TOM: The lifeless pond can have only one explanation.

MIKE: Raccoons: nature’s own little neutron bombs.

> And then he forgot all
> about frogs.
>
> Yes! Frogs passed completely out of Fatty Coon’s mind. For
> whom should he spy but Mrs. Turtle!

CROW: What do you suppose her maiden name was?

TOM: Oh, she kept it when she married Dr Lesser Brown Bat.

> He saw her little black head
> first, bobbing along through the water of the creek. She was swimming
> toward the bank where Fatty was hidden.

MIKE: She loves the bank with its little chained pens and deposit slips.

> And pretty soon she pulled
> herself out of the water and waddled a short distance along the sand
> at the edge of the creek.

TOM: ‘Well, at least I don’t have to worry here about getting eaten by a raccoon!’

>
> Mrs. Turtle stopped then; and for a few minutes she was very
> busy about something. First she dug a hole in the sand.

CROW: Um?

TOM: [ Giggles nervously. ]

> And Fatty
> wondered what she was looking for. But he kept very quiet.

MIKE: Should we be watching this?
[ TOM, CROW look conspicuously away. ]

> And after a
> time Mrs. Turtle splashed into the creek again and paddled away. But
> before she left she scooped sand into the hole she had dug.

TOM: Oh dear, she *is*.

> Before she
> left the place she looked all around, as if to make sure that no one
> had seen her.

CROW: What was her plan if someone did see her at this point?

MIKE: Take the eggs back?

> And as she waddled slowly to the water Fatty could see
> that she was smiling as if she was very well pleased about something.
> She seemed to have a secret.

TOM: Quick, call in Garry Moore to help!

>
> Fatty Coon had grown very curious, as he watched Mrs. Turtle.

CROW: ‘I wonder if I can use this to become an even less pleasant person?’

> And just as soon as she was out of sight he came out from his hiding
> place in the tall reeds and trotted down to the edge of the creek. He
> went straight to the spot where Mrs. Turtle had dug the hole and
> filled it up again.

MIKE: Gotta say, Mrs Turtle does not come out looking good here.

TOM: Yeah, her scouting process could really use some scouting.

> And Fatty was so eager to know what she had been
> doing that he began to dig in the very spot where Mrs. Turtle had dug
> before him.

CROW: Mmm, turtle poop.

>
> It took Fatty Coon only about six seconds to discover Mrs.
> Turtle’s secret. For he did not have to paw away much of the sand
> before he came upon—what do you suppose? Eggs! Turtles’ eggs!

MIKE: No, she’s the last Galopagos Island Tortoise, it’s the only hope of avoiding extinction!

> Twenty-seven round, white eggs, which Mrs. Turtle had left there in
> the warm sand to hatch.

CROW: ‘Turtles are goshawks?’

> THAT was why she looked all around to make
> sure that no one saw her. THAT was why she seemed so pleased.

TOM: *That* was why Mrs Turtle wasn’t part of her Species Survival Plan.

> For Mrs.
> Turtle fully expected that after a time twenty-seven little turtles
> would hatch from those eggs—

TOM: Each egg.

> just as chickens do—

MIKE: Did kids in 1915 need eggs explained to them?

> and dig their way out
> of the sand.

CROW: Again, good job checking, Mrs Turtle.

>
> But it never happened that way at all.

MIKE: Fatty Coon cackles delighted at his schemes.

> For as soon as he got
> over his surprise at seeing them, Fatty Coon began at once to eat
> those twenty- seven eggs. They were delicious.

TOM: Do we know whether Arthur Scott Bailey *liked* his protagonist?

> And as he finished the
> last one he couldn’t help thinking how lucky he had been.

MIKE: Now we have nobody to foil the evil Shredder’s attacks!

[ To Continue ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose 7 points, or 6.73 percent, whichever comes in higher after rounding. That would be 7 points, if the percent is taken from where it was yesterday (104) and not from where it was at the end of today (Philadelphia’s airport, there to gather stories about the worst airport experiences anyone has ever had).

111

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter II


Previously:

  1. Chapter I

And now the next part of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.


>
>
> II
>

TOM: Episode II: Attack Of The Coons.

> FATTY LEARNS SOMETHING ABOUT EGGS

CROW: ‘Hey! These things break open!’

>
> When Fatty Coon started off alone to find something more to
> eat, after finishing the fish that his mother had brought home for
> him, he did not know that he was going to have an adventure.

MIKE: He just hoped adventure came with cheese fries.

> He nosed
> about among the bushes and the tall grasses and caught a few bugs and
> a frog or two. But he didn’t think that THAT was much.

CROW: [As Bug] Oh, thank goodness, that frog was gonna eat me and now … Wait, what are you doing?

> He didn’t seem
> to have much luck, down on the ground. So he climbed a tall hemlock,

TOM: A hemlock?

CROW: I dunno, it’s probably some nature thing.

> to see if he could find a squirrel’s nest, or some bird’s eggs.

MIKE: ‘Maybe I can eat a hemlock?’

>
> Fatty loved to climb trees. Up in the big hemlock he forgot,
> for a time, that he was still hungry. It was delightful to feel the
> branches swaying under him, and the bright sunshine was warm upon his
> back.

CROW: ‘You suppose the sun might be cookie-flavored?’

> He climbed almost to the very tip-top of the tree and wound
> himself around the straight stem. The thick, springy branches held him
> safely, and soon Fatty was fast asleep.

TOM: The tree tipping over, cracking under the weight.

> Next to eating, Fatty loved
> sleeping. And now he had a good nap.

CROW: ‘A nap with bacon cheese!’

>
> Fatty Coon woke up at last, yawned, and slowly unwound himself
> from the stem of the tree. He was terribly hungry now. And he felt
> that he simply MUST find something to eat at once.

TOM: Why is Mitchell a raccoon?

>
> Without going down to the ground, Fatty climbed over into the
> top of another big tree and his little beady, bright eyes began
> searching all the branches carefully.

CROW: ‘Too flimsy, too weak, that one’ll snap, that one broke yesterday, that one snapped when I thought about it too hard, hm. Ground broke under me there.’

> Pretty soon Fatty smiled. He
> smiled because he was pleased.

TOM: It was a quirky habit of his.

> And he was pleased because he saw
> exactly what he had been looking for. Not far below him was a big
> nest, built of sticks and lined with bark and moss.

CROW: ‘Garnished with bark and moss!’

> It was a crow’s
> nest, Fatty decided, and he lost no time in slipping down to the
> crotch of the tree where the nest was perched.

TOM: Thud!

>
> There were four white eggs in the nest—the biggest crow’s eggs
> Fatty had ever seen.

CROW: Ostrich!

MIKE: That’s an ostrich egg, look out!

> And he began to eat them hungrily. His nose
> became smeared with egg, but he didn’t mind that at all.

TOM: Yum, egg-flavored nose!

> He kept
> thinking how good the eggs tasted—and how he wished there were more of
> them.

MIKE: You know in the _Tale of Squawky Crow_, Fatty is one of the villains.

>
> There was a sudden rush through the branches of the tall tree.
> And Fatty Coon caught a hard blow on his head. He felt something sharp
> sink into his back, too.

TOM: There it is!

MIKE: Squawky Crow takes over the narrative! He’s getting to be the hero!

> And he clutched at the edge of the nest to
> keep from falling.
>
> Fatty was surprised, to say the least, for he had never known
> crows to fight like that.

TOM: They normally confined themselves to snarky comments, often on the Internet.

CROW: The cowards! Hey, wait.

> And he was frightened, because his back
> hurt. He couldn’t fight, because he was afraid he would fall if he let
> go of the nest.

MIKE: And there was still that meteoric crater lake from the last time he dropped four feet.

>
> There was nothing to do but run home as fast as he could.

CROW: Fatty’s greatest challenge: running.

> Fatty tried to hurry; but there was that bird, beating and clawing his
> back, and pulling him first one way and then another.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Ow! Look, if you want me to go *one* way then don’t tug me *another*! Sheesh!

> He began to
> think he would never reach home. But at last he came to the old poplar
> where his mother lived.

CROW: ‘Home! Safety! Security! Oatmeal cookies!’

> And soon, to his great joy, he reached the
> hole in the big branch; and you may well believe that Fatty was glad
> to slip down into the darkness where his mother, and his brother
> Blackie, and Fluffy and Cutey his sisters, were all fast asleep.

MIKE: You my believe this … If you dare!

> He
> was glad, because he knew that no crow could follow him down there.

CROW: To fit Fatty the hole has to be just wide enough to let a Space Shuttle slp through.

>
> Mrs. Coon waked up.

MIKE: Waked?

> She saw that Fatty’s back was sadly torn
> (for coons, you know, can see in the dark just as well as you can see
> in the daylight).

CROW: What if I need glasses?

MIKE: Well, then she wears glasses.

CROW: That … Would be adorable.

>
> "What on earth is the matter?" she exclaimed.
>
> Poor Fatty told her. He cried a little, because his back hurt
> him, and because he was so glad to be safe at home once more.

TOM: ‘Well, come here, son, let me lick that all. Nothing like raccoon spit to clean open wounds.’

>
> "What color were those eggs?" Mrs. Coon inquired.
>
> "White!" said Fatty.
>
> "Ah, ha!" Mrs. Coon said. "Don’t you remember that crows’ eggs
> are a blueish green?

MIKE: Oh no!

TOM: Fatty’s failure to prep for his Raccoon SAT’s haunts him!

CROW: *My* eggs are painted a lovely variety of colors in intricate patterns!

TOM: Ya freak.

CROW: What?

> That must have been a goshawk’s nest. And a
> goshawk is the fiercest of all the hawks there are. It’s no wonder
> your back is clawed.

MIKE: [ Mrs Coon ] ‘Why is this scratch covered in Superman ice cream?’

CROW: [ Fatty ] It was an experiment, okay?

> Come here and let me look at it."
>
> Fatty Coon felt quite proud, as his mother examined the marks
> of the goshawk’s cruel claws.

MIKE: ‘I got attacked and ran away just fast enough! Heck, I ran!’

TOM: I ran so far away.

> And he didn’t feel half as sorry for
> himself as you might think,
> for he remembered how good the eggs had
> tasted. He only wished there had been a dozen of them.

MIKE: So what did Fatty learn about eggs, exactly?

CROW: That … He can eat them?

[ To Continue ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another two points in trading as the floor stopped worrying quite so much about whether “to rare” is a verb and got into wondering about its participles, like, “to have rared” or “will have rared” or stuff like that. One suspects not everyone is quite back from holiday yet.

104

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter I


The only fan fiction I’ve written and shared on the Internet has been Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic. It’s a fun genre. It grew from the MST3K newsgroups on Usenet, which I knew as rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc and its affiliates. Mostly it grew in response to the famous “Marissa Picard” stories Stephen Ratliff wrote as Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic. But it’s always included other stuff.

A couple years ago I ran across a series of children’s books from the 1910s. They were written by Arthur Scott Bailey, which exhausts what I know about him. And they’re little tales for kids about life as animals see it. And they’re just … off, in that way that I think makes for great MST3K material. I had wanted to do a whole book, and I just don’t have the time for that. So this week I hope to feature the first five chapters, at least, and I’ve put that together into a little MiSTing experience I hope you enjoy.

Before that, though, I did some more mathematics comics in my other blog. No pictures, sorry.


[ SEASON TEN opening. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. TOM is reading a newspaper and chuckling as MIKE and CROW enter. ]

TOM: Hee heee!

MIKE: What’s up there, Thomas?

CROW: He finally noticed they print the ‘Jumble’ answers upside-down.

TOM: I’m now a happy subscriber to the Ironic Comics page.

[ MIKE takes the paper from TOM’s hands. CROW peeks at a corner, letting the paper flap over his beak. ]

TOM: ‘Beetle Bailey’ as Wagnerian opera! Fred Basset portrayed by a very long duck! ‘The Lockhorns’ with neither lock nor horn!

MIKE: Hey, I like this Clip-Art ‘Cathy’. She married Irving Berlin.

CROW: Wait, this is just ‘Henry’. What’s ironic about that?

TOM: What’s *not* ironic about ‘Henry’?

[ MADS sign flashes. ]

MIKE: Ahp. Agatha Crumm is calling.

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, PROFESSOR BOBO, and the OBSERVER are at a table. ]

OBSERVER: I love ‘For Better Or For Worse, And It Turns Out, Worse.’ [ To PEARL’s withering indifference. ] It puts at the end of every strip Anthony whining how ‘I have no home!’

PEARL: OK, Mark Trail. We’ve tried everything to break your spirits. We’ve tried bad movies.

BOBO: We’ve tried telephones!

PEARL: We’ve tried fan fiction.

OBSERVER: We’ve tried advertisements!

PEARL: We’ve tried the most Ruby-Spearsish Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials!

BOBO: I love that one with Goober and Gumdrop!

OBSERVER: Now let’s try … young-reader animal fantasy!

PEARL: Your experiment for today is the first five chapters of Arthur Scott Bailey’s 1915 piece of ouvre _The Tale of Fatty Coon_.

BOBO: See if you learn something special from all this adorable animal fantasy!

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MOVIE SIGN and general chaos. ]

MIKE: Oh, no! Animal fantasy!

TOM, CROW: AAAAGH!

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1.. ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

> SLEEPY-TIME TALES

TOM: So … uh … good night?

> THE TALE OF FATTY COON

CROW: From Buster Keaton through learning there *is* such a thing as bad publicity.

> BY ARTHUR SCOTT BAILEY

TOM: o/` Arthur was born just a plain simple man o/`

> ILLUSTRATED BY HARRY L. SMITH
> NEW YORK

MIKE: Illustrated by Harry L Smith and the New York dancers!

>
> 1915

> I
>
> FATTY COON AT HOME

TOM: Just sitting around the home …

>
> Fatty Coon was so fat and round

CROW: Oh come *on*.

MIKE: Man, 1915 and they’re ahead of our lead joke.

> that he looked like a ball of
> fur, with a plumelike tail for a handle. But if you looked at him
> closely you would have seen a pair of very bright eyes watching you.

CROW: From the tail?

TOM: Raccoons can see very well through their handles.

>
> Fatty loved to eat.

CROW: And that’s all the personality he’ll need!

MIKE: Pretty much all the personality I have.

> Yes—he loved eating better than anything
> else in the world. That was what made him so fat.

TOM: ‘I’m getting ready to hibernate for winter!’

CROW: ‘It’s May.’

TOM: ‘I don’t want to get caught by surprise.’

> And that, too, was
> what led him into many adventures.

CROW: Like the adventure of Waffle House At 3 am.

MIKE: Taking his life and his maple syrup into his own paws.

>
> Close by a swamp, which lay down in the valley, between Blue
> Mountain and Swift River,

TOM: Burger King on the right and if you come to the old middle school you’ve gone too far.

> Fatty Coon lived with his mother and his
> brother and his two sisters.

CROW: And his mayonnaise.

> Among them all there was what grown
> people call "a strong family resemblance," which is the same thing as
> saying that they all looked very much alike.

TOM: What, because all raccoons look the same to you?

> The tail of each one of
> them—mother and children too—had six black rings around it. Each of
> them had a dark brown patch of fur across the face, like a mask.

MIKE: _Clonus: The Ranger Rick Project_.

> And—what do you think?—each of them, even Fatty and his brother and
> his sisters, had a stiff, white moustache!

CROW: This is getting near body shaming, Mister Arthur Scott Bailey.

>
> Of course, though they all looked so much alike, you would
> have known which was Mrs. Coon, for she was so much bigger than her
> children.

TOM: And she had that ISO 9000 consulting job for Lockheed.

> And you would have known which was Fatty—he was so much
> rounder than his brother and his sisters.

CROW: And he had a bear claw in his mouth.

MIKE: The pastry?

CROW: We’ll see.

>
> Mrs. Coon’s home was in the hollow branch of an old tree.

TOM: They were the first wave of gentrification moving in.

MIKE: Classic cycle. Starving artists, hipsters, raccoons, rents go up.

> It
> was a giant of a tree—a poplar close by a brook which ran into the
> swamp—and the branch which was Mrs. Coon’s home was as big as most
> tree-trunks are.

MIKE: Look, it’s a tree, all right? I’m Arthur Scott Bailey, I got bigger fish to fry than specifying poplar trees.

>
> Blackie was Fatty’s brother—for the mask on his face was just
> a little darker than the others’.

TOM: *Blackie* Coon?

MIKE: Oh dear Lord.

> Fluffy was one of Fatty’s sisters,
> because her fur was just a little fluffier than the other children’s.

TOM: *Fluffy* Coon?

CROW: When Andrew WK visits Anthrocon?

> And Cutey was the other sister’s name, because she was so quaint.

TOM: I feel like I need to apologize and I don’t even know who to.

>
> Now, Fatty Coon was forever looking around for something to
> eat.

MIKE: ‘Here’s a thing!’ (Gulp)

TOM: ‘That’s a vase!’

MIKE: Needs honey mustard.’

> He was never satisfied with what his mother brought home for him.

CROW: ‘Crawdads and berries *again*?’

MIKE: ‘No, this is berries and Crawdads.’

> No matter how big a dinner Mrs. Coon set before her family, as soon as
> he had finished eating his share Fatty would wipe his white moustache
> carefully—for all the world like some old gentleman—and hurry off in
> search of something more.

MIKE: ‘Fatty, that’s a rock.’

CROW: ‘That’s a rock with ranch dressing.’

>
> Sometimes he went to the edge of the brook and tried to catch
> fish by hooking them out of the water with his sharp claws.

TOM: ‘Best case scenario, I catch a snack. Worst case, I touch a goldfish. Either way, a win!’

> Sometimes
> he went over to the swamp and hunted for duck among the tall reeds.

CROW: ‘Hey, a little deep frying and these reeds would be good.’

> And though he did not yet know how to catch a duck, he could always
> capture a frog or two; and Fatty ate them as if he hadn’t had a
> mouthful of food for days.

MIKE: ‘If I eat enough frog maybe a duck will crawl into my mouth and see what’s going on!’

>
> To tell the truth, Fatty would eat almost anything he could
> get—nuts, cherries, wild grapes,

TOM: Boring, straight-laced actuary grapes.

> blackberries, bugs, small snakes,

CROW: Large but depressed snakes.

> fish, chickens,

MIKE: Buckets of fried dough.

> honey—there was no end to the different kinds of food
> he liked.

TOM: I believe you, sugar.

> He ate everything. And he always wanted more.

MIKE: Thing is it’s fun cooking for someone who likes eating so much.

>
> "Is this all there is?" Fatty Coon asked his mother one day.

TOM: Well, you could merge with Ilia and Captain Decker maybe?

> He had gobbled up every bit of the nice fish that Mrs. Coon had
> brought home for him. It was gone in no time at all.

CROW: ‘Well, you could try the less-nice or the morally ambiguous fish.’

>
> Mrs. Coon sighed. She had heard that question so many times;
> and she wished that for once Fatty might have all the dinner he
> wanted.

MIKE: ‘Fatty, you’re a sphere.’

CROW: ‘And I could be a hypersphere, Mom!!’

>
> "Yes—that’s all," she said, "and I should think that it was
> enough for a young coon like you."
>
> Fatty said nothing more. He wiped his moustache on the back of
> his hand (I hope you’ll never do that!)

TOM: You eating raw frogs, though, Arthur Scott Bailey’s cool with.

> and without another word

MIKE: Really, what else was there to say?

> he started off to see what he could find to eat.

CROW: ‘This is delicious!’

MIKE: ‘This is an ironing board!’

CROW: ‘With marshmallows!’

[ To Continue ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

After the two-day holiday the Another Blog, Meanwhile index came raring back up six, count ’em, six points despite getting caught in an argument about what it is exactly “to rare”.

102

Statistics Saturday: Text Messages Received On My Cell Phone


Loved one travelling by airplane/ Siblings razzing me for finally answering/ Spam/ Password resets/ Unread ancient messages. Mostly.
Also for some reason my phone wants me to delete old messages lest I have more than 255 of them, so I had to go picking out what to safely erase, seven years after I got the phone.

I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index is not trying to get all smug or anything but would like everyone to notice how it gained nine points. Trading was described as “brisk”, “light”, “grimy”, “creaky”, “tense”, or “numerous”, based on where in the list of officially approved adjectives the person asked had gotten. It sounds like they’re not taking the question seriously. Still, 113, hey there.

113

After Our Rabbit’s Holiday


“So you’ve been a bit of a terror, by reports,” I said to our pet rabbit. He was looking at the open pet carrier, and considering whether to punch it.

“They were desperate times,” he finally pronounced.

“They were times at your vacation cottage.” This would be my love’s parents’ house. They watch our pet rabbit when we have to be away more than a day. Our pet rabbit can’t be left unattended that long, because he’ll run up long-distance telephone calls. The funny thing is they’re not even calls that would make sense, like ordering stacks of particularly tasty hay. It’s like he just gets carried away with the fun of dialing. In many ways our pet rabbit is a little kid, except that he doesn’t give us colds or tell us complicated and rambling stories about what happened in school.

“There were dogs chasing me!”

“I know those dogs. They’re four years older than the letter `W’.”

“So they’ve had time to practice their fiendish ways!”

“They don’t have fiendish ways. They’re barely up to falling down anymore.” He sneezed, because somehow our pet rabbit sneezes, and then turned that into a snort. “They haven’t even been growling at me because they can’t work up the energy for that anymore.” And this is true. When I first started visiting my love’s parents, the dogs would take turns barking furiously at me, because they were afraid that if they didn’t, I might go on existing. Eventually they would settle down, only for one or the other to suddenly realize that I was still a thing that existed, so they had to go through it all over again. Since then, sadly, the dogs have gotten more frail. They’ll wander up to me and mutter a half-articulated hwurmf. I tell them that’s very good barking and then they collapse on the floor where they are. I’d pat their heads if that didn’t seem like taunting.

Our rabbit put his paws together and shoved on the front of his carrier, a traditional rabbit way of expressing the concept “I want this shoved over there a little”. It works better on hay and towels and light vegetables. I picked him up by his hind legs and shoved him in the carrier, a traditional rabbit-keeper way of expressing the concept “if you won’t go in I’ll just put you in”. He turned around and punched the carrier’s bars.

Finally he said, “I can scare dogs away.”

“You can scare those dogs away. They’re very timid dogs.”

“I didn’t even have to bite and the bigger one ran away!” The dogs are the same size, but perhaps there are rabbit ways of classifying dogs I don’t understand.

“That dog’s been scared away by clouds. You’re not saying you’re just as ferocious as a cloud, are you?”

“Bring me a cloud and I’ll see who scares who!”

“You’re figuring to make a cloud quiver its knees? What has got into you?”

“I had to spend forever fending off dogs!”

It struck me: the “larger” dog came up to the edge of our rabbit’s pen before running away, while the “smaller” one was too afraid of the interloper to get that close. By “running” I mean “kind of shambling about in a way that isn’t technically falling over most of the time”.

“Luckily,” he said, “I know what to do with dogs.”

“You know what to do with those dogs. You’re an expert at existing.”

“I spent my whole life getting ready to exist!”

Our pet rabbit, partly standing --- paw resting on his exercise pen's frame --- while he nibbles at a tree branch.
Our pet rabbit, existing, with panache.

“You could be in trouble if you had to face other dogs, you know.”

He almost stopped wriggling his nose a moment. “What other dogs?”

“You know there’s more than two dogs in the world.”

“No, I heard them both.”

“Did you ever notice the dogs going over to the window and barking like crazy, then stopping and hiding from the window?”

He nodded, which is the sort of thing that involves a lot of ear-flapping. “When they forgot where I was!”

“No, that’s when they saw there was another dog walking past, outside. They stopped when the other dog noticed them.”

He pushed the carrier door with one paw, letting his fingers melt through the bars. “So there are … 98 dogs in the world?”

“More than that, even. Some dogs they didn’t notice.” I figured it not worth mentioning some of the dogs were walked past the house several times, mostly on different days.

He sniffed. “More than 98 dogs seems like too many. Let’s get home.”

I don’t agree with him on the dog count, but getting home was what I hoped for too.

MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 4 of 4


Part 1, introduction and John Glenn.

Part 2, German cows and procognition.

Part 3, how can a woman be right?

A bit about the actual history of thalidomide. Dr Frances Kelsey was neither acting arbitrarily nor capriciously when she refused to approve thalidomide. What she did was read the data which manufacturer Richardson Merrell had submitted to prove the drug’s safety and notice that it didn’t actually demonstrate that. She had also read in the medical literature the then-new discovery that drugs could pass through the placenta, from mother to fetus, and she requested evidence that thalidomide wasn’t doing that. And she had encountered a British study which found a nervous system side-effect from the drug and asked the maker to explain that. In short, she looked at the data, and where it was lacking, asked for more data; she read the medical literature and understood it; and she thought about consequences and asked about them. Thalidomide’s disastrous side was a horrible surprise. But it was a surprise that a curious and alert mind paying attention would catch.


>
> Test 1 is the animal test. Thalidomide proved
> completely harmless — in fact completely ineffective!
> — to the usual laboratory animals.

CROW: We’ve sent them a stern note about not being visibly harmed by drugs earlier and more clearly.

> (Since the blowup,
> it’s been found that enormous doses of thalidomide will
> not make a rabbit sleep

MIKE: But a cup of cocoa and a nice bit of reading will.

> . . . but will cause a pregnant
> rabbit to produce abnormal young.

TOM: So it would have passed animal testing as long as nobody noticed the deformed animals.

> Equally massive doses
> of barbiturates don’t do that; they kill the rabbit.

ALL: [ A few seconds of Elmer Fudd-style cackling before giving up with an ‘ugh’. ]

> It
> wouldn’t have indicated anything to the investigators
> except that thalidomide was safer than barbiturates!

CROW: And to be fair, who could foresee humans being pregnant just because rabbits can be?

> And
> it has now been discovered that, for reasons so far known
> only to God, thalidomide does make horses sleep! But who
> uses horses as “convenient laboratory animals for testing
> new drugs”?

MIKE: So how do we know thalidomide makes horses sleep?

TOM: Who looks at a drug that makes horribly deformed human babies and asks, ‘What will this do for horses?’

> And why should they; horses are herbivores,
> with a metabolism quite a long way from Man’s. Monkeys
> are expensive — and they don’t really match Man.)

CROW: Unlike mankind’s closest living relatives, rabbits.

>
> Test 2 — trying it on a small group of patients
> first.

MIKE: Is that a few patients or just on patients who are very tiny?

TOM: Picturing a study on human adults each eighteen inches tall?

MIKE: Pretty much.

>
> Now the first slight indication that thalidomide
> could have some bad side-effects was that neuritis
> business. It results from prolonged overuse of the drug.

TOM: Also the deformed babies, but that could just be the mothers’ fault.

>
> The doctors administering the first test-use of
> the new drug would, of course, regulate it carefully.

CROW: Unlike in the real world, where they gave out two and a half million tablets to a thousand doctors while waiting for the FDA to approve selling them.

> There would be no long-continued overuse under their
> administration — and therefore thalidomide wouldn’t
> have produced any neuritis.

TOM: As long as they didn’t do anything that produced any problems there’d never be any problems turning up.

>
> On that first, limited-sample test, there would
> be an inevitable, human tendency to avoid pregnant young
> women as test subjects for so experimental a drug.

CROW: Because it’s only a scientific test if you avoid real-world conditions that would be messy or hard to deal with.

>
> Result: thalidomide would have checked in as one
> hundred per cent safe and effective.

MIKE: Except for rabbits.

>
> The final two-year test was several thousand
> people. On this one we don’t have to guess; we’ve got the
> statistics.

TOM: Knowing the answers as we do, we can sound smarter than the people who were asking questions.

>
> During the time thalidomide was being considered
> by the Federal Drug Administration for licensing in this
> country, selected physicians in the United States were
> sent supplies of the drug for experimental use.

CROW: Under the ‘What the heck, like something could go wrong?’ program.

>
> Under this program, 15,904 people are known to
> have taken the pills.

MIKE: But we probably should’ve written down who they were, somewhere.

> Certainly that’s a good-sized
> second-level testing group for our proposed
> hyper-cautious test system.

TOM: I’d like to see it bigger and less cautious, of course, but we make do with what we have.

>
> Of those nearly 16,000 people, about 1 in 5 —
> 3,272 — were women of child-bearing age, and 207 of
> them were pregnant at the time.

CROW: 86 of those listened to and enjoyed The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. This is irrelevant to my point but is interesting nevertheless.

>
> There were no abnormal babies born, and no cases
> of polyneuritis reported.

TOM: And by ‘no’ I mean ‘seventeen’, but that’s close enough to ‘no’ for real science.

>
> Thalidomide passed the cautious tests with flying
> colors.

MIKE: Melting off the walls and pooling into a flavor of brick.

>
> Now the abnormalities that thalidomide does cause
> are some kind of misdirection of the normal growth-forces
> of the foetus.

TOM: But in the future we could have limitless abnormalities!

> The abnormalities are of a type that was
> well known to medicine long before thalidomide came along
> — abnormal babies have been produced for all the years
> the human race has existed, remember.

CROW: Heck, all things considered it’s the non-deformed babies that are the real sickos.

MIKE: Yeah, after this one I’m going to my bedroom and cry.

>
> Suppose that in our test, some women did bear
> abnormal babies. Say three of them were abnormal, and
> lived.

CROW: They can be an example to the rest of us!

> (A goodly number of the thalidomide-distorted
> babies died within hours.

MIKE: Technically everyone dies within hours if you count high enough.

> It doesn’t only affect arms and
> legs; thalidomide can mix up the internal organs as
> though they had been stirred with a spoon.)

TOM: Thanks, that detail doesn’t make me want to kill myself.

>
> So . . . ? So what? Aren’t a certain number of
> abnormal babies appearing all the time anyway?

TOM: Yeah! Well, one in four million, born like that.

> And with
> all this atomic-bomb testing going on . . . and this
> woman was examined repeatedly by X ray during pregnancy .

CROW: Really, with how complicated life is how can we ever really blame anything for anything?

> . . and remember that in the normal course of nine months
> of living, she will have taken dozens of other drugs,

MIKE: Because it’s the early 60s and we don’t want to think about what we’re pumping into our bodies.

> been exposed to uncountable other environmental
> influences, perhaps been in a minor automobile accident .
> . .

TOM: And you know how scaring the mother will leave a permanent mark on the children, right?

>
> Not until the drug is “tested” on literally
> millions of human beings will it be possible to get
> sufficiently numerous statistical samplings to be able to
> get significant results.

TOM: Slightly more, in Canada.

> Toss a coin three times, and it
> may come heads every time. This proves coins fall
> heads-up when tossed?

CROW: And even if it did, how would we know coin-tossing was causal and not merely correlated to coins coming up at all?

MIKE: It’s basic logic.

>
> Another drug was introduced for experimental
> testing some years ago.

TOM: Case closed.

> The physicians who got it were
> told to check their experimental patients carefully for
> possibilities of damage to liver, stomach and/or kidneys,

CROW: Also if the drug punched anyone in the face and ran off with their wallet.

> the expected possible undesirable side-effects of the
> drug. Practically no such damage was found — the drug
> was effective, and only in the very exceptional patient

TOM: The best kind! Everyone needs to be more like them.

> caused sufficient liver, stomach or kidney reaction to
> indicate it should be discontinued.
>
> Only it caused blindness.

MIKE: Well, what was it supposed to do?

CROW: Risk damaging the liver, stomach, and kidneys, apparently.

MIKE: Man, the eyes are nowhere near any of those, no wonder they didn’t approve it.

>

TOM: I hope they didn’t.

> The reaction was frequent and severe enough to
> make the drug absolutely impossible as a medicament —
> and was totally unexpected.

CROW: Nobody saw the blindness coming — oh, now I feel like going to my bedroom and weeping.

TOM: Yeah, this is a brutal one.

> It had not caused any such
> reaction in any of the experimental animals.

MIKE: In retrospect, testing exclusively on star-nosed moles may have been a mistake.

>
> No — the lesson of thalidomide is quite simple.

TOM: It’s ‘thalidomide’, not ‘thalidomine’, however much you think you remember it the other way.

MIKE: Hey, wait, it is, isn’t it?

>
> So long as human beings hope to make progress in
> control of disease and misery, some people will be lost
> in the exploration of the unknown.

CROW: Don’t go looking for them. There’s grues there.

>
> There is no way to prevent that. There is no
> possible system of tests that can avoid it — only
> minimize the risk.

TOM: By shoving unproved drugs down millions of people’s throats just in case one of them is good for something! The drugs, I mean, not the people.

>
> We could, of course, simply stop trying new drugs
> at all.

MIKE: Gotta say, it does sound like we’re not very good at making them.

> The animals never did try the pain and the risk
> of fire. They’re still animals, too.
>
> January 1963 John W Campbell

TOM: Who died of drinking DDT in a lead-lined glass while smoking an asbestos-filtered cigarette laced with cyclamates.

CROW: And saying none of it was statistically proven.

MIKE: John Glenn, everybody. John Glenn.

TOM: Let’s just get out of this popsicle stand.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. TOM SERVO, MIKE, and CROW are in a line. ]

MIKE: Well, Pearl, wherever you are … I hope you’re satisfied with this heap of misery you’ve inflicted on us.

TOM: I think the only thing that’ll rescue our mood is the lighthearted yet barbed whimsy of the Rankin/Bass universe.

CROW: Rudolph’s Shiny New Year is on.

MIKE: The one where our hero Rudolph is searching for the Baby New Year, which will make thousand-year-old Aeon die.

TOM: Oh good heavens.
[ CROW flops over, defeated. ]

MIKE: Happy new year, everyone, and to all … guh.



                            \   |   /
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Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the characters and situations therein are the property of Best Brains, Inc, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t tell them what I’ve been up to all these years. The essay ‘The Lesson Of Thalidomide’ by John W Campbell was originally published in Analog and appeared in the archive.org resource Collected Editorials From Analog, https://archive.org/details/collectededitori01camp where it and much other writing can be enjoyed at your leisure. Nothing untoward or mean is meant toward John W Campbell or anyone at Analog, and I’m not irritated with archive.org or anything either. If you’re feeling bad about all this, consider: the word ‘bunny’ seems to come from Gaelic ‘bun’, referring to their tails, and doesn’t that make you grin some?

> for all I can know, she may have perfect and
> reliable trans-temporal clairvoyance, so that, in 1960,
> she was reading the medical reports published in late
> 1961, and basing her decisions very logically on that
> trans-temporal data.

MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 3 of 4


Part 1, introduction and John Glenn.

Part 2, German cows and precognition.

John W Campbell’s gotten an enormous reputation in science fiction circles, and he deserves both sides of that. He did bring a remarkable professionalism to the field in the 1940s. But he was also a crank. He was one of the first enthusiasts of Dianetics, and a startling cross-section of writers in the 1950s wrote that, or mild variants of it, into their published stories. He was sure of the Dean Drive, a gadget that could move objects in defiance of the laws of conservation of momentum, of angular momentum, and of energy. He was so sure of the Heironymous Machine, a magic-energy machine, that their inventor, Thomas Galen Heironymous, thought Campbell was taking it too far. The time has largely faded when science fiction could include telepathy and psionics superpowers and such. But that there was a time when even “hard”, scientifically rigorous, science fiction could include such was largely Campbell’s doing. Also, yes, John W Campbell was quite sexist, but at least you aren’t hearing his views on the races.


>
> A German doctor was the first to suspect
> thalidomide of its actual disastrous characteristic —

CROW: Its spelling.

> and it was November 15, 1961 that he first warned the
> Grunenthal company that he suspected their thalidomide
> preparation of being responsible for the “seal-baby”
> epidemic then appearing in Germany.

CROW: To sold-out crowds!

MIKE: Well, I’m feeling worse about myself now.
Continue reading “MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 3 of 4”

MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 2 of 4


Part 1, introduction and John Glenn.

John W Campbell was, as you might’ve gathered, a wee bit cranky. By a wee bit I mean “almost cranky enough to be an old white guy in science fiction today”. When he started editing Astounding Science Fiction — the magazine which would become Analog and which is the best-read of the surviving science fiction magazines — he insisted on greater levels of competence and thoughtfulness than were common in the field before, though. And his attitude of challenging accepted wisdom is not a bad starting point for fiction writers. But he was also, as best I can tell, never plagued with doubts about his own wisdom. Someday I promise I will share the very funny thing he said about tungsten, and why it’s funny.


>
> Study the history of thalidomide briefly: It was
> synthesized first by a Swiss pharmaceutical firm.

MIKE: When you put it like that, it’s amazing anyone ever had questions about it.

> Tests
> of the new compound were made on animals, and it was
> found that thalidomide had no effects — either positive
> or negative.

CROW: Of course Switzerland would make a neutral drug.

TOM: Way to fight the stereotype, guys.

> It was an “inert ingredient” so far as the
> animals were concerned; the substance was abandoned in
> 1954.

MIKE: To be held in reserve in case we ever needed animals to feel more nothing particular.
Continue reading “MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 2 of 4”

MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 1 of 4


So I have a bit of a format-breaking thing this week. Among my pastimes is writing Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. Late last year I wrote this bit. It takes an early 60s editorial from John W Campbell, the Thomas Midgley Jr of Science Fiction, and tries to find the fun in it. The essay was long, and made longer by the process of adding commentary to it. This is why I’m breaking it up into briefer pieces. If WordPress is anything, it is “not a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction site” and I wish to respect the audience I’ve got here.


[ OPENING CREDITS, SEASON TEN STYLE. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. TOM SERVO, and CROW are hotly debating; MIKE is not particularly hotly listening. ]

TOM: So I know you’re wondering about the Rankin/Bass special Twas The Night Before Christmas, Mike.

MIKE: Pretty sure I’m not.

CROW: Obviously we all wonder how Albert Mouse could continue insisting Santa Claus doesn’t exist when Santa starts refusing all letters from Junctionville, New York, when refusing letters is a prima facie case that the intended recipient exists.

MIKE: You know Pearl’s scheduled a short for us to keep us busy while she screens a Magic Garden marathon, right?

Continue reading “MiSTed: The Lesson of Thalidomide, Part 1 of 4”

The End Of The Tree


“It’s not fair,” our pet rabbit said, as he stood up on his hindpaws and rattled at the pen. To make clear how much fair it was not he grabbed the horizontal bar of the cage and shook it around, which made a little noise, but as far as showing inanimate objects who’s boss is nothing like when he shakes pieces of shredded newspaper around.

I kept taking ornaments off the Christmas tree. “Don’t worry. We’re just keeping you in reserve.”

He said, “I’m totally ready! I could finish that tree off in two minutes. Maybe eighteen, tops. Give me five minutes with it.”

The pet rabbit flops out and watches, closely, the Christmas tree, just in case it does anything that involves not getting eaten.
Our pet rabbit spent a month sitting at the edge of his pen and staring hopefully at the Christmas tree.

Continue reading “The End Of The Tree”

MiSTed: What To Invent


Back in the days before the Earth’s crust had solidified, when Usenet was a thing, grew an art form called the MiSTing. The practice developed in the news groups dedicated to Mystery Science Theater 3000, and was our modest imitation of the show: take some original posting and intersperse it with comments, along the line of the of the riffs that Joel or Mike and the robots (collectively, The Brains) would. The first MiSTing I’m aware of was called “Hopping Mad At MST3K”, a person’s rant about how those rotten kids these days won’t even watch an old movie without talking through it and this was obviously MST3K’s fault.

Rants would be one of the mainstays of MiSTings, back when the newsgroups were active and I was in touch with the MiSTing culture. Fan fictions were another mainstay; I firmly believe that MiSTing would not have had a culture if not for Stephen Ratliff’s notorious “Marissa Picard” Star Trek: The Next Generation fan fiction. Surprisingly uncommon back in the glory days of Usenet MiSTings were examples of this group: the slightly pompous expository lump. This one is from the magazine Modern Mechanix, originally printed in 1937, and I only know of it because the Modern Mechanix blog summons old articles, some interesting, some funny, some both, to its pages.

The Thanksgiving season has always been a kind of unofficial Mystery Science Theater 3000 holiday: it’s the anniversary of when the show first debuted, and many of their movies were dubbed turkeys, and Turkey Day MST3K marathons were shown first on Comedy Central and then the Sci-Fi Channel, and today get done in organized online gatherings that I won’t participate in because our ISP doesn’t offer enough bandwidth to watch videos online. But the text form is pretty easy to enjoy at your leisure and I hope you do.

(This one is a slightly unusual form of the classic MiSTing; there’s no host sketches involved. The original material was too short to justify sketches. But a full-length MiSTing might be unreadable in WordPress form. We’ll see. Consider this an experiment.


Continue reading “MiSTed: What To Invent”

The Secret Life Of Ray Davies


My love and I were in the bookstore and leafed through Ray Davies’s book Americana: The Kinks, The Riff, The Road: The Story, and ran across a delightful little point. Apparently, in the mid-70s, when The Kinks had gotten really into doing complex stage shows performing their concept albums about the shifting mores and quiet existential despair of the British middle classes, Ray Davies would routinely choose to go to parties afterwards. But he didn’t want to be recognized and hassled throughout the parties, and I am sympathetic to this. I wouldn’t go to parties either if people kept asking me to sing “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, though neither would they if they ever heard me singing. So for a while there he would go unrecognized at after-show parties by wearing the mask he’d been wearing during the show.

I’m delighted to learn that during his most energetic, hard-rocking, hard-partying days at the touring peak of his career, Ray Davies was apparently also a seven-year-old boy sneaking into the cinemas wearing a long trenchcoat and sitting on Dave Davies’s shoulders. Of course, based on the book, the costume apparently worked and he didn’t get people saying they recognized him, possibly because none of the partygoers wanted to be punched by Ray Davies. I’m also sympathetic to this. One of my goals in life is to get through it without being punched by Ray Davies, and that’s going pretty well so far; how about you?

The Big Insecurity


Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.
Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.

“I can’t put food in your bowl if you don’t get out of the way,” I told our pet rabbit.

“This is more important,” he said back, and don’t think that was something I expected to hear him say. I’ve seen him judge getting food as more important than sleep, not going up the stairs, getting out of the pet carrier, and eating what he already has.

So I kneeled down to about his level and said, in my most sincere voice, “What’s wrong?”

He stood up on hindpaws and looked left and right, and in a soft voice said, “Am I big?”

I nodded. “You’re quite good at being big. You’re bigger than I was through fourth grade,” which is my normal hyperbolic answer, since he’s only actually bigger than I was through third grade, when I grew considerably thanks to discovering if I was quick about it I could have two bagels for breakfast, lunch, afterschool snack, and dessert.

“But that’s still big, right?”

“Oh, yes. Quite.” He’s a Flemish giant, a genre of rabbit that’s known to grow to as much as 26 feet long not counting ears and whiskers, although he is a smaller example of the breed.

He pushed his head into my hand. “And I’m not getting any smaller, right?”

For once I had a flash of this thing I think the humans call empathy and didn’t say he wasn’t going to start shrinking for another year or two. “Not a bit. You still are remarkably big.”

He dropped back down. “Then why didn’t he?”

“Why didn’t who what?”

“Why didn’t he remark?”

“Which he?”

“The one you had in to come make all that noise on the ceiling!” A couple months back we had some roofers come over. They replaced the nearly four square feet of perfectly good shingles we still had on the house, as well as a bunch of others that looked like someone had spilled a deck of cards into a nauseated food processor, and put on a bunch of new ones in a different color. From inside all you could really tell is there was a lot of noise from up top and then stuff being thrown into the driveways, which might have got us in trouble with the neighbors except they were going through a monthlong stretch of having just vanished. We still don’t know about that.

“The roofer? He only came in to talk about the work, give us an estimate. What did he do?”

“He didn’t remark! He didn’t say anything about how big I am!”

“Everybody who comes into the house mentions how big you are. I would’ve thought you’d be glad for a change in the conversation.”

“But he didn’t say anything! What if I’m not … big?”

I sat down so I could better pet his head, which he likes, and his back, which he supposes is better than nothing, most of the time. “But you are. You’re the biggest rabbit I’ve ever known personally. You’re big enough you could — ” and I thought better of mentioning how he could easily yoink the remote control off the coffee table if he really wanted, because I didn’t want to encourage that — “probably push me over if you tried. You’re so big we joke that the Sparks song `Big Boy’ is about you.” And that’s true, although the Sparks song is really more a chipper tune about the Biblical story of David and Goliath and I didn’t want to mention how Goliath probably didn’t care for how that story came out.

“But why didn’t he say anything?”

“Well, maybe he didn’t notice you. He was only in the living room a short — a little — a brief while, and he was thinking of shingles and maybe rain gutters at the time. That throws off your ability to notice rabbit bigness.”

“If he didn’t notice me how big can I be?”

“Aw, bigness isn’t any guarantee you’re going to be noticed. I’ve seen things many times your size that I never noticed,” and he looked at me the way he does when he suspects I’m imitating his chewing. “I mean until they were pointed out.”

“Would you tell me if I wasn’t big?”

I rubbed his ears. “I promise. Look, you wouldn’t be nearly so scary to squirrels if you weren’t big.”

He rubbed his chin on my knee and hopped off to nibble on some hay, apparently soothed. I left the room, crawling on my knees.

The Harshness of Sidewalk Nature


It was a terrible scene, there on that little strip of lawn that’s between the sidewalk and the street, where stuff that’s going to be thrown out gets put. Also trees. It was a pair of sofas, battered, smashed up, their backs fallen off, their cushions piled over one another, the uncomfortable metal frames exposed to the elements. I could understand it, I guess. It’s been a hard season, and clearly, the two sofas destroyed one another in what should have been nearly ritual combat ahead of sofa mating season. It’s tragic seeing nature be so cruel to her own furniture.

Bunny Pirate Raccoons of the Delaware Bay


“Is it time yet?” our pet rabbit wanted to know. He was anxious, and I saw him getting ready to chew the wires of his pen to hurry me along.

“For … what?”

He grabbed his pen with his forepaws, which is fine, because that’s not so rattly. “To go outside! I’m all ready and set, let’s go!”

“You mean to play the raccoon?”

Here I have to explain. We put up a wildlife camera in the backyard, and it’s taken a month’s worth of photographs of us checking to see if the wildlife camera is taking photographs. We asked our rabbit if he’d go outside and hop around, so we could know whether the camera would photograph something like a raccoon.

He started to chew on the cage, “Yes! I’ve been doing a lot of research and I’m all set!”

“You really just have to exist. You’re already very good at that.”

He stood up on his hind feet and looked up and raised his left forepaw, and cried, “Arr!”

“It’s threatening rain. I thought we’d wait for … what?”

“Avast ye mateys! Ready with the jibs! We’re off to the Egg Harbor!”

“That’s a pirate.”

He nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of research for this part!”

“We asked you to play a raccoon. That’s completely different from being a pirate.” He looked at me impatiently. “I’m sorry to be the one who tells you this.”

He rolled his head back and sighed. “I’m playing a raccoon who plays a pirate.”

I lapsed into a dignified silence because I was unprepared to answer something like that.

“My raccoon character is named Berkeley Nishimori, and he’s long been fascinated with the history of piracy on the Atlantic seaboard.”

“You don’t need to have a character, though. You just need a body, and you’ve got one.”

“If I don’t have a character this’ll be lifeless. It’s having someone who wants things that makes for compelling scenes!” I looked toward the back window. “Drama or comedy, put in an obsessed character and you’re in good shape! Mister Brock, we’re off for the Egg Harbor!”

“But all I want is you to be there.”

“Now, Berkeley has gotten particularly interested in the mid-Atlantic coast, and he’s set up his pirate character as operating from the South River, as the Dutch termed the Delaware River, but obviously operating as far afield as possible.”

“… Really doesn’t come into play for hopping around the pond.”

“He reasons that the Delaware Bay area is a good one for operations since even though it’s less active than Boston, the divided authorities between the main of Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties, Maryland, and the reunited New Jerseys will make hiding from official inquiries easier.”

“I figure if you just look at the camera, and then look away from the camera … ”

“Now, Berkeley sets Davis — ”

“His pirate?”

“Yes, Davis, and I admit Berkeley hasn’t established whether Davis is his first or last name, but it seems one historically plausible enough either way, and he’s leaning towards working `Trent’ in there for obvious reasons, is aware that at this time New-Jersey itself was administered by the Governor of New-York, so that helps the administrative confusion, obviously.” No, I did not doubt that he was using the hyphens for the colony names.

“Maybe stand on your hind feet. I imagine raccoons in the wild do that too.”

“Now, Berkeley has figured that Davis isn’t a pirate for reasons of petty greed, of course. He reasons that Davis was driven to it to support his family, disgraced after being named as accomplices to the theft of the colonial treasure chest from the western capital of Burlington in 1714.”

“So all I mean is, you don’t need to have a recursive mass of character.”

“Obviously, I’m drawing on the 1768 theft of East Jersey’s funds from treasurer Stephen Skinner’s house for this. But Berkeley figures that setting his pirate in that era necessarily involves him in pre-revolutionary politics that he doesn’t want to explore just now, and while it wouldn’t require relocating the action to the North River — ”

“The Hudson. I know.”

“Well, it would bias the setting anyway. I should say I don’t think I’ve completely ruled out the other interpretation of this relocating, besides just making up an incident.”

“I really think you’re over-working the part — ”

“And that is, maybe Berkeley is just sloppy about character development. He might have made it up without realizing there was a strikingly similar scandal a half-century later.”

“You really don’t need a character.”

He sneezed at me, so I knew I was in trouble. “You know you’re terrible at improv? You haven’t given me a single `Yes, and’ all this time.”

“Hold on. First, not all life is improv” — he sneezed again, that little buzzing noise — “and second, you haven’t actually responded to my perfectly reasonable skepticism about you over-planning a little hop in the backyard, so how good at this are you?”

He didn’t sneeze at that, but his ears did droop.

“I need to establish,” he finally concluded, “whether Berkeley is deliberately moving the Skinner treasury theft to Burlington circa 1712 or whether he’s making it up. We can wait.”

I agreed, but said, “You’re getting caught in a research spiral. Carry on like this and you’ll build everything about your character and never play him,” while it started to drizzle outside.

Our Pet Rabbit Is Proud


“I have a stick.”

I nodded to our pet rabbit. “Stick-wise, that is indeed a thing you have.” The phrasing seemed to confuse him; he shook his front half out and set down the chew stick again.

“It’s my stick and I have it,” he said, “And I can do anything I want with it.”

“I know. For instance, you can chew it.” This stopped him in the middle of chewing on it, so, that’s how I knew this conversation was going to go. “Or not, if you don’t want to,” and that should have him completely flummoxed.

“You know why you don’t have a stick?” My thought was that I could in some sense be said to have every stick on the property, including as a subset the sticks that our rabbit has. But is that the same conceptual theory of having that he was working with at the moment, and if it’s not, is it compatible enough for us to have a meaningful conversation? This is the kind of thing that goes through my mind whenever, say, the waitress asks which kind of bread I’d like for my toast, which is why I’m always running about four minutes behind the conversation. Here, for example, our rabbit answered, “Because I have it!”

“I know you have the stick. I gave you the stick.”

“As well you might!”

“In fact, I gave you all those sticks,” pointing at a partially-tied-together bunch of chew sticks, most of which were scattered around his front paw, and a couple of which were rolling out of his pen, and one of which he was taking turns holding in his mouth and putting down to lecture me about.

He nodded and said, “I chewed the twine off them!”

“And we were glad to see you do that. It proved to us that you’re not a fascist.” And here I have to point out that while I exaggerate certain aspects of my conversations with our pet rabbit for dramatic effect, the “not a fascist” joke is one that my love and I actually did observe while watching him chew the bundle of sticks loose, which shows you what kinds of jokes we have flying around the house.

He scrunched forward, looking kind of like a sack full of rabbit flowing forward under the tides, pushing his front paws onto the sticks, which was adorable. It struck me he’s been doing a lot of adorable stuff lately, more so than usual.

“This is about the mouse, isn’t it?”

He jerked his head up and back. “You think?”

“Are you worried we kept that mouse in here?”

“Why were you keeping a mouse right on top of my cage?”

“He wouldn’t fit underneath you.” The mouse we had found wandering around the dining room, at the height of winter, and we caught him and put him in a cage because we weren’t so cold-hearted as to release him to the wild while it was still too cold for molecular motion out there.

“He smelled.”

“Male mice can’t help how they smell,” I said. “Biology dictates that they use an atrocious body wash so that female mice know they’re engaged in important male activities.”

He barked, somehow, which might just be his way of snorting. “He made that wheel squeak all the time.

“You can’t blame the mouse for following his biological imperatives of running on a wheel, smelling bad, and hoisting things.”

He flopped over on his side, which is again, adorable, and said, “Mice follow too many gender-normative stereotypes.” I allowed that. But I reminded him, we let the mouse go several weeks ago, and he hasn’t been back. “And I’m better than a mouse.”

I had a hunch. “Are you worried we were going to get a mouse to replace you?”

“No mouse could replace me! Not ten mice mousing together could replace me!”

“I’d guess not. We’d never think of replacing you.”

He rolled up onto all fours and cried, “Ah-ha!” So I gulped. “If you never thought of it then how come you just asked if I thought you were thinking of it?”

There might be no way out of this. “Well. We once got to talking about what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen” — he frowned a little less, which is how rabbits smile — “and we agreed the sudden and irrevocable failure of the electromagnetic force would be the worst. But having to replace you with anything would be one of the four or five worst things.” He actually came in third, but, I didn’t want to swell his head too much after comparing favorably to the complete dissolution of the laws of physics.

He looked satisfied, and announced, “I have a stick,” and picked his chew stick up again.

After Our Pet Rabbit Had A Day Outdoors


“The floor isn’t food here!” complained our pet rabbit.

It was a complaint I knew was coming. I couldn’t realistically pretend otherwise. So I said, “I agree with you.”

He sat up and rested his front paws on the cage, the traditional pose for indicating this was a major issue or it was dinnertime. “So make it better!”

We had taken him outside a couple days ago, when it was warm and sunny and we had some work to do on the yard. So we set up his pen and then pulled him, against his express wishes, into the pet carrier for the trip outside. Once there, and convinced that we weren’t going to take him anywhere in the car, he came out of his shell, or at least the carrier, and judged that this was all not intolerably bad.

Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.
Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.

“You don’t want me to do that.”

“I know it means going in the box but it’s so short a ride in the car I’ll forgive it!”

“Yes, but it’s cold out today, and it’s rainy. You wouldn’t like having water drizzling all over your body all the time you’re out there.”

“I’m not scared! I drink water all the time.” It’s possible we haven’t let him outside quite enough to understand.

“You’d hate it. It’d tamp down all the fur you were planning to shed for a couple days and nothing would get into the air. It’d set you back by days.”

“Oh.” He’s still recovering from when we vacuumed out his cage, filling nearly two bags and reducing the amount of fur in the room not at all. “Are you fibbing?”

“ … Fibbing?”

“Because you’re afraid of what I’ll do out there!” I brushed his head, which made him squinch his eyes a little, and made enough fur shed that I had a loose glove when I took my hand off. He shook it off and said, “I’m ferocious!”

“I saw you out there. You really mowed down those dandelions.”

“I ate a tree!”

I nodded, but, “Technically.”

“All the way, too, leaves down to roots!”

It was a weed maple, something with about two leaves and maybe three inches tall, including the roots. It’s been a banner year for weed maples, with something like four hundred thousand growing in the driveway alone, and their getting even denser on the ground where there’s dirt or soil or older, less self-confident plants to grow on top of. We don’t know why; maybe it was the harshness of the winter, or maybe the local innovation center gave the maples a seed grant. Anyway, our rabbit had spotted it as a thing, and hopped over, and started eating before we could wonder whether he ought to be eating itty-bitty little maple trees.

He noticed how impressed I wasn’t. “Did you ever eat an entire tree?”

This seemed like something I’d have to answer no, but, could I be quite sure I hadn’t ever eaten something which could be taken as equivalent to a tree? I thought about whether eating an acorn could qualify as eating an acorn tree, except that I couldn’t think of myself eating an acorn, unless I did it when I was very young and so put anything in my mouth. Later, of course, I’d realize that I have eaten apple seeds, and any definition by which acorn-eating qualified one for tree-eating status would be satisfied by apple-seed-eating (I don’t share a birthday with Johnny Appleseed for nothing, though I haven’t got much out of the coincidence), but that’s the kind of idea that comes to me too late. This sort of thinking is why it can take me up to five minutes to answer a question such as “would you like to buy this pair of pants?” There’s too much to ponder about the issue of “like”.

“Look, even if it weren’t pouring out, it’d be unfair to take you outside because you scare the squirrels.” And this is without exaggeration true. There are normally anywhere between two and fourteen hundred squirrels are in the backyard. When we took him out, the squirrels all vanished. Yet within a minute of his going back in, they’d come back. None of the squirrels said they were afraid of him specifically, but, they were.

“I’m ferocious!” he said. “But I’ll let squirrels share the floor with me. Tell them that.” I nodded, but he said, “Wait! I’ll share it just as soon as the floor is food again! Work on that first.”

I peeked in his dishes. “You’ve got lettuce left over from the morning. Eat that first.”

“But that’s just lettuce,” he said.

“You’re not hungry if you’ve got lettuce left.”

He hopped over with some ka-dunks that rattle the living room floor, and said, “I can eat whole trees.”

“Technically.”

“And any time I want.”

In Which I Do Not, Repeat Do Not, Poison Our Pet Rabbit


“This is poison, isn’t it?” said our pet rabbit, as he chewed on the leafy part.

I’d had the accusation before. “It’s Swiss chard again. There wasn’t anything poisonous about it last time either.”

He hopped up and shook out a little, which is the sort of happy thing rabbits do and didn’t match his tone at all. “Why are you trying to poison me?” He sniffed and then chewed some more at the leaf.

“Why on Earth would I even want to poison you? You’re too darling to poison.”

He pulled his head up, which is some new behavior he’s picked up and exposes this adorable dark-colored patch in the middle of the white-colored patches of his chin, and it’s only his quick reflexes that keep it from being tickled. “I can’t know your motivations. If I make the a priori assumption you’re a rational agent I could expect you to inevitably come to a sufficient moral awareness to keep you from choosing to poison me, but for all I know you’ve had a partial or a defective moral upbringing. And I know you’re not fully rational because I heard that awful movie you watched Saturday.”

So this explained why the bookmarks in my Beloved’s books of Kant keep getting moved around, and maybe why there was a nibbled corner of the Critique of the Power of Judgement. I should probably mention here that not all pets kept by philosophers end up acting like. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, famously kept a pet squirrel who did little but kick the him in the shins, less because of the squirrel’s treatise on the origins of ethics and more because Wittgenstein was the sort of person who inspired people to kick him. Also in my defense I was watching Foodfight extremely ironically and felt a little bad for even doing that.

“I can’t prove to you that I’ve got a functioning moral compass” — and he interrupted with a sharp HA! — “but if you really suspect the chard is poison you don’t have to eat it.”

He stopped chewing and looked up indignantly. “You yelled and laughed when I ate that dog food!”

“We didn’t think you’d really eat it! We thought you’d sniff at it and refuse. That stuff contains meat, you know.”

“Then why’d you put a kibble out for me?”

“Well, it’s cute seeing you sniff at things you rear back from.”

“Because you figure I won’t eat poison!”

“Again, though, you haven’t suggested a reason for me to poison you. And just saying I’m irrational doesn’t excuse the need for a reason. You need an irrational reason.”

He huffed a bit, the way he does when he realizes he’s being pulled into the pet carrier. “You envy my superior lifestyle. I can just hop around the house and eat and nap all day.”

“That argument won’t obtain,” which sounds like a smart thing to say, because it’s a weird use of the word “obtain”, one I’m not sure is defensible. “I’m a telecommuter. Functionally we’re equivalent.”

“If you’re not envious then why don’t you ever name me when you write about me on the Internet?”

Ah, that. Probably best to go with the honest answer. “I don’t want people getting your name and ringing up fraudulent credit card charges. It protects you.”

“Oh.” And he started chewing on the stalk of the chard. “You could give me a stage name.”

“I can’t think of any that could capture your personality.”

And he did that little shaking hop.

“You know, when I bought that chard, the cashier asked if red or white tasted better.”

He let the stalk of the chard drop. “What did you tell him?”

“I told her I didn’t know. We just buy it for you.”

“And she asked why you’re poisoning me?” He picked the stalk back up and started inhaling it, like a log disappearing into a buzz saw.

“She asked whether you liked it.”

“And you said?”

“I said you were still working out your policy regarding Swiss chard” — he snorted again — “but you look so adorable chewing the stalk that we couldn’t resist.” And he finished the last of it.

“I name you when I write about you on the Internet.”

“I’m flattered.”

“If this isn’t poison why don’t you eat some?”

“The last time we ate any vegetables we bought for you you called it the end of the world.”

“Well, that’s honest at least,” and he flopped out on his side.