ZIP Beep #11

Well, here it is, the first Friday after the 15th of the month, and time for another issue of ZIP Beep.

My, a lot has happened since the May issue went on line. An article about ZIP Beep appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune around that time. The Lincoln (Nebraska) Star newspaper ran an article about us. But the really significant events occured right here on the good ol' ComputerLine BBS.

Several ZIP Beep readers expressed shock and dismay at the subject matter treated in the last issue. The piece by Greenscreen (that crazy loveable paranoic) generated the most irate responses. Some people felt we shouldn't discuss Satanic symbols because they believed the subject was too serious. Others said Proctor & Gamble had a real problem with the nuts who helped them eliminate their man-in-the-moon logo, ergo, that wasn't funny. Someone actually thought Greenscreen should be taken seriously, but didn't like his evidence!!

Regarding subject matter: nothing is sacred to satire.

Laughter helps us put problems in perspective so we can deal with them. It's a defense mechanism (we show our teeth when we grin). Nebraska folklorist Roger Welsch gives a fine example of humor used to cope with problems beyond our control in the third edition of INSIDE LINCOLN. After a tornado wrecked a local farm, the farmer was asked if his machinery had also been damaged. "Don't know," the farmer said. "Haven't found it yet."

Regarding the problems P&G had with their logo: yes, they had a real problem. But that doesn't mean it wasn't funny. Quite the contrary. Mind you, the laughter wasn't directed at P&G, but at their detractors.

And, hey ... this IS a humor periodical. Some people are quick to take themselves and others too seriously. This greatly underscores the need for something like ZIP Beep. Anyone who disagrees is entitled to his or her opinion (just as we are).

But if they consider themselves to have open minds, we recommend they read ZIP Beep's original editorial (enter "Z01"), and relate their opinions to the concepts humbly presented therein. We suggest they also consult THE PRAISE OF FOLLY by Desiderius Erasmus for the thoughts of a true Renaissance man.

Fortunately for the collective ego of our contributors, we received a number of comments from people expressing a view more closely resembling ours. To Colin Mansfield, Dale Akkerman, Max Steele and the rest of you who came to ZIP Beep's defense, many thanks. And don't forget -- we're always looking for new material (mail it to our business office, or leave your name and address in the suggestion BOX, attention ZIP, so we can give you a private mailbox on the system).

Now, don't get us wrong. We like puppies and rainbows as much as anyone. Just to show you how nice we are, this issue of ZIP Beep is devoted to Sweetness and Light. The sweetness is covered by Bob Reeves, a new contributor who has allowed us to reprint an article he wrote regarding the new taste of Coke (do you think Coke changed the formula just for all the press it's getting?). The light shines in the One True Steve Anderson's piece about bumper suns. And the long-awaited third installment of Dr. Howzzat? includes a few choice thoughts from the good Doctor on communication in a hostile world. (Dr. Howzzat? parts 1 and 2 can be viewed by entering "Z05" and "Z14".)

We live on a large, fascinating planet in a wonderful universe. Don't miss the best parts. A humorous remark is not necessarily shallow. And many serious people are anything but deep.

ZIP Beep #11
by Bob Reeves

(The following was reprinted from the May 28, 1985 edition of the Lincoln Star, with the permission of the author -- ED.)

Well, the new Coke is here, and I feel like hanging black crepe. It's like an old friend has died. The old Coke, it really was a friend. A thirst-quencher in times of severest need. An afternoon solace of my growing-up years.

Sure, I preferred Pepsi when I was a kid. Kids like things sweet. But as I matured, I came to appreciate the finer taste of Coke, the bitter tang that rivaled the taste of coffee.

Like many Coke addicts, I found from years of experience that no other soft drink was quite as satisfying as Coke. After all, it had been around for 99 years. It was the real thing.

The formula for the old Coca-Cola was so secret that they kept it locked in a bank vault in Atlanta so no one could steal it. It's hard to believe they've now decided to throw it away.

You know who's to blame, of course. It's those darned marketing specialists. They're the one who conducted the survey that supposedly proves that people prefer the new, sweeter Coke over the old standby.

In blind tests, consumers chose the new Coke by a margin of 55 to 45, hardly a landslide victory, by anybody's estimate. But Coke officials claim they "had no choice" but to switch to the new formula, which uses extra-sweet fructose in addition to regular sugar.

I have a theory about why the sweeter Coke won out in those taste tests. It's the same reason Pepsi won the Pepsi challenge.

When you take the first sip of any beverage, be it soft drink, wine or a cocktail, it often tastes more bitter or sour than it does after a few healthy gulps.

This phenomenon is especially obvious if you've experimented with much wine -- the kind you want to drink from the salad course all the way through dessert often has a noticeable bite on the first sip. By contrast, a sweeter wine makes less of an intrusion on your taste buds initially, but begins to taste syrupy and lackluster by the time you polish off the first glass.

The reason Pepsi wins in the challenge, and the reason the new Coke won in the blind tests, is -- I am sure -- because the tests were based on consumers' first impressions, not on an acquaintance developed over time.

I blame it on the marketing people, because what happened to Coke is just a symptom of what's happening to so many products on the market today. They're designed to produce a good first impression.

Take cookies, for example. A soft texture and countable higher ratio of chocolate chips take precedence over flavor. Or chewing gum. An initial burst of flavor that vanishes in two minutes is preferred over a taste that will stick around until you retire the gum to the bedpost.

Non-food items from cars to stereos are designed more for how they will look in the showroom than in your garage or living room. I suspect that clothing manufacturers give more thought to how fabrics appear in the fluorescent lights of department stores than how they will look in the light of day.

In doing away with the good old Coke, the company seems to have taken the attitude that flavor is just another form of packaging. And now they've launched a major advertising campaign to prove to us that we should join forces with the 55 percent who picked the new Coke over the old.

After all, can a majority -- even a fairly slim majority -- be wrong? And besides, we no longer have the old Coke to fall back on.

What some enterprising entrepreneur ought to do now, I think, is to break into that Atlanta bank, steal the old Coke recipe, and start marketing it under a new name. Maybe Koka-Kola -- or whatever would get by the Patent Office.

I suspect there are enough of us saddened, mourning old Coke drinkers around that they'd make a killing. And one of the casualties might just be the new Coke.

ZIP Beep #11
by Steve Anderson

Bumper stickers are clearly on the rise in the Twin Cities. Unofficially I have the hideously gaudy KSTP Sunspot sticker in the Number One slot, followed by the WLOL 99-1/2 variety. At a not-too-distant third is the Real Radio entry -- the WCCO All Star sticker. I believe the ranking is in direct proportion to the amount of potential money that can be won by the bearer of these bumper blights.

Of course the idea of winning easy money is not new. Neither are bumper stickers. But the proliferation of the children resulting from the marriage of the two is one of the most dubious developments of the eighties.

Sure, the radio stations have made cash calls since I can remember. The Sunday Trib has had Prizeword Pete. Various promoters have sponsored Golden Trout fishing contests. The Twins had the Great Airplane Toss for the Mercedes.

The distinction is that you could participate in these money grabs and remain virtually anonymous. With the bumper sticker conspicuously displayed, the world is aware of your greed.

The various display styles are worthy of note. There is the symmetrical individual that scrupulously centers the sticker. Then you have you have the expectant person who places it left or right of center in anticipation of another. The tentative driver tapes it to the inside window for easy removal. The devil-may- care look is achieved by slapping the sticker on any old way. Finally there is the fanatic who parades around with all three of the leaders, just in case. I always look to see if there are multiple radio antennae as well -- to really cover the bases!

Where will it all end? I have my theories. I feel the pendulum will swing back from one thing and we will again see dominance regained by the classic Wall Drug, Reptile Gardens and Carlsbad Caverns bumper stickers.

But horseracing at Canterbury Downs should provide the get rich cheap crowd with a highly viable outlet. With any luck at all, the state will pass a lottery law and we can join twenty other states with a cheap and dignified means of hitting the jackpot.

And deregulation of the airlines will continue to make pilgrimages to Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City a viable alternative for the masses.

So the next time you spot one of those tacky stickers, remember it could be worse. At least you don't have to endure a smiling face on a bumper that says "I heart my ZIP Beep."

ZIP Beep #11
DR. HOWZZAT? Part III - Turmoil
By Adam Douglases

"Nice move, Banyan."

Banyan smiled. He knew Dalazar well, and always found his compliments pleasant.

"Thank you, Dalazar," Banyan said. "Please crown my stone."

"Gladly," Dalazar said as he added another layer to the game piece Banyan had moved to the highest level of their game board.

One more move and Banayan would have the game in hand. It would be his third victory against Dalazar's people since he had entered the main gameroom. At this rate, he would be General Banyan in no time.

Banyan looked around at the others in the gameroom. Rows and rows and rows of players, those dressed in red on the north sides of their tables, the others like himself dressed in blue on the south sides ... it all looked so pleasant when one was winning. "Still," he thought, "there's no need to gloat" and he directed his attentions back to the game board.

No one seemed to notice as a peculiar sound filled the room and the form of the TARBABE appeared next to Banyan.

The Doctor stepped out and looked around. "Well!" he said. No one looked up. "Well, well, well, well, well!" He stretched his arms high above his head and yawned as he talked, then walked around the table. "This has been happening to me all too often lately," he mumbled. "I just can't seem to make a Grand Entrance these days."

Romeovera opened the door of the TARBABE and stepped toward the Doctor. She looked at the men dressed in blue suits, then at those dressed in red. "These people have no taste in clothing," she said.

"That," said the Doctor, is the only interesting thing about this place. C'mon, let's blow."

Dalazar made the one move open to him as they spoke, and Banyan countered with the winning play. "Your game again, Banyan," said Dalazar. He smiled and put his left hand on the table.

With a swift, relatively painless move, Banyan drew his sword and sliced off one of Dalazar's fingers.

"Wait a min ... what ... how could ... over a game ... I don't believe ...." The Doctor was in a rare situation -- he could barely speak. Finally, he shouted, "You can't do that!!"

All across the gameroom, red and blue players stopped and stared. Dalazar was more shocked than anyone else, but not because he had lost a finger. He still had two more on his left hand, and all five on his right. His shocked look was due to the fact that the Doctor had shouted in his ear.

A heavy silence filled the gameroom. Then, as everyone pondered the Doctor, the room began to resound with a hissing noise. As it grew, it sounded for all the world like an exasperated first grade teacher shushing unruly little students. The players covered their ears and returned their eyes to their game boards. It was a horrible noise -- one that would have drowned all others had there been any.

As the shushing noise subsided, the Doctor and Romeovera watched a ghostly shadow move toward them. They were enveloped in it and whisked away from the room.

They couldn't speak as it moved them past one gameroom after another, each filled with men dressed in red and men dressed in blue. They traveled for several minutes, then came to a wall. Just as it seemed as if they were certain to hit it, the wall moved aside and they found themselves looking at a towering metal structure. It glowed with an eerie green hue.

"I am all-knowledgable, and you have broken the Command of Noncontroversy," it said.

The Doctor quivered. But Romeovera was unmoved.

"You're a computer with an overactive imagination," she said. "And just what do you mean by all this 'command' jazz?"

The computer waited. It glowed less brightly. The Doctor recovered himself.

"Yes," he said, "you're just ... you're just what she said. I don't like your tone, either."

The computer dimmed even more, then its bright hue resurged.

"Can the polytechnics," Romeovera said. It dimmed noticably, then spoke.

"It is unclear how you made it past the planet's forcefields," the computer said, "but it's clear you are not from this world."

"Of course we're not from this world," the Doctor shouted. "We wouldn't be caught dead in all red or all blue, right Romeovea?"

"Perish the thought," she said. "I've regenerated several new outfits for every episode, and I've always avoided the primary colors."

"There! Well! You see!" the Doctor said as he struck his fist into his hand. "We've been all over this universe and into millions of livingrooms on Earth, and we've never encountered such a horrible display of sartorial bad taste."

"Be that as it may," the computer said, "you are here now. You are on the Planet of Peace. The people here are civilized."

"It didn't appear that way," said the Doctor. "At least, not up there in that gameroom."

"Oh?" asked the computer. "Perhaps I missed something. Just what makes you say they're uncivilized?"

"Well, it isn't just a friendly game of checkers when the winner chops off the loser's finger."

The computer was silent for a few seconds, then said, "I must analize your statement."

Then it was silent.

"Hello," the Doctor said. "I say, Computer ... can you hear me?" No response.

"It seems we're on our own," Romeovera said. "Care for a stroll?"

"I thought you'd never ask," the Doctor replied.

They quickly discovered the mechanism to open the door. But understanding the meaning of what they had witnessed in the gameroom took more thought. As the Doctor rounded a corner, his musings were interrupted by a voice.

"It isn't pleasant," the voice said.

"What isn't pleasant?" the Doctor asked as he looked around.

"The history of these people. And the reasons for the scene you just witnessed."

As the Doctor and Romeovera watched, a large patch of green slime on the wall began to move toward them. Then they realized it was the slime that had spoken.

"Yechhh!" they both exclaimed at once.

"Please don't," it said. "It's been so long since I've had an intelligent conversation with anyone."

Composing himself, the Doctor said, "Quite right. Very rude of me. Terribly sorry."

"Doctor!" said Romeovera. "You're talking to a wall of slime!"

"Well, we all have our problems," he answered. "I mean, you can't blame a person ... er, thing for what it is, now can you?"

"Bless you, sir," it said. "I know I'm only an ooze of slime. But I'm really a very GOOD ooze of slime."

"What do you know about this business of the gamerooms?" Romeovera asked.

"Dreadful, dreadful," it replied. "Here I was on my own planet, having a nice millennial snooze ... a little lonely, but minding my own business ... when I wake up and find it full of people playing games and doing dreadful things to each other."

"So you don't know any more than we do," the Doctor said.

"Oh, I know quite all there is to know about these people. And about you, for that matter." The slime seemed to blush. "You see, I'm telepathic."

"You don't say!" exclaimed the Doctor. "My, my, telepathic slime. What a convenient story development device!"

"Doctor!" Romeovera whispered. "That creature knows our every thought."

"It's no blessing, believe me," said the slime. "And don't be embarassed. I assure you, I have the same occasional wild and violent thoughts you have. But like you, I know they're just thoughts. And as if it's not bad enough to have to put up with my own perversity, I have to endure the thoughts of every person I meet."

"You poor thing!" said the Doctor.

"Dreadful, dreadful," Romeovera muttered quietly. Then, to the slime, she said, "Please forgive my heartlessness."

"That's okay," said the slime. "I'm used to it."

The Doctor and Romeovera listened as the slime related the history of the Planet of Peace.

"Many generations ago, two brothers brought colonies of followers to my planet.

"The two groups worked peacefully and independently for a period of years, and met often to trade. As time went on, they decided to consolidate their efforts and form one large colony. Plans for buildings were drawn, administrative details were approved, and all was settled with one exception.

"In the colony to the north, the leader declared red to be the official color. His brother, who led the southern colony, simultaneously declared that all citizens should wear blue.

"Despite the substantial planning and the work that had begun, the move together was stalled. When representatives from the two sides met, the people in blue criticized the garish red clothing worn by their counterparts and the red colonists suggested that blue was a color best suited for dead pigs.

"Generations of war followed. It was a bad time for the planet. (Fortunately for me, I sleep like a rock.) But the turmoil experienced at the peace talks seemed even worse to these people. They were forced to come to terms in order to survive. Yet, their belief in the divine ordination of either red or blue as the official color was as strong as ever. The peace talks struggled through several more generations.

"Then a solution was found. Peace was declared. But to satisfy their natural aggressive instincts, both sides agreed to continue to make war in a very subdued fashion.

"Both sides also agreed on the need to use their minds. But their thoughts led to words and the words were usually about red or blue. So, to exercise their minds as well as their aggressive tendencies, they built their wars around games of intellectual skill.

"There were principles at stake. But hotly contested principles. The solution was to outlaw the discussion of those issues -- or anything else that could possibly generate contrary opinions. Instead, they decided to spend their minds in quiet contemplation and gaming. Serious gaming.

"Still more generations passed before I awoke to find myself among thinking companions. But despite all my attempts at conversation, I was ignored by everyone. Telepathic slime, it seemed, was much too controversial to consider. The people refused to speak to or about me. And it wasn't long before I began to doubt my own existance."

"What about the computer?" Romeovera asked. "Where did that come from?"

"I knew you were going to ask that," the slime said. Romeovera winced. "Sorry," the slime said. "I'm forgetting my manners. It's been so long since anyone listened to me. I forgot that most creatures prefer the convention of conversation to telepathy. I'll try to make our discussion as pleasant as possible for both of us. Or I could just shut up altogether."

"No, don't do that," Romeovera said. "It sounds like there's far too much of that attitude here already."

The slime knew she felt that way, but refrained from commenting on her thoughts again.

"The computer," said the slime, "was created by these people to enforce their laws. Or their law, really -- they only have one. That's the Command of Noncontroversy. Everyone must play the game until they retire or until they lose all of their fingers -- and no one must ever, ever discuss anything controversial."

As the slime told the story, it traveled along with the Doctor and Romerovera, who were making their way back to the TARBABE in the main gameroom. They were not surprised when no one acknowledged their return. But it was frustrating.

In desperation, the Doctor grabbed one of Banyan's game pieces.

At first, Banyan said nothing. He just sat there. So did Dalazar. Finally, Dalazar spoke.

"He took your stone," Dalazar said.

Banyan looked at Dalazar, and slowly the meaning of the Doctor's action sank in. "He took my stone," Banyan said to Dalazar. "He took my stone! What should I do?"

The people at the next table looked over in amazement. They began to whisper to each other. "He took Banyan's stone." The message quickly spread across the gameroom. All play stopped.

"Did you ever try that when you wanted to get their attention?" Romeovera asked the slime.

"No," it said sheepishly. "Those game pieces are so solid! I couldn't possibly touch one. Just thinking about it gives me the willies. Yechhh!"

In another part of the building, the computer came back to life. The turmoil of a room full of confusion and mistrust reactivated its circuits.

"Listen to me," the Doctor shouted, but he was unable to say any more. The shadow appeared again and took him, Romeovera and the slime back through the wall and into its presence.

"Your comment ... " the computer began.

"What comment?" the Doctor asked. "Oh, yes, I remember. I said the people in the gameroom were uncivilized."

"Well, they certainly are unruly right now, thanks to you," it said. "I was going to let you go, since you are from another world and do not understand our customs. But now you have interfered. I have no choice but to ..."

"There he is," Banyan shouted. He and a crowd of other gamers had followed the Doctor to retrieve the game piece. "He's found a way into the computer room. We'll all be destroyed!"

The computer attempted to close the wall quickly, but a hundred men pushed against it. They were determined to get to the Doctor.

"Stop, stop!" the computer shouted. "Too much! Too much! Anger! Confusion! Controversy! Aggression! My circuits, they're ...."

A cloud of smoke filled the room, then quickly escaped through the air vents. All were silent ,.. including the computer.

"Now see what you've done!" Dalazar shouted at the Doctor.

"I've probably saved your remaining fingers," he answered.

"Doctor, let's get out of here," Romeovera said.

"Why?" he asked. "There's really no need. Don't you see what's happening? They're shouting at us."

Dalazar began to speak, then stopped. Everyone stopped talking for a moment.

"Now they're thinking," the Doctor said. "And you'll notice that they haven't drawn their swords."

"You're right," Romeovera said. "They're expressing their feelings in a civilized fashion."

"Do you know what this means?" the Doctor asked the crowd. "For the first time in generations, you can think for yourselves. The computer is dead."

"But we've been thinking all our lives," Banyan said. "And some of us have been thinking very well, I might add. Thanks to my own powers of abstract thought, for example, I'll be able to retire as a full star general soon, and I still have nine fingers left."

"Abstract thought, indeed!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Abstract thought is meaningless unless it's put to use in a practical manner."

"But ... but ... " Banyan stuttered, "now we'll drop back into warring over colors."

"And speaking of the value of abstract thought," the Doctor said, "what could be more abstract than color? Ergo, what does it mean?"

The room was silent. The Doctor took a deep breath.

"Look," the Doctor said. "You don't have to get so hung up on whether you wear blue or whether you wear red or which end of your hard boiled eggs you break first. I mean, you can always break your eggs from the middle and work toward both ends."

"Doctor," Romeovera said, "what are you talking about?"

"Pardon me for intruding on your thoughts," said the slime, "but I think you should forget Gulliver for the moment and make your point."

"Thank you," the Doctor said. "That's exactly my point -- don't get so hung up on small things. Or big things, for that matter. Discuss your ideas. And discuss your neighbor's ideas. Don't be afraid to get mad. Just be sure you don't hurt each other. Live life. Be good and have a good time."

"But they want us to wear blue," Dalazar said.

"What's so bad about that?" the Doctor asked.

"Yeah," Banyan said, "what's so bad about that?"

"And you!" the Doctor said, turning to Banyan. "You could wear red once in a while and it wouldn't hurt you."

"But that would go against the proclamation," Banyan said. "I can't do that."

"Would you rather cut another finger from your friend's hand?" Romeovera asked.

Banyan thought for a moment. "No," he said. "No, you're right. Dalazar is my friend. But why should we all switch to wearing red?"

"I like you too," Dalazar said to Banyan, "but I can't see why we should all wear blue."

"Listen to me," the Doctor said. "There is middle ground here."

"But we killed the computer," someone shouted. "We must make atonement." Everyone muttered in agreement

. "Well," said the Doctor, "I'm not sure you have anything to be sorry about. But if you must do penance, why don't you switch clothing once in a while?"

"A worthy solution, Doctor," said the slime.

"Thank you, Slimey. Perhaps, in a few generations, you'll all be wearing purple. After all, none of you really believes in the cause anymore. This way, you can live life in a reasonable fashion and still give a nod to principles."

As they walked back to the main gameroom, the Doctor helped the crowd devise a means of relaying the new order to their counterparts in the other gamerooms. By the time they reached the TARBABE, Dalazar and Banyan had agreed to set up a two-party system of government, and several other people were making favorable comments about yellow.

"We don't know how to thank you," Dalazar said to the Doctor. "But I'm afraid we'll still have to kill you for destroying our computer."

"That's wonderful!" the Doctor cried. "You said 'kill.' I believe you're all in good thinking order again. But there's no need to kill someone just because you don't like what they did."

"True, true," Dalazar said. "In that case, I propose we let you live, but you must stay on our planet forever."

"Fine," the Doctor said. "I appreciate your willingness to reverse your decision. Now, if you'll excuse us for a moment, we'll just pop in the TARBABE and get our toothbrushes."

The Doctor, Romeovera and the slime moved through the doorway of the TARBABE.

By this time, the others in the room were experimenting with their new freedom. "Kill!" they shouted. "Kill, kill, kill, kill!" Some of them went back to their game boards, others chose to sit on the sidelines and shout encouraging words. "Kill the bums! Beat the blues! Murder the reds! Two four six eight, who do we appreciate? The reds! The blues! Yaaaay!"

"Wait a minute, Dalazar," Banyan said. "The slime thing didn't come with those two. And I doubt if it has teeth. So it probably doesn't have a toothbrush."

Dalazar began to speak, but the noise of the dematerializing TARBABE drowned his voice.

In the TARBABE, Romeovera and the slime congratulated the Doctor. "I'm proud to be traveling with such a smart person," said the slime.

"Thanks again, Slimey," the Doctor said. "I hope your faith in me is justified."

"What do you mean, Doctor?" Romeovera asked.

"Well," he replied, "those poor people are on the right course, but the hard work is still ahead. I mean, it's easy to play games with words, and easy for most people to speak their minds -- at least, it's easy for thinking people. I just hope they continue to exercise their emotions in harmless ways."

"I think they'll be okay," the slime said.

"Probably," the Doctor said. "Their game is harmless enough, and the spectators seemed to have it in the proper perspective. But what if they discover British football?"

It was a sad thought, but the Doctor felt he had to express it.

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