ZIP Beep #38
by Chuck Strinz

Ah, the wonder of three. The unparalleled bliss of the contemplation of the compilation of one and two. Here we are, three years after ZIP Beep first came into being, the issue number has a three in it, along with an eight which is really just a three plus a five (another cool number we'll examine some other time), three lights are on in the room as I write this, uhm, there are three drawers on the left side of my desk, and, uhm, lessee.....

Somehow numerology doesn't have any larger place in the world than it had last year as I wrote a similar bit of blather. But you get the point. We're going into our fourth year (four! Now there's a number for you!), and all is well.

Since the last anniversary editorial, one major change has taken place. Instead of reaching between 100 and 200 people in Mpls/St. Paul, each monthly issue of ZIP Beep is now available to as many computer systems from Canada to Austrailia. Thanks to an agreement between our parent company and the BBS Press Service (BPS), we're able to reach readers in multiples that are literally the square (and then some!) of our former audience. Shows what happens when you forge a relationship with consistent, capable, trustworthy, bright professionals who know how to act on their visions (Hi, Alan & Tim).

But enough about them. Let's talk about us. Let's forget the other features we're developing on the Gizmode Data Bank, which serves as a sort of proving grounds for internationally distributed online features. Let's ignore the fact that the parent company has moved to larger quarters, upgraded the equipment, added lines and switched to TBBS software. Never mind the growth in our online advertiser list. Forget the new accounts we've added to our creative services enterprise. Let's just focus on ZIP Beep for a moment.

Sometimes, it still sucks.

Yes, try as we might, even with new talent and new blood (notably Dennis Wallaker, who has as much of one as the other), even with stability and a large audience, we don't always hit the mark. Trouble is, the articles I like least are often popular with a lot of people I respect. And visa versa. I dunno. Geeze. I dunno.

But without returning the the self-agrandizement that slopped forth earlier in this editorial (call it anniversarial license), we can be mighty proud of many articles. I'm personally proud to be associated with the people who help bring you ZIP Beep every month. And you should be proud of yourselves for joining us as this young new medium of microcomputer telecommunications takes its first wobbly steps. BPS recently announced its application to become a member of the Auditing Bureau of Circulations. In all likelihood, many of the online magazines you enjoy on your local BBS are now among the first to be rated and credited by the company responsible for verifying regular magazine circulation figures.

This means we're on the right track. Now we can present ourselves to potential advertisers as a credible vehicle for reaching large, upscale audiences.

In the coming years, we'll continue as always, trying every month to bring you humorous articles that, at their best, cause you to look at the world in a slightly different way. We'll continue to criticize ourselves as we criticize the rest of humanity -- harshly sometimes, but always with affection. This is possible because we like the world and we like ourselves. This magazine has come through a time when we were forced to peer over the edge and make a jump for the other side. We seem to have made it, and the rewards are what many friends said they would be.

To those friends, thank you. To the rest of you, take their advice. Go for it. Computers aren't the only entities that can network. Even with a crazy idea -- like, say, the world's first free online humor magazine -- there are people who can share your vision. Seek them out. Stay with the ones you can trust. And as you move ahead, be sure to keep your sense of humor.

ZIP Beep #38
by Dennis Wallaker

I usually write about people because guys like you seem to be interested in them. But I'd like to spend some time here probing the motivations of cockroaches, fruit flys and a few others since my apartment seems to be filled with them.

A guy knocked on my door a while ago, and as soon as I found out he wasn't from the IRS, I ran for the knob figuring he was the Fuller Brush man. While I have a comb around here somewhere, I sure don't know where it is.

I was wearing my undewear due to the fact that I wasn't wearing any other clothing. He was fully clothed, wearing one of those T-shirts that only middle aged married guys are forced to wear and this thick leather belt with all kinds of stuff on it.

I figured he was from the porno place around the corner but it turns out he was the Mr. Fixit guy. The things in his belt were pliers, screwdrivers and such.

He asked me if I wouldn't be more comfortable with a bit more clothing on so I grabbed a tie and asked him what the @#$%&* he wanted.

He said, "I just wanted to tell you that I'm going to be in the apartment next door tearing up the kitchen floor."

I replied, "If you hate the job that much you should just move on."

He laughed like we were both in on the same joke and moved on to the apartment next to me.

He made plenty of noise, asked me twice if he was making too much noise and then proudly proclaimed that he was finished and asked me over to look at it.

"See, in an old building like this one, you have to rip out everything. All this woodwork, you just assume it's rotten and you tear it right off. These floorboards, you grab the crowbar and you just start pulling. The appliances, you just take them apart and leave them. Somebody else picks them up."

It was totally gutted and it made me sick to my stomach just to be in there, and while it was nicer and cleaner than my place, I figured they just never had a cat.

Then he asked me if I had a problem with bugs in my apartment. I said there's three or four that are kind of a pain in the butt, but I can deal with the rest of them. He said that it may be time for him to spray.

Well, the Viet Nam vet down the hall has a male cat that does that all the time in my place so I declined. It's not that I didn't want to see him try it but I was low on paper towels and all the other stuff. Besides, when a handyman lifts his leg on your kitchen wall in this neighborhood, you can bet that there's a lot of weirdos that are going to want to come over and do the same damn thing.

He said, "OK, I won't spray for the time being but you can expect more bugs."

He was right about the spraying and the increase in the insect population.

Never let anybody tell you that cockroaches are stupid and disgusting -- they're just disgusting. If they find themselves in the apartment of somebody with an IQ over 40, they resort to guerrilla tactics.

The crazed individual down the hall, after observing my dilema, said, "It's like one of them made for TV movies where your every move is being second guessed by a power from another dimension, often played by one of those actors you used to see on THE LOVE BOAT all the time."

I didn't feel comfortable agreeing to that extent but I had to admit that I'd had little success talking them into leaving.

Granted, sometimes I was using expletives, but then I'd talk about literature, especially Kafka, not realizing that he was one of the cockroachs' least favorite authors. They are definitely into television, especially cereal commercials.

They're mostly gone now; some of them went back to school because we have many very fine vocational institutions in the area, and the others went their separate ways (unlike my Hispanics friends in this neighborhood, they don't need to know what their 2nd cousin is doing every other hour).

There are some houseflys in here that obviously saw TOP GUN. I don't mind their moves but they're driving Spike, my cat, up the wall in more ways than one (if you're a cat owner, you understand).

Spike will look at me with these imploring eyes that say, "Can't you do something about them, or at least buy me some canned cat food so I'd have a fair chance at nailing these little twerps?"

I used to go after them with a rolled up copy of "PENTHOUSE" but then I finally hit one, leaving a large stain on the most beautiful girl I've ever seen in my life and rendering the magazine useless.

Fruit flys are another story. It's hard to hate them since they're so small and don't buzz you or bite. Realizing that they are so harmless, they form gangs and make like they're real tough by hanging out near your bananas.

I used to play along with the little guys -- "Oh yeah man, I think you're bad and I know you live in a society that doesn't understand your needs, but I just want to open the fridge door and get me some cheese." Usually they'll hover around me for a bit, pretending that their juvenile records are so stacked that they're not afraid of dying, but pretty soon they kind of disperse and start talking about whether Michael Jackson and Prince probably sleep together and I get my chance to make my cheese and god-knows-what-else sandwich.

But the insects that I don't like are the ones I haven't found names for yet. I open up the FIELD BOOK OF NATURAL HISTORY and when they aren't in there, I know there's going to be trouble.

There was one here the other day that looked like Lou Costello except it was wearing a different hat. I thought, "Boy, I'm sleeping with my shoes on tonight. I'll keep you in the jar but if any more of your kind show up, I'm going to move to France and open up a cicumcision parlor."

Some of them fly, some crawl but not one of them has the guts to take on me and my cat, man to man, so to speak. Maybe it's the difference in size or a fear of getting squashed, but I figure there's more of them than there is of me -- although some of them do have a streak of yellow running down their backs.

The thing is that if you're eating here and sleeping here, you should be paying something, because neither Spike or myself like paying good money to a landlord who has what I consider to be a rather faggy way of presenting himself.

Never mind that. The point is, everybody living here -- especially the insects -- should have to compensate for what some of the women who come by here consider to be a rather disreputable appearance. Eight legs and antennae are one thing, but the Cuban heels really creep them out.

They say the city is a jungle. What they don't tell you is it's populated by a lot of little punks who enjoy themselves at your expense. I don't want to sound like an insurance salesman or accountant in the 50's, but it might just be time to move out to the suburbs where people really know how to have a good time.

ZIP Beep #38
by Greenscreen

The worst things in the world look most innocent. And the American public forms the largest dupe contingent.

A person, action or organization can be against everything this great country stands for, and still win the hearts and minds of the majority of citizens. Oh, yes! Look good on television and you've got it made, even if you're under heavy scrutiny. Break the laws of decency, but keep smiling. Wrap yourself in the flag, equate yourself with Mom and apple pie, shove your way into the institutions we hold sacred, ingratiate yourself with those at the top. Then bide your time. Bide your time.

My friends, we are seeing this happen once again. And once again, I seem to be the only one who is aware of the danger.

Of course, I'm talking about the re-introduction of red M&M's.

Wake up, citizens! They're red! RED! Doesn't that tell you anything? They're fellow travelers in the big candy bag of intrigue!

Doesn't anybody care?

Stop for a moment and try to remember how they came about. Christmas. Holly. Family and decorations. And a "new Christmas tradition," as it was called: red and green M&M's. It seemed innocent enough. Innocence by association, that's what it was!

And that wasn't enough. Soon, the news was all over the airwaves. Red M&M's were back. Hallelujah! The story was carried by practically every newspaper in the land. Even the comic strips took up the cause. Glory to the red M&M's.

Glory indeed! First, they made us miss the reds. When they were re-introduced, we were all in a spirit of good will. (Most of us were, anyway; myself, I never let down my guard.) But the red menance is even more insidious than it might first appear.

Do you remember what happened about five years ago? Do you? We elected a man I thought we could trust. With him to the White House, he brought all of the trappings to put us at ease. Hollywood. Western aw-shucks clothes. A loving wife. An energetic dog. Jelly beans.

Stop right there. Jelly beans? Little roundish things in multiple colors, ready to eat, able to withstand the body heat generated by our upper appendages without melting. And what color were many of them? You know.

There were signs, but they were ignored. We should have been tipped off by her red dresses. But we weren't. And when the public focus shifted from jelly beans to chocolate (we always come back to chocolate, don't we?), the time was ripe.

Red and green M&M's, together at the holiday season. You can bet the left-leaning party in West Germany was rejoicing with their counterparts on the other side of the iron curtain.

So what can we expect from all of this? Trouble. You can bet on that. I can't predict the future with certainty, but I know it's as bad as ever. Negotiations to eliminate our nuclear arsenal are underway. They want to scrap our Peacemakers! And everybody seems glad. Ho ho! Look at us! We don't have any missiles to protect ourselves! Anybody can threaten us without risking the annihilation of the human race! People, what is happening to this great country?!!???

Okay, go ahead. Laugh. I know some of you are chuckling. Go ahead.

But to you clear-thinking citizens: stay vigilant. DON'T give up. We know who the enemy is now. Or at least, we know the enemy's weapons and tactics. You clear-thinking citizens understand what I'm trying to express. The rest of you should WAKE UP and smell the cocoa beans. Think! Do you want your children to grow up in a world that glorifies the color of the devil?

If only you would think. If only you would listen to me. But I'll be here when you've come out of your thin candy shells. I'll be ready to take on the position of leadership I was born to. Give me the word, and I'll lead us all to a great new age. Just give me the word. I'll be waiting.

ZIP Beep #38
by Don Fitzwater

 In our last episode (ZIP Beep #37) the crew of the Mariner found

themselves taking aboard a rather unlikely space biker.  Can they

tame this wild soul?  What can possibly happen next?  Find out in

the third installment of --



 I N T E R S T E L L A R  F O L L I E S


 .           Episode Three            .

 .        "PAWN OF THE DEAD"          .

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .





 THE CAPTAIN - That's all we ever call him and I guess that's his

only name.  He's in charge of the Lightship Mariner on it's historic

first mission to exceed the speed of light.  


 TOOLS, THE CHIEF ENGINEER - Tools is a whiz with machinery and has

several other unexpected talents which will be revealed as the story

goes along.  He is developing an interest in the ship's doctor.


 DR. "BUNS" ALLURE - Ship's physician, shrink and beautiful female 

member of the crew.  She seems to be developing an interest in SONNY,

an alien space biker the Mariner has picked up along the way.


 SONNY, THE SPACE BIKER - Sonny was the crew of the Mariner's first

extraterrestrial contact when he attempted to chain-whip their ship.

After having his space hog disabled by the Mariner's counterattack, 

they took him aboard in compliance with the "Lightship Code", which

requires the crew to aid anybody they meet who's in trouble.  All the

CAPTAIN wants is Sonny's hog fixed and Sonny off of the ship.


 BRAIN, THE SHIP'S BRAIN - Brain is the Brain of the Lightship Mariner.

Brainships are the melding of a living human brain with the ship's

cybernetic systems.  Brain functions as advisor to the crew as well as

watching over the crew and ship systems.


 Ship's Log Entry by Brain:

 "It is three days since we passed the speed of light.  Translight 

travel has turned out to be easier than we thought.  The crew is 

in good health.  It is also three days now since we picked up 

Sonny, the space biker.  We have discovered that he has an extensive

knowledge of propulsion systems, and could prove to be an asset 

to the crew.  If only the Captain didn't dislike him so much.  

Ship procedures have become routine, giving the crew time for 

leisure activities --"


 Tools and Dr. Allure were sharing some wine and cheese down on 

the recreation deck while strains of classical music drifted 

across the compartment.


 "Ah, that's great music," Tools lounged back against the 



 "It's Bach, isn't it?" Dr. Allure stretched her glamorous gams.


 "No no, that's Vivaldi -- The Four Seasons."


 "Why Tools, I didn't know you knew anything about classical 



 Tools laughed, "That's Baroque music, actually."


 "What's the difference?"


 "Well, about 50 to 100 years," Tools chuckled mischievously.  "I 

don't talk about it much -- ah, you don't know this, but I used 

to play first chair cello back in the base orchestra."


 "Tools, I had no idea."


 "Used to catch a lot of flack -- my fellow engineers didn't 

think it was the right sort of thing to do.  You know, be a 

musician at the same time."


 "Well, I can see some similarities -- precision work, and all that."


 Tools shifted uncomfortably, "Yeah, ah well, I guess you can't 

take everything with you when you go on a mission like this." 


 "Do you have any regrets about volunteering for this mission?"


 "Oh yeah, sure, I miss a lot of things back on Earth -- music and 

dance," Tools started humming along with the music, "But I don't 

think that's really the problem.  I have to admit that, sometimes, 

I'm really kind of afraid of what lies ahead for us."


 "I think we're all afraid, Tools.  It's only human."


 "I guess you're right, Doc.  You know, I realize that you are the 

ship's psychiatrist for this mission, but sometimes I think of 

you as, well, kind of a special friend."


 "Thank you Tools."


 "I guess what I'm trying to say is --"


 Tools was cut off by the ship's public address system.





 The moment (if there had ever been anything resembling a "moment") 

had passed.  Tools and the Doctor hurried towards the bridge, and 

whatever new challenge awaited them there.  [About time, eh?]


 The hatch to the control room powered open revealing the Captain 

operating the controls.  He was in a state of great agitation.


 "What's the problem, Captain?"


 "Tools, I'm registering an unexplainable power drain on the 

ship.  I've checked out all the equipment on the control console, 

but I just can't seem to locate it."


 "Captain," Brain's voice calmly broke in.


 "Yes, Brain."


 "Why don't you try the Pleasure Room."


 "Sonny, again?"


 "Sonny -- again."


 "OK.  Tools, put the Pleasure Room on the monitor screen.  Let's 

take a look."


 "Aye aye, Captain."


 From the looks of it, Sonny had been having (and still WAS 

having) a heck of a good time.  The restraint of good taste 

prevents any further description of the scene unfolding on the 

monitor screen other than to remark that it bore a distinct 

similarity to certain, frowned upon pictorial periodicals.


 Tools was revolted. "Now that's disgusting!  The Pleasure Room 

equipment wasn't built for that kind of abuse."


 "It is reducing his hostilities, Tools."  The Doctor thought 

she had spotted some interesting variations on the screen. 

"Perhaps we should just leave him alone."


 "She's right, Tools.  As long as we know where he is we can 

centralize the damage.  Let him work off his 'hostilities' or 

whatever it is he is doing in there -- For crying out loud, turn 

off the screen will ya!"


 Silence descended on the bridge only to be broken by the 

proximity alarm going off.


 "Now what," the Captain was definitely having a "one of those 

days" kind of day.


 Tools was at the scan console. "Captain, I'm picking up an 

orderly pattern of objects on the scanner."


 "Give me a composition analysis."


 "Right.  Checking, composite fields of metallic ions."


 The Doctor broke in. "Captain, I'm picking up two areas of 

intelligence, but their IQ's are registering off of the scale!"




 "Well, we could slow down and try to communicate with --"


 Tools didn't finish as the Mariner suddenly lurched to a halt.

The three of them went sprawling across the deck ending up in a 

tangled heap.  There was a second lurch.


 "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" They all managed to yell 



 The Capatain was first to recover. "Ship's status?"


 Tools' unbelieving eyes scanned the readouts. "Captain, we're 



 [Ever notice how, in this sort of thing, you can go 

from faster than the speed of light to zero in less than a 

second, and the only thing that happens is the crew gets roughed 

up a little?  Try going from 60 to 0 in less than a second in your 

car, without seatbelts, and see what happens -- I can guarantee a 

panic stop from lightspeed would be even more impressive.]


 "Prepare for evasive action," shouted the Captain, "Give me full 

power on my command."


 Brain's infuriatingly calm voice broke in, "Impossible, Captain.  

My data indicates that we are in the grasp of a super 

intelligence.  Navigation and weapon systems have been rendered 



 "Well are we just going to sit here?"  The Doctor had a point, 

they were all still down on the deck.


 "I'm afraid we have no choice, Doctor," replied the Captain as 

he crawled over to his command chair. "Give me all the data you 

can on those ionic bodies, spatial relationships, anything." 


 "Ah Captain, I've charted our course correction resulting from 

that jolt back there -- two movements actually, one to stem and 

one to starboard."


 "It appears that we're being pushed about like a pawn for the 

amusement of this super intelligence."


 "Not quite, Captain."


 "What do you mean, Tools?"


 "Here let me show you something.  Brain, superimpose the 

positions of those bodies on this recreation screen I've pulled 

up.  You notice any special relationship?"


 "Of course, that's a projection of a chessboard, Tools."


 "Exactly.  It would appear that somehow, we've become involved in 

an intergalactic chess match."


 "You're saying that we are literally a pawn?!"


 "No, a knight.  Two sqaures to stem, one to starboard."




 The overhead light panels flickered as the Mariner was jolted by 

a tremendous force.


 "Captain! One of the ionic bodies has been removed and replaced 

by another."


 "What do you mean by 'removed'?"


 "Destroyed, Captain," interjected Tools, "In chess 

terminology, taken.  I recommend that we try to avoid the same 



 "The last time I played chess I was mated in 5 moves!"


 "Ah Captain?  With your permission --"


 "By all means, Tools, take over!" 


 Tools leapt to the console, "Brain, have you been recording all 

pertinent data?"


 "I've got it right here --ah let me see now, cheasapeake, 

chesire, cheese, chess, chess --"




 "I'm looking -- just a sec, okay?"








Be sure to watch the coming issues of ZIP Beep for the continuing adventures of the crew of the Lightship Mariner in -


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