ZIP Beep #49
EDITORIAL RESPONSE - AMERICA NEEDS GREETINGS
by Fred Shorenstein, President, Hallowed Marked Cards Corporation

(NOTE: Editorials, guest editorials and editorial responses are occasionally featured in ZIP Beep. The occasion arises when the spirit moves us, and the spirit moves us when we get ourselves in gear, which is mostly only when we feel like it. We welcome your editorials and editorial responses, and promise to give each the care and consideration we think it deserves, based primarily upon our frame of mind when we meet to discuss such things.--EDITOR)

-----------

The greeting card industry is built on the trust and friendship inherent in all mankind. As President of the largest greeting card company in the world, I feel privileged to be a part of the fine work our industry has carried out. I'm particularly proud of my own company, Hallowed Marked Cards, and our many contributions to various charities and benevolent organizations.

Recently, I have heard more than a few disparaging statements regarding greeting cards. By attacking an industry so committed to good works, I cannot help but feel these callous, shortsighted remarks cut away at the very fabric of the society held dear by all right-thinking people.

But the greeting card industry contributes more than money to the underprivileged individuals of the country. We share the joy of life, the support of friends, the admiration of acquaintances, and a hundred other facets of wonderful human expression. When our factory commissions a new poem or illustration, we delight in the knowledge that a thousand decent people might one day feel a lift that can come only from the kind act of another -- a lift that can be directly attributed to a Hallowed Marked product.

Imagine, for a moment, a world without greeting cards. What would happen on Mother's Day? It's sad to think of dear old Mother slaving away at the sink, up to her elbows in dishwater, pausing only long enough to wipe the sweat from her sweet, but wizened, brow. Poor, poor Mother. Her children have forgotten her, the husband who once wooed her is contentedly watching football on television, while the most important person in their world is busy maintaining the fabric of their lives.

A simple greeting card can do so much. Thanks to Mother's Day, Mom can stop for a moment. She can pause and reflect upon the treasures in her life. Without the holiday to honor her, she continues on like a machine, never stopping, never relaxing, never taking the time to improve her arrested mind, never able to see that there are other things in life besides work. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that obsessive mothers like that make me sick.

The same case can be made for Father's Day. And Presidents Day. And how long would the religious holidays survive without the greeting card industry?

I am filled with wonder when I contemplate the criticism I have encountered lately. Greeting cards needlessly destroy trees. Greeting Cards cheapen art, and artisans. Greeting cards are the products of an industry motivated only by economic gain based on the observance of shallow non-events.

My friends, such arguments are spurious at best.

How can anyone question the need for Mother's Day? It is like questioning the need for Mothers. And so it is with Father's Day. And Valentine's Day. And Grandparents' Day. And Children's Day. And on and on and on. I say, EVERY day should be a special day, a day on which everyone on Earth has a reason to buy a greeting card.

Greeting cards cheapen art and artisans? Poshtosh! What is art if it does not belong to the people? At Hallowed Marked Cards, we create accessible art. The lowliest, least-developed minds are able to grasp and appreciate it, whether the medium is a folded piece of paper, a pseudo-embroidered sampler, or one of those cute little statuettes portraying the degree to which the malformed character loves the observer. Moreover, the artisans who create and craft our products are given jobs that teach them the value of money by paying them what they would earn at fast food restaurants, which is where most of them would probably work if, indeed, they could qualify for any work outside the walls of our factory.

And friends, greeting cards do not destroy trees. Greeting cards create the need for trees. Think for a moment; without the greeting card industry, many forests would be useless. No one would bother to plant trees, especially the great white pines and redwoods that tower so majestically above this wonderful country of ours. And our plastic figurines serve a similar function by providing a reason to explore for more oil which, as any school child knows, is the basis of our entire economy.

So do not be swayed by the facetious remarks that come from some misguided souls. They are not meant to be malicious. Forgive the people who utter them. They are not aware of the harm they bring about. They do not see that they are chopping away at the foundations of a land that allows them to speak freely. They are short sighted. Their thinking is foggy. In brief, they are idiots...poor pea-brained morons without the sense God gave them, unfortunate pinheads with no real reason for being, callous buffoons, slimy dogmeat, ratchet heads, dweebs born of dufases, sons and daughters of inferior life forms, weak links at the low end of the food chain, buzzards, hollowheads, and fools.

Instead, go forth and help the world grow more wonderful every day. Join the march toward progress. Buy greeting cards in quantity. There is no need to purchase gifts for friends and relatives. Give them greeting cards. It's the thought that counts. In fact, you need not even give them greeting cards, since they but represent your love. All you need do is buy greeting cards. If the cards remain in your desk drawer for the rest of your life, you will still have the warm feeling brought about by the knowledge that you cared enough to spend your money on the happiness of another. It is better to give than to receive. But it is even better to buy and not give, because it is best to avoid putting a loved one in the embarrassing situation of thanking you for something you know they probably don't really appreciate as much as they profess.

Gift-giving is a delicate art. A greeting card is a quick, convenient way to express feelings for another. And if you feel you MUST give a gift, you will serve yourself while enhancing the well being of the world when you choose a gift from our fine Hallowed Marked Catalog. In addition to our statuettes, posters, wall plaques other familiar items, you will find the beginnings of an entire line of innovative Hallowed Marked "I Care"(TM) products including mobiles, music boxes, pen & pencil sets, napkins, boxer shorts, lamp shades, musical instruments, wind-up novelties, carpeting, collapsible cups & eating utensils, alcoholic beverages, telephone replacement parts, diaphragms, walking shoes, dust cloths, sporting equipment, exterior latex paint (in a choice of five designer paint cans), farm implements, drain covers, electronic boxes that go bip bip bip, personal grooming devices, travel maps, and much much more.

Thank you for your kind attention. And thank you in advance for spending large amounts of cash on our product in the future.

ZIP Beep #49
MAKIN' TRACKS
by Jeff Schneider

My first freight train ride was a celebration of my newly acquired "free man" status. I'd just gotten a divorce and I needed to feel the wind from a different direction than it blew in good old Minnehopeless, as folks on the bum refer to it.

Four of us guys and a new lady friend of mine got together and decided to take the evening hot shot freighter from Saint Paul to Spokane. There we'd lay over for a few days with an old friend before heading westward to the hobo jungles of Wanatchee and over the Cascade range to Seattle.

We'd been warned that sometimes strong drink became necessary to anesthetize one's body should one get stuck in what old hobos called a "square wheeler," or "kidney smasher." I guess the idea was to reallocate abuse from the kidneys and the backside to the liver. Made good sense at the time anyway.

We were ready. Our inventory included five cases of beer, a quart of Jack Daniels, a pint of schnapps and two bottles of wine for those special moments when nothing else will do. Like when you are trying to get the right directions from a thirsty traveling man, or woman.

It was nearly dusk by the time we arrived at the rail yards escorted by two other friends. Spotting an empty boxcar was no problem. From the access road we saw dozens of open freight cars. They were headed to Minot and beyond. We choose one about midtrain and hoisted the gear and refreshments aboard.

Since the train was already assembled and sitting on the high track, we knew it wouldn't be long before our departure. We toasted farewell with a wee bit of whiskey and schnapps chasers. One of the escorts brought out a folk guitar and strummed an inspired version of Woody Guthrie's "This land is Your Land," complete with Guthrie-like murmuring at the end of every chorus.

Four huge diesels that would pull us over the "hump" of the Rocky Mountains lent a low steady bass line to the sweet ballad. Our train lurched forward taking up slack. Soon we saw flashlights carried by brakemen moving from the caboose toward the engine. It was time for our porters to turn into decoys. A hushed laughter and tipsy good-byes filled our boxcar and our friends crept out the wide doors into the shadows. A few cars forward, we heard them climb aboard.

As the brakemen moved toward the front of the train they checked brakelines and gave a cursory look into each boxcar. If they spotted anybody in the boxcars they were instructed to tell them to leave and then report the incident to the yard police. Sometimes they followed these orders, sometimes they didn't.

The flashlights moved closer to boxcar that we were in. We huddled silently in the front of the dark car. Suddenly the sound of a folk guitar and drunken lyrics filled the diesel soaked air. The brakemen moved forward faster, passing our boxcar with barely a sideways glance.

"What the hell is going on here anyway?"

Our decoys didn't bother to answer. They leaped over the head of the brakeman nearest the access road and headed down the ditch of tall grass.

"Hey Jim, we just scared two guys out of number 83. They're coming up toward the engines. Keep your eyes open so they don't get back on. Okay.

We'll finish going over the brakes and turn this hot-shot loose."

In a few minutes, the engines gave a few final tugs and we were off. But, my debut didn't seem nearly as romantic as one of my hobo heroes, Frisco Jacks' had been.

"I was just a kid," Frisco had began his tale. "We had it pretty rough at home. A lot of people had to get through a pretty bad time because it was during the Great Depression.

"We burned chunks of coal that fell of the railroad coal cars. I'd go down there early every morning with two five gallon buckets and collect that day's fuel. I always watched the big steam engines that rolled through.

"One day my sister gave me a few cents and told me to run to the store for a loaf of bread. There was a train going through town at the time and I guess the steamers' loud whistle kinda attracted me. I watched the train slow down, looked around and said, 'to hell with this place.' I climbed into one of the empty boxcars and hid as best I could.

"Twenty years later I found myself walking down a street in Seattle. Suddenly, I felt a whack in back of my head. I turned around and there stood my sister, " Frisco remembered.

"Where the heck is that loaf of bread I sent you downtown for," she laughed.

As our own hot shot moved through the city we toasted every hobo that had ever ridden the rail. City lights faded off in the distance, so did we.

ZIP Beep #49
ZOFTIG AND WHY THEY DON'T CALL FAT GUYS "RUBENESQUE"
by Dennis Wallaker

Introd - This guy and his dog who were standing on the street corner told me there was no way I was going to catch the bus.

I never second guess a blind man so I started walking.

A couple of days ago I administered first aid to one of the seniors in the ghetto here. He's a big boy and I figured it was heat stroke so I loosened his collar, raised his feet, took his pulse and waited for the city government to do its stuff. They came in a big red truck and so I split.

On the way home, I found a butterfly wing and I figured to keep it and give it to the Fitzwater's daughter. Unfortunately, I put it in the same shirt pocket where I keep my change and I was headed for the newspaper box.

It was yesterday's newspaper and the butterfly wing had crumbled.

When I got back to my place I found 2 kittens sleeping on the synthesizers and their mother sleeping in the sink.

It's not Hillary climbing Mt. Everest or all the neat things that Jacques Cousteau does before he even has his breakfast, but it's still an interesting life.

So this is the way this thing works -

Got a note this morning saying they were going to send the Sheriff after me unless I paid my rent by 1 PM.

I gave them a call and said, "I don't mind if you send the Sheriff over but if it's for not paying the rent, we're going to have some trouble 'cause I already paid it."

She said, "Oh God, Dennis, I know! It's all been a big mistake!"

I said, "Don't worry. We'll figure out something else he can bust me for."

She said, "I'm so sorry." (by the way this dialogue is supposed to be just another Hemingway parody).

I replied, "OK, I'll take it out in trade." (my Dad always uses this line and gets nowhere with it).

She said, "Thanks for being nice about it and by the way any time you want it..."

She's a nice lady and she's a pretty lady but it's stretched out all over the place because she's fat.

I'm skinny and I imagine to some people I look like something that should be hanging in a hut over in New Guinea.

See, I've slept with obese women before and it's not easy.

As much as you like them, they can bend certain parts of your body that you might be wanting to use at a later time.

Very often they don't even know they're doing it. You're groping for air, thinking you're about to die and they're achieving the orgasm of their lives.

It's advice time and remember, insensitivity is not in my nature.

I can remember the pain and the agony that my Dad's La-Z-Boy rocking chairs went through while he was sleeping with Nancy, the Delta Queen, and also had Rob S. as a roomie.

They were both tubs and often broke into a sweat while chewing gum.

If either of them were big boned, you never saw any skeletal confirmations and as far as gland problems go, they certainly didn't affect their appetite.

The La-Z-Boy rockers did not lead such charmed lives. After six months of Rob S. and the Delta Queen, the thick, metal rocking springs had snapped like sparrow's necks.

My Dad and I dragged the chairs out to the garage to see if there was anything we could salvage. I figured if we rearranged the 2x4's and added some 2x2's we could turn them into kind of regular chairs, kind of.

The color had already drained away from the old man's face and he swore he'd never let a "lardass" sit down in his place again. If they wanted to come over they could sit in the backyard - "on the ground."

This is the kind of treatment you can expect from my Dad when you ruin something he got brand new unless it's a doggy, or a kitty or one of his kids.

He's a farm boy so he can handle those kind of losses but if you mess with his furniture, his car, the mower or my Uncle Curtis' manure spreader just ONE MORE TIME, then he's going to have to lean on you pretty heavy.

Heavy is the operative word here and that's why I'm going to give some of you who are pudgier than you desire to be a few tips on how you can be just like me -- minus the the drinking problem, the abject poverty and the cats.

I can't promise you that you're going to be as good looking as me, but I can promise you you're going to get laid as long as you give in to anybody that asks.

We'll start with nutrition and then move on to exercise (I have no expertise in these areas so I may be the guy you want to listen to).

Let's start with your standard 5 course meal: 1) Soup, 2) Salad, 3) Side dish and or first course, 4) Entree and 5) Dessert.

1) SOUP - Get yourself a small bag of Bar-B-Q style potato chips. Slice them into thin strips and place them in the bottom of a usually clean bowl (if available). Then take your pan of steaming Campbell's Tomato Soup and pour it slowly over the sliced chips so you don't get any on your shirt. If possible, add leftover popcorn from two nights before but sometimes you're going to want to say "Screw it" 'cause you are hungry.

APPETIZER ALERT - You don't want anything too sweet, too sour or too salty. That's why I suggest your Pearson's Salted Nutroll. I usually eat half and then throw the rest to the cats because I like to watch them tear each other apart.

2) SALAD - It's almost impossible to make a salad without using raw vegetables and it's almost impossible to get that taste out of your mouth unless you can find some really pungent dressing. I like to mix Bleu Cheese and French because it makes the carrot slices go down like an old aspirin.

There is a case for pasta salad; very few vegetables granted, but a lot of people like to leave it in their fridge forever and then try to pass it off on their kids. The kids get sick and then are either blamed for eating too fast or wolfing their milk when it's really their parent's fault for not feeding it to the dog.

3) SIDE DISH AND OR FIRST COURSE - This should be an interesting piece of work; something that will be a real conversation starter.

I'd suggest chili; the real good kind that you can get out of the cans that go for a buck.

I often toss in a dollop of cottage cheese, a couple of sweet gherkins and horseradish mustard but I've found that not everybody likes it like that. Chili is also very good when served chilled hence the origin of its name.

4) ENTREE - Since we are talking about watching our weight, I'd suggest something with bones in it because I've seen some of you guys whip through veal patties like they were Lorna Doones and vice versa.

Say you get a bad fish fillet. Plenty of bones and it's going to take a year to finish the thing without choking on it. This gives you a lot of time to lose some weight if you stay away from the rolls.

Where a lot of you porkers and porkettes make your mistake is that you treat the entree as a pathway to dessert, after pushing through vengeance. Don't do this because Dad won't let you in his house.

5) DESSERT - My Ma used jello whenever possible and I'm not just talking about her personal life. She always felt that anything you can dump fruit cocktail into is always going to be a crowd pleaser. This included dumping fruit cocktail into my Uncle Sonny's pants New Year's Eve circa 1962. He was passed out and didn't notice until he woke up at 5:30 AM New Year's Day. He became angry because it was the same kind of crap that the guys used to do to him when he was fighting in Korea. So he got pissed, kicked over a couple of ashtrays and never came back till the following day.

Anyway, 5) DESSERT - Fruit Cocktail & Jello - if Mom can still make it and Uncle Sonny can still eat it despite the pain and agony that it caused them, I think you can too.

Since I've bent your lobes on all this nutrition junk, I'm going to pull back on my exercise tips and give you just a few.

1) GET PETS - They're a royal pain in the butt and you spend a lot of time running back and forth trying to get them to cool it.

2) GET BAD NEIGHBORS - They're a royal pain in the butt and you spend a lot of time running back and forth trying to get them to cool it.

3) DON'T PAY YOUR TAXES - Same as above.

4) WASH YOUR TOASTER IN THE SINK WHILE IT'S PLUGGED IN - Some people have been killed doing this but a lot of my friends think it's a real cool feeling.

One More Tip. FALLING DOWN STAIRS - Start with two flights, carrying a box of books or maybe a small B&W TV set, fall backwards with a sense of abandon. Get up ask yourself when these SOB's are going to fix the carpeting and then repeat the exercise five more times daily.

Hey, I love ya all. Keep in touch.

ZIP Beep #49
THROUGH A MICRO DARKLY
by Don Fitzwater

SURVEY REPORT
FROM: RESEARCH VESSEL 07ZED2
TO: GALACTIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
SUBJECT: PROOF OF PRIOR CIVILIZATION ON SOL 3
DATE: 2307 Galactic Standard Calendar

It will please the High Council (and, no doubt, our funding organizations) to learn that the many years spent surveying SOL 3 have finally paid off. We now have definite proof that a civilization did indeed once exist on this otherwise deity-forsaken planet located in one of the outermost spiral arms of our galaxy. An otherwise horrible mishap has resulted in the survey team unearthing the remains of what appears to be a planet wide (albeit primitive) society [See enclosed accident report to the Office of Survey Safety].

On a routine survey overflight one of our mapping teams experienced a cataclysmic failure of their vehicles propulsion system [See attached requisition form for one, A-Class warp sled. Also note attached insurance claims and waviers], resulting in the impact and subsequent implosion of said vehicle on planet surface. The crash caused a rather large crater on the surface in the northern hemisphere in region 3. Recovery teams who were first on the site reported the crater had exposed what appeared to be the remains of some sort of structure. Immediately I authorized a full archaeological dig at the crash site.

To the best of our knowledge, the structure in question once existed on the surface, but subsequent tidal floodings, and geologic activity had buried it where it remains in an amazingly good state of preservation. This is a find of unprecedented archaeological significance and I have applied for immediate classification of the site as a Galactic Archaeological Preserve.

Survey of the structure was commenced and this report contains our preliminary findings.

Chief Cultural Anthropologist Sordna has concluded that we have stumbled across some sort of temple for an apparently planetary religion. Numerous artifacts have been excavated and cataloged, and classification proceeds at a rapid pace as I compose this report for you and the Society. Sordna's report follows but I shall summarize briefly our findings and conclusions thus far.

Ergonomic analysis of the artifacts leads us to conclude the planet's inhabitants were symmetrically bipedal in nature. Average height appears to be just under 2 meters. Their two manipulative appendages were terminated in 5 digits each and examination of some sort of image record reveals that they had stereoscopic vision. Cranial capacity, at first, seemed too small for sufficient neurological material to support much in the way of intelligence, and some members of the team hypothesized that these images might not be of the inhabitants, but rather the rendering of some sort sacred animal or pet. Further excavation, however, supported our original premise that these were indeed the dominant lifeform on the planet.

In light of the small cranial capacity, we find the fact that they developed some sort of planetary society before some natural or sapient induced disaster destroyed almost all traces of their existence, extraordinary. Subsequent excavations on all of the planet's other continental land masses have turned up similar structures.

The temples, for that is what Dr. Sordna insists that they are, contain highly ornamental fixtures constructed of light metals, plastics and silicon. These artifacts come in two distinct size ranges - very large, room filling constructs, and smaller, table sized items. The intricacy of the ornamentation found on the outside (and INSIDE!) these artifacts is truly amazing. Some of the detail work had to be done at the microscopic level. It has been our experience on other digs, that such detailed, effort intensive ornamentation is usually reserved only for religious objects. This and the lack of any other discernable reason for these objects to exist has led the team to conclude that we have, in fact, discovered a temple of some sort.

It is the anthropological team's assertion that the larger objects are representations of this culture's deity or deities (we are uncertain on this point as yet because other digs have turned up similar, yet distinctly different variations of design in these larger objects). These larger "God" constructs are found in the inner most sanctums of the temples and it appears that no expense was spared in the preparation of the chambers where these artifacts reside. Conversely, the smaller artifacts almost always are located in rather plain (monastic?) unadorned cubicles, but symbolically connected to the "God" devices by metallic cords composed of valuable metals such as gold, copper and platinum.

These smaller constructs rested atop table like surfaces in niches so small as to permit only one of the creatures occupying the space at the same time.

A nearby artifact (again connected by the symbolic metallic cords) was discovered. Issuing from this artifact was a vegetation based substance that had glyphs or symbols of some sort scribed on its surface. The team's philologist is studying these records as I write. He hopes to be able to prove these are some sort of written record of prayers to or invocations of the religion's deities.

While much yet remains to be discovered about these beings in general and their religion in specific, we have reached what we believe to be a reasonable overview of their religion's structure and workings.

As in most cultures, these people turned to their deities for advice, rules governing societal structures, wisdom, taboos and comfort. evidently there was a very large established priesthood. Some of the sect's priests served the larger "God" artifacts directly (no doubt cleaning them, repairing the ornamentation as needed and constantly attempting to "appease" the god through prayer and ritual). Other members of the priesthood issued their prayers at the smaller "altar" objects in the cubicles, while a third set evidently served as go-betweens between the general population and the priests in the cubicles.

From what we have been able to determine so far, the process of worship proceeds along these lines: A member of the general population brings a request (perhaps on when is the most favorable time to conduct trade, or advice on choosing a mate, or a prediction of a good harvest, etc.) to one of the go-between priests. This priest then brings the request to one of the clergy serving in the cubicles. The cubicle priest then composes an appropriate prayer or invocation to pass on to the priests in the inner sanctum, where this highest caste of the clergy then engages in meditation, ritual and prayer, before formulating a response to the supplicant and passing the information back on down the line to the faithful.

Such a highly structured religion bespeaks of an equally structured and culturally rich, although admittedly primitive civilization. With this in mind I have authorized extensive digs all across the surface of the planet. SOL 3 appears to be a veritable archaeological treasure house. This is why I wish the Society to expedite the protected status for this planet as soon as possible.

[Addendum]

Just as I was completing this preliminary report one of our survey teams have uncovered evidence of some sort of competing theology, also planetary in nature! This alternate faith (heretical offshoot?) contains a similar priest and temple concept, but varies greatly in nature.

Evidently a supplicant would enter a temple and speak to the main priest directly. After tithing a varying amount of valuable objects to the priest, the priest would then sacrifice a sacred animal on a pyre. Upon completion of the sacrifice the priest would wrap the burnt offering and give it to the supplicant to keep as some sort of charm or protective amulet.

While the data is far from complete it is interesting to note that these smaller, rival temples are often found in close proximity to the temples of the larger, more structured faith. This is certainly a planet full of paradoxes and possibly a religious war of some sort between the two faiths is responsible for the disappearance of this civilization.

ZIP Beep! Table of Contents
Strinz Creative Home Page