Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The CycleDog Research Laboratory...

Just outside Broken Elbow, Oklahoma, there's a nondescript one story brick building tucked away in a huge industrial park. The sign out front says Broken Elbow Consulting Associates. It's a genuine, money-making business, run by some of the best minds in the area, namely me and Wally Crankset. We consult on a wide variety of jobs, though to be perfectly honest, consulting doesn't provide much income. The real money comes from the CycleDog research lab carefully hidden within the building. Much of our work there is classified and cannot be discussed with the public. Please join us for a rare tour of the facility.

Wally led the way.

“Just this once, we're allowing visitors to do a walking tour of the laboratory.” Wally pronounces it in the English fashion - la-BORE-a-tory. “This is where our ideas come from, some good, some bad, and some destined never to see the light of day. Please don't take any photographs and be careful about touching anything. Be especially careful about eating or drinking anything that may appear to be edible. We've lost a few interns that way.”

“The front offices are occupied by our administrators and engineering staff. Through those double doors at the end of the hall there's an airlock that leads into the lab itself. I'll enter the security code so we can all pass through.“

“As you can see, the main lab building is large enough to be an aircraft hanger, though 3 of the 4 levels are below ground. Just follow me along this catwalk.”

“On our right, there's a Pseudo-Random Association Generator churning out ideas that may or may not have some connection to each other. Sometimes it's hard to tell. This is where the Bolivia Newton John idea got started, as well as some lesser known ones. High school boys are the biggest customers for this generator's output. It's a consistent money earner. Technicians enter names and phrases from a wide variety of sources, including newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasts, as well as more obscure material from bloggers and failed comedians. Once, we made the mistake of feeding it some Henny Youngman one-liners and the EPA shut us down for a week. It's powered by over-worked imagination hyped with caffeine on the positive side, and anger, frustration, and irony on the negative. The trick is to combine them in just the right balance that stays mostly on the satire side with few excursions into sarcasm.”

“The next level down is the Copy Room where an infinite number of monkeys hammer out text. Please don't go in. They're highly excitable and their hygiene is non-existent. The stench is appalling, but gosh can they can write! If you look in through this little window set into the door, you can see that the whole copy room is powered by bicycle driven generators. In fact, they provide electrical power to all the labs. When you have an infinite number of monkeys pedaling an infinite number of bicycles, the power output is staggering.”

“Across the hall is the Rant-O-Lator room. I'm very proud to tell you that we use a steam operated Rant-O-Lator from the late nineteenth century. Unlike the more modern versions, this one delivers smooth diatribes free of the profanities that make contemporary rants so lumpy and unsatisfying, though it tends to use obsolete Victorian expressions. It's down for a much needed overhaul right now, and frankly it's getting difficult to find parts. We just finished a big production run commissioned by Faux News and it was a heavy load on the machine. We hope to have it up and running again well before the presidential primaries start early next year.”

Wally held open a door. “This next room contains our dialog generator. Come on inside. I think it's working on my lines today. It's really a three stage process. The raw text arrives over here. Then it's fed to a socializing filter that cleans it up considerably before it goes to publication.” One of the women picked up some raw copy, blanched, and then turned bright red with embarrassment. Later, I caught her eying Wally with a speculative look.

“Final quality control is performed by an audio process to see that the dialog sounds as natural as possible.” Wally's voice came out of an overhead speaker:

“There's some guy out in the bar who says his name is Ford Prefect and he's buying everyone drinks. I don't think he's from around here.”

“I could wear a Santa suit to the meeting”, Wally offered.
“No”, I replied. “It's probably not a good idea.”

“It has all the intellectual challenge of a comic book.”

"She has everything he looks for in a woman."
"A pulse?"

"I know we don't see eye-to-eye. We could, but then I'd have to squat down to your level."

“Well”, Wally opined, “we've been endorsed by BLAMBLA. I think they're an offshoot of the NRA. I got a phone call from them that had lots of heavy breathing and a message about how they LOVE their guns. Kinda creepy, really.”

"His brain is a treasure-trove of the useless and obsolete, a vast suppository of information."

“Down here on the lowest level there's only one room, and it's the entrance to Hell. The place is tightly packed with ex-wives, dentists, used car salesmen, and my short tempered fifth grade teacher. Occasionally one of the used car guys escapes, but they usually settle down if someone reads from the NADA blue book or some other fairy tales. If one of the ex-wives escapes, we have to evacuate the building. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' or something like that. Most of these people are copy writers too.”

“You might wonder why we have our own private entrance to Hell, but I'll tell you straight out, it's very useful. Some of the most insidious and subversively funny ideas come from here, like Walking 101 or the upcoming satire based on Les Miserables. These guys really crack me up, though that's tempered with the occasional blood-curdling scream that echoes through the whole building. Well, it's still Hell, after all.”

“We'll take the elevator back up to the main floor. I want to thank all of you for taking the tour today. I assure you that some of what you've seen and heard will be incorporated into upcoming posts on CycleDog, and remember, a smiling reader is our most important product!”


I hate having a good idea and not having the time to put it down on paper. All too often, the idea slips away, never to return. There are days I ride to work chuckling at a wonderfully funny story line, only to have it evaporate before I can write it down. Sometimes I'll have a good one and I'll do some research to support it, only to be distracted for a time. Oh, I still have the supporting arguments, but the unifying idea is long gone. My files have far too many incomplete texts.

Likewise with dialog. I come up with some funny lines, but can't find anyplace to use them. So I keep snippets in a file, hoping that they'll find a home someday. Most of the Wally Crankset stories begin with a single idea that drives some of the dialog. I'll use the snippets and write more around them. It's almost like connecting the dots, as a list of ideas gets fleshed out with connecting verbiage.

It's obvious that this post uses some of those orphaned snippets.

What's the difference between satire and sarcasm? Satire attacks human folly or vice by using irony or derision. Sarcasm is mockery or contemptuous irony intended to wound. Note that both satire and sarcasm use irony, so it's more a difference of degree rather than type. I try to strike that balance, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

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Blogger Dougii said...


A great way to end a day of continuous lolly-gagging..

Hey, why does you blog keep showing up as all unread on bloglines? Wierd.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

dougii, I configured most of my Bloglines feeds to ignore updated posts. Go to edit subscription in the upper right hand corner/updated items/ignore.

Hope that helps!

5:05 PM  

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