} [The scene: Usenet University, Department of Oracularities. Class in
} session is Apprenticeship 102, T. Usenet Oracle, Professor.]
} ORACLE: You've had the weekend to consider today's question,
} which I warned you was a particularly difficult one. I also asked you
} to think about why it was difficult. Gwydion, there, can you tell us
} where the problem lies?
} GWYDION [hesitantly]: It's a question about microcomputers, and
} the Oracle can't be bothered with anything that's not about mainframes?
} ORACLE: Oh, come now, Mr Gwydion. Have you READ any of the
} assigned Oracularities? Have you forgotten the brilliant answer to
} 443-05? Someone remind Mr Gwydion what question 443-05 was...
} PARACELSUS: "Why is it that some floppy disks make a
} shhukka-shukka-shukka sound when placed in a drive, and some do not?"
} ORACLE: Excellent. Paracelsus, can YOU tell us what the
} problem with the question is?
} PARACELSUS: It falls under Category 2 of the Five Unanswerable
} Types: Self-Contained Humorous.
} ORACLE: Go on.
} PARACELSUS: Well, we discussed how the SCH is a rhetorical
} question, a joke in the guise of a question. In this case, the obvious
} joke is that the Supplicant thinks the contrary of "hard disk" is "soft
} disk." If the Oracle responds explicitly to that ignorance he's
} belaboring the obvious and his response therefore fails.
} ORACLE: Very good. Last week we learned several strategies for
} dealing with the Unanswerable Types. Faustus, can you suggest an
} appropriate one here?
} FAUSTUS: Mmmm... How about equivocation?
} ORACLE: Define...?
} FAUSTUS: "Willful misunderstanding of the terms used in the
} ORACLE: Good. Yielding in the present case...?
} FAUSTUS: A moment, sir... Ah. "Because your car won't start.
} It'll have to take the bus to work today."
} [Groans from the class: "Lame," "Feeble," etc. ad lib]
} ORACLE: We agree that equivocation is not the best strategy
} here? [Murmurs of assent.] Another tack, then. Prospero?
} PROSPERO: Well, I've always thought the default was double
} entendre. Sex is generally good for a laugh with the geeks who read
} the Oracularities. This one's almost too easy, with "soft" right
} there in the question. "If your disk drive is persistently soft, you
} could try yohimbine, implants, or maybe a vacuum device."
} ORACLE: Nice, but I see one flaw...
} PROSPERO: Right. Most of the geek readers are either too young
} to know about impotence or ARE impotent but don't consider it a
} problem, so the answer will go over their heads.
} ORACLE: Right on target.
} MICKEY [squeaking and jumping up and down]: I know! I know!
} How about, "You could let Lisa stroke it a few times to get it hard"?
} [Groans, shouts of "luser!" and "Go back to carrying water,
} ORACLE: Okay, class, settle down. Other strategies?
} [Someone in the class pipes up, "Null grovel ZOT!" Cries of
} "REALLY lame," "feebleissimo," "Get a life!" from the class.]
} GED: Well, sir, there's always the Contrary-to-Fact Funny
} History. It's a tempting choice in this case, but... I don't know.
} They're usually too long and cutesy.
} ORACLE: Suppose you demonstrate?
} GED: "It is indeed difficult to find replacement parts for
} soft-disk drives these days. The soft disk, of course, was introduced
} as a storage option for the IBM PC-Jr in 1985. The drives were
} external, attaching through the bus connector, and were constructed of
} styrofoam and balsa wood. The media themselves were popular for their
} low cost, being made of gelatin, water, carageenan and guar gum. The
} most common cause of soft-disk drive failure is..."
} ORACLE [interrupting]: Fine, Ged, you've made your case
} admirably. Leary, I see you have your hand up.
} LEARY: Yeah, how about the Surrealist Interpretation? "Hey,
} get out of that Salvador Dali painting RIGHT NOW!"
} MICKEY [jumping]: Or, or, or, maybe the disk drive is soft
} because the Supplicant's been doing drugs, like, "Soft disk drive? You
} say your disk drive is melting? Hey, can I have a hit of that acid?"
} ORACLE [over groans of class]: Mickey, I think we can safely
} assume that Mr Leary considered and rejected the Hallucinogenic
} Rejoinder as unfunny in this case. [Pauses and surveys room.]
} Class, I'm surprised that none of you has come up with the most
} natural strategy here. I'm beginning to wonder why you think I put
} Borges and Douglas Hofstadter on class reserve, for paperweights? ...
} PYNCHON: Jesus, of course, the Metahumor Response. Maybe
} even combined with the Recursive. God, how obvious!
} ORACLE: Go on...
} PYNCHON: "The scene: Usenet University, Department of
} Oracularities. Class in session is Apprenticeship 102, T. Usenet
} Oracle, Professor. ORACLE: You've had the weekend to consider today's
} You owe the Apprentice a funny and non-obvious way to get out of
} this loop.