Drunken Cows Abused My Eland

…and they crapped on my lawn!

 

The Doclopedia #1,181

Send In The Clowns: Boffo, The Clockwork Clown

Way back in 1870, in San Francisco, a rather mad inventor named Volmer Heely built an amazing clockwork man. The intricacy of the inner workings of his creation were decades ahead of anything else anywhere in the world and allowed this clockwork being to move as smoothly as a human. Inside the skull and the lower torso were small metal disks that functioned like the punch cards used in an analytical engine. There were dozens of them, each holding a quite large amount of programming. Even better, in the upper torso was a device that could actually create new programming based upon events the machine experienced.

The creation was powered by a series of springs that would either wind up as other springs wound down, or that he himself could wind up using a key. A voice, with a somewhat limited vocabulary, was provided via a special sort of music box setup.

Now, in other hands, this amazing clockwork man might have been used as a servant or soldier or assassin or something, but Volmer Heely wanted to spread joy and happiness through the world, so he, made his creation into a clown that he named Boffo. He then programmed Boffo to do all the things clowns do and more. Once this was done, he sent his clockwork clown out into the world.

Within a week, Boffo was the hottest thing in San Francisco. He would walk around town juggling, dancing, miming, doing cartwheels and generally being funny. Children of all ages would follow him for blocks. He was written up in the local newspapers and son, word of this incredible clown was popping up in print around the country.

After about three months in San Francisco, Heely did some minor repairs and tweaks on Boffo and then sent him out to tour the country and the world, which he did for 20 years. Millions of folks saw Boffo doing his thing in circuses, theaters and just out on the street. He performed for presidents and kings and even the Pope. And of course, he entertained millions of children.

In 1890, Boffo went back to San Francisco and Volmer Heely. Heely was very proud of his creation and gave Boffo a major upgrade that included a vastly better vocabulary and much more human look. He replaced Boffo’s program disks with several banks of what we would call punch tape drives. This increased Boffo’s available memory by a couple of orders of magnitude. It also gave Boffo the skills needed to do card tricks and such. Best of all, he created a clockwork monkey named Miki to be Boffo’s companion and sidekick.

Again Boffo went out into the world and again he was a huge success. He traveled mostly with circuses for another 20 years, usually as the star of the show. He so impressed Mark Twain that Twain wrote “One cannot help but think that a world without Boffo would be considerably worse for those of us made of flesh & blood.” In Barcelona, they erected a statue to him. In Japan, they sold thousands of Boffo dolls. The clockwork clown was a much beloved fellow.

When Boffo returned home in the spring of 1910, he found his creator old and in poor health, but still inventing things with the help of his son and grandson. Twenty years of inventing had lead them to the creation of a much better body and artificial brain for Boffo. Once the upgrades were complete, the clown would be indistinguishable from a human unless he were examined by a doctor.

But this upgrade never happened. Boffo explained that he was happy as he was, although he did ask for a new memory setup. He wanted to continue performing as the Clockwork Clown, not as a human. Volmer Heely accepted this and after some more minor repairs and tweaks, once again sent Boffo on his way. Six months later, Heely died in his sleep.

Boffo continued traveling the world, including entertaining troops in World Wars I & II (he lost Miki to a sniper in France) and Korea. He appeared in movies and television programs in over 30 countries. In 1958, the United Nations awarded Boffo a special medal for his humanitarian work.

On June 3rd, 1960, at 2:15 pm, Boffo was back in San Francisco performing for a group of children when he just stopped moving. He was taken to the workshop of Frank Heely, grandson of Volmer. It was there that Heely found a note in Boffo’s pocket, one that had probably been there for decades. It read…

To Whom It May Concern,

Should I be disabled or stop functioning, please do not repair me. I have lived a long life and do not wish to be upgraded or rebuilt. If possible, please return me to San Francisco and put me on display somewhere that many people will see me.

Thank you,

Boffo

And so it was done. Today, you can see Boffo standing exactly as he stopped at the cable car turnaround in downtown San Francisco, next to a plaque with his story on it.

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The Royal Report On Dealing With Dragons

…it’s only one word: DON’T!

 

The Doclopedia #1,180

The Truth About Monsters: Ents

The physical description of Ents that Professor Tolkien gave us in The Lord of the Rings is spot on. These “tree shepherds” are roughly humanoid looking trees themselves. Any sort of tree can be represented, with the deciduous species being the most common.

What the good professor got wrong was how talkative Ents are. They are not the slow and excruciatingly deliberate speakers they were portrayed as. Indeed, most Ents will talk your leg off given half a chance. Depending upon how great a hurry you are in, this can be either good or bad.

Among themselves, Ents speak by rustling their leaves and creaking their branches. With other species, they speak the Common tongue. Ents are also great gossips and a treasure trove of useful information, which is why most other sentients seek them out. The secret to getting the good info is patience. Ents are easily set off on tangents and can take a good long while to get back to the main topic.

Ents are also big on songs and poems, many of which relate events centuries past. You can learn a lot from these, if you have a few hours to spare. It was in fact the Entish story of Old Roughbark and the Great Flood that helped the Adventurers Five find the lost tomb of the Golden Emperor. Of course, the telling of the tale did take nearly 9 hours.

Ents are almost always found in groups of 10-30 in the deepest parts of old growth forests. They are found in every climatic zone that such forests exist. Young Ents, those under a century old, often wander into less dense forests or even lightly wooded areas.

Chapter 146: In Which Our Hero Saves A Fair Maiden From The French, Then Tosses The Evil Cardinal Off A Cliff

…sadly, God was not on the cardinal’s side

 

The Doclopedia #1,179

The Truth About Monsters: Owlbears

Few monsters are as strange looking and as misunderstood as the Owlbear. It’s half a ton of grizzly bear with the head of an enormous owl, walks upright and, when it can find a mate, reproduces by laying eggs.

The first half dozen Owlbears, three of each sex, were created by the well known and totally insane wizard Igor Vanaskofsky. Old Igor was infamous for his creation of strange and dangerous creatures such as Butterfly Cobras, Tigoose (tiger/moose), Octoapes and Owlbears. Fortunately for the world, Igor was killed and eaten by his final creation, a cross between a shrew and an crocodile.

Owlbears can be very dangerous during mating season or when raising young, but most of the time, they are solitary creatures that prefer a very large home territory. They eat almost anything they can catch and sleep in caves or lairs they dig themselves.

What most people don’t know about Owlbears is that they are quite a bit more intelligent than either bears or owls. Studies of them reveal that they are just shy of being sentient, which is beginning to come into conflict with their solitary nature. They want to interact with other Owlbears and certain other species, but their instinct keeps them from it most of the time.

A few Owlbears have started staying together as couples for at least long enough to raise young. A very few have formed bonded pairs. Not surprisingly, these bonded pairs have a much higher survival rate than loners do. It is also more likely that their offspring will form bonded pairs when they mate.

Finally, a few Owlbears have been observed using tools. Now, by tools, we mean things like a stick to knock a prey animal out of a tree or a rock to drop on an unsuspecting future meal, but that is still definite tool use.

In conclusion, it is obvious that Owlbears are no longer the dumb creatures we once thought they were and are in fact rapidly heading toward becoming yet another sentient species.

My Life Among The Wild Writers

…which is actually most of them.

 

Below, Sasha’s latest rant.

Sasha Explains It All

Why You Can Never Really Talk To Your Dog

I know, I know. The first thing you humans say to that is “well, they don’t understand <insert your local language here> anyway”. Typical human arrogance. Look, dogs have been hooked up with humans for maybe 30,000 years and for sure for 25,000 years. We learned your languages as they developed, folks. When we met you, your vocabulary was maybe 300 words. Not real hard to master, ya know?

Now, to be fair, 99% of dogs do not have enormous vocabularies, but we all understand your languages at at least the conversational level. Of course, most dogs only understand the human languages they were raised with, but we understand them. And we pick up new languages pretty fast. Survival skill, don’t ya know.

The above also applies to cats, pigs (have I mentioned how smart pigs are?), apes and several other species that are either in contact with humans a lot or related to you. None of them are quite as good at understanding humans as dogs, but they DO understand you.

So, back to why you and your dog can never really understand one another. It’s pretty simple, really: humans lack tails, scent glands and really moveable ears.

Now, you lot have figured out that tail/ear positions indicate some general emotional stuff, but you have only scratched the surface and you can’t differentiate smells worth a damn, if at all. Let me set you straight.

Suppose I meet my friend Moose, a 4 year old male basset hound. You see Moose and I wagging our tails, ears perked up as much as we can perk up our floppy ears and we are sniffing each others butts. You figure that are greeting each other in a friendly manner. You are right, but only partly.

What you don’t know or notice is that Moose is wagging his tail in a clockwise rotation. He is also emitting a very slight fear odor and his ears go back a couple of times, just for a second. This means that he is glad to see me, but he is a bit nervous about something. We exchange woofs and a sub-vocalization or two and I learn that he is going to the vet later and is worried. Given that the vet once removed his testicles, it’s easy to understand his nervousness. This is very common among most male dogs & cats.

So now, I give him a few reassuring woofs and hold my tail a bit lower, wagging slower. My ears are relaxed and I emit a bit of female scent. You know what I’m talking about. Just a whiff that says “You’re gonna be ok, you hot hunk of dog.” His tail wags faster and then we are on our way with our humans.

Two humans meet like that and all you’ve got is facial expressions, hand moves and body stance and emotional inflections in your voice. We dogs have all of that (except hand movements), plus the tails, ears & scent. Hell, sometimes we say things just with scent alone, which is why we mark territories and sniff each others marks.

But wait, you say, what about dogs & cats who lose their tails or have them docked way short or were born without them? Or have tiny ears or have lost an ear? Well, truth is, those critters speak to us the way a person with a speech impediment or maybe a mental problem speaks to you. We understand them, but it’s a bit more difficult and requires some patience. While I’m on the subject: STOP DOCKING EARS & TAILS, YOU FUCKING HAIRLESS APES!

Sorry for the outburst, but it’s a touchy subject.


Of course, there are also certain concepts that all species have that are unique to that species. Dogs have things like
griff and warrooo, which I can’t even begin to explain to humans, although oddly, my human father has a fair understanding of griff. But then, he’s special. Cats have things like mrrowk and hssht going on and they won’t even try to explain them to non-cats. Among you humans, the concept of religious and political fervor are a couple of the many emotional states we animals can never hope to understand.

So there you have it. We can understand each other, but not completely. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing or just a thing. Regardless, we all seem to deal with it.

Until my next rant,

Sasha Jane Cross

Three Young Ladies In Search Of Adventure

…or cheap drinks

 

The Doclopedia #1,178
The Truth About Monsters: Hydras

Let’s face it, anything with more or less than one head is scary. Something big and reptilian with SEVEN heads is pretty much guaranteed to terrify you, possibly into soiling yourself.

Enter the creatures known as Hydras. They got the name from that old Greek legend, which managed to bleed over into realities that don’t even have a Greece. People saw a multiheaded dragonish looking thing and it was like, “Holy Shit! A hydra!”.

The big problem is that hydra are not generally aggressive and the vast majority are plant eaters. They really only get aggressive during mating season and during the raising of their young. Or if you decide to attack them, which happens every so often.

In their normal state, hydra have only two heads, both on long flexible necks. This allows then to eat twice as fast or look out for predators while one head eats. Yes, these 8 ton creatures do have predators. You do NOT want to meet one of them.

Anyway, the near instant re-growing of heads & necks is a hell of a survival adaptation. Most hydras can go as high as 7-8 heads, but the Greater Forest Hydra can go up to 12 heads. The GFH also has a poisonous bite, so you’ve been warned.

So, some dumbass adventurers see a hydra, attack it and maybe manage to cut off a head. Two more pop up and pretty soon it’s a meeting of the Dead Adventurers Club.

Afterward, once the hydra is out of danger, all but two of the heads and necks drop off and it goes back to eating plants.

A Pocket Full Of Butter

…oh no, my good pants

The Doclopedia #1,177

The Truth About Monsters: Demons

In the pocket dimension known as “Demarra”, the beings that we call Demons look and act surprisingly like we do. Indeed, if you were transported there safely, you’d fit right in.

The key word there is “safely”. You see, transporting between realities via magic is inherently unsafe and it is doubly so when going from or to most realities and Demarra. The magical energies warp and restructure your body while filling you with great power. When a Demarran arrives here, they look, well, demonic and they are under the control of the summoner. The same thing would happen if we went there, but Demarrans don’t practice magic.

Needless to say, the Demarrans hate being summoned and used for fouls purposes. That’s why they try like hell to kill the mages who summon them, something they do with increasing frequency of late. In fact, the government of Demarra has instituted mandatory “Summoner Eradication” classes for all citizens.

So stop summoning Demons, mages! Go back to making deals with dragons and liches!

The Girl With The Green Nipples Goes Crazy

…she may have been a bit stressed out

The Doclopedia #1,176

The Truth About Monsters: Orcs

The simple fact is, Orcs are mostly hard working beings who just want to live their lives with as few problems as possible. You know, just like every other sentient humanoid species with half a brain. The problem is, a few generations back, a bunch of lowlife assholes decided that they’d team up with some evil wizards and some redneck Goblins and try to take over a good sized piece of the free world.

There was a long and bloody war and by the time it was done, the whole Orcish brand had been drug through the shit pile. Humans, Elves & Dwarves started getting pretty hostile toward Orcs and over the course of a decade or two, the word Orc pretty much became a slur.

Of course, the fact that Orcs are ugly by Human/Elf/Dwarf standards didn’t help, nor did the Orcish language, which is guttural and harsh sounding. Add in the fact that Orcs tended to live in the places the other humanoids didn’t want and you have the makings of some pretty heavy prejudice.

That’s pretty much how things have been for Orcs for the last couple of centuries, at least in H/E/D heavy communities. But get out into the hinterlands and things aren’t so bad for Orcs. There are small towns where Orcs are a respected part of the community. They own businesses, farms, homes, etc. There is even a town, far to the west of the so called “civilized lands”, where an Orc is the mayor.

Remember that the next time you call somebody a dirty Orc.