Marvin asked the F5ers this week:
The Pan-Galactic Olympic Committee has drafted you to represent Earth. The rub is that we don’t know anything about the games played in the galaxy-at-large, and they don’t know anything about ours. Because you’re a newbie you’re allowed to pick the events — five, as it happens — in which you’ll compete. You’ll have to win at least three of the five in order to save Earth from being turned into a new MacSapients franchise. What do you pick and why?
Well, first of all, this question is a few months late. I finished that competition a long time ago, and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the Earth individually and as a group for the fate that it is slated to befall in the near future.(*)
When I got the email, I almost deleted it because, well, it looked like spam. The titleGordSellar: Save The Earth By Competing In The Pan-Galactic Olympicslooked at best to be offering me a some crap video game at a discount price, or at worst it was dadaspam and I was going to be deleting one more offer of cheap Xanax or Cialis. But something compelled me to open the email instead of automatically trashing it, as I would later discover so many others had done.
248,341 others had done that, actually. That was the first thing that the email told me:
Dear GordSellar human,
This text maybe comprehensibility is not many. Machine translation your unhabititude language is very not good. Strings and syntatically.
Your invitation is. Pan Global Olympics. Earth maybe everyone is die. Maybe MacSapient franchise takeover is come to Earth, and all is die. So. You choose competitions for your big it’s a chance. It’s attached, babyface. :)
The rather long and imposing list of events I was given to choose from came in an attachmenta Word doc file, can you imagine that?and included things that struck terror into my very soul. However, I dutifully maqde my selections, thinking that this was probably some kind of SF play-by-email RPG I’d signed up for at some point and forgotten about. What the hell, I thought, maybe the game’ll be fun. Sounds wacky enough so far.
The next day, when the ship came and snatched me off the sidewalk, whisking me into outer space, I realized that I’d made a big, big mistake. Well, not right away. At first, I suspected that someone had somehow drugged me, perhaps while I’d still been sleeping. But as it slowly dawned on me that the dozens of different, weird alien species I was seeing chatting fiercely in the UFO’s cafeteria, I realized that I am really not quite imaginative to think up such a plentitude of alien species, and that they must all have been real.
The training I was given beforehand… well, all I can say is that I wasn’t actually trained. They implanted stuff into me, injected it into my blood so I suppose it was nanotech or the like, stuff that took up residence in my muscles and in my nerves, and even in my brains, telling me how to play those sports of theirs.
As soon as the implantlets were inside me, I found I could understand the aliens’ conversations. They were talking about how so many new, barbaric species were being allowed to compete this grrrrzata span of time which, while it’s about equivalent to 62 Earth years, seems to feel more like a decade’s time within the (artificial?) language and (composite?) culture of the Pan-Galactics.
When they talked about me, their focus was on how I’d declined to compete in events like Baduk and Chess. They’d nabbed these games and brought them into the PGO many grrrrzats ago, because the games depended on such brutal, primal, alien logic that it was a challenge for even the brainiest of the Pan-Galactics.
So I decided carefully to choose events that necessitate not human logic, which could have been synthesized and modeled by their advanced computers, but rather required a visceral understanding of human culture, or an explicitly human physiology.
I listed off the events mentally, and confirmed they were my final choices with a flick of my mind. And then, I went to bed to sleep in preparation of the big day to follow.
The next day I woke, stressed but excited. I had a little confidence that the Earth could, indeed, be spared. Who knew? And if not, well, it wouldn’t be my fault. If only people had answered the damned email, I wouldn’t have been in this situation, you see. I rationalized it to myself that way.
First event: Jazz Sax Solo. Now, people, you might think aliens could play jazz as good as any human. The MP3s have been floating around long enough for them to pick it up, analyze the patterns and come up with a reasonable strategy for emulating it. Bebop, swing, freejazz, blues… they had algorithms for all of it, and everyone had studied them, internalized them; everyone could play like some space-aged morphaclone of the ghosts of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Young, and Lester Young, plus a little Clarence Clemons and Barnford Marsalis and Sidney Bechet and Bob Berg and… well, about a thousand sax players I’d heard of and never heard of.
But you see, a good sax solo requires a human physiology. Not just because of the way one needs to breathe, the way one needs to support the reed with an embouchre only a human mouth can create, but because of the feel of the thing. There’s an ineffable something about a human playing a sax, a nitro/oxy breather with eight fingers and two thumbs that evolved from apes. There’s the feeling of the sax as an extension of that human body, and no other species felt it. It was a gamble, I admit it. But it paid off. Their solos were flat, soulless, akin to Wynton Marsalis solos in many ways. Mine, it was warm enough, rich enough. Even though I peed my pants playing itit’s not everyday one competes in musical olympics that determine the fate of one’s planet, you knowI pulled off the best sax solo bar none. One down, four to go.
Next up was Communication With a Primitive, NonLinguistic Humanoid. Now, this one was a big risk, you see. For one thing, while I knew that humans were the least advanced species competing in these games, this didn’t mean an automatic advantagen in communicating with an alien species. Non-linguistic communication is tricky enough between members of the same species, but the big trick with this one was, it was to be achieved without the aid of communicative technology.
Now, the other species, I watched them try to get their messages across clearly: “I am a peaceful individual that means you no harm,” they would snobbishly elect to communicate. Not that PanGalactic society is at all peaceful, but because they felt this was likely the message I would choose to communicate, and wanted to one-up me.
I watched them go out into the arena one by one and try to get their message across to the poor, lonely biped out there. I don’t know where they got it, but it was the most bedraggled critter I’d ever seen. They went out promising peace, doing dances calculated to communicate friendly intentions and the thing would usually just stare at them in bafflement. Not the thing, the things… they had to haul up a new one for each contestant, since the message was the same in most cases.
Well, when my turn came, I quickly scrawled my intended message of communication onto a touchpad and walked into the ring. I guess they must have broadcast my intended message to the audience because a gasp went up in the stands. I walked straight up to the humanoid, who was shorter than me by a foot or more, and looked it in the eye.
Then I screamed like a monster, like a madman, like a psycho! I started shaking, and kicked it as hard as I could. Then I began to strike it as hard as I could, to cause pain, and I lucked out because each strike seemed to actually hurt. The poor scrawny thing was horrified, terrified. It ran away.
Something I learned in language study, and in teaching language learning techniques to ESL learners, is that the messages available to communicate are limited to the messages comprehensible to the audience. In this case, there was only one message I could be sure I could credibly communicate, and it could credibly even possibly understand from me: “I am dangerous and hostile to your wellbeing.” Unlike the aliens, I am a dirty, filthy, primitive animal, a hairless ape untainted by aeons of living in a PanGalactic society. I mean, these guys were worse that British upperclassmen. Me, at least I have some idea of how to scare something unknown, if need be.
The people after me were too shocked to do credible jobs of the “I’m peaceful” vibe, and the ambience of the whole arena was such that it foiled their attempts. Winner, round two, was me.
Third: ah, third. Exegesis of Twentieth Century American Poetry. I chose e.e. cummings. I’d rather not talk about it, it was a little bit disturbing to have all my aesthetic theories smashed when I met cummings himself, and he explained that, not, in his native tongue of XrGyalIese, his poems are all absolutely straight logic and reasoning, and that it was just a fluke that he chose to go slumming on Earth in a time when modern poetry looked like alien logic. Suffice it to say they whupped my ass, and I ended the day severely distraught, not just for losing the event but also losing one of my favorite poets. For it did feel like I lost him, when I realized I’d never understoof him at all.
With two more to events to go, it was time to rest. I stayed up late, planning and plotting my chances for a victory. I sent messages to the earth, mostly apologetic and a few of them tearful. Somehow, I got a few hours of sleep, fitful, frightened, but needed nonetheless.
The next morning, event four came up. It was another loss. I couldn’t have known that the horrific Asian tradition of Karaoke had been picked up by their Pan Galactic society and made into an Olympic sport, but I do know that I wept when my out-of-tune Hey Jude reverberated throughout the stands and, on the display screen at one end of the arena, MacSapients stock was on display, and visibly shot through the roof in value.
I thought that all was lost. I thought thaty I had failed the whole planet and the species.
But there, in fifth, was the event to save my ass. Ah, I remember it so clearly, number 5: Dealing with Windows Millennium. Again, it was a case of them being too advanced. Imagine trying to deal with flint daggers and stone axes. You wouldn’t do too well, would you? I mean, good Christ, who uses such backwards, inefficient, crazy technology? Who would ever use anything to unweildy and crappy and crufty? Alien OSesif they can even be termed thatwere so advanced that, I suspected, they installed and upgraded themselves independently. They operated of their own volition and in continually dynamic ways. Nobody was really, mentally or habitually, prepared to deal with Stone Age computational devices. Except, of course, me. It was a long session, but I got that son of a bitch installed, CD-ROM drivers and all, and I even got it hooked up to the Earth’s Internet.
As a newbie, I was then obliged to participate inand miserably fail atall the other events as a guest participant, but the end goal had been reached. Best new species went to humanity.
All I know is, I am NOT going next time. I hope all the rest of you are practicing your baduk and chess games. Oh, and I need to explain a few new games to you… aw, another time. I’m beat just thinking about it.
UPDATE: (*) Oops, I never did explain what I apologized for above. Well, you see, there was this little incident that happened between myself and a few Ryzgy&#uuml;i chessmasters, and one thing led to another, led to a fisticuffs-type situation and, well, the long and the short of it is that humans are no longer allowed to order anything from a MacSapients outlet. You see, the business originated on their homeworld, and all. Which is a shame because the food there is a lot nicer than any of Earth’s fast food.
Ah well. Sorry.