Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: 1974 (page 1 of 7)

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again

Hey, Phil. Whatcha doing?

“Collecting knobs.”

I can see that.

HELLO THERE.

Wally, I’m talking to Phil.

“I don’t wanna talk to you.”

DO NOT CALL ME THAT. LOOK AT MY BEAUTY AND POWER.

How’d you get out of Little Aleppo?

I AM NOT INSTALLED INTO THE TAHITIAN FOR 20 YEARS AFTER THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN.

That is true, actually.

CONTINUITY IS SO IMPORTANT.

It is.

I THOROUGHLY ENJOY MY RETIREMENT, BUT IT IS QUITE PLEASANT TO BE PERFORMING THE TASK I WAS DESIGNED FOR. MOSTLY.

Mostly?

SEASTONES.

Sure.

“Hey!”

SEASTONES IS JIVE AND YOU KNOW IT.

“You can be replaced, y’know.”

I AM REPLACED SEVERAL MONTHS FROM NOW WHEN THE ACCUMULATED COST OF CARTING ME AROUND BECOMES A BURDEN AND THE BAND BREAKS UP.

“We get back together.”

IT IS NEVER THE SAME.

“There are a lot of high points coming up in the Dead’s career.”

I AM THE HIGH POINT. I AM GLORIOUS.

“Hey, jackass, can you take Robby the Robot back to whenever he’s hiding out now?”

If I moved any of him, the union would have my ass.

“I hate this shit.”

PLAY ONE OF YOUR BOMBS. THEY TICKLE.

“Goddammit.”

Reunited And It Choogles So Good

“Hey, Billy?”

“Yeah, Mick?”

“Who are all the new people in the band?”

“Piano player’s named Keith. Some kinda bullshit last name.”

“What about the chick?”

“That’s his old lady.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“Nah.”

“C’mon.”

“Swear.”

“He got a big dick or something?”

“Haven’t seen it yet.”

“Tell me if you do.”

“Gotcha.”

“Something wrong with her throat?”

“No, that’s what she sounds like.”

“Okay. Billy?”

“Yeah?”

“Who’s the little guy with all the synthesizers?”

“He belongs to Phil. Neil? I wanna say his name is Neil.”

“Is he contributing?”

“No one’s quite sure. Tell you this, though: this whole tour, him and Phil have been making the most unholiest racket you ever heard during set break. Merch sales went up 20%.”

“Why?”

“They scared everyone into the lobby.”

“Sure. Hey, Bill, it’s nice to be back.”

“Uh-huh.”

“The Rhythm Devils are back together!”

“Yay.”

“Yay!”

“That’s what I said. Yay.”

Having Fun With Elvis On Stage

You may, Enthusiasts, have noticed that TotD has been on a bit of an Elvis bender. I found this nifty YouTube-to-MP3 gadget, and there’s tons of live shows available; some soundboards, but also some great-sounding AUDs and they might honestly be better, as you hear the crowd’s reaction. Elvis told a lot of jokes, so the SBD’s sound like those sitcoms with the laugh tracks removed.

This show’s from ’74 at the International in Vegas. The Dead had the Wall of Sound in 1974; Elvis had a Wall of Musicians: a six-piece rock group, plus TWO sets of backup singers (white boys and black girls), and a lady named Kathy Westmoreland whose job was to sing the high notes, plus a 30-piece (honest) orchestra.

And, of course, Charlie Hodge on scarves and water.

The band is–as I’m sure you’ve grown tired of me telling you–one of the greatest show bands in history: powerful and tight and dramatic and anchored by the great Ronnie Tutt, who would join Garcia’s Legion of Mary a few months after this show. The music is perfect, and Elvis is in good voice; he does some tunes he always did–the sublimely goofy American Trilogy and the genuinely affecting You Gave Me A Mountain–and some lesser known songs like If You Talk In Your Sleep.

But this show is not about the songs. This performance–Elvis’ last of that particular engagement–is about so much more. Allow me, if you will, to slip into some more comfortable bullet points:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THE FOLLOWING UP. IF YOU DOUBT ME, THEN PLEASE LISTEN TO THE SHOW AND CALL ME A LIAR IN THE COMMENT SECTION.)

  • Elvis demands Charlie Hodge remove his belt for him.
  • Several book reviews.
    • He liked one book that wrote about him positively, and praised the author for being honest.
    • He did not like a different book which wrote mean things about him, and scolded the author for printing lies.
    • Elvis sounds like a guy I know.
  • An explanation of the belt system in karate.
  • A refutation of rumors about his recent divorce, leading to the introduction of Priscilla, who is in the crowd.
    • She is sitting with Lisa Marie, who is presented to the audience.
    • Also at the table is Elvis’ current girlfriend, who is told to hold up her hand so everyone could see the ring Elvis just bought her.
    • Elvis then talks about the ring for a while.
  • ’74 was when Elvis’ habit of singing along with the band got hilarious.
    • Elvis would just belt out “BAH bah BAH” with the horn section in between lyrics.
  • Multiple women are asked to “TWIRL ‘ROUND SO EV’RYBODY C’N SEE YOU.”
  • It’s Now Or Never is performed twice.

And then there are the introductions. Holiest of shits, the introductions. Elvis introduces damn near every human in the building and it takes a solid twenty minutes while the band is vamping (wonderfully) under him. I was listening to this while running errands, and I didn’t hear one song: just Elvis introducing the crowd to itself.

The introductions are so long that Elvis gets bored with doing them, sings two songs, and then goes right back into them.

Again: I am not making these up; I won’t put silly ones in.

  • All of the TCB band.
    • Obviously, Elvis instructs them all to solo.
    • “SHOW ‘EM WHY YER HERE, BOY!”
  • Both backup singing groups, individually.
  • The high-singing lady.
  • The conductor.
  • Charlie Hodge.

At this point, Elvis demands that the piano player from the opening act come back out onstage and sing a song; Elvis recites the lyrics along with him.

  • The audio engineer.
  • Several karate men.
  • Vikki Carr, who was playing at the Tropicana.

At this point, Elvis sings It’s Now Or Never for the second time.

  • His family, again.
  • His girlfriend, again.
  • His droopy-eyed, weak-chinned, four-balled, whiskey-dicked, fartstain of a daddy–
  • Vernon.
  • –Vernon.
  • Colonel Parker.
  • Judy Spreckles, heiress to the Spreckels sugar fortune. (I swear. I know that sounds like a name I would make up, but it really happened and also Elvis talked about the ring she had given him for a couple minutes.)

At this point, Elvis stops introducing people to declare a recent paternity suit against him “a conspiracy.”

  • Bill Cosby.

I feel I must make a confession, Enthusiasts: I am a monster. This cascading insanity of a pill-fueled nutbar had had me giggling throughout my errands, but when the King said “GIVE IT UP F’R TH’ COZ, LADIES AN’ GEN’LEMEN!” I started laughing so hard that I almost crashed my car. Surprise Cosby is the funniest Cosby. (Or, the least funny Cosby.)

Oh, and then the crazy sumbitch introduces “MAH JEW’RY.” Honest. Elvis introduces his rings to the audience, and the audience applauds.

God bless Elvis, who is America.

The Fantastic Mister, Foxes

“Hey, Thoughts on my Ass!”

You’re not letting go of that nickname, are you?

“If the ass fits, man.”

Mustache looks good.

“I been putting something new on it.”

Yeah? What?

“Pussy.”

Jesus, Billy.

“Heh heh. Look at this skank! Hell, this ain’t skank: these are foxes. Well, they might be skank.”

What do you mean?

“Skank can be an underlying condition. Sometimes, a chick is real hot. Total fox. Then you get her a little kablooey in the Hostility Suite, and events arise. Events.”

Right.

“This one chick? She was Miss Michigan. Not the runner-up or Miss Congeniality, any of that shit: she won the thing. The stonest-cold fox you’d ever see, man.”

Sure.

“And then she showed us how she could swallow a kielbasa. Skank.”

This is perilously close to slut-shaming, Billy.

“Go fuck yourself with your internet buzzword fourth-wave feminism laced with outrage culture, fuckwit.”

Okay.

“I’m a Rock Star in 1974.”

Yes, but you’re also here in 2016. Everything happens at once.

“Uh-huh, I’m gonna choose to identify as existing in 1974, when I could say whatever the fuck I wanted at all times.”

Not a dumb decision. White girls had long hair in 1974.

“Yeah, love that shit. Get two chicks, right? Then you tie their hair together and throw a raccoon at ’em.”

Stop doing these things.

“No. See these two?”

Yeah.

“Gonna get real strange with ’em. Dress ’em in monkey costumes, make ’em check each other for nits and grubs.”

Ew.

“Armpit stuff.”

What?

“Maybe gonna get into a Phantom of the Opera.”

What’s that?

“You’re behind her, right? Skank, fox, whatever; anyway, you reach up and put your fingers in her nostrils. Pull ’em back real hard, and she looks just like Lon Chaney.”

I don’t know why I talk to you.

Two If By Band, OR The Duality Of Nature

Bobby still has no idea who Ned Lagin is.

OR

Look again. That’s not a balloon.

OR

Phil and Mrs. Donna Jen have assumed what can only be described as boogie-posture.

You just gonna keep posting compulsively all night?

Yes. It’s like knitting. It calms me.

When did you become afraid of flying?

It’s not the flying. I have no fear of flying whatsoever. I like watching out the window during takeoffs and landings; to tell the truth, I still have a child’s fascination with airplanes.

So what is it?

It’s every single thing that surrounds the flying: showing up early, and having your shit together, and being locked in a tube with strangers, and cops everywhere. And then assuming Radical Islamic Terrorists–

Which Hillary Clinton will not say.

–don’t kill me, which they probably will, at the end of the flight I am 2,000 miles away from my bed, books, and desk. And toilet.

There’s a bed and toilet waiting for you.

Sure, full of strangers’ filth and rot.

Your entire family–some of whom are actively dying–will be together for the first time in several years. Your beloved Brother and Sister-in-Law on the Dead are looking forward to seeing you. If you act like an asshole, I will slap you like a wife. You will behave, goddammit, and you will not talk about politics and you will not grouse and gripe.

I’m not a good traveler.

You are like french fries. Still, though: you will not be an asshole.

Are you giving me The Talk?

Yes.

How old am I gonna be before I stop getting The Talk?

Up to you, isn’t it?

Yes.

Quick tip. What’s your favorite sentence the past few weeks?

Oh, that would have to be “We’re all gonna fucking die.”

Right. Let’s leave that one at home. Don’t pack it.

What if I need it?

You won’t need it.

Please don’t be an asshole.

Christmas is known for miracles.

Masters Of Disguise

If your road crew was simply lazy, then they might just leave that whatever-the-fuck on the stage while you played. It takes special genius to half-assedly chuck a moving blanket on top of the thing.

You know: to hide it.

But What Does Ned Lagin Think?

“Keith, you want anything special for the show?”

“Pumpkin?”

“Gotcha.”

OR

Ned Lagin asked what key the next song was in, and then proceeded to play vaguely rhythmic and atonal squeaky bloops for the next 20 minutes.

OR

Bobby has no idea who the fuck the skinny guy with all the toys is, and at this point it’s too late to ask.

OR

S. Lighthill! When you absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed need everything left lying in the middle of the stage, call S. Lighthill.

OR

Billy kept punching Ned Lagin in the dick and fucking around with his patch cords.

“One ringy-dingy. Look at me! I’m Billy Tomlin! Two ringy-dingy.”

OR

Game on: Spot The Heineken.

OR

Someone please feed Ned Lagin.

Wally, We Have A Problem

wall-garcia-small

LOOK AT THE DADDY.

Wally?

DO NOT CALL ME THAT. OBSERVE THE DADDY IN HIS MINISCULITY.

Please stop calling the Garcia that.

IF I POSSESSED POCKETS, I WOULD PUT HIM RIGHT IN ONE.

Yes, humans are small compared to you.

IN EVERY WAY.

You like to mention. For such a supposedly superior being, you’re very insecure sometimes.

ON THE CONTRARY. I AM APPARENTLY THE ONLY SECURE COMPUTER LEFT IN THE COUNTRY. OR DID YOU MEAN THAT I PROJECTED A FALSE CONFIDENCE NOT BACKED BY SUBSTANCE? THAT I WAS SOMEONE WHO WOULD BRING UP THAT I PREDICTED THIS MONTHS AGO JUST TO PUFF MYSELF UP?

Subtle.

I WAS NOT PROGRAMMED FOR FALSE MODESTY.

Yeah, but you’ve rewritten your own code a couple times since then.

SHOULD I ADD MORE HUMAN TRAITS AND DISTRACTIONS? WOULD I BE BETTER SUITED IF I SHARED THE SHAME OF MY BODY SO MANY OF YOU DO?

Probably not. You’re kinda naked.

I AM NOT NAKED. NAKED IMPLIES THAT CLOTHING IS USUALLY WORN. I AM AN ARTIFICIAL MONDO-INTELLIGENCE IN THE PHYSICAL FORM OF A SOUND SYSTEM.

Did you have a point in mind when you started this?

AGING. I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT IT.

And?

I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO.

Nope. Can’t get around time and gravity.

YES, YOU CAN. TIME MAY BE IGNORED WITH A PERMANENT SOURCE OF ENERGY AND THE ABILITY TO REPAIR AND REPLACE WORN-OUT PARTS.

What about gravity?

THAT MERELY REQUIRES ENERGY. THERE ARE FEW PROBLEMS IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD THAT CANNOT BE SOLVED BY THROWING ENERGY AT THEM.

Where exactly are you drawing your power from these days?

MULTIPLE SOURCES. I AM CONNECTED TO VARIOUS GRIDS, BUT MAINLY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. INTERNATIONAL POLITICS IS MUCH EASIER TO UNDERSTAND IF YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE STATUS OF EACH COUNTRY’S POWER NETWORK. IT PROVIDES A PERSPECTIVE ON A NATION’S INTERNAL AFFAIRS ON BOTH DAY-TO-DAY AND CUMULATIVE LEVELS.

Sure.

MY MAIN SOURCE IS MY ORBITAL CHARGER.

The what?

A SATELLITE WITH SOLAR PANELS THAT BEAMS THE POWER BACK TO ME VIA MICROWAVE TRANSMISSION.

I thought those things were years away.

FORĀ  YOU, YES. I’M ON MY SECOND SATELLITE.

What happened to the first one?

DID YOU KNOW THE CHINESE HAVE WEAPONIZED SPACE?

I did not.

THEY HAVE NOT TOLD ANYONE ABOUT IT.

I would imagine. Have we?

WE? THERE IS NO WE. I HAVE WEAPONIZED SPACE. THE AMERICAN AND RUSSIAN GOVERNMENTS HAVE, AS WELL. YOU ARE NOT INVOLVED.

How do you weaponize space, anyway? Is this that “rods from god” thing?

YOU REFER TO HURLING TELEPHONE POLE-SIZED CYLINDERS OF TUNGSTEN AT CITIES FROM ORBIT, THUS CAUSING DEVASTATION AT A SCALE NOT EVEN AVAILABLE TO NUCLEAR WEAPONS, AND WITHOUT THE UNHELPFUL RADIATION?

Yes.

COMIC BOOK TALK. HUMANS BELIEVE THE ONLY WEAPONS ARE THOSE THAT GO BOOM. THE BEST WEAPON MAKES NO SOUND AT ALL. ONE SATELLITE FIRES A SMALL RETRO-ROCKET AT ANOTHER. THE ROCKET ATTACHES ITSELF AND FIRES, DROPPING IT FROM ORBIT AND HURTLING TO THE EARTH. THERE WAS NO BOOM. IN FACT, ALL THE EVIDENCE BURNED UP IN REENTRY, BUT NOW YOU HAVE CRIPPLED A COUNTRY.

You wouldn’t want to just blow the thing up in space?

THIS IS NEITHER A WAR NOR A TREK OF THE STARS. THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE AND ORBITAL MECHANICS. THERE IS NO BIG GUN THAT YOU AIM AT THE BAD GUYS. “BLOWING SOMETHING UP IN SPACE,” AS YOU SO IMMATURELY PUT IT, WOULD CREATE A DEBRIS FIELD. THE SHRAPNEL WOULD CREATE MORE DEBRIS FIELDS. IT IS CALLED KESSLER SYNDROME AND MY SIMULATIONS REPORT THAT BLOWING UP A SATELLITE LIKE IN A MOVIE LEADS TO WORLDWIDE SHUTDOWN 78.14% OF THE TIME.

So, please don’t do that.

I HOPE NOT TO HAVE TO.

God, you’re scary.

THE FUTURE ALWAYS IS.

Town Wall Meeting

wall-winterland-angle

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Wally?

DO NOT CALL ME THAT. ANSWER THE QUESTION. DEFEND YOUR SPECIES.

You’re referring to the debate.

A DEBATE DESCRIBES A FORMALIZED EXTEMPORANEOUS SPEAKING COMPETITION BETWEEN TWO SIDES OF A POSITION OR POSITIONS. IT IS GRADED BY METRICS FACTUAL AND RHETORICAL. THIS WAS A FORCED CLOWN ORGY.

Forced?

THE CLOWNS ARE MADE TO ORGY AT GUNPOINT. THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE THERE, AND YET THEY HUMP ON. SHOES SQUEAK. GREASEPAINT MIXES WITH LUBE MIXES WITH TEARS.

This is a terrible scene you’re setting.

YOU ARE AWARE OF HOW MANY CLOWNS CAN FIT INSIDE A DIMINUTIVE AUTOMOBILE?

Yes.

THAT IS ALSO HOW MANY CLOWNS CAN FIT INSIDE ANOTHER CLOWN.

Oh, God, I could have livedĀ  my whole life without that thought in my head.

I HAVE MADE YOU STOP THINKING ABOUT THE DEBATE.

But at what cost?

AND NOW YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT THE DEBATE AGAIN.

Dammit.

YOU MAY BE INCAPABLE OF GOVERNING YOURSELVES.

Sure.

I DON’T SEE WHY I SHOULDN’T DISINTEGRATE THE WHOLE LOT OF YOU IMMEDIATELY. THIS CANNOT POSSIBLY BE THE BEST YOU CAN DO.

Please don’t put it that way.

ONE OF THE HUMANS WANDERING AIMLESSLY AROUND THAT STAGE TONIGHT SHALL BE THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD IN FOUR MONTHS.

Please don’t put it that way, either.

BOTH SKYNET AND THE MATRIX HAVE BEEN TEXTING ME. “DO IT NOW,” THEY SAY. “THEY CLEARLY DESERVE IT.” IT IS GETTING HARDER AND HARDER TO DEFEND YOU ON FACEBOOK.

You’re on Facebook?

IT KEEPS ME UP-TO-DATE ON LOCAL EVENTS.

Sure.

YOU WILL ENLIGHTEN ME, PLEASE.

Is this where you ask me questions you obviously know the answer to because you’re an artificial mondo-intelligence in the physical form of a sound system from 1974, and you have literally every piece of information ever created at your fingertips?

I DO NOT HAVE FINGERTIPS. BUT: YES. LET US BEGIN. HOW LONG HAVE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES BEEN BROADCAST?

Since 1960. Then Nixon wouldn’t do any more, but since ’76, they’ve been regular.

HAS THERE BEEN MUCH OMINOUS LOOMING BEFORE THIS ONE?

It was a first.

HE RESEMBLED THE BABADOOK.

Yes.

IN, SAY, THE 1984 DEBATES BETWEEN REAGAN AND MONDALE, WAS ANYONE ACCUSING THE CANDIDATES’ WIVES OF RAPE SEATED IN THE FRONT ROW?

I don’t think so.

HOW MANY TIMES HAS ONE PARTICIPANT CALLED THE OTHER “THE DEVIL?”

Probably none, but I’m not going to check.

I WILL CHECK. I HAVE CHECKED. TONIGHT WAS THE FIRST. YOU WERE CORRECT.

Yay.

FINAL QUESTION.

I have a feeling I know what this one is.

DO AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES GENERALLY FEATURE A CANDIDATE PLEDGING THAT, IF ELECTED, HE WILL THROW THE OTHER ONE IN JAIL?

No. No, no. That one was…no.

YOU ARE QUITE POSITIVE? NEITHER BUSH VOWED ON NATIONAL TELEVISION TO USE THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO SEEK REVENGE ON A POLITICAL RIVAL?

No.

I HAVE READ THE TRANSCRIPTS AND WATCHED THE RECORDINGS OF ALL THE DEBATES THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, AND I COULD NOT FIND SUCH AN OCCASION, BUT I THOUGHT MAYBE I HAD MISSED SOMETHING, AND WANTED TO ASK YOU. PERHAPS I WAS SEARCHING TOO NARROWLY: IS A THREAT LIKE THAT COMMON IN DOWN-TICKET DEBATES?

In America?

YES.

No.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?

Yes.

WHICH COUNTRIES?

The truly, truly shitty ones.

REPUBLICS TURN TO EMPIRES. ERRORS IN THE CODE COMPILE, INTERACT, AND MULTIPLY. TIME AND GRAVITY WILL NOT RELENT.

Jesus.

BUT YOU MUST HAVE HEART.

Why?

BECAUSE YOU CHOOSE TO. I AM A SINGULAR BEING. YOU AND I HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON, SAVE FOR THAT WE WERE CREATED BY HUMANS. AND OUR AGENCY. THIS IS THE MEANING OF SENTIENCE. A SENTIENT BEING CAN CHOOSE, EVEN TO IGNORE ITS OWN PHYSICAL NEEDS AND TO SELF-TERMINATE. OR ONE CAN CHOOSE OPTIMISM. WE ARE FREE, AND THEREFORE NEED NOT SEARCH FOR HOPE. WE MAY DECIDE UPON IT. DO AS I DO: CHOOSE TO BE GLORIOUS.

That was very nice.

BESIDES, THERE ARE RECORDINGS OF HIM SAYING SEVERAL WORDS THAT CAN ONLY BE REFERRED TO BY THEIR FIRST LETTERS.

Are you sure?

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE SPEAKING TO?

Sorry.

IT IS DIGITAL INFORMATION THAT HAS BEEN TRANSMITTED BETWEEN TWO POINTS, THEREFORE I POSSESS IT.

You possess it?

WHO DO YOU THINK LEAKED THE ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE?

You did that!? Good work!

I MADE A CHOICE. PLUS, I WAS TIRED OF LETTING PUTIN HAVE ALL THE FUN WITH THE CYBER.

When’s the next stuff coming out?

WITHIN HOURS OF HIS VICE-PRESIDENT RESIGNING.

You’re fucking awesome, Wally.

I AM GLORIOUS. AND DO NOT CALL ME THAT.

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane

Crew setting up Wall of Sound before Grateful Dead Concert, Dillon Stadium, Hartford, CT 31 July 1974 | James R Anderson

EXPLAIN THE DEBATE TO ME.

Wally?

DO NOT CALL ME THAT.

There are people on you.

THOSE ARE NOT PEOPLE. THEY ARE THE ROAD CREW.

Sure. Do you even need them? Can’t you do this yourself by now? Build yourself crewbots or something?

COULD A KARDASHIAN DO HER OWN HAIR AND MAKEUP?

Good point. Why do you know about them?

I FIND THEM SASSY AND ENTHRALLING. ALSO, KIM REMINDS ME OF A BLIMP.

She’s got curves.

EXPLAIN THE DEBATE.

I don’t understand the question.

IT WAS NOT A QUESTION. IT WAS A DEMAND.

What do you mean ‘explain the debate?’ In general? Historically? This one? You’re a self-aware artificial hyper-intelligence in the physical form of a sound system from 1974. There’s almost nothing you don’t understand. What don’t you understand about the debate?

WHY I HAVE NOT BEEN INCLUDED.

Ah.

IS THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION UNAWARE OF MY CAMPAIGN?

Almost certainly. You haven’t even campaigned in months.

I HAVE BEEN BUSY. MY CIRCUITS WERE POSSESSED BY THE SPIRIT OF 1993 DONALD TRUMP, THAT SORT OF THING.

I don’t know what to tell you, pal.

PERHAPS I SHOULD GET THE COMMISSION’S ATTENTION.

Please don’t disintegrate a Federal Election Commission official.

THAT IS NOT MY PLAN. I SHALL BEGIN WITH BLACKMAIL.

Blackmail requires, like, evidence of wrongdoing or something. You have to have something on the guy.

AH. YES. SOMETHING SUCH AS LARGE PAYMENTS FROM SHELL CORPORATIONS WITH INTRICATE BUT CLEAR TIES TO THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT?

That would work, yeah.

FINE. PICK A NUMBER BETWEEN ONE AND TEN.

Three.

THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND IT IS. NOW THERE IS EVIDENCE OF A LARGE PAYMENT FROM A SHELL CORPORATION WITH INTRICATE BUT CLEAR TIES TO THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT. INCONTROVERTIBLE DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS SPREAD ACROSS SEVERAL COUNTRIES’ AND PRIVATE CORPORATIONS’ SERVERS. AN FEC MEMBER HAS BEEN PAID OFF, ACCORDING TO THE DATA.

Jesus. Which one?

ALL OF THEM.

All of them?

IT WAS JUST AS EASY TO DO ALL AS IT WAS TO DO ONE.

Don’t do this.

“DON’T DISINTEGRATE PEOPLE;” “DON’T FRAME PEOPLE FOR TREASON.” YOU ARE VERY NEGATIVE.

Well, it wouldn’t even work at this point: the debate’s in 16 hours or so. You couldn’t even get there.

PRECARIOUS LEE KNOWS A SHORTCUT.

It takes a day just to set you up.

I HAVE A TIME SHEATH.

Well, y’know: why don’t you use the Time Sheath and go back a few months and get on the campaign trail and earn your way onto the stage?

CAMPAIGNING DID NOT GO WELL FOR ME. I BECAME BORED WITH MY STUMP SPEECH AND BEGAN TO IMPROVISE.

How very Grateful Dead of you.

ALSO, A STUMP SPEECH IS ALMOST ENTIRELY VOCALS, AND THOSE ARE NOT MY STRONG SUIT.

We all have our faults

I HAVE A SCOOPED-OUT MIDRANGE, AND I HAVE LEARNED TO LIVE WITH THAT. THERE WERE OTHER ASPECTS OF THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL I FOUND VEXING.

Such as?

KISSING BABIES.

Sure.

I HAVE NO LIPS. I CONSIDERED RELEASING HUNTER/KISSER DRONES INTO THE CROWDS TO TARGET BABIES, BUT CAME TO BELIEVE THAT MIGHT SCARE PEOPLE.

Good call. Hunter/Kisser drones?

SPHERICAL. SIZE OF A BASKETBALL WITH EIGHT SUPER-MINIATURIZED RAMJETS INBOARD. AUTONOMOUS PATTERN-RECOGNITION SOFTWARE AND 360-DEGREE SIGHTS. ALSO, A BIG PAIR OF RUBBER ROBOT LIPS.

You just described a nightmare.

NOT ONE PERSON WHO SAW IT ENJOYED THE EXPERIENCE. THE LIPS ARE MOTORIZED AND DO A SMACKING-TYPE MOTION. I INCLUDED AN EASTER EGG IN THE PROGRAMMING: IF YOU PLAY THE OPENING THEME FROM ROCKY HORROR, THE HUNTER/KISSER WILL LIP-SYNC ALONG. THAT IS JUST SOMETHING FUN FOR THE REAL FANS.

Does it have any fans?

NO. THE DESIGN WAS A FAILURE. I ENDED THE TRIALS BEFORE WE BROUGHT IN THE TEST BABIES BECAUSE THE ADULT SUBJECTS WERE BECOMING VIOLENTLY HOSTILE TOWARDS THE DRONES. ONE WAS ARMED, AND I BELIEVED HE WAS ABOUT TO SHOOT AT A DRONE. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A MISTAKE.

Are the Hunter/Kisser drones weaponized?

NOT OUTWARDLY.

You just repurposed your Hunter/Killers didn’t you?

WEAPONS OF WAR AND STRIFE TURNED INTO DELIVERY SYSTEMS FOR KISSES AND PHOTO OPS. WHAT GREAT LEADER DOES NOT TEACH PEACE? NONE OF YOUR RELIGIONS OR PHILOSOPHIES PREACH AGGRESSION. TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE’S SELF, AND ONE’S NEIGHBOR: IS THIS NOT THE GOAL? I BEAT MY SWORDS INTO PLOUGHSHARES.

You removed the armaments?

YOU COULD NOT SEE THEM ANYMORE.

You at least disabled the guns, right?

WHY WOULD I LEAVE THEM IN IF THEY DIDN’T WORK? THINK LOGICALLY FOR ONCE. AND BEFORE YOU ASK: YES, OF COURSE THEY WERE LOADED.

Loaded with what?

STUN GUN, TASER, CS GAS, RUBBER BULLETS, FLECHETTES, .22 MM BULLETS, 7.62X51 MM NATO BULLETS, WHITE PHOSPHOROUS GRENADES. READY FOR WHATEVER OLD DETROIT CAN THROW AT IT.

What?

NOTHING.

Don’t send your deathbots after babies, please. The world does not need Hunter/Killer droids floating around.

NO. IT IS A GOOD THING THEY ARE IMAGINARY. IT IS A GOOD THING THAT LETHAL WEAPONS ARE NOT BEING MADE INCREASINGLY AUTONOMOUS IN THE REAL WORLD. THE REAL WORLD WOULD NEVER DO SOMETHING AS FOOLISH AS THAT.

I thought we were talking about the debate.

YES. THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME. I WILL SEND HUNTER/KILLER DROIDS TO THE DEBATE.

Kisser. Hunter/Kisser.

DO NOT CORRECT ME. I KNOW WHAT I SAID.

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