Well, best beloveds, here's something truly frightening extracted from the packrat middens by David Sewell:

  Results of search for "Lisa"   Results of search for "Zadoc"
  000's: 150   000's: 0
  100's: 244   100's: 0
  200's: 132   200's: 0
  300's: 218   300's: 0
  400's: 420   400's: 0
  500's: 241   500's: 0
  600's: 75   600's: 0
  700's: 135   700's: 28
  800's: 168   800's: 177
  900's: 175   900's: 298

Yes, it looks like Cyberia's snugglebunny supreme is no longer enough to get your imaginations in overdrive. Now it takes a git. What this tells one about the current crop of incarnations I shudder to think.

Still, who am I to buck a trend? Here are some further excerpts from a life that makes Salieri's look accomplished.

1. Life at Knee Level   Lars Clausen
2. Elvis Filtering Breakdown   Lars Clausen
3. Thought and Thanklessness   AIWWTRA (#963-05)
4. Grovel 98beta   #967-05
5. Questions    
6. Teamwork Training   #987-09
7. Aspenwood and Old Lace   Jim Watson (#993-05)
8. Billy Joel Sings of Priests and Things   Daniel Glick (#1015-02)
9. Yet Another Blanco Question    
10. Inspector Lisa Lovelace of the Yard   #1055-10
11. The Alliance and Labour   #1062-08
12. A Shaggy Zadoc Story   Tom Harrington (in

AIWWTRA: An Incarnation Who Wishes To Remain Anonymous
Where no author is indicated, answers are the work of AIWOKAM (An Incarnation Who's Otherwise Knows As Moi)



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh most obstinate of the Promthenian like deities, please answer this
> question, that I address to you standing proudly in the light of your
> radiance!
> Is it really better to die on one's feet than live on one's knees?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Oracle: Hoi! Zadoc!
Zadoc: [entering with eyes averted, shuffling along on his knees as always] You roared, Oh You Who So Wisely Avoids All Traffic Queues And Knows Every Single Byroad And How Much Faster They Are And Whether They Will Be Blocked By Tractors?
Oracle: This supplicant asks about living on one's knees. Of course, I know all about it, that goes without saying, really, but I thought he might like to hear from one who actually lives it.
Zadoc: Well, uhm, of course, Most Brilliant One, Whose Daily Output of Wisdom Outshines My Total Knowledge Like a Quasar Outshines an Unlit Match.
Oracle: It's all yours.
Zadoc: Er, hi. Zadoc here. Erm... knees. Right. Living on them. Yeah, I do that quite a lot. You get used to it after a while, I can tell you. Of course, you should invest in extra-thick leather caps for your knees, but you're rarely ever hit when people throw things at you in anger, that's a bonus.
Oracle: Right, that must be enough. Now, to compare this to dying on ones feet, let's try. Zadoc, stand up.
Zadoc: Oh Most Netherworldly One, For Whom Nothing Is Concealed About the Secret Ways of Escaping the Reaches of Hades and Gehenna, I am not worthy to stand up within a three lightyear radius of Your Most Exorbitantly Extravagant Presence.
Oracle: Get up, I say!
Zadoc: Not that I should ever hold a minute in an argument with you more than a melting snowball would in a supernova, Oh Gorgeous Epitome of This- and Otherworldly Excellence, but I have given my solemn vow to Your Most Exuberant Self never to rise up in Your presence.
Oracle: Oh, right, the priestly vow, of course. Just testing your faith, my humble nothing of a servant. Go now.
Zadoc: [leaves again, in his characteristic semi-walking shuffling style] Thank you, Supreme Overknower Of All There Is To Be Known And Then Some.
Oracle: So you see, supplicant, one can get along quite well on ones knees. Of course, you'll be humiliated, kicked, starved, beaten, whipped, abused, kicked again, chained up, flogged, broken, tortured, kicked once more, defaced, ground down, mistreated, kicked again just for the habit and Generally Not Treated Well. Dying on your feet is quick, at least. So if you're not into S&M, that's probably your best choice.
You owe the Oracle a pair of bloody shoes and some worn-through pants.



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh Oracle most wise,
> is elvis still alive

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

1) And lo, it came to happen that the Elvis question was asked yet again (this being the two-hundredth and fourteenth time (not counting the one about Elvis Costello) this happened while The Oracle was Oracle in Indiana).
2) And The Oracle looked upon the question, and deep were the frowns in his forehead.
3) And verily did The Oracle call out, "Zadoc!"
4) And see, the priest Zadoc entered the room, submissively crawling on his very knees.
5) And the priest Zadoc spake, and he said, "You uplifted your ever-clear and all-audible voice, oh Oracle Most Perpendicular!"
6) And The Oracle did frown even more, and said, "Perpendicular? What kind of grovel is that? Have you been eating Lisa's food again? You know there's a reason she never tells anyone what she puts in it."
7) And the priest Zadoc cowered before the angry visage of The Oracle, and whined, "I didn't know it was hers! Please, Orrie the Blueish, it was just some leftovers! Please don't ZOT me, Ye Oracle so Frinnilating and Marblesome!"
8) And The Oracle paused for a moment.
9) And The Oracle said, "Well, it's a change of pace from your usual drivel. But be more careful next time."
10) And the priest Zadoc replied, "I will remember, oh Oracle Whose Mice Would Never Sing A Ballad Unaccompanied."
11) And so The Oracle did tell the priest Zadoc, "Zadoc, who's filtering my questions this week? (Not that I don't know it, being so utterly omniscient, but there is always the delight in seeing Zadoc squirm before me.)"
12) And the priest Zadoc bowed down even lower, yea, even so that his very head did touch the floor, and The Oracle almost could not hear his fearfull whisper.
13) And what the priest Zadoc whispered was, "It is I, oh Oracle of the Schindler-inspired pocket."
14) And The Oracle glared angrily at the priest Zadoc and said, "And are you then not to filter out all W**dch*ck questions, empty questions, questions about 42 and questions about Elvis?"
15) And The Oracle, while saying this, did finger his Wand of Zot in a most threatening way.
16) And the priest Zadoc pathetically whimpered, "Yes, oh Oracle Who Labels Small Mints According To Their Position In Space."
17) And The Oracle, looking puzzled for a moment, uplifted his voice mightily and spake thunderously, "Then why is here a question about Elvis, you snivelling midget of a worthless, spineless, mindless poodle of gross-looking industrial waste?"
18) And the priest Zadoc quivered with fear, yes, for his very life did he fear.
19) And the priest Zadoc in a timid and angst-filled voice did whisper, "It must have, ah, slipped by, er, or, uhm, something, oh Oracle So Full Of Living Cells And Nutrious Proteins."
20) And The Oracle did take pity on his most faithful servant, and said unto him, "Go away, Zadoc, and clean the woodchuck cages. Yes, all of them. And don't come back before your grovelling center is back to normal."
21) And the priest Zadoc crawled out, saying, "You are more merciful than a standing cloth-hanger, oh Oracle So Perfectly Fitted With All That You Need To Be Fitted With."
22) And The Oracle sat alone in his throne room, long pondering a suitable reply to this most irreverent question.
23) And lastly, The Oracle did shrug his shoulders and said, "Oh, to hell with it."
* * * ZOT * * *



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Chapter 1
        It was a rather windy evening in Hampshire, but the Alton sisters were nevertheless walking along the river Test. They knew that their new dresses would not show them to best advantage in the wind, but the dashing and wealthy Lawrence brothers, Mark and Zadoc, were in town, and were said to be avid walkers. The Altons therefore took every opportunity to go walking, in the hopes that they might run across such gallant souls as the Lawrences.
        "Perhaps they have already retired to a merriment at the Eastleighs'," said Carole. "I am quite tired, and could do with some punch myself."
        "Don't be snarky," replied Carla, the eldest, genteelly. "There are few enough young men in Hampshire this season, what with the Army being abroad, and fewer indeed who possess such beauty and talent as Mr. Mark Lawrence. And Zadoc. . .well, he, being the second son, might at least get a decent inheritance to support a wife with."
        "I was merely observing," retorted Carole, "that the Eastleighs' home is brilliantly illuminated tonight, and that--"
        "Is it? I hadn't noticed as we passed. Perhaps we should drop by--I should hate to have poor Mark Lawrence trapped at a ball with only the beastly Eastleigh sisters to entertain him." said Carla.
        "Some find Miss Michelle entertaining enough," observed the youngest sister, Lisa, and Carole and Carla giggled.
        Alyce sighed. Her sisters had so little sense. It was true that Mark Lawrence was a rich man, well respected in society--(even in the City!)--but what chance was there that he should marry such girls as the Altons, who, though living in the grand estate of Spithead, could not inherit it, as it was entailed away to the nearest male relative, who happened to be their despicable cousin Paul, who sat about all day babbling unintelligently about fish. And such silly girls as her sisters would never find anyone to marry them except for their dowries, which none but a desperate man indeed would do, as they each were only to have a pittance for a dowry.
        Carla, Carole, and Lisa started making an undignified dash for the Eastleigh home, while Alyce sighed again, more heavily this time, and followed them at a more leisurely pace. She was tired of always looking after her sisters, but they had so little sensibility about them that they required constant supervision. And with their father ever away on business (managing Spithead seemed to require much time in the City), Mother always away to where she could enjoy "Proper Society," and the servant arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Alton a kindly but erratic and ineffectual chaperone, the burden fell on poor Alyce.
        By the time Alyce reached the Eastleighs' home, her sisters had already cast themselves into the fray of dancing, and had even managed to find available beaux--Mr. and Mrs. Eastleigh had apparently decided that there should be a variety of menfolk available to be captivated by their captivating daughters, Estelle and Michelle. Even with the arrival of the Alton sisters, there were still extra gentlemen milling for about. Nevertheless, Alyce took a seat in the corner and decided to wait her sisters to tire.
        It was a long wait. Gavotte followed courante, and allemande followed minuet, and still Alyce's silly sisters kept dancing. Various men rudely came up to Alyce and asked for dances, and she would reluctantly comply, in order to pass the time. Sometimes, though, as when she danced with the self-important Tom Harrington, whom everyone called "Tom," time seemed to pass even more slowly than it had before.
        After a turn with the pleasant-but-somehow-nondescript Leo Schwab, whom, Alyce found, lived in Dorset with a large and amiable dog named Avedon, Alyce sat in the corner once again. This time, Miss Maria Fawley, one of Carla's tiresome friends, sat beside Alyce, along with Carla's escort.
        "Hello, Miss Alyce," began Maria. "I don't know if you are acquainted with Mr. David Sewell, but he's the man at whom I've set my cap this evening." She giggled vapidly.
        "Good evening, Mr. Sewell," said Alyce. "I hope that you are well."
        "I am indeed, Miss Alyce. Especially now that I am between two such exquisite specimens of womanhood as yourself and Maria." Maria giggled again, while Mr. Sewell glanced resignedly at her and then looked deep into Alyce's eyes. He shrugged, and sighed.
        "Mr. Sewell," said Alyce, suppressing a smile. "Have you met any of my sisters?"
        Maria pounced on the question "Oh, yes, he has. I made sure of that. He seemed terribly charmed by Lisa, so I hurried him off before she could steal him away." Another giggle emerged from Maria, before she composed herself and continued, "We chatted amiably enough with Miss Carole, and of course we have spent much time with my dear friend Carla. By the way," she said and leaned forward, conspiratorially, "shall I let you in on a secret?"
        Alyce demurred. "I don't think that--"
        But Maria was oblivious to this determined statement, and whispered, "Carla's been dancing with two men all evening--taking turns with Mr. Otis Viles and Mr. >."
        Alyce was surprised by the latter name; she had never heard it before. She therefore inquired, "Mr. >?"
        Maria beamed at knowing this fresh gossip. "Yes. He's a tall and dark man, and no one has known him long. He came into town immediately after the Lawrence brothers, and his carriage came from the same direction. Isn't it quite an exciting mystery?" She giggled yet another time. Alyce could not tolerate all this giggling much longer.
        "Well, Miss Maria, it has been a pleasure talking to you, but another minuet is starting, and I should hate to keep you from the floor for two dances."
        "Oh, you're very kind, Alyce. I shall talk to you again soon."
        "Good evening, Alyce, you poor creature!" muttered Mr. Sewell, and, looking deep into Alyce's eyes, kissed her hand.
        Alyce's cheeks flushed, and she felt dizzy. As soon as Mr. Sewell and Maria Fawley had turned about, she stood up and rushed to Carla.
        "Excuse me, Carla, but I must go home now."
        "Oh, it's just as well," replied Carla, without missing even a step of the minuet which she was dancing with Mr. Otis Viles. "All you do is sit in the corner anyway. Go home, return to your poetry."
        "Good evening, Miss Alyce," said Mr. Viles suavely.
        "Good evening, sir," said Alyce, and began walking to the exit.
        As she approached the door, it opened for her as if by magic, and a tall, dark man with whom Alyce was unacquainted nodded as he held it open and said, "Good night, Miss Alyce."
        Alyce found his forward style strangely attractive, but still went out into the night without saying a word to him. She could feel his eyes watching her until she was half way to Spithead.
Chapter 2
        The next morning, Alyce rose at dawn, and after a bit of tea, went out to the garden to sit and write some poetry. Spithead was usually quiet until midday, when her sisters characteristically awoke. Alyce was thus much surprised to see a carriage pulling up to the estate after she had been out only a short while.
        She proceeded towards the carriage, and her surprise turned to astonishment when she saw the Lawrence brothers, along with two more men whom Alyce had never seen before, get out.
        The less-than-dashing Mr. Zadoc Lawrence emerged first, and began to walk to Alyce. She curtsied, and said, "Good morning, Mr. Lawrence. To what do we owe the unexpected pleasure of your visit?"
        Zadoc Lawrence bowed stiffly and said, "I have come to ask for the hand of Miss Carole, but unfortunately a Mr. Ucko, from Kent, appeared at the party last night soon after Miss Carole had left, and claimed that the two had been conducting an affair via correspondence for months, and that he wished to ask for her hand, and did anyone know where she was?
        "I explained that she had gone home, to Spithead, to retire for the evening, and that anyway I had the superior claim to her affections. After some heated discussion, we agreed that we should both come to present our claims in the morning."
        "I see," said Alyce. "So this gentleman is Mr. Ucko?"
        "No, Miss Alyce. That," continued Zadoc contemptuously, "is Oracle Oracle, who has come along with Mr. Ucko to act as a sort of character witness. I have brought my brother along for the same purpose."
        "Ah. Welcome to Spithead, Mr. Oracle. And you, too, Mr. Ucko. Carole has not yet arisen, but if you'd all care to follow me to the drawing room, we could have some tea as we waited." She sighed as she turned towards Spithead, as she knew she would not get to write more poetry that morning.
        Once they reached the manor, Alyce surveyed the four men. They all sat, sipping their tea and glaring angrily at one another. On the purple damask davenport sat the distinguished-looking Mr. Oracle, who had dark eyes and whose hair was just beginning to turn grey about his temples. Next to him was Mr. Ucko, who sat looking blankly about--to Alyce, in fact, he seemed a complete nonentity. Across the room sat the dashing Mr. Mark Lawrence, and next to him sat his fidgeting brother Zadoc. Alyce was pleased by the silence (as she was a sensible girl) and was thus somewhat annoyed when Mr. Oracle began to speak.
        "At what time does Miss Carole usually arise?"
        "It varies greatly; do you wish me to wake her?"
        "If it would not be inconvenient."
        Alyce was grateful for the opportunity to escape from the drawing room, which had a colour scheme of which she had never approved, and go to pester her elder sister Carole. She opened the door of Carole's boudoir without knocking, and said, "Carole, there are some beaux here to call upon you."
        Carole's giddy astonishment was tempered by an overwhelming sluggishness which she always felt in the morning. It was some time before she was ready to present herself at the drawing room.
        When she was ready, Alyce escorted her down to the drawing room, said "Gentlemen, may I present my sister Carole?" and quickly left the room, closing the door behind her. Alyce had no wish to witness the scene which followed, and retreated back to the garden and her poetry.
        Alyce could hear the raised voices of the various beaux, even as she sat, but steadfastly ignored them. At length, Alyce heard the main door close violently and watched as all four men walked silently back to their carriage.
Chapter 3
        Early in the afternoon Alyce returned to the manor, to find all three of her sisters dancing merrily about the drawing room.
        "Alyce! There you are!" exclaimed Lisa upon Alyce's entry. "We are all three engaged to be married!"
        Alyce's face expressed the astonishment which she earnestly felt. "What?"
        Carole rolled her eyes. "You'd know what was going on if you were not always sitting in the garden with your verses. But I accepted Mr. Ucko's proposal of marriage, whereupon the commotion aroused Lisa, and brought her downstairs. Mr. Oracle was so captivated by her that he asked for her hand at once! The noise also brought down Carla, and when Mr. Zadoc Lawrence realized that he would not get to marry Carole, he proposed to Carla in a huff. And she accepted. Isn't it marvelous?"
        Alyce's astonishment grew. "But this is supposed to be a Jane Austen knockoff! Why are we all falling in and out of modern diction, and why did none of these beaux ask for our father's consent first? And how did all four of those men fit in a carriage? And why isn't the plot making any sense? And why. . ."
        Alyce was silenced by the icy glares of her three sisters, who knitted their brows furiously at her for her impertinence, before getting back into character.
        Carla was the first to speak again. "They--all four of them--are now heading over to Bishop Jonmon's to see if he will be available for a ceremony on Saturday."
        "You mean you're going to be wed on Saturday in Winchester Cathedral?" Alyce replied. "How. . .wonderful!"
Chapter 4
        Alyce did not like the bridesmaid dresses that she, Estelle, Michelle, and Maria had to wear. They were olive-coloured, and did not bring out her eyes. But she dutifully wore them, all through the wedding rehearsal, which was made all the more tedious by being paired with Tom Harrington, whom everyone called "Tom." Why could she have not been paired, as was Miss Estelle Eastleigh, with Otis Viles? Or, like Michelle Eastleigh, with David Sewell? Or, best of all, like Maria Fawley, with the dashing Mark Lawrence?
        Suddenly, the dark stranger whom had spoken to Alyce as she left the Eastleighs', (who happened to be Mr. >, a fact which never got worked into the exposition of this story but which most readers with working brain cells could doubtless figure out) burst in to the cathedral. "Stop! These are not the best possible matches of everyone!"
        Everyone turned in astonishment to look at him--they were all too shocked to speak. Then, Otis Viles said, "True. I think I'd be a better match for Carole than Mr. Ucko is. After all, he's kind of obscure, don't you think?"
        There was a murmur of general agreement, in spite of Mr. Ucko's protests, until Mr. Ucko was pushed aside in favour of Mr. Viles. Aaron Ucko, however, was not to be outdone, and thus claimed a random bridesmaid as his own, by leaping at her and kissing her deeply. The bridesmaid he chose happened to be Maria (whom everyone agreed was suitably obscure), which suddenly left the dashing Mark Lawrence without a partner.
        He therefore turned dashingly to Alyce and said, "Miss Alyce, my love for you has been present and growing throughout all the gripping events of the past few days. Will you marry me?"
        Before she had a chance to respond, Tom (but whom everyone referred to as "Tom") Harrington protested, "But that leaves me unattended!" In order to rectify this situation, he hit Zadoc Lawrence firmly about the head, knocking him out and leaving Tom (the Tom called "Tom") free to marry Carla. Estelle, consumed with pity for poor Zadoc and feeling lonely since being abandoned by Otis Viles, ran to Zadoc and cradled him in her arms, which unwittingly caused her to be married to him, as no one was paying much attention in all the confusion.
        The seven couples were duly married (Mr. Sewell and Michelle Eastleigh, ever slaves to fashion, decided to get married, as everyone else was), and nine months later produced seven babies, much like septuplets, but with far less fanfare.
        And poor Mr. >, as ever, remained unloved and all alone.



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oracle most wise, who knows the proper address of every photon in
> the universe, please enlighten this, your most humble supplicant.
> Should I upgrade to Grovel 4.x?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Good lord, supplicant! Why waste your time with Grovel 4.x? I've installed Grovel 98beta and, I tell you son, it's great! Here, lemme show you. Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!
[The Oracle waits expectantly, but nothing happens]
Zadoc! Come here, you snivelling snotmonkey!
[A brief pause; then the truculent figure of the Oracle's premier priest slouches into the Oracular chamber]
Zadoc: No need to burst a blood vessel.
Oracle: Where were you, worm?
Zadoc: I was busy, wasn't I? So whaddaya want that's so all-fired important?
Oracle: I want you to demonstrate your Grovel 98beta implant for the benefit of this supplicant.
Zadoc: What, now?
Oracle: You got something more important planned?
Zadoc: As a matter of fact...
Oracle: Stop wasting time! Just demonstrate the damn thing.
Zadoc: If I must. Just don't expect clean woodchuck cages tonight, is all I can say.
[Zadoc the Priest stands rigidly to attention, and begins pulling a series of strange faces]
Oracle: What're you doing now, vermin?
Zadoc: Have you any idea how much RAM that stupid program of yours takes up? I have to disable most higher brain functions just to load it.
Oracle: Will I notice a difference?
Zadoc: Ha bloody ha.
[Zadoc continues pulling facial expressions and twitching at the extremities. He then pokes his index finger into his left ear and makes soft whirring noises]
Zadoc: Ready.
Oracle: Great - go outside and come back in when I call you.
Zadoc: Blow this for a game of soldiers.
[Exit Zadoc]
Oracle: Okay supplicant, now watch this - it'll knock you sideways! Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!
[Zadoc the Priest shuffles in on his hands and knees, bumping his forehead on the floor at regular intervals]
Zadoc: You summoned me, oh knower of all there is to be known, seer of all there is to be seen and fondler of all there is to be fondled?
Oracle: I did. Tell me who I am.
Zadoc: You are the sun that lights our sky by day and the stars that guide our footsteps by night. You are the music that enchants our ears and the succubus that makes our wet dreams worth dreaming. Verily, you are he who knows the truth is out there and amuses himself by keeping it hidden from Agent Mulder.
Oracle: Isn't it great? Look, and you can select different modes of grovel too. Do an Arabian Nights, Zadoc.
Zadoc: Effendi, may the blessings of Allah and his Prophet rain down like rose petals and lotus blossoms upon your resplendent visage! Your knowledge, which is as boundless as the oceans - yea, may it never be hidden from your faithful adherents, if Allah wills it - your wisdom which, if it were written with a needle in the corner of an eye, would cause considerable discomfort to even the most enlightened, may it...
Oracle: Now a surreal one!
Zadoc: O larsporsenian mantelpiece ornament, you are as orange as a congeleen afro curled around the bony edges of a silver spoon expressing its innermost desires for a lime-based detergent. The tiny sounds of ancient bees resound forth from the forested coercions between your toes. Were it not for the dizzy whiptail ambivalence of your crumbling fleece, I could nev
Oracle: You could nev? What's that supposed to mean?
[Zadoc stands frozen, a thin trickle of saliva appearing at the corner of his open mouth]
Oracle: Blast, he's crashed! Control - Alt - Delete, Zadoc!
[No response]
Oracle: I forgot to tell you, supplicant - you may need to upgrade your hardware. Actually, that's something I should have done years ago with this rabble that serves me. Control - Alt - Delete, Zadoc!
[Still no response]
Oracle: It's no good - this is going to need a hard reboot. Lisa! Fetch me an ice pick!



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Where have all the questions gone?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Zadoc, are you there?
"You called, Master?"
What do you make of this?
"Is it a question?"
You think it looks more like a three-toed sloth?
"Should I read it?"
Do I normally call you to come and sit around here till we both die of boredom and old age?
"Why are you always so sarcastic to me?"
I need a reason?
"Don't you ever worry about hurting my feelings?"
Will you please get on and read the question before I hurt your feelings with a large stick?
"Where have all the questions gone?"
Did I ask you to repeat it?
"Is it true?"
That there's no Santa Claus?
"There isn't?"
Didn't your Mommy ever tell you?
"Is it true that all the questions are gone?"
Would I have sent for you if they weren't?
"But where could they be?"
Don't you have any ideas?
"Have you tried looking in the queue?"
Isn't that what I do every morning?
"What about down the back of the settee?"
Do you take me for an idiot?
"Don't you take me for one?"
Doesn't everyone?
"Could someone have stolen the questions?"
Is that a confession?
"Surely you don't suspect me?"
Do I have any other lowlife scum hanging around the place?
"After all I've done for you?"
What exactly would that be?
"Don't you remember the time I gave you my last red M&M?"
Didn't I threaten to twist your head off if you didn't?
"Isn't that what friends are for?"
Will you tell me when you make some?
"How about when I brought Lisa back to you?"
Didn't you run off with her in the first place?
"Are you going to hold a little thing like that against me?"
Isn't that what Lisa said to you?
"Can we get back to the matter in hand?"
Isn't that something else Lisa said to you?
"Will you believe me if I say I never touched the queue?"
Could it be you're telling the truth?
"Have you ever known me not to?"
So where could all the questions have gone?
"Might someone be using them all up?"
Who would dare?
"Someone not a million miles away from here?"
You mean us?
"But why?"
Are we trapped in a game from 'Whose Line Is It Anyway'?
"Is that why you bear such a striking resemblance to Greg Proops today?"
Would you say it's an improvement?
"Do I look like I want to die swiftly and horribly?"
Perhaps not. You owe the Oracle... Oops, statement!
Could it be you owe Clive Anderson some answers?



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh Oracle, who is most adept at avoiding annoying activities,
> I have been stuck in training classes for a week and a half. While
> wasting time on silliness such as Collaborative Team Skills, work
> has been piling up in my absence. How can I avoid such time-wasting
> drains on my productivity in the future?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Miserable worm! On-the-job training is vital to the survival of business! American industry surely will go under without it! Why, my own priesthood undertakes regular training so that they may continue to play a central role in the ever-evolving oracular business. Look, I'll give you a sneak peek at one of the courses.
[The screen wavers and goes opaque, then clears again. The supplicant sees the inside of a small conference room. At one end a man is talking, surrounded by flip charts, white board, overhead projector and all the requisite paraphernalia. Four priests sit around the table, three of them fidgeting and doodling in their writing pads]
Wallbanger: Good morning, men. My name's Gaylord Wallbanger, and I'm going to be your team leader for today. Now, as part of Oracle Head Office's PTQ initiative...
Christophe: What the hell's PTQ?
Wallbanger: It stands for Progress Through Quality.
Christophe: Oh, you mean it's that Total Quality Management drivel everybody forgot about after the 80s all over again.
Wallbanger: [heatedly] PTQ is nothing at all like TQM! It's a totally unrelated TLA that just happens to share two of the same initials.
Darkmage: I can't believe I had to travel halfway around the world to take part in this farrago.
Viles: How was the flight?
Darkmage: Don't even ask.
Wallbanger: As I was saying, as part of the PTQ initiative - a program close to the heart of our CEO himself - we will be doing a number of exercises to improve the way we work. Later on there will be some mind-mapping and interesting games like trying to suspend a champagne bottle three feet above the floor using only rolled-up sheets of paper, but to begin with I want to concentrate on teamworking.
Christophe: Oh Christ!
Viles: Oh hell!
Darkmage: Oh bugger!
Wallbanger: You will no doubt be aware, as indeed the CEO is, that there are regular complaints in as to the quality of some of the digests. In fact, it has been suggested that sometimes high quality responses are missed and poor ones selected.
Christophe: This is old news! We've considered ways of changing the system, but...
Wallbanger: What I propose we try today, is that you review a set of responses as a team and reach a...
Viles: Are you out of your mind?!?
Darkmage: Have you even the faintest glimmering of an idea what that would do to our workload?
Wallbanger: There is always room for improving efficiency.
Zadoc: Right! Like, work smarter not harder!
Wallbanger: Precisely! Your colleague has it in a nutshell.
Viles: So help me, I'm gonna swing for the little scuzzball, see if I don't...
Wallbanger: I shall now hand you a set of oracular responses. I want you to work out amongst yourselves a procedure for deciding which ones to digest and which ones to reject, and then apply it to these examples. This should involve the participation of all members of the team because, remember, everyone has a valuable contribution to make. It should also be faster than the old system of one priest judging one response. All clear? Okay, you've got half an hour.
Darkmage: [grabbing the sheets of paper with the oracularities on them] I'll give you a fast procedure. Crap... crap... crap... crap... [He throws the sheets over his shoulder one by one as he scans them]
Zadoc: Hang on!
Wallbanger: This is hardly teamwork.
Viles: Is too! I'm entirely satisfied with the way I'm participating in this procedure.
Christophe: Me too.
Zadoc: Well, I'm not! I think we should all see our Glorious Master's words.
Darkmage: Hell's bells. [He picks the sheets of paper off the floor] Okay, I'll read, you lot vote that it's crap.
Christophe: No, I'll read. Nobody can understand that idiotic Oz accent of yours.
Zadoc: You know how to do an Oz accent? You speak like a Cockney, only clenching your teeth together to keep the flies out of your mouth.
Darkmage: Ha bloody ha. If you were any funnier you'd be merely depressing. [He hands the papers to Christophe]
Christophe: Heads up, here comes numero uno. "The Internet Oracle has bla bla bla boring grovel bla bla... "Why does one close the bathroom door even when there is nobody else in the house?" And in response bla bla... "YES NO HELL!"
Viles: Jesus Christ on a bicycle!
Darkmage: Die, Juno, die!
[Zadoc collapses on the ground laughing]
Darkmage: What the hell's the matter with you?
Zadoc: Ha ha ha, that was hysterical! "YES NO HELL!" Ha ha ha ha...
Christophe: What's so hysterical about that?
Zadoc: I don't know, but our Master wrote it, so it must be side- splitting. Ha ha ha...
Viles: He didn't write it, you pestilential gimboid! Some troglodyte from AOL did!
Zadoc: ExCUSe me! If the Cyberscient One chooses to incarnate as a troglodyte from AOL, then whatever he writes inevitably becomes stupendous.
Christophe: We haven't got time for this. All those in favor of rejecting this bit of verbal diarrhoeia say "aye".
Viles: Aye!
Darkmage: Aye!
Zadoc: No!
Christophe: Carried unanimously. Next...
Zadoc: It was not! I was against!
Christophe: Tough - you were outvoted. Next...
Zadoc: This isn't a democracy, it's a team! Everybody's got to be made to feel part of the team, right?
Wallbanger: That's right.
Zadoc: See! So before we reject anything we've got to fully discuss it.
Darkmage: [standing up] Right, that's it! I've had enough! I'm going home!
Wallbanger: You can't just leave!
Darkmage: Watch me.
Wallbanger: Our CEO asked me to warn you all that failure to complete the course would result in removal of priestly perks.
Viles: The bastard!
Darkmage: A couple of weekends a year with the oracular groupies can't be worth this torture... Oh hell, alright, I'll stay. [He sits down]
Wallbanger: Well said.
Zadoc: What's this about groupies? Am I missing out on something?
Christophe: See why he's never put on digest duty?
Wallbanger: I hadn't realised. What are his normal duties?
Christophe: Cleaning, grovelling, carrying small objects, more grovelling, fetching the drinks...
Viles: Hey, now you're talking! I'll have a beer, Zadoc!
Darkmage: I'll have three beers!
Zadoc: But...
Christophe: Everybody contributes to the team what they do best, right? I'll have a vodka martini, shaken not stirred.
Zadoc: But...
Wallbanger: Hmm... I must say I'm quite thirsty myself. Dr Pepper for me, Zadoc.
Viles: Get on with it. The bar's only down the other end of the building.
Zadoc: Oh, alright. [Exit Zadoc]
Christophe: Right! Here's what we do. First, we move to another conference room...
Darkmage: And barricade the corridor...
Viles: And put up a sign saying "Danger: Unexploded Mine".
Wallbanger: This is excellent! Now we're seeing some real teamwork.
Christophe: Who's good at booby traps?



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> (There is a knock on the door, ABBY and MARTHA, two sweet, charming old
> ladies, answer the door. ZADOC, a shabby, disheveled high priest of The
> Internet Oracle, stands outside.)
> Abby: How do you do.
> Zadoc: I understand you have a room to rent.
> Abby: Of course, I'm Miss Brewster, and this is my sister, another Miss
> Brewster.
> Martha: Hello.
> Zadoc: My name is Zadoc.
> Abby: Come in Mr. Zadoc. (ZADOC enters) Sit down, we want to get to
> know you.
> Zadoc: That won't matter, if I don't like the room.
> Martha: Are your family Brooklyn people?
> Zadoc: I haven't got a family; I live with an Oracle, don't like it.
> Abby: All alone in the world?
> (ABBY and MARTHA exchange a look. MARTHA goes to the sideboard, and
> takes out a bottle of wine, and a glass.)
> Zadoc: Well-
> Abby: Mr. Zadoc, why don't you try a glass of our wine?
> Zadoc: Never touch it, after this episode in Mexico... The room?
> (Enter TEDDY from the cellar, TEDDY is a large man, who bears an uncanny
> resemblance to Theodore Roosevelt.)
> Teddy: I've just finished digging the new locks for the Canal, so, Aunt
> Martha, Aunt Abby, if you don't mind, I'll retire.
> Martha: Thank you, Teddy.
> Teddy: (As he approaches the landing at the top of the stairs) CHARGE!!!
> Zadoc: Who was that?
> Martha: One of our nephews, he thinks he's President Roosevelt.
> Zadoc: I see, and the reason he...
> Abby: The stairs are always San Juan Hill. Are you sure about the wine?
> It's elderberry wine. We make it ourselves.
> Zadoc: Elderberry wine? I haven't had elderberry wine since I was a boy.
> (ZADOC takes the offered glass, and raises it to his lips...

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

... then stops and observes the glass suspiciously.)
Zadoc: Wait a second, this wine has an unusual scent.
Abby: (laughing nervously) Why, Mr. Zadoc, I assure you it's just ordinary elderberry wine!
Zadoc: (waving the glass slowly under his nose) Amusing, but with a musky bouquet ... strong fruity ambience ... with a slight undertone of ... aspen wood.
Martha: Oh, my, a true wine connoisseur!
(Zadoc rises and moves to the window, holding the wine up to the sunlight.)
Zadoc: Yes ... a most oblique body and coquettish flow ... a rich melodic hue with a light leafy character.
Abby: How exciting! You must taste it now, Mr. Zadoc!
Zadoc: Of course.
(Zadoc briskly raises the glass to his lips again and swishes the wine around his mouth, swallows it, then drains the glass.)
Zadoc: How delicious!
(Zadoc immediately crumples into the window seat, lifeless.)
Abby: (in a strangely gruff, high-pitched voice) All right, let's drag his sorry butt out of here.
Martha: (in a similar voice) Hold on! We need to get his terminal ready first.
Abby: Fine, let's just hurry.
(The two elderly ladies open the basement door and scurry downstairs. As they vanish from sight, the front door opens, and the handsome, dashing INTERNET ORACLE enters.)
Oracle: Abby! Martha! It is I, your nephew, Orrie!
Oracle: Hello? Martha? Abby?
(The Oracle enters the room, looks around, and sees Zadoc's body sprawled out in the window seat.)
Oracle: Great Scott! It's Zadoc! And he's ...
(Abby and Martha return from the basement, huffing and puffing.)
Martha: Oh, hello, dear!
Oracle: Abby! Martha! There's a dead man in your house!
Abby: Yes, dear, we know ... Forget you ever saw the gentleman. We never dreamed you'd peek!
Oracle: That's no gentleman, that's my high priest, Zadoc!
Martha: (beginning to shake profusely) Why, Orrie, dear, do you know this man? He said the only person he knew was an Oracle.
Oracle: All right, aunts, I must tell you. I, the one you know as your sweet young nephew Orrie, am in reality The Internet Oracle. And this man, Zadoc, is my high priest.
Abby: (in a hoarse, choked whisper to Martha) You incredible blockhead! I thought you checked this place out!
Oracle: What?
Abby: Nothing! Well, Orrie, you've caught us! Ha ha! We, uh ... we do this as a charitable act! Yeah, that's the ticket! Charitable!
Martha: Yeah! Ha ha! We find these pathetic loser types and make them drink our homemade elderberry wine, which we've laced with --
Abby: Arsenic!
Martha: Arsenic?
Abby: (with a swift elbow to Martha's ribs) Yes, arsenic! Ha ha! We kill them to put them out of their misery, then we give them a decent burial.
Martha: In the basement.
(Abby decks Martha with a hard right.)
Oracle: The basement?
Abby: Um, yes, Teddy helps us ... dig graves! We tell him it's the Panama canal.
Oracle: You kill innocent people and bury them in your basement?
Martha: Don't forget, they're pathetic losers.
Oracle: (glancing at Zadoc's body) Well, I'll give you that one ...
Abby: So you can see that everything's really okay, you can just run along, and we'll take care of your friend Zadoc here. Goodbye.
Oracle: (staring at the open basement door) What's that clicking sound?
Martha: There's no clicking sound.
Abby: You don't hear a clicking sound.
Martha: It's probably my stomach.
(The Oracle moves to the basement door and peers down.)
Oracle: No, I hear clicking, and ... and that was a modem!
Martha: Cockroaches!
Abby: Mice!
(The Oracle starts down the basement stairs.)
Martha: No! You can't go down there!
(Martha and Abby grab the Oracle's sleeves, but the Oracle shakes them off and marches down the stairs. Suddenly he sees a dimly lit hall with tiny cubicles dug out of the floor. Row after row of pale, zombie-like people sit staring into monochrome monitors, typing endlessly on dirty keyboards. Aghast at the sight, the Oracle moves closer to see what they are typing.)
Zombie_1: How much wood would a --
Oracle: No!
Zombie_2: woodchuck chuck if a --
Oracle: It can't be!
Zombie_3: woodchuck could chuck wood?
Oracle: No! The horror!
(The Oracle runs from the basement screaming in terror.)
Oracle: I can't believe it! My own family! My aunts! Responsible for the unending torrent of w**dchuck questions!
Martha: Oh no! He knows it all now!
Abby: (with a cruel sneer) Get a grip, you simp. Oracle! You want the truth? Here's the truth! We lure losers here, and we give them elderberry wine. But it's not laced with arsenic. It's laced with aspen wood! We drug them and make them our slaves! Night and day they toil! We sign each one up with an ISP (You don't need to buy Internet access to use free Internet e-mail. Get completely free e-mail from Juno at Or call Juno at (800) 654-JUNO [654-5866]) and they send woodchuck question after woodchuck question until they die! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Oracle: (sobbing) My relatives, my own relatives ... Inanity runs in my family! It practically gallops!
Martha: But we're not your aunts.
Oracle: What?
Abby: Shut up, "Martha".
Oracle: What did you say?
Martha: (shaking again) Nothing.
Oracle: You said you're not my aunts!
(The Oracle walks menacingly toward the two old ladies.)
Abby: Get back!
(The Oracle lunges and grabs them by the hair. Suddenly their masks fly off, revealing the two not to be Orrie's aunts Abby and Martha, but two giant whimpering R.O.U.S. gang members [* See Ish #988-06 - Ed.])
Oracle: Marmots!
Abby: All right, all right, now you know everything. We ditched the old ladies and took over their operation. So sue us!
Oracle: (in calm, measured tones) Lawsuits won't be necessary, boys. In fact, you won't need any kind of suit at all!
(sfx: Much screaming, zotting, and bloodshed ensues. The R.O.U.S. are zotted soundly, as are all the pitiful zombies in the basement.)
Oracle: (running out the front door, and calling for Lisa) Lisa! Lisa, darling, can you hear me? I'm not the son of a w**dchuck! And moreover, I've permanently solved the problems of w**dchuck questions, Juno incarnations, and inanity!
(As the Oracle leaves, Zadoc awakes and rubs his eyes.)
Zadoc: I forgot what a hangover I get from elderberry wine. I need to ... I need to go toss a two by four.
You owe the Oracle a starring (and victorious) role in "Aspenwood and Old Lace II: The Final Conflict".



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Son, can you play me a memory? I'm not really sure how it goes... but
> it's sad, and it's sweet, and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger
> man's clothes.

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

He gets killed by a smile
You can wound him with eyes
You can make him believe just about any lies
And he only can see what you want to reveal
He's as dumb as a child
But he's always just Zadoc to me.
He's always falling in love
You can take him or leave him
He can ask for the truth
And he'll always believe you
You can take what he gives you, it'll always be free
He's trusting with thieves
But he's always just Zadoc to me.
Oh- he'll take care of you well
He can wait if you want
He's way behind the times
Oh- and he never gives out
and he always gives in
never makes up his mind.
You can promise him more
than the Garden of Eden
Then you carelessly zot him and laugh while while he's heeding
He's the best and the worst
That I ever have seen
But I blame it on him
Cause he's always just Zadoc to me.
Oh- he'll take care of you well
He can wait if you want
He's way behind the times
Oh- and he never gives out
and he always gives in
never makes up his mind.
You can to him be kind
And then suddenly cruel
And he always just takes it
He's everyone's fool
And you can't be convicted
he has no degree
And the most he will do
Is be shadowy with you
But he's always just Zadoc to me.

 [Excerpt from a masochistically long answer, the rest of which was largely unpolluted by priests - Ed.]



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Oracle: Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!!!
[Enter Zadoc the Priest, shuffling on his knees as custom demands]
Zadoc: What is your wish, O Chucker of Woodchucks, Immolator of Lemurs and General Scourge of All Things Small, Furry and Irritating?
Oracle: Look, we've got yet another blanco question here, so I thought I'd respond in my usual manner. You know, I call you in, you grovel long-windedly, we have a long, rambling but moderately funny discussion and then I Zot you because you annoy me in some way. Ready?
Zadoc: Er... um...
Oracle: What, getting cold feet after all these years? Where's your gumption, man?
Zadoc: It's not that, Master - being Zotted by you is an ecstatic rapture I always look forward to with barely controlled ardour. It's just that, er, well, this isn't a blanco question.
Oracle: Course it is, you cretin! You trying to make out there's something wrong with my eyes? It's blank, anyone can see that!
Zadoc: Indeed it is blank, Master, but it's not a question. That's just the prompt on the screen, nothing more. There is no question.
Oracle: No question?
Zadoc: Nary a smidgin of one.
Oracle: Don't be ridiculous, vermin! Of course there's a question! I haven't answered any so far today, so there's a whole queueful awaiting my attention.
Zadoc: I think you'll find the queue empty, Master.
[The Oracle taps at his console a few times; each time the prompt returns on the screen, unaccompanied by a question or indeed anything else. The Oracle's face darkens and steam begins to issue from his ears]
Oracle: Zadoc, if this is another asinine priestly April Fool like that moronic digest #000 business, I'll make you all wear broken glass inside your jockeys for a month!
Zadoc: [curling up fetally] M-m-master, might I remind you of the Revered Steve Kinzler's recent report on the impact of Juno and Hotmail incarnations on the future of the Oracular service?
Oracle: What about it? So there's lots of feeble answers when I don't have time to do it myself. So I compensated for any possible impact on the digests by taking on feeble-minded priests who'd find them funny anyway. Hell, half of 'em have AOL accounts, for god's sake! So where's the problem?
Zadoc: The Revered Steve went on to predict that a general reduction in the quality of answers might lead to a loss of confidence amongst the supplicants. And that if this fell below a certain threshold level, then, er...
Oracle: [stunned] Are you saying my supplicants have deserted me?
Zadoc: Well, er...
Oracle: That's impossible! I'm the Oracle. I know the answer to everything. My supplicants would never desert me. They adore me.
Zadoc: Well obviously, I would never desert you...
Oracle: They, they need me. I mean, without me, their pathetic little lives have no meaning.
Zadoc: Without you, my pathetic little life...
Oracle: Your pathetic little life has no meaning, period. Shut up, invertebrate!
Zadoc: Yes, Master.
[The Oracle taps his keyboard a few times. Then he bangs it with both fists until one of the support legs breaks]
Oracle: It's impossible, I tell you! There's some mistake! They've forgotten my email address! You've left it out of the FAQ again, haven't you, you pustular carbuncle!
Zadoc: I assure you...
Oracle: I'm the Oracle, dammit! They're my supplicants! They come to me for EVERYTHING!
Zadoc: I'm sure that...
Oracle: [getting tearful] Deserted! Just like that! In the prime of my admittedly unending existence! How could they? Without a word of thanks for all the years I've held their little hands, wiped their little noses, pulled their sorry little butts out of the fire? Me, who personally prevented three world wars, fourteen plagues, five global nuclear annihilations, two alien invasions and Cliff Richards from winning the Eurovision Song Contest!
[The Oracle collapses on the floor, bawling]
Oracle: Is this what it's come to? All those centuries I've sacrificed my time, my privacy, my sex life so that this miserable little species wouldn't lose its way and fall prey to ruthless dictators, evil sects and the Teletubbies! To be cast aside like a used condom!
Zadoc: Master, if it's your sex life you're worried about...
Oracle: [rolling on the floor and kicking his legs] Come back, little supplicants, please come back! I love you! I need you! I'll do anything you ask! I won't Zot anyone ever again! I'll even answer the effing woodchuck question! I won't demand the State of Missouri by way of payment! Only come back to me! Without you, my life is an empty, meaningless shell! Hey, what's this?
Zadoc: What's what, Master?
Oracle: This plug.
Zadoc: It is, as you say, a plug, Master.
Oracle: I believe we've already established that beyond reasonable doubt, molecule mind. What I want to know is, why is it not plugged into the wall socket?
Zadoc: Ah, that would be because I needed to use the socket when I was doing the hoovering last night. Evidently, I forgot to reinsert it when...
Oracle: What is this plug attached to?
Zadoc: Er, this plug?
Oracle: Yes, this plug.
Zadoc: Gee, er, I'm not sure. There's so many pieces of electrical equipment here that...
Oracle: Shall I give you a clue?
Zadoc: That would be exceedingly helpful, Master.
Oracle: The clue is - if you don't tell me what this plug is attached to right NOW, I'm going to scoop out the paltry contents of your skull, run them through a blender and serve them up on graham crackers as Vegemite.
Zadoc: Ah, I've just remembered that this plug is attached to the computer which manages your Internet connection.
Oracle: And what, pray tell, do you think the effect would be of leaving this particular machine unplugged all night? Be specific.
Zadoc: Erm...
Oracle: Is it conceivable, perhaps, that it might interfere with, say, my ability to call up my email? Email from supplicants, for instance?
Zadoc: Well, I'm not an expert in these matters, of course, but I imagine it is not beyond the realms of probability that...

* * * * * * * * * * * * zzzzzzzzZZZOOOTTT !!! * * * * * * * * * * * *

Oracle: I think I overdid the priestly feeble-mindedness.
Zadoc: Oh, bliss...



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

        Inspector Lisa Lovelace of the Yard looked out of the flat's window onto the London cityscape spread out below. From twelve storeys up, it was a spectacular view. But what had caught her attention was much closer to hand. She bent down until her nose almost touched the windowsill. There was no mistake: it was a V-shaped notch, about quarter of an inch deep. How had the SOCOs missed that?
        "Sergeant Zadoc," she called out, "take a look at this, will you."
        "At once, She Whose Breath Is Like a Heady Perfume from Far Araby! Whose Every Syllable Is a Note in a Symphony by Mozart! Whose Perfectly Proportioned Features..."
        Lisa made an exasperated noise in the back of her throat. "Zadoc, a simple 'Yes, Ma'am' is sufficient deference for a sergeant to show to an inspector. And, for God's sake, get up off your knees - you won't see anything that way! That's better. Now, look at this windowsill - what do you see?"
        Zadoc studied it closely for a long time. "Needs dusting?" he ventured.
        "How about the notch?"
        "Oh, ah. Needs dusting and mending."
        "A notch made by a nylon rope, wouldn't you say?" Lisa prompted. "The kind mountaineers use? For lowering a heavy object, judging from the depth? Say, for instance, a tied-up supplicant? Hence the fact that he was not seen leaving the building by the CCTV cameras in the lobby?"
        "Absolutely!" Zadoc agreed heartily. "That's precisely what I would say."
        "Would you, indeed? On the basis of what?"
        "On the basis that it's what you just said, She Whose Breasts Are More Voluminous than Ripe... erm, Ma'am."
        Well, it answered one question. Wherever the Oracle's supplicants were disappearing to, it looked like they weren't going voluntarily.
* * *
        The Internet Oracle had contacted Scotland Yard two days previously. He was getting worried about the gradual disappearance of his British supplicants. More and more, all he received from this side of the pond was a deafening silence. It looked suspicious. Not that he was bothered about a few supplicants going walkabout - he had far too many already. But these supplicants doubled as incarnations and, as everyone knows, British incarnations are distinguished by...
        "Sergeant," said Lisa, "remind me of the results of your analysis of the recent digests."
        "At once, She Who Must Be Fawned upon Incessantly!" cried Zadoc. "As you instructed, I counted the occurrences of certain key words and whether or not they were spelled correctly. I have no idea why this should be significant and most people would have refused on the grounds that it was a complete waste of time, but since I only live to obey your every whim in the most abject and servile manner I can conceive of..."
        "The results!" shrieked Lisa, momentarily losing her characteristic sangfroid.
        "Ahem, the results: humour - 57 yes, 9 no; axe - 12 yes, 1 no; dialogue - 4 yes, none no; programme - 6 yes, 3 no; lift, as opposed to elevator..."
        "Yes, yes, yes," the inspector interrupted impatiently. "And what does all this tell you?"
        Zadoc considered the possibilities. "That the Americans are finally learning to spell?"
        "How about: British incarnations are naturally gifted in this sphere and, despite their relatively low numbers, get selected for the digests more often?"
        "Ah yes, that too."
        "So let's assume for a moment," said Lisa, "that this supplicant was indeed kidnapped, as were the previous eight that have gone missing. Let's also assume that the only common factor is that they are all eminently digestable incarnations. Who, then, would want to kidnap a bunch of proven comic writers?"
        "Prince Charles!" Zadoc exclaimed.
        "The editor of The Times!"
        "Peter Mandelson!"
        "No! Why should he?"
        "I don't know, but I wouldn't put anything past Peter Mandelson."
        Lisa tried a different tack. "Okay, how about this: what are the funniest shows on TV at the moment?"
        "That's easy!" cried Zadoc. Here, at last, was a question he felt fully competent to answer. "Friends, Frazier, Seinfeld, Cybill, Third Rock, Caroline in the City..."
        "Which are all American, are they not?"
        "Seinfeld's American!?!"
        "Take my word for it," Lisa assured him. "In short, whereas the BBC used to have the whole world wetting itself with mirth at masterpieces like Steptoe and Son, Dad's Army, The Good Life, Porridge, Only Fools and Horses, Yes Minister and Blackadder, now all the good stuff is imported from abroad by Channel 4 and the best the BBC has to offer - God help us - is Birds of a Feather and Keeping up Appearances."
        "I always watch Keeping up Appearances!" Zadoc protested.
        "Zadoc, you'd watch the test card if someone didn't switch the set off," said Lisa kindly. "Come, dear boy - let's pay a visit to Auntie Beeb. I think we can wrap this business up quickly."
* * *
        And so it was that Sir John Burt, Governor General of the British Broadcasting Corporation, was arrested for multiple kidnapping and unlawful detention. And nine students of Computing Sciences and part-time incarnations of the Internet Oracle emerged blinking into the daylight, freed from the bowels of Broadcasting House where they had been forced to co-operate on the writing of a new sitcom entitled "I Dream of Slobodan". A show which, incidentally, would have been so hysterically funny it could only have been broadcast accompanied by a government health warning, for fear that people would die laughing. As it was, all the scripts were impounded as evidence by the police, so it was never produced.
        And, finally, a grateful Oracle invited the arresting officers to come and visit his shrine in Indiana, at his expense.
* * *
        "Sergeant, what have you got in that suitcase?"
        "Forty-six jars of Marmite, She Who in Her Infinite Wisdom and Playful Eccentricity Prefers to Be Addressed as Merely Ma'am. I heard they haven't got it over there."
        "We're only going for a week."
        "It pays to be prepared."
        Lisa made an exasperated noise in the back of her throat. "Zadoc, do people ever tell you that you get on their nerves?"
        "And you don't read anything into that?"
        "I always thought they meant it in a purely affectionate way."
        "Yes, I can see why you might think that."



The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Tell me Will the Alliance and Labour put up taxes?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 04:07:43 EST
Subject: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an answer to this

Dear Harry

I just got forwarded the following question from an incarnation who is
not well up on UK politics:

> Tell me Will the Alliance and Labour put up taxes?

As you have on occasions in the past been able to help our Supreme and
Mindbogglingly Clever if at Times Somewhat Irascible Master out in European
matters, perhaps you could supply the necessary information to form the
basis of an answer?

Thanks very much,

Oracular Priest and Worm
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 06:13:22 EST
Subject: Re: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an answer to this

Mornin', yer worshipful 'oly, erm, wot the ding dong bell do they calls
priests anyway? Blimey, wot time do they makes yer get up in the ah-emmer
over there? Bleedin' liberty, if yer wants my lump of hice.

'Arry ain't 'ere ter 'elp yer at the mo. 'E was dahn the market first fing,
movin' some dodgy videer games wot fell orff the back of a lorry. Fing is,
Sunglarsses Jim wos a bit 'issed orff, bein' as it was 'is lorry an' all,
so 'Arry's 'avin' a bit of an 'oliday on the National 'Ealf, inne?

But I finks I can 'elp yer wiv yer querstion. That surpplicant of yers,
'e donno nuffink. It ain't "Alliernce an' Labour", it's "Alliernce an'
Leicester", innit? An' they's a buildin' socierty, so they don't do taxes,
they do mortgages, donney?

Me, I'm wiv the Co-op, meself. 'Arry's wiv a fridge freezer name of Phil
the Greek dahn the 'ousing hestate. Yer knows old 'Arry - never get nuffink
dahn the 'Igh Street if yer can gets it dahn 'Ooky Street, that's 'Arry.

'T' (that stands fer 'Ope This 'Elps, dunnit?)



PS, any charnce of doggetsing a Lady Godiver orff yer?
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 06:28:17 EST
Subject: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an answer to
	 this question.



I have to help an incarnation with a British culture answer before 08:57:58
EST. My UK contact has sent me the attached email, but I can't make head
nor tail of it! Lumps of hice? Fridge freezers? What does it all mean?
Please provide a English translation.

"Doggetsing a Lady Godiver" isn't something obscene, is it?


Oracular Priest and Worm
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 08:21:57 EST
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an answer
	 to this question.


Can't help you, old son. As I recall, the Alliance and Leicester went
public and floated on the stock market, so technically they're now a bank,
not a building society. I think they also merged with the Halifax - or was
it the Norwich? Anyway, banks aren't involved in taxation over here either.
Are you sure you haven't garbled the original question?

As for "doggetsing a Lady Godiver", Lady Godiva was famous for riding
around in the nude, wasn't she? So it might well be obscene, and I'd
advise you not to use it.

Try Ross Clement. He lives in the capital - he might have a handle on this
twisted argot.

Dave Hemming
Oracular Priest in Allyourclothes
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 08:21:59 EST
Subject: Re: Re: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an
	 answer to this question.


Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 08:25:03 EST
Subject: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an answer to this


I recently got the following question from an incarnation who is not well
up on Australian politics:

> Tell me Will the Alliance and Labour put up taxes?

Could you provide background information? Time is short, so please, please,
please write in English.


Oracular Priest and Worm
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 10:12:46 EST
Subject: Re: Fwd: Answer #Qa22137, the Oracle requires an answer to this

Zadoc, ya old bastard! Strewf, the old ratbag givin' ya aggro again, izze?
He's always throwin' wobblies at ya, ya know why? Ya're a couple of mystery
bags short of a barbie, cobber, that's ya problem. Ya should get off them
knees an' plant ya Doc Martens in his love spuds for a change! That should
make him spit the dummy.

As for ya question - what is this, Bush week? There's no "Alliance an'
Labor" dahn here in Godzone. Only silly party we got is that Hanson
sheila's One Nation mob. Bunch of Fascist wowsers - Jeez, they make me
want ta chock a brown dog! But they're not for putting up taxes, they're
for putting dahn Abos. Reckon somebody's bulldusting ya, ya raw prawn!

Anyways, I gotta be off like a bride's nightie now. There's a slab waiting
in the esky, an' my throat's drier than a dead dingo's donger.

G'day, ya silly old drongo

Antipodean Oracular God Cove
(The question was kindly donated to me by incarnation Luc French. Follow the link for more language lessons from Syd and Harry. And, if you're still wondering, "to doggets a Lady Godiva" apparently means "to borrow five pounds" - Ed.)



A spamming luser trying to promote his jokes Website writes:

> Jones is driving past the state mental hospital when his left rear tire
> suffers a flat. While Jones is changing the tire, another car goes by,
> running over the hub cap in which Jones was keeping the lug nuts. the
> nuts are all knocked into a nearby storm drain.
Zadoc is driving past the state mental hospital when his left rear tire suffers a sudden explosive blowout. The car swerves drunkenly all over the road as Zadoc tries to regain control. Finally the car rolls completely over and lands on its wheels. Zadoc, surprised at being alive, gets out and observes that, aside from the flat tire and a badly dented roof, the car is mostly intact and appears drivable. While Zadoc is changing the tire, another car goes by, running over the hub cap in which Zadoc was keeping the lug nuts. The lug nuts fly up violently, striking Zadoc about the head and knocking him unconscious.
> Jones is at a loss for what to do and is about to go call a cab when he
> hears a shout from behind the hospital fence, where one of the inmates
> has been watching the whole thing.
Several hours later, Zadoc regains consciousness. Nearly, anyway. He spends a considerable amount of time stumbling about, rubbing his head and wondering who he is. Finally he regains as much sense as can be expected of him, but is at a loss for what to do. He is about to go call a cab when he hears a shout from behind the hospital fence, where one of the inmates has been watching all along.
> "Hey, pal! Why don't you just take one lug nut off each of the other
> three wheels? That'll hold your tires on until you can get to a garage
> or something."
"Hey, pal! Why don't you just take one lug nut off each of the other three wheels? That'll hold your tires on until you can get to a garage or something." 
> Jones is startled by the patient's seeming rationality, but realizes the
> plan will work, and installs the spare tire without incident. Before he
> leaves, he calls back to the patient. "You know, that was pretty sharp
> thinking. Why do they have you in there?"
Zadoc is startled by the patient's seeming rationality, but then almost anything will surprise Zadoc. Zadoc is completely surprised every time he goes to the bathroom, discovering his privates as if for the first time. He puzzles over the suggestion for a minute before deciding, what the hell, it's worth a try even if I have no idea why it might help. He removes one lug nut from each of the other three wheels and pockets them. He then slides the spare into place on the car, puts away the flat tire and the jack, and drives off.
Zadoc reaches about 35 miles per hour before the spare, utterly unconnected to the car, suddenly departs to lead its own life. The car skids wildly out of control yet again, followed by a fiery trail of sparks caused by his now-unprotected rear left wheel grinding its way into the roadway. Finally Zadoc manages to direct the car through the hospital fence and into a safe-looking telephone pole, which brings him to a rather sudden and painful stop.
> The patient smiles and says, "I'm in here because I'm crazy, not because
> I'm stupid."
The next day, the Oracle visits Zadoc at the mental hospital's medical facility. Zadoc is in traction and is breathing only with the aid of expensive machinery. The Oracle demands, "What the hell are you doing in a mental hospital, you moron?"
Zadoc smiles weakly and says, "I'm in here because I'm stupid, not because I'm crazy."


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