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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #229
Code Sniffing
David Gunn

Weary from staring at his computer monitor for the past four contiguous days, Beano Bengaze got up from his desk and stretched. Because he was a true shaman and not merely a magical mountebank, he was able to stretch his body into an abridged outline of the Great Wall of China, detailed down to the souvenir panda stand at the northern terminus. Should anyone have been around to observe, he would have even noted tiny lemminglike figures leaping en masse off of one side of the wall into a boiling pit of creosote far below. Beano's incorporeal roommate, Weasel Slayer, the bi-nosal warrior ancestor of Otto Lummer, was present, but he'd seen the sleight-of-body before and was not especially impressed. Recontextualizing himself, Beano snatched up his prayer pipe, a briar meerschaum on which basso-relievo nymphs with timpani danced the fandango, and blew into it. Several surprised notes popped out, followed by the smell of wood tar, and then a small, blue flame. The flame got bigger and bigger until it engulfed the pipe, Beano’s head, and then the entire room. The unmistakable aroma of tincture of Anbesol filled the air, awakening a long suppressed desire in Weasel Slayer. A creemee, for crying out loud -- he craved a creemee! But as quickly as the fire in his belly arose, it vanished, along with the fire in the room. Beano winked at the bi-nosal warrior, then sat back down at his computer terminal.

He had been working intently on a project assigned to him by a shadowy governmental agency that contacted him -- and he had to laugh at the pretense -- via smoke signals ... though they were virtual smoke signals posted on an Internet website. The secretive project was to break a coded message that the agency had received through an undisclosed source and which was thought to be a plot to destroy the New York Stock Exchange and its concomitant parking garage on Y2K Day. Beano was puzzled that he had been picked for the task, until he learned that he was not without precedent. During the Second World War, Native Americans had been employed as cryptographers, because many of their language forms had no known counterparts in the world. Phrases and even some abstract ideas were impossible to transliterate. So they were forcibly hired to codify messages to troops overseas using their own dialects, especially those of the American Southwest: Navajo, Hopi and Sphagnum Parsonage. Nicknamed "code sniffers," the Indians also became skilled at breaking enemy cryptograms.

The message that Beano was decoding did not suggest menace and ruin. Rather, it seemed to be the synopsis of a work by William Shakespeare -- a play, serendipitously enough, that Beano had auditioned for at the Order of the Skull of Mantovani Drama Guild's Theatre Carnival many years before. Wincing at the memory, the shaman quickly finished the translation of the perfectly Y2K-compliant message. The play, one of the bard's lesser known works, is the story of three culinary school graduates, Portia, Antonio and Shylock, who open a quick service bistro called "A Pound of Flesh" that specializes in game food. Shylock finds it rough going, first because he's a practicing vegan, and second because his daughter, Jessica, plans to marry Bassanio, a member of the waitstaff in a competing restaurant. But Antonio's ship, on which Shylock had wagered a considerable sum, suddenly comes in and he immediately saturates the market with advertising for his restaurant. People begin flocking to it, and so popular is their Deer Flesh Sorbet that they have to open a take-out window for that menu item alone. Shylock is forced to man the station, but gradually he grows so fond of the product that he converts from vegan to carnivore, and is subsequently dubbed The Merchant of Venison.

The merchandising of a vision, on the other hand, is what this 229th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar has in store for today. The vision is new, the merchandise is music, and the merchant, with his appliances, appetite and apologues, is Kalvos.