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The Essay
Show #479
The Taobots
David Gunn

Who is Ruby Primavera, really? Last time she was simultaneously a Greek mobster's private floozy and a marketing consultant for a New York piano company. The time before that she was an experimental prosthesiology who had designed a pair of expandable/retractable legs. Another time she was a low Bb on a contrabassoon. Thus, a perfectly reasonable question might be "Who is Ruby this time?"

Ruby Primavera is standing in front of sixteen adults in a large octagonal room, whose orange walls and yellow ceiling provide an ambiance of comfort and warmth. Attached to the walls at two-meter intervals are censers from which aspartame-scented joss sticks protrude. The floor is a carpet of work-in-progress silk--dozens of silkworms in little work carrels positioned on the floor under the censers spin their fiber cocoons nearly twenty hours of every day. They have adapted to thrive on the ashes of aspartame that drop from the censers above them. Ruby is clad in a rhinestone-studded white robe. Viewed from below, a pattern to the rhinestones appears, spelling "Klaffanfurtflattler." The others are wearing identical inflatable pearlescent culottes that naturally buzz in parallel fifths. Everyone is barefoot, though the number of feet each person bears varies widely. They all are breathing in unison, breathing deeply. (Inhale.) Now Ruby slowly raises her arms above her and the others follow suit. (Exhale.) Thanks to research carried out during a previously mentioned incarnation, she is able to telescope her left arm outward an additional eighteen inches. (Inhale.) When the others attempt to mimic her action, more than a few arms pop out of their shoulder sockets. Fearing litigation, Ruby retracts her arm to a more acceptable length. (Exhale.) Then she initiates po dunq, or "petting the porcupine," one of the more intricate choreographed sets of the moving form of yoga and meditation known as Tai Chi Chuan. So this time Ruby is a tai chi instructor, and the other people in the room are her apprentices, or Taobots.

The movements are graceful, flowing and structured, like a slow-motion dance. They were originally designed to imitate animal movements, such as those of the earwig and caiman. Po dunq elegantly portrays a gang of macaques attempting to make friends with a porcupine. Gestures include "grooming the tail," "wiping the nose," "offering baobab bark" (a favorite tidbit of the porcupine), and "yanking the damn quills out of my hand." Tai chi is based on the Taoist belief that good health results from balanced chi, which is short for chibouk, a long-stemmed Turkish tobacco pipe. Thus, all seventeen adults as well as one inquisitive silkworm are going through their motions while carefully balancing small tobacco pipes on their heads.

Ruby and her students try to maintain a meditative silence while tai-chiing, though the occasional whimper often accompanies a quill removal. The only other sounds are of the steady coincident breathing (Inhale.), now more labored than be-(Ex) fore (hale.), the soft buzz from the culottes, and the gentle whirring of the silkworms' little looms.

Having at last "befriended" the porcupine, the seventeen people suddenly ramp up the action with the surprise "eviscerating the bastard" ending.

After a brief respite, Ruby begins teaching a new movement set called "Salvia columbariae." Having copied it from a late night infomercial on the Science Fiction Channel, she is unsure of its historical significance. But she found the automaton-like movements oddly appealing. Besides, she frankly had performed the "castrating the leopard" movement one too many times and craved something new. The first gesture, "forbing the noggin," is met with some resistance, for it involves sowing the apprentices' hair with oily nutrients. Ruby adds some peyote buds to the censers, and the resistance in the room (Inhale.) soon dissipates. She has to resort to reading from her notes as she leads her charges through the "cleansing the HAZMAT" and "pomading the pompadour" movements. Soon, a thin blanket of greenish shrubbery begins to sprout from the heads of Ruby and her apprentices. First following the contours of each individual head, the green growths gradually begin to assume vaguely animalic shapes: a bunny, a frog, a hippo, a cat, a puppy, a pig, a caiman. What were once tai chi followers are now tai chia pets. (Exhale.)

Thanks to the mollifying power of the peyote, each person beneath the herb cover believes he or she is having a vision. A woman ad libs a variation of one of the po dunq gestures, and the rest straightaway follow suit. She reaches up to her head, snaps off a little tendril and nibbles it. To Ruby, it tastes a little like chicken. Strangely enough, the silkworms have seen it all before. They just shrug their setae and get on with their spinning.

The room, too, begins to spin--at least so it seems to the chia heads, as they carom into one another and collapse onto the floor into four neat interleaved piles. Ruby, however, is not among them because her robe's "Klaffanfurtflattler" rhinestones have abruptly illuminated, sending her a subliminal message that cuts right through the peyote fog. She gets up, idly brushes an earwig from her grassy coiffure, and exits the room. The Taobots can nurture their noggins themselves--she has a mission to perform!

And while we don't yet know Ruby's mission, we do know this 479th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar's mission: stay low; avoid eye contact; accommodate live concerts, when possible; and, as soon as possible, surrender the microphone to Kalvos.