Issue 24
Volume 6 Number 3
August 2001

In This Issue

 •  Contents
 •  Cover Illustration
 •  Editorial
 •  Blessed are the Breadmakers
 •  The Pitter-Patter of Tiny Feet
 •  If Life Gives You Citroëns, Make Lemonade
 •  Many Happy Returns
 •  This Is Your Captain Speaking
 •  Lokta Plokta
 •  Chris Bell
 •  Dave Langford
 •  Terry Jeeves
 •  Avedon Carol
 •  Janice Gelb
 •  Martin Morse Wooster
 •  E B Frohvet
 •  Dave Langford (again)
 •  John Dallman
 •  Dale Spiers
 •  Dave Langford (yet again)
 •  Peter Wareham
 •  Ailsa C. Ek
 •  Morris M. Keesan
 •  Vicki Rosenzweig
 •  ½r
 •  Ned Brooks
 •  Ann Green
 •  Martin Smith
 •  Andy Sawyer
 •  Pamela Boal
 •  carl juarez
 •  Austin Benson
 •  Milt Stevens
 •  Kari
 •  Julian Headlong
 •  Eloise Beltz-Decker
 •  Marcus L. Rowland
 •  WAHF
 •  Lost
 •  Making Hay While the Sun Shines

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[Plokta Online]

Lokta Plokta

Chris Bell

It's not every Bank Holiday Sunday that I get final demand envelopes posted through my door, you know. Not when they've come by mail rather than by hand. Just as well you send Plokta in an envelope these days or I bet the students next door wouldn't have got round to re-delivering it. Sometimes I despair of our postman, we've only been here for twenty years and he still thinks I live next door.

LoC to see more Plokta, eh? It's a tempting offer, larger issues for people who LoC you. I didn't get the last issue, you know, so I didn't know there was a questionaire (if there was one). It's probably sitting next door. And you ought to be told that I go on reading Plokta so I can honestly vote for it in November somewhere near Birmingham. That's the only reason. Nothing whatever to do with the fits of giggles and the chortling noises it induces. Honest. Now would you please tell that to Charles, he eyes the thing with suspicion and the other issue but one I caught him reading it and looking totally puzzled, it was all going straight over his head like a flying pig and I think he's now under the impression that some sort of spy-ring is involved. You would go calling yourself a cabal, of course it bemuses non-fan spouses.

I look forward to an article on the utility of a mahogany frying-pan, now that the chocolate teapot has been dealt with. I have always been a bit of a traditionalist in my choice of useless artifacts.

It was good to see that the excuse for the new fannish toast ("Toast!") made it into Plokta, wouldn't want all that stealth to have gone to waste. You haven't lived until you've seen M@ tiptoeing into a committee-full lobby carrying a large stepladder and trying to look inconspicuous, with Eira running interference to distract the reception staff and the hotel's Catering Manager doubled up with laughter pretending to hide behind a totally inadequate potted palm in a corner. Not that the lobby had any corners of course. That would have been too simple.

Dave Langford

Splendid rant from the estimable Mr West. Other silliness much appreciated. More later, maybe, when I've worked out which census categories apply to me, and whether I did anything regrettable with Tobes after being plied with his Calvados at Paragon.

Thanks to you, Hazel has now seen the famous Hanover Hotel statue of Poseidon: "It's AWFUL!!" Now what about picture of the sperm balloons, the garrotted baby, Marilyn Monroe with a rooster on her head, etc etc?

Terry Jeeves

Ear trouble. Welcome to one-ear fandom. My left ear went on strike way back in '64 and after repeated tests the specialist said "You appear to be deaf in that ear". I could have sloshed him.

Avedon Carol

I've been looking for those nifty ear-candle things ever since I read a rave review from famous science writer Dave Barry. Where did you get them? I am particularly interested now that I know that two of my favourite journalists lie around on their sides with a candle in their ear.

Janice Gelb

Dave Barry had a long column about trying [an ear candle] a few years ago. Then he had a follow-up column mentioning that alert readers had sent him a news article that "U.S. marshals and agents of the Food and Drug Administration ‘swooped in' to a Columbus health store and ‘seized about 100 candles.' An FDA spokesperson said the candles were seized because they did not have FDA approval, which is required for ‘anything used for treatment or prevention of disease in humans or animals.'

An official said that the raid was part of a wider ear-candle crackdown."

Martin Morse Wooster

Many thanks for Plokta 23. If you're now going to make sheep jokes, why not mention the land where sheep rule? I refer, of course, to Baarein. (That's the country right next to Moosedonia.)

George may be able to cower two households into submission with his steely glare, but he obviously needs to improve his other tricks if he is to be truly memorable. The cats I have liked the best over the years have been able to a) use the toilet b) have as her two favourite foods cantaloupe and menthol cigarettes c) convince you that she wants to go out by pretending to be satanically possessed. (I translate: "Please, kind sir, let me out. I just want to go out and smell the flowers. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, OPEN THAT DOOR!" etc. etc.) Can George do any of these things? He seems to be very good at being fierce and getting food, but he can't even pretend to be cute long enough for a cat photo.

E B Frohvet

I have offered to be a nominator for any Canadian who wishes to stand for TAFF; no takers to date. That is where the matter stands, or lies in a crumpled heap, at the moment.

Catherine Mintz recently explained to me a technique that might be helpful to Giulia. When a cat is resistant to taking pills, get the medicine made into an edible paste or cream form, smear it all over, and the irritated cat will lick it off. (The technical adjective for this by the way is "lambitive": taken or eaten by licking. Surprising that pharmaceutical companies do not make children's medication into lollipops.)

Dave Langford (again)

One of the mysteries of Finland is just why the freebie postcards given out at the Jyväskylä Festival office all show this fetching tableau of Pat McMurray telling some worried new fan that being a gopher won't hurt a bit...

John Dallman

Dr Bull neglects a related measure of utility, the plutonium-enriched chocolate teapot. This would be expected to have a marginally lower thermal utility ratio, due to radioactive heating pre-softening the chocolate (Bull neglects the issues of thermal conductivity in his comments, but clearly has them in mind for his proposed research project), but is clearly much inferior when the long-term survival of the user is considered. This line of enquiry would clearly attract a much larger research budget; Dr Bull may wish to contact Messrs Langford, Hoare and Dobson in search of samples.

Dale Spiers

Your next chocolate teapot experiment should use iced tea, a popular beverage here in Canada, although not with me. Also, tell Giulia that an easier way to pill a cat is to break up the pill into its food. Couldn't find any moose stamps, so accept this deer stamp in lieu.

Dave Langford (yet again)

Oh… having obviously blinked and missed some vital cultural reference, I meant to ask in all seriousness: what is the source of this "All your [insert noun here] are belong to us" gag template which now turns up everywhere?

Enjoyed Plokta very much nevertheless. No census category, I see, for sad folk who couldn't be arsed to check the actual Wingdings font but applied standard deciphering techniques to unpick that item. Oh, what a giveaway.

Peter Wareham

[On a hand-written postcard.]

I notice you had 1 reader using Wingdings on their census form. Reminds me of a job I once had working for a free film processing company, dealing with printing barcodes on their paperwork, back in the days when that involved programming a line-printer. A colleague once sent us a holiday postcard with part of the address as a hand-drawn barcode—and their system could read it successfully, which really rather impressed me. I suppose this is a skill which might be useful for a fraudster wishing to cheat the barcode readers at supermarkets. I doubt, somehow, that it would be an entirely cost-effective scan however. I did consider using Webdings for this PoC, but decided that would be too dy/dx for words. So I didn't.

Ailsa C. Ek

Adam loved the Moo-O-Matic. He's finally stopped ribbing me about it, but it was a pretty common topic of conversation around here for rather a while.

Morris M. Keesan

I want to go on record as liking to see cute baby pictures in the fanzine. [OK, just for you, see p. 11]

Two years ago, I would have considered the phrase "cute baby pictures" to be an oxymoron.  I think my change in attitude may be related to the increased estrogen levels men are supposed to get around the time their partners give birth.

Vicki Rosenzweig

The latest Plokta engendered lively discussion in the elevator, before I'd even opened the envelope. The main topic was the moose's facial expression—Andy thought he was confused, and I said "startled," with a note that he'd been sadly oppressed by the postal service, which had covered the front of his body with a white sticker.


Yet another con report showing that someone else had an equally good con at the same time & place (approx.) as did I—but not the same con, for much of the time, anyway. This was being discussed by some 5-6 of us on the Monday afternoon. Is hell a con where everyone attends the same things?

Ned Brooks

The descriptions [of ear candles] I have seen previously said they were conical and hollow, and that the draft created by the flame was supposed to draw out the wax that had been softened by the heat. As a wind-tunnel engineer I have some understanding of such things—but it's hard to see how it would work except in someone whose earhole went right through to the other side! [That's why they work so well on Alison.]

Ann Green

Whereas I can only abhor and despise the wanton waste of both chocolate and life-giving tea evident in your fanzine I consider myself fortunate to be spared a step-by-step pictorial account of an alternative yet similar investigation into the efficacy of the knitted condom.

Martin Smith

15:30 Read con report. Such happy memories. Just wish they were mine.

15:40 Re-read con report. Think about getting laid by Tobes.

15:45 The heaving has stopped. Re-read con report. Realise it is a pastiche on Bridget Jones' Diary. Make mental note to catch up on cultural references over last five years.

16:00 Read D's critique. Reminds me of my first sight of a Jackson Pollock. It reminded of the Foster's advert. "What's that?" "It's Pollocks." "You're telling me mate."

Andy Sawyer

Hail the Cabal: you wait for months and months in the Outer Darkness and then 2 or is it 3 Plokta's arrive at once. No, the third wasn't Plokta, it was just today's Guardian with a front page headline, "McVeigh appeals for stay of execution": but the absence of cucumber jokes seems to suggest that it's not you lot after all…

Oh, re Brown vs Roberts: I actually prefer Brown's take on the picture as I found those glossy sub-Foss space stations a bit old-fashioned now . . . but as I understand it from the newspaper reports and the hints dropped by the eager press person who contacted me hoping that I had an address for Roberts (I hadn't), part of the problem was that the "after Anthony Roberts" bit on the title was missed off by accident or design (most people seemed to have been under the impression, thanks to the error in the Encyclopedia of SF, that Anthony the Artist was the same person as the Glastonbury researcher who died. Wrong Roberts… But people were confronted with a painting that they recognised as having existed somewhere else in some other guise.

Interestingly, AR's allusion to pastoral and sf is apposite. D West mentions pastoral's long history; certainly the Elisabethan version of pastoral (Spencer's poetry, etc.) is, like sf, very much a deliberate way of coding what was going round at the time: to read pastoral is like reading sf in that you have a sort of shared language which insiders have to learn to comprehend (and it was also used as a way of criticising things which could only be criticised indirectly). I think Darko Suvin says stuff about this. But to point out that likeness is not particularly profound, and over and above liking or not what Brown has done to Roberts's image we still have the question of art which is based on other people's art. OK, most artists do steal rather than originate, and going back to early days again, the fact that you were writing in a style or using a theme which could be traced back to Classical times was seen as a positive advantage, while what's Renaissance art but a series of variations on a very narrow set of religious or classical images? The question lies in those words "after Anthony Roberts" and whether they were there, or were promoted enough. And, of course, what the point of blowing up some book cover actually is. Warhol was making all these points about commodification in the 60s: the ambiguity between "fine art" and "commercial art" or "design" ain't exactly new.

Pamela Boal

Of course Old Father Thames at St John's Lock doesn't have a trident, only a spade and people are always pinching the blade from that but I like him better than your chap holding up the flying saucer. Then what do I know about art?

carl juarez

Finally saw an episode of the Iron Chef, on the Food (Porn) Channel yesterday. How very Japanese and bizarre. Now I'm more confused than before re the Iron Faned item at the Seattle Corflu, though! Seems like it was a loose translation.

We also saw some other shows on that channel, so now I may find myself lying awake at night wondering if the Naked Chef ever takes his clothes off, and if Chef Emeril is covertly sponsored by the National Salt and Pepper For Every Meal Association or some such shadowy cartel.

Have you ever seen the HK movie God of Cookery? It's well worth the viewing, reminiscent of Iron Chef but much more delirious and food-pornographic in that OTT HK way. I wonder which came first?

Gotta go, it's Sunday here and churches don't burn themselves.

Austin Benson

Like Alison, I spent several festivals looking at hammocks and deciding I wanted access to one at home. Unlike Alison I didn't feel constrained to try and persuade somebody else to acquire it for me, so it only took me a couple of years to get around to it, and living in Cambridge meant it was perfectly practical to buy one at the Cambridge Folk Festival and carry it home, so I did.

So, towards the end of summer 1999 we had a hammock. It is probably no coincidence that last year was one of the wettest summers I can remember—the number of days on which it was worth putting the thing up was ridiculously small. I take comfort from the thought that Alison will now have a motive for intimidating the rain-gods, so maybe my luck will change.

Milt Stevens

There are some towns in the middle of the country where the sheep bear an almost familylike resemblance to the rest of the residents. When they bleat it often sounds like "Daaaaaad." This situation caused some problems for census workers in 2000. They finally decided that if it drove a pick-up truck it was a resident, and if it didn't, it was a sheep.

Some chocolate devices have much greater utility than the chocolate teapot which your researchers studied. A case in point would be the Chocolate Hugo Awards. Prior to the development of the Chocolate Hugo Awards in 1984, Jerry Pournelle had frequently said that money would get you through times of no awards, but awards wouldn't get you through times of no money. So we presented him with a Chocolate Hugo Award which he could eat if he was ever out of money. The Chocolate Hugo Award worked with 100% effectiveness. Jerry hasn't used that line since.

Once having created them, the members of SCIFI Incorporated realized the Chocolate Hugo Awards had other potential uses. Some fans said they had gone beyond being mere chocaholics and had become full fledged chocasexuals.

Around this part of the country, the traditional way of clearing your ears is to insert a carrot and rotate rapidly.


Thank you for issue 6.2, which usefully (?) reminded me that, despite globalisation, the world refuses to get any bigger. I have the most lowering suspicion that I used to go out with one of the authors of "The Materials Science of Chocolate", cited by your distinguished contributor Dr Steve Bull. Back in those days, the said scientific writer was boiling milk and analysing mushy peas for a living, mind you, and not concentrating on the hard stuff. He once romantically sent me a packet of Cuppa Soup, free courtesy of his then sponsor. My timing was ever bad...

Art. There's a big area. Being wholly uneducated in the subject, I hesitate to dip my pen into the inky waters. Nevertheless, last summer I found myself in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wherein I found that paintings, sculptures, photographs and other objets d'art were accompanied by detailed printed discussions of their contexts in terms of racism (including anti-semitism), cultural imperialism, colonialism, homophobia, bigotry, social engineering and orientalism. Many of the items displayed depicted women—or portions of women—in various states of disfigurement, dismemberment, or grotesquerie, but nowhere in the notes was this overriding theme of misogyny even noticed. The female form, it seems, remains the last bastion of acceptable disdain and abuse: its proper place is as the object of the (male) gaze, it is owned by the artist as his subject, and thus warrants no attention in and of itself. So much for political correctness: step back and apply only where liberal embarrassment dictates.

Julian Headlong

It was the first night of Seccond. After enquiring gently of Dr. Plokta (where's my fookin' Plokta then), he informed me graciously that it was even then in the post, winging its way swiftly to my door. I, of course, didn't believe him, and whinged all the way out of the door. Next morning, after rising early, to be sure of getting to the first sitting of the bathroom, there it was. Sitting on my carpet, a copy of Plokta 23. How odd. No wings anywhere in sight. Of course, I was at home, this being the first time a con has been held next door. Well, nearly. Almost. Oh all right, at least it's in Swindon.

Eloise Beltz-Decker

May I just say in writing, I love my housecleaner. If you live in Chicago, let me recommend her highly. She's a fan, too, so when confronted with a box containing (in no particular order and mostly jumbled in) brushes and ink and paints for SCA scribal work, two loose necklaces, five assorted polyhedral dice, and a pornographic comic book, she simply lifts the latter, and asks, "Does this go with the ordinary comics, or with the porn?" She's almost Britishly unflappable, and it's quite refreshing.

As someone who grew up on the fringes of academia, I laughed until I squeaked at the trial of the chocolate teapot. It's had me pointing at things and saying, "Look, John, a non-chocolate teapot!" for weeks.

Marcus L. Rowland

Your census shows an obvious ophidophobic bias; there appears to be no demographic for the important subgroup "Readers who would like to see more cute snake pictures in the fanzine". I've attached one anyway.

We think he has Marcus's scales

We Also Heard From

Dave Langford (yet again) (with a photo of an Italian politician who, according to Joseph Nicholas, resembles a dead SF author, but unfortunately not mentioning which dead SF author), Bruce Pelz (quoting James Joyce), Rodney Leighton, Gwen Funnell ("I enclose a cheque to cover a year's supply of Plokta and claim my extra gift of a free convention"), Alan Sullivan ("Life has, quite frankly, been."), Colette Reap ("I owe you a LoC—it will be forthcoming!"), Martin Easterbrook (with a web page of Dr Plokta action figures, as seen on the cover), Susan Francis, KRin (They live in the sewers you know"), Ian Stockdale, Tim Kirk, Paul Oldroyd, Skel ("I'm sorry that my response has been so tangenital."), Colin Fine (sending us an article for which we couldn't find room), Dave Edwards ("I wonder if you could help me. I am currently developing a Si Fi television project"), Jackie Duckhawk ("Please can chocolate teapots be forwarded to the Bull laboratory when I am visiting in August?"), Robert Newby ("I just read all about St. Frideswide's treacle well (the result of searching for ‘finally treacle' on Google")), Steve Stiles (following up an item from the sadly dormant PNN), Chika Law (offering us an exciting business opportunity in Nigeria), Lloyd Penney ("Bridget Plokta isn't the one who produces the FATW newsletter, is she? No, that's another Bridget. How many Bridgets are there in British fandom, anyway?"), Joseph T Major, Jan Stinson, Harry Andrushak, Tommy Ferguson ("I'm now engaged to be married"), Jerry Kaufman ("Leather Goddess of Lewisham. Do you have enough of these yet to do a calendar?"), Poncbgon@ (sending us three weird poems), Damien Warman ("Thank you, oh thank you, for teaching me to look at"), Kim Huett (enclosing fannish trading cards), Djordje Mijuskovic (enclosing synopsis and two chapters of his SF novel), Eric Lindsay ("GUFF, the Going Under Fan Fund, is now an annual event.") and SMS & Eira ("Gosh! Plokta Online is strangely compelling").

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