April 23, 2009 at 8:34 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

Fiction is a jealous person’s derogatory term for alternative reality. These sad, pathetic people – like this guide’s own J. Frederick – regard anything that doesn’t happen within the limits of their own specific space-time continuum as a “lie,” unworthy of their attention or comment. Well, I’m here to tell you that fiction is every bit as REAL as the so-called “reality” these stormtroopers of intolerance, like J. Frederick, cling to so desperately. When my imaginary friend Mr. Snuggums calls me a “chowderhead,” it hurts every bit as much as if John Wayne said it to me, let me tell you. I cried for days. Even in the shower. When my imaginary dog died, I went catatonic for a whole month, and as a consequence nearly got fired from my job. But I’ll bet people like J. Frederick don’t think that’s “real” enough for them, that it’s just a big lie to be laughed at derisively HA HA HA HA HA. I SEND HALF MY PAYCHECK HOME TO MY DYING IMAGINARY MOM-MOM, J FREDERICK. If she had lost that money, the cold reality of unmicrowaved tomato soup would have been part of her every day life, because she wouldn’t have been able to pay the imaginary electric bill. But I guess that’s just all” fiction” to you tyrants of the here-and-now, isn’t it? @$#% you. – Herman the Soothsayer


April 22, 2009 at 8:28 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

French is a language spoken by people from France. Other places, like Quebec, Haiti, and Lyons, claim to speak French, but people in Paris know better. French is known as a Romantic Language, because many naïve girls have done something they later regretted after listening to French men. Often, these girls are captivated by the many beautiful French poems that have been written over the years. Here are some examples:


I sink zat I shall nevair zee

Aaae poem az lovelee az a tree[1]


Shall I compare zee to a zummer’s daie?

Zou art more lovelee et more temperate![2]


Are you weak in the knees having read those?  You know you are baby.  Zat’s right.  Let’s go beck to my plaice.


Besides being a great way to talk a girl into bed, French was also the international language of diplomacy in the eighteenth century.  In the nineteenth century, thanks to Napoleon and his nephew, “little” Napoleon (he was 3 feet, two inches tall and brought pots of gold to Irish drunkards prior to becoming French), French became the international language of war.   In the twentieth century, French became the international language of surrender.  This makes it the first language to win the “triple crown” of international conflict.  At the trophy ceremony, Sharles de Gaul, speaking on behalf of the French people, was heard to remark, “Zank you all for zis great honneur; if it had not been for ze discoverie of zautéed frog legs, we may nevair have been able to zurrender zo quicklie!”[3]


Today, in the twenty-first century, French has forged ahead into previously undreamt categories: it is now the international language of complaint.  Asked about future plans for the language, Language Admiral Nicholas Sarkozy said, “Ze zky iz ze limeet!”[4] – Herman the Soothsayer

[1] Loosely translated, this says, “O! what a lyric is a plant / I hope I see one before I can’t!”

[2] Strictly translated, this says, “What is the best way to describe you?  I give up.”

[3] “My Guuhd theez frug wegz urr great; tek dat Kermuh” (de Gaul was speaking with his mouth full of frog legs when he said this).

[4] Untranslatable.

Lincoln, Abraham

April 21, 2009 at 9:58 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | 1 Comment

Abraham Lincoln was a President of something or other, I think maybe the American Automobile Association. I once stayed in a Lincoln Motor Inn in Gettysburg, so I think that’s it.  Anyway, it doesn’t really matter; that’s not what I wanted to talk about.  I just needed some space in this guide to get my own thoughts down on paper, for Christ’s sake, so I figured I’d “write” and “entry” on someone that NOBODY would ever look up.  I’ve hardly even heard of this Lincoln person, so I figured it was a safe bet.  You see, our over-mighty editors have let it be known that they frown on the inclusion of personal opinion in our entries.  BUT I’M JUST A MAN, I TELLS YA.  I can’t be expected to be constantly censoring my own opinions for the sake of “objectivity.”  I need to express myself.  I mean, I graduated from the Sylvan Learning Center, for Christ’s sake – I don’t need this kind of oversight!   What I need to say, though, needs saying, and if this is the only way I can get the space, so be it:


Poems are stupid.


I mean, totally useless.  What good is a poem?  Can a poem cheer me up when I’m sad?  Can a poem make me see the world in a new way?  Can a poem compare a person to a summer’s day?  Well, wait; I guess it can.  Maybe I’m thinking of money?  No, I like my money; I used it to buy this computer, and a sandwich.  I wish I had another sandwich.  That first one was delicious.  No, no, it’s definitely poems that I hate; so why did I hate them again?  Is it because they rhyme?  No, that isn’t it; some of them don’t and anyway: Rhyming is a thing / I like ding-a-ling.  Oh, yeah, I remember: it’s poets I don’t like, not poems.  Poems are fine.  But poets – those liberal creeps.  Always writing poems about love and peace and hunger and fairies and dragons and hard-line xenophobic nationalism.  Pinko flower-pickers, the lot of them.  Like Ezra Pound.  I mean, what are they, sissies?  Uh-oh.  I better get back to pretending to write the Abraham Lincoln entry.  You won’t rat me out, right?  Just read the last sentence of this entry out loud with a broad sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  That will help the editors to be fooled and let me keep my entry the way it is!   Are you ready?  Good.  Here goes (remember, big voice, so my editors can hear you!):


And so, in closing, dear reader, truly this has been Abraham Lincoln: a great surgeon, a great spelunker, but an even greater man. – Herman the Soothsayer


March 31, 2009 at 8:40 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | 1 Comment

Things are the stuff that is lying around, often on the floor or melting on top of the radiator.  There are all different kinds of things: fat things, skinny things, sharp things, broken things, expensive things, even fictional things; but the most common kind of thing is the dumb thing.  Take my brother for instance.  Now there’s a really dumb thing.  For example, one time, when we were in high school, using only a pencil, a stopwatch, and a standardized test, he figured out exactly how stupid his girlfriend was, and he told her.  Or was it how fat she was?  I forget which.  I guess I’m pretty dumb too.  The point is, she dumped him as soon as he told her.  Now that’s pretty dumb – especially when you consider he didn’t have to tell her, because he’d already mailed her results to her!  But also, weirdly, it was kind of smart, since she was actually poisoning him while they were going out, so it saved his life.


Purists would argue that my brother isn’t, strictly speaking, a thing; that is why purists often get punched in the face. Maybe they should just learn to mind their own business!  Purists, in fact, are another dumb thing: how can you even tell if something is pure or not?  You can’t, and so, QED, purists are dumb.  Just like most things.  Except hats.  Hats are awesome.  Things. – Herman the Soothsayer


March 30, 2009 at 8:45 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

hateHate is an excellent word to use lightly as a sort of frivolous, meaningless verb for times when you don’t have an opportunity to give a particular thing or problem any thought.  For example, imagine you find yourself at dinner with your boss and his wife, both of whom are from Australia, and you really need to make a good impression to get that big raise.  Suddenly, the conversation turns to Australia, only you left your handy map of Australia and your Fodor’s Australian almanacky (the Australian word for almanac) in the car; just say, “I hate Australians!” and you’ll be sure to stay classy and get that promotion.  Hate is a pretty meaningless word anyway, which is what makes it such a great catch-all term.  When you find yourself someone’s houseguest, a simple “I hate this house” or “I hate this meal you spent hours preparing” is a great way to ward off those uncomfortable awkward silences that are the bane of any social gathering.  Using the word to comment on the hosts’ children, like “I hate the way they’ve been raised,” or “Did your little Johnny draw that picture?  I hate it.” is often an excellent way to show off your tact and breeding, without requiring a whole lot of study or preparation on your part. 
“Hate” can also be used as a noun; it is found in this usage in the popular idiom “Hate is enough!”  The precise origin of the slogan is unknown, but it is former Vice President Cheney’s personal motto.  So, go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and remember that I hate you! – Herman the Soothsayer

Dr. Ortler Alp: Author Bio

March 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

Dr. Ortler Alp is a self-described and dubiously accredited “doctor,” as the hastily drawn and cheaply framed diploma from the Harvard Institute for Thing-Learning on her office wall strongly implies. She holds advanced degrees in Etiquette and Honesty, with several more retroactively invented degrees expected in the future. Dr. Alp has had publications in several major professional journals, including American Horoscope, Chihuahua Connection, West Virginia Game & Fish, Hype Hair, and Disney’s Princess. Her current research is on why fish look so surprised all the time.
Dr. Alp was born in
Des Moines, Iowa but is from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her mother was attempting to break the world record for the longest trip while in labor from home to hospital for a childbirth when she was forced to give up and have her baby in Des Moines, falling short of the world record by a mere 17,000 miles. Dr. Alp now resides in Philadelphia with her seventeen children, two large dogs that she loves, and her husband, a homemaker and paper airplane maker. – Herman the Soothsayer


March 24, 2009 at 8:19 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

Baseball is the apotheosis of erotic dance and bloodthirsty battle; it is heaven on earth and earth on heaven; it is both timeless and, in a more accurate way, not really timeless; it is the epsilon, the upsilon, and the downsilon; it is four weddings AND a funeral; it is Hercule Poirot and Columbo; it is Chevrolet and Peugeot; it is American and European football; it is Coke and Pepsi, but never low-rent colas like Shasta or A-Treat or Frank’s, unless maybe it is Frank’s flavored Grape soda, which I think I remember as being pretty good; it is the captain of the basketball team and the foreign exchange student who seems a little off; it is an epic poem and the feature article of a TV Guide; it is fathers, sons, uncles, second cousins, and the deadbeat roommate of your ex-brother-in-law; it knows all, sees all, forgets all, tries to remember all, especially where it put its keys; it is hyperbolic understatement and other poorly constructed idioms; it is the rising of the sun and the fiery explosion of the moon; it is east and it is also slightly further east; it is better than the last movie I saw but not quite as good as the one I’m going to see next week; it is the finest Black Sea caviar and the half-eaten three week old baloney sandwich I found under my seat at the airport that I ate instead of buying overpriced Big Macs from the concession areas; it is an iPod with a failing hard drive and a record player with a missing needle; it is a sink full of dirty dishes and the scullery maid who would clean them if there were any such thing as scullery maids any more; it is the best Uzbeki Arabic novel I have ever read but also turns out, in translation, to be the worst English instruction manual for a DVD player I have ever seen; it is the beginning of the middle, the middle of the end, and the end of the beginning; it sets fire to row homes, and no one knows why it does this awful thing; it is always fair, unless it is drunk and is in the mood to settle old scores.
To summarize, baseball murdered my father over some stupid gambling debt. That’s why I hate baseball.
 – Herman the Soothsayer.

Heisenberg, Dr. Werner

March 23, 2009 at 8:27 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

Dr. Werner Heisenberg, not to be confused with the delicious package of Heisenberg Weiners I just finished eating (I took each one straight from the package, dipped it in mustard, and ate it – it was so goddamn good), was a female Chinese gymnast who was, curiously, trapped in the body of a male German physicist. Annoyed by this inconvenience but without the means to go about extracting her real identity, she begrudgingly decided to bide her time by temporarily accepting her role as a male German physicist. So, she started making up some theories. Her first was the “Theory That I Am a Chinese Woman Gymnast”, and was met with low-key enthusiasm among some of the more unsavory characters in the physics community, but was mostly ignored. She had a much bigger hit with her second, and most famous theory, known now as the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. “ This theory states that the more accurately one knows the speed of a particular object in motion, the less certain one becomes about its precise position, and vice versa. Well, I say that is a load of bullshit. I knew exactly where my mother’s car was – running me over outside my office – and the police and doctors tell me she simply MUST have been going 45 MPH. So, we can see that Dr. Heisenberg was wrong. Perhaps this is why, after gaining notoriety and subsequent fame and fortune for this “theory” we now know to be falser than the falsest woman who ever told a man she really loved him but was all the while sleeping with that man’s very own brother behind his back, Dr. Heisenberg traveled to Shanghai, shed her outer “German physicist” look, and became Hu Ling, world renowned gymnast. Sadly, Hu was lost ten years ago, when I was able to calculate her exact speed at the 1988 Olympic trials as she leapt onto the parallel bars – her position became unclear, and she has not been seen since. – Herman the Soothsayer


March 18, 2009 at 11:38 pm | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | Leave a comment

vaudevilleContrary to the copious and widely acknowledged factual evidence, Vaudeville is actually a real place: a small town in Southeastern Tennessee, which was prophetically given the name “the Holly wood of the 1890s” in 1794 by me, Herman the Soothsayer (this article was written and then put in a time capsule in 1328, for publication in this guide in 2009).  In the 1890s, betting that the “Hollywood of the 1890s” would catapult them to film stardom once that medium was invented and established, many young comedians, actors, singers, and dancers flocked to the small town, including such luminaries as the Marx brothers, Charlie Chaplin, and Jimmy Durante.  This is particularly notable because, despite the fact that all of these actors, singers, dancers, and comedians could speak clearly and beautifully, they all performed in perfect silence, anticipating the limitations of the anticipated medium.  By projecting my consciousness from here in the Holy Roman Empire in 1328 to some place called the “United States of America” in the year 2009, and then translating my thoughts into some unrecognizable form of the “new kid on the block” language known as “English” here in 1328, I can see backward to 1898 and know that Vaudeville’s high water mark came on March 4, when Buster Keaton silently, terribly ate a large ball-bearing sandwich to the general disinterest of a small, mostly non-English speaking crowd of day laborers.  This was no comedy.

As I leave my mortal body in 1328 and render physical my spiritual essence in 2009, I can see that today, Vaudeville is surrounded by a tremendous moat and is protected by a mighty dragon that contains the soul of Lou Costello.  Since the 1890s and the invasion of the silent performers, all citizens of Vaudeville are mimes by birth, and distrustful by nature.  The heads of many regicides sit high atop its outer wall as a warning to those who would try to murder its king; the people here are scared of their rulers but petrified of outsiders, and so they live in a kind of suspended animation, afraid to revolt and afraid of revolution.   Even now, as some residents of the city try pathetically to signal to your dutiful time-traveling correspondent in their creepy mimeish ways, dancing on the city walls, other mimes mimic what it would be like to shoot flaming arrows down upon me, and others still mimic what those arrows would look like as they hurtled their way through the air and down, down, ever downward toward my fragile figure below.  These awful people have wasted their stupid lives.  So now I know: To waste a terrible thing is a mime.  For example: Andy mimed his near-fatal disease by failing to get a lot of sympathy money and gifts for it from his friends, relatives, and enemies.

Maybe this should be the entry for “Mime.”  That’s a question for the editors; I have to get back to the Holy Roman Empire now.  All this projecting is making me thirsty. – Herman the Soothsayer


March 17, 2009 at 1:32 am | Posted in Herman the Soothsayer | 3 Comments

computer1A com-pu-tor (usually rendered “computer”), or “Midnight Machine,” as it is known colloquially, is really nothing to be afraid of, once you know a little more about it. The rumors about the destruction of Atlantis, for example, turn out to be mostly false. Before 1985, there was no generally accepted term for what we now call a computer. The machines had been known in professional circles for years as “thunder boxes” or “Hiroshi’s little helper,” but were christened by a confused and frightened public “Midnight Machines,” punning on the word “thespian.” The angry mob responsible later glumly admitted it wasn’t sure what “thespian” met, or what a “pun” was – unfortunately, by that point, several fine actors had been killed in the search for the answer to these questions. The term “computer” comes from the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe character Com-Pu-Tor; his power was certified accountancy. It was first applied to “Midnight Machines” by Dr. Eric von Hoeffel during an unsolicited lecture which unfortunately quickly devolved into an embarrassing and abusive tirade about “these young bastards with their queer new ideas” at the World Psychiatric Association’s 1985 gala ball in Stockholm, Sweden.


The first computer can be traced all the way back to Abacus and Eniac, a softshoe song-and-dance act on Vaudeville in the 1890s. After putting aside their show business dreams, Abacus and Eniac opened a small office in Tennessee specializing in vacuum cleaner repair in 1915. To keep better track of the services they performed, Eniac proposed to Abacus that they record the name of each customer to whom they provided service and the specific services that they had provided. This revolutionary notion – Eniac called it a “filing system” (after his grandfather, “Filing System McBackwater”) – changed the way the world worked. Most of the unemployed historians whom I was able to interview while on line at the unemployment agency agree this marks the beginning of recorded time. From this humble notion by a humbled failure of an actor and singer, we get the modern computer: for you see, dear reader, a com-pu-tor is nothing, really, but an electrified filing system, keeping dates and names and other sundry information on electric sheets of paper.

How to Use a Computer in Today’s Vibrating Environment

Computers, as I said earlier, are really nothing more than electric filing cabinets – not marauding pseudo-cannibals, as some less reputable news sources might have you believe. Think of the screen you are looking at right now as the handle on the drawer of a fine, rosewood filing cabinet, perhaps built by an old, sea-weary carpenter from the Old Country. His name is Ezekiel. Think of the keys on the keyboard in front of you as the oiled sliders inside that cabinet that allow its drawers to slide in and out easily: imagine that that great old knotty carpenter Ezekiel bought those sliders from a drifter looking to get enough money for bus fare to Tulsa, and that he tried to attach them, oh how he tried, to your beautiful rosewood cabinet, but that he ultimately failed, so now he put them into some particle board he found in his old leaky boat. Now think of the desk your “midnight machine” is sitting on as the cabinet structure as a whole; think of it as the new, godforsaken thing that our battle-torn carpenter Ezekiel made from pieces of the rosewood cabinet he was trying to build for you, but destroyed instead, in a fit of jealous rage, and rotted, mildewed particle board he found soaked in seaweed in his old leaky boat. Have you got this image? Good. Now you not only know the basics of computer operation, but you have a handy, tortured metaphor to call to mind any time you become overwhelmed or suddenly panicked by what you are doing. Remember, a computer is a large, poorly constructed cabinet filled with electrified glowing documents ready for you, the user, to call up at a moment’s notice with a few simple keystrokes (called “plastic tickling” by insiders).

Now, enjoy your entry into inner outer cyberspace! – Herman the Soothsayer

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