I’m currently reading a lot of books to help me write better stuff (in screenplays and otherwise). Some of the exercises lead to – well, unexpected outcomes. This is an example I want to share. The exercise is from the wonderful book “Now Write! Screenwriting”. In it, writer Alexander Woo quotes an exercise from playwright Mac Wellman: “create the worst piece of crap imaginable. (…) the scene has to include a rat sandwich, a character with an emerald-green hoof, and twenty-three occurences – no more, no less – of a seven-syllable word” Challenge accepted! I came up with the following story (?) based on some actual experiences at research conferences (minus the ending). My seven-syllable word is “interdisciplinary”. Comments welcome!
Research Conferences for the Unacquainted
“Howdy, folks!” The completely insane professor of interdisciplinary sociolinguistics, Prof. Dr. Dr. Lucius Boile entered the stage of the Interdisciplinary Congress on Migrating Words to give his long-rehearsed-and-even-more-often-heard talk On the Interdisciplinary Approaches of Two Researchers: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Flint and Preacher. Half the audience left before he could start his PowerPoint presentation.
“Well then,” Boile began, but was already interrupted by a man getting up in the first row. Okay, not a man, but a… half-goat? What do you call these crazy folks? Fauns? Anyways, they were really weird in the head. This one had emerald-green hooves and had painted eyes on his eyelids so his eyes appeared open even when firmly closed. Academic faun, then.
“My dear colleague Boile,” the faun began, “in your latest article in Interdisciplinary Linguistics Today, you claim that you have found a new method for dissecting microbiological appearances of dialects. From an interdisciplinary point of view – as I always maintain one, I might refer you to my latest paper Interdisciplinary Dissection in the Modern Literary Culture – I would like to know your opinion on the Dialect Immigration Law of Athens, abolished in 1985, as you certainly know. Because isn’t it the case that – if we take others’ findings into consideration – our point of view MUST be challenged by the findings of Firtsch 1999, 2000 and 2001? I may elaborate on this—”
“Yes, my dear colleague LuLuLey!” Boile managed to squeeze into the flood of words. Why did fauns always have to choose the stupidest names in the universe? “Actually, from an interdisciplinary point of view you are certainly right, there ARE a lot of limitations to the current approach to the law of Athens—”
“I KNEW you would agree!” LuLuLey jumped up and down. His emerald-green hooves made a clacking sound, accompanied by a weird melody of singing elves. Well, yes, elves were killed and their souls sealed into emerald-green paint for hooves. The more force applied to the paint, the louder the souls whined, which to every non-elf ear sounded like singing. The paint was the latest fashion. For fauns, at least.
LuLuLey got serious again. “Interdisciplinary speaking, I was really wondering whether you had understood the purpose of our gathering here. I mean, the Call for Papers explicitly stated that ‘no formerly given talks shall be given again – even if rewritten from an interdisciplinary point of view’ – and I’m pretty sure you read that advice because you always do. Anyway—”
“Interdisciplinary research doesn’t end with one discipline!”
The audience gasped. Even LuLuLey fell silent. Everyone was staring at Boile. How dare he?!
“I disagree.” Without anyone noticing, the door to the room had opened. An old, thin lady was leaning in the frame, a half-eaten rat sandwich in her hand: Lady MacShatterton, the Grande Dame of interdisciplinary mechatronics and current Head of the Board of Interdisciplinary Studies Worldwide. She should have retired decades ago, but her head was still up to the task of interrupting supposedly important speakers – if she got her rat sandwich every hour or so. Everybody knew she was addicted, but they were all too polite and awed to point it out to her.
“Lady MacShatterton!” Boile and LuLuLey both yelled and made a deep bow. “So honored by your presence.”
The Lady ignored the praise and stepped onto the stage, pushing Boile away. She quickly glanced at his PowerPoint. “How often have I told you NOT to use neon green font in 8 point? Are you ever listening to me?” She gave her feared stare of disdain to Boile who sneaked away. The Lady crossed her arms. “Ladies and gentlemen – and creatures. Interdisciplinary research is NOT something we do for fun. We do it for truth. For justice. In other words: for money.”
A round of applause rained down on the Grande Dame. She raised her arms and the room fell silent again. She quickly took a bite off her sandwich – the rat’s head, which was always the most delicious and which she always ate last – and chewed on it before continuing her speech. “Now, many people have asked me about the best way to make interdisciplinary money. My answer is: I know a friend who lost fifty pounds with an amazing therapy. Check this out, now!”
She held up a white board that read “http://ne.ru.m.ff/money” The audience was quick to grab their interdisciplinary smartphones and take a picture of the link. Some posted it on Interdisciplinary Face, the newest and trendiest of the social networking services, completely free* and open to anyone working in interdisciplinary research (*small fees for messages, photos, videos, and everything else apply).
Lady MacShatterton laughed nastily. “Interdisciplinary research is DEAD, you fools! This link will destroy everything you have ever believed in! You are all so blind, you stupid researchers!!!”
“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!” It was LuLuLey. His emerald-green hooves sang at ear-deafening volume as he jumped with all his power and launched into Lady MacShatterton. They both fell to the floor and he pinned her down, threatening to beat her with a thick, leather-bound copy of Interdisciplinary Shit My Dad Says, the latest in a series of comedy books from acclaimed faun writer Suerp Duell Toen. Faun speak was notoriously elaborate. Even the shortest gag took up hundreds of pages of written words.
“Interdisciplinary research is the only hope we have left! After the zombies have roamed our planet, after the vampire apocalypse has eaten almost all of our children, interdisciplinary research is what is keeping us alive. How dare you destroy what you helped build yourself?!”
Lady MacShatteron laughed miserably. “Oh, you stupid faun. Can’t you see? Interdisciplinary findings have broken all the promises their research projects have made for decades. Where is the peace, the health, the harmony, the friendship, the love? It doesn’t even exist here, at this conference.”
“I agree.” It was Boile. He was holding a shotgun. Laughing out loud, he went on a rampage, killing every last living being in the room and finally himself. The next morning’s newspaper headline read “Research Disciplines Agree to Separate Again: Old Ways Did Not Prove Successful”.