Smile of the Day

Life is getting much too serious, yes? Who doesn't need a daily smile?




Friday, May 11

The value of white-out

Lallafa had lived in the forests of the Long Lands of Effa. He lived there, and he wrote his poems there. He wrote them on pages made of dried habra leaves, without the benefit of education or correcting fluid. He wrote about the light in the forest, and what he thought about that. He wrote about the darkness in the forest and what he thought about that. He wrote about the girl who had left him and precisely what he thought about that.

...

Then, shortly after the invention of time travel, some major correcting fluid manufacturers wondered whether his poems might have been better still if he had access to some high-quality correcting fluid, and whether he might be persuaded to say a few words to that effect.

They traveled the time waves; they found him, and did indeed persuade him. In fact they persuaded him to such effect that he became extremely rich at their hands, and the girl about whom he was otherwise destined to write with such precision never got around to leaving him, and in fact they moved out of the forest to a rather nice pad in town and he frequently commuted to the future to do talk shows, on which he sparkled wittily.

He never got around to writing the poems, of course, which was a problem but an easily solved one. The manufacturers of correcting fluid simply packed him off for a week somewhere with a copy of a later edition of his book and stacks of dried habra leaves to copy them out onto, making the odd deliberate mistake and correction on the way.

Many people now say that the poems are suddenly worthless. Others argue that they are exactly the same as they always were, so what's changed? The first people say that that isn't the point. They aren't quite certain what the point is, but they are quite sure that that isn't it. They set up the Campaign for Real Time to try to stop this sort of thing going on. Their case was considerably strengthened by the fact that a week after they had set themselves up, news broke that not only had the great Cathedral of Chalesm been pulled down in order to build a new ion refinery, but that construction of the refinery had taken so long, and had had to extend so far back into the past in order to allow ion production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had now never been built in the first place. Picture postcards of the cathedral suddenly became immensely valuable."

- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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