Stylistic thing: humour

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Ben Wright

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Mar 6, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/6/00
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<Waves a sign with 'newbie' written on it>

Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?

- Only let the humour show in the general setting, and play the rest
straight
- Add the occasional wisecrack to long descriptions
- Add oddball descriptions everywhere
- Try to make the whole thing a laugh-fest.

If you try to put in too much humour, the jokes fall flat, but if you're
asking the player to suspend disbelief in a major way then you need some
indicator that it's meant to be amusing, and not just drivel.

My first project (since GAC on the Spectrum) is going to be a
semi-humorous thing with an adsurd central conceit. I make no claims as to
its quality.

---
Benjamin J Wright
Everyone is conformist, for a given value of normal.
http://www.h2g2.com/U33834
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Bridge/9293
st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk


Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 6, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/6/00
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Ben Wright <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> <Waves a sign with 'newbie' written on it>
>
> Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
> I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?

How full is a glass of water?

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Joe Mason

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Mar 6, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/6/00
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Ben Wright <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
>Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.

Yay! We need to discuss style more!

>I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?

Unfortunately, with stylistic questions, the answer is always "it depends".
It depends mainly on what brand of humour you want, and how well you pull it
off. With humour especially of all styles, it's how you pull it off that
counts.

>- Only let the humour show in the general setting, and play the rest
>straight

Personally, I find this annoys me cause the story usually crashes with the
setting. (Example: Zork Nemesis.) If the setting is humourous, how come this
isn't bleeding through to the story? Why are the characters acting straight
when they're confronted with oddball situations?

>- Add the occasional wisecrack to long descriptions

This sounds like "parser humour", where the narrator is the one that makes
funny and the game itself is serious. If you do this, you'd be best to give
the parser a consistent voice and personality, so that when the quips do come
they don't seem out of place. If you try to make the parser invisible (which
is a good approach, usually) then the quips will stick out when they come.

>- Add oddball descriptions everywhere
>- Try to make the whole thing a laugh-fest.

There's a place for these. But you know in your heart this isn't what you
want, don't you? Otherwise you wouldn't be asking.

>If you try to put in too much humour, the jokes fall flat, but if you're
>asking the player to suspend disbelief in a major way then you need some
>indicator that it's meant to be amusing, and not just drivel.

Sounds like you're trying to do something with just a humourous edge rather
than a full-blown funny game. The best thing to do is read a lot of stuff
that hits the same tone you're looking for and find out how they do it.

Injecting serious elements into a work that's mostly humour works really well
(see Lucasarts' _Grim Fandango_ or Terry Pratchett's _Small Gods_). Injecting
humour into a work that's mostly serious doesn't usually work as well, to my
mind, unless you're really careful where you put it.

Joe

Matthew T. Russotto

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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In article <8a0gq8$ii$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
}Ben Wright <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
}>
}> <Waves a sign with 'newbie' written on it>
}>
}> Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
}> I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?
}
}How full is a glass of water?

Half empty, contaminated, and leaking.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Ben Allen

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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On 6 Mar 2000 14:54:00 GMT, Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>Ben Wright <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
>>
>> <Waves a sign with 'newbie' written on it>
>>
>> Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
>> I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?
>
>How full is a glass of water?
>

Some people say the glass is half full, some people say it's half empty, but
me, I say it's bone dry and covered with maggots.

--
Ben Allen, hi...@uswest.remove.this.bit.net

"Rainy days make you feel gloomy
And sunny days make you feel happy
But you can still have fun on a rainy day!"
HOORAY!!!!!!
GUN!

Robb Sherwin

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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On Mon, 6 Mar 2000 08:58:36 +0000, Ben Wright
<st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
>If you try to put in too much humour, the jokes fall flat, but if you're
>asking the player to suspend disbelief in a major way then you need some
>indicator that it's meant to be amusing, and not just drivel.

Well, that's the thing. A lot of the "funny" Infocom games were that
way when you tried to do off-the-wall stuff, like kissing lean and
hungry gentlemen or counting leaves. They let you make them "wacky."

I wouldn't say it's a forgone conclusion that too many jokes in a game
makes them fall flat -- if you're funny and you can write text that
leaves its player pissing themselves then there's never too much.

Computer games have become pretty good at getting certain emotions out
of their players -- joy, satisfaction, anger -- but very, very few of
them can really be properly labled as "funny."

>My first project (since GAC on the Spectrum) is going to be a
>semi-humorous thing with an adsurd central conceit. I make no claims as to
>its quality.

Just be confident... I found "Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan" to
be extremely funny even though the author didn't really care if he
couldn't spell very well or necessarily write coherent English
sentences. I understood the lines he was trying to convey and the rage
bottled up inside the dude made it seem appropriate that it wasn't
written at an extremely high level of academia.

As someone who tried to write a funny game for the comp last year, I
can give you this advice: don't hold back. Some people got the effect
I was going for and found it mildly entertaining and some people
thought it was a smug piece of drek. At the end of the day you're
going to suceed in some people's eyes and "fail" in others. Not
everyone has the same sense of humor (more, not everyone *has* a sense
of humor) so you can't worry about keeping it "approachable."
Releasing IF can sometimes be an exercise in machocism, but I
personally rest a lot easier knowing that the game I didn't compromise
and took my lumps accordingly.

As an aside, some of the more amusing games I have played:

The aforementioned Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan (crazy point of
view, great "shock" value)
Knight Orc -- Almost a Three Stooges-type quality with the interaction
between non-player characters
I-0 -- some of the best responses to non-obvious commands
Jinxter -- sometimes the game seems like it's written in a completely
foreign language, but then you piece it together like pig latin
Kissing the Buddha's Feet -- great dialogue
Spellcasting 101: funny, and extremely clever which makes it funnier


-- Robb


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://ifiction.tsx.org
Knight Orc Home Page: www.geocities.com/~knightorc

Ben Wright

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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On Tue, 7 Mar 2000, Robb Sherwin wrote:

> On Mon, 6 Mar 2000 08:58:36 +0000, Ben Wright
> <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
> >If you try to put in too much humour, the jokes fall flat, but if you're
> >asking the player to suspend disbelief in a major way then you need some
> >indicator that it's meant to be amusing, and not just drivel.
>
> Well, that's the thing. A lot of the "funny" Infocom games were that
> way when you tried to do off-the-wall stuff, like kissing lean and
> hungry gentlemen or counting leaves. They let you make them "wacky."
>

Speaking of which, the default Hugo response in the library when you try
to burn something made me fall off my chair.

> I wouldn't say it's a forgone conclusion that too many jokes in a game
> makes them fall flat -- if you're funny and you can write text that
> leaves its player pissing themselves then there's never too much.
>
> Computer games have become pretty good at getting certain emotions out
> of their players -- joy, satisfaction, anger -- but very, very few of
> them can really be properly labled as "funny."
>

I think another factor is the nature of the puzzles; if you try to make
them 'funny' they can quickly become unsolvable. That approach can
work in LucasArts stuff, because of the visual cues, but in text
format I can't see it working. I've been trying to keep all the puzzles in
my thing completely normal, which is making the humour thing a sticking
point. It's not helping that I'm trying to build in other emotions that
demand a 'straight' approach. Maybe I should junk one or the other. At the
moment, though, I'm just concentrating on getting the guts of the game
together.

(I wrote my first custom verb yesterday, and boy am I proud. Up until
Thursday, I had only ever programmed in basic.)

> >My first project (since GAC on the Spectrum) is going to be a
> >semi-humorous thing with an adsurd central conceit. I make no claims as to
> >its quality.
>
> Just be confident... I found "Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan" to
> be extremely funny even though the author didn't really care if he
> couldn't spell very well or necessarily write coherent English
> sentences. I understood the lines he was trying to convey and the rage
> bottled up inside the dude made it seem appropriate that it wasn't
> written at an extremely high level of academia.
>

I suppose the point of the excercise is to make something entertaining to
play; and after that all other considerations are secondary.

> As someone who tried to write a funny game for the comp last year, I
> can give you this advice: don't hold back. Some people got the effect
> I was going for and found it mildly entertaining and some people
> thought it was a smug piece of drek. At the end of the day you're
> going to suceed in some people's eyes and "fail" in others. Not
> everyone has the same sense of humor (more, not everyone *has* a sense
> of humor) so you can't worry about keeping it "approachable."
> Releasing IF can sometimes be an exercise in machocism, but I
> personally rest a lot easier knowing that the game I didn't compromise
> and took my lumps accordingly.
>

True. I wrote an episodic story called Berserker Halibut from Mars, and
the reactions I got from that were either bored and puzzled disinterest or
adulation (within reason, anyway). To be honest, I coudn't give a flying
fudge what anyone else thought of it as long as I had fun writing it. The
same will probably be true of my IF.

J.D. Berry

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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In article <38c4a4aa.176444207@news>,

robb_s...@juno.com (Robb Sherwin) wrote:
>
> As someone who tried to write a funny game for the comp last year, I
> can give you this advice: don't hold back. Some people got the effect
> I was going for and found it mildly entertaining and some people
> thought it was a smug piece of drek. At the end of the day you're
> going to suceed in some people's eyes and "fail" in others. Not
> everyone has the same sense of humor (more, not everyone *has* a sense
> of humor) so you can't worry about keeping it "approachable."
> Releasing IF can sometimes be an exercise in machocism, but I
> personally rest a lot easier knowing that the game I didn't compromise
> and took my lumps accordingly.
>

I agree here. Some people are going to read your stuff and
say "what the *&^%? You suck." Others will think you're great. So,
it seems like if you're not doing this I-F thing professionally (and
maybe even if you are), you gotta write for yourself. Would you find
what you're writing enjoyable? If so, go with it.

Robb mentioned the Comp. Pretty much everyone got a 1 and everyone
got a 10. The same will be true when you beta test. You're going to
get comments back saying "what are you DOING? Give this up, now!"
(well, they will couch this in pleasant terms, but you will get the
idea what they think.) Still, their feedback will be important.
But some of those testers will enjoy what you're doing.

Masochism is right! But the sacrifice will be worth it.

Jim


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

The Solar Echo

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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Speaking of funny games we've played....

Did anyone reading this ever play "Bob's Quest"? (This text adventure was
written in basic, so sadly I haven't been able to play it since I've had
Windows 98. If anyone knows where I can find a version of it for TADS, Inform,
etc....then please tell me.)

"Bob's Quest" was probably the funniest game I ever played. I played it with a
friend and we spend an entire weekend clutching our sides and rolling around on
the floor.

I also thought "The Underoos that ate New York" was pretty funny too. And
certain moments of "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy".

An important thing to remember about trying to write humour is that you can't
force it. Don't write something funny because you'd like to write a humorous
game. Write something funny because you've got something humorous to say.
Your audiance can tell if it's forced or if it flows. The "ideal level of
humour" is the amount of humour that you've got trapped inside of you screaming
to get out.


((((((:. The Solar Echo .:))))))

Knight37

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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jcm...@uwaterloo.ca (Joe Mason) wrote:

>>- Add the occasional wisecrack to long descriptions
>
>This sounds like "parser humour", where the narrator is the one that
>makes funny and the game itself is serious. If you do this, you'd
>be best to give the parser a consistent voice and personality, so
>that when the quips do come they don't seem out of place. If you
>try to make the parser invisible (which is a good approach, usually)
>then the quips will stick out when they come.

A good example of this done right is the MST3K version of Detective.

--

Knight37

"When a man with a pistol meets a man with a rifle, the man with the
pistol is a dead man."
-- Ramone Rojo, "A Fist Full of Dollars"

Jonathan Blask

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Mar 7, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/7/00
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On Tue, 7 Mar 2000, J.D. Berry wrote:

> I agree here. Some people are going to read your stuff and
> say "what the *&^%? You suck." Others will think you're great. So,
> it seems like if you're not doing this I-F thing professionally (and
> maybe even if you are), you gotta write for yourself. Would you find
> what you're writing enjoyable? If so, go with it.
>
> Robb mentioned the Comp. Pretty much everyone got a 1 and everyone
> got a 10. The same will be true when you beta test. You're going to
> get comments back saying "what are you DOING? Give this up, now!"
> (well, they will couch this in pleasant terms, but you will get the
> idea what they think.) Still, their feedback will be important.
> But some of those testers will enjoy what you're doing.
>
> Masochism is right! But the sacrifice will be worth it.


Yeah, writing a game for yourself is key, IMO. With my comp game,
Death To My Enemies, I could see why many people didn't like it, because
in all honesty, it really wasn't done and probably shouldn't have been
submitted in the first place. Despite its flaws, I got several
compliments from people and it's just a tremendous satisfaction,
knowing that there's an audience for your brand of humor.
Some of my favorite comedic IF games are Everyone Loves A Parade,
the Frenetic Five games, and many of the SpeedIF games (most notably,
those by Dan Shiovitz).
To answer the original question, I guess I like my games saturated
with humor but as mentioned before, everyone will have a different
opinion.
P.S. In case anyone is wondering, I _am_ trying to fix DTME up.
Unfortunately, my work ethic needs quite some improvement. I can't wait
until I'm done with it with I can work on something else.
-jon
"If I got stranded on a desert island (with electricity)/
And I could bring one record and my hi-fi/
I'd bring that ocean surf cd (Relaxing Sound of Ocean Surf)/
So I could enjoy the irony." - Dylan Hicks


Juha Ekholm

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Mar 8, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/8/00
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On Mon, 6 Mar 2000 08:58:36 +0000, Ben Wright
<st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:

>Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
>I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?

Hitchhiker's guide to galaxy meets Piers Anthony.

Occasional humour, sometimes even very "gonzoic" combined with verbal
humour (which is typical to Anthony).


-- God's in his heaven, all's right with the world
[ quaz @ superstar . lpt . fi ]

Giles Boutel

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Mar 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/9/00
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"Juha Ekholm" <qu...@superstar.lpt.fi> wrote in message
news:38c60c4...@uutiset.saunalahti.fi...

> On Mon, 6 Mar 2000 08:58:36 +0000, Ben Wright
> <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> >Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
> >I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of humour?
>
> Hitchhiker's guide to galaxy meets Piers Anthony.

as in: There's a frood who really knows what colour her panties are.
Ick.


>
> Occasional humour, sometimes even very "gonzoic" combined with verbal
> humour (which is typical to Anthony).

An interesting categorisation - which I don't entirely agree with, as verbal
humour in this sense sense to indicate buns - which, as everyone knows, are
the lowest form of wheat. Though it does describe Spellcasting 101 quite
well.

-Giles, who will refrain from mentioning that he once wrote a game that some
folks reckoned was quite funny indeed, despite the fact the he got the first
emailed help request for it in years just the other day, because he's
feeling a bit shy.

Giles Boutel

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Mar 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/9/00
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"Giles Boutel" <gbo...@paradise.net.nz> wrote in message
news:95256886...@shelley.paradise.net.nz...

> humour in this sense sense to indicate buns - which, as everyone knows,
are

Seems. Seems to indicate buns. Bugger.

-Giles 'Edit THEN Proof' Boutel

Knight37

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Mar 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/9/00
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gbo...@paradise.net.nz (Giles Boutel) wrote:

>
>"Giles Boutel" <gbo...@paradise.net.nz> wrote in message
>news:95256886...@shelley.paradise.net.nz...
>
>> humour in this sense sense to indicate buns - which, as everyone
>> knows,
>are
>
>Seems. Seems to indicate buns. Bugger.

The REALLY funny thing is I automagically read "seems" in there and
didn't even notice the error until you pointed it out. :)

--

Knight37

"Hey You!
Don't tell me there's no hope at all!
Together we stand. Divided we fall."
-- Pink Floyd, "Hey You"

Quentin D. Thompson

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Mar 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/12/00
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In article <Pine.OSF.3.96.100030...@alpha3.csd.uwm.edu>,

Opinion seconded. I once wrote a game in AGT called "Myopia" which I think
was the funniest thing I've ever done to date (well, until my upcoming
DragonComp entry if I get it done on time), but it sank without a ripple. I
don't know whether it has something to do with AGT, or with the fact that the
humour fell flat, but it's still one of the best pick-me-ups on my hard
drive. And I guess that's important. Writing a game that's serious (or, at
least, not an explicit farce) and adding funny bits can bring mixed results:
I know this from personal experience, as I did this in my Comp99 entry, and
while some reviewers found it merely annoying, others found it hilarious. A
good example of a game that's consistently humorous (though not at the
side-splitting level but still works at the pure IF level would be Firebird,
but I'll discuss that game at greater length later.) Frankly, I like my games
with a good dose of humour: give me a signpost that says "King Arthur's Night
Out" one way and "Photopia" the other, and I'm quite likely to take the
former way. But then, I'm a confirmed eccentric :) What's important, I think,
is - as an author - never to take yourself _too_ seriously ("Exhibition" .vs.
"Shrapnel", anyone?) and if humour's a part of that, more power to it. As
Gene Kelly would probably say, make 'em laugh.


--
Quentin D. Thompson
Thane of Halo
Arms: A red six-pack with two koalas rampant

Philip Goetz

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Mar 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/22/00
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:8a0gq8$ii$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net...

> Ben Wright <st...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
> >
> > <Waves a sign with 'newbie' written on it>
> >
> > Not a technical question, but more of a stylistic one.
> > I you're writing a humorous adventure, what is the ideal level of
humour?
>
> How full is a glass of water?

Funny, I always think in terms of how empty they are.

Phil Goetz
pgo...@i-a-i.com


Philip Goetz

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Mar 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/22/00
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Knight37 <knig...@gamespotmail.com> wrote in message
news:8EF088ACBknigh...@209.30.0.14...

> "When a man with a pistol meets a man with a rifle, the man with the
> pistol is a dead man."
> -- Ramone Rojo, "A Fist Full of Dollars"

Did you ever watch that movie through to its end, K37?

;)

Phil


Philip Goetz

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Mar 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/22/00
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Robb Sherwin <robb_s...@juno.com> wrote in message
news:38c4a4aa.176444207@news...

> Computer games have become pretty good at getting certain emotions out
> of their players -- joy, satisfaction, anger -- but very, very few of
> them can really be properly labled as "funny."
>

> -- Robb

I would say just the opposite -- computer IF has done a great job at
being funny, but a poor job of evoking joy, satisfaction, anger, or drama.
Infocom's games were famously funny -- even the serious games had
humorous responses. LucasArt's games are mostly funny.

Phil


J. Holder

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Mar 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/23/00
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Philip Goetz <pgo...@i-a-i.com> scribed:

> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
>>

>> How full is a glass of water?

> Funny, I always think in terms of how empty they are.

All recognize the full glass as full,
but only because of emptiness.
Therefore fullness and emptiness produce each other.

Therefore the sage acts without doing anything,
and drinks without saying anything.
Glasses arise, and he lets them come;
glasses dissappear and he lets them go.

When the glass is drained, he forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

--
John Holder (jho...@frii.com) http://www.frii.com/~jholder/


Giles Boutel

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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"J. Holder" <jho...@io.frii.com> wrote in message
news:oRqC4.63$BN.188...@news.frii.net...

>
> When the glass is drained, he forgets it.
> That is why it lasts forever.

Yeah - I can't remember a damn thing I drank last night either.

-Giles

Knight37

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Mar 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/27/00
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pgo...@i-a-i.com (Philip Goetz) wrote:

>Knight37 <knig...@gamespotmail.com> wrote


>> "When a man with a pistol meets a man with a rifle, the man with the
>> pistol is a dead man."
>> -- Ramone Rojo, "A Fist Full of Dollars"
>
>Did you ever watch that movie through to its end, K37?

Many times. It's a great flick. One of my favorites.

--

Knight37

"One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity" -- Rush "The Spirit of Radio"

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