03 February 2009

The Infinite Monkeys Make Me an Offer

I thought I'd seen the last of Eric and infinite band of monkeys. I have to admit that the place was pretty quiet without the gentle clacking of those infinite keyboards drifting downstairs from the back bedroom. The cats definitely missed the band and were sulking under the bed and behind the furniture.

I was flipping through the band's typescript of "Titus Andronicus" and wondering yet again if Shakespeare, once he was elevated to full cosmic bardness, ever tried to track down all the copies and burn them. I was dozing in my chair when a gentle tap at the window drew my attention. Eric was there, knee deep in the snow, his huge smile and sparkling black eyes a welcome sight. Jumping up from my chair, I ran to the door and rushed the cold, wet monkeys into the den.

I bustled about and in a few minutes Eric and the band were comfortably sitting by the fire, warm blankets around their shoulders, and each had a purring cat nestled in their lap.

As usual Eric spoke for the band. He was the only one I ever talked with. I had the impression that they all could talk, but he was the only one who wanted to talk to me. Most of the band treated me as a kindly, but ineffectual, chimp. Eric, late one night, relaxing after we'd had a successful day's work, told me that he liked me because I reminded of his brother. Turns out his brother was considered "a little slow" by the other chimps, but he was friendly and well-liked. All things considered, I was flattered.

After we'd eaten and were working our way through a third bottle of wine (the band isn't choosy, any red is fine with them), Eric got around to why they'd returned. They were just north of Toledo and Frank showed Eric a newspaper he found at the truck stop where they'd stopped for some water and chocolate chip cookies. He pointed to a interview with Sarah Palin. It looked familiar to him, and wanted to know if Eric recognized it. Eric read it and agreed that there was something familiar about it.

He and Frank shared the interview with the tribe. There was a general murmuring laid over the the munching of cookies. Eric shared his plan with the band and, nodding agreement, they left the truck stop and headed back up 75 to Detroit.

Eric asked me if I still had the pages they'd typed in our Infinite Monkey Experiment. Of course I did, I told him. I was still analyzing the data, and then I had to write up the findings. The manuscript was to be published in a Festschrift for Ko-Ko, due out next spring. He & I went up to the library and began flipping through the 2, 389 volumes the band produced.

The material was chronologically listed, which was helpful, as Eric's excellent memory helped narrow our search to volumes 1,568 through 1,903. As we sat side by side at a battered library table I'd rescued from the dumpster at one of the universities I'd worked at, Eric patiently turned the pages at a brisk, steady pace.

He solved one mystery for me right away. Volume 1,573, pages 45-47 consisted of "ZX" repeated over and over. Once I'd worked out the odds of this occurring in a transcript generated by an infinite number of monkeys, I thought I had one hell of statistical puzzle to explain. When he saw the pages, Eric laughed so hard he started coughing and then he doubled over. His long arm reached under the table and scooped something in his large hand and held it for me to see. It was Zena, a long haired, black and white cat, whose small size in no way influences her assumption that the universe is here to do her bidding. Eric scratched her gently under the chin and she glared at him, her ears flattened. Her fierce show was undermined by the loud rumbling of her purring. Eric carefully extended her paw to the key board and it neatly covered the Z and X keys. But why, I asked him, why did you let her stand there for almost three pages? He shrugged and said that she semed to like it and she wasn't hurting anyone.

In volume 1,788, Eric found it. He delicately unfolded the article that Frank had recovered and laid it next to the open volume. There it was, word-for-word, Palin's answers in the interview. Eric tapped the date of the newspaper. The monkey's work was three weeks before the interview.

I was astounded, but then I explained to Eric that these findings supported the Infinite Monkey Theorem. He shook his head and closed my notebook. Slowly he lifted his hand up to my face and rubbed his thumb against the pads of first two fingers. A sly grin crept over his face. I have a plan that will make all of us rich, he told me. Just sit back and listen.

His plan was brilliant. He showed me five instances in one volume alone where the band had randomly typed long passages of speeches, interviews, and op-ed pieces from Jim Bunning, Karl Rove, Jesse Shelby, John Boehner, and Sarah Palin, of course. All were typed by the monkeys before they delivered by the Repubs. Eric's plan was simple - get the boys to work, sort through the mess and cat contributions and pick out the stuff that sounds like an identifiable GOP pol. Then we sell the words to them. You mean, you and boys would become the speechwriters for the Righties?, I asked? And Zena, he added smiling broadly .

I was stunned. I was in this for the science, not the money - although funding was always an issue, and if it worked, I'd be free from grant writing. I asked him for convincing proof.

He looked my in the eye and then reached for volume 2,001. He flipped through the pages, and stopped on page 357. He picked up a pencil and drew a box around the following lines:
The American people are beginning to figure out what this package is that its not a stimulus package its a spending package
He spun my laptop around, quickly ran through several google searches. With a flourish, he double-clicked and then spun lap top around where I could see it. On the screen was a picture of a familiar white-haired man above this quote:
"The American people are beginning to figure out what this package is, that it's not a stimulus package -- it's a spending package," said Sen. John McCain.
OK, I thought, this is getting creepy. I looked at Eric for an explanation. He just shrugged, the way only monkeys and the French can. I shook my head, wondering if it was the wine, or something, anything, but what it appeared to be.

Eric raised his index finger to bring me back to the moment. He reached into the canvas bag he kept slung over his shoulder and pulled out a small rectangle of paper, which he handed to me. It was a check for $2,500 from Senator John McCain to IMH&Z inc.

And that was how Infinite Monkeys, Human, and Zena, inc. became the primary speech writers for the GOP. The infinite monkey's bang away one the key boards, Eric snips out the bits that match various GOP voices, and I add the punctuation. Zena steps on the keyboard when she feels like, adding to the randomness of the typing (as much as adding to randomness is possible.) Eric also handles sales. He has a way with Righties.

After the bruising defeat at the polls in 2008, the Right needed a new voices. Thanks to IMH&Z, they have found them.

02 February 2009

Testing the Infinite Monkey Theorem

Some have claimed that an infinite number of monkeys banging on keyboards for an infinite amount of time would produce all written works including the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I have decided to test this claim.

I cut a deal with a band of chimps from Ontario who where passing through Michigan to look for work in the Sun Belt. That's Eric in front, a great monkey.

They agreed to wait out the winter in my spare room and bang away on keyboards for eight hours a day (with an hour for lunch, and fifteen minute breaks every two hours - so back off PETA) in exchange for room and board. I expected that they'd want bananas, but it turns out that Eric's allergic. So it's melons for him, casabas are his favorite. The others shrug of the stereotype and go for the bananas.


Well, it's been two weeks, and the results are in. I don't have an infinite amount of time and the cats are playing hell with Eric's allergies, so we've ended the experiment. The band has headed southwest, aiming for the Mississippi. I gave them a GPS device I was given this past Christmas, the numbers of some people to look up in St. Louis, and wished them well.

The band worked hard, they put in their time, but no "Complete Works of Shakespeare." I think that if they'd been able to stay a few more weeks, they'd have churned out "Hamlet." The theory remains unproven, but I can report that five monkeys banging on keyboards eight hours a day for three weeks will produce "Titus Andronicus." The monkeys asked me not to report that finding (they had hoped for the Henriad), but facts is facts.