My name is Barsoom Tork, and I'm an Anthropologist from Mars.
I came down to Earth about 75 years ago to study a curious life form known as Homo Schleppians. That's what they call themselves, anyway. Homo Schleppians, the Being Who Thinks. Which surprised us, since they're Made of Meat.
What we learned from studying this species of Meat That Thinks is that they have two curious properties worth mentioning here. The first curious property is that most of them seem to have the ability to learn. You heard me. They actually acquire new knowledge as they age. Nifty feature, eh? As the meat ages, it gets smarter to boot. The other curious property is that nigh on to all of them have this intriguing feature that they call emotions.
I was documenting all this in my Anthropologist's Journal when one of my Evaluators back on Mars asked me a disturbing question. "Barsoom," he asked, "what is the correlation between those two features — emotions and learning? Do they appear in synchrony or are they independent and unrelated?"
Well, I wasn't ready for that question. I could tell that learning was slowly taking place as the meat aged, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the moment when it occured. And this emotions business wasn't much better. I could see that these critters had emotions, but it was hard to say exactly when they arose. The display of emotions often began at odd times, making me think they had been present for some time but concealed from view.
For the longest time we were puzzled by this tantalizing mystery — what was the connection, if any, between emotions and learning? And then something useful happened which made my job on this big wet rock a whole lot easier. These Homo Schleppians began forming groups using a technology that we could easily tap and monitor. They began playing games and having conversations using something they called The Internet. Now we had some data. Bigtime data.
Well, to make a long story short, we analyzed the data 17 ways from Tuesday (I say Tuesday and not Sunday, 'cuz Tuesday is named for my home planet), and sure enough a lovely model popped out and smacked me in the forehead. I call it the Four Quadrant Model. That's just a code name for it, in case the Earthlings get wind of it. They'll figure it's just some map from Star Trek and think nothing more of it. Anyway, we filed our report with the MSF (Martian Science Foundation) which told MIT (Martian Institute of Technology) to get cracking on this new theory. So now there's a whole posse of us working on the problem. Which I must say is a pretty decent day job.
By night I pretend to be a piano player and poet in one of those playful Internet groups. No pay, but I must say it's a lot of fun, despite the occasional forays into anguish, dread, anger, boredom, annoyance, weariness, and frustration. I'm even learning some of their music, most of which is dreadful. But some of it is quite sprightly, charming, and even moving. I was practicing a Shaker hymn a few weeks ago which frankly moved me to tears. And oh, those appoggiaturas! How they send me!
Please be sure to visit my Shizznatomatic Music Repository.
Barsoom's Vogon Poetry
Give us some poetry
Some barsooming laughs
Ironic twists and T-shirts of fat
Expound on the past and
Delve into the noon
Recursive extensions of
Mars' spinning moons
I offer some verse
Some pratfalls and gaffs
A no-irony T-Shirt
(all cotton that lasts)
Harken back to your terrors
And act out your fears
As Phobos and Deimos
Dance their duprass
With plenty of foma and
A smidgeon of class