Janet and Loaf discuss the culpability of inter-dimensional hookups, how to avoid ritual combat when everyone else is doing it, and check in with Frankie for a ruling on the rights of celebrity pets.
Announcer: This is IFM 2.
Computer Voice: You’re listening to a program on IFM 2 Subspace Radio. The time is now half past irrelevant. Coming up next is Solutions to Problems.
Theme Song plays.
Janet: Welcome back sapient beings of all shapes and sizes! This is Janet Clarke, here with my tentacular co-host Loaf for another thrilling episode of Solutions to Problems.
Loaf: I am also here! I can confirm today’s episode is indeed thrilling- as thrilling as the mudpit tournaments on Scroomlous 5. And by saying these words, I also confirm that I am, indeed, here.
Janet: Thanks, Loaf. People do sometimes doubt that we’re actually here and not just AI programs. Well, as an AI program we would still be here, I think? It depends on what your notion is of “here” and also “being” and also.... Solutions to Problems is the show where we tackle the various scruples that you may encounter in your quotidian existence. If you have a problem that you’d like us to tackle, you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you could orchestrate an amazing laser show in our cafeteria using the universal language of interpretive dance.
Loaf: Is it really universal though if its only open to beings with bodies that are capable of moving?
Janet: Oh. Uh. No, no it is… not. Well, I mean, lasers? They could just like, use the lasers, to… dance… the show… UGH. OKAY. YOU WIN. Nothing is universal. Not death! Or taxation! Or emotional labor! Or gender! Or timelines! Or bodies! Or even the variety of motion capable between similar bodies!
Loaf: I would say one universal thing that every species does have is… problems! Every species has problems. Let’s try and solve one, shall we?
Janet: Um, right. Let’s.. Do that. Our first letter is from a scientist in training or something.
Dear Janet and Periwinkle:
I’m a grad student studying some pretty weird stuff, and I’ve found myself in weirder situation with my lab partner, let’s call her Kelly, and her boyfriend (let’s call him.. Fred.) Anyway, Kelly and I were working on a project one night and we kind of accidentally trapped ourselves in a slowly collapsing pocket dimension where time moved at a completely different rate. From our perspective, we were trapped there for about six months? Apparently from an outside perspective it was like four or five hours. Fred noticed that Kelly hadn’t come home when she said she would and went looking for us, and was able to alert a professor who knew enough to free us. If he hadn’t we definitely both would have died, which is what we were pretty sure was going to happen when we started sleeping together.
I mean, c’mon, wouldn’t you? We knew the pocket dimension was collapsing and we had no reason to hope we could be rescued. There was nothing to do from inside the dimension to get us out, and really not much to do at all other than have lots and lots of sex. Which we did. The problem is, she doesn’t want to tell Fred we hooked up, especially since he saved our lives and all, but the guilt is eating me up. Fred and I are pretty good friends, and these days I feel like I can barely look at him. I don’t have any desire to pursue a relationship with Kelly, I just think we should be honest about what happened. But she seems to think it didn’t count since we were in a different plane of existence. What can I do? Is my friendship with Fred over?
Collapsing from Guilt
Janet: Uh huh. Well, I think the easiest solution is for you to hook up with Fred and complete the circle.
Loaf: My interpretation of this letter is that Collapsing comes from a culture where relationships are assumed to be exclusive. It could be there is some other reason their relationship with Kelly is a cultural taboo, but given the context I think its a safe assumption.
Janet: Kelly and Fred could’ve also explicitly decided that they’re exclusive. Presumably Collapsing would have known that.
Loaf: Sometimes our letter writers have a tendency to assume facts about their species are common to everyone and don’t need to be explained. But it’s okay. All we need to know to answer the question is that Collapsing feels they violated their friend’s trust. Presumably Kelly also violated some sort of agreement, but does not appear to feel the same sense of guilt about it.
Janet: Oh I don’t think Kelly doesn’t feel guilty. I think it’s more likely that Kelly feels very guilty and is scared that Fred will end their relationship if he finds out, which is why the obvious answer is for Collapsing to seduce Fred and make everything even.
Loaf: Well, for everything to be truly even they’d have to lure Fred into a pocket dimension first.
Janet: Yeah, you know it’s actually not that hard to lure someone into a pocket dimension with a little planning, but what if Collapsing doesn’t want to have a six month long pocket dimension affair with Fred too? A one night stand honestly should be enough. Like, a one night stand is about 5-6 hours anyway, which is how long they were in the pocket dimension, relatively.
Loaf: Well, “night” is not really a consistent measurement of time. For example, Gargutan only makes one total rotation every 200 human years, so a one-night-stand there means a life-long relationship.
Janet: *sighs deeply* Night being the metaphorical equivalent to one human sleep cycle, which is 6 to 10 hours depending on the human. This job is teaching me about specificity of language in a way that I really am not enjoying. I mean, I love having to think about what I say! I love my job, Mr. Xorfus. I am very happy to be working on such an enjoyable enterprise.
Loaf: …. Right. I suppose we should also consider a scenario where Collapsing doesn’t want to have sexual relations with Fred. One thing I’ve learned doing this job is that not every sentient being is attracted to every other sentient being. Some cultures have very confusing rules about such things.
Janet: That’s a great point. Most sentient beings are repulsive. I guess if the seduction plan seems bad, that they should just talk it out? Collapsing should have one talk with Kelly and get any awkwardness out of the way. Like, oh, it was just a shared trauma thing, and we’re cool now, I have to tell your boyfriend, and then they can both tell Fred.
Loaf: It is important that you tell Fred eventually. This is never going to go away on its own.
Janet: Hopefully, Fred will understand that you were very convinced you were going to die and that it was a one time thing. The worst thing that happens is that you ruin your friendship with both of them, but if you keep ignoring them you will still ruin your friendship with both of them!
Loaf: Waiting won’t make this any easier. But if you do have to wait, then it's a good thing you’re capable of manipulating the rate at which time passes subjectively. Speaking of which, we should address Kelly’s claim that it’s not cheating if happens in a different universe. My feeling is that as long as it's not a different version of you, it still counts.
Janet: Really, it doesn’t matter if Kelly thinks it counts if you think it counts. It’s always important to be on the same page with someone about what counts as cheating and what doesn’t, especially if you’re frequently in other dimensions or like, maybe you’re swapped with an alternate you sometimes and ANYWAY, the real issue is that you’re uncomfortable, and you want to come clean, so I guess you should do that.
Loaf: I love it when people answer the question themselves in their letters. It almost feels like cheating. At our jobs. Not in our relationships.
Janet: Really? I think it just shows an acute lack of self awareness on their parts. Or an unwillingness to do something uncomfortable in favor of some magical advice show answer that can fix everything while also being very easy.
Loaf: If only we had someone on our show who could just snap her fingers and solve all the problems - oh wait, we tried that last week and it was terrible.
Janet: It was the worst. I really want her to stop showing up in the break room! Anyway, I think this problem is as solved as it’s going to get, which is to say: not at all. Good luck Collapsing-from-Guilt!
Loaf: Our next question is a bit of a departure for us… it’s going to be an interesting one. Let’s hear it.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
I'm the owner of an intergalactic pet palace on the planet Kapsackia, and most of my social outreach on the hypernet involves posting pictures of my new pets. I've had such an influx of donations lately that I've started teaching the pets to take their own selfies. As you are likely aware, people love cute pictures of baby snurblatches, and some snurblatches have become hypernet celebrities. One of my snurblatches, Ghostcabbage, is so popular that we've cloned him 87 times, and he's been used in countless advertisements. The problem is that his lawyer claims that Ghostcabbage owns the copyright to all his selfies, and therefore all the revenue from the advertising. I've argued that since all snurblatches are Level 12 Buddhists, they believe that the self is an illusion, and copyright can not exist without the self. This has made me the scorn of every snurblatch lover on the hypernet. I’ve been getting hatemail and hatecabbage every day for the past couple months. How can I escape this situation with my business and reputation intact?
Janet: I. LOVE. SNURBLATCHES. I follow your hypernet profiles. I have a picture of Ghostcabbage as my e-mail signature. This is so exciting. Also, I think you’re a trash person who steals from innocent snurblatches and you’re BAD and you should feel BAD about it.
Loaf: I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification. First off, the sapience of Snurblatches is still a subject of quite a bit of debate in the galactic sphere. As are the rights of clones. And the ownership of selfies. Actually the galactic sphere can’t really agree on anything.
Janet: The galactic sphere is a different thing than the galactic murder sphere, right?
Loaf: Yes, Janet. The galactic sphere is the intergalactic culture everyone on the hypernet participates in. The Galactic Murder sphere is a literal giant metal sphere that destroys planets.
Janet: I definitely knew that. Is this a Frankie question?
Loaf: It is a question with legal implications and requiring some species-specific knowledge. I think it falls within Frankie’s purview. Or should I say purrrr-view.
Janet: Is it appropriate to make jokes about her ears like that? *away from the mic* Can you go get Frankie for us, please?
Gerald: makes noises
Janet: Yes I’m allowed to talk to you!
Gerald: makes noises
Janet: Who said I wasn’t allowed to ask interns to do things, that’s sort of the point of interns? Why did I petition to get interns if I’m not allowed to ask them for things?
Gerald: makes noises
Loaf: There was a memo, Janet. You’ll get your intern privileges back when Mr. Xorfus is satisfied you won’t abuse them. The privileges, not the interns. Well, one sort of implies the other I guess. Anyway, Gerald, would you please go get Frankie?
Gerald: wah wah
Janet: I DON’T KNOW WHY THEY TOOK IT THAT WAY! I DID NOT SAY ANYTHING INAPPROPRIATE! I CHECKED WITH MY PHONE FIRST. IF THEY COULDN’T TAKE A LITTLE NIHILISM WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN ENTERTAINMENT- oh, Frankie’s here!
Frankie: Um, hi guys. Gerald said you wanted me?
Janet: We have a letter about the snurblatches kerfuffle.
Frankie: Oh, that thing with the selfies? Wow, he must be really desperate to write into an intergalactic syndicated radio show. Especially since anything he said in that letter is admissible in court.
Loaf: By the way Frankie did you do something different with your tail? It looks… silkier.
Frankie: No. Same product I always use. So, with the snurblatches, his best bet is probably to give the snurblatches a reasonable cut of the revenue. He can argue all he wants that he pays their snurblatchel rent and does their distribution, but at the end of the day he’s still making a disproportionate amount of money off their labor.
Loaf: What does the law say about copyright having to involve a self? I have met some Level 12 Buddhists in my lives, and they are adamant about not having a self. They have little to no possessions, and live together in simple communes.
Frankie: Even if they’re Level 12 Buddhists, Snurblatches are unable to argue for their own sapience in court, which means that they can’t argue that they are actually Level 12 Buddhists and not just, you know, Level 10 or 11.
Janet: But like, Ghostcabbage definitely deserves more money for his selfies. He makes his own snurblachats! HIS OWN. LITTLE. SNURBLACHATS.
Loaf: Are we just talking about the original Ghostcabbage here, or are the 87 clones also participating in the lawsuit?
Janet: Oh, sorry. I should’ve clarified. All the Ghostcabbages are in the lawsuit, but only Ghostcabbage #12 through 35 make their own Snurblatchats. At least, according to the Snurblatches message boards. They all post to the same accounts, so we don’t really know for sure which ones do what.
Frankie: There are a few case precedents for this on different planets. The most interesting case was a series of semi-sapient succulents who managed to get the copyright to cross-stitch patterns made in their image, but did not get the copyright to the actual images, which were produced by their Tsitri owners. However, this is the first one of these cases to get widespread media coverage, so that’s definitely affecting how it’s being handled by the lawyers.
Loaf: I’m curious as to why you wrote in to us, Selfless? Were you hoping we could use our celebrity to influence the court? Because, I hate to break this to you, but our celebrity is marginal at best.
Janet: Oh, that’s true. I almost got recognized once, but then it turns out they thought I was the actress from those shoe ads that are really popular on Jupiter.
Loaf: Wait, that isn’t you in those ads?
Janet: Not this me! One time, though, I was talking really loudly in a grocery store and someone rolled their eyes and muttered something about the show! So, like, that’s very nearly marginal fame.
Frankie: I get several fan letters every time you guys ask me to be on the show. One of them was even a proposal.
Janet: You know, I think we’re done with this question! Clearly this is a matter out of our hands.
Loaf: I think if you look deep within yourself and think about why you got involved with snurblatches in the first place, you’ll know what the right thing to do is. And if you do the right thing, your customers will appreciate it.
Janet: He could also just become a Level 12 Buddhist. Then he just won’t care about the money! There. Problem solved. Frankie, thank you for your time or whatever. We’re done here. Go back to the important things that you do that we are very grateful for. *Muttering* yes Mr. Xorfus I SEE you I *am* being Nice you can Stop Waving.
Frankie: Uh, sure. Bye, everyone. Please don’t send any more proposals. It was kind of weird.
Human broadcaster! Non-human broadcaster whose name keeps changing and whose species’ name I can’t pronounce! I beseech your aid!
I am from Raknos Seven. I know, from listening to your program, that you have been to my world. So you know how important ritual combat is to us. We use it for basically everything. Don’t like your boss? Ritual combat! Emotionally distant boyfriend? Ritual Combat! We don’t have advice shows like yours because if we did the host would just say “ritual combat” to every question until one host got bored and challenged the other host to ritual combat. And if it’s not ritual combat its devouring. We’re really big on devouring here. Anyway, my problem is I don’t like ritual combat. I don’t like watching it, I don’t like fighting in it, I don’t like having a new boss every two weeks because of all the ritual combat. It’s not that I’m bad at it - I’m very good at it, I basically slaughter everyone who crosses my path. But I’m bored. I’m so bored and I’m tired. I just wish my people would adopt other forms of conflict resolution. But I’m afraid suggesting that will just lead to lots of ritual combat, and I don’t think I have that in me. What should I do?
Ritually Run-down on Raknos VII
Loaf: I can relate to this one, certainly. I think it's definitely possible to be proud of your culture and generally supportive of it while still realizing certain aspects of it have got to change. Sometimes you just have to take a stand for what you believe. Say, I’m not going to warm those eggs for eleven months with my feet. We have incubators for that now! You know?
Janet: Do you have to stand on the eggs for the whole eleven months? Also, you have feet?
Loaf: Feet is the closest translation in your language. And no, you don’t stand on them, that would crush them. You use your feet to pedal the kinetic-powered heating unit.
Janet: Oh. Well. I’m… sure you get a lot of exercise? I would also opt for the incubator.
Loaf: Some people on my planet can’t understand the difference between biologically mandated behaviors and unnecessary traditions, and of course it's the third proto-husbands who get the short end of the spatula.
Janet: Is um, is a kinetic-powered heating unit biologically mandated?
Loaf: No! It could be powered by anything. I’m sorry. We’re getting off track.
Janet: Right, ritual combat. While I think that sounds like a swell time, I could understand not wanting to brutally slaughter your co-workers every time there’s a minor dispute in the office. If you’re open to moving to a different planet, that might circumvent some of the cultural isolation you’re feeling. It doesn’t fix the problem, but you would be removed from it.
Loaf: Raknos V, for example, settles all their disputes through rap battles. And instead of devouring, they just nibble.
Janet: And then there’s Raknos II which settles all their disputes using a variety of methods that I think is determined by the color of the sky that day? The most common, for a deep red sky, is of course, rock, axe-sword, telepad.
Loaf: You can’t be the only Raknosian who feels this way, though. Typically, when social change happens in a society, it happens because a significant number of individuals come together to demand it. That’s how third protohusbands got the right to use kinetic heaters in the first place hundreds of years ago.
Janet: That’s true. Check your local hypernet listings for ritual combat support groups, maybe? I’m sure there are other people who feel bored by the constant murdering. No one is ever truly unique.
Loaf: When I was on Raknos VII I don’t remember hearing anything about anti-ritual combat groups, but there was a group that wanted the ritual combats to be fought until one combatant was maimed instead of dead. I think that movement ended when its leader was killed in ritual combat though. Yes, it did! I remember now. He actually won the combat, but refused to kill his opponent because that would make him a hypocrite. So he just kind of stood there, not knowing what to do, until the crowd got so bored waiting for the fight to end that one of them just ran up on stage and stabbed both of them. This… may not be the most encouraging story.
Janet: It's definitely not, but it is a good reminder that if an issue is important to you, to see if there are any local political groups advocating it. And if not, consider starting one yourself!
Loaf: Just know who to approach about it, and be prepared for some murdering if you judge someone incorrectly.
Janet: How do they maintain a population? It seems like almost everyone gets killed in ritual combat.
Loaf: A combination of high birth rate and immigration. To alot of people on the other Raknosian planets, life on Raknos VII sounds… exciting.
Janet: Not exactly how I’d describe it but sure. I’m sure they do.
Loaf: Well, I think that’s about all we have time for. I really do wish you luck, Ritually Run-down. I hope you can find some sort of peace, either by changing the culture, getting away, or being devoured by something. Really that’s what I hope for all our listeners.
Janet: It’s a lovely sentiment, Loaf.
Loaf: Goodbye, gentle listeners.
Solutions to Problems was created by and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Season two was written by Austin, Nathan and Michael. Our theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Frankie is Valerie Loveland. The voice of Gerald is *makes noise* This episode’s letters were read by Dave McKenna, Grace Kufner, and Levi Comstock. There’s more information about us at stppodcast.com, also Janet and Loaf appeared on the latest episode of the podcast “How to Listen to Music in the 22nd Century” The episode is called “A Package Arrives pt. I”. Check it out! We’ll be back again in two weeks- see you then.
Loaf: It really didn’t look silkier to you?
Janet: Even if it did, I definitely wouldn’t admit that Frankie or her tail are resplendent.
Loaf: I just want to know what conditioner she’s using.
Janet: You don’t have fur!
Loaf: Not this molt.