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Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 09:25:27 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) Jonas's joke, Roy's fembot

Roy quoted me and wrote:
>>In the joke that Jonas tells, a woman interviews three sailors to find out
>>what each one wants the most.  The first says power, the second says
>>(social) polish, and the third says love.
>>The woman laughs and says that they are all robots.  The first sailor says
>>that is true, and he can see how she figured it out from the first two
>>answers, since power and polish are things all robots look for, but he
>>couldn't figure out how she detected a robot in the third answer.
>>She says it is because she began life by looking for power and polish and
>>wound up just like the third sailor.  Then the woman and the third sailor
>>go off for a drink and neither of them ever came back to the ship.
>So what is the joke? We know that Wolfe has a warped sense of humor, and
>that Jonas is telling the joke. It only dawned on me today that the woman's
>last line is also the punch line. We've heard this joke before, in PEACE.
>The one Weer told Lois: "I knew we were mechanical engineers, but I didn't
>think we'd wind up like this."
>She's a robot, too.

Well, yes, that is a possible funny answer to it . . . and it does put an
extra twist . . . and it is a nice tie to the joke in PEACE . . .

But hang on a second!  The context of the joke must be expanded a bit: in
TBOTNS, Severian the backwater bumpkin knew Jonas was a sailor, but what he
did not know was that (star) sailor = robot (more often than not), which is
why he was surprised to finally learn that the prosthetics were the
bio-bits rather than the metal parts.

Readers of "These Are The Jokes" are assumed to have already read TBOTNS,
and thus are expected, I assume, to be on equal footing with the woman
conducting the poll (i.e., she knows and we know that sailors = robots).
For example the robotic sailors in URTH look as much like a bio as a full
suit of plate armor -- there is no mistaking them!

When she laughs and says they are all robots, it can be taken as meaning
not "I have deduced from your responses that you are all chems" (which is
how the first sailor says he takes it, slyly or not), but rather the Roy C.
Lackey  attitude of "How can a bunch of chems like yourselves have such
lofty, bio-seeming goals?"

I think the joke plays on the ambiguities of "power" and "polish" when
applied to bios and non-clever tools like chainsaws and toasters.  And the
first sailor is slyly trying to trick the woman into making bio-centric
statements, i.e., anti-robot prejudices, but we are told she is a quick
thinker and she slips through the trap by claiming their desires as her
own, and thus the equality of chem and bio desires.



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