Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #38

November 30th, 2009 by Wordsman


“Feast your eyes upon that, Matthew . . . and, er, Madam!  Florence!  The City of Flowers!  A simple, peaceful nickname designed to convince people that this is an innocent, harmless country town, with no more influence on world politics than a humble sheep farm.  And yet, this Second City of Italy hides within its walls a secret, a secret that few have discovered and fewer still have lived to tell.  Yes, Florence may be second to Rome in population.  Yes, it may be second to Rome in prestige.  But in power, it is first!

“Those who are gullible enough to believe the official reports disagree.  They say that Rome is the one and only capital of Italy, and that it has been ever since the country was founded after the Black Plague brought down the Roman Empire in 31 BC.  And, on the surface, they would appear to be right.

“Certainly, to the untrained observer, Rome seems to be the most likely candidate for the job.  All the trappings of power are there.  The Maximum Circus, the only place where Messala and Judah Ben-Hur could finally settle their age-old feud.  The Colosseum, the heart of the judicial system, where millions of criminals were put to death every year as punishment for their heinous crimes.  St. Peter’s Square, the base of the Catholic Church since time immemorial.

“But what these fools forget is that these things were all in the past.  Sure, Rome looks like the capital, and it was . . . many millennia ago!  Today, there is only one true capital of Italy, and its name is Florence!

“The story begins in the Renaissance.  A young man named Machiavelli de Medici lived a quiet life here with his family.  But while things may sometimes appear to be quiet in Florence, they never stay that way for long.  The Medici family was betrayed by their rivals, the Paparazzi.  Every member of the family was arrested on trumped-up charges, led through the town in disgrace, and then executed.

“Every member, that is, except Machiavelli.  This young man swore on the family grave that he would have revenge, but his revenge would not be on the Paparazzi alone.  Machiavelli dreamed big.  Clearing his family’s name was not enough.  Destroying those responsible was not enough.  Ruling all of Florence was not enough!  Machiavelli did not rest until he had used his international network of assassins to seize control of all of Italy!  Ever since then, this soft underbelly of Europe has been ruled by the tough gut of the Medici.

“Of course, it goes without saying that Machiavelli’s greatest confidant in his endeavors was none other than Leonardo da Vinci, mastermind behind every great conspiracy, past, present, and future.

“Now, to properly tell the story of Machiavelli de Medici would take days, but I will do my best to sum up the most important parts now . . .”

“Your friend enjoys giving these speeches very much, yes?”

“Very much indeed,” Matthew responded.  “He is, however, the only one that does.”  The sheer quantity of misinformation made Matthew so dizzy it was a wonder he didn’t pitch forward and roll all the way down the dome to his death.  He was pressing himself back against the wall as strongly as he could, but in that tight space it was impossible to get too far away from the edge.

The other tourists up there did not appear to be about to collapse, but the looks on their faces made it quite clear that they did not appreciate the speech any more than Matthew did.  Most of them probably could not understand what Jack was saying (Matthew spoke the same language, and he couldn’t understand what his friend was saying), but the noise level was bad enough.  Jack had lost his personal volume control down the proverbial couch cushions at a young age, and he had never bothered to go looking for it.

“He has a very . . . unusual view of history,” the woman continued.  She was glancing around rapidly, though Matthew had no idea whether she was looking for mafia snipers or simply trying to determine when the crowd was going to lose its patience, form a mob, heave the noisy American over the railing, and cheer.  He could have asked, but what was the point?

“Do you know from where he gets his . . . facts?” she asked.

“No idea.”  When Jack talked about Rome, Matthew had always assumed that everything he said came from either movies or TV (often from features about different cities).  For Florence, it seemed entirely possible that his friend had run out of that kind of “facts” and was now just making things up entirely.

“. . . and now here we stand, atop the Domo, the impregnable citadel from which the Medici family manipulates the politics of the entire Mediterranean!  Looking down at Florence, just as they do, we—”

“This is not true,” the woman interrupted.  Jack’s tirade came to such a screeching halt that for a moment Matthew thought he might trip and go down the side of the dome.  The other tourists held their breath, wondering how long the interruption could last (and perhaps plotting to extend it with their own methods if it wasn’t long enough).

“The house of the Medici is elsewhere in Florence,” she continued.  “That is where their power was based.”

“Then what are we doing up here?” Jack cried as he headed for the stairs.  The crowd refrained from celebrating, just barely.

“Nothing in that mess was true,” Matthew muttered as they left the balcony.  “Why did you wait until then to correct him?”

“I needed to convince him to leave,” the woman replied.

“Are we in danger?”

“Not especially.  We must keep moving if we are to discover anything.”

“Oh.  Wait, there wasn’t anything in Jack’s speech that has to do with what we’re involved in, was there?”

“That would be difficult to say.”

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The Jenoviad Entry #42

November 27th, 2009 by Wordsman

Now ‘twas time to put on moves
Some feelings to invent
Then: “Do you have Materia?”
The girl on tangent went

“Uh, sure,” said Cloud, a-wond’ring
How to turn this to a line
“There are not many men around
With Materia like mine”

“Really?” asked the wide-eyed girl
“I’d heard it’s everywhere”
“N-no,” Cloud stammered
“No, you see . . . it’s really very rare”

“I have one too.” The girl giggled
Whipped it out to compare
“I got it from my mother
It’s the
rarest of the rare!”

“What makes it so special?”
Cloud stared at the small green ball
Aeris could not stop laughing
“It does nothing at all!”

“That can’t be right,” argued Cloud
“You must have used it wrong
Listen to my tutorial
It shouldn’t take that long . . .”

Aeris shook her head. “No, no
It doesn’t work like yours
You don’t put it in your weapons
You can’t find it in stores”

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Movie Two-Liners Entry #41

November 25th, 2009 by Wordsman

This week’s puzzle:

A rebel with abnormal senses narrowly escapes death at the hands of a woman with whom he shared a house. Not long afterward, a failure to escape leads to his dreams coming true, and later on a successful escape leads to his closest friend having to find a new job.

Last week’s puzzle:

A fisherman and his associates come into conflict over navigation, ownership rights, the use of rope, and cuisine. Meanwhile, two old men with similar taste in clothing get into a dispute concerning the neighbors of an old friend of theirs.

And the answer is . . . ▼

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This Day in History Entry #41

November 24th, 2009 by Wordsman

The first thing the hominids did gain
Was thought to be an enlarg’ed brain
But before you can talk
You must first walk the walk
Finding Lucy helped to make that plain

Event: Johanson and Gray discover Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, nicknamed Lucy
Year: 1974
Learn more:

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Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #37

November 23rd, 2009 by Wordsman


“Aha!” Jack cried out, stopping suddenly and allowing Matthew a chance to catch up to him.  “Now that’s a house worthy of the family that secretly rules Italy!  Only the biggest show in town would be good enough for the Medico.”

After resting for a moment or two to catch his breath, Matthew adopted his usual role of explaining to Jack things that he felt should have been obvious, even to a child.  “First off, it’s Medici, not Medico.”  Most of the time he dismissed correcting Jack’s pronunciation as a Sisyphean endeavor, but he did occasionally make the effort in particularly important cases, or when the mispronunciation was actually a different word (especially when the word was likely to get them into trouble).

“Second, the Medici never ruled all of Italy.  They just controlled the Republic of Florence or the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, as political boundaries shifted over the years.”  Matthew decided to move on rather than attempt to explain the political history of northern Italy.  Jack had a very hard time understanding that the names and shapes of countries had not always been the same as they were in the modern day.  Matthew had once tried to tell him about the Holy Roman Empire.  That was a period of several hours that he would have liked to have back.

“And third, that’s not a house; it’s a cathedral.  The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo.”

Jack frowned.  Matthew wasn’t sure if it was because he had just contradicted him or if his friend was trying to process all the information he had been given.  His response suggested it was the latter.  “Dwomo?  Oh, I get it.  Because of the huge dome on top, right?”

“No, actually,” Matthew said.  As far as Jack’s misinterpretations went, this one was fairly reasonable.  “Duomo means—” he began, quickly stopping when he realized he was about to sound stupid.

“It means ‘house,’” finished the mystery woman as she appeared behind Matthew.  She seemed to have gotten much better at sneaking up on people than she had been the other day.  Matthew wondered if she had been putting in extra practice ever since Jack had smacked her in the face with his shovel.  “However, your friend is correct.  The building is a church.  No one lives there.  The word is used to refer to cathedrals all over Italy, both current and former ones.  The meaning ‘house’ is because the church is the house of God.”

Jack turned back toward the cathedral and stared at it for a while, presumably until he was satisfied that it looked like a church.  Then he faced his companions again.  “Right.  House of God.  Got it.  So what’s important about this place?”

“The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the fourth-largest church in Europe,” Matthew rattled off.  “Construction was begun in 1296 based on the design of Arnolfo di Cambio, but the project would last more than one hundred seventy years under the leadership of more than half a dozen different architects.  The distinctive octagonal dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the greatest architects and engineers of the Renaissance.  Formerly the largest dome in the entire world, it remains to this day the most massive dome ever constructed out of brick.”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s big,” Jack agreed.  “I can tell that just by looking at it.  What I wanted to know was if there’s anything important about this place.”

“The construction of the dome was tremendously important to modern architecture,” Matthew countered.  “It was by far the largest project of that type since the construction of the Pantheon in Rome more than a millennium earlier.  Brunelleschi had to invent machinery just so he would be able to lift—”

“I think,” interrupted the woman, “that your friend means, ‘Have any important events occurred here?’ or ‘What famous historical persons have been in this church?’”

Matthew shrugged.  “It was one of the biggest construction projects of the Italian Renaissance.  It’s the seat of the archdiocese of Florence.  Along with the rest of the center of the city, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Lots of important famous people have been here.  And Brunelleschi was one of them!”

Jack looked half-bored, half-mutinous, but the mystery woman interrupted again.  “If I remember correctly, I once read that Giuliano de’ Medici was assassinated in the cathedral on Easter Sunday as part of the Pazzi Conspiracy.”

“See?  That’s what I’m talking about!  Assassination!  Conspiracy!  And it always comes back to the Medici.  Come on, let’s go investigate this crime scene!”

Matthew did not know what Jack expected to find at a crime scene five hundred years old.  Probably just as much as he would have been able to find at a crime scene five minutes old, his cynical side suggested.  It was also most likely the exact same amount of information he would be able to get out of the mystery woman, but that did not stop him from trying.  “I don’t get it,” he said, as Jack raced off toward the Duomo.  “Do you actually think that the thing we stumbled on has something to do with the Medici?  I mean, there aren’t any of them left, right?”

“Officially, no.  But that does not mean that there is no one who might try to claim descent from the family, either for political gains of because he truly believes that his ancestor was Lorenzo the Great.”

“But what would be the point?  The Medici haven’t wielded any power in Tuscany for almost three hundred years.  And does anyone actually buy the old ‘I can trace my ancestry back to some illegitimate son that no one’s every heard of before’ story anymore?”

“The point?  I cannot say.  This is a country where history is very important.  Is that not what drew you here in the first place?”

“Yes,” Matthew agreed, adding in a mutter, “though I generally prefer it when history stays in the past.”

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The Jenoviad Entry #41

November 20th, 2009 by Wordsman

She returned to tending buds
Cloud his two choices weighed
Reunite with AVALANCHE
Or woo the fair young maid?

Cloud decided to stick ‘round
Could not resist that face
Besides, he was not sure he knew
The way to Tifa’s place

“You like flowers?” ask’ed Cloud
“Cuz I’ve got one right here . . .”
Then with a jolt he remembered
He’d made it disappear

“You bought it from me yesterday!”
The naïve girl declared
“We met when that reactor blew
I think that you were scared

“My name’s Aeris,” the girl said
“In case you don’t recall”
Cloud did not; in fact
She had not mentioned it at all

But Cloud recovered quickly
“How could I forget that name?
And I am Cloud, jack-of-all-trades!”
He nobly did proclaim

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Movie Two-Liners Entry #40

November 18th, 2009 by Wordsman

This week’s puzzle:

A fisherman and his associates come into conflict over navigation, ownership rights, the use of rope, and cuisine. Meanwhile, two old men with similar taste in clothing get into a dispute concerning the neighbors of an old friend of theirs.

Last week’s puzzle:

After being fired from his job, a man gets into trouble when the musician he has a crush on is in the wrong place at the right time. He tries to fix everything, but a coworker’s honesty and tendency to overthink make the situation a whole lot stickier.

And the answer is . . . ▼

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This Day in History Entry #40

November 17th, 2009 by Wordsman

Oh the presidency, it looked sick
As the scandal was molasses-thick
Accusations were hurled
To press at Disneyworld
“I am not a crook,” said Tricky Dick

Event: Richard Nixon tells Associated Press, “I am not a crook”
Year: 1973
Learn more:

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Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #36

November 16th, 2009 by Wordsman


“So, you’re saying that we stumbled onto something connected to some sort of major conspiracy.”


“And now because of what we know—or what they think we know—our lives could be in danger.”

“This is correct.”

“And you’ve been assigned to keep an eye on us and make sure we’re safe, which is why you’ve been following us.”


“Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot easier just to walk up, introduce yourself, and explain all this to us in the first place?”

“We did not wish to frighten you.”

“Frighten us?  Did you not stop to think that it would be much scarier if we thought we were being trailed by a mysterious figure for no reason?”

“Please calm down.  I could say that it was not my intention to be seen by you at all, but I do not believe that this information would bring you very much comfort.”

“Good guess.”

“Tourism is an essential component of the economy of Rome.  It is not good for us to scare visitors by telling them that their lives may be in danger.  You most likely would have tried to leave the country.  This may have put you at even greater risk by drawing attention to yourselves.  This way was best for all of us.”

“Hmph.  But still, after watching us for . . . however long you were watching us for, you must have realized that we wouldn’t have just run off.  One of us would have been even more willing to stay if you just told him instead of hiding.”

“Yes . . . it is unfortunate, but when you work in a job such as mine, stealth becomes a habit.  It is a habit that is difficult to break.”

“I see.”

“Now that my presence has been noticed, however, everything is, as you said, a whole lot easier.  I can direct you and your friend to take actions that are most beneficial to your safety.”

“Like telling us to go to Florence?”

“Yes.  My superiors have felt for some time that it would be best if you left Rome temporarily.  Since there is no longer any meaning in staying hidden, there was no reason for me not to encourage you to do so.  By going to another popular tourist destination such as Firenze, we are able to make it appear as though you are still just simple visitors, unaware of the danger.”

“Ha!  That’s not much of a stretch.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“We’re just as unaware as they think we are.  You haven’t told us anything, really.”

“As I explained already, we are not sure about your situation.  There is no purpose in meaningless speculation—”

“But you must know something!  You didn’t just look down at us from your perch and say, ‘Hmm, those two guys look like the kind of people that are likely to be targeted by a secret, multinational crime syndicate!’  Does it have something to do with the time Jack yelled at the Swiss Guards?”

“I cannot say.”

“Or when we got kicked out of the Colosseum?”

“Please understand.  It is for your own safety that I tell you nothing.  The less you know, the easier it is for you to go on with your lives as if nothing was wrong.”

“Ignorance is bliss, huh?”

“That is one way to think of it.”

“You’ve got to tell us something, though.  What about your name?  Can we get that much, at least?”

“Ah, no.  That is for my safety.”

“You know, it’d be a lot easier for me to pretend that there was nothing wrong with my life if I wasn’t walking around with an agent from an Italian intelligence agency who won’t even tell me her name.”

“If you would prefer it, I can return to the rooftops and follow you from a distance again.”

“No, that’s okay.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“I don’t see how it’s fair, seeing as you won’t tell us anything, but sure, why not?”

“Why is your friend so upset?  Usually he is very bright and always talking, but he has not spoken any word since we arrived.  Is he also angry with me because I will not tell you what I know?”

“Nah, that wouldn’t bother Jack.  He doesn’t need you to tell him anything.  He makes it all up on his own anyway.  He’s probably just depressed because we had to leave Rome.”

“He does not like Florence?”

“He thinks that Rome is the only real city of intrigue.  Nowhere else can compare.”

“I do not understand.  Does he not know that this city was home to Machiavelli?  To the Medici House that manipulated Tuscan politics for centuries and produced four Popes?”

“Whoa!  Did you say Popes?  Hmm . . . maybe I was wrong about this Florence place.  Yeah, I get it now.  It seems like Rome is where all the action is, but secretly it’s all run by the Catholic Church in Vatican City and that Medical Family here in Florence . . . and there’s a connection, because some of the Popes were members of that family!  Ha ha!  Come on, guys!  This place might be worth checking out after all.”

“. . . okay, I know you’re new at this, but generally it’s best not to tell him things like that.  Now he’s going to run off and do something stupid.”

“Yes, I understand.  I did it on purpose.”


“Protecting you is my primary job, but we are also hoping that your actions may produce further clues that help us to figure out exactly what is going on.  You have a saying in English, don’t you?  ‘If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’”

“Wow.  That’s very reassuring.”

“Do not worry.  I am here to protect you.  Nothing will go wrong.”

Matthew sighed.  “That would be a lot more comforting if Jack hadn’t knocked you out accidentally just by swinging a shovel around.”

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The Jenoviad Entry #40

November 13th, 2009 by Wordsman

Eyes now ope, Cloud looked around
But not too fast (he’d hurl)
He saw pews (boring), flowers (meh)
And . . . whoa, a pretty girl

“Are you alright?” the girl asked him
“You fell down from the sky
I wonder how it happened
Did you think that you could fly?

“You’re so lucky,” she explained
“The flow’r bed broke your fall”
Cloud, in pain, was not sure that
It really helped at all

“Sorry ‘bout the flowers
On them I’d not want to tread”
Then, since he could not help himself:
“So . . . seems I’m in your bed”

“Oh, they’ll grow back,” she told him
Failed to pick up on the line
This was one time that Cloud would need
A much more overt sign

“Flowers don’t grow in Midgar
At least, that’s what they say
But the sacred garden here
Makes bouquet on bouquet”

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