Eric Ferguson © 1997
5732 Bossen Terr.#2
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(The scene is the U.S. Mint. Mr. RIPPLE is using a magnifying glass to compare
the plate for the new $100 bill with a fresh copy. He is a short, squirrelish man in
appearance, but considerably less chatty than Mr. SLOGOTHY. By contrast, Mr.
SLOGOTHY is larger and louder if not downright blustery, though RIPPLE pays
him scant attention.)
Though almost indistinguishable to the naked eye, the 14 lines in this spot are
quite apparent at closer examination, Mr. Slogothy.
(RIPPLE hands the bill to SLOGOTHY and picks up another to examine.)
15 lines, Mr. Ripple.
14 lines, Mr. Slogothy.
It's ugly money, Mr. Ripple, which is the problem with all American currency,
even this new $100 Federal Reserve note, with it's new design and altered
coloration, yet still an improvement over the old hundred, or the five, or the
twenty, or the one. Other countries have much more colorful money Mr. Ripple, a
mixture of colors on one bill, varying design, large enough sizes that you feel
you're holding something substantial, something of substance, something with
meat to it, not this vegetarian money of ours. Have you ever examined a piece of
foreign currency, Mr. Ripple?
I have, Mr. Slogothy. See, I even happen to have this British note with me.
(RIPPLE hands the note to SLOGOTHY.)
Now this is money, this is a note, this is craftsmanship to make a man ashamed
to use plastic, this is something designed by people who must have cared
deeply how their work would look hauled out of a wallet, held momentarily in the
hand, and forthrightly handed to a cashier with a manner that both parties know
means, "this, now this is truly a transaction". Do you know what that is worth, Mr.
A British pound is worth $2.02, and over the past month has fluctuated between
$1.93 and $2.06.
Which means a dollar is worth a measly half a pound! It is worth so little
because it is so plain a thing. Look at them together, the dollar can use the
pound for camouflage, it disappears so completely.
Here's an Italian Lira.
A thing of little value in an economic sense, yet look at how again we Americans
are bested. Even the large number of zeros these Lira notes require to have
substantial worth gives them a thick quality. I think this is what stones would look
like if they were money. Perhaps we should just trade rocks instead of paper,
then we could use gravel for parking meters and boulders for executive bonuses,
and stone masons would be forever safe from layoffs. Looters would ignore the
televisions and fur coats, and strip buildings of their granite facades. I tell you
sir, the road to Hell is paved with crushed rock.
I never had much interest in geology, Mr. Slogothy.
Then you shouldn't have brought it up, Mr. Ripple.
14 lines here also, Mr. Slogothy.
(RIPPLE hands the bill to SLOGOTHY, who declines to study it.)
15 lines, Mr. Ripple.
Here's a Japanese Yen.
It's as plain as the nose on the face of this man who is unknown to me that even
the far East appreciates my point. A cornocopaic currency from a digitized,
computerized, technophilic economy which yet sees it's paper as something
valuable. It is something simple you see, not merely abstract numbers on a
spreadsheet's abstract, the substantiation of ones and zeros transmitted through
the processors, RAMs, and floppy drives of myriad financial networks. Show me
the ones and zeros if you can, if anyone can, even the people who make it work.
Years of study it takes to understand the new technology, yet a mere moment's
tactilism explains this simple note to me in all its finite detail. Imagine that I
proclaim to you my great wealth, or paucity thereof, based upon the electronic
form, which you must take at my word which my be as accurate as the average
CIA intelligence report, yet I can bring forth my billfold and prove that I have
precisely $32, American. That is undeniably a superior means of conveying to
you or anyone else any amount of $32 or less. Certainly for the bigger
transactions, sheer practical necessity requires the use of electronics, or else we
imitate Hollywood with its beloved and dramatic suitcase of cash, an approach
fraught with risk of loss and theft, and requiring insurance and guards, or at least
uncomfortable vigilance with a wallet stuffed more full than is safe picnicing with
a pair of pickpockets. These cybernetic currency shifts have cheapened this one
aspect of life, even as they have cheapened it.
You just changed sides in your argument, Mr. Slogothy.
Believing contradictory things is the sign of an open mind Mr. Ripple. The
contradiction in this case is that everything that is simplified is simultaneously
made more complex. Is it not simpler to cook in a microwave oven than over a
fire, Mr. Ripple? Yet which would you rather explain the workings of if you were
speaking to someone who could catch you in a lie? The production and use of
manure is readily apparent by comparison to chemical fertilizers, yet I know
which I would rather go collecting. I may avoid some of that if I planted the right
seeds, should I go farming or gardening, or truck gardening, or hobby farming,
and now gene splicing is being used to developed seeds that have the unique
trait of resisting certain brands of pesticides and herbicides, allowing enormous
quantities to be dumped all over my food, and by happy coincidence these
seeds are being developed by the same people who make the herbicides and
pesticides. We must pray it all goes for export. Did you hear me, Mr. Ripple?
Do you mean the part about the microwave ovens, or the part about exporting
My apologies Mr. Slogothy, I did not. Is it worth repeating?
Do not ask questions when you know the answer in advance, Mr. Ripple. I have
told you before how few things are worth repeating. I make a habit of not
repeating myself, regardless of how much has been misunderstood or not heard
at all. I would hold to this principle were I an air traffic controller or a heart
patient calling 911. If I were the one who first stated half the utterances of
"Bartlett's Familiar Quotations", and those utterances had been greeted with a
sincere "sorry, I couldn't quite hear you," I would still not repeat myself despite
the certain knowledge those utterances would be lost forever and "Bartlett's
Familiar Quotations" would be a sorely lacking tome indeed.
(RIPPLE is still examining new bills.)
14 lines in this corner too, Mr. Slogothy.
(SLOGOTHY again declines to look at the bill.)
15 lines, Mr. Ripple.
This is a Swiss 20 Franc note.
With a picture of some deceased chancellor or president or whatever it is they
have over there. It is a good republican virtue of theirs and ours to require a
leader to be dead a decent amount of time before his face goes on currency.
None of this sticking live kings and queens on there like they're somebody
important enough to be dead. It's a simple yet effective way of demonstrating the
republican virtue this country trumpeted loudly when kings ruled the world. There
are times when I long for those days when republicanism had real, potent
monarchies in opposition to it, and its concepts were yet new to the masses of
underlings of princes and potentates. Now if one rails against monarchs, the
broad masses think you're going on about he latest rumors regarding Charles
and Di, the royal family we booted out over two hundred years ago, and which
the gossip mongers keep bringing back to us in a mass-media form as
oppressive as the unrepresentative parliament of George III.
14 lines on this one too, Mr. Slogothy.
15 lines, Mr. Ripple. Yet this Swiss money defies the principle I expounded thus
far, and carries it to an extreme of unintended consequences. Look at this little
holographic do-dad. A colorful thing surely, and hard to counterfeit, wouldn't you
say, Mr. Ripple.
Difficult counterfeiting is a laudable thing in currency Mr. Slogothy.
Yet it's a toy, a child's entertainment device, something found more with Barney
and TV action figures beneath a shelf of Barbies than delivered through a
metallic cannister at a bank drive-through with a cold wind blowing in through the
open window. The purpose then is to put the money in a wallet, roll-up the
window and get on to the grocery store, not look at all the pretty pictures. I
predict there will be little Swiss Misses and Alpine Alices going to their fathers
and asking for 20 Francs, and when father asks how the child intends to spend
the money, the child will wear a quizzical look and ask "Spend?"
You have a unique way of putting things, Mr. Slogothy.
Language has been too homogenized, Mr. Ripple. It is bland, colorless, the
mass production of verbiage that sounds all alike. It is language born of
academia and nurtured in bureaucracy with a long apprenticeship in saying
Do you have an opinion on everything, Mr. Slogothy?
A man must have an opinion on everything Mr. Ripple, whether he cares or not.
All opinions must be ventured, no matter how ill-informed, inarticulately
expressed, or shallowly held. Only in this way can these opinions be cut to
pieces like so much fish bait and reformed in an organized manner that may
catch a bass. Baiting your fellow man is the greatest favor you can do him, and a
true sign of brotherly love.
Contentious confrontation is a sign of brotherly love, Mr. Slogothy?
Continuous contentious confrontation constitutes the philosophical equivalent of
push-ups and leg lifts. It is a strengthening and toning of the mental faculties, a
neuronical provocation of desirable ends, Mr. Ripple.
A provocation indeed Mr. Slogothy, as I feel provoked to state my opinion that
continuous contentious confrontation constitutes cacophony, a spill of alliteration
along a catastrophic continuum.
What?! Continuous contentious confrontation constitutes a cacophonous
catastrophic continuum? That is a blunt statement, Mr. Ripple.
(They resume examining notes.)
14 lines in this corner too, Mr. Slogothy. The new notes meet specifications
15 lines, Mr.Ripple.
14, Mr. Slogothy.
I drew up these specifications myself, Mr. Ripple.
I am due for my lunch, Mr. Slogothy.
(Ripple starts to exit.)
There are 15 lines on that plate, Mr. Ripple.
I do not care to dispute with you any further, Mr. Slogothy.
(SLOGOTHY picks up the magnifying glass and starts counting the lines
aggressively and with a clear expectation of stopping at 15. RIPPLE stops at the
edge of the stage and turns his head to observe him.)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14...
(SLOGOTHY stops and looks at RIPPLE, who turns and exits. SLOGOTHY turns
back to the plate, then looks to be sure RIPPLE has left. Then he scratches a
mark on the plate.)
15. (end of play)
Go back to sketches.