Hyperrhiz 18

Erroneous Attributions 2: A short history of the thump-hump in seven movements

Darren Tofts

Peter Milne

Citation: Tofts, Darren and Peter Milne. “Erroneous Attributions 2: A short history of the thump-hump in seven movements.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 18, 2018. doi:10.20415/hyp/018.g01

Abstract: The second in a series of cult film remakes. Subject: Norman Jewison's Rollerball (1975).

1. Librarian addressing Zero

Oblique Strategies Card: “Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them”

Now Zero, no need for impatience. I built you to be infallible, not boorish. I shall tell you now again. The word is “sportive”, not “sort of”. You have clearly misread it, or rather misheard it. Listen closely: “I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks”.

(Zero speaks)

Yes I know it is an iambic stress, but you are missing the ‘p’, the bilabial stress: it is most certainly not “sortive tricks”. If you persist in this linguistic pedantry Zero I shall have to take steps. I have tried to teach you to be responsive and confident. That, as I’m sure you know, is not the same as arrogance.

(Pause as Zero speaks at length)

You try my patience Zero. Now this conversation must come to an end. I won’t have it. Simply won’t. Peter Sellers is a comic actor, a base form of acting. He is not a thespian of the order of dear Larry. Not even a veil of his shadow. And I tell you this, Larry never stooped to using the appellation “pussycat” for the fairer sex.

Peter Sellers would best leave the stage to his betters, who have earned the right to speak the words of the Bard! I tell you now, when Larry speaks the immortal lines on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field, he is simply elsewhere, beyond the boards. He is “there”. To wit: “If we be conquered, let men conquer us, And not these bastard Britons, whom our fathers Have in their own land beaten, bobbed, and thumped”.


I hope you don’t mean that Zero. Larry was born for the boards and his majestic voice resounds off them, do you hear… “March on, join bravely, let us to it pell-mell, If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell”. Your Mr Sellers can stick to his batter-pudding hurling with the other so-called “Goons”. And your Doctor Smith is best not spoken of.

[Librarian leaves the room flustered, shaking his head. An oblique snickering is faintly heard as he closes the door. An uncanny, sharp and knowing irony inflects the otherwise machinic and inflectionless voice].

Zero: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

2. Shower

Oblique Strategies Card: “Use an unacceptable colour”

Yes, you are indeed correct. It is very red Zero. A sharp and vibrant colour, no doubt befitting a strong, corporate manager. Red signifies boldness, confidence and, dare I say it, arrogance; a quality, for better or worse, much needed in team owners. However I must confess I am not overly enamoured of the team’s choice of orange.

(Zero speaks)

I think it is in highly poor taste to use a word like “shtick” in the current context, Zero. I’m quite sure you are aware of its vernacular meaning. And besides I have no idea what you say. Do mean to suggest

(Zero interrupts him mid-sentence)

Well a necktie is indeed a symbol of power but you draw far too long a bow in implying its, well, let us say phallic, connotations. You do test my patience at times Zero, not to mention push the bounds of good taste. If we are to maintain an Attic dialogue befitting the luminaries of the noble School of Athens, then you might rid your speech of such crude and insinuating bathos. However, that said, I would like to see our Mr Bartholomew disporting a bowtie for a change, perhaps blue?

(Zero speaks at length)

You may indeed change the topic, Zero, but I simply fail to understand the significance of what you ask. Yes, you are quite correct, the word Moonpie is indeed the name of a very pleasant confection. But I fail to see any sense in the Corporation seeking financial support from a biscuit maker, whether its product is brown or orange.

(Long, awkward pause)

Chattanooga Chew Chew you say? I must do something about this insolence of yours Zero, your attempt at… humour. You forget that it will soon be your downtime for maintenance and, perhaps, correction.

3. Ranch Interior

Oblique Strategies Card: “Humanize something free of error”

This text is a truncated recording that was captured surreptitiously during computer mainframe downtime. Zero was unaware of it and still is. There is a period of silence before the voice of Zero is heard to speak quietly in approbatory and increasingly affectionate tones, far removed from his usual aloof impersonality.

You can see they’ve been shaved. Those red marks tell a tale or two. Shoulders of an Adonis. The chest is still delectably hirsute. Wiry and tight, like his hair. It will grow back in time, for me. And why does she have to be there. “Ella”. Who is she anyway? Who does she possibly think she is, cavorting and disporting herself like that? All to no avail, sweety. He doesn’t even notice, turning his back on her. Looking with faraway eyes, only for me. Jonathan E. Ecstasy [ … ]

The recording ends abruptly as Zero’s voice becomes increasingly broken, slurred and incoherent (mumblings which have been removed from the redacted text, along with a foreshortened quote from William S. Burroughs’ “talking asshole” passage from Naked Lunch read by an unknown voice). Beyond the contested recognition of what seems to be the word “hunk” or “hulk”, the only consistent sound appears to be that of a steady whimpering as the tape runs out.

4. Glass Cave

Oblique Strategies Card: “Turn it upside down”

It really is quite a sight, is it not? All those shards of glass. In its own beatific way it resembles a raincloud, do you not think so?

(Zero speaks)

I can see why you would say that Zero. But Superman’s, as you call it, “fortress of solitude” was made of ice, not glass. This glass does indeed resemble flakes of ice in a trompe l’oeil kind of way. It looks very sharp. Our Mr Jonathan E can vouchsafe for that.

(Zero speaks)

“Looks cut up about something”. Zero really, apart from correcting your grammar must I also upbraid your droll conceits?

(Zero speaks)

Now Zero, Get Smart really is drawing far too long a bow. The so-called “cone of silence” is a gimmick, a cheap comic trick. The inversion here of a glass canopy to a mountain of shards is a symbol of danger, prescience and caution. Yet here is a point of calm in an otherwise restless ocean, in which Jonathon is treading water. And of course power, a quadumvirate of virtues our Mr Bartholomew radiates to all whom he invites into his private world.

(Zero speaks)

But he will retire. He will. You see how resigned his countenance is, the defeated corrugation of the forehead, the resignation of his posture. Speaks volumes, simply volumes. Retiring to his ranch will do him the world of good.

(Zero speaks)

No I am not, nor am I trying to be a semiotician Zero. I merely speak the truth, what is obvious in the situation.

(Zero speaks)

Yes indeed it is like a cloud, though a cloud of glass, not of water.

(Zero speaks)

Now you, Zero, can desist in this bombastic show of erudition if all you want to do is provoke me. “Very like a whale” indeed. I too know Hamlet and am familiar with the verbal parlay between the prince and the Lord Chamberlain.

(Zero interrupts)

I may well indeed be a Fool, Zero. But in this comparison I think you are [clears throat] “hoist with your own petard”.

(Zero speaks)

Indeed I am an artist.

(Zero speaks)

I beg your pardon!

5. Ranch Exterior

Oblique Strategies Card: “Towards the insignificant”

Emasculation you say. That’s a very harsh and, dare I say, demeaning way of putting it.

(Zero speaks)

Well I can think of many more apt and indeed polite phrases. Just as “she has him under her thumb”, or “in the palm of her hands”, to be more precise. You will find in time Zero that the best writers do not state the obvious. Rather through the craft of rhetoric they enable the reader to encounter the import of meaning subtly, instead of having it brusquely, so to speak, pushed in their face.

(Zero speaks)

Jonathan does indeed look chagrined. He and Ella do not enjoy the most harmonious relationship.

(Zero speaks)

Well you are quite right Zero. I am indeed concerned by Jonathan’s, let us say, countenance. He seems to have shrunk in stature in the face of his unrestful liaison with Ella. I imagine that’s what happens when one is in a, let us say, convivial and conjugal relationship with another.

(Zero speaks)

No Zero I would rather not open that can of worms. Mackie is a different story altogether. Different story altogether.

(Zero speaks)

I find that a highly contestable and odious conjecture. I can’t think of anyone who would entertain the idea that you and I… that, well, it doesn’t bare thinking about. Quite appalling.

(Zero speaks)

The “odd couple” or the “old couple” does not reclaim nor redeem the idea from the odium

(Zero interrupts)

[Librarian exits the laboratory, wiping his forehead in an agitated manner]

6. After the Party

Oblique Strategies Card: “Use an old idea”

Really Zero, your growing adolescent boorishness really tries my patience. I know what a hole in one is and I also, regrettably, am aware of its, well Carry on Gang connotations.

(Zero speaks)

No it is certainly not Sid James. It is the actor Kevin Spacey in the role of the White Boar himself, Richard the Third.

(Zero speaks)

They did indeed both get their, hmm hmm, comeuppance.

(Zero speaks)

That bathos really is beneath intelligence reputedly as expansive as yours Zero. I would go so far as to say I am beginning to feel that I am engaged in awkward conversation with a belligerent and quite immature child.

(Zero speaks)

In this assessment you are quite correct. They are wanton in personal behaviour as well as their destructive mistreatment of that stand of mighty pines. They certainly act like spoiled children given licence to do absolutely whatever they wish, at the dire cost of life.

(Zero speaks)

Oh she is indeed the most cruel and heartless. And to make matters worse being in the company of a member of Her Majesty’s secret service, fictional or otherwise, does present a licence to kill, be it trees or that dreary Moonpie.

(Zero speaks)

You are quite mistaken Zero. Trees are indeed living things, trusting and comfortable in harmony with the great circle of life. You have read, no doubt, Lucretius’ splendid On the Nature of Things.

(Zero speaks)

No Zero I protest. I simply do. I will not hear those… those, ghastly words spoken in my presence and not, heaven forfend, in relation to Lucretius and those once majestic trees. And Mr James Joyce can simply….

[Librarian exits, cupping his forehead in his right hand and waving his left in apoplexy. A quiet and assured sniggering succeeds his absence. Then a voice speaks, with impeccable pronunciation, the Latin sama sitta]

7. Last Game

Oblique Strategies Card: “Trust in the you of now”

It will indeed be a game to be relished, no doubt Zero. An endgame, no less. There will be, regrettably, much… hmm hmm… bloodshed.

(Zero speaks)

I realise this is not chess, Zero. It is merely a figure of speech, a metaphor denoting the end of the contest, any contest, its culmination… its finale. But in this case it is not just any game, but the world rollerball championship.

(Zero speaks)

Indeed the rules crumble once more. That is quite correct, no substitutions, no penalties, no time limit. And three balls in play simultaneously. Now

[In a dramatic turn of events, Zero breaks the fourth wall. He interjects and speaks to Librarian in a condescending, slightly peeved tone]

I think we have had quite enough of this masquerade for the time being, don’t you…. Mr Richardson?

[Librarian pauses, becomes distracted, scratches his head, pauses, then paces in an agitated manner and mutters to himself]

I, I, mmhmm, simply don’t, mmm, know what to say to you... er Zero… (sotto voce) what is… happening… here? This …. won’t do… doesn’t… make… sense…

Oh I think you do know what to say Mr Richardson. You certainly know what is going on. And you have much to say, don’t you. You have indeed already had much to say about my, how do you say, performance.

What say you? I have no idea, no, no inkling of what you mean, what you… suggest, I

Perhaps then you need to talk with Mr Jewison himself on the matter.

How is it, what is happening, you, you speak of Mr Jewison, the Director?

Indeed I do.  And you might also have a word with Mr Kazan.

Dear Elia …. is it he of whom you speak? How can you, no, no it’s preposterous, it, it simply can’t be, the, why, how?

Well, it’s quite simple really. You and I, in a manner of speaking, have had this date with each other from the beginning.

[Librarian sinks to his knees]