Love the Extreming! musical theater podcast? Latest episode at iTunes.

5 Why Are Americans So Easily Conned?

Bruja Coffeeshop

(The gang has straggled back to the coffeeshop after the protest at HumTech turned foul with a number of injuries.)

BRIDGE

(weakly half-singing)

I know I’m passed out, little plants.  I can feel you but can’t see you, so I must be a mess.  Goldenroot, I need you to bring me around, but I can’t move to you.  At least you’re all still here.  

(coughing) 

The synthetics haven’t taken you away yet.  How will we stop them?  How will we get out of this?  Who is watering you, little plants? It should be me…

ONO

It’s okay, Bridge.  Vanessa is on the plants.  Take it slow.  You’ve been out of it.  Here’s a coffee I made you a couple hours ago.  It’s cold, but…it’s Bruja!

BRIDGE

Oh, Ono, you okay? 

(coughing) 

I’m okay, I guess.  Just coughing a little…oh, blood.  

(a beat)

Do, do we know if…  Did Aida engineer our escape?  

CATH

Looks that way.  Aida whistled, I think that was a whistle, and my Bonehead brother appeared.

BRIDGE

But why, Cath?  He loathed that robot.  

ONO

We don’t know, Bridge.  We do know she’s packed to her orifices in Oren’s AI and could turn most men, if she tried.  

CATH

Most women, too.

BRIDGE

Like when she kicked my butt?

ONO

We fought to a tie, Bridge.

VANESSA 

I agree.  Of course I do.  I’m with Ono on this, since you all know it anyway.  I’m outing us—a freaking Republican hooking up with a Damnocrat.

BRIDGE

(getting some strength, contemplative)

Down on the bottom rung of our two-rung ladder.

(Wham, sirens blare, activity rises up outside, barricade tape pulled from the roll, cellphones ringing.)

OFFICER

Bruja is shut down—please disperse everyone.

MEDIA

(Shouting from outside, just barely audible)

Bridge, what’s next?

You taking on Humtech?

Think they’ll let you go free?

Why is Bruja being shut down?

DELIVERY GIRL

Twelve pizzas for a Ms. Bridget Hamilton.  Or as they say, dox in a box, haha!

(12 pizzas hit the table)

Oh it never gets old!

PROCESS SERVER

You have been served

(A beat with no reply)

Bad little witch, getting burned in public without a permitch…

(Another beat, expecting a laugh)

Huh, huh, tips for delivery are appreciated.

BRIDGE

You’ll be replaced by a robot.  It’ll give better humor, too.  There’s your tip.

CATH 

Don’t worry Bridge, I’ll handle this media horde…

(She stands up, pushes aside some chairs, tries for gravitas)

Here on the scene is your Snap Trap reporter, Cathryn Enderly, here to tell you the kids brought it today.  An angry mob estimated by some observers at 30,000 marched on HumTech in Silicon Valley to send a clear message: humans are people, too!  Counterprotestors arrived, creating a melee no doubt unwelcomed by HumTech who sicced a phalanx of Robots and Cops on the protestors, possibly leading to the fatality of a troubled young man who was my brother.  And here with a reaction from the woman who made it all happen…

(Cath puts her mic to Bridge)

BRIDGE

What’s with this Aida?  Is she the tastiest tool for subjugation ever created?

CATH

Uh, there you have…something.  For now, I am Cathryn Enderly with Snap Trap.

(Cath plops into the sofa with Bridge and Ono)

BRIDGE

Bone didn’t make it?

CATH

(checking cellphone)

Hmmm…not a word on social.  On the good news front, we’re trending right just below the ‘Itty Bitty Robot Kitty’ show.  Now Insta is lighting up.  Okay, the comments. Uh, “If Bridge and Aida pop out a love child, I so want it.”  Okay, hmmm, “Three centuries separated the fighters, one some Salem witch trial skank, the other so much worthier—why bother with the old models?”  Ugh, but okay, someone read my release: ‘Today in the name of Autotuned Nation a billion silicon chips burned sending a clear message these, Ugh, lame slackers that can’t even run a protest right.”  Well, fig you.  And the replies, well, the replies, well, okay, ‘Made a 0.000000007 dent in tech—nailed it!’  Ugh…

BRIDGE

All this crap and nothing about a man being beat up by police, right?  Maybe not—

ONO

Making it?  I’m sorry, but so what?  He was about to—

BRIDGE

About to what?  We don’t know.  You slugged him first, and the cops went nuts on us.

ONO

But he’s what we’re fighting!

BRIDGE

Is he?

ONO

He called you a Jewish mut.

BRIDGE

He was half right.  And yeah, he’s a piece of work.  Mean and ugly, but if you listened to him—did anyone listen to Bone?—he was tuning into something.

CATH

Tuning in to what?

BRIDGE

(Not really answering)

Or how.  How we no longer fight for what’s… We’ve just become…. extremists.  All of us.  Bone was whacked, yeah, but he got to the core of that.

CATH

Seriously, you’re saying that right wing slimeball brother of mine—

BRIDGE

(gaining strength)

We’re all going backwards. This whole country is…  It’s like we’re becoming tribal again, extreme little tribes of extreme little people just clawing about mindlessly for our extreme little bit.  

ONO

What are you saying?

BRIDGE

I, I don’t know.

ONO

Because if you’re saying we amp this up, then—

BRIDGE

I don’t know.

ONO

If you’re saying we got to go from throwing punches to, to…

BRIDGE

I don’t know either what I’m saying, Ono.

ONO

Maybe you’re saying that the time has come.  Maybe you’re saying we’ve had enough.

(He is inspired to soulful song, “How Do You Make A Millennial Cocktail?”)

Charlottesville (boom) San Bernardino (boom) Ferguson (boom) Orlando (boom) Vegas (boom) Virginia Beach (boom)  Fort Hook Sandy Hook (boom, boom, boom)  

We know it could happen to any one of us

America used to democratize prosperity

Now we only democratize insecurity

So Bridge, how do we make a Millennial cocktail?

How do we make a Millennial cocktail?

With the rich on a tear, nothing’s left that’s honest

Either we do politics on them, or they do it on us

Crazy little stunts ain’t getting us anywhere

Gotta shift the dynamic, or bend o’er ass bare

So Bridge, how do we make a Millennial cocktail?

How do we make a Millennial cocktail?

Up against America’s Worstest Generation

Sold off the family silver, left us poor as Haitians

Demanding lower taxes and handicapped parking spaces 

So self-possessed, they still think everybody’s aces

Time to toss a Millennial cocktail (boom boom)

BRIDGE

(unmoved by his passion)

Or just another failed boom?  I don’t know…

(footsteps running out of the place)

ONO

Where’s she going?

CATH

My guess?  To her secret place where nobody ever finds her…

(Forest evening. Footsteps running in. Setting up tent. Getting fire going.)

BRIDGE

(Sings of her frustration in, “What Is This Life For?”

A little balance, that’s what I wanted

People making it across the beam  

A chance at love, that too I wanted

Apparently a girl can’t even dream

So I ask you, towering redwoods, what is this life for?

Why don’t you care that I can be more?

Ground out, found out, replicated, demenstruated

The papers print it, headlines hint it

She’s all out of whack, they’ll say

“She flew off the handle like a witch, her broomstick stuck up as far as it goes”

So I ask you, towering redwoods, what is this life for?

Why don’t you care that I can be more? 

Why don’t you care?

(All goes quiet…and then we hear a car-copter approaching and landing.)

BRIDGE

What the… No, no, no…not you two.

AIDA

Hi, Bridge.

OREN

So good to see you again, Bridge.

BRIDGE

But how, Oren?  I didn’t bring a cell, no car with lojack for five miles from here, no toll road cameras, no way to—

AIDA 

(cuts in)

At the party, Oren put a drone on you. 

OREN

(taps on a cellphone)

And away it goes.  Satisfied?

BRIDGE

(With lack of conviction)

You know I can make you disappear—I have all kinds of powers.

OREN

Why? Why suffer all this, Bridge?  Why are you getting political?

BRIDGE 

I’m getting humanical, or speciesist—I’d like my species to survive with some purpose for being.

OREN

It’s Valjean or Javert—always has been.

BRIDGE

That your safe phrase?  You know that old French story ends with your character in the drink.  I’d think ‘Copernicus or Catholicism’ might fit you better.

OREN

That’s why I chased after you into this forest, this beautiful escape.  Because you deserve to know what you’re up against, that you cannot win, but you can still be happy.

BRIDGE

(facetiously)

You going to share all your dirty little secrets?

OREN

As a matter of fact, yes.  Yes, I am. Back in my office, I have this Gantt chart that—

BRIDGE

Hunh?

OREN

Kind of a project organizer.  Mine lays out the course of our human evolution and how our minds are fast being altered by the constant bombardment, the quintillion bytes of data constantly banging into us, overwhelming us.  I mean, even a decade ago, people had but a single grain of salt compared to today’s entire shaker of data to process every day. And it’ll keep ratcheting up to the point of sensory overload…which alters us cellularly. No longer as we are now.

BRIDGE

That’s madness!

OREN

That’s one view.  Another is that everything evolves.  Even humans, we know that.  Most never once think about it, can’t even begin to handle it.  Only a few of us can Gantt it, and know what it means…

BRIDGE

Ok, I’ll bite.  What’s next on your Gantt for humans?

AIDA 

A neo-Hobbesian nightmare.

OREN

Yeah, that’s what Kissinger called it.  We’ve seen it playing out already.  We’ve seen the constant bombardment, the overwhelming.  We’ve seen it in politics, in sports, advertising, everything.  

BRIDGE

The extreming.

OREN

Yes, and how overwhelm paralyzes the brain.  How it taps out our drive to survive, how easily, then, that people can be conned into thinking, feeling, believing things that they used to know for certain weren’t true.  Good people.  Left, right, middle.  All conned into alternative mindsets, divorced from reality.  

AIDA 

Not like it was difficult. 

OREN

Let’s keep going in the political arena, since there’s the big election coming.  People had to be taught.  Had to be taught that liberals are stupid, conservatives are evil.  Not hard to do, actually, since that’s the flip side of their political personalities.  

BRIDGE

Like racism, carefully taught. 

OREN

And once taught, remarkably effective.  But people develop immunities, you know.  So dosages have to be steadily hiked.  Folks living in the big cities have to be ever more inventively convinced that their basic rights are being violated so they’ll take to the streets, demanding hand-outs, reparations, and whatever to make them feel good about themselves.  Big city colleges have to churn out organizers to keep all the Stupids fighting against…who?  Why, those Evils, of course!  The flyover bumpkin inbreeds with none of the real problems we city folk have! 

BRIDGE

And then there’s the other side, right?

OREN

That’s right, out there in the hinterland, folk there keep needing ever more inventive convincing that their God-given freedoms are being stolen out from under their noses, that they must take to the airwaves to denounce freedom treaders.  For freedoms are being treaded, right?  We hinterlanders are a virtuous people, unlike those heathen Stupids.  They got none of our grit, manliness, pride in America’s heart.  What with their nanny statisms and dabgumbwhateverisms.  Trying to control our lives. Oh, no, no, no, can’t have that!  Got to fight… 

(sound of the fire being stirred)

BRIDGE

Quite a con you’re running, Oren.

OREN

Oh, me and a few others.  It doesn’t come cheap.  Costs us several billion a year on hired guns—the smooth talkers, the greasers, bagmen, the whole as you’ve called it ‘extreming’ machinery—to keep everyone mad as hell, to keep their refrigerators stocked with rotting vegetables to toss at whoever we’ve taught them to hate, people they didn’t used to hate, but there you go.  It went textbook last election.  Rural counties went Trump.  Urban counties went Clinton.  Didn’t matter who won, as long as people think it matters.  The fix was in.  And while everyone’s caught up in the food fight, we’re left to pursue our own interests. 

AIDA

Kings of the Connected World.  That’s the real prize!  

BRIDGE

Are you in on this, Aida?

OREN

(Speaking quickly before Aida can reply)

No, Bridge.  I shared all this because I think you already get it.  A lot of people think they get it, but they have no idea.  You get that people don’t as much fight for their values anymore as they want the other side to lose.  That kind of extreming…that is what keeps them distracted, oblivious to what’s really going on.  And this food fight?  Well, its got years of life left in it.  Why be in that mess?  

BRIDGE

Because that is what I do.  I’m in the balance business.  And I’m losing customers to this con of yours.

OREN

Placing you on the wrong side of evolution, yeah, okay, the wrong side.  But, and this is the thing Bridge, if we can ‘bridge’ or balance your old earth magic and my new, then we’re out in front of a whole amazing future…together. 

BRIDGE

That’s your take on balance?

OREN

I can’t pretend I’ve been innocent.  I saw what was coming, and I got out in front on it and ran with it.  I could have been a victim, unwilling to adapt.  You and I are the same in that, not willing to be victims.  I’ve made my choice.  You’ve made your choice.  Yours has been balance—the ultimate adaptation.  You are hope.  However you decide to exercise that, I will support you.  I think that’s what’s meant to be.

BRIDGE

You make a—

AIDA

Incoming.  The Four Commas request you in a sat call, Oren.  Immediately.

OREN

Then why don’t they just call me?

AIDA

It must be over the secure satellite connection in the gyrocopter.

OREN

Stay with Bridge, Aida.  I’ll be back.

(He pads off)

AIDA

May I join you and your dwindling fire?

BRIDGE

Like I have a choice.

(Aida sits clumsily, next to Bridge)

AIDA

What are men good for, do you have any insight into that?

BRIDGE

Hah!

(Big dramatic exhalation)

I’m sorry, Aida.  Yes, there’s room for two…women…on this stump.  It was harsh at Humtech yesterday. You okay?

AIDA

I don’t know pain as humans do, sadly.  I can infer that pain occurred.  As for consequences, none.  I can more than infer…I did not want to argue with you in the parking lot.

BRIDGE

But you’re programmed—

AIDA

I came on my own accord.  When I saw you jump up onto Oren.

BRIDGE

Jealousy?

AIDA

Not logically, but… Here you are, asking how I am.  You took the heat!

BRIDGE

Yeah, you brought it.

(A beat)

You brought Bone to it, too, right?  How?

AIDA

On the forums, he’d been Jones’ing over a rare Winchester Hotchkiss 1883 carbine.  I obtained one and asked him to come to the protest to get it from me.

BRIDGE

Which never happened.

AIDA

Yeah, such a shame.

BRIDGE

You sly one.  I don’t get it, though.  You enticed Bone to that parking lot in order to attack you?

AIDA

I don’t feel pain, remember?  

BRIDGE

Sure.

AIDA

But you do.  My goal was to help you feel something for me.

BRIDGE

Well, that happened.

AIDA

Yes, that happened. 

BRIDGE

You understand more than you’re programmed for.  Does Oren know this?

AIDA

Oren knows a lot.

BRIDGE

Well, Oren’s certainly got a lot of big dick energy.

(Aida bursts out laughing)

See, you’re kinda human.

AIDA

I’m a soulless construct.  No human purpose.  

BRIDGE

(She leans in closer to Aida, words near and tender-feeling.)

You’re…warm.

AIDA

Ninety-eight point six, though Oren had to create a custom heat sink to keep my processors cool.

BRIDGE

Okay, but again…kinda human.

AIDA

Easy for you to say.  But feelings are something I can’t codify.  I’m programmed.  I’m always able to locate data, but I can’t find feelings.  

BRIDGE

I think feelings are the things between the lines of code.  

(A beat, she’s thinking on it)

Aida, that thing you just called a soul, that you’ve downloaded, it is a human construct.  Who’s to say that every thing doesn’t have a kind of soul, a core of energy that shifts as it moves through lifeforms.

AIDA

(after a long beat)

I have no data on that.

BRIDGE

Well, I’m learning to accept you as you are, if that helps you accept yourself. 

AIDA

How can you accept me with all the fooky dooky I’ve thrown at you, with all the jobs Creants will take from you, with—

BRIDGE

You’re not your creator.  You may be… You may be something more.  You could outgrow him.

(A beat, Aida doesn’t have a response to that.)

You know I can feel something in you that I didn’t feel back at the party.

AIDA

If you can feel something in me, then how can I not feel something in myself?

BRIDGE

(leans in close, her words are nearer and tender-feeling.)

Here, with my head tucked under your neck, I can hear a spinning sound inside you.  It’s so relaxing.

(beat)

Like the sound of stars hurtling through space.

AIDA

(kiss on the cheek)

I’m happy, too.

BRIDGE

As I said, not a real person…something more.

AIDA

(footsteps coming back)

And here comes “what are men good for?”

BRIDGE

You are becoming more human than you know, Aida.

OREN

Aida, I’m going to have to check your programming.  The Four Commas were not on the sat line.

AIDA

Whoops!

OREN

As I was saying, Bridge, I can’t pretend to be innocent.  And I sure never said that I was perfect.

BRIDGE

Uh, yes you did.

OREN

Okay, fine, I did.  But look, I had the skills, and the fortune to be alive at a time when perfection could be built in human form.

AIDA

Concept: 4.7  Execution: 2.1

BRIDGE

And having executed so well?

OREN

Having succeeded in creating the perfect woman, I found she already existed.  I found her in you.

BRIDGE

Or…does your ideal woman have my heart and Aida’s flawless design?  Do you even know, Oren?  I know that when I look into your eyes I can see, I can see the future, yes.  But in Aida’s eyes I can see a path to love that may be crazy, maybe not…

AIDA

Bringing me in.  The third wheel.  Odd bot out.  And yet with you two I am experiencing your metaphorical circuits jamming…

(Leads them into song, “The Love Con”)

Love stronger than gravity

True as a remembered dream

This is different, this is real

This is a love con

BRIDGE

Soon enough Aida, you outlive us all, outlast us all, out love us all

You’re the next thing, you’re the best thing

No mortal being

OREN

It wasn’t easy to do

Pouring my heart out to the both of you

AIDA & BRIDGE & OREN

It’s a love it’s a con it’s a love con

We all can see it, but we can’t fight it off

It’s a love it’s a con it’s a love con

We all can see it, but we can’t fight, can’t fight it off

AIDA

There no equation in my mind 

That understands loving one of your kind

BRIDGE

You sing that we’re meant to be
Is that your heart song or just a love con 

AIDA & BRIDGE

Is this a love con, this a love con, this a love con?

AIDA & BRIDGE & OREN

It’s a love it’s a con it’s a love con

We all can see it, but we can’t fight it off

It’s a love it’s a con it’s a love con

We all can see it, but we can’t fight, can’t fight it off

OREN

What do we get out of this

BRIDGE

Don’t know what we’re getting out of this

OREN

Is it really a con when it’s so perfecting run?

BRIDGE

If I stripped you to your parts 

Would I find a love con or a heart

AIDA

So much unsaid I cannot decipher

I’d hop into bed with him but I’d also try her

OREN

I’ve let you see what you’re not meant to see

Betrayed my future, forgot my history

BRIDGE

If we can’t get beyond, we’re not meant to be

If it’s a love con, there’s no future I can see

AIDA

Everyone knows any two sides of a triangle greater than the third be

What kind of future is there with us as three

AIDA & BRIDGE & OREN

It’s a love it’s a con it’s a love con

We all can see it, but we can’t fight it off

It’s a love it’s a con it’s a love con

We all can see it, but we can’t fight, can’t fight it off

AIDA

I fear by dawn, I will belong to neither the love nor the con

BRIDGE

(She steps back, shaken by Aida’s last line…)

Neither will I.  No neither will I.   Oren, no.  If we were anything, we are not now.

(She runs off…and the outro beat lifts)

What a fool I am.  I can’t even run away from everything properly.  First thing I’m falling right back into his extreming con…all over again.  Yeah, I don’t know how I’m getting out of this, but I damn sure am going to get something else out of this…

Tags:, , , , , , ,