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June 06, 2009


The official background notes to “Minimalist poem 

No. 5,000” (from issue No. 18)


Ivan has given two versions of how “Minimalist poem No. 5,000” was inspired.

The first is that Ivan felt inspired to write it around 1999 or 2000 after a theological discussion with a newspaper colleague he dubbed “The Patron Saint of Newspapers.” An occasional proofreader for The Luscian O’Buenklava, the newspaper for which Ivan has worked as a foreign correspondent for much his life, The Patron Saint of Newspapers was so named because of her sweetness, devoutness to Catholicism and seemingly miraculous ability to spot typos and inaccuracies in Ivan’s stories before they went to press.

According to the first version, The Patron Saint of Newspapers inspired Ivan to write the poem after the two had debated over whether the biblical verse Matthew 10:30 should be interpreted literally. The Patron Saint of Newspapers argued that it should be. Ivan disagreed on the grounds that God would grow angry at people for making His job harder by carelessly allowing split ends to run rampant across their scalps and unleash His anger by plastering the Earth with Brylcreem, thus destroying all life on Earth. Having already totaled Earth once – and remembering the results of that – God would obviously stay away from doing anything that would prompt Him to go ballistic on the world again, Ivan argued.

The other version is that Ivan got his inspiration from an event he covered for The Lusican O’Buenkalva. In 1993, Ivan covered a personal appearance by Don Popeil at what was then Bannister Mall in Kansas City, Mo. (the mall has closed and is being leveled to build a soccer complex). A native of the island of Luscia, Don Popeil was born Frederiskoval O’Chang O’Uris-Jones and felt a calling to change his name to Don Popeil and pattern himself after the inventor/TV sales guru Ron Popeil when the first Veg-O-Matics finally reached Luscia in 1973. In keeping with his calling, in 1979, he left Luscia for the United States, where he began selling Popeil-style products by conducting personal demonstrations at shopping malls. His product line included the Reveg-I-Tator, a device he claimed could put vegetables that had been sliced up by Veg-O-Matics back together. Targeted toward fruitarians who had been vegetarians and suddenly felt guilty about the vegetables they felt that they had needlessly mangled, it flopped.

During the early 1990s, Don Popeil began having success with Stay Plastered, a hair gel created to complement the Spray-On Hair developed by Ron Popeil. Stay Plastered created a brief cultural buzz with its advertising slogan: “Keep your painted-on hair from getting mussed. Stay plastered with Stay Plastered.”

However, as the product became popular, it also drew criticism, particularly from the Order of Sammy and Samantha’s Samsonites. Founded in 1912, the order was a devoutly religious secular cult that preached that all people should let their hair remain untouched (as the Old Testament figure Samson was supposed to have done) and constantly carry Samsonite briefcases (as Samson would’ve done if he had grown up in America and gotten a Harvard law degree).*

After reading a government study that showed that Stay Plastered not only failed to keep painted-on hair in place, but caused balding men to lose whatever locks they had left, the order began picketing Don Popeil’s demonstrations. Generally, Don Popeil ignored the picketing. But during the Bannister Mall appearance, he got into a shouting match with the leader of the Order of Sammy and Samantha’s Samsonites, Secretly Settled Selected Samsonite Sect 77777777777775. Finally, after 10 minutes, he shouted, “O’paddlewang waffleflovitka chivamiraniski!” Considered one of the strongest threats one can make in Luscia, the phrase roughly translates from the Older-Than-Old-But-Not-As-Old-As-Old-Old-Luscian as “I’ll paddle your Belgian waffle while your pigmy goat watches!”

A member of the sect who was familiar with the various forms of the Luscian language and Luscian culture heard Don Popeil’s threat, translated it and explained its meaning to the other members, who became enraged and charged at Don Popeil, who began spraying cans of Stay Plastered at them to defend himself. During the fighting, Ivan, who was sitting behind Don Popeil while covering the event, was hit by an airborne Samsonite briefcase. Someone then recited Matthew 10:30 and threw a Bible at Don Popeil, which missed the sales guru and hit Ivan in the head. The blows to Ivan’s head and his inhalation of the Stay Plastered spray in the air caused Ivan to envision God as a fussy hairdresser who was training Gabriel to take over his hair tallying for him and constantly yelled at the angel because Gabriel kept cutting corners while counting dreadlocks and braids. After coming out the hallucination, Ivan reportedly wrote the poem in ink on a can of Stay Plastered.

So which event do you think inspired the poem?


*The order also spawned the Order of Sammy and Samantha’s Samoan Salmon Samsonites, a group of zealots who believed they should leave their hair uncut and walk around with Samsonite briefcases filled with live salmon in them. This group has not caught on for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has smelled a briefcase with a live fish in it for about 10 hours.


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