Dear Beeblebrox,
   Am having a little trouble with my update for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s the noisy green planet again. Can’t make head nor tails of it. I seek advice about how to interpret the data. First of all, our status as tourists has changed. Remember how they used to send scouts out into the desert to greet us when we landed? Time was when they’d roll out the red carpet and treat us as gods. Then there was the amusing little period when they tracked us with laser guns and tin foil suits for fear of space invaders. Well, these days you can’t get a decent mention in the tabloids, they’re all so busy chasing one another–perhaps it’s something in the water, but the Earthlings have all become aliens to each other.

This doesn’t mean it’s any easier for us to blend in. As you recommended, I tied a cloth round my head this time, so as to cover the points of my ears–who can forget what a riot they caused last time! But in a recent eon, they evolved. Now pointy ears and heads are commonplace. Instead, it was the head cloth itself that caused the riot. They seemed to think my scarf was alive and that it was preaching religion and chatting them up about politics. I don’t understand entirely, but my guess is that head coverings are kind of like the team flags we had such trouble understanding a few years ago. We really must do a closer study of the Hidden Language of Textiles.

I also donned what used to be the median recommended body covering, but there is no median anymore. On one side of the planet they cover most every part of themselves before entering the public space. On the other side of the planet they take most everything off. And in the land of France they are proposing to measure beards to make sure they’re not too long–long beards confuse their gods. In the mountain strongholds of the Taliban they measure to insure they’re not too short–short beards attract demons.

We also need to update the Hitchhiker glossary. May want to reconsider what they mean by that word “freedom.” Remember how I used to wonder as I wandered where the buffalo roamed? When I visited the land they call “free” this time, I needed a visa to get in and a lawyer to get out. And I was lucky–they’re sending anyone they can’t categorize to a worm hole in the ozone just south of the Bermuda Triangle. No one seems to know what happens there, but I think the force field is pitching them out of Earth time altogether. I’d take another look at that mysterious Guantanamonian Star Ship you said you encountered out by the edge of the universe. Could be a serious violation of the Universal Law.

Anyway, I tried to get them to take me to their leader. First I went to the land of Ur, where we had such good eats in the olden days, but it is a very confusing place just now. The people are at war with their liberators (check meaning of liberation); there is a Council of Governors that has no power (check meaning of government); there is a shared religion with a hundred heads (check meaning of monotheism); and there is a call for elections that is being resisted by those who say they are holding out for democracy (check meaning of democracy).

Everyone told me that the true leader dwelt in the lands to the west, so there I steered my craft. I ended up in the land of Iowa, a flat patch of turf that makes a lovely landing site, for future reference. Iowa is also home to the 120,000 anointed voters who decide who will be the next leader of the planet. (Not sure how or why they are so anointed, must research.) But it is to this place that all the applicants for high office come to pay their obeisance. They puff out their chests and rustle their tail feathers like the Greater Vassillian Intergalactic Bird of Prey in heat. They have eating contests and drinking contests and smiling contests and who-can-sweat-least-under-a-hot-light contests. They pound their fists and sing songs and yodel and yell. (If they lose, however, they must stop yelling and yodeling at once. Sometimes they forget.)

But even in Iowa I found no clear leader. Go east a bit they said, and so my next stop was the land of New Hampshire, where an even smaller group of really, really anointed voters gets to winnow the field yet further. These high priests of the ballot box dwell in snow caverns most of their lives, hibernating quietly until they hear the frenzied calls of the gathering, now-desperate candidates. The voting New Hampshireites then come forth from their frozen retreats and make themselves visible to the naked eye. There is more flap-dancing, more canoodling, and everyone eats enough to last them until the next thaw four years thence.

But still no leader was apparent. My final stop was in the land of Dixie, which seems to have slid northward just a bit in recent years. Everyone south of the Great Freshwater Lakes was speaking as though they were in more southerly climes, where everyone knows that little bits of words come unglued more easily in the humidity. But it’s happening all over the snow belt now, the endin’s just fallin’ off like ‘taters off a truck, and so I’m bundlin’ up a big basket of g‘s I found lyin’ lost on the ground and sendin’ ’em to you for immediate observation and analysis.

In the meantime, though, I think I finally found their leader. Haven’t been able to get him in focus yet–fuzzy, shifting, surface with frequent windstorms–but if I’m not mistaken, I do believe he is in possession of a new, improved model of the Arcturian Pentatrillium Improbability Drive, the one that materializes olive branches out of landmines and money when it has all been spent and victory where there is chaos and safety wherever almanacs are confiscated. At least let’s hope he has it, because Earthlings are going to be plenty hotted up if he doesn’t deliver all that visionary money and victorious order he keeps promising. If all he’s really got to count on is old-fashioned probability, then I expect he’ll soon turn to old-fashioned Martian Escapizoidalism like every other leader of a small world. That should keep him in orbit for at least a little while, but if it looks like the Earthlings might actually deposit him here–can we say…we’ll talk?