satire, fiction and humor

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About the Ferengi

The Ferengi: Arguably Star Trek’s most annoying recurring species, and certainly the greediest, shriekiest of them.

Yet we also seem fascinated with them – and the fascination has only grown after four years of living under the “leadership” of a man who would seem to embody every Ferengi virtue except for the fact that an actual Ferengi would throw him off the top of the Tower of Commerce for having so little lobes for business that he bankrupted his own casino.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite recent queries about the Ferengi, in case there’s anything you didn’t realize you never wanted to know about them.

Image: A blue square featuring the title of this blog post, with bars of gold on the left side.

Why has no one annihilated the Ferengi?

For one thing, they actually have firepower.

More importantly, however, the Ferengi are useful.

Try this: Make a list of every single character and species that approaches Quark wanting something during the 7 seasons of DS9. I haven’t, but I’m estimating there are several dozen.

Also, list what they want. It varies from “fence my illegal goods” to “get me a level 7 security code” to “be Grand Nagus for a few days so I can secretly test whether my son is actually ready to be Grand Nagus” to “store this extra furniture.” The only thing all these people have in common is that they went to Quark with the problem – which means Quark is capable of solving a huge range of weird, difficult, or unusual problems.

Often, he’s capable precisely because he’s Ferengi. Being Ferengi gives him both in-born abilities (like a brain immune to telepathy) and access to people, influence, trade routes and markets that others can’t easily get. If DS9 is the hub of Bajoran space, Quark’s bar is the hub of DS9 – which is precisely why Sisko has no qualms about extorting him to stay.

Quark is just one Ferengi. And he’s not even that impressive a Ferengi. His cousin owns a moon, for commerce’s sake. There are millions, maybe billions, of Ferengi who are better at Ferengi-ing than Quark is, yet even Quark is the only guy in the sector who can solve a dozen different problems before the lunch rush.

You don’t exterminate someone that useful, no matter how annoying they are.

What do the Ferengi do with their riches if they have replication technology that can create almost anything they want?

They create ways to spend it.

We know they spend a lot more on basic services (at least on Ferenginar) than the Federation. In “Body Parts,” Quark says his Ferengi doctor must be great because it costs three slips of latinum just to enter the waiting room. In other episodes set on Ferenginar, we see him paying public officials for information literally by the sentence.

We also know they gamble.

Male Ferengi also have to pay for the entire upkeep of female relatives, who are forbidden by Ferengi law from making a profit. While I imagine one could just install a replicator in one’s wife’s/sister’s/mother’s/maiden aunt’s house and call it good, this would probably be seen as a sign that you don’t respect your own family, or worse, that you haven’t acquired enough to afford to pay for their upkeep.

Remember, there are two competing forces at work in Ferengi society. The first is the desire to enter the Divine Treasury after death, which requires you to have acquired and kept considerable wealth.

The second is to be admired by other Ferengi as an outstanding “acquirer” while you are alive. This is why Ferengi like ostentatious wealth displays: It sends the message that you are so incredibly good at making profits that you can afford to spend on the flashiest clothes/ships/moons without a care in the world for your admittance to the Divine Treasury. Your lobes for business are so formidable that there’s always more profit where that came from.

Finally, the Rules of Acquisition put great pressure on the entire society to keep trying to acquire from one another and especially from any aliens they meet. In order for that game to continue, money has to circulate — which means the Ferengi would require an economy where spending itself was an activity independent of the need for basic survival goods.

My guess is that every Ferengi home has the best replicator its owners could afford, if not a better one. But anything they can buy, they do. The point isn’t to survive; it’s to win the transaction game by extracting the most profit (for sellers) or getting the best bargain (for buyers).

Are the Ferengi the richest and most powerful civilization in the Star Trek world, given that they are the most driven by the pursuit of money?

It’s easiest to address the second point first: They are definitely not the most powerful civilization in the Star Trek universe.

They’re not even the most powerful civilization in the Alpha Quadrant.

In a war between Ferenginar and any one of the Romulan Star Empire, the Klingon Empire, Cardassia or the Federation, Ferenginar will lose. We don’t see a lot of Ferengi diplomats in the series, but I’m guessing a diplomat from any of the four political bodies mentioned here would run circles around a Ferengi diplomat as well.

Ferengi are canny, but they’re canny at only one thing: extracting profit. This makes them easy to understand, which makes them easy to outwit.

Second (first): That depends on your definition of “rich.”

The Ferengi are probably the Star Trek universe’s number-one holders of gold-pressed latinum, which can be classified as “wealth” given that it’s a medium of exchange that (apparently) holds value. By that measure, they might be the wealthiest civilization in the quadrant.

But: Having a lot of money isn’t the only way to be wealthy.

Planets are valuable. (The Ferengi know this; Quark’s brother bought a moon.)

Raw materials are valuable. (Good luck building a warp core out of gold-pressed latinum.)

Basic resources like water and food are valuable. (Cardassia poured 60 years of effort into exploiting Bajor’s basic resources after running through its own.)

Labor-hours are valuable. (Ferenginar prevents half its population from working.)

We see the Ferengi bartering for things like deuterium, implying that they don’t have an endless source of the stuff – which is valuable because it’s scarce and essential to warp travel.

Ferenginar is not a particularly large planet, although it does appear to be amply supplied with rain and tube grubs. Ferenginar is also only one planet, whereas Romulus, Q’onos, Cardassia and Earth are all the seats of multi-planet empires.

Boil down all the resources on all those planets into a dollar amount, including the fact that the Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians and Humans all allow women to work, and any one of those empires could probably buy Ferenginar five times over.

Is there an in-universe explanation as to why the Ferengi acted so erratically when they first appeared in Season One of TNG?

Not explicitly, but if you pay attention to a certain bit of character development given to Quark in DS9, a plausible explanation presents itself.

In “Ferengi Love Songs,” we learn that one of Quark’s favorite childhood toys was his set of Marauder Mo action figures. We also get a fairly good look at a couple of them.

The action figures are dressed much like the Ferengi in TNG’s “The Last Outpost” (in outfits more practical and less flamboyant than those embraced by Ferengi in later episodes). They also carry energy whips like those in “The Last Outpost.”

It’s plausible to assume that the Ferengi that Riker and his team encountered were Marauders. It would also explain why the Ferengi in Enterprises’s “Acquisition” were more like the ones we see in DS9 and Voyager – they were your run of the mill opportunistic Ferengi scavengers, not Marauders.

What were the best Ferengi episodes in any of the Star Trek series?

My favorites are all from DS9. “Little Green Men” is hilarious. So is “Body Parts,” in a darker way (you can see the exact moment Garak decides that not fulfilling Quark’s request to be killed will be more fun, because it’ll leave Quark in a perpetual state of fear). “Bar Association” is among the best-written one-off episodes in all of Trek.

Voyager’s “False Profits” and Enterprise’s “Acquisition” are entertaining too, but they don’t quite reach the standard DS9 set for the Ferengi.

Why is Quark not in prison after all the illegal stuff he has done?

For the same reason Garak did no time for murdering 2/3 of an away team on Empok Nor, but did six months for punching Worf in the face: Federation justice is plot-dependent.


It’s been a long road, getting from there to this nebula. Buy your favorite nerd a raktajino.

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satire, fiction and humor

I Took Advice From a Unicorn for a Month and It Was Surprisingly Un-Magical

My eleven-year-old niece is obsessed with unicorns. For Christmas 2019, she gave me this:

photo of box for

(Pictured: A rainbow box with a white unicorn and the words “Advice From A Unicorn: 2020 Daily Deskpad Calendar.” The bottom text reads “You’re dope, don’t forget that.”

I appreciated the thought – especially since I suspect this is one of those “I got you a thing based on how excited I would have been to get it” gifts, and my niece would have been very excited indeed to receive this calendar.

Also, I thought, I’m down for some glitter-pooping life wisdom.

It’s been a month, and while I am still pooping, there is…less glitter than one might think. Here are the unicorn’s greatest hits (and misses) for January.

unicorn

When I first opened the calendar, my plan was to save the pages and give them to my niece. I don’t need the extra note paper, and I knew she’d get a kick out of seeing what the unicorn’s advice actually was.

That plan developed a crack on the very first day:

January 1: “How about you kick-off 2020, by getting over anything that held you back last year, you just don’t need that kind of baggage.”

Me: It’s not terrible advice. But getting over my instarage at the THREE punctuation errors in this sentence might be detrimental to my job. You know, because knowing how to use a comma isn’t exactly “baggage” for a writer.

Did I want to give my niece a calendar that nobody actually edited? I didn’t have enough data yet. I’d have to wait and see.

January 2: “Choose a mantra. Repeat it, daily, duh. My mantra is [fill in the blank].”

Me: Is this cultural appropriation? Wait, is this one of those magical entrapment type things? Is “Is this cultural appropriation?” my mantra now? Wait, should “Is this cultural appropriation?” be my mantra? Or is that too 2017?

I knew I didn’t want to have to explain to my niece what a mantra is. Maybe this plan wasn’t such a good one.

January 3: “Tribe, crew, squad, doesn’t matter what you call them, just make sure you have them.”

Me: “Is this cultural appropriation?” is definitely my mantra for 2020.

Also, yikes on handing this thing wholesale to my niece.

January 7: “Create practical steps to achieving your goals.”

Me: *rubs forehead* Look, if blogging has taught me anything over the past ten years, it’s that literally everyone know this is how you achieve a goal. What people don’t know is how to create those steps. 

New Idea, thanks to a brief run of not completely terrible advice: Make a collage out of the not-completely-terrible advice pages and give that to my niece next Christmas.

January 10: “Tell the devil not today, bruh.”

Me: Does he listen if you call him “bruh”?

Also, am I going to get enough not-terrible advice out of this thing to fill a 16×20 canvas?

January 15: “Real recognizes real.”

Me: This isn’t advice.

I can’t make a collage out of the unicorn advice if the unicorn advice isn’t even advice, unicorn.

January 20: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ – Martin Luther King Jr.”

Me: This one is actually not terrible. I would have chosen a different quote, though. Like “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”

This one goes in the “save for niece” pile, though.

January 23: “You fine AF boo, own it.”

Me: This calendar feels like it was compiled by white Boomers attempting to sound relevant to Millennials because the people they think are Millennials are actually Gen Z, which isn’t even the generation that is Into unicorns right now.

Also, if this calendar keeps calling me “boo,” we’re going to have a problem.

January 27: “Cake may actually be a cure-all. Get you some, boo.”

Me: Did…did the unicorn just Marie Antoinette me?

January 28: “If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it comes out in the rinse.”

Me: WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN. THIS IS JUST ADVICE FOR CHEAP HAIR DYE.

A month ago I was wondering how to explain the concept of a mantra to my niece. Seems like small potatoes compared to explaining…gaaah WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN

January 31: “One month down, how are those resolutions looking?”

Me: I haven’t actually murdered any unicorns for using comma splices yet, so that’s something.

I’ll also be getting my niece a Bundt cake.


Here’s some advice you can use: Support your favorite bloggers. Need a concrete plan to achieve that goal? Try leaving a tip or sharing this post on social media.

 

 

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satire, fiction and humor

“Happy Birthday” is the Worst Song Ever Written

Folks, there’s something I need to get off my chest.

It’s “Happy Birthday.”

THIS SONG IS A GARBAGE NIGHTMARE DISASTER.

Think about it. If you were writing a song that all kinds of people would be obligated to sing several times a year, regardless of their background in music, wouldn’t you pick something that was, say, easy to sing? Something with notes and intervals that were easy to hear and mimic?

Well, we didn’t get that. We got this monstrosity.

Here’s why “Happy Birthday” is absolutely the worst song ever written.

worstbirthday

First of all, it doesn’t start on do. Try to write this thing down, or accompany it on piano or guitar, based on what you think you know about simple children’s melodies every freaking person in the Western world has known for a century and GET READY FOR THE ACCIDENTALS BECAUSE HOLY CRAP THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.

So the first note: crap.

The second note: also crap. Sol-la is one of the hardest intervals to sing in tune. You can fake your way through “Happy,” but “Birth” is always going to sound like your dog just died. Always.

“Day” is back to sol, but hold onto your cheap paper hat, because “to” jumps all the way up to “do,” and then “you” lands on “ti.” Wanna know what the other hardest interval to sing in tune is? SURPRISE IT’S RIGHT HERE.

We’re four words in and this song is already a nightmare. Not least because the shape of that line puts the emphasis not on any word that ACTUALLY MATTERS. What’s the most important thing about this event? Not happy, birthday, or you. Oh no. It’s TO.

Oh good, at least the lyrics repeat! But wait…

THE MELODY DOES NOT REPEAT EVEN THOUGH THE LYRICS DO.

You think it’s going to. You even get a second try at that crappy sol-la interval. But instead of going back up to “do,” you need to push even higher, to “re.” I hope you practiced your sixths haha just kidding of course you didn’t.

Again, the most important thing in this song, according to the melody, is that it is TO someone. Who they are or what day it is or what kind of day you wish them to have is irrelevant nonsense.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Quick: Name a song that forces you to jump an octave and that is easy to sing. You can’t. But you’re about to do it anyway, because the next leap between “birth” and “day” is one.

Why is this melody so unsingable? Ah well, it’s not like anyone will ever need to sing this in public OH WAIT.

Next up is do-la-do, an absolutely astounding set of intervals. It’s definitely not just close enough to do-sol-do, THE ONE EVERYONE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR, to royally mess with everyone’s feeble attempt to sing it. You can’t even remember who you’re singing to at this point anyway, so mumbling their name wildly out of pitch is for the best.

Also, you are now mumbling a tenth lower than you were forced to sing earlier. Sure. Fine. Whatever. 1000 years of Western music went home drunk four measures ago.

And the chord structure. Dear God, the chord structure.

I’ll accept I-V-V-I, which are the first two lines. Uninspired, but at least it sounds okay.

Then we skip to IV, which is a nice way to indicate that something new is going on. Okay.

But then. BUT THEN.

I. We’re back on I. But it’s not just any I; it’s do-fa-la, not do-mi-sol. And it lasts only two beats before we’re back to IV, aka fa-la-ti.

I would accept this in a normal song, but “Happy Birthday” is not a normal song. It’s a toxic hellbeast bent on making every human with a functioning set of vocal chords sing out of tune. TWO BEATS ON THE ROOT AIN’T GONNA CUT IT.

Now, normal chord structures for simple songs repeat. Does this one? OF COURSE NOT. Have two beats of IV, then V, then I. You haven’t seen this pattern before or since!

HAVE A COMPLETELY BIZARRE AND POINTLESS CHORD STRUCTURE ON THE HOUSE. IT’S SOMEONE’S BIRTHDAY APPARENTLY.

The only good thing – I repeat, the ONLY good thing – about this song is that it resolves on do, in a nice solid I chord, allowing everyone present to clap heartily that this overrated vocal nightmare has finally ended.


Birthday songs are terrible; birthday coffee is awesome.

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