Unpacking You Can’t Fight City Hall

“You Can’t Fight City Hall” is the first new scene written for *In the Land of the Penny Gnomes” in nearly four years. I can’t say I wasn’t a bit nervous about getting back into the voices of these characters, but going over my previous material the past several months has really helped. I had a great deal of fun writing this scene, let’s unpack.

Nobody Skips

I dithered over this quite a bit before settling on Professor Nobody actually skipping over to the stairs to answer the door 1. It seemed to fit the absurdity of the scene perfectly.

The other characters are as taken aback by Nobody’s behavior as anyone, which is why they stare at each other in mute incomprehension before shrugging and going with the flow.

Not Absurd Enough

I have many friends who are full-blown academics 2, and the exchange about Nobody’s work not being “absurd enough” was written for them. Academia has it’s own rules and standards, which often don’t make any sense to non-academics 3, and it was fun to make sure the academics of The Realm were as much of a “breed set apart” as their real-world counterparts. Of course the academics in a satirical realm would look down upon works which have too many “practical applications!”

Nobody, who has spent his entire life mining the depths of absurdity, has been quite hurt by the constant rejection he faces from ETU. In fact, he thought researching a cure for fading was career suicide. He invented his snack chips simply to keep his name relevant in academic circles.

What’s With The Chicken?

I’m part-time on staff for The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. We do a white elephant gift exchange every year at our staff Christmas party, and a recurring gift is a rubber chicken.

Why a rubber chicken? I have no idea.

It’s a great time, though.

Will is a Wizard?

Every human-looking being in The Realm is a wizard. So it only makes sense the authorities in Great Roll would assume Will is a wizard.

As with many assumptions, they are completely wrong. Will is much more than a wizard.

Arresting Negotiations

Nobody’s absent-minded social awkwardness comes out when he decides that moment was simply not convenient for him to be arrested. The Professor floats through The Realm’s colorful interpretation of reality, blissfully unaware of the rules he is constantly breaking.

His wife used to keep him more tethered, and Sindy has tried to fill the void since she faded, but without his spouse he’s become more and more lost in his work. He used to have upwards of twenty social insights in a given year. The number has gradually reduced as of late.

His later negotiations which led to their direct transport to City Hall are another wonderful example of Nobody following his own rules.

I think this aspect of his character springs partly from my own personality. Our congregation recently lost a woman who used to chuckle about me “marching to the beat” of my own drummer. When I first arrived at Central it took many people, especially those from older generations, a while to understand my weird beat still loved and respected them. Eventually, most folks realized, even as I failed to meet expectations 4, I was determined to be there for them.

Sadly, most people never spend enough time with Nobody to see just how deeply he cares for others, even if he’s completely inept at demonstrating it.

Nobody’s Lawyer

Who is Ibi? You’ll have to find out next week, I’m afraid. Keep an eye out for Ibi.

Ketchup As A Side-Effect

The cure for fading always comes with a side-effect. This can be relatively minor, such as the need to douse everything in ketchup. The side-effect can also be more noticeable. Several gnomes in Great Roll, for example, can only walk backwards. One has to somersault everywhere he goes 5.

Why Ketchup? Growing up this was me. I put ketchup on just about everything. Chicken? Ketchup. Hot Dogs? Ketchup 6. Steak? Ketchup. Baked potatoes? Ketchup. Vegetables 7? Ketchup.

Ketchup wasn’t a condiment for me, it was an essential food group.

Being Recognized

Nobody’s snack chip efforts have paid off, and ETU is willing to grant him a doctorate at long-last. But after years of being snubbed, The Professor wants a seat on the review board.

Of course, the notion barbecue chips would be the most absurd flavor of potato chip he could conceive is, in and of itself, absurd.

Will has a really bad headache.


  1. ”Merrily” was added in my first edit. 
  2. I, myself, am a wannabe. 
  3. Even if there is a good reason for most of them. 
  4. I’m a Baptist pastor who doesn’t own a suit. I hate suits. I also hate ties. Also, during the Summer I have no problems preaching in flip-flops. 
  5. It’s rather interesting watching this particular gnome drive. 
  6. And I have never graduated to mustard, I can’t stand the taste. 
  7. The few I ate, anyway. 
%d bloggers like this: