No Place like Home

Hello, and welcome.  Are you the director?  Oh, the PA. Oh fine.  Olivia.  You can call me Terri.  I spell it with an ‘i’ --not that you could tell from hearing it, of course.

Oh, no -- you don’t have to take your shoes off, but please be aware of our ecru wool carpet.  It shows dirt.  We paid extra for that.  Our decorator -- you’ve probably heard of him -- said, “Untreated wool carpets show real wealth. Everybody has them.” So yeah, those are them.

Please give your coat to Barnaby.   He’ll also charge your phone for you, if you’d like. And he’ll alphabetize your apps.  He loves that.

A drink?  In this cozy but unpretentious room -- that is John Currin; you recognized it! -- we serve only colorless drinks.  It’s just awful having to brush the suede pillows if they get even the tiniest stain.  Awful work.  And Barnaby has a million other tasks to do tomorrow, so if you don’t mind?  Vodka? Gin?  Water? Tonic?  Perrier? Simple syrup?  White Rum?  Anjejo Tequila?  If you want bourbon, scotch, red wine or Diet Coke, please head to the breakfast room, where my husband is managing his brackets.  Larry loves his Cosmopolitans and his diet sodas ("You drink girl drinks" our son Telemachus teases him), so he goes to his corner and I usually stay in my beautiful, pristine den. (By the way, the stager was fabulous. I’m going to ask our private banker at First & Last if we can actually buy these blue leather-bound books about the war.  World War. II. Or I.  Either. They both look good.)

Larry and I are totally hands-on parents. We interviewed tons of nannies before we hired Mrs. Blaine.  Her record was spotless, and she actually looks like my Aunt Doris. The kids are with her now, at the Lucian Freud exhibit.  My ten-year-old daughter, Poinsettia, just loves Freud.

And that’s why we needed a hands-on banker. (Did that come out right? Also, can I put down my hand with the book in it?  It’s getting heavy. I take it this thing can be edited. Even Telemachus makes movies on his phone. I can have Barnaby download them for you if you’d like to see them.)

Oh, can you ask the director if he wants me to say that another way? Okay, then, just let me try that again. The director is going to come by and say hello, isn’t he?  Claude? Oh, he’s a she?

OK, starting over:  Welcome. Would you like a seat?  Need to use the loo first?  Take a tour of the place?  I don’t know if I mentioned it, but we aimed for comfort first, elegance second.  I mean, we live here.  This is our home.  I’d say “This is our house,” but it’s in an apartment building; just so whoever is watching this will understand.   Of course you understood. You came up in an elevator.

Just like our private bankers understand us.  Mmm. They do.

I could pretend to water the orchid, if that’s better?

We high-net-worth customers need tending, like our orchids.

(I thought that was good.  Could you please ask Claude?  Too much? Okay I’ll put down the orchid and hold the book, no problem.)

The kids do homework here, but not right here -- more over there.  Just -- no, just past that doorway.  Yes, right.  You could call it a kitchen.  It’s part of what we call our “family suite.”  Very lived in.  I’m here practically all day.  It’s my mission control center.

 OK -- I’ll try to get to the point.

When Larry and I started our shampoo company, we worked day and night, first in our parents’ kitchens, then in a warehouse, never quite believing we’d have such success. And you could say our first five years of Wow Your Hair Smells Like Hair paid for this exquisite home where you are visiting today. If we hadn’t had such wonderful bankers, this might not have happened.  And if we hadn’t been turned down first by the board at 882 Park, because, you know, they thought our plans for adding a suntan salon were “overly ambitious“ we’d never have found such a perfect place. I mean it is us!  That’s why we are so happy to talk about First & Last Trust Company.  They met us, they tried our products, and they believed in us.  And now, look at this spread!  Look at my art!  Yes, that’s a Cindy Sherman.  You are good!  

Look, I’m not even wearing my statement jewelry, because they said to look “quietly rich,” which makes no sense to me.  I mean what’s the point of that?  (But I went ahead and put my statement jewelry is in a safe-deposit box –three, to be honest--at First & Last Trust Company.)  I wanted potential customers to see me in my private study to be inspired.  I was going to pose in my luggage/storage-crafts room, but this one is more aspirational. That’s what the First & Last’s publicity department said.  

Anyway, the point is, if you are an ultra-high-net-worth individual like me and are ready to become kind of different from how you were in your old neighborhood, just like me, contact the private banking group at First & Last Trust Company, and maybe you can have a personal relationship with a banker -- and his wife; they throw that in -- who have box seats at the U.S. Open!

Now can I put down the book?

 

Lisa Birnbach started out in vaudeville.  Her most recent book is True Prep, published by Knopf.  She tweets at @LisaBirnbach. (Those rumors about the Palm Springs condo are mostly untrue.)

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Letter Rip: Why People Like Me Have No Celebrity Friends

1.

 

Me: It is a pleasure to meet you, Jennifer Lopez. You're even more beautiful in person. Though, I admit, you're not the first "J. Lo" I've encountered in the flesh. Years ago, I spotted Jon Lovitz on the subway.

 

Jennifer Lopez: I once slept with Jon Lovitz.

 

Me: You did?!

 

Jennifer Lopez: Are you an idiot? Get away from me.

 

2.

 

Me: Okay, Alex Rodriguez, best A-Rod of all time: you or nineteenth-century French sculptor Auguste Rodin?

 

Alex Rodriguez: I'm sorry … what?

 

3.

 

Me: This is incredible – I can't believe I'm shaking hands with President Clinton! Did you know, sir, that the vowels in "President Clinton," when read in order, are the vowels sung in the refrain from "Old MacDonald"?

 

President Clinton: I'll tell you something else. It'll be our little secret. "President Clinton of the USA" is an anagram of "To copulate, he finds interns."

 

Me: Holy …! That checks out! Look at the big brain on mister two-term president!

 

President Clinton: Damn skippy.

 

Me: Just think – if you had lost to Bob Dole, we would have had a president whose name anagrams to "Boob led." Ha-ha! That would have been so crazy, right?

 

President Clinton: Beat it, geek.

 

4.

 

Me: Hey, Shamu, get this – the word "orca" contains the U.S. postal abbreviations for two states that killer whales swim by when they're migrating! Amazing, huh?

 

Shamu: AAAUUU! WAUUUUU! OOOAAAAA!

 

Me: Sorry, what?

 

Shamu: That's whalesong for "You're banned for life from SeaWorld, nerd."

 

5.

 

Me: Not to sound like your financial planner, Yoko Ono, but have you ever thought about investing in a 401(k)? It just seems appropriate since your name has four o's and one k …

 

Yoko Ono: Who let you into my apartment?

 

6.

 

Me: I am a huge fan of your stories, Alice Munro. And congrats on your recent Nobel win.

 

Alice Munro: Thank you. Suck it, Philip Roth.

 

Me: Do you always say that when someone congratulates you on becoming a Nobel laureate?

 

Alice Munro: Yes.

 

Me: Did you know that you're the first Nobel Prize winner for literature whose name features a single appearance of each of the five vowels?

 

Alice Munro: Yes … at least until they give it to "Breaking the Surface" author Greg Louganis. Then it will be me and him.

 

Me: Ha! That's right! That's great! You and I seem to share a love for wordplay. So … we're friends then?

 

Alice Munro: No.

 

7.

 

Me: Oo! Tina Fey! Sorry to bother you but did you know that "fey" is one of the letters of the Yiddish alphabet? Wow, I can't believe I'm talking to Tina Fey!

 

Tina Fey: Oy.

 

8.

 

Me: I'm very intrigued by tennis stars, you see … you two in particular.

 

Li Na: Is it because I won this year's Australian Open?

 

Goran Ivanisevic: Or because I won Wimbledon in 2001?

 

Me: The Australian Open? Wimbledon? What about the fact that "Li" and "Na" are the symbols for lithium and sodium on the periodic table of elements? Have you ever given a smidgen of thought to that incredible fact?

 

Or you, Goran Ivanisevic? Do you even care that your full name features alternating consonants and vowels for its entire fifteen-letter length? Do you even care about that? Do you? Or do you both simply take for granted the singular gifts the word gods have bestowed upon you?

 

Goran Ivanisevic: I'm scared.

 

Li Na: Me, too. Please, can you untie us now?

 

9.

 

Me: It must be frustrating. You, a famous world leader, and no one in the western world can agree on the spelling of your name. The New York Times spells it Muammar el-Qaddafi. USA Today spells it Moammar Gadhafi. The L.A. Times spells it Moammar Kadafi. And the Washington Post spells it Moammar Gaddafi. It's exasperating, huh?

 

Foreign dictator: […]

 

Me: I said it's exasperating, huh?

 

Foreign dictator: […]

 

Me: Oh, right … you're dead.

 

10.

 

Me: Hey, Tom Cruise! When you were dating Penelope Cruz, did you call her "my little homophone"?

 

Tom Cruise: Police! Help me!

 

11.

 

Me: Hey, Penelope Cruz! When you were dating Tom Cruise, did you call him "my little homophone"?

 

Penelope Cruz: ¡Policia! ¡Ayudame!

 

12.

 

Me: Everyone knows you're one of the best shortstops of all time, Derek Jeter. But few are aware that "jeter" is actually a French verb meaning "to throw." Would you regret retiring after this year without letting the world know this fascinating fact about your name?

 

Derek Jeter: I have no regrets. I've done everything I've set out to accomplish in the game of baseball. I'm really looking forward to this season which, yes, will be my last before I retire. I'm just sorry A-Rod, who is retired, can't be here with me this year to enjoy it.

 

Me: A-Rod didn't retire – he's just serving a one-year suspension for performance enhancing drugs.

 

Derek Jeter: Andy Roddick took PEDs?

 

David Levinson Wilk is a TV writer who has worked on game shows for ABC, CBS and NBC. His book "TEDtalks Across, TMZ Down,"  a collection of crosswords, will be published this spring.

 

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SAT Out


"The College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, eliminating obligatory essays, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong and cutting obscure vocabulary words.... The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary words will be replaced by words that are common in college."
-- The New York Times

1. Drinking : Binge :: Sex :

(a) Gender
(b) Casual
(c) SEX!
(d) Binge

2. Suri has class starting at 9AM. If it takes her 45 minutes to get ready, and 15 minutes to walk to class, what time should she set her alarm for?

(a) 8:55 AM
(b) 9:55 PM
(c) Snooze button
(d) Suri vomited on her alarm clock last night.

3. Frat : Party :: Calculus :

(a) Huh?
(b) Calculusator
(c) Greek
(d) F

4. Lourdes said to her mother, "It's not a big deal, mom. Everyone I know already lost her ___________."

(a) virginity
(b) scholarship
(c) license
(d) bail hearing

5. If 1 + 2x = 3, what does x equal?

(a) Old gf
(b) The spot
(c) Under 21, no drinks (just kidding)
(d) The two strangers I woke up with in my bed this morning

6. Junior Year Abroad : Productive Educational Experience ::

a) haystack : needle
b) Twitter : research tool
c) Friends : Friends Without Benefits
d) Junior Year Not Abroad : Productive Educational Experience

7. Fargo sends 100 texts an hour. Texts cost 20 cents each. How much is his monthly phone bill?

a) Infinity?
b) $14,400
c) This thing is also a phone?
d) My parents would know this.

8. An "A" 50 years ago : An "A" now ::

a) Diamonds : Cubic Zirconium
b) Handwritten letters : Facebook status updates
c) They had the same alphabet 50 years ago?
d) The SAT 50 years ago : The SAT now

9. Fortunately for Madison, in order to get a perfect score on the new SAT, her vocabulary merely has to be ________.

a) whatever.
b) like, okay.
c) words.
d) sex.

10. Optional essay: Please discuss how unpopular anyone who admits to doing the "optional" essay will be at college next fall. Feel free to answer in the form of tweets, tats, listicles, emoticons, GIFs, Snapchats, or whatever new ways you're communicating that old people haven't heard of yet.

You can find much more from Jeremy Blachman, although not his SAT score, at http://jeremyblachman.com

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Scapedogs

 

"[Naples, Italy] is trying to stake out a reputation as a civic innovator by positioning Naples at the cutting edge of dog-waste eradication ... The idea is that every dog in the city will be given a blood test for DNA profiling in order to create a database of dogs and owners. When an offending pile is discovered, it will be scraped up and subjected to DNA testing. If a match is made in the database, the owner will face a fine of up to 500 euros, or about $685."
-- The New York Times, February 23, 2014

Giuseppe,

 

Buongiorno.  Hope all is well with you and your entire family, especially the new pups.  I am enclosing an article you may have missed.  I suggest that you read it before you urinate on it.  As you will see, it is a matter of grave concern.  Yes, yes, call me the dog who cried undomesticated common ancestor, but I really think that this time, they're out for us.  I know I was concerned about collars and tags, but this goes way beyond.  They want to put us in a database?  I thought Italy was a free country, where we could roam as we wish, eat pizza scraps, and defecate without worrying that it was going to be collected and analyzed.  I hope you're as up in legs about this as I am.  We need to arrange a peaceful demonstration on Via San Biagio.  Near the gelato place.  I've pooped there many a time and no one dared to sample it.

Buttsniffs,
Benedetto


Benedetto,

I did see the article -- my owner still gets the paper edition -- what an Olde English Sheepdog!  Frankly, I'm not sure why you're so concerned.  Worried they'll find out about that bite you gave the trash collector in '04?  I told you that you should have turned yourself in.  I think the statute of limitations has expired anyway, although I can ask my friend who eliminates outside the courthouse to peek inside and have a look at the penal code.  None of it's ever going to happen anyway -- you know the government's screaming is worse than its chewing.  Remember what happened when they tried to put the local elections online?  They don't know a thing about databases -- and you can't teach an elderly gentleman new skills. As far a protest?  I'd let sleeping people lie, to be honest.

Hump ya later,
Giuseppe


Giuseppe,

I don't think you understand.  It starts with poop and what's next -- paternity testing?  If I had to pay for every puppy I've been responsible for, I wouldn't even have enough left for milk bones. Heck, my owner would probably have me neutered!  And that 500 euro fine -- you know as well as I do that the cost won't really be borne by the people.  No, they're always looking for a scapedog.  They'll pass that down to us with cheaper kibble and no more treats.  I love the treats, especially the ones that look like bacon.  Look, I'm as sick as one of us today, so maybe that's making me extra cranky -- but we can't let them get away with this.

Grrrr,
Benedetto


Benedetto,

I hadn't thought about the paternity issue.  I guess I just want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  If they're serious about clean streets, maybe we can throw a bone to those crazy humans and let them take our poop -- if it means then they might move onto more serious problems, like cigarette butts and fast food wrappers.  (I'm glad we're smart enough not to smoke, to say nothing of being unable to smoke.)  With his diet, I'm worried my owner's well-being is just going to the people -- he eats real bacon, not just bacon-shaped treats!  And if I burn my paw one more time on a lit cigarette!  I really hope they're not just focusing on the poop alone, because they're yelling up the wrong bit of foliage if so.

Pawbump,
Giuseppe


Giuseppe,

Okay, okay, I'll call off the ladies and give this a chance.  You're right that I don't want to open a can of fleas.  Give my best to Fluffy, and we'll talk soon -- are you going to watch the grey-haired humans run around the track on Friday?  If you're looking for a tip, bet on Frank -- I know his trainer.

With lifted leg,
Benedetto

Bark up the right tree for more of Jeremy Blachman's humor writing at http://jeremyblachman.com.

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Trash Talk

"Two years ago, officials battling litter and rats in New York City subway stations started a little experiment: Take away trash bins.... MTA officials plan to extend the program to 29 more subway stations along the J and M lines later this year."
-- The Wall Street Journal

Dear Subway Riders,

Welcome to the subway, working hard to serve customers like you. Remember the trash cans?  You may notice we've removed them from stations throughout the system.  A recent study found that every trash can creates four trash cans' worth of garbage each and every day.  By removing the cans, we're proving our commitment not only to reducing trash in our subway stations but reducing by 100% the cost of paying people to collect it and throw it in the river or onto a trash boat that will sail endlessly around the world.

In order to make sure this program is effective, we have taken further steps.  Did you know that each time the subway stops, the odds of additional trash increase, as people without trash exit the subway system and new people, with trash, come in?  You may wonder, if there are no trash cans, what's the worry?  But every system should have a failsafe.  That's why we're also reducing the number of stops the trains will be making, with an ultimate goal of making zero stops by 2021.  Zero stops and zero trash cans means a zero times zero chance of subway trash.  And zero times zero is less than nothing.

Removing the trash cans and eliminating subway stops are just the first two steps in our comprehensive subway beautificationment project.  Have you noticed the benches in our stations?  Too many people have.  Our study found that the odds of people sitting down were dramatically increased with every bench, seat, or horizontal ledge available.  Sitting down increases lingering, and lingering, of course, leads to trash.  That's why we've removed most of our benches, leaving only the ones that were installed in honor of the fine citizens who donated money to improve our subway stations. Nobody has ever done that, so you do the math.  Our goal is to remove all horizontal surfaces of any kind by 2032.

Some critics have argued that removing benches will not prevent people from sitting, and may instead lead them to sit on the station floor.  This would be ridiculous, of course, and that's why we're committed to removing all subway station floors by 2046.  We are currently studying the costs and consequences of this plan and will soon be launching a pilot program in one randomly chosen station. You'll know which one when you get there and there is no floor.

Until there are no floors left on which to throw your garbage, you may wonder what will be replacing the trash cans.  In some stations, the answer is nothing.  We request that you hold onto your trash, eat it, or see if one of your fellow passengers might want to eat it. Alternatively you should throw it on the tracks, where it might catch fire.  Fire reduces the number of people using the subway, which lowers overall costs.  In addition, the more fires, the less costly our possible future heating bills.  Controlling the possible future costs of heating our stations even though they are entirely unheated now, and will soon have no floors and not even exist at all, is an important long-term goal.

In a few stations, due to an unexpected error when initially installing our trash cans, their removal has left gaping holes that lead to the center of the Earth.  Please be careful when navigating the platforms in these stations (while they exist) because if you fall into a hole or, for that matter, onto the tracks (until they are eliminated too, by 2053), we no longer have any staff assigned to help rescue you, thanks to our recent cost-cutting measure of throwing our maintenance personnel in the trash cans that no longer exist.

Do note that at the end of your journey to the Earth's molten core, there is a trash can, a bench, and one working unisex restroom, which is one more restroom of any kind than we have here in the subway system.  Feel free to use it, unless a rat got there first.

Also note that in some stations where the trash cans have been removed, you will see a large dumpster where we will be temporarily storing the cans, the benches, the floors, our maintenance personnel, and our trains. If you could get to them, which you won't be able to, it would be illegal to use these dumpsters for your personal trash.

Finally, this will be my last letter as director of communications for the subway system.  I am being removed, as a cost-cutting measure, and will not be replaced. Thank you.

Please recycle this notice.  But not here.

Jeremy Blachman's humor pieces can be found at jeremyblachman.com.  He may no longer be allowed to ride the subway.

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My Cruciverbal Life

Grab a stool. Yep, I finished it that fast. How? Well, you'd be good at crosswords too, if you’d lived my life.
 
For instance: How do I know that a small newt is called an EFT? Believe it or not, when I was very young, I used to play with an eft at my great-grandmother’s house! She was a bit of an eccentric, but harmless. My great-grandmother, I mean. She had money, and she lived on a beautiful, sizeable estate outside Helena, Montana. She loved newts, because they’re less awkward than salamanders. (Also, for that matter, AUKs.) Her home was filled with newts, which had the run of the place. Well, the crawl. When I was four, a particularly bold eft leapt into my lap. I called her Sally. We were inseparable until she was full-grown. I liked to think of her as physically gracefulDEFT. When we finally parted company, I was grief-strickenBEREFT.
 
The dog of the Thin Man moviesASTA, of course. Did I mention that my great-grandmother, Myrna (whom I called “Nana”), occasionally thought she was the actress Myrna Loy? (She claimed she was best friends with OONAa Chaplin.) She used to regale us with stories of the Hollywood life, and specifically the adventure that was making movies with Bill Powell… and a certain wire-haired terrier named Skippy. What a scamp! Skippy, I mean, who'd played ASTA, not Bill Powell, who'd played Nick Charles, the partner to NORA.
 
Nana Myrna’s property was actually in Radersburg, which is how I know that Radersburg to Helena dir. is NNW. That was something you just didn’t want to have to pull over to look up, and you sure as heck didn’t want to have to ask someone. Rural Montana isn’t an especially friendly place. It wasn’t when I would visit, anyway. It was downright EERIE. (On the other hand, Nana also had a vacation home in the very welcoming New York county of ERIE.)
 
One unfortunate summer, my family indeed took a wrong turn in our station wagon and ended up in Sac and Fox, Iowa. Before we knew what was happening, we seemed to be captives of the OTOE. We were ultimately able to leave the tribal territory after realizing that we in fact were never being held against our will. My older sister, Lori, (then pregnant with the child of an Otoe named OTTO, after both the conductor Klemperer and the filmmaker Preminger), stayed with the tribe when the rest of us left. I’d missed a lot of school, but I did eventually get some community college credit for having become semi-fluent in Chiwere.
 
In college, I was on the fencing team. My weapon of choice? The dueling sword, designed for thrusting, with the end blunted for competition. Yes, the EPEE. (My guess is that it was never used by AJAX, a Greek hero of the Trojan War, and the son of Telamon, king of Salamis. My high school’s athletes were the Trojans; our mascot was a salami.) I got three large jugs with wide mouths for graduation, and I used these EWERS to wash—in fact, LAVE—myself more or less regularly. Before getting a job, I took a week-long trip to Ireland, which Nana obsessively, exclusively referred to as ERIN or EIRE, and where I heard the ancient Celtic language ERSE spoken in a brewpub (the IBEX & IBIS) with its own kiln used to dry hops. On a cold day, you could get plenty warm just sitting near that OAST.
 
My first job after college was as a neophyte (TYRObricklayer. Oddly enough, I had to bring my own V-shaped open trough on a pole, used to carry building materials. That HOD came in handy when I was hired to build an architectural extensionELL—onto a secret structure in NEV, a state so. of Tex. It was on that job that I first heard the ridiculous talk—all that BLATHER—about UFOs—and the little green men who pilot them, ETs. As I recall, it was also on that job that I tripped and broke the arm bone that the doctor kept calling my ULNA.
 
During my recovery, I finished reading a terrific autobiographical book by Herman Melville. It takes place on a whaling vessel in the South Seas. There’s a mutiny. Most of the crew is imprisoned on Tahiti. You know the book I mean, right? It came after TYPEE, but the title completely slips my mind. Something with an O? Damn it. Nana Myrna would know. She always claimed that she had auditioned for the film version, directed by ELIA Kazan, but the part went to UTA Hagen.
 
So that's how. Bartender? I'll have another abbr. for the King of Beers. Know what? Make it two. One for me and one for my new BUD.


 
“We’d vomit bad matzoh, Rick.”  can be rearranged to spell matthewdavidbrozik.com.

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Minutes from the Meeting of the Avian Advancement League

 

Canary sings opening anthem. Members take their branches.

 

OLD BUSINESS:

 

Reports of Window killings continue to mount.   Blue Jay tells harrowing tale of being tricked into bashing into a Window that was cleverly posing as another angry Blue Jay. Tells story four times before Starling ushers him out of the meeting.

 

Cats remain public enemy #1, followed by HumansDogs, Windows and Ceiling Fans.

 

NEW BUSINESS:

 

Owl asks "Whoooo has new business.” No one even smiles. Of course, no one is able to smile even if they wanted to. Mockingbird does manage to mock. Owl's feathers are ruffled.  

 

Concerns are raised that Birds are losing ground to Sharks as most frightening creatures on the planet. Canadian Geese point out that they brought down one of the Human's “metal birds” as recently as 2009. American Bald Eagle comments that the metal bird crash was due more to the Canadian's dopey trusting nature than any well-planned assault. Geese insist there is nothing dopey about them, pointing out that it was Geese who invented the "V" formation that reduces flying drag by up to 65%. Eagles accuse Geese of planting 65% "V" formation statistic on Wikipedia. Argument ensues.

 

Cardinal mentions she overheard Bears bragging that their recent spate of maulings stole the Nielson Ratings fire from all the other animals and that it was the most brilliant Bear PR move since their movie, Grizzly Man.  Thrush says Grizzly Man shouldn't count because Timothy Treadwell was a bona fide loon. Loons are offended. Argument ensues.

 

African Grey Parrot points out that Hippos, Crocodiles, Snakes, Bugs, Cows, Horses, Dogs, Ants, Bees and even Jellyfish kill more people each year than Birds, and that considering ourselves "killing machines" is irrational at best. Everyone stares at Parrot, and, realizing she's made her point in English, she repeats her observation in Birdish. In response, Crow throws a Blu-Ray copy of Hitchcock's The Birds at African Grey. A fight erupts. Finally, Owl demands Woodpecker do that insane head-jackhammer thing into the podium twenty times and regains order.

 

Emu suggests putting a Cassowary in charge of a new "Most Dangerous Birds" subcommittee, but in the end, all present are too terrified to find Cassowary and ask.

 

Falcon offers to rip a Human's eyes out sometime in the coming week.  A vote is taken and the Ayes have it. 

 

Everyone notices that both the snacks and the Sea Gulls have gone missing.

 

Red-Footed Boobie offers an idea, but the more immature members laugh so hard after his introduction that his remarks go unrecorded.

 

In the middle of scheduling our next meeting, Magpie imitates a dog barking and everyone scatters.  A vote is taken, and Magpie is ousted from the League with a 125 to 3 vote, the three Nays being Parrots, who argued the prank was all in good fun. Everyone goes back to the meeting area, except the Chickens who refuse to return.

 

Vulture asks for it to be noted that we're all going to die.

 

Penguin finally shows up just as meeting ends, citing lack of flight as his excuse. Again.

 

Swans sing closing anthem.

 

Meeting adjourned.

 


Amy Vansant (@kidfreeliving) is the author of the KidFreeLiving.com humor magazine, freelance writer, author and shameless crispy chicken skin aficionado.

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Let's Keep the "The" in These

 

We’re sometimes reminded to "Keep the X in Y" -- Christ in Christmas... memories in Memorial Day... Hal in Halloween, etc. An admirable goal, to be sure—remembering the true meaning of longtime observances—but one that need not be limited to these few special occasions. Indeed, every day is an opportunity to celebrate something, and then to keep that something in the celebration, though if you have an unruly kid, you might want to leave the "brat" out of the "celebration."

 

Sunday. We should all strive to keep the Sun in Sunday. After all, if the Sun weren’t important, we wouldn’t have named a day for it. Also, if it weren’t for the Sun, we wouldn’t be here to be naming days. Our sun—the Sun—is an almost perfectly spherical star made of hot plasma at the center of our solar system, approximately 150 million kilometers from Earth. BUT that doesn’t mean it can’t be in your heart. Not literally, of course, since the Sun has a diameter of about 1,392,684 km and is so hot that it would atomize you instantly if you even tried to just wrap your arms around it to give it a hug. But, still, even if you can’t keep the Sun in your chest cavity, you can keep it in your Sunday, every Sunday.

 

Monday. Monday is the day to keep Mo in, of course. Which Mo is up to you. "Mo" or "MO" might refer -- according to your preference -- to any of the following:

  • Altria Group, formerly Philip Morris (with the New York Stock Exchange symbol “MO”)
  • Microsoft Office
  • Missouri (according to the United States Postal Service)
  • Modern Orthodox Judaism
  • Moscow Oblast

...and many others. And we’re building some "Mo"mentum now!

 

Tuesday. Although it’s the third day of the week—since they keep telling us that the week begins on Sunday—this is the day to keep 2 in. The simplest way to keep 2 in Tuesday is by doing everything twice. In the morning, when you get out of bed to greet the day, get back in bed, get out again, take two showers, brush your teeth twice, and have two cups of coffee. Take twice the vitamins you do on other days. Drive to work, then drive home, then drive back to work. (Do the same, in reverse, at the end of the day.) Eat two lunches. Wash your hands twice before leaving the restroom. Then perform your functions again, and then wash your hands again. And again. Each time you wash your hands, use two paper towels, or turn on the electric air dryer twice, even though once is usually too long. Now read this paragraph again.

 

Wednesday. This is another day that offers a choice: Either keep the "wed" in Wednesday by getting married, or honor the "nes" by playing with your classic Nintendo Entertainment System. Whichever you choose, consider calling on your friend Ed—to be in the bridal party or to be your Player Two—and in that way put an overlapping extra "we" and extra "ed" in Wednesday as well.

 

Thursday. On Thursdays, watch Ben Hur. No matter how many times you see the award-winning film, there will always be something new to discover and enjoy. Did you know that there are scenes in which extras are wearing wristwatches... even though the movie takes place in AD 26? If you happen to lose track of time and watch Ben Hur on a Tuesday, watch it twice.

 

Friday. According to some ailing and institutionalized historians, Friday was originally "Fryday," referring to the preferred method of preparing fish, traditionally eaten by those who abstained from eating meat on the sixth day of the week. Here is a simple recipe for fried fish:

 

Heat a heavy pan over medium high heat. Season one large or two small fish fillets with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge fish in flour, shaking off any excess. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of canola oil (4 tablespoons if Tuesday), followed immediately by one tablespoon of butter. As soon as foaming subsides, place the fish in the pan. Cook until a golden crust forms on the fish. Flip and do the same. Cook until the fish skin turns golden brown, then remove to a warm plate. Make a sauce of another tablespoon of melted butter, the juice of one lemon, and one tablespoon of drained capers.

 

Saturday. Keep the turd in Saturday. But privately, please.

 

 

Matthew David Brozik religiously keeps the dot in matthewdavidbrozik.com.

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PurseMed

 

"In recent years, some of Dr. Goldberg's patients have made unusual requests... [including] his accompaniment to a stressful M.R.I. where Dr. Goldberg held the patient’s toe to supply comfort.... [In his new concierge medical practice, patients] will pay $25,000 a year for unfettered access to [Dr. Goldberg and his partner]. Patients will be able to call and see and text the doctors whenever they want; they will be able to receive home visits, though those will cost extra (and so will lab work).... [The practice] will also offer dermatological fillers — come for the stress test, stay for the collagen."-- The New York Times

 

Welcome to PersMed, your personal doctor-on-call (also spelled PurseMed). While your $25,000 annual fee covers standard office visits, e-mail access, and our patent-pending Colonoscopy Anywhere (TM) service, to optimize your medical experience there are a number of add-on options we offer only to those patients who truly believe no price can be put on the gift of life.


CUSTOMIZED WAITING ROOM.  Why should you have to listen to elevator music and read six-month-old magazines?  For a small charge, we'll hook our office speakers into your iPod whenever you visit -- and our staff will supply a selection of books and periodicals from a wish list you provide.  Jan in Reception will also be available for Scrabble -- though we should warn you, she's quite good.  We'll also stock your favorite snacks, though there will be an extra charge if they're not healthy choices.

 

PERSONAL REMINDERS. Often forgetting to take your pills? Of course you are -- you have far more critical things to remember. For a nominal fee, we'll call to remind you, up to twelve times a day, in whatever language you choose. Wolof, Welsh, and Wakhi $50 additional.  Or, we'll get the celebrity of your choice to call you instead -- also in whatever language you desire. (Cate Blanchett speaks excellent Romblomanon.)  We can also call your family members to update them about your condition -- or, if you'd prefer, we can pass along whatever medical information, fact or fiction, you'd like us to share. Hoping your children might be nicer if they thought their inheritance was getting close? We're happy to help.

COZY-MRI. Cold, sterile examination tables and imaging equipment are for the average patient, but you deserve better.  We've lined all of our M.R.I. machines with top-of-the-line cashmere (from organic-fed Mongolian goats) -- and, for a low price, after your scan, we'll give you a matching sweater to take home.  A scarf, too, if it's cold.  We can also infuse soothing scents from your childhood into the machine. Choices: baby powder, movie popcorn, pickled herring.

TRY-BEFORE-YOU-BUY PHARMACY SERVICE.  Who has time to experiment with different pills to see which works best for every little health problem?  We'll send you an assortment each month to try at your leisure -- keep the ones that make you feel better, and send the others back.  Worried about side effects?  We have other pills to take care of those, and we'll send you those too.  Always aiming to be a trend-setter?  We'll send you samples of the latest FDA-approved (and disapproved!) drugs, even before they hit the market, so you can be the first of your friends to check them out.

KNEE REPLACEMENTS. Why wait to get new parts until you need them? The truly privileged can afford to optimize their bodies. We offer knee, hip, and other joint replacement procedures years before your original parts reach the point of no return, saving you decades of discomfort, pain, and ridicule by your more limber peers -- not that you have any true peers, of course.  Plus, with the powerful plant-based narcotic we import from an island we can’t tell you about for legal reasons, you won't feel the pain of surgery or just about anything else.

CRYOGENIC PRESERVATION. It hasn't yet been proven to work, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve a chance at immortality. Future generations can benefit from the wisdom someone like you can provide -- and in return for the deed to your Fifth Avenue townhouse, we'll take it upon ourselves to do whatever we can to stave off permanent death. We also work with image consultants who can help you choose the outfit you'd like to wear to the future. Plus, in return for the transfer to us of all of your remaining frequent flier miles, we'll also preserve up to three of your favorite pets. (No birds.)

YOUR VERY OWN MEDICAL LICENSE. Even with the many custom services we provide, why should you need a doctor to tell you what's wrong, prescribe medication, or perform painful and invasive procedures? You've earned the right to take care of your problems yourself. And for a small honorarium, we'll issue you your very own medical license, so you're not beholden to anyone. Let others fill out forms, wait for appointments, and deal with the whims of other humans. You deserve better. (For entertainment purposes only; Not available in most states.)

Operators are standing by. Or we can come right to you. Are you hungry?  Can we bring you lunch?

Jeremy Blachman makes the most of his time in doctor's waiting rooms by writing humor pieces. Read more at jeremyblachman.com.

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Bound to Be Broken

 

Keep bank deposit/withdrawal slips, leave cuticles alone, don't go to Crumbs anymore, brush dog's teeth, irony withdrawal, stay in time zone, stay off CNN, don't make stupid jokes such as a goose with sex-change surgery is transgander, don't make jokes at all except for old man at a bar trying to pick up a girl with opening line "Hey, sweetheart, do I come here often?," stay to the right on sidewalks, finally look up "mansard roof," do some selfless things and don't add "for other people" to this series item, think less about whether doing selfless things is even possible because, if you think about it, without a self you couldn't really do much of anything, find joy in the little things, like the Higgs boson, do not tell the "moogli" joke ever again and if you do, for God's sake don't preface it with "This is the funniest joke I ever heard; I had to leave a party because I was laughing so hard, and I almost threw up on the sidewalk," don't tell the joke about the two merchants who meet on the road between Minsk and Pinsk, be nice, don't tell the joke about how many WASPs does it take to change a light bulb (but give in while making this list: "One"), don't tell the joke about the redneck, the Jewish guy, and the black man walking down the street and a genie gives the black man one wish and he says "I wish to go and live in Africa" and poof, he's gone, and the genie gives the Jewish guy one wish and he says "I wish to go and live in our homeland, Israel," and poof, he's gone, and the genie gives the redneck one wish and the redneck looks around and says, "an A&W root beer," try not to laugh when the the guy on the other end of the robocall says, with his Mumbai accent, "Hi, Robert, this is Scott calling," dispose of Christmas tree before 2/1, hold out against air-kissing, be patient with the old lady in front of you in the checkout line who out of loneliness engages the checkout person in long conversation while fishing in her purse for five minutes for the penny that would keep her from getting four pennies in change, refuse to say "artisanal," "iconic," and "selfie," remember that slide shows are for family and not even them,  do not fist-bump if you are over 30,   and when it comes time for Christmas tips next year, remember, as you've just learned, that one of the doormen in your building, if you're lucky enough to have a building, to say nothing of a doorman, has five children, works from 8 to 5 in your building, and then cleans offices downtown for four more hours before going home.

 

Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic. His memoir, My Mistake, was recently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Good Advice = Bad Science

 

With a New Year soon to begin, our thoughts turn to resolutions, most of which we simply won’t keep. For some, the problem is that the resolutions themselves are dumb: “Diet?” For many, though, the problem is lack of adequate motivation. That’s why there are calendars, posters, mugs, notebooks, T-shirts, and greeting cards with inspirational sayings. When examined closely from a scientific point of view, however, as I have done, they also are revealed to be dumb. (This essay is a distillation of a scholarly article, “The Scientific Moronocism of Proverbial Advisements,” originally published in The Journal of Clichés, Vol. XXVI. No. 3.)

 

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. This apothegm is attributed to Les Brown, a professional motivational speaker. The moon is 356,400 km from Earth, at its closest. The next nearest star, on the other hand, is 4.37 light years from the Sun. So if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will in fact not land among the stars. You will land in empty space, still very much in our solar system, but probably too far from Earth to get back safely. Also, why are you shooting for the moon in the first place? There’s nothing there. It’s a hunk of lifeless rock, with maybe a couple of old golf balls on it somewhere. You can certainly shoot for a better destination instead. Tahiti. Shoot for Tahiti. Then, even if you miss, you’ll land among the other beautiful islands in the Windward group of French Polynesia.

 

Every strike brings you closer to the next home run. When Babe Ruth said this, he revealed that what he didn’t know about mathematics could fill a book. Hundreds of textbooks, in fact. The Bambino seems to have thought that swinging at pitches was akin to flipping a coin, and that every time he didn’t get the outcome he desired, it became more likely that he would on his next at bat. (He also seems to have thought that there were only two outcomes to swinging at a pitch—although in his case he might have been correct about that.) The probability of either outcome of a coin flip is not affected at all by previous outcomes, however. It’s even odds every single time. That’s the simple mathematical truth. (This leads to my recommendation that managers direct their hitters to flip coins when on deck, to reinforce the statistical lesson involved. Indeed, one Triple-A team has adopted this technique, with a consequent increase in the squad’s overall batting average from .246 to .251.)

 

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light: Plato. From an ophthalmological point of view, this is extremely dubious. Either Plato was rather insensitive himself, or he’d never heard of photophobia, the serious medical condition characterized by an abnormal intolerance to visual perception of light prompted by discomfort or pain in the eyes due to light exposure. Common causes of photophobia include migraine headaches, cataracts, mild traumatic brain injury, and uveitis or corneal abrasion. And in any case, as there were no Donald Duck nightlights in his time, Plato’s entire hypothesis is open to question.

 

You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground. Whoever said this was, like Plato, not a doctor. Possibly not even human. Every human one encounters—which logically must include everyone that you know—has, at one time or another, fallen from standing height, and not all of them had been drinking, either. You certainly can fall if you don’t climb, even if you don’t have vertigo. And as to no joy in living your whole life on the ground? If I may say so: Groundless! The ground is where some of the best stuff is: merry-go-rounds; taco trucks; swimming pools; the Mall of America. On the other hand, both physics and logic indicate that the more you climb, the more likely you are to fall, and the higher you climb, the farther you’ll drop when you fall, and the farther you drop the faster you’ll accelerate until finally you hit the ground again, where many subjects of my experiments in this matter find themselves wishing they’d stayed in the first place.

 

If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. Jim Rohn—American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker—evidently did not master noun-verb agreement, but one segment of this motivational assertion actually do—I mean does—make sense. You don’t have to be a botanist to realize that, in all probability, you are indeed not a tree. Work with that in the New Year.

 

Matthew David Brozik is a pretty lazy guy. Shoot for matthewdavidbrozik.com; if you miss, you'll still land on the Internet, which can be a fun place.

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Last-Last-Last-Minute Gift Guide

 

For when a bottle of wine is not – for reasons economic, legal, religious, or medical – an option.

 

PERSONALIZED BOOKMARK

 

The only thing better than a selfie of you is a selfie of you reminding your nearest and dearest where they left off reading Team of Rivals before the book club meeting on Wednesday night. For seasonal bonus points, take a fresh one (big smile, please) in your most outrageous holiday sweater – double bonus if you can dig up the reindeer-antler headband your daughter made at school. Print, trim, "laminate" (snack-size Ziploc baggie) and cross the lucky recipient off the list. Can be done in quantity, but note: there's something a touch creepy -- all right, creepier -- about distributing these at a party.

 

SPOON REST

 

Here's the thing: a spoon can rest on just about any damn thing. But nobody wants that béchamel to get on the counter. So, beat the hell out of an old jar lid with a hammer, give it a coat or two with nail polish, and make sure you leave time for it to dry. This can be plausibly passed off, if necessary, as a purchase from that funky little store that sells crafts from Bhutan or Suriname or wherever and always smells kind of legally dubious.

 

WIND CHIMES

 

Self-explanatory, right? You can go a lot of different ways here, from modern & kooky (short length of aluminum tubing from your garage, from that time you bought the wrong type of pipe, monofilament, mismatched utensils) to rustic & kooky (stick from the woods off Rte. 9, wire, bottles from side of Rte. 9, and you can say it came "From that place on Rte. 9? It might be closing?"). Really, kooky is sort of the default. Warning: Wind chimes are odious and violate the covenants of many planned communities, so only gift this to people lazy enough never to consider hanging up.

 

GLAM HAM HANDLERS

 

Nobody buys themselves oven mitts, but everybody needs them, and the pathetic gratitude with which something – anything -- that fulfills this domestic function is received will make you think twice about how truly irrational a species we are. The largest, cheapest gloves your local chain drugstore carries, wrapped in many layers of reflective duct tape until a sort of blob effect is reached, will serve nicely, especially if you strongly imply that they are from IKEA.

 

TWINE ANIMAL

 

I promise you: this is next year's "sock monkey."  Stop at hardware store on way to recipient's house: buy large spool of sisal twine (the browner and rougher the better) and, in the parking lot, form multiple balls of varying sizes. Attach with unbent paper clips and say you found it on Etsy and "couldn't help yourself." Suggested animal shape: pig.

 

HISTORIC-STYLE ARTISANAL QUILL PEN & INK SET

 

Higher level of difficulty, but recommended if you've got to make up for what you thought was an innocent remark at Thanksgiving dinner about your cousin's hairline. If you live in an urban area, the streets nearby are likely littered with pigeon feathers; if you live in a rural area, ask a nearby turkey farmer. With a pair of toenail clippers or jagged end of a key, create a sharp point on one end. Gather up a supply of blue or black ink pens from handbags, briefcases, coat pockets, children's backpacks, kitchen drawers, bathroom cabinets. Extract ink cartridges and drain into empty glass spice jar. Nest in tissue paper (or tissues!) in repurposed wooden box that originally contained four authentic Wisconsin chutneys from your brother-in-law.

 

REPURPOSED "ASHTRAY"

 

The post-smoking world is justly fascinated with these artifacts of a formerly nicotine-driven America, but our sketchy memories for specifics have left us communally gullible. Any flattish bowl or dish – the uglier and cheaper the better, with brass being the preferred substance– can be offered as a hilariously kitschy "vintage ashtray." "I mean, I don't know," you say, laughing "You can use it for nuts, or chips – I just loved it. I think my Dad had one just like it!" Note: don't try this on your Dad.

 

Bill Tipper left your gift at home, but he will absolutely bring it by next week.

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Your Workplace Holiday Party

As far as we can tell, despite our worst efforts, places of business continue to throw their annual parties.  So we herewith repeat this cautionary tale from last year, in the hope that it will prevent at least a few people from wrapping themselves in streamers and coming on to that guy or gal in Accounting. -- The Editors

 

Welcome to your workplace holiday party-- we're so glad to have forced you to come. And this must be your plain-looking spouse. Here's where we make a comment that could be construed to mean we're unhappy with your work and your job is in jeopardy. Now we laugh, because we're kidding. Or maybe we just like to laugh. Please, take off that vagrant's coat you're wearing. No, don't put it near our coats.


Come join an awkward conversation circle with the woman who stole your promotion and the guy who thinks you don't know he dented your car in the parking lot and didn't leave a note. Yes, that local sports team is doing terribly. Sure, the stock market is a thing that exists. No, there is no one across the room you can pretend is giving you an excuse to leave this conversation.

 

Please enjoy this delicious spread of food paid for with the money that used to fund our health insurance plan. It might make you sick, but that's entirely your responsibility since July 1st of this past year. How's that working out for you? Time to gossip about people who aren't here. Now aren't you glad you showed up? That makes one of us.

Hey-- the CEO is starting his speech about how wonderful his compensation package is. Watch him stumble over his words and not realize his index cards are out of order. See, he's no smarter than you. He just got lucky. Doesn't that make you feel better about your life? It doesn't? Should it? These are some of the questions you should ponder, instead of listening to the CEO explain that you probably aren't getting a bonus.

The gift exchange is about to start. Did you obey the $10 limit? How silly of you-- now your gift will seem embarrassingly cheap. You might wonder why we force a gift exchange among colleagues who have no interest in actually exchanging gifts. It's actually all for our own amusement. Just like the way we sometimes shut off the air-conditioning system. You think it's broken? Nope, we're multi-tasking--saving money and torturing you at the same time.

Look at that raffle prize! It's worth almost three months of your salary. And who's going to win it? The CEO's wife! Yep--some people have all the luck. What? Of course your ticket gave you a real chance to win-- if by "win" you mean "lose." You probably also thought the liquor tonight was free. Nope-- you'll see its cost deducted from your next paycheck, along with a service fee, plus a hefty tip for the bartender, who just happens to be the CEO's son. He's going to invest it in a start-up that's working to develop robots that can do your job-- much better than you can, and for a fraction of the cost. Now you're feeling that cocktail, right? And not a moment too soon.

Oh, look-- your boss is leaving. That means it's okay for you to leave, right? Or so you think. What you don't know is that he's actually coming right back, and you're going to miss the part of the night when the few people who are still here get their health insurance back and receive a hefty raise. You'll hear about it tomorrow. And everyone will ask why you left so early. Are those tears of joy? Yes, it's a lovely party, especially the private room in the back, where you're not allowed.

 

We'll see you tomorrow, on our surveillance cameras.


Jeremy Blachman is working to develop robots that can write humor pieces. Read some of their work at jeremyblachman.com.

 

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Nine is Fine

 In honor of "Black Friday", the editors of Grin & Tonic offer this encore presentation -- not to say 'rerun'  -- of Matthew David Brozik's piece from earlier this year.

 

 Following guest? Register Four—right down here. I can ring you up...

 

Hello! Did you find everything you were looking for today? Did any of our team members assist you? Do you have a store loyalty card? That’s all right; I’ll swipe mine. Just the pack of Juicy Fruit? Okay, your total is forty-nine cents. You saved three cents this visit. Here’s your receipt... and if I could just direct your attention to the back of the receipt, you’ll see that we’re inviting customers to complete an online survey. You could win a dollar or even two dollars to spend at any of our locations, of which so far there is just one. This one. But there will be more, as soon as the the construction here is completed. We apologize for the noise, and the survey will automatically adjust your responses to factor in, and then factor out again, a jackhammer annoyance multiplier.

 

You’ll see, right here, that the web address for the survey is www.storesurvey.biz/survey/store/your-survey-is-our-survey/dont-worry-this-will-end-soon.html. Your individual survey code is 1440-3017-762, your password is 1130-3190-324, and your Social Security Number is 085-63-2026. What’s that, sir? I don’t know. It must be in our system. I... I really have no idea.

 

The survey—which will definitely take less than a full hour, but which must be completed in a single session to be counted and for you to avoid an automatic surcharge on this purchase—will ask you some questions about your experience in our store today, including whether you found everything you were looking for, whether you were assisted by any team members, whether you have a store loyalty card, and whether you were asked all of these question at checkout by a cashiering associate. You will also be asked whether the cashiering associate offered to use his or her own store loyalty card if you did not have one, whether you were given the correct change, whether you were given a receipt, whether you were invited to take an online survey, and whether the cashiering associate smiled  during the entire checkout process, regardless of any personal sadness in his or her own life, which store team members are expected to leave outside the employees’ entrance. There will also be some questions about your ethnicity, annual household income, education, sexuality, criminal history, and allergies, all for demographic research purposes only. You might be asked to confirm your Social Security Number.

 

One section of the survey asks you to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10—with 1 being “least totally satisfied” and 10 being “most totally satisfied”—certain aspects of your shopping experience today. We ask that you please keep in mind as you answer the questions that anything 8 or lower might as well be a “1”—only a 9 or 10 will be considered “positive feedback.” That said, if you are tempted to give us an 8, specifically, for any one question, do not give us a “1” simply because of what I just told you, in what we call official confidence, because a “1” will really be considered a 1, where as an 8 will only be considered a “1,” and it would still be better for us to get an 8 than a real 1. But please give us at least a 9 on each question, as I have just said but am required to repeat at this time. “Nine is fine,” as we have been instructed to say, “eight'll be fatal." (Some bend the rules and say, "Eight isn't great," or even, "We hate eight," but neither has been approved by Corporate Headquarters.) Please do not give us all 10s, however, because that looks fake. Even if you are completely most totally satisfied with your experience today.

 

There will also be a section asking for essay-type responses to various questions. The questions are chosen at random, so I can’t tell you what would constitute a “good” or “correct” answer, but what I can and in fact am supposed to tell you is that each response must include a minimum of 250 words, or else it won’t be counted, and I am also supposed to tell you that the words in your essays will not be read, only counted. In other words, you can’t just write “Kimia was really helpful” or “Kimia deserves a raise for being so good at her job.” Yes, my name is Kimia. Is my nametag not visible? Well, here—it's visible now, so you can answer in the affirmative the question, "Was the nametag of the cashiering associate visible?"

 

When you have completed the survey, you should then immediately scroll down to the survey about the survey and respond to it. When you submit both surveys to us, we will send you a survey about your experience of your experience of filling out the survey about the survey. Thank you for your patronage. Enjoy your gum!

 

Matthew David Brozik is co-author of GOOROO'S *PRO*-MAGNON KITCHEN, a culinary manual for the enlightened caveperson (yes, it's a parody), available now for NOOK.

 

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Newdunnits

"A 1926 whodunit by Agatha Christie has been named the best crime novel ever written by her fellow crime writers. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of the first Christie books to feature Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, topped a poll held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Crime Writers’ Association. The novel ends with an audacious revelation which is now considered one of the most ingenious plot twists in the history of crime writing." – BBC News

 

It’s never been easy for mystery writers to find new and exciting ways to surprise readers, and every year it gets that much harder to be original. It seems like all the good gimmicks have been used, most of them too many times. Heck, nearly a century ago, Dame Agatha had her first person narrator—the doctor who was aiding her detective throughout the novel—turn out to be the killer. (Oh, hang on... Spoiler alert! Did I do that right?) She also had everybody be the killer (Murder on the Orient Express) and one of the victims be the killer (And Then There Were None). What’s left for a crime writer a hundred years later? Well, before I give up and have the butler do it again, I’m going to try one or more of these ideas, which I thought of and which it would be great if nobody stole before I get to them:

 

You did it. My crime novel—by necessity available for electronic reading devices only—will build to a startling revelation. As the reader approaches the ending, the device will alert the publisher, who will in turn alert a troupe of improvisational actors near where the reader lives and/or reads. When the reader reaches the last page, it will be revealed that youdunnit. “What?” the reader will think. “I did it? How is that even—” Before he can finish the thought, he’ll find himself being “arrested” by “police officers,” then brought “downtown” to be “questioned” and “charged with murder.” Eventually, of course, the reader will be released. It will all have been a “misunderstanding,” but the surprise will be one he’ll never forget,  especially if there has been “police brutality.”

 

No one did it. In another scenario, everyone had a reason to want the victim dead: the gardener (because the victim was always trampling the newly-planted marigolds); the doorman (because the victim never wiped his boots after trampling through the damp marigold beds); the cook (because the victim slurped his soup); the victim’s children (because of... something to do with a will), etc., etc., and everyone had an opportunity—the chimney sweep (when the victim was peering up into the chimney); the prostitute (when the victim was asleep); the lawyer (when the victim was peering up into the chimney); and so on.  And everyone had the means: the barber (his razor); the nurse (her medicines); the prostitute (her brass knuckles). But in the end the coroner will reveal that the victim died of natural causes! Or an accident! Or the victim isn’t really dead! One of those.

 

The stranger you meet in a bar did it. No one knows who killed the victim, and the authorities close the case as unsolved. Weeks after finishing the book, still thinking about it, you meet someone at a bar and strike up a conversation. The conversation turns to things you’ve each read and enjoyed. You mention the unresolved murder mystery. He says he hasn’t read it, but then he says something else that reveals a genuine familiarity with the circumstances of the crime. Something, really, that only the murderer would know. Is it possible that this person you’ve just met in real life is the killer in the book you recently read—the killer who was never caught? It is. He is.

 

And here are some other possibilities, sent to me by friends and acquaintances who, as it happens, were murdered just after I received their emails, which is purely coincidental:

 

Surprise! The victim was dead to begin with!

Surprise! It wasn’t all a dream!

• They were all talking animals! Surprise!

Surprise! The novel was actually a grocery list or recipe!

• The killer did it in a past life and—Surprise!—was reincarnated as a cat and then did it again!

 

 

Matthew David Brozik keeps no secrets. His life is an open book, and some of it can be read at imdb.name.

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Revelations

Diane Feinstein,  Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters today that security agencies have informed her  that they have been for the past ten years secretly targeting the cell phones of allied foreign leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande.  While administration sources refused to confirm or deny this activity, they insisted that Ms. Merkel's high score at Candy Crush Saga is considered "metadata" and not subject to privacy laws, and assured reporters  that the analysts involved only have "a little guidebook French and German." Then they sniggered and added "Merci," concluding the conference with a Prussian bow.

 

Key members of the House Appropriations Committee were summoned to a late-afternoon "just a quick status check-in" at the White House late last week, where Presidential aides mentioned in a sort of a bored tone that apparently "some sort of tiny drone thing" had flown quite close to the Vatican and had recorded Pope Francis's morning Tai Chi routine, including his secret "supplication" maneuver, which has is credited with the conversion of three island republics so far.  While there was no comment from the Holy See, a high-level source within the NSA said there were no drones capable of performing such an operation, then giggled involuntarily before hanging up.

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy said in a press conference today, attended by only two reporters from the Guam Observer,  that a senior White House aide dropped by his Vermont residence last night, ostensibly “just to jam on some Dead tunes” but in between “Truckin’” and “Sugar Magnolia” brought up a “crazy science fiction story” he’d just read where cyber-controlled prairie dogs outfitted with teensy versions of Google Glass were launched over the Canadian border in the direction of Ottawa.  “I got the sense that he was trying to tell me something,” Leahy said, but added “Before I could ask him more he just started in with ‘Box of Rain.’

 

Debbie Stabenow,  Chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee revealed today that a pair of White House staff attorneys and "a nervous-looking Vice President Biden" showed up on her Michigan front porch this morning for a predawn meeting in which they admitted to having created numerous elaborate crop circle designs in cornflelds in “maybe Iowa, maybe a few other places” during an undisclosed number of months, mainly ones that end in "y". White House sources refused to comment on the story, but a low-ranking official in the USDA replied, somewhat testily, "Last I heard, corn don't have no rights. That's why we can pop it."

 

A hastily convened meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee resulted in the announcement that there might just maybe have been a few times when specially trained "child operatives" had been sent to Buckingham Palace in the guise of Cockney chimney sweeps, in the hopes of being admitted and getting "a quick look" at the infant Prince George.  A harried intern in the CIA press office suggested that we submit any further questions through healthcare.gov.

 

Bill Tipper is the managing editor of the Barnes & Noble Review.

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Adopt-a-Highway

I never thought I wanted to be a parent, but as soon as I saw mile 36 of Route 127 in Trumbull, Connecticut, I knew it was meant to be.  I started to picture a life filled with car rides and rest stops, gas stations and grassy medians -- and it was all I could think about.  I got the process started the very next day, and haven't looked back, not even in the side mirror of my 2003 Honda Accord.  My highway -- my responsibility -- my legacy, for all of eternity, or at least until I stop paying the monthly premiums.  I never imagined my life could be so full.  Of vehicles.

His given name is the Huntington Turnpike, but I just call him Jason.  Frankly, I don't even like to use the word adopted, because to me it's no different than if he was my biological highway.  I dread the day he asks where he came from.  It's not as if we're going to hide the fact that he's adopted, but I worry he's going to realize he's different before he's old enough to comprehend.  After all, I'm not a highway -- and his mother's only half-highway -- so it's going to be pretty obvious.  I just hope he understands that being adopted makes him special -- out of hundreds of sections of road available on the city government website, he's the one we chose!  And not a moment goes by that we regret it.

You grow up with fantasies in your head about what your highway will look like.  Will he be like other highways?  How many shoulders will he have?  Will he be straight-- or curvy?  Of course I'd love him either way.  I just want him to be happy, no matter what other roads he intersects with.  Will he marry an interstate?  Will our grandchildren be strip malls?  The questions keep me up at night, as I'm cleaning up the trash that finds its way all over his body.  I just hope he cleans up my trash when I get older -- but I'm sure he will.

The lines on his face -- yellow, and white -- each tell a story.  Of struggles, and traffic.  His kindness to the animals that cross him -- his forgiveness, his equanimity.  It feels like a miracle that I was able to rescue him from his foster parents, Harry's Caskets of Route 127, who had held him for years but failed to appreciate his qualities or clear him of old tires and rusted hubcaps.  They allowed his surface to fill with potholes and his soul to blacken like the asphalt that covers his body.

We saved him.  With orange cones at his entrance and terminus we protected his body and gave him the time he needed to recover, traffic be damned.  So what if there were miles of cars waiting in line to abuse him, honking their horns, calling the highway patrol to ask about the disturbed couple running across the highway with police tape, screaming that no one was going to be allowed to hurt Jason again?  We stood up for him -- the first time anyone had shown him such love -- and he repaid us by cushioning the blow after the police used their tasers to subdue us.

But we'd do anything for Jason.  Some people hire services to manage their highways, but we'd never outsource his care to a stranger. Why adopt a road if you're not ready to know it and nurture it? Jason wanted a dog for his birthday last year.  And while all of our friends said he was too young, irresponsible, and paved, we thought we'd give it a chance, and let him have something to love just as much as we love him.  We wanted to prove that we wouldn't put speed limits on our relationship.  And now that dog runs back and forth over Jason all day, scavenging on whatever he can find.

Unfortunately, the state has taken Jason away.  Apparently you can't let stray dogs loose on the highway.  We went to court, we tried to fight it.  But even though Harry's Caskets of Route 127 once again has its name on the sign, we still think of ourselves as his parents -- and from our lawn chairs just off the side of the road, we will spend our days watching over Jason, protecting him, and recording the license plate number of anyone who throws a wrapper out their window.  We owe it to him, for all that he did for us.

 

Adopt Jeremy Blachman at jeremyblachman.com.

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Roast Mortem

Ladies, gentlemen, demons...  I give you all welcome to tonight’s roast of Hamlet, late Prince of Denmark—and what better place for a roast than in Hell? Many thanks to His Lordship of the Flies for the accommodations and use of the facilities.

 

If you don’t know me, I’m Horatio, childhood friend to our guest of honor, and, in his own words: “e’en as just a man 
as e’er his conversation coped withal.” Talk about damning a guy with faint praise! But when the ghost of Hamlet’s father asked me to host this tribute to the rogue and peasant slave we all know and love, I accepted in a heartbeat. Little did I know it would be my last heartbeat, because in order to be here I had to die first. Fortunately, King Claudius was still able to pull some strings, and by “pull strings,” I mean “have me murdered.” I admit that I was starting to miss all of you in the land of the living. Also, when this show is over, I get to go to Heaven. I’ll miss you all... but now it’s time to turn up the heat even higher!

 

Queen Gertrude, you’re looking beautiful, as always. Can I get you a drink? No, not falling for that again? I’ve got to ask, Your Highness: Was it at all weird being married to the brother of your first husband? Did you ever find yourself comparing their... you know, scepters? Did you ever forget that your original husband died and you remarried o’erhastily? Would you wake up confused in the morning? Not that you’d know much about mourning....

 

And Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend is here. Be sure to laugh at her jokes, people, because she doesn’t take rejection very well at all. Ophelia, do you remember when both your brother and your father warned you about Hamlet? And then it turned out that they were right? Awkward! And then, after remarking about a noble mind being o’erthrown, you o’erthrew yourself into a river? You might not even know this, but at your funeral, Hamlet picked a fight with your brother in your open grave. Hamlet claimed to have loved you more than forty thousand brothers ever could. Can you even imagine having forty thousand brothers? Not that it would matter, of course, because Hamlet would probably kill them all!

 

And speaking of brothers of Ophelia that Hamlet killed, with us tonight is Laertes, Ophelia’s actual brother, whom Hamlet killed. Not that he didn’t have his revenge, though, am I right? Hey, when you learned of your father’s death, you were in France. You came back to Denmark to storm the castle, thinking that King Claudius had killed your dad. But why would he have done that? I mean, you didn’t even have a mother he could marry! I kid, I kid!

 

Who’s that hiding behind an arras? Yes: It’s that tedious old fool Polonius! Polonius, you’ve been described as a windbag, a foolish prating knave, and a busy-body. You’ve been called officious, garrulous, and impertinent. Come on out, then, and to thine own self be true. You can’t make things much worse in this place.

 

Hamlet’s excellent good friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are here! Where else would they be, though? At the University of Wittenberg? Before you were executed, did you guys do the homework for our anatomy lab? Five hundred words on what a piece of work is a man? You guys don’t mind sharing a chair, right?

 

And finally, what would a roast of Hamlet be without the skull of Yorick? Everybody else here tonight was stabbed, poisoned, or drowned, but this guy died of the most unlikely thing of all in Denmark: old age. Believe it or not, this bonehead has the most important part in tonight’s show: None of the roasters can talk if someone else is holding the skull....

 

So let’s get this party started, yeah? Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure and twice as much pity and fear to present a man who comes most carefully upon the hour... Prince Hamlet!

 

Matthew David Brozik asks not why the drum comes hither; it comes for him. Read more at imdb.name.

 

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Popular Trending Romantic Trends in Popular Romantic Fiction: What's Next, After Mermaid Erotica

 

YA Paranormal Romance: Centaurs

 

Imagine if your prom date and your ride to prom were one and the same. Sound too good to be true? Not if you’re dating the mythical half-man, half-horse creature known as a centaur. Fans of Twilight and fans of Misty of Chincoteague will come together at last to enjoy this edgy new crossover genre. In the blockbuster YA novel that will launch this irresistible new genre, Playing Centaur Field, sexy centaur Luke is the new horse-boy in town, and sparks fly when he knocks on the door of Alana, his beautiful next-door neigh-bor and asks to borrow some sugar-cubes. Will Luke and Alana be able to concentrate when they become lab partners in biology class, or will he startle at a loud noise, kicking over a tray of test tubes with his hind legs and ruining weeks of hard work? Will Luke find the confidence to tell the school’s biggest bully to stop trying to enter him in the Kentucky Derby? Will Alana realize that he’s only nuzzling that cute blonde in his history class because he thinks she has carrots? The possibilities of the centaur-themed novel are endless—and you can bet one of these books will be galloping into your heart before long.

 

General Romance: Mimes

 

Many women love the strong, silent type -- and few types are more silent than the intriguing mime. Strong may be a different story; no matter how snazzy he may look in suspenders, our mime hero’s inability to escape from an invisible box indicates that he’s not exactly a muscle-bound powerhouse. Still, the resourceful mime manages to be devastatingly charming without saying a word-- and he knows how much women love flowers; even if they are invisible. In the most popular mime-fiction novel so far, Re-Mime Me To Love You,  the female protagonist, Gabby, struggles to come to terms with her failure to communicate effectively -- or at all -- with her lover, Hans. Hilarious misunderstadindings ensure. Gabby thinks Hans is praying when he is actually proposing, and when he indicates putting a ring on her finger, she thinks it's an obscene gesture. Mark our words, once mime-fever hits readers, horizontal stripes and jaunty berets will be turning up in stores quicker than you can say, “Oh, I get it. You’re supposed to be driving a car. Yeah, that’s a good one.”

 

Inspirational Romance: Ventriloquists

 

Trend-watchers have been waiting years for the ventriloquist romance to come into its own, and that day has finally arrived! In the breakthrough ventriloquist romance novel, Puppet Love, readers meet Angela, a beautiful small-town librarian whose faith in love has been shattered by a deceitful ex-boyfriend who broke her heart. Angela slowly learns to trust again when she meets a handsome ventriloquist, Byron, and his shabby wooden dummy, Patchpants McGee. If only she could get Byron alone, Angela just knows that love will blossom between the two of them. But somehow Patchpants always seems to be sitting on his lap! As Angela, Byron and Patchpants grow closer, they learn that three doesn’t always have to be a crowd.

 

Contemporary Historical Western Romance: 1890s-Style Grizzled Prospectors

 

Contemporary historical Western romance fans will love the grizzled 1890s-style prospector, who pans for gold even as he struggles to conceal his own heart of gold, dagnabit. In Midnight at Gully Gulch, the first of many 1890s-style grizzled-prospectors novels,  to be published soon (others include Eureka: A Vein of Romance, Mine Own True Love, and Big Nuggets),  ambitious young paralegal Caroline manages to land a coveted spot at a highly-respected law firm -- but her new boss, a legendary defense attorney who has earned a reputation as a lothario, also happens to be a 1890s-style grizzled prospector named Canyon Pete. Before long, Caroline and Canyon Pete find themselves together on a business trip to an 1890s-style grizzled prospectors/lawyers convention where the rotgut and the sarsaparilla flow like water. Will Caroline resist the charms of her demanding new boss, or will she find herself in his arms, braiding his long white beard as he stakes his claim? We reckon you’ll have to read the book to find out. 

 

Molly Schoemann is from New York City but now lives in North Carolina with her 1890s-style grizzled prospector husband and two dogs. You can find more of her work at MollySchoemann.com.

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Closing Time

What to Expect During the Government Shutdown: Answers from The U.S. Department of Self-Infliction’s information portal Theydidwhat.gov

 

Currency

 

In the event of a government shutdown, the public is asked to return all paper money and coins to the U.S. Treasury Department or to your nearest Federal Reserve Bank, *before closing time at 4:30 P.M.*  Please have all currency counted, sorted and in  unsoiled and recycled paper bags or canvas sacks with a big "$" on the outside.  ("$$" in the case of $1,000 or more.) In return,  representatives of the Treasury Department will distribute equivalent value in the form of the following goods and services: livestock, pewter ingots, $25 gift certificates to Chilis, Army surplus herbicide (5-gallon containers), backrubs, and MySpace accounts.  Please make sure to get a receipt. You won't need it, but we don't want them piling up.

 

Airline and International Travel

 

 Government passport offices will close for the duration of the shutdown; travelers with emergency needs should staple  photographs of themselves to their "Miley Cyrus" outfits--see below--and be prepared to do convincing imitations of their congressmen filibustering.  Officers of the U.S. Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Services will remain on duty, but will probably be extra surly about that so, you know, watch it, and put on a good show. These officers  will grade the quality of performances on a 1-5 scale, with 1 allowing you to travel to Mexico, 2 to include Central America, 3 for the Azores and the Azores only, 4 to the rest of the world, and 5 to Utah. 

 

TSA employees will remain on duty in most U.S. airports, but the expensive scanners and metal detectors will be shut off to save on electricity, and a reduced staff of agents will perform a "manual/visual scan" for dangerous items. Please arrive at the airport in a "Miley Cyrus" (flip-flops are OK), with a maximum of 4 oz. worth of innocuous reading material,  in a clear plastic bag.  Grade-school librarians from across the nation have offered to be on hand to judge innocuousness and confiscate all Judy Blume publications. 

 

National Parks and Monuments

 

U.S. National Parks and Monuments will be closed until further notice.  If you are in the vicinity of a national monument, please refrain from unauthorized visual enjoyment of its historic beauty for the duration of the shutdown or total anarchy--whichever comes first.  Motorists in the vicinity of South Dakota Highway 244 near Mt. Rushmore are asked to just keep your eyes on the road until we can get Christo to drape the carvings. All DVDs of "North by Northwest" will be confiscated; the Corn Palace, also in South Dakota, will be super-heated with flame-throwers until it pops into unrecognizability; and members of the National Network of Nonagenarian Nudists will be in volunteer attendance at many points near Niagara Falls, to help visitors resist sightseeing.  

 

Department of Transportation

 

Travelers should be advised that interstate highway traffic will be adversely affected by thousands of furloughed federal employees with a sudden surfeit of time on their hands and a mistaken belief that “apple-picking” and/or “leaf-peeping” is going to wind up being good way to get out of town for the duration.  After blowing the last of their savings on predatorily priced mugs of cider and hideously expensive Bed-and-Breakfast packages in towns that turn out to be surrounded by nothing but evergreens and shuttered national parks, these frustrated souls in their automotive wanderings will likely take it out on fellow drivers – tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, the whole bit.    

 

Center for Disease Control

 

 CDC labs are going to close a couple hours ahead of the official shutdown, because traffic is going to be murder (see "Department of Transportation" above).  We’ve got a LOT of test cultures in the lab that we need somebody to look after while we’re gone --Can we get some volunteers?  Most important is the Ebola – ideal case is somebody who’s got an extra fridge in the garage – but we also have a very cute (that is, lethal) strain of bird flu and some rhinoviruses that need a lot of TLC.  We've also got some of your SARS, your MRSA, your Weaponized Strep, all looking for a home.   Perfect for the patriotic single person with some time on her hands and maybe her own respirator.  Call Jerry at x6782.  THANKS!!!

 

Medicare and Social Security

 

Please be assured that Needful and Urgent medical services will remain uninterrupted.  To find out what “Needful and Urgent” means please file a Medicare Services Inquiry form with the Central Inquiry Services Bureau office in Tempe, AZ *before closing time at 4:30 P.M.*  Once government offices re-open, a Medicare Services Inquiry Bureau Representative will respond to your query within 10 business days.

 

Social Security checks will be issued on schedule.  Federal printing presses will be inoperative for the duration; please bring a blank piece of paper to your local Social Security Office, and somebody will write a note on it for your bank.  Wendy and Carlos P. here both really enjoy calligraphy, so if you want something sort of "old-timey" looking, ask for one of them.

 

Your Congressional Representatives

 

The 27th Amendment assures that members of Congress continued to be paid throughout any shutdown of the government.  But with everybody else out of the office, well, there’s really not much to do until this whole crazy thing blows over!  If you need to find any of us, your best bet is to come on down to "The 27th Amendment" on J Street – Tuesday night is karaoke!

 

 

Bill Tipper is probably going to be furloughed.

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Two Judys

 The party was set for Thursday, and someone invited the wrong Judy. We wanted the funny Judy with the drinking problem. Someone invited the other Judy, who was nice enough, but not the kind of Judy you’d want at a Thursday night party. When she arrived at the door, we tried our best to hide our disappointment. We looked at each other wondering, who invited this Judy? We took her coat and offered her a beer, but Judy was on a cleanse. She was always cleansing, and it made us feel oily, fleshy, questionable. Oh, Judy, someone mumbled.

 

"So glad you were free tonight!” one of the girls said, pushing some energy through the point of her exclamation.

"To be honest, I’m not usually available on Thursdays,” Judy said. "It was great that you gave so much notice."

This wasn’t true. Judy was available all week, every week, which is partly why we didn’t care for her. But it made us think about our own Judy, sitting at home, keeping her Thursday night free for us. Could we invite her last minute? Was that kosher? Someone excused himself and went to go dial her. But he dialed the wrong Judy, again, and Judy’s phone started buzzing in the living room, in her purse. She answered it, confused, and looked at us.

 

"Hey now, is this a party game?" she asked.

 

We paused, then said: "Yes!"

 

"How do you play?"

 

The other Judy would not have asked such a doltish question. She would have pretended to know the game, or invented the rules for us, smoothed over our awkwardness with a jump in place and a jog around the room.  

For a second, we could see the current Judy register our discouragement, and maybe she sensed that she wasn’t our first choice, was not what we had hoped for. It must be a terrible feeling, to be the wrong Judy, and to know it. Someone thought of this, and offered her the best red bowl of corn chips. She reminded us about her cleanse, but this time, we weren't quite as annoyed. Maybe we could grow into this Judy, we thought. Like a formal suit or a gym membership. Someone sat next to her on the couch. Maybe she'd even start to prefer us. Maybe we could shape ourselves into the right kind of crowd for the wrong kind of Judy.

 

It’s true, we were all so much younger then. None of us were the best versions of ourselves, not even first thing in the morning. Not even the Judys were the Judys they hoped they would be.   

 

Hilary Leichter's fiction has appeared in n+1, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, VICE Magazine, and elsewhere. She is currently on a bacon cleanse, but is pretty sure she's doing it wrong.

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The Writing Business

Hello, businessman.  I used to be just like you.  Strategic alliances, paradigm shifts, forward-thinking initiatives.  Who can even understand it?  No, I gave it all up to become a humor writer. A far better fit for my skill set.  A world of creativity, whimsy, and imagination.  I could tell you all about my transition, but it's probably easier if I boot up my computer and show you a PowerPoint. See, the business world is full of number-crunching and data analysis -- and that just isn't what I wanted to spend my days dealing with.  Oh, look, I just got an e-mail.  My latest piece was rejected by The Economist.  Jokes about market manipulation in the Basque region.  How could they turn that down?  I guess they don't run much humor.  I'd better update my spreadsheet.

My spreadsheet?

Yes, of course.  Key to being a successful humor writer is your spreadsheet.  See, I put the titles of each piece in the left column: word count, keywords, laugh index, and then which publications have rejected them.  Look, this is cool -- I can turn everything into a graph. Here, I'll plot word count against number of rejections.It's just this kind of stuff that really gets me excited about humor writing--the furthest thing from business there is.

How do I decide what to write?  Cost-benefit analysis, of course. The cornerstone of any good humor writer's tool kit.  Estimate how much research the piece will take, get one of my interns to do a search and see if anyone else has covered the topic, and then calculate the potential audience.  For instance, if I want to write a satirical take on monetary policy in the Balkans, I figure out how many people live in the region -- about 60 million, according to the latest data -- what percent work in banking or related industries, and how many of those are fluent in English and might be likely to read a humor piece. That gives me a market size, and I work from there.

Of course there have been challenges.  Often times, my inventory of humor pieces runs low and I need to find a cheap supplier abroad.  I use the negotiation skills that all humor writers need to get my cost per word down as low as possible, without running afoul of sweatshop regulations-- get back to work, kid!

I'm even starting to franchise.  I've put together a packet with the information someone needs to be a humor writer -- I outsourced the writing of it to some hack I found on the Internet -- and for a small percentage of revenue, someone can use my name and the existing equity of my brand to shop their pieces, with exclusive rights to markets around the world.  For instance, I was able to land a beachhead in the Eastern Canadian market with a piece I wrote about the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Nova Scotia.  Now, if I canjust find a franchisee with some local connections, and a desire to expand into the region, I can sit back and collect the royalties.

Of course, the secret to the franchise model is effective marketing strategy.  I've worked with a branding firm on a logo, changed my name after a few rounds of testing, and I'm building an entire sales force to help me blow this thing out and hopefully go public eventually. I've got a business plan that goes into all of the details, and a prospectus that explains what I'm doing with the stock option strategy.  You can get in on the ground floor right nowfor a low, low price.

So, yeah, I'm absolutely thrilled I made the switch.  I can't imagine ever being back in the corporate world, not when I can wear this humor writing suit to work each day in the office suite I'm renting from a consulting firm.  Let me give you my card, and if you're looking to invest in humor, give me a call anytime and I'll send you my deck and we can set up a meeting.  My secretary can validate your parking.

Or did you fly here?  Because I think your arms look tired.  That was a joke.  Just doing my job. It's funnier on paper.

Jeremy Blachman is a humor writer who has never had a piece rejected by The Economist.  Read more at http://jeremyblachman.com.

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Breaking Down

"About the ricin in general: Recall that back in season two, Walt cooked up a batch of ricin with the plan to use it to kill Tuco. (Plan thwarted.) Then he made another batch in season four, this time with the plan to take out Gus Fring…. Anyway, Walt never used the ricin on Gus either. In the first half of season five, he thought about using it against Lydia, but also decided against that, too. Walt stashed the ricin vial behind the plate of an electrical outlet, and in this season's 'Blood Money' flash-forward opening sequence, we saw him retrieve it. So: The ricin still has not been used." -- New York Magazine, "What Jesse Knows"

 

Wrong! All wrong!  Because in Season 4 Episode 4 (44), recall that Marie serves rice pudding to Walt and Skyler when they’re over for a visit.   Skyler thinks it’s awful. Remember? She says, “This tastes more like ricin than rice pudding!” Walt says, kindly, “Ricin has no taste, Skyler. You should know that. You’re married to a chemistry teacher after all. Bwaa-hahaha."  Hank looks at Walt suspiciously, but Walt distracts him and everyone else by smashing a flower pot over his own head—a flower pot filled with deadly nightshade, which Hank, ignorant of its poisonous properties, had given Marie as an anniversary present in 25.   And in 410, as we know, Walt remembered that and planted lily-of-the-valley purely as  a decorative border near his driveway, the same driveway where he ran over Walter White, Jr.s favorite stuffed animal from his earlier childhood WHICH WE KNOW NOTHING ELSE ABOUT!!  (The way I see it, this has to be a direct nod to all the episodes of "House of Cards,"  in which no one notices the strong resemblance between Kevin Spacey and the poet Billy Collins.)  As they try to resuscitate Walt--who isn’t really unconscious; we saw him practicing smashing flower pots over his own head to thicken his skull in 111, because, as he says while looking in the mirror at his lacerated chemo-bald and now thickened head, “Who knows? It may come in handy in 44 or 45 or, I’m thinking, maybe even 52”—Lydia appears holding an AK-47 (no, not a season/episode abbreviation; a caliber, or something like that).  "Don’t worry," she says—"it’s just arm candy."  This is a direct echo of what Gustavo Fring says to one of his waitresses, who is wearing a bandage, at his restaurant-front operation Los Pollos Hermanos in 18: "What did you do to your arm, Candy?" Furthermore, and I can’t get into this too far here, but who can ignore the obvious connection between this whole incident and "Homeland" 17, where Claire Danes vomits because of food poisoning brought on by eating chicken paillard? Not me.

 

Vince Gilligan gave us a clue to all this in “Talking Bad” after 29 when he said, "Keep your eye on the chicken brothers and the arroz they serve with their Buffalo chicken wings Sunday-night special." Sunday-night special! Enough said.

 

OK, not quite—maybe not ever—enough said.  Because if you take 411 (411!) and play it  backward, you will see that the marriage between Skyler and Walt is not even valid, because Walt says under his breath, after he says "I do," "n apostrophe t" and the minister is Saul, in Episcopalian disguise, and he winks at Walt, which looks like he’s just opening his eye if you saw the episode the “right way.”   (Oh, and also running this episode backward gives strong evidence that Jesse is actually a woman, and from Alpha Centauri.) And finally—at least for now, until this coming Sunday evening—how come no one but me seems to have noticed the similarity of the relationship between Walt and Skyler to that of Ralph and Alice in “The Honeymooners”? Am I crazy? Or is everyone else?  Anyway, Gilligan has cleverly masked this homage by making Walt have lung cancer and be thin. Ralph Kramden is fat and drives a bus—so you’re just going to to have to force yourself not remember that Walt’s first meth lab is in a bus-like vehicle. Nice try, Vince.  But I’m onto you.

 

Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic. His memoir, My Mistakewill be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in November.

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Tsih Tsih

 

No,  I’m sorry, this isn’t Customer Service—they are being on sabbatical this year again--but I can help you maybe….  My name is Evgeniya.  I am the assistant and do some other services as well if you might understand what I am saying  …. Yes, just the assistant is the official position.  Your name?...  That’s—I’m sorry—what did you saying?  OK—m-o-ne-k-k-e-r.  Let me see…  tsih-tsih-tsih-tsih…. What have you said?....  Oh, very sorry—m-e-n-k-k-er.  Tsih-tsih-tsih ….I’m sorry—what did you says?  Oh, my apology—m-e-n-a-k-e-r.  Is this right? Good.  OK.  You have the nice voice….Tsih-tsih-tsih. You’re welcome…. There is sound? I am not hearing a sound. .. Tsih-tsih-tsih.  Oh, THAT is sound.  Is just thinking-sound.  So what is it that you have wanted? By the ways, I am free on most weekends....  OK, what can I help you with this….  You have wanted measurement for blinds in bedroom…. Yes…. We can make the appointment at this time….  I’m sorry—you have maken the appointment already?  Then why?.... Oh—you are wanting to change the appointment.  OK….  I am sorry about the dentist you have to be seeing quickly tomorrow at the appointment time for the blinds….  I may buy you a drink afterward, if you like that…. Let us look at the next day is what you would like to do?.... OK—I can help you with this appointment….  This other appointment, I should have says…. Can you give me phone number?  212, and what?  333, OK. And what comes after again?  542—what was this? 3. OK.   Let me look by this number. This way I can change ... Let’s see…. Tsih-tsih-tsih-tsih …. This system is so slow today!. OK…. May I put you on hold for minutes?.... OK—will be right back. Just have to change the computer I am looking on…. But first, last four digits of Social? …. 646 and which other one? 1. … Why? The system is not allowing to go on without this information. And your height is what?.... Oooh, this is nice.  How much is weight?  What? Weight. …Is good weight!  You are welcome…. OK, now I can change computer so I can look up the appointment….  OK, I will put you on hold for some time, with appropriate custom music…. [“Blinded by the Light” is piped in] …. I am sorry about this waiting time…. Hello?... Hello?.... That is OK, you do not actually need to tell me what you needed to do…. Now I am on right computer and I have entered your information…. Tsih-tsih-tsih-tsih…. Why is everything being loaded so slow? I am sorry…. OK, now here we are…. I think that ... Oh, this is wrong screen. This is someone else's blinds.  You don't want! Ha-ha—wrong screen. How do I get out of this one?... tsih-tsih …. Let me see this for a minute now….  OK, now I have found the correct screen. It is loading very slowly…. OK, now,  if I can just be able to find the right categories…. Removal …. Installation…. Complaints…. Ah, yes—here we are—Appointments…. It was when? Tomorrow? And you have wanted the next day?... Yes, I can understand you.  I am sorry your teeth are sore and hurting…. Maybe a Thomas Collins afterward?…. The next day at which time would be good?....  OK—any time after 2 PM in the afternoon? Tsih-tsih-tsih-tsih! Here is a time. But I am sorry it is only a good time at 3 tomorrow afternoon…. Oh, of course. I should know that… That is being perfect…. Now just let me enter this new information…. The system is not allowing me…. May I just be off for some time? [“You Really Got a Hold on Me” plays]  OK, Howard was being here and he showed me how to enter new time for appointment…. Final thing: date of birth?.... Really? You are not sounding … let me see—72!  So let us just be sticking to the blinds. Let me just see if we have the right address…. Tsih-tsih—Oh, I am sorry—now you have requested me to stop saying tsih-tsih…. Well, sir, I will try…. You are welcome.  Let us see….  Mim-mim-mim…

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E-Numerations

7 Lists that 12 Hired Celeb Surrogates Can’t Stop Tweeting About

 

16 Shark-Week No-Nos 

 

Why These 10 Weird Animals Are Refinancing to Save Big $$$

 

The 3 Secrets About Your Feet No One Will Tell You, Including This Site

 

WATCH: Four Ways Billionaires Make Toast Taste Better

 

An Even Dozen Celebrity Babies Who Would Have Been A Big Deal Except for Mister Fancy Royal Prince He Thinks He’s So Special

 

Two Methamphetamine Addicts Who Are Pasting Together Your Old Credit Card Bill You Didn’t Shred Well Enough

 

Don’t Think These Ten Goats Will Be Cable’s Next Big Stars?  Click Again 

 

Three and a Half Bathing Suit Failures That the Rich and Famous Don’t Make!

 

Half a Dozen Slideshows About Cuticle Mistakes That Miley Cyrus Needs to See 

 

Think These 11 Ways To Tell If Your Child Will Become President Just By How They Sing the Alphabet Song  Are True?  Maybe!

 

Ten Ways to Avoid Dementia Unless You Can’t Remember If You Clicked It Already and Then It’s Too Late.

 

Six Reasons You Shouldn’t Shave the Back of Your Knees, or Should You?

 

Four Secret Weight Loss Secrets Hollywood is Secretly Learning from Secret Cave Paintings That Neanderthals Painted Completely by Accident--Or That's What We Think, anyway

 

You Won’t Believe These Sixteen Crazy Things People Click on Just Before a Having a Stroke And If You Do Believe Them, Even One of Them, You Won't Be Able To Say So. 

 

This 1 Bill Tipper is the Managing Editor of the Barnes & Noble Review.

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Summer Cocktail Semiformal

"'The only term I really despise is semiformal,' says Miss Manners. 'It is a despicable term that deserves to be eliminated. Sounds like the pants are not to match the jacket.'" --The New York Times

 

We are so pleased to invite you to our party! You should be so pleased we invited you. You should really plan on coming. If you want, or whatever! We have included a detailed guide to our Summer Cocktail Semiformal Optional-Rustic Vintage Heirloom dress code. Not to be confused with Spring Garden Spritzer Formal-Moccasin Retrofeather, or Early Autumn Quinoa & Rhinestone Taupe Picnic Chic. Thank goodness! I mean, autumn, really? That is so next season.     

 

As host and hostess, it is our responsibility to share our artistic vision with you, and it is your responsibility to wear the vision on your body! If you want, or whatever! Summer Cocktail Semiformal Optional-Rustic Vintage Heirloom requires a bit of planning, but the results are basically worth it. Think of the pictures!

 

For example. If your dress looks like it was pickled in a mason jar then attacked with a witty glue gun, you're doing fine. If your dress looks like an overcast day when the ghost of Zelda Fitzgerald stumbles upon Urban Outfitters for the first time before meeting her sickly, super-thin aunt for lunch salads, you're doing great. If your dress looks like it was dipped in a bucket of rust and then tarred and feathered with the plumage of a peacock born in 1933, you're definitely on the right track!

 

These are good examples of things to wear, but don't wear these examples! Can't you come up with your own ideas? Summer Cocktail Semiformal Optional-Rustic Vintage Heirloom requires tiny splashes of creativity, like signature cocktail shooters served in bacon-rimmed thimbles. If you're not creative, you're not invited. Kidding! 

 

For example. The hostess will wear a lacy dress in a toasted hummus hue, embellished with handkerchiefs salvaged from the Downton Abbey costume room, coupled with a sequined clutch studded with upcycled tears from the Titanic, and filled with small, edible plants. She would tell you about her shoes, but her shoes are a surprise. She recommends that everyone else try bare feet. If you want, or whatever!

 

The host will be wearing an ironic bowtie, but not too ironic. His socks will be funny, but not too funny. His mustache will be huge, but not too huge. He's planning to be helpful at the party, but not too helpful.

 

You should feel comfortable in your chosen attire...but not too comfortable. 

 

Are you catching what we're throwing? Are you wearing satin gloves dipped in festive chalkboard paint while you're throwing it back?

 

Did you go to Pete and Barney's Black and White Gala? You did? That's so fun! Guess what? This is not a Black and White Gala. If black and white is the Upper East Side, then grab a taxi and turn around because you've missed everything. Haven't you been listening? Our party is the baby bird tattoo on the hip bone of the Upper East Side. Our party is in a new neighborhood that tourists call Sepiaville, known to locals as Muted-Palette Drainpipe Village Under the Brooklyn Bridge. Our party thinks Pete and Barney are terrible, and hopes to be invited to their Black and White Gala next year. 

 

What's that? You don't know how to find our neighborhood? That's totally fine. We've created an easy, interactive app with scenic directions to the event. For example. We recommend traveling on bicycle and pogo-stick. If you want, or whatever? 

 

Hilary Leichter‘s writing has appeared in n+1, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a 2013 fellowship from The Edward F. Albee Foundation.

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The Macbethicist

 

Dear Grin & Tonic Readers,

 

Fish are jumpin',  the cotton is high, and Aunt Velma needs help cleaning out her gutters after the big storms. We have been careful to choose some of our best G&T pieces and preserve them in brine and dill, so that we could serve them up in the summertime.  Now, really, admit it: pickles that tingle taste far better than plain old cukes.  If something new and  really good and vernally funny comes along, we'll serve it fresh, but in the meantime, here's a little summer linkage humor from Roger Miller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lEC7JsBTxA. And here's one of our finest, funniest, and most frightening preserved offerings.

 

-The Editors

 

The Ethicist is on vacation. This week's column features advice from the Macbethicist.

 

CORPORATE LADDER OR THE HANGMAN RATHER?

 

I am a vice-president -- one of a dozen -- of a multinational corporation. Recently, the president's secretary left a document in the photocopier that was unquestionably intended to be confidential, as it contains information that if known by others would spell the end of his career. While I am not immediately next in line for the presidency -- a position I would like to have eventually, to be sure -- the removal of the president would move me that much closer to the job. Putting my own ambitions aside for the moment, however, do I have a responsibility to the company, its shareholders, and/or the public to reveal what I know, notwithstanding that I learned it by accident, even if would ruin another person's career? NAME WITHHELD, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.

 

Before we get to the crux of your question, I have to note my surprise that you managed to become a vice president of a multinational corporation in the first place -- unless you are the favorite nephew of someone on the board of directors -- because you obviously are unqualified to lead. You suggest that we put aside your own ambitions for a moment. A moment is too long to put aside your own ambitions. Ambition is everything.

 

Some wise women I know once told me, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Someone else might or might not have once said, "Business is war." Your first duty is to yourself, if you are to climb the corporate ladder. Should you reveal the damning contents of the confidential document left on the copier? No. What you should do instead is kill the president -- murder him while he naps at his desk, if possible, framing his secretary (fitting punishment for her carelessness), then dispatch the vice presidents more senior than you in turn over the following months, clearing the way for you to ascend to the throne of your company.

 

CRY UNCLE!

 

After my beloved father died under mysterious circumstances, his brother married my mother, prompting me to suspect that my uncle in fact murdered my dad. Imagine my feelings when the ghost of my father appeared to me and told me as much. I was, in a word, enraged. So I had an idea: I would pretend I was having a mental breakdown, treat my girlfriend rudely, and hire a local improv troupe to reenact my father's death by his brother's hand, which I thought might prompt my uncle to admit to the crime. (It didn't work, and shortly afterward I accidentally killed my girlfriend's father.) I'm sure that my uncle now suspects that I know that he killed my father (and he tried to have me killed too! Way too much to get into here but I escaped; two guys I went to school with and some pirates were involved), and now my girlfriend's brother also wants me dead, after what I did to his father. Also, his sister drowned herself because I was mean to her. What should I do now? (Bear in mind that everyone still thinks I'm clinically insane.) NAME WITHHELD, ELSINORE, DENMARK.

 

The people who think you're mad are onto something. I think you're mad. The answer to your dilemma is right before your eyes, not unlike a dagger, its handle toward your hand. Clutch that dagger, son, and use it to kill everyone. Kill them all. Kill your uncle. Then kill your girlfriend's brother. For good measure, you might want to kill your mother, too. You mentioned a couple of school chums. Are they dead yet?

 

Even if you hadn't told me that you had (had) a girlfriend, I'd have known that you don't have a wife. A wife would have told you what to do. I have my doubts that you'd have listened to her, though. You didn't listen to your father's ghost, after all. If experience has taught me anything, it's to listen to wives and apparitions. Wives and apparitions tell it like it is and know best.

 

EXIT, SUBDUED BY THREE BEARS…

 

I'm a young girl with striking blond hair, which isn't at all relevant to my question. Last year, while strolling through the woods by myself -- I'm just a preteen but already really into hiking solo -- I came upon a cottage. I found the door unlocked, so I let myself in. No one was home, so I ate some hot cereal, broke a chair, and fell asleep in one of the beds upstairs. Eventually, the homeowners returned -- a couple of bears and their cub. I ran out before they could eat me, but also before I could apologize or offer to pay for the food or the damage to the chair. Should I let sleeping bears lie, so to speak, or should I go back and try to make things just right? G.L., THE WOODS, ENGLAND.

 

Finally, someone who gets it! And a babe in the wood, no less. Kudos to you for seizing an opportunity to take what belonged to others when their backs were turned. If a family of bears cannot be bothered to lock their cottage when they are out, then they deserve to have their home invaded by a stranger. Perhaps the only thing you did wrong was to leave when they returned. You had rightfully lain claim to the premises and its appointments. You should have stood your ground…but I can understand why you would have chosen to beat a hasty retreat under the circumstances. You were outnumbered, and they were bears.

 

Now, however, you can yourself return to the cottage -- with an armed mob from your village -- and you will have the element of surprise, being that it has been a year since your last encounter with the careless bears. Moreover, if you time your attack properly, you can lay siege to the cottage whilst the occupants are hibernating. Kill them while they sleep the sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care. Then unseam them from the nave to the chops, and make their hides into rugs for your new castle. Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and your name to the mailbox.

 

A SORRY SIGHT!

 

Although my husband, the Thane of Glanis, was recently also made Thane of Cawdor, he seems to be resting on his laurels of late. For instance, he is supposed to be making arrangements for everyone in the household of the Thane of Fife to be put to death, including the women and small children, but now I find that he's playing at giving advice. Don't you think he should get back to murdering everybody? LADY M------, INVERNESS, SCOTLAND.

 

Yes, dear.

 

Matthew David Brozik has ambitions that put the ambitions of mortal men to shame. Read about them at imdb.name.

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Brand New, Recently Renovated

"If you thought housing prices were spiraling up again, consider the lowly parking space.... At an auction on Thursday, the bidding for a tandem spot — space for two cars, one behind the other — started out at $42,000. It ended 15 minutes later at $560,000." -- The New York Times

 

"I'm so glad to see all of you for today's open house -- or rather, open space.  It doesn't get any better than this: Brand-new, recently renovated premium parking location for sale by owner, with a completely open concrete floor plan. People talk about open layouts, but, I promise, you will not find a layout more open than this. Trust me, I sell a ton of these things, and you're getting maximum openness for your square footage. No obstructions, at least until you park your car.

"Take a good look. It’s hard not to, with all of the light. There literally could not be more light. It's coming in from all sides, depending on where the sun is. The top, the left, the right, everywhere -- and there's no glass to interfere. Heck, if you need even more light, there is room for a lamp. Maybe even two lamps, depending on the size of your vehicle.


"As you can see, the entire property has infinitely high ceilings. Homeowners often brag about eight-, nine-, ten-foot ceilings. Indoor garages, covered driveways. We're not doing that today. These ceilings go on forever. You could stack your cars, as many as you wanted to, one on top of the other, and you’d still have room for more. I'm not saying I would recommend it, but you could do it, and you’d never hit a ceiling, no matter how high you went.


"Yes, of course it can serve as a bedroom, with the addition of a bed. It can also serve as a bathroom. It has, in fact, served as a bathroom in the past, for many. Once it's yours, you can use it for anything you like. The concrete cooktop would make it a perfect kitchen in the summer heat. It can also be used for storage, assuming you don't mind keeping your belongings outside -- or, as we like to say in the parking lot realty business, unencumbered by burdensome walls.

"Oh, the curb appeal is unmatched. It may look a little small from the front, but if you swing around to the side, you'll see it's actually a rectangle, and there's plenty of room, no matter what kind of car you have. Especially a small one. Picture it, you drive in -- through the grand entrance, you cross that white line, glide to a stop, and everything in that box is yours. These 96 perfectly square feet belong solely to you.

"A media room? Well, I suppose that depends on what kind of car you have. Because with the surround sound, I think we could make the case. Sit in the car, put a TV in front, spray-clean the windshield and it's like your very own drive-in movie theater. And no one's going to charge you for the popcorn.

"It's the original owners, sure. And they've done such a wonderful job renovating. Do you like the shade of black they chose? And how about the white line? People say colors are in, but I like the simplicity of the black and white. It's classic.

"Sure, it could totally be a home office. Run some extension cords from the house, stick a desk out here -- I think that could definitely work. Maybe put up a little canopy for when it rains, bring a bookcase out, a waterproof desk chair, I can totally see it. You wouldn't be the first person to repurpose a parking spot as a home office. Or you might be the first. You could start a trend -- even offer WiFi service to other Parkingplacers desperate to get online. Yep, that’s the new word for real-estate pioneers like you.

"Yes, that's a great idea -- a guest room for the in-laws. Don't want them hovering over you when they visit? Send them out to your luxury guest suite, right in between the driver's side and someone else’s SUV.  Tell them what I’ve been telling you-- “unencumbered by burdensome walls.” Heck, it's roomier than it looks, especially as the old folks continue to shrink. And, like I said, this spot has served as a bathroom in the past, so they don't even have to come inside for that.

"$500K. Yeah, that's what we're starting at. Will the owners throw in the car? No, the car is extra. No, the house is not for sale. It's just the parking spot. No, there are no houses for sale for at least ten miles. Twenty, if there’s traffic. But between you and me, there may be another space opening up right across the street. Messy divorce, and there’s a bit of oil damage. But it could be a golden opportunity for a growing family.  Or a weekend getaway -- it’s fifty feet closer to the country.

 

Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer. Read more at http://jeremyblachman.com.

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[INTERN, GIVE THIS HUMOR PIECE A TITLE BY NOON AT THE LATEST]

"A Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled ... that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by not paying production interns.... The judge noted that these internships did not foster an educational environment and that the studio received the benefits of the work.... Like their counterparts in other industries, the interns took lunch orders, answered phones, arranged other employees’ travel plans, tracked purchase orders, took out the trash and assembled office furniture." -- The New York Times

Welcome back to your internship! In accordance with federal minimum wage laws, we have restructured our traditional Serf for a Year program to instead provide an appropriate court-mandated academic environment. Rather than merely doing administrative work for the department, you will now attend a strict schedule of daily classes, designed to teach you everything you might need to know, if you were to one day become a paid employee, working underneath a demanding, capricious, 42-year-old junior vice president who deserves more than just one lousy intern, even though his only work assignment in the last month has been this tedious memo.

 

Of course, you'll never become a paid employee, at least not here at Feebtronics, Inc., because you've threatened to sue us for non-compliance with federal labor law. Here is your daily schedule:

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM -- Phones 101
In this class, which will be taught by Associate Professor Sally The Receptionist, you will learn proper telephone etiquette, including how to take messages, how to transfer calls, and, in an advanced graduate-level unit, how to order lunch for a lactose-intolerant junior vice president who enjoys some variety in his meals, and please get extra napkins. While the class will be 50 minutes long, daily homework will require that you practice your telephone skills for the remainder of the day, especially when annoying customers call and want us to do things for them. You will need to pay an equipment fee of $30 for your phone. Because this is school, and in school you have to pay for your supplies.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM -- Home Economics and Furniture Repair 102

Remember that IKEA desk we made you put together last week, back when this was still a silly unpaid internship, without any educational value at all? Well, we kicked it, and now it's broken, so we need you to fix it. Eddie from a van outside the hardware store will be your instructor for this class. (He will also teach you how to fix the toilet in the employees-only bathroom, which you obviously can't use, because you're not an employee. You can use the educational Port-A-Potty in the parking lot.) Fixing the desk will be 20% of your final grade.

 

11:00 AM - 11:50 AM -- Independent Study: World Cultures

Someone's taking a vacation. Don't worry, it's not you -- students don't get vacation time, of course. Please write a paper – spelling and grammar count! -- designing an ideal two-week travel itinerary for a hypothetical 42-year-old junior vice president, with a wife and two children, ages 7 and 9. The children enjoy museums and the beach. Please build two days into the schedule for the junior vice president to sneak off with his mistress. His hypothetical mistress.

 

12:00 PM - 12:50 PM -- Physical Education
Eating your own lunch isn't very educational. Instead, we're excited to provide a physical education program, in the form of stair exercises and small free weights. Our expertly-trained "exercise delivery men" are waiting in the lobby with the weights, which are in plastic bags and smell like food. You will bring these weights up eighteen flights of stairs to your "personal trainers," who will then take the weights into their offices and eat them. For extra credit, you can carry out the trash.


1:00 PM - 1:50 PM -- Financial Literacy 301
Alas, the threat of a lawsuit made us realize we weren't exposing you to enough of the critical parts of our business. Our mistake. We are happy to share all of our most important documents with you by allowing you to shred them face-down in our trash disposal room. $50 equipment fee for use of the shredder. This unit will be supervised by a 42-year-old junior vice president to make sure that none of his emails to a hypothetical mistress get held onto by litigious, sticky-fingered ingrates.

2:00 PM - 2:50 PM -- Advanced Topics in Veterinary Medicine
Yes, you're walking our dog.

3:00 PM - 3:50 PM -- Seminar in Food Safety
Please clean out the fridge.

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM -- Personal Tutorial in Thai Foot Massage
We'll be in our office.

We hope that you're as excited about this new direction for the internship program as we are, and now realize how good you had it before. Look forward to your final exam, which will involve synthesizing all of your knowledge to train our next class of interns, and to the diploma we're definitely going to send you, assuming you don't have any outstanding telephone or trash-disposal debt.

P.S. Those IKEA furniture instructions were from our "library," so we hope you didn't throw them out, or you owe us $20. We're so pleased to have you here!

 

Jeremy Blachman is "hiring" unpaid interns to read humor pieces. Application instructions at http://jeremyblachman.com.

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Ordinary Joe

President Barack Obama released a financial disclosure form Wednesday showing considerable income from book royalties. The president reported several million dollars in assets, mostly in mutual funds…[Vice President Joe] Biden's forms showed his assets are smaller than the president's, mostly amounts of a few thousand dollars in a range of mutual funds and bank accounts. His book royalties are also close to zero.—UPI

 

Joe Biden wearily enters the cramped Number One Observatory Circle of the White House, loosening his red tie under his navy suit. Canned wild applause.

 

JOE: What a day, what a day…

 

He sits down at the table with a groan as his wife, Jill, comes out in an apron.

 

JILL: Tired of sittin’around doin’ nothin’ all day, Joe?

 

JOE: One of these days, Jill, one of these days—to the moon! I spent eight straight hours with NASA schedulin’the next moon landin’ for an unspecified future date!

 

JILL: I’m sure you fit right in with the rocket scientists.

 

JOE: Wise guy, huh? Why I oughta gerrymander this neighborhood and divide our official residence in two and consult my advisors about the feasibility of a quiet divorce! Listen, Jill, we’re behind on our mortgage payments, and I checked my campaign-book royalties --

JILL: Somethin’ tells me your royalties aren’t exactly a king’s ransom.

 

JOE: But I’ve got a plan, baby.

 

JILL: Oh, Joe, not another one of your get-rich-quick schemes. Remember what happened last time, with TARP?

 

JOE: I swear, this one isn’t malarkey. It’s a constitutional amendment guaranteein’ permanent tax relief for all former rankin’ minority members of the Foreign Relations Committee-turned-tie-breakin’ Senate voters.

 

JILL: (sighs) Why don’tcha just ask your boss if you can work some overtime?

 

JOE: Mr. Obama? I wouldn’t wanna interrupt his fancy vacation in Hawaii. Besides, all that cheapskate talks about is sequesterin’ this, sequesterin’that. I’d have better luck lobbyin’ the fiscally conservative House of Representatives for a stimulus package.

 

JILL: At least that’d be one package around here gettin’stimulated.

 

JOE: "Pow, right in the kisser, Jill!" Is what I would say if it didn’t tacitly endorse domestic violence, which is a serious issue I should address more often from the bully pulpit of the vice presidency.

 

JILL: Maybe if you sent Mr. Obama a bill requestin’ a raise for members of the cabinet, with majority support from your pals down at the Senate, he’d be open to signin’ it.

 

JOE: That’s not how these fat cats operate in Washin’ton. You gotta build up enough political capital to get leverage to twist another fella’s arm into a vote that’s unfavorable to his constituency, see?

 

JILL: Well, you sure did a bang-up job doin’ that at the press conference last week, blabbermouthin’with one of your famous gaffes and leakin’ the top-secret plans to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea.

 

JOE: Do ya have to make a federal case outta everythin’, Jill?! The feds cleared me of all charges of treason.

 

JILL: What’ll we do, Joe? The Internet company said they’re gonna shut off our Wi-Fi.

 

JOE: Y’know, I remember a time in America when an honest, hardworkin’ fella could get ahead by graduatin’five hundred and sixth outta six-oh-eight in his law school class, supportin’the Vietnam War while receivin’ five student deferments until he got reclassified as unavailable for service on account’a havin’ had asthma as a teenager, and risin’ the ranks of the Senate with two unsuccessful runs for the presidency until he got tapped as a runnin’ mate for perceived gravitas and identification with workin’-class white males. But in today’s world of burstin’ economic bubbles and globalized outsourcin’…

 

JILL: You’ll figure somethin’ out, Joe—you always do. Like with the fiscal cliff negotiatin’.

 

Joe rises with renewed vigor.

 

JOE: Humina-humina-humina, you’re right! I’ll moonlight as Transportation Secretary if I hafta.

 

JILL: And I could sell my apple pies you like so much to my students at the community college and the congressional aides.

JOE: Now you’re thinkin’like Hillary, sweetheart!

 

JILL: Aww, come here, ya big lunk of a sinecure!

 

They kiss as John Kerry spastically barges into the room wearing a white undershirt, vest, and porkpie hat.

 

JOHN: Hey, there, Joey boy!

 

JOE: Kerry! Are you tryna give me a heart attack like Cheney? Go back where you belong, to the State Department!

 

Fade to black. Canned applause.

 

Teddy Wayne is the author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil.

 

 

 

 

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April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.