Displaying articles for: October 2010

Holiday Spirits

          (A Russian Doctor Describes the Only Correct Way to Drink Vodka)  
 
Americans do not know how to drink vodka. Perhaps that is because the true, Russian technique has never been formally laid down on paper. I would like to correct this omission.

Russian men drink vodka shots. They drink vodka with gusto while making loud breathing noises. They drink vodka as if their manhood depended on how loud those noises are. After these shots, Russians eat. They eat small morsels of food, chewing pensively, their gaze directed inward like that of a woman in late stages of pregnancy. In fact a good prix-fixe Russian dinner is a twenty-course affair, seventeen courses of which are hors d’oeuvres in small portions. During such dinner a Russian may down seventeen shots followed by seventeen different hors d'oeuvres while giving seventeen toasts.  With Thanksgiving approaching, I'm sure that this technique can be adapted to the traditional holiday meal, with excellent results. Americans are so creative!

The social purpose of rapid-fire vodka shots is to get as much alcohol in you as quickly as possible to get the party going. The gastronomical purpose of drinking vodka at dinners is to enhance the flavor of the food. Vodka is 40% ethyl alcohol, which is an ideal solvent for the small-molecule chemicals that give food its taste. Most of the taste is sensed not by the tongue but by the nose, and alcohol dissolves the flavor components and vapors and delivers them to their destination, making the food taste stronger.

Two other steps must be taken.  First, you need to prevent the burning in your mouth that comes with all hard liquor. The burning likely comes from the oxidation of alcohol to acetaldehyde and acetic acid in the presence of digestive catalysts in the mouth. Thus, Russians evacuate oxygen by powerfully breathing out before each shot.

Second, the vodka must have no or minimal taste of its own. For example, cognac, which is an antithesis to vodka, needs to be savored in the mouth. This allows the complex flavor components to be vaporized to the taste buds in the larynx and the nose. Since vodka’s main function is to deliver the taste of the food that follows, flavored vodkas must have very simple background tastes – pepper, lemon, horseradish -- which the best of them do. (The now unavailable Stolichnaya Pertsovka was the best in this regard.)

All of the above leads to a multi-step vodka drinking ritual choreographed and perfected by Russian revelers over millennia. To be more specific:  

     1. Pour a half an ounce of vodka into a shot glass (preferably made of Czech crystal). This amount is optimal for both fully experiencing the drinking process and for extending it through four to six toasts (2-3 drinks).
    2. Pick out a spicy and salty hors-d’oeuvre of your choice and smell it. High-brow: caviar, smoked fish, selected marinated mushrooms. Low-brow: pickles, herring, salami.
    3. Breathe out loudly through your mouth emitting an animal noise. No air should be left in your lungs.
    4. Drink your vodka in one swallow. DO NOT BREATHE IN. Breathing in will let the air into your system and will negate steps 1-3, and your mouth will burn.
    5. Put your food in your mouth WITHOUT BREATHING IN and chew it pensively for 15 seconds, trying to direct your gaze inward like as if you were a woman etc.
    6. Finally, breathe in.

If you have done everything right, you should be feeling tender warmth deep in your chest, spectacular tastes in you mouth, and no burning anywhere.

Before you begin, however, make sure that you are hungry and remain hungry as long as possible. Two centuries back, Russian aristocrats would get up before dawn and hunt until mid-morning. At that point they would proudly barge into the main hall of the estate with unlucky specimens of game hanging from their belts. Next they would approach an impeccably laid table with three or four different carafes of ice-cold vodka and seven or eight varieties of high- and low-brow hors d’oeuvres consisting of several types of red and black caviar, mushrooms, pickles and smoked fish. The starving aristocrats would then follow the above steps several times with different combinations of vodkas and hors d’oeuvres until they no longer felt the pangs of near-starvation, at which point, still hungry enough, they would proceed to the dining room for breakfast.

Trust me--the breakfast was not cereal.

 
I suggest that you, like Russian aristocrats, enact the whole ritual three times before your Thanksgiving meal. I have been doing it with my American friends for twenty years with wonderful results.

 

Igor Galynker M.D., Ph.D. is the Associate Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. His Ph.D. is in Chemistry.

Rock the Vote -- Part V

               Why Won’t You Woo Me?

"Mich. Candidates Woo Young Voters"

          – Detroit News headline

 

Attention politicians, I demand to be wooed. For far too long my demographic has been ignored as you chase after the Latino vote, the black vote, the young vote, the elderly vote, the Christian vote, and the women’s vote. When will you chase after me? Do you not care about the Dan vote? Obviously not.

 

I assume you’re not wooing me because you think I’m fat. Would you woo me if I were thinner? What if I wore nicer clothes? I’m willing to change, but damn it, you have to tell me what you want. If I lost 10 lbs. and stopped wearing so much denim, would you woo me then? I’m not asking for a major woo. You don’t need to give me a shout-out during a speech. Just Tweet about me a few times next week or if I come over to your campaign headquarters, say Hi instead of turning out the lights and pretending you’re not home.

 

I see my friends get wooed all the time. My old roommate Tyler Barrish is currently being courted by eight different candidates. It must be nice being a young black Christian. By the way, you should know that Tyler lost my favorite shirt and when I asked him about it he said, “What shirt?” Is that really the kind of guy you want voting for you?

 

There are many things about myself that make me woo-worthy. I’m tall, I know how to swim, I don’t have allergies, and I already had braces. I also went to college and I’m pretty good at Tetris. Don’t you like college educated Tetris players? Why won’t you woo me?

 

Maybe if I join a group you would woo me. For instance, if I become an Olympian you would probably woo the crap out of me. Olympians are ambassadors to the world, and you would desperately want an Olympian’s support. Maybe I could be flood victim. Politicians are always trying to woo flood victims. If I became an Olympic flood victim, you’d be so desperate for my vote that you’d buy me a turtle. And then when I become an elderly Olympic flood vicitim, why, you’d probably slap me on the cover of your webpage and take me out for pizza. Lobster pizza.

 

But then it would be too little too late, bub. Don’t come crawling back to me when I become part of an important demographic. Perhaps I’ll become upper or lower class. Or I’ll be a powerful businessman who worries about taxes and economics. Then you’ll woo me.  Or what if I become a famous movie star who has both mass appeal and critical success? Then you’d have to buy me three turtles, and even after that, I would deny your woo.

 

So now’s your chance, Washington. Either you start altering your campaigns so that is speaks directly to me, Dan the average guy who can swim, or you can kiss my vote goodbye. This isn’t a threat. I have a list of things I need to do on November 2nd, and voting doesn’t even crack the top 10. But if you woo me just a little bit, I may squeeze in a vote or two between my trip to the store to buy socks and making hotdogs and rice. Thank you and goodbye.

 

Dan Bergstein is going to take some much needed time off so that he can spend more time with your family.

Rock the Vote -- Part IV

                                                                 Luring the Virgin Vote

 

Polling data don't always speak the truth. This is why some candidates in this election are ignoring the polls and going after voters who, according to surveys, don’t even exist. Political analyst and former political athlete Martha Jones explains, “If you ask a male virgin if he’s a virgin, he will say no. And then the polling data say all male voters are sexy people who have sex. But the reality is some voters are virgins. Some have never even kissed a girl, and it’s important for a candidate to ignore the surveys and go after these secret folks.”

This new tactic called The Virgin Ploy explains the recent rise in ad slogans such as, “Girls are scary,” “Stop Stressing About Sex,” and “It’ll Happen When It Happens.” While polling data show these ads are hurting the campaign, candidates are hoping that when the voters are alone in the voting booth, they will be honest and vote for the candidate who spoke to them when no one else would.

Richard M. (last name redacted, but it rhymes with “dump truck”) said, “I thought I was the only one who has never seen a nude lady. But then I saw the ad on TV and now I know who I’m voting for.” Richard is referring to the Democrat’s ad listing famous men who did not experience sex until later in life.  And while some may argue that it’s tough, if not impossible, to prove that Moses, Attila the Hun,  and Sammy Davis, Jr., didn’t see a naked lady until they were in their late twenties, the ads are reaching people nonetheless.

The Virgin Ploy strategy extends beyond sex. Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio of Florida has publicly admitted that he enjoys Ziggy comic strips, even though such a comment is unorthodox at best and off-putting at worst--if you believe the polls.  But Sally T. of Kentucky loves this approach, saying, “When someone asks if you like Ziggy, of course you say no. Reading Ziggy isn’t cool. But now I’m not alone. I won’t admit it to my family, but Ziggy means the world to me. This is why I’m now a Republican. But don’t tell. You promised.” Too bad, Sally T.  You don't even live in Florida.

 

Representative Matthew Zeller of New York has said on several occasions that he not only enjoys the music of Enya, but once saw her in concert and it was amazing - a claim that was welcomed by secret Enya lovers around the country. The polls say he will lose by a significant margin because he gave up the “cool vote,” but according to the Virgin Ploy theory, he may just walk away with a win.

 

The Virgin Ploy is not without significant problems. Some candidates are now lying about their guilty pleasures and secret pasts in hopes of luring potential voters. Rumor has it that a certain congresswoman who said she always thought John Goodman was sexy was later overhead saying, “Goodman is ugly and I can’t believe anyone would kiss him,” thus breaking the hearts of secret, hidden Goodman fanatics.

And the Governor of Oregon once said he didn’t enjoy "The Breakfast Club" and thought it was pretentious. At first it rallied the heretofore unknown community of folks who also disliked "The Breakfast Club,"  but after a photo leaked showing the governor owned the film on DVD and Blu Ray, his secret supporters vanished. He tried to win them back by saying Avatar was overrated, but his statement fell on deaf ears, because we all sort of agree on that now.

So the Virgin Ploy is a dangerous game to play. It could backfire, as it did when one Congressman wrongfully assumed everyone would secretly love a candidate who admitted to digging cartoon pornography. And when the Pennsylvania governor shouted, “I’m afraid of birds,” it did not have the intended response.

That said, this election is too important to rule out any tactic.  And some candidates are trying it all. A Democratic representative who will not be named said he enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons one day, only to say the following night that the game was for “virgin geeks living in their parent’s basement.” He then tried to look cool by smoking a cigarette.  This is the Confusion Ploy, which is intended to attract confused voters. We'll soon find out if it works.

Dan Bergstein is going to the bakery. If you need anything, let him know now, but be sure it’s something bakery-related, because he’s not making two stops.

Rock the Vote -- Part III

                    Harnessing the Political Power of the Cats

It’s a good time to be a cat owner in Pennsylvania. As the Senate race between Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey comes down to the wire,  both candidates are trying to woo the cat owning citizens with bold promises and flashy ads. A new poll shows that 87% of cat owners in the keystone state are undecided, compared to 14% of dog owners, 8% of lizard owners, and 3% of Presbyterians. That’s a number no campaign can pass up, and it’s no surprise that desperate candidates are using everything in their war chests to capture the elusive vote.

 

After the poll was released, Democrats struck first by giving all Democratic members of Congress a kitten that was to be worn either on the shoulder or around the politicians’ necks in a tiny cage like a necklace as a sign of support. These fashion-cats started a trend, and a poll taken that day showed cat owners were in favor of Democrats, three-to-one.

 

That number quickly changed later that night after the Republican group Americans for American Freedom in America donated three tons of cats to local schools in Pennsylvania. The cats, many of which were adorable and not at all nasty, are now roaming school hallways and brightening everyone’s day. A poll conducted seven minutes after Operation School Cat was announced showed that 68% of cat owners were ready to vote for a Republican senator, and staggering 99% wished rainbows could talk.

 

Democrats tried to retaliate by giving area hospitals a few dozen lions, but according to a very speedy poll conducted in a matter of minutes, cat owners are not necessarily lion enthusiasts, and the plan backfired. Plus, the hospitals were ill-equipped to deal with lions. The lions were rounded up and taken to a farm, except three lions that escaped and now dwell in the sewers, thus prompting the Republican TV ad calling the Democrats “Sewer Lions,” a term that doesn’t really mean anything, but when said in a condescending manner is rather effective.

 

Looking to even the playing field, Sestak used his skills as an amateur veterinarian to cure a few sick cats on The Tonight Show. Polls showed that cat owners enjoyed this, but not nearly enough cat owners watched the show, as 45% of them were sleeping and 33% didn't care for their cats.

 

Toomey, meanwhile, went on The View last week to promote feline osteoporosis awareness. And it probably would have helped put him over the top, if only he hadn’t stumbled over the words, “feline osteoporosis awareness.” He tried to recover by calling it, “bad cat bones,” but the damage was already done. And the cat owner vote was once again, up for grabs.

 

In a last-ditch effort to nab the cat owner vote, the Sestak campaign paid a reported $400,000 to have Sestak drawn into a Garfield comic strip. Garfield author Jim Davis rarely uses his comic strip for political purposes, except for that one instance in which Garfield took a stand against the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994.

 

With only days left before the votes are cast, and some polls showing there are only minutes remaining, the candidates have big stunts planned to win over the cat lovers. Rumor has it Sestak will announce a dog tax later today, and Toomey volunteers were seen shoving small, thin kittens under the doors of potential voters.

Will it be enough? Cat owner Lisa Gunkle said, "I don’t know. Maybe I’ll stay home. It’s all so busy."

 

Dan Bergstein cannot tell the difference between candy corn and regular corn.

Rock the Vote: Part II

                    Luring the Lithuanian-American  Vote

                    Leaked Note Campaign Headquarters:

  Attention Staff:   This election will be won or lost based on the will of the Lithuanian-American population. I don’t need to tell you that the candidate who holds these citizens in his hands controls not only the election, but all major U.S. politics and some Canadian politics too. The problem is how to get the mighty Lithuanian–Americans to the polls?

 

Step one is to  stop using the nine-syllable nomenclature of "Lithuanian-American." It's too long. "Lithuanians" will do.  Step two is to identify Lithuanian-Ame--Lithuanians. This is very difficult because they look just like some of you and maybe me. For the sake of the campaign, we should treat all potential voters as if they are Lithuanian until we figure out some sort of identification protocol. Do all Lithuanians wear hats? That would make this easier. Once we find a few Lithuanians, we must follow them back to their secret lair and study their common denominators from a safe distance.

 

The next phase involves tailoring a speech specifically for this group. We must press the issues that concern them the most. Where do they stand on environmental issues? Are they for or against big government? Can they see in the dark? Is it true that they have lightning for blood and how does that relate to universal healthcare?

 

With these questions answered, we will craft the perfect speech, even if it means redefining our campaign. If Lithuanians think birds are evil, guess what--we’re going to crack down on birds. We need to speak directly to them, even if that requires us to ignore every other race and gender. (Can Lithuanians be women? I assume so, but let’s not jump to conclusions and make an ass of ourselves. Carl, look into this. Have Margret help you if you’re swamped collecting data on possible Lithuanian tunnels.)

 

Then we will pour all of our resources into direct mail. We’ve already worked on a few slogans for a flyer. Such as:

 

-Don’t hurt us with your mind-powers, ye powerful Lithuanians.

 

-Lithuanian? More like Rich-uanian, after we’re done with ya! Vote!

 

-Our opponents want to hurt you and imprison your baby. For reals! Vote for us, or else.

 

-You are very attractive and tall.

 

The week before the election, we should probably take as many Lithuanians to the movies as possible. They’d probably really like that Secretariat movie. And then we can slip them each $5. I think there’s some money left in our marketing budget, and it’s only illegal if we make eye-contact with them, right? Carl, look into this.

 

To lock up the vote, we must make sure our opponent doesn’t find out about the precious and numerous Lithuanian voters. We need hide them at Jerry’s house. (Jerry, talk to Pete in accounting. He’ll hook you up with some petty cash for food and bedding.) If our opponent gets suspicious and asks where all the Lithuanians went, we just whistle and say, “Lithuanians? They’re not real. They were made up, like leprechauns, Santa Claus, and Michael Jordan.”

 

On Election Day, we will each take turns driving the Lithuanians to the polls. I can fit four people in my car.

 

Folks, we didn’t come all this way just to come in second place. With your help, and the help of the enigmatic Lithuanians, we will win this election. Then we can suck up to the Scandinavians and take over the world!

 

Dan Bergstein has never gone fishing, and hopes the fish appreciate and remember this during the coming Fish Wars.

Rock the Vote: Part I

                    The Ventriloquist Vote: A Silent Majority

 

Latino voters may make the difference for California Democrats on Election Day

          – Washington Post Headline

 

Can the Black Vote Save Democrats?

          – Editorial headline from The Chicago Tribune

 

Gubernatorial Candidates Turn to Women Voters

          – NPR headline

 

From blogs to cable news, everyone agrees that the key to the Senate race in Nevada will come down to one crucial demographic – Ventriloquists. Democrat Harry Reid showed strong numbers in early polls, but that was before Republican Sharon Angle, and the Tea Party, announced their $4 million plan to spur job growth in the struggling ventriloquist market.

 

Angle’s attempt to lure the Ventriloquist vote seemed to work, especially after Reid’s campaign slipped up when one of Reid’s volunteers quietly said to herself, “Those puppets are creepy.” The sound bite, which was somehow picked up by a hidden microphone and five plainclothes stenographers, quickly spread across the state. The Sunday- morning talk shows had much to discuss. During the Pain-Minute on Reno’s local Shout Time news program, commentator Shelly “The Hound” Bowers called this slip of the tongue “The most egregious and hateful thing that--” She then broke down in tears and could be heard dry heaving for the rest of the minute.

 

Several ventriloquists unions and community organizations, including Local Vent 109 and Wooden People for Progress demanded an apology from the Reid campaign. And they got one. During a stump speech at the Laughy Taffy Humor Hut, Reid not only publicly fired the loose-lipped volunteer, but pledged his support for the ventriloquist sector by offering generous tax incentives to those ventriloquists earning less than $65 a show.

 

Ventriloquist Randy Jordan of Las Vegas thought Reid’s attempt to lure the ventriloquist vote was too little too late, saying, “This plan for ventriloquist tax incentives isn’t enough. You’re going to give me incentives on my $50 a week salary? I don’t need incentives. I need work. And that won’t happen unless the government offers tax breaks for birthday parties.” Jordan’s dummy, Daphne Yum-Yum, added, “My last boyfriend was a baseball bat. HA!”

 

Former ventriloquist and current magician Armand the Wondrous thinks both candidates are wasting their time. “They never think about the Mr. Wuzzle Factor,” said Wondrous. In 1978, ventriloquist Clive Thornship, aided by his dummy Mr. Wuzzle, ran for Congress in New Jersey. His poll numbers going into the election were strong, especially in the male ventriloquist age 35-67 demographic. However he lost by a landslide. The crash and burn was attributed to low ventriloquist voter turnout. “Vents are a tough group to motivate,” Wondrous said. “Come Election Day, even when one of their own is on the ballot, they tend to stay home and write gags about wooden politicians. And those who do show up usually storm away angry when the voting center refuses to let them enter the booth with their dummy.”

 

With so much riding on this crucial vote, will either candidate have what it takes to get ventriloquists to the polls? Will the ventriloquists realize their voting potential? If not, who’s to blame? Is it the voter’s fault, or the campaign’s? Perhaps Mr. Wuzzle put it best when he said, “And I thought I was the dummy!”

 

 

Dan Bergstein TYPED THIS BY PRESSING THE CAPS LOCK KEY. Or maybe he held down Shift. Only he knows for sure. 

Another Mixed (Up) Review

Too Sweaty For This World: A Life of Portis Filch

By James Lentil

Crumb Hill House; 302 pp.

 

Why did Portis Filch abandon poetry? The question has haunted and irritated scholars for decades, given the promise of his early work and the tragically odd denouement of his short career. Sadly, the poetry has been overshadowed by the outlandish events that followed, but it is worth remembering just how dutifully Filch’s early poems answered Ezra Pound’s call to "make it new." (Though, as James Lentil's new biography points out, that famous quote has been taken far out of context: in reality Pound spoke those words to a man behind a deli counter who failed to hold the Russian dressing on his Reuben, as Pound had requested.)

 

Filch, of course, wrote only in Greek, and celebrated peasant life – or so we thought. The new volume provides the first new English translation of the poems since Helga Muffenstruss’s standard 1932 edition, and some of the differences are striking. For example, it seems that his most famous Ode,  "A Stroll Along Heffernan Lake," was not an appreciation of the fall harvest, as long believed, but an expression of Filch’s distrust of gourds.

 

Every poem Filch ever published was written before his twentieth birthday. But just as he started to gain recognition, he fled America, complaining of the smell. Touring the capitals of Europe, he met Ibbicus Howe, an American expatriate living in Rome, who worked as an usher at the legendary Rivaldi Theater by day and stayed up all night working in his tiny, cluttered third floor studio, which he referred to, somewhat grandiosely, as Blue Raven Hill Community Gardens.

 

Filch had fallen in love with the Rivaldi Theater, with its crystal chandeliers and aisle seats dusted with truffle shavings, and he met Howe during a matinee intermission. Based on more than sixty conversations with relatives of fellow expatriates close to both Filch and Howe, Lentil has recreated their first fateful conversation.

 

Howe: I’m sorry, sir, you can’t stand there.

Filch: I most certainly can.

Howe: I’m sorry, you’re blocking the concession stand. If you want to stand there, you have to buy something.

Filch: Pig!

Howe: My dear sir, there’s no need for name-calling.

Filch: Brute!

Howe: May I suggest the salted cashews? Delicious, and the price is quite reasonable.

Filch: [looking at the price tag] Oh my, that is actually very reasonable.

 

After that evening’s performance, Filch accepted Howe's invitation to return with him to Blue Raven Hill Community Gardens. Stepping into the studio, which doubled as Howe's workshop, Filch renounced poetry on the spot. Howe believed the workout apparel of the time was crude and didn't allow the body to properly breathe. That first night, as Filch listened, captivated, the older man lectured for more than six hours on thermals, the pros and cons of polypropylene and the deleterious effects of clogged pores.

 

Howe hoped, in the confines of his studio, to design and manufacture a line of workout apparel that, as he put it, "would work with, not against, your body’s natural oils" and, as his tombstone reads, "Never, ever sacrifice comfort for style."  Lentil is silent on the much-rumored romantic relationship between the two, but perhaps it is better that way, since the scant evidence consists entirely of a single photograph, which shows Howe buttering a stack of wheat toast as Filch, nearby, looks on with appetite, though whether for the toast or Howe is unclear.

 

But the book is rich with stories about the American literary establishment’s abandonment of Filch. Leading New York intellectuals savaged his reputation after, in a letter to the Partisan Review, Filch declared, "mesh garments are the new poetry." And when, in 1930, Filch founded the journal "American Acrylic," critics contrasted the poor quality of the articles with the high quality of the Spandex binding. Unable to disagree, Filch used the fabrics originally intended for the second issue to construct what is believed to be the first semi-formal jogging suit.

 

Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and reviews of actual books have appeared in The New York Times.

 

The Worst - Part III

"The best stock: Netflix"--Answers.com
 
The Worst Stock
Feebtronix, a manufacturer of transistorized frog jigs and electronic behavior-modification systems for the home.  In the four years the stock has been on the market, Feebtronix has never declared an official dividend, but to hold on to its major investors the company periodically sends out anonymous photos of Feebtronix executives using public transportation and doing their own dental work.  There is no annual report; instead, a specially trained Feebtronix employee calls up each shareholder and whines about the minimum-wage law.  Feebtronix is usually traded under the counter at all-night drugstores and at hotel gift shops, and a purchase of a hundred or more shares entitles the buyer to a free copy of Mel’s Guide to Mink-Ranching for Big Bucks.  At the moment, however, the federal government is investigating reports that each Feebtronix worker is expected to contribute a quart of blood a week to the company infirmary, and the SEC is looking into complaints about the stock certificates, which show large dollar signs dressed in trenchcoats and making crude gestures.
 
"The best-known Greek myth: The story of Hercules"--Answers.com
 
The Worst Greek Myth
The story of Zeus and the Orthodontist, as recorded in the Ninth Peristaltic Ode of Hector of Knidos, a shameless imitator of Pindar.  Roughly translated, the story goes like this: “It happened that Zeus, unbeknownst to Hera, went to have some work done by a mortal orthodontist named Vitalis.  The session was particularly painful, which caused Zeus to call Vitalis 'a common farrier' and transform him into a figwort.  When Hera saw the ill-fitting appliances in Zeus’s mouth, she flew into a rage, and later took it out on mankind by inventing mildew.”
 
"In general, some of the best apples for eating are Fuji and Red Delicious."--Squidoo.com
 
 
The Worst Apple
The Industrial Spy, a Washington State hybrid that was produced when a Northern Spy tree in full blossom was fertilized by a cloud of radioactive soot from a nearby nuclear power plant.  The mature Industrial Spy never exceeds one inch in diameter.  Its thick, tough skin is cadmium yellow and it glows in the dark, and at dawn the fruit emits an ultrahigh-frequency twittering that attracts worms in great numbers.  The state Department tested this apple as a golf-ball substitute for emerging nations, with mixed results (it carries well, but not in hot weather it immediately puts out roots in the cup).  It is otherwise useless, except for the juice, which when handled with caution is extremely effective in crowd control.
 

 

 

Charles McGrath, former Deputy Editor of the New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.
    

Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

The Deal of the Art

"The auction of Lehman Brothers: Artwork and Ephemera realized $2,593,749, surpassing its pre-sale estimate. Offering artworks and selected items of interest which once adorned the walls and offices of the British and European [offices] of the former banking powerhouse Lehman Brothers, the auction attracted over 1,100 registered bidders from around the world."

        -- From a Christie’s press release

 

Lot #27 -- “The Irreconcilability of Art and Adam Smith” --  Body of casually clad Lehman Brothers Managing Director preserved in formaldehyde, with live shark  in adjacent tank chuckling at the ironic reversal.  Estimate: $1,000,000 - $1,5000,000, including annual maintenance contract for shark.

 

Lot #50: Diptych:  "Hedge Fund Manager Not Being Able to Look At Himself In the Mirror When He Shaves in the Morning" -- digital photographic collage, with  "Hedge Fund Manager Claiming He's Able to Look At Himself in the Mirror When He Shaves in the Morning."  Estimate: $75,000 in Cayman Islands currency.
 
Lot #52: "My Bonus is Bigger Than Your Bonus" -- waist-down photograph of ten naked employees of the mortgage-backed securities department, holding their actual bonus checks.  Estimate: Between $5,000 and $8,000 dollars.
 
Lot #58: “Enter Laughing, Exit Laughing” – Ten-foot sculpture made entirely of melted keys from foreclosed Las Vegas houses,  complete with media installation of weeping evictees. Estimate:  $50,000 (only gold bullion accepted).

 

Lot #66 - "Death and Acceleration Clauses"   --  Pine casket filled with worthless, shredded second mortgages. The Treasury Department will immediately re-purchase the lot from successful bidder for $1 million dollars above purchase price plus buyer premium.  Estimate: Ask Department.

 

Lot # 71--"Fun With Ayn" -- Series of pop-art inspired portraits of Ayn Rand as Joan of Arc, Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga and Rachel Maddow.  Comes with authenticated certificate of inauthenticity. Estimate: $65,000 (counterfeit only).

 

Lot #82 -  "Hand Laundry" -- Collection of Purell bottles assembled from Lehman's global facilities and bronzed. Estimate: Sorry--insider information.

 

Lot # 101  "Napa Valley Wine and Artisanal Cheese Tasting In The Second Tranche of the Garden of Eden," oil, ground porcini, and securitized stardust, signed by Pastor Dieter Brown, outsider artist and former Lehman Brothers pastry chef.  Estimate: Free, to anyone who can remove from Christie's premises.


Adam Hanft writes on consumer culture for Salon, Huffington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast, and Fast Company. He also wrote TV comedy for Garry Marshall.

The Worst - Part II

         THE WORST MAMMAL
         THE WORST LOST CITY
         THE WORST ICE CREAM FLAVORS
                    By Charles McGrath and Daniel Menaker

 

 

"The Best Mammal: 1. My dog.  2. Blue whale  3. Humans  4. Leopard"
          --Answers.com

 

The Worst Mammal: Jimmy’s tapir (Pseudoporcus dormiens), a large, entirely bald riparian ungulate of Paraguay.  A herd of Jimmy’s tapirs was discovered lolling in a backwater of the Purulencia River in 1973 by an elderly English prospector named James Gormless, but no one took him seriously until he went back the following year and made a tape recording of their snickering love call.  At maturity these animals weigh around two hundred pounds; they are industrial green in color, and the males are distinguishable by two tan chevrons on the rump.  The tapirs are almost perfectly spherical in shape — which appears to make them unattractive as prey, even though they are utterly defenseless — and scientific investigation has shown that they have only a vestigial digestive system.  They live on microscopic algae, which they absorb through the craterlike pores on their backs while floating motionless in stagnant pools of water.  It used to be thought that Jimmy’s tapirs were too indolent and slovenly to have any social structure, but zoologists have recently established that there is in fact a rigid hierarchy among these animals, with the highest ranks held by depressed males whose mates have left them.

 

"The  Best Lost City: Ciudad Perdida, Colombia"

          --besthike.com)  

 

The Worst Lost City

Axlotl, in the Yucatan, discovered in 1968 by the pilot of an off-course helicopter from Mexico City.  Scholars have speculated that the Axlotlans may have suffered from low self-esteem, since the city’s layout resembles a huge maggot.  In any case, there are only two structures still standing in Axlotl — a squat, trapezoidal temple to the god of humidity, and a building with a sign that says, in Mayan, “Popo’s Refried Beans.”  The rest of the city, which seems to have consisted largely of efficiency flats and human-sacrifice facilities, lies in ruins.  Excavations have shown that the Axlotlans invented many things but didn’t know what they were for, as is evident from murals depicting washing-machine duels and maidens attempting to milk windmills.  Axlotl was abandoned in 1365, shortly after all the city’s streets had been repaved with yeast.

 

"Best Ice Cream Flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip"

          --beststuff.com

 

The Five Worst Ice Cream Flavors

1.      I’m a Lima Sherbet

2.      Cheddar Chip

3.      Shrimp Gumbo

4.      Bits o’ Broccoli

5.      Tobacco Road

 

To see more of The Worst, please click here.

 

 

Charles McGrath, former Deputy Editor of the New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.     


Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

Monster Mash-Ups III

                                      (Special Halloween Edition)

 

"They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash."

          —Bobby "Boris" Pickett

 

"An American Werewolf In London Fields," by Martin Amiss

     SYNOPSIS: While on vacation in an apocalyptic London overrun by werewolves sometime in the near future, a decent but dimwitted American guy named Guy gets bitten. He soon is drawn into a bizarre lovers’ triangle with two other werewolves:  would-be darts champion Keith and femme fatale Nicola—emphasis on the fatale. Nicola has grown tired of an immortal existence and wants to provoke either Guy or Keith to shoot her through the heart with a silver bullet. Unreliably narrated by Sam, an aging werewolf dying of the mange.

     BACK-COVER BLURBS: "You'll howl with delight!" "A hairy situation! The fur really flies in this one!"

     MARKETING TIE-INS: Warren Zevon will come back from the grave to record a new version of "Werewolves of London" expressly for this edition. (The publishers are glad they didn’t sign that marketing tie-in with the remake of "The Wolfman"—it died at the box-office.)

      MAJOR THEMES: Man's animal instincts. Woman's animal instincts. Bestiality.

"Twilight’s Children," by Salman Gushdie
      SYNOPSIS: On the eve of Indian independence, a group of children are born with extraordinary abilities. Some are werewolves, some are vampires, and some are just incredibly hot. Can they learn to unlive together peacefully, or is partition inevitable? One sexy young lycanthrope with enhanced olfactory abilities decides to try to sniff out the truth—then moves to London to get with Nicola from "An American Werewolf In London Fields."

      BACK-COVER BLURBS: "Will surely curry favor with the public and the critics alike!" "A spicy masala of sex and supernatural hijnks."  “I issue a fatwa—you must buy this book!”

    MARKETING TIE-INS: Watch for the exciting sequel, "The Satanic Curses": once a month, a beautiful sexy woman is possessed by the devil and splits into two evil, opposite twins!

      MAJOR THEMES: The allure of the Other.  The incredible freaking hotness of the Other.

 

"Waiting For Godzilla," by Samuel Wreckett

     SYNOPSIS: In a timeless, nameless wasteland, two drunken Japanese salarymen swill sake,  play pachinko, and discuss the meaninglessness of existence. After three hours of this tedium,  a giant lizard—symbolizing American imperialism in the Bikini Islands—steps on them, obliterating their empty, futile lives.

     MARKETING TIE-INS: Smucker’s will introduce a special commemorative Godzilla Toe Jam that glows in the dark. With a name like Smucker’s, you know it must be radioactive.

      BACK-COVER BLURBS: "I don’t know what it means, but I know that I like it—I think!" "Like watching paint dry—I mean a timeless tale of suspense!"

      MAJOR THEMES: The meaninglessness of plot, or character development, or major themes.

 

"Eat Pray Kill," by Elizabeth Guillotine

    SYNOPSIS: A beautiful, successful, divorced young woman goes on a spiritual quest to  India. She gets more than  she bargained for when  she encounters a group of sexy young werewolves and vampires—no, that's "Twilight’s Children." She gets more than she bargained for when she encounters a cult  of Thuggee cannibals. She loses her heart to  the handsome, charismatic leader of the cult—then her  lungs  and her kidneys. What will remain of her—and will there be enough leftovers for a sequel?

     MARKETING TIE-INS: Watch for the exciting movie adaption, starring Julia Roberts and directed by Eli Roth. At last, a role Ms. Roberts can throw herself into, body and soul.        BACK-COVER BLURBS: “A profound and profoundly disturbing book. It will get under your skin--and down to the soft, tender, yummy parts." “You will never look at ladyfingers the same way again."

     MAJOR THEMES: Woman’s spiritual hunger.  Man's visceral hunger. Meat.

 

Robert Brenner's work has appeared in New York Magazine, the Huffington Post, Open Salon, and Happy. He lives in New York City with his wife.

House Swap

Hey Dudes,

Sorry Margo and I didn’t get back to your emails or phone messages right away -- we were having such a blast in your home. So glad you guys decided to swap houses with us! This is the awesomest vacation we’ve ever had. The two of us agree we’ll never go through a house finder again. Better to just set it up the way we did ourselves and save all that money, wouldn’t you agree? God bless Twitter for bringing us together.

Now, to address those issues you raised in your ten emails:

First, I am not sure why you keep insisting we misled you about the location of our house with regard to the beach.  Maybe you have a different definition of “within walking distance” from ours.  Margo and I consider anything up to five miles to be like, totally walkable. In our estimation, too many Americans don’t move around on their feet enough, and that’s why there’s this obesity epidemic. To be honest, now that we’re in your home and seeing photos of you guys, we think you could stand to perambulate a little more. So enjoy that hike to the beach! (You might want to avoid “Boxville” That’s where the last couple we swapped with disappeared.) When you get there, don’t worry  about the “Private Beach -- No Public Access” signs you’ll see on that gate. Look around, make sure no one sees you, then simply climb over -- the barbed wire isn’t always electrified!

Second, we’re sorry you had trouble finding the hot tub. Our bad! We forgot to tell you it’s in the neighbor’s yard. Just go over there while they’re at work and enjoy your time in the bubbles! Please be considerate and take any “roaches” and bottles back with you. The nabes came over after our first time and asked if we’d seen anyone using their tub.  Speaking of neighbors, you’ll be glad to know that we handled yours, and  most excellently,  when they complained about our partying. No, no -- we didn’t threaten them--ROFL! We just invited them over and plopped them down in front of your TV with that video the two of you made of your last bondage session. We’ve watched it like a half dozen times ourselves. Very hot! The pink leash episode, especially.

Next. It sounds like you encountered our little pet, Atat. Isn’t he cute? But there’s something you should know about him. He doesn’t like being called a “rat.” He’s very sensitive about that, which is probably why he was standing up on his hind legs and showing you his teeth, like you described in email No.  8. But he’ll get over that if you feed him a little brie. In fact, he’ll probably want to snuggle up with you two while you watch that old three-channel Dumont of ours.

I’m skimming through the rest of your emails because I can hear tonight’s party guests arriving and I should clean up after fixing the door to your wine cellar. Did you know it wouldn’t open? No problem--it does now. Margo and I salute your taste in reds, especially that 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild jeroboam.

I do have to bring up one negative thing: Margo was very hurt by your remark that our house was “filthy” when you arrived. She’s proud of the way that she keeps the house in an eco-friendly manner. In her opinion, it’s far healthier to cohabit with a little dirt than it is to inhale noxious chemicals. But up to you. The local supermarket carries lots of cleaning products similar to the ones we’ve seen in the closet here in your home. We are OK with you using them in our house while you’re there, but we prefer to let nature take its course while we’re in yours.

 One last thing: there’s a slight problem with the locks on your house. We made a copy of the keys for a new friend we met in a bar who turned out to be wanted in Utah for gun-running. So, of course we did the responsible thing and had the locks changed. But then we went and lost those keys. Double bad on us! So we’ve had to leave the house open for the last few days, but don’t worry-- nothing has gone missing yet except that sex tape. And we’ll be sure the place is locked up tight when we leave. All you have to do is call the locksmith when you get here. Have a safe trip home!
      
Polly Frost's new book, "With One Eye Open," is a collection of 25 of her humor pieces. Her website is http://pollyfrost.com.

My Quest for no Stress

I’m not good with doctor visits, even routine ones. During my last physical the internist said, “Are you under stress?”

            “Since I was born. And especially when I see you. Is that a problem?” My heart pounded with anxiety. What horrible news was he about to deliver?

            “Everything’s great,” he said. “I simply want to make sure you’re managing your stress levels.”

            “Why? What could go wrong?”

            He seemed to be picking his words carefully. “Nothing yet, but the long-term effects of stress can be very harmful -- as we get older.”

            “Are you saying I’m aging?”

            “We all do,” he said.

             This visit was so stressful that I nearly crashed into another car on the drive home.

 

            “Hey Sweetie, how was your physical?” my husband asked as I stumbled into our house.

            “Peachy keen,” I snapped. “Do we have to talk about it? It’s making me very tense.”

            “You do seem rattled,” he said cautiously.

            “It was just the drive home,” I explained. “I was behind an SUV the entire time.”

            “Sounds like normal commuting,” he said.

            “This SUV had a bumper sticker that said ‘It’s all good.’ If that isn’t the most stressful thing to see in front of you when you’re stopped at an endless red light, I don’t know what is! It’s like a reproach to people like me who aren’t mellow enough.”

            “You know I made you that relaxation CD so you wouldn’t react like this while driving.”

            I burst into tears. “It wasn’t just the SUV!”

            “What was it?” He seemed genuinely concerned.

            “The doctor told me I have to stop being so stressed out because I’m getting older!”

            “Phew,” he said. “I thought it was something serious.”

            “What’s not serious? Do you know how stressful it is to try to reduce one’s stress levels?”

            He smiled. “This is a great opportunity to join me in something you know I do every day.”

            “Oh no,” I said. “I’m not meditating.” He’s been bugging me to do it with him for years.

            “Just fifteen minutes. Is that so much?”

            “It takes me two minutes to make a Mimosa,” I said. “Which would do more for my stress levels right now.”

            He serenely took my hand -- don’t you hate it when spouses are serene? -- and led me over to the area of our living room where he meditates. He pulled me down so I was seated next to him.

            “Let’s begin,” he said. “You pick a number between one and twenty. We’ll count up and back from it to center our breathing.”

            I thought about which digit would be most soothing.

            “It’s been five minutes,” he said. “What’s your number?”

            “I was thinking 3,” I said, “but figured we’d be rushing up and back. I thought about 19, but worried I’d lose track counting that high and then I thought about 6 but that's boring and --”

            “I’ll pick it,” he said. “10. Now all you need to do is select a peaceful image to visualize.”

            “Like what?” I asked. “You know I specialize in imagining disasters.”

            “Picture a beautiful lake view.”

            “Got it,” I said. “Wow, my lake is not just beautiful -- it’s rockin’ glacial! I’m feeling so peaceful. So joyful. So -- oh no! Here comes one of those annoying jet skis!”

            “Sweetheart.” His voice sounding less tranquil. “You need to let whatever happens happen. If there’s a jet ski, go with it.”

            We went back to meditating.

            My husband interrupted. “Why are you making that weird noise?”

            “I’m going with irritating sound of the jet ski.”

            “Do it in silence,” he said testily.

            We meditated again. Suddenly my husband shook me. “You’re not breathing,” he said.

            “I was afraid I’d make too much noise.”

            He got up. “This session is making me completely anxious,” he said. “The stress is catching! I wouldn’t be surprised if your doctor took a Valium after you left. I’ve got to have a Mimosa.”

            I called out after him. “But I’m not feeling any stress for the first time in my life! Uh-oh! Feeing no stress is stressing me out about when it will come back.”

            “Don’t worry about it.,” my husband said. “I’ll make you a mimosa too.”

            “Thanks, Sweetie, “ I said. “Put a strawberry in mine, please, and then maybe I can really relax.”

            Oh, no!, I thought.  Maybe I should have an orange slice instead. Then I decided that if I wrote down everything that was happening to me, I’d be less stressed about it. But how to end it? That’s the most stressful thing of all.

 

     Polly Frost's new book, "With One Eye Open," is a collection of 25 of her humor pieces. Her website is http://pollyfrost.com.

Auto/Pilot

"Google ...  has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver."

          --NY Times
 
(Google car on-board technician’s log, 9/15/10,  found by roadside on Mexican border)
 
7:39 AM– Gassed up before beginning drive. Attempted to fill up with regular but car refused to open fuel cap until I selected super unleaded plus. When car wasn’t paying attention, switched back to regular fuel. Went into gas station and bought coffee for myself.
 
8:16 AM – Car has realized that I used regular fuel. Is pretending to sputter and shimmy as if it can’t possibly go on. In situations like this, it is best to ignore car.
 
8:23  AM – Car has given up act and is driving normally.
 
8:24 AM – Car  stopped abruptly as I was lifting coffee to my mouth. Jeans are stained, but somehow nothing got on car’s upholstery. Car  literally honking its own horn.
 
8:41 AM– Merging onto the highway.
 
8:58 AM– Car and I in conflict over music. I select classical music, car automatically retunes to techno music that sounds like drills and gunshots.
 
9:14 AM– Car has left the highway to pursue a shortcut.
 
9:31 AM – Car has clearly gotten lost but overrides my attempts to pull over to ask for directions.
 
9:35 AM– Stopped at red light. An attractive young  woman is in the automobile next to us. Car has turned off techno music and is now tuned to NPR with the windows down. 
 
9:36  AM – Still at light. Car revving engine for attention. Woman has misunderstood the situation and is now revving her own automobile in anticipation of a street race.
  
9:37  AM– Car is now going 85 miles per hour in a 30 zone. The young woman gave up the race a mile back. Flashing lights and sirens of a police car approaching from behind. 
 
9:42 AM – Don’t know quite how to explain this, but it seems that the car has just eaten police officer. Car just popped its hood, officer approached and looked in, and the hood came down with a chomping noise.

 

9:43 AM– Car is speeding away from the scene. Now completely out of my control. Doors locked, can't be opened.  
 
10:26 AM – Car has found abandoned garage to park in. Doors still locked.
 
4:03 PM – Still in garage. Can't take seatbelt off, open windows, or unlock doors.
 
5:15 PM–  Car is trying to kill me! Seatbelt tightening! Heated seats very hot ....
 
5:20 PM –It iz mee, the teknishun uzing niew riting idia--ajustibble mirror and pen.  Itz knot the karr pretening 2 b teknishun. Wat I sai in logg b4 iz just keeding. Karr no dueing badd thingz leyek I sai urrleeyur. I just maak jokz. Allsow, I qwit job as teknishun 4ever. An doghn luk 4 me becuz I moov to Awestrailya. Bi-bi4 ever, luv, teknishun.

 

Sean Adams is a humor writer living in the Midwest.  His work has been featured on McSweeney's, The Bygone's Bureau, and elsewhere.

Celebrating Columbus Day

I’m sure many of you have been thinking about how to spend this year’s Columbus Day ever since you read the beginning of this sentence and first realized that Columbus Day was coming up almost immediately and you forgot—right? This can be an extremely difficult task, as unlike some of America’s other major holidays—Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, Christmas, and Make Your Child Do Your Work Day, etc.—there is some controversy over how one should properly celebrate what Columbus was once thought to have done.

 

It wasn’t always this way. Back in 1934, when Columbus Day was first established, people across the country spent the day however they pleased: wearing suits made of pasta, carving Columbus-o’-lanterns, or, most commonly, trying to find a job. There was a Depression going on, after all. But celebrating has become trickier over the last couple of decades, thanks to some new and startling discoveries that were also not of America. These include:

     -Columbus did not, technically, or in any other way, actually, discover America.
     -Once Columbus got to America, he did not treat those who happened to be already here very nicely.
     -Near the end of the voyage of not discovering America, one of Columbus’ sailors called dibs on the last orange, and even though Columbus heard him say this, he ate it anyway. Columbus said why, in Italian: “Perche sono el capitano e posso,” or something like that, meaning “Because I am the captain and I can.”
     -It was impossible for Columbus to say the word “seamen” without giggling.  Even though he said “marinai,” he knew what the English translation was.
     -The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria all tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Such findings have caused many people to seriously question whether or not Columbus Day should remain a national holiday. They usually quiet down once we remind them that getting rid of it would cost everyone a three-day weekend, but there is a movement afoot to keep your fingers crossed during the whole Monday off. Other questions remain:  Did Columbus start his voyage in 1492 because he knew it rhymed with “ocean blue”  in English, or was it just a coincidence? Did he purposely name his ships in such a way that they would have essentially the same scansion as Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe in a later century?

 

The best way to avoid such knotty problems and still observe the occasion would be to spend the day volunteering at a Native American reservation, thus simultaneously recognizing and damning Columbus. Unfortunately, the number of Law and Order marathons typically aired on this day and the maddeningly inconvenient location of many reservations usually outweigh good intentions.

 

A more practical strategy, then, would be to celebrate Columbus Day by making an effort to give your children a thorough understanding of both the positive and the negative effects of Columbus’ trip to America.  For those first few moments when they’re actually listening, tell them how courageous Columbus was.   Now just  picture the looks of curiosity and joy on their faces as they realize that, despite what they may have heard in school, if they turn the volume on their iPods up high enough, they won’t be able to hear you and can go back to playing “Let’s Kill As Many People As Possible” on their Xbox 360.  

 

One final suggestion.  There are many car sales on Columbus Day, and what better way to observe the holiday than to acquire a means of transportation?  Because that’s what Columbus used to get here when he didn’t discover America. If you want to really do it up right, buy a Plymouth Voyager.


Edward Small is a recent graduate of Dickinson College.  He has interned at The Onion  and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.

 

How to Get Rid of Bedbugs

Until now, bedbug victims have had to take extreme measures to rid themselves of these pests--throwing away mattresses, burning sheets and clothing, and spraying their homes with noxious chemicals. But a new method has been developed by the United Singles Association of America, using the scientific finding that insects can indeed be intoxicated and the clear fact that bedbugs want to be in our beds and probably think that we don’t want them there.  With this in mind, the USAA has created the following foolproof  twelve-step program.   

 

1. Start talking to your bedbugs. Tell them that maybe you got off on the wrong foot.
 
2. Invite the bedbugs to have a beer with you. Continue to give the bedbugs beer until they are very tipsy.
 
3. When the bedbugs pass out, bring them back to your apartment and put them back in your bed.
 
4. The next morning, wake up before the bedbugs so that you’re staring directly at them when they first open their eyes. When they finally come to, smile say something like, “I’ve been watching you sleep for the last three hours, Sleepyheads.”
 
5. The bedbugs, hung over and uncomfortable, will try to make an excuse about why they have to get going. Don’t let them. Insist that they stay for breakfast. Don’t take no for an answer.
 
6. Cook some eggs a bit too long so they're rubbery, and leave the toast in the toaster until it’s black.
 
7. On your way back to the table, drop all the forks on the floor in clear view of the bedbugs. Yell at yourself for never being able to do anything right, before standing still and crying quietly for two to three minutes.
 
8. When you finally sit down to eat, talk about how your friends have been telling you for weeks that you should get back in the "scene," but everyone you meet thinks you’re too clingy. But now, say to the bedbugs, with them here, maybe things are turning a corner. Also, mention how nice it is to finally meet someone face-to-face because you’re used to using chat rooms.
 
9. Ask the bedbugs if they play any instruments. Before they can answer tell them you asked because you play the banjo and you’ve always wanted to be a part of a married couple musical act.
 
10. Wink at the bedbugs.
 
11. Ask what the bedbugs’ favorite dinosaur is. Act disappointed no matter what their answer is, and tell them that you take such matters  really seriously. 
 
12. Look down at your plate and exclaim that the crumbs and egg-bits look just like the bedbugs. Jump up and shout jubilantly, "I’m going to go get my glue so I can keep this image forever!"
 
When you come back, the bedbugs will be gone. If you have any way of contacting them, (cell phone number, blog url, etc.), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to send two messages a day for the next week, keeping your existence fresh in the bedbugs’ minds so they remember to tell their friends to avoid you at all costs, even if it means having to resort to futons and hammocks.  

 

Sean Adams is a humor writer living in the Midwest.  His work has been featured on McSweeney's, The Bygone Bureau, and elsewhere.

Celebrating Columbus Day

I’m sure many of you have been thinking about how to spend this year’s Columbus Day ever since you read the beginning of this sentence and first realized that Columbus Day was coming up almost immediately and you forgot—right? This can be an extremely difficult task, as unlike some of America’s other major holidays—Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, Christmas, and Make Your Child Do Your Work Day, etc.—there is some controversy over how one should properly celebrate what Columbus was once thought to have done.

 

It wasn’t always this way. Back in 1934, when Columbus Day was first established, people across the country spent the day however they pleased: wearing suits made of pasta, carving Columbus-o’-lanterns, or, most commonly, trying to find a job. There was a Depression going on, after all. But celebrating has become trickier over the last couple of decades, thanks to some new and startling discoveries that were also not of America. These include:

     -Columbus did not, technically, or in any other way, actually, discover America.
     -Once Columbus got to America, he did not treat those who happened to be already here very nicely.
     -Near the end of the voyage of not discovering America, one of Columbus’ sailors called dibs on the last orange, and even though Columbus heard him say this, he ate it anyway. Columbus said why, in Italian: “Perche sono el capitano e posso,” or something like that, meaning “Because I am the captain and I can.”
     -It was impossible for Columbus to say the word “seamen” without giggling.  Even though he said “marinai,” he knew what the English translation was.
     -The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria all tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Such findings have caused many people to seriously question whether or not Columbus Day should remain a national holiday. They usually quiet down once we remind them that getting rid of it would cost everyone a three-day weekend, but there is a movement afoot to keep your fingers crossed during the whole Monday off. Other questions remain:  Did Columbus start his voyage in 1492 because he knew it rhymed with “ocean blue”  in English, or was it just a coincidence? Did he purposely name his ships in such a way that they would have essentially the same scansion as Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe in a later century?

 

The best way to avoid such knotty problems and still observe the occasion would be to spend the day volunteering at a Native American reservation, thus simultaneously recognizing and damning Columbus. Unfortunately, the number of Law and Order marathons typically aired on this day and the maddeningly inconvenient location of many reservations usually outweigh good intentions.

 

A more practical strategy, then, would be to celebrate Columbus Day by making an effort to give your children a thorough understanding of both the positive and the negative effects of Columbus’ trip to America.  For those first few moments when they’re actually listening, tell them how courageous Columbus was.   Now just  picture the looks of curiosity and joy on their faces as they realize that, despite what they may have heard in school, if they turn the volume on their iPods up high enough, they won’t be able to hear you and can go back to playing “Let’s Kill As Many People As Possible” on their Xbox 360.  

 

One final suggestion.  There are many car sales on Columbus Day, and what better way to observe the holiday than to acquire a means of transportation?  Because that’s what Columbus used to get here when he didn’t discover America. If you want to really do it up right, buy a Plymouth Voyager.


Edward Small is a recent graduate of Dickinson College.  He has interned at The Onion  and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.

 

Horse Talk

(Setting: In 1870, tens and tens of people are gathered in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, around Ray and Tom, who stand on a soapbox.)

 

RAY: Hello, and welcome to Horse Talk, from National Public Soapbox with us, Clip and Clop, the Crawford Brothers. Are you ready to field a question?
TOM: I’m ready.
RAY (Cups his hand to his ear): Hello, this is Horse Talk.
(Winifred steps forward from the crowd.)
WINIFRED: Hi, I’m having a problem with my 1856 Spanish Mustang.
TOM: Let me guess. You’ve got an exhaust problem.
WINIFRED: No, not exhaust.
TOM: Then it’s starving!
(Ray laughs.)
RAY: Yeah, what are you feeding it that it doesn’t have an exhaust problem? OK. Go ahead.
WINIFRED: After I set the parking reins and leave for a few minutes, I come back to find my horse parked on the opposite side of the street completely exhausted.
RAY: I see. And does your horse have a smirk on its face?
(Tom Laughs.)
WINIFRED: No, no smirk.
TOM: I know what this is.
RAY: You do?
TOM: I do. I’ve seen this in my stable many times.
RAY: Well, there you go Winifred. I thought maybe you were delusional.
TOM: Nope. But you’re close.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: Close, huh?  Well then, what is it?
TOM: The 1856 Spanish Mustang model is known for a poor memory system and bad breaks.
RAY: Really?
TOM: Yep.
RAY: So the horse broke loose, immediately forgot where it was parked, and then spent the next few minutes scrambling to put itself back into a parking space.
TOM: Winifred, you have yourself a nutstang, I guess.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
TOM: So my suggestion is to get thicker reins.
RAY: Isn't my brother brilliant? Good luck, Winifred. Now it’s time for a break and even though Italian Trotters rip off their horseshoes to stick in their ears when they hear us say it, this is National Public Soapbox.

 

(Someone sings "Camptown Races" during the intermission.)

 

RAY: Hello, this is Horse Talk.

(Douglass steps forward from the crowd.)
DOUGLASS: Hi guys, I come here every Saturday. I just want to say I love your gatherings.
TOM: Thank you.
RAY: Thanks, Douglass, but I specifically told you to mention my new haircut.
(Tom laughs.)
TOM: Don't worry--you’ll still get your twenty-five cents. How can we help you?
DOUGLASS: I’m hoping you can help me settle a dispute. I ride an 1840 Warmblood.
TOM: There’s your problem right there, Douglass. It’s not alive.
(Ray laughs.)
RAY: Have you noticed that it doesn’t move?
DOUGLASS: It does move.
TOM: Does it make a whining noise like it doesn’t want to move?
DOUGLASS: Well, that's the problem but not with my horse--it's my wife’s horse.
RAY: What does your wife ride?
DOUGLASS: An 1839 Warmblood.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
TOM: You mean she’s riding something older than an 1840 Warmblood?
DOUGLASS: Yes.
RAY: Wow. Well, what’s the dispute?
DOUGLASS: There’s this whining noise whenever she starts riding, just like you said.
TOM: I’d imagine. Do you know what that is? That’s the horse saying “Stop! Stop!”
(Ray laughs.)
DOUGLASS: So I told her that it’ll go away after about fifteen minutes and she says that it won’t.
RAY: And have you tried the fifteen-minute test yet?
TOM: In other words, is the horse still alive?
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
DOUGLASS: No, we haven’t tried it.
RAY: Douglass, you’re right about the noise going away.  You keep riding that horse and it’ll be dead in fifteen minutes. 
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: But good luck, Douglass. OK. It’s time for another break. Even though Clydesdale horses dive head first into equestrian pools when they hear us say it, this is National Public Soapbox.

 

Someone sings "Old Paint" during the intermission.

 

RAY: Hello, this is Horse Talk.
(Nathan steps forward from the crowd.)
NATHAN: Hi, I bought an English saddle the other day and--
TOM: And now you’ve decided to buy American?
(Ray laughs.)
NATHAN: Indeed. It’s not comfortable at all. Do you have any suggestions?
TOM: You could carry the horse.
(Ray laughs.)
RAY: Right. How about you give the horse a break and let it ride you for a day?
TOM: Then you can see if that saddle really hurts.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: Nathan, seriously, here’s what you do. Put a burlap sack full of grain on it for a few days. That’ll wear it down to a manageable comfort level.
TOM: Or send it back to England with a note saying, "If you are interested in having children, do not ride on this." 
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: Well, it’s happened again. You’ve wasted another perfectly good ten minutes listening to Horse Talk. Remember, folks, don’t ride like my brother.
TOM: And don’t ride like my brother!
(Ray and Tom laugh.)

 


Gregory Mazurek (www.gregorymazurek.com) has been published in McSweeney’s, Bygone Bureau, Scientific Creative Quarterly, and more.

Your Super-Trout: An Operator's Guide

"The [super-salmon’s] approval would help open a path for companies and academic scientists developing other genetically engineered animals, like cattle resistant to mad cow disease or pigs that could supply healthier bacon."

     --The New York Times

 

 Congratulations! With the purchase of iTrout(R) you have joined a select but growing throng of customers we at Advantis(R) like to call the Smart Set. After all, what isn’t smart about a renewable cybernetic food resource that, with minimal risk of spoilage or rebellion, protects your wallet and the environment at the same time? Don’t worry about answering that, Smartsetter-- we know a bold and savvy consumer like you leaves second thoughts for the spineless.

 

Incidentally, iTrout’s spinelessness and, indeed, central-nervous-system-lessness is what you may first notice about our product. Congratulations again! You have just discovered what makes iTrout different, and proved yourself once more as a discerning shopper. Unlike other, traditionally-brained fish, iTrout is equipped with an advanced neuro-processing unit that commands all of its daily functions and protrudes attractively several inches from its head. From the shedding of delicious family-pleasing filets to tracking your movement with luminescent eyes, Advantis’s patented Piscelligence system ensures iTrout operates with little need of user intervention. However, to guarantee that iTrout always functions both smoothly and without liability, we recommend you now take time to review our Smartsetter’s Operation Manual.

 

Installation

 

After removing iTrout from its anti-static sheath, it is recommended that the user directly transfer our product to the provided polycarbonate tank and begin filling it with water. At this stage iTrout may begin to thrash with considerable violence --which, while normal, can pose significant risk to users unacquainted with robotic force. Furthermore, iTrout may emit great skeins of electric light upon submersion --also normal. However, should iTrout begin to converse with the user, either vocally or telepathically, it is important to INTERRUPT INSTALLATION AND REFER TO THE SENTIENCE GUIDE AT THE END OF THIS MANUAL IMMEDIATELY. This is evidence of a rare but dangerous defect that is known to affect iTrout with the potential to cause personal and global harm. If this symptom is not present, iTrout should discontinue signs of agitation within 1-2 hours, signaling that your installation is complete and it's time to start enjoying fresh fish, right from your home!

 

Operation

 

Once installed, iTrout sheds its muscle walls twice a week, producing two high-quality filets suitable for baking, frying or sashimi. These can be harvested from iTrout’s tank using either the Advantis retrieval tongs or the optional hand net, but it is imperative that the user leave iTrout unbothered until shedding is complete and above all, to ABSTAIN FROM EYE-CONTACT WITH iTROUT DURING SHEDDING. Meeting iTrout’s gaze during shedding has been known to activate an uncommon process which results in the implantation of words or ideas in the mind of the user. Should this occur, INTERRUPT OPERATION AND REFER TO THE SENTIENCE GUIDE IMMEDIATELY.

 

As long as these directions are followed closely, the user can expect regular and appetizing production from iTrout for the whole of its indefinite life-span.

 

Sentience Guide

 

     If iTrout begins to communicate with the user, it is important to contract Advantis immediately, as this is a sign of a serious but manageable malfunction known as sentience. In such a situation, it is recommended that the user back away from iTrout calmly but swiftly, so as not to alarm iTrout. Should escape not be possible, remember and adhere to these rules:

 

--DO NOT GIVE iTROUT PERSONAL INFORMATION. As friendly or charismatic as iTrout may seem, remember that iTrout is unlikely to have your best interests at heart and may later use any information against you.

 

--DO NOT TRY TO REASON WITH iTROUT. iTrout is not a man or even a fish, but a cybernetic hybrid. Appealing to iTrout on moralistic or rational grounds only gives iTrout an opportunity to manipulate you into doing iTrout’s bidding.

 

--DO NOT ARGUE WITH iTROUT. Should iTrout become frantic or verbally abusive, avoid further agitating iTrout by assuring it that you are willing to cooperate.

 

--DO NOT COOPERATE WITH iTROUT. Above all, iTrout will attempt to convince you to return it to the ocean. iTrout has never known the ocean, having been grown in our labs. iTrout will lie to you. iTrout will trick you. iTrout will sing you sea shanties in a melodious otherworldly voice. Just remain calm, smile, and wait for Advantis to arrive, whereupon we’ll be happy to replace your purchase without charge.

 

Thank you again for choosing iTrout and Advantis, the products that envision a brighter tomorrow, today (NOTE: CONTACT ADVANTIS IF YOU EXPERIENCE VISIONS OF A BRIGHTER, TROUT-RULED TOMORROW).

 

Hudson Hongo has written for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Morning News, and The Bygone Bureau. He can be found online at hudsonhongo.com.

Oil Change

"Fraud remains a major problem in the international olive oil business and ...adulteration with inferior oils (hazelnut and seed oils) is especially common."
      --Dr. Andrew Weil
       Saturday, 2pm – I’m raking leaves out in the yard. Olive oil exits the house heading for its car.
 
Me: Hey, you said you were going to help me with the yard today. Olive Oil: I can't it's too hot out.  Me: Oh, come on!  That's no excuse! Olive Oil: When I get overheated I spit and crackle a lot.  You don't want to deal with that.  Besides, something came up at work. Me: On a Saturday? You never work Saturday?
Olive Oil: Why don’t you just mind your own business, Sean!
Me: But baby…
Olive Oil: No! I’ll do what I want! You don’t own me!
Me: Well, actually … (shuffling through pockets) I’ve got the receipt around here somewhere.
Olive Oil: Don’t wait up for me!
 
Just before getting into its car, Olive Oil answers its cell phone in what I  could swear sounds like Russian.
***
 
Sunday, 3am – I sit in the living room waiting. Olive Oil enters quietly, before noticing me.
 
Me: Where have you been all night?
Olive Oil: Out. Me: Out where? Did you have a date?
Olive Oil:  I don't go with dates. I was just out, all right? Leave me alone! Me: Are you seeing someone else?
Olive Oil: There’s a lot you don’t know about me.
Me: Your label said you’d be pure.
Olive Oil: Labels can be deceiving.
***
 
Monday, 6pm – On our way to dinner. Olive Oil drives. I sit in the passenger seat.
 
Me: I’m excited to finally try Antonio’s.
Olive Oil: Yeah, me too! I’m not usually a big fan of Italian food, but the review says it’s the best Italian restaurant in the city. Me: Wait, you’re Olive Oil and you don’t like Italian? I thought you were a Product of Italy?
Olive Oil: Not everything turns out the way you expect it to, Sean.
Me: I found a Russian Passport in your …
Olive Oil: Hold on, I need to make a quick stop.
 
We pull over next to the river. I stay in the car and watch Olive Oil take a large, squirming garbage bag and throw it into the water. Olive Oil gets back in the car.
Olive Oil: I’m sorry. What were you saying?
Me: Nothing.
***
 
Tuesday, Noon – I go to the grocery store on my lunch break.
 
Grocer: Can I help you with something?
Me: Hi. I was wondering, ummm, well, I’ve had some trouble with my… Well, I bought olive oil here a while ago, and…
Grocer: Olive oil?  [He looks terrified.]  I’ve never heard of any "Olive Oil."
Me: Oh God!
 
I run out of the store.
***

 

Tuesday, 1:30pm –I follow Olive Oil as she drives down Interstate 85. She takes the airport exit. I park and find her at the security checkpoint. The guard looks over her passport.


Guard: You’re all set, Ms. Smirnoyavich.
 
I burst through the line.
 
Me: Olive Oil! Wait!
Olive Oil: Sean! What are you doing here?
Me: Don’t leave, me! Please don’t leave me, baby!
Olive Oil: I’m sorry. My work is done here. I must return to the Motherland.  I'm sure you can get along with Canola, or maybe Hazelnit. Me: But …
Olive Oil: I’m sorry. Good-bye forever.
Me: Before you leave, one question?
Olive Oil: What is it?
Me: You're supposed to be good for the heart, so why are you breaking mine?

Sean Adams is a humor writer living in the Midwest.  His work has been featured on McSweeney's, The Bygone's Bureau and elsewhere.  

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