Displaying articles for: October 2012

Sandy, AKA

  It's  not surprising that weather forecasters have dubbed the intense Hurricane Sandy a "Frankenstorm."  --Space.com
1. Sandyblaster
2. Maccane
3. Gilgamess
4. Beowhoosh
5. Predastorm
6. Windzilla
7. Diablow
8. Mephistorm
9. Nerometer
10. Typhoonasaurus Wrecks
11. Windsocula
12. Sturmnundraingenstein
13. Drnoaa (or Drnoah)
14. Prettyboyflood
15. Isobarbarian
Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

The Macbethicist


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




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.




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.




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.




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.


Assume the Position


"I often find myself changing positions when reading a book or asking myself what position I should be reading a book in. What are your suggestions? What works for you? Please tell both for reading for school and fun." -- From Yahoo Answers


You did the right thing by asking. Too often a reader will spend a lifetime consuming all manner of text -- from books to parking signs to their own arrest warrants -- in the wrong position, often resulting in headaches, back pain, and no time off for good behavior.

Let us examine a few surprisingly effective positions that will not only combat pain and lessen fatigue, but also increase reading comprehension and make you the center of attention.

THE WHOLLY MOSES: Based loosely on an inaccurate Bible translation, this position involves the reader sitting at a 73-degree angle, as if his or her back is leaning against the base of Mt. Sinai. It's been reported and debunked -- and then reported again, by covert sources -- that Moses proofread the Ten Commandments in this position. Moses is said to have found two unnecessary commas and the wrong form of "they're" in the first draft. He also did some light editing by omitting an entire graph from "Thou Shalt Not Kill" which explained that this item didn't refer to spiders and if you accidentally kill a deer ("Woodland Camel," in Hebrew) it's a minor offense.


THE INVERTED WELSHMAN puts the reader's head upside down and dangling off a sofa, bed, or church pew. Reading upside down forces the eye to move against gravity as you progress through a page of text. Think of it as lifting weights for eyeballs. After reading a novel in this manner, your eye muscles will be strong enough to lift an average-sized piece of penne pasta without sauce.

(Please Note: THE VERTED WELSHMAN position, despite its name, is not the opposite of THE INVERTED WELSHMAN. It is difficult to discuss in mixed company, but this position involves nudity and emollients and should only be attempted by those who know the "i before e" rule down cold and have a good grasp of the exception sentence: "Neither scientific foreigner seized the weird height.")


THE VACATIONING BUTLER POSITION: If eye strain is an issue, try reading in a well-lit area such as oh, let's see -- I've got it -- outdoors on a sunny day! Or in a dental exam chair with one of those bright, Cyclopean lights. In France, for some reason, this is called THE BELLIGERENT FOX position.


If eye strain is not a problem, and you like to read and move without really moving try reading in a mirror on a boat (THE WAYWARD REVERSE CORK position).

THE DUKE POSITION: Suffer from restless leg syndrome? The Duke reading position may be perfect! Leaning with your back against a pane of cold glass, slowly breathe through your nose to the beat of "Duke of Earl." (Inhale on, "Duke, Duke, Duke." Exhale on "Duke of Earl, Duke, Duke…" and so on.) You are bound to notice a difference in a matter of days, even if it is nothing more than social ostracism!

THE DECLASSIFIED PANTHER: Stand on one foot while holding your book at eye level. This will not only bolster your appreciation for a "page-turner" but also ensure proper digestion and, according to many aunts, guarantee that your first child will be a boy.


THE LOVE HAWKS: Sit on a bed or sofa, with your back against your partner's back. The warmth and mutual support will make you feel loved without distracting eye contact. Resist the urge to engage in "spine wars."

Though some of these positions and reading tactics may seem odd, remember: Nathaniel Hawthorne was known to read while marching in place and Dorothy Parker read books only while fully clothed, including an anorak. And reading postures vary around the globe! The popular reading style in Japan is THE UPWARD FACING PERSON and in Canada most people read in THE HOCKEY STICK AT REST posture.

Finding your ideal reading position can take weeks if not years, but always remember: It's important to ask the entire internet for help. For Internet Reading Positions, conduct a separate search.


Dan Bergstein is available for children's parties.


Entering the Academy


NOTE TO APPLICANTS: As the final step in your application to our age-2, half-day, highly selective nursery school program, please write a personal statement with your reasons for choosing our institution and what you will add to our incoming class. Be sure to write legibly. Thank you.

To the Admissions Committee:

I want to first thank you for considering my application. I feel the need to apologize for how close my submission is to the deadline. I only recently mastered the fine motor skills required to grasp a pencil. But, I assure you, this essay has been near the top of my to-do list for weeks.

Truth is, I'm not one of those toddlers who has spent his entire life dreaming of matriculating at Bluffsworth Academy. Instead, I've dreamed mostly of abstract shapes and colors, and didn't even realize until a few months ago that words and objects were in fact connected. Indeed, for my first year, even with the marketing materials you sent, I barely knew you existed. Between naps and feedings, something had to give -- and I regret how woefully behind I fell on examining the mail in a timely fashion.

And then one day Dada happened to mention your impressive caregiver-to-child ratio and Mama was talking about the remarkable capital campaign you just completed to fund the building of a brand new chemistry lab -- and of course I had to know more. It was only then that I even noticed my beloved Spunky the Dog wearing a Bluffsworth t-shirt. And if it was good enough for one of my most valued colleagues -- well, then of course it was worth my careful consideration. Mama said Spunky had not only gone to Bluffsworth as a young pup, but had even served a term on the Board of Trustees. So had Henry the Bear, Hal the Moose, and apparently all of my closest friends. (I understand why you didn't accept Sophie the Giraffe. Even I can tell that she is not Bluffsworth caliber. It's a shame -- but, you know, we try to love her anyway.)

I have to tell you -- the more I heard, the more magical it sounded, and I've become thoroughly convinced that Bluffsworth is the perfect place for me to begin my lower-education. Dada said you have Cheerios there! I love Cheerios! And avocado! Oh, if you knew how much I loved avocado, you would sign off on my application in an instant.

But I know it's not just about what I want to get out of Bluffsworth, but what I am able to give back. Right away, let me assure you, in no uncertain terms, that Mama, Dada -- and, of course, Gamma and Gamps -- know no bounds as far as the lengths they will go to provide for my needs. I'm talking money, not to be coy. I have three sippy cups and what has to be at least six different bibs. Or eight! Who can even count that high? So do not worry about the $40,000/year tuition. I am sure they are good for it.

On the personal side, I don't think you will find another applicant who is as skilled at mouth-aided object identification as I am. I don't mean to brag, but there is over an 80% chance that if I swallow something, it is food. I mean, if there is ever a place to boast about your skills, it's in an admissions essay, right? Please don't think I go around telling people how good I am at determining whether something is edible. I know how to blend in -- you know, downplay my special gifts so that my peers don't get jealous and start trying to take my toys. No one takes my toys. My toys are mine.

I also want to let you know that I hope to bring a uniquely cultured perspective to my Bluffsworth class, due to my sincere love of domestic and interneighborhood travel. I have been as far west as the long, gray bridge, and as far north as the big, blue bathtub that doesn't have any walls. How many applicants can say that? I've even seen trees. And, let me tell you, if you haven't seen a tree yet, you are missing something special. They're, like, even taller than Unka Baba -- and Unka Baba is pretty darn tall.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention my love of books. They are delicious.

I thank you for your careful consideration and look forward to joining the next class of leaders at Bluffsworth Academy For The Well-Connected Toddler. And I hope your next nap is as good as mine.

Your New Friend,

Billy Cooper


Find more of Jeremy Blachman's writing at jeremyblachman.com.


July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).