Displaying articles for: November 2013

Nine is Fine

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


Surprise! The victim was dead to begin with!

Surprise! It wasn’t all a dream!

• They were all talking animals! Surprise!

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

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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

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).