Displaying articles for: December 2009

Watch the Goat Drop (And Other Primitive New Year's Customs from Around the World)

Come along with me now, as, with Baedeker in hand,  I take imaginary flight from my tidy little flat in Kensington and begin a  transcontinental party-hop to sample the oddest and quaintest kinds of New Year's traditions from all over the world.
We begin with the gelid custom called Kill The Stag, a centuries old New Year's practice in the city of Cherkasy, Ukraine.  As the new year approaches, people of the town gather in pairs at an appointed home or pub to celebrate the strength of human love.  The couples drink, eat and dance, loosening their inhibitions. They gradually single out and turn their attentions to the one of the few  attendees who have arrived alone.  At the turn of midnight, the paired celebrants kiss while the singleton  observes.  Then the couples seize the unpaired celebrant and carry him or her to the frigid Dnieper River, where he or she is immersed and then ridiculed for half an hour. This is considered a great, if paradoxical, honor,  but it also serves as a powerful incentive to find a companion before the next New Year's Eve rolls around.


Come on, old chap--let's take a giant leap to Marka, Norway, the forested and hilly area bordering Oslo, where the people gather around their dining room tables for The Terrible Stare.  Families sit in silence, staring into each other's pained red eyes for hours, marveling at how much emotional distance can form between people who share the same blood.  Family members are encouraged to fully explore the terror of sharing another year of the typically alienated Scandinavian style of life into which they have been born. At the end of one hour, they put on heavy gloves of reindeer hide and hold hands for thirty seconds.


Brrr!  Let's leave Norway behind to go to the warmer environs of Luhimba, a remote village of Tanzania, where we'll give a listen to some Confessions.  Villagers gather around a fire and declare the crimes they've committed against God, their neighbors, and loved ones. Then they retrieve  red-hot sticks from the fire and brand themselves just above the left ankle.  Almost every crime is seen as a brand-yourself-above-the-left-ankle offense, whether it be felony assault or price-fixing.  Before this bizarre self-mutilation, wrongdoers are permitted to shout,  "And I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for this meddling New Year's tradition." Of a particularly rotten Luhimban egg,  fellow-villagers during the year are wont to say, "I bet he's got quite a left shank on him!"


Back to the continent we go, to Alba Lulia, Romania, where we will Watch The Goat Drop.  People journey to the base of the Carpathian Mountains, where they stand in the freezing temperatures for many hours, under the command of military escort to remain still and keep order.  They stare up at the highest peak, where the village's oldest man gives the command to drop a 50 kg goat at the turn of the new year.  When the clock strikes midnight, the goat falls to the ground and dies and the oldest man is thrown over the edge after him, at which point the people are allowed to return to their homes.  How very primal, one might say. Among elder citizens of Alba Lulia during the year, there is much falsification of birth certificates, as you may well imagine.


Well, by Jove, here we are at home in Merrie Olde, where the customs at least make a bit of sense! The desperate drinking, the adulterous shag in the garage, the vomiting, the  ritual lampshade on the head, the singing of a song whose title no one understands, the shrieking of a countdown, the  despair over job insecurity--let's admit it, friends. There is after all such a thing as civilization.


Bob Powers is the author of several humor books, including The Werewolf's Guide To Life and Happy Cruelty Day. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.


Pledge Week, 2039

Welcome back to the "Millennial Music" December Pledge Drive, loyal PBS hologram viewers!  You just heard an oldie from Ricky Martin called "Livin' La Vida Loca."  As we used to "holler" back in the day, that "joint" was "da bomb"! (I should clarify that "bomb" in this context is fin-de-siècle slang for "of high quality" and does not constitute a terrorist threat or subject me to arrest without due process under the 2017 Palin-Jindal Patriot Act.)


"Upside, inside out, she's livin' la vida loca..."  Wow, do those timeless words take me back to when Spanish was something you had to learn and wasn't instantaneously translated and subtitled on your FacialDisplay!  I think I first downloaded that classic from Napster while volunteering in college for the Steve Forbes 2000 campaign-wild times. But you know what they say: If you can remember the late '90s, you probably weren't there.


It's vital to preserve precious memories like these of the Digital Age of music, 1999-2009, so please telepath in with your donations.  Donors pledging 100 Universal Credits will receive a mug for that morning cup of StarDunc, 200 UC will land you a tote bag sewn by American Apparel officially licensed sweatshop workers, and 600 UC scores you one of these babies:  [picture of an MP3 player appears.]


That's right-a personal MP3 player! Can you believe it? And no cobwebs!   Plus, it comes pre-loaded with 200 of your favorite oldies MP3s.  I bet a lot of our younger viewers have never  experienced the pleasure of "double-clicking" a new song for the first time or hearing the satisfying wheel-tick of an iPod.  Man, how fun was it to "Net-surf" on iTunes for a band's latest "album," render U.S. currency (before it became valueless), wait for a song to download with bated breath-sometimes for a whole minute on those DSL connections, then transfer it to your player under a playlist titled something like "Workout Mix" or "Singer-Songwriters Not Yet Considered Enemies of the State"! And then go outside to listen to it, back when the ozone layer permitted out-of-domicile exposure beyond fourteen consecutive minutes?  (Note that the MP3 player has been refitted, and runs only on highly enriched uranium, not regular uranium.)


You're probably watching from your Class I-IV Trump Domicile, thinking, "Hey, Clone-Boy, I get all the oldies music I need from 'Holovideo Block' on CSPAN3." But, as a government-sponsored institution under the dominion of laws enacted by Madam President-for-Life Jenna Bush, will CSPAN3 also include music from the North Korean Invasion-as Public Broadcasting Service does, thanks to the inspirational leadership of our new co-owners, the recently thawed Walt Disney and He Who Possesses the Secret to Everlasting Life, Rupert Murdoch? Meaning, not the North Korean traditional music we came to know and, eventually, to love, but the powerful non-resistance music the Koreans' fourteen-year occupation inspired. Toe-tapping anthems like "K-Jong 4-Eva" and "Rice, Rice, Baby (Three Meals a Day, Yo)."


Joining me now is a very special guest from the millennial music scene who helped define the songs that we, as a nation soon to be colonized by our glorious fatherland of China, listened to, from the non-event that was Y2K to the Great Oil Drought of '15 and the subsequent Era of Suburban Riots.  Welcome, Chief of Dome-External Environmental Protection Agency Kanye West. Before we discuss Taylor Swift, Jr.'s rude interruption of your speech before all three members of the United Nations, how goes the battle against global cooling?


Teddy Wayne's debut novel, "Kapitoil," will be published by Harper Perennial this April.

How They Do It

(Overheard in the locker room of the Racquet & Racket Club on Wall Street)


"I shouldn't be saying this but my foundation gave a ton of money last year to my other foundation. All you hear, of course, is how Loffelbein took away $58 billion in bonuses from a bankrupt firm. I'm not a bad guy. And between us?-- I left my wife in that snowbank in Aspen when she shattered her spine for good reason, which my legal counsel advises me not to discuss before we figure it out for the trial. Keep it to yourself but this year I'll be taking home $72, $73 billion, but understand, you have to make more money this year than last year or the Street calls you a loser. I shouldn't talk about my personal life, but my  kids? -just ask them if I was a good father. I think my assistant has their most recent address. And by the way, say hello to your kids.  Just don't attribute it to me."

     -- Hitch Loffelbein, derivatives counter-trading C.T.O. at Smersh & Fixer


 "They call me a rat. Well you know what? I'm flattered. I'm proud to be a rat, because rats never, ever quit.  They're always upfront and no apologies. You never see a rat snivel or shrink from a fight. And they fight dirty. It tells you something, pal, that rats multiply and prosper, and the shy g****m panda bear is close to extinct. C'mon, let's towel-snap that little fat guy!"   

     -- Ralph Swack, chief architect of the Framble-Wiggles widows' and orphans' savings-plunder maneuver.


 "Secret of my success is kind of like Aesop with the turtle and the rabbit. Or maybe it's something else. Anyway, the Windsor knot. It's like Churchill said, more or less, to Stalin at Yalta, you got to separate Berlin and the fast-trackers from the klutzes.  And the Windsor knot does. The Windsor knot got me my first job on the Street.  Wasn't it that guy Spengler or Casey Stengel who said, "The tie goes to the winner"?   Anyway, I've heard it personally that the Bahamas were never governed as well since the Duke ran the place. As Jesus -- or was it Moses? -- put it, or should have, "Suffer the kids but don't send them in to do a man's job"

     -- Zeke Murdstone, trillionaire maverick speculator in postdated, previously revalued futures.


"Drastic plastic was last year. The Street calls it 'cuffing the muffin' nowadays. It's a kind of language we use to shut out the layman, the Feds, and so forth. Like, I'm inside-out on over-the-top undershares but I'm actually doing a Little Orphan Annie as far as the other rippers are concerned -- from Jack himself down to the guys in the panic pit. Right this minute I'm flopping, which translates to sabotaging a sinking fund by calling shorts before they can deuce it. Flopping isn't strictly Legal Fleagal, as we say, so let's call it jacking the ball. Sounds more innocent."

     -- Hargrove Pennington Jr., Pirate King of the Hot-Bond Musketeers    


"I've figured out how dispense with all the intermediaries. I just go out on the Street, find a tourist gawking around, go up to them and say, 'I've got a .45-caliber personal-leverage instrument pointing at your heart.  Transfer to me all your paper currency and credit facilitators immediately.  It's your assets or your existence.' "

      --Robert Barron, CEO, HeistInc



By Maura Kelly and Teddy Wayne


You're a young woman riding the subway in New York City, reading Candace Bushnell or Sophie Kinsella.  The back panel of your e-reader is its default setting-gun-metal gray. A cute, nerdy guy in Elvis Costello glasses and olive-drab clothing sits down across from you. He's getting ready for his English Literature doctoral exams at Columbia-he must be, because he's reading a dog-eared paperback of "The Fairie Queene" without embarrassment. You like him. e-back® can help. Press the lizard icon at the bottom of your screen and choose instantly from thousands of back-panel displays. And just like that, you're no longer a chick-lit bird-brain but an alienated Thomas Pynchon fan re-reading "Gravity's Rainbow." And yes, you would love to attend an  indie-rock concert by a band that uses staplers as percussion instruments with him tonight.


You're lazing away your Sunday with your e-reader and Michael Crichton's posthumously published "Pirate Latitudes" when your wife yells at you for not taking out the trash. Turn on your e-back®'s "marriage-saver" function, go into the kitchen, and say, "Honey, I'm listening to your needs." Make sure she gets an "accidental" look at the back-panel display of what you're (not) reading: "How To Be a Better Husband To Your Gorgeous, Brilliant Wife." So what if there's no such book? 


Hey, thirteen-year-old boy-yes, you, the one who thought no one was around. What's so tantalizing that it's got your eyeballs popping out of your head as you hunch over your e-reader? Let's get a closer look, shall we? ...Oh, never mind, we see the cover: "Advanced Algebra II." That's right, Johnny; mathematics can be so exciting that it puts you in a quiver. Keep studying, young Einstein.  Ah-you want to lock the door so that you can concentrate?


Might you be an unmarried forty-something woman? Sitting alone, as usual, at the local cafe, you're learning "How To Take Care of Your 14 Cats" over a cup of chai when you recognize what a cultural cliche you appear to be. e-back®ize your reader: "A Literate Passion: The Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller." Now you're a mysterious older woman! For enhanced effect, tuck your "Kathy" cartoon sweatshirt into that National Costco Shoppers' 2004 Speed-Dating Convention tote bag and put it under your chair, where no one can see it. (FYI: Soon, you'll never have to worry about your dumpy bag again: The new e-back® tote, coming next spring, with faux-canvas displays, will have hundreds of logos to choose from.)


The e-reader e-back®: For when you're unable, or ashamed, to show others what you're really reading.


Maura Kelly writes a dating blog for Marie Claire and is working on a novel. Teddy Wayne's debut novel, Kapitoil, will be published by Harper Perennial this April.


Thy Bill Be Done

- This is Doctor Sawyer.
- Yes I have a billing issue.
- Let me connect you to Billing.
- Billing connected me to you.  Billing said you might be able to explain things to me.  My billing issue is complicated.
- I'm really not comfortable discussing the Billing System.
- But the Billing System sent me a bill for services I never received.  I've never even visited your office.  But I just got this enormous bill.
- Name?
- Watkins.  Kevin.
- You're right.  I have no record of you ever visiting this office. 
- The Billing System must have screwed up.
- Please don't speak that way about the Billing System.
- Fine.  But I don't have to pay it, do I?
- Of course you have to pay it.  You were sent a bill, weren't you?
- For medical services I never received.  I haven't been to a doctor in years.  I don't have health insurance.
- That's probably why it's such a big bill.
- But I shouldn't have been billed for anything.  You just said I've never been to your office.
- But the Billing System has declared that you have.
- The Billing System is wrong.
- Please choose your words carefully.
- I just want this dealt with.
- Look, I don't know how the Billing System works, and I would never presume to know. The Billing System has a plan for us that we could never comprehend. What you think is a mistake could be a small section of a grand tapestry of billing that goes back for years and years, and will continue far into the future.
- A tapestry?
- A plan.  One that is infinitely greater than its parts.
- So my receiving this bill is part of a larger plan.  One that I could never understand.
- Not until the Billing System decides the time is right to reveal itself to a benighted mankind.
- And if I am a part of this larger plan, my life must not be a meaningless assemblage of humiliating moments that will end as randomly as it began?
- That's right.
- So all I have to do is pay the bill and my life will have a purpose.
- Small price to pay, I'd say.
- Will you take a credit card?
- However the bill says to do it, just do that.  Trying to pay any other way might anger the Billing System.
- It says you only accept payment in male offspring.  Will you take daughters?
- Male offspring only, I'm afraid.
- I only have daughters.
- Let me connect you to Billing.


Bob Powers is the author of several humor books, including The Werewolf's Guide To Life and Happy Cruelty Day. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.


        There was a time when I seldom used exclamation points. I never used them in business letters because I was afraid I'd look like someone who would spill her sixth cup of company coffee on important documents and gossip all day with co-workers. I was careful not to use too many of them in letters to my parents so that they  wouldn't call up anxiously inquiring if I was on drugs. I certainly didn't put them in notes to guys I was interested in. I wanted to appear mysterious and alluring, not desperate for a date.

      But now I use them all the time! I have to! Otherwise people would think I had no enthusiasm for their friendship or no energy to get the job done!

      Recently I was sorting through my emails over the last five years. If I didn't know myself, I'd think my personality had changed completely-- from a person striving to be at least a little dignified to someone who was the human equivalent of a Jack Russell terrier!!  

       Now when I get emails from friends who don't use a lot of exclamation points, I wonder if they're mad at me. Why didn't they write "Hi Polly!!!!"? And are they being sarcastic if they simply write "Congratulations." rather than "Congratulations!!!!!!!!" when I tell them I found a good parking spot? I can't just write "Happy Birthday!" anymore on a friend's Facebook page. Because the person before me has written "Happy Birthday!!!!!!" What?-- the recipient will think--she's too half-hearted to hold the key down?

     Of course I absolutely have to use them when I Tweet, even if it's only to say that I've just washed the dishes!   Otherwise, everyone would wonder why I bothered telling them!!   

       The other day I realized that even when I ended sentences with an exclamation point, I had begun to feel the need to insert (!) after individual key words, like: "Confirming my teeth (!) cleaning appointment (!!) with you, Dr. Carlson!!!"  And when I read books now, I find myself beginning to wonder what Henry James was thinking when he wrote: "Live all you can - it's a mistake not to." Dude, it should be: "Live all you can!!!!! It's a mistake not to!!!!!!" Then the reader will go, "Awesome! I'm there with you, Henry! Rock on with The Ambassadors!"

     Yet sometimes my new,  exclamating self exhausts what's left of the other me. Recently I counted up the exclamation points I'd used in one morning at the computer. 378!!!!!! Meanwhile, I was still in my bathrobe, hadn't taken a shower by 1 PM, and felt badly in need of a 10 hour nap.   I saw that one of my emails consisted of "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  and nothing else. And it was to a stranger and not in response to anything he had written to me.

       So here's what I propose: let's have an annual Nixclamation Day. Maybe after that 24 hours we will regain energy for our real-life interactions and activities, a renewed sense of what really does excite us, and the right to be deeply unenthusiastic about our friends' announcements of their two-pound weight losses.  Maybe we'll even rediscover the power of this: .


Polly Frost is a playwright whose humor has appeared in The Atlantic and The New Yorker.She can be found on the web at  http://pollyfrost.com. 



Up in the Air

Flight Attendant (five minutes before takeoff): We're getting ready to leave the gate, ladies and gentlemen, so we need you all to be seated with your seatbelts fastened. We'd like to thank you for choosing Starling Airways, the number-two deep-discount, no-frills airline in the country. Right now we will be coming through the cabin inviting you to sign up for our Starling Airways Rewards Credit Card. The Rewards card will give you 10,000 bonus miles immediately upon approval.  If you'd like to hear more, just ask one of our flight attendants for information.


(15 minutes after takeoff ): Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached our cruising altitude of 27,000 feet and the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign. Just to remind you, we are a no-frills airline and we do not have drinking water or beverages of any kind on the plane, nor do we have blankets, pillows, or peanuts. The location of our one restroom for our 387 passengers is for you to find out. But we do still have applications available for our Rewards card and we encourage you to sign up and get those bonus miles, so that your next flight on Starling will be practically free. Some of you have asked about reports in the press that Starling is rumored to be declaring Chapter 11 soon, with the likelihood that our planes will be sold for parts. We just want to assure you that that won't affect your bonus reward of 10,000 non-transferable miles on Starling Airways. All you have to do is sign.


(90 minutes before landing): Ladies and gentlemen, the captain asks that you return to your seats as we might be hitting some choppy air in the next few minutes. Please buckle up for this turbulence, which the captain says should calm down as soon as I show him two more signed Rewards card applications.


(50 minutes before landing) Ladies and Gentlemen, we have less than an hour before reaching Chicago O'Hare, and I have to say that this little pile of signed Rewards card applications is pretty light. Please. They have my son!


(20 minutes before landing): Ladies and gentlemen, we are 20 minutes outside of O'Hare, and the captain has informed me that he has been ordered to continue to circle the airport until he gets five more signed applications in his hands. The captain has also indicated that we are low on fuel and he's asked me to suggest to you that you think of your families. Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of Starling Airways, and my firstborn, please, don't be a hero.


        Bob Powers is the author of several humor books, including The Werewolf's Guide To Life and Happy Cruelty Day. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.



Merry Pixelmas

What kind of device are you reading this on? That's right-it's the electronic revolution, and it's transforming Christmas into a virtual holiday.  Here is a small sampling of the imaginative new "products" that Internet pioneers have come up with to make your hearts--and pockets--lighter this holiday season:


           *E-Blab, the innovative cybergifter, is offering a "Holi-Pak" of fifty assorted pre-bookmarked blogs on  the recipient's favorite subjects, virtually gift-wrapped with a free screensaver photo of a favorite pet, celebrity, or Swiss summer- meadow/winter-mountain scene (please specify).

           *Santa's Cobbler Shoppe is the exciting new interactive Website  that explains, via animated step-by-step instructions  with voice coaching by board-certified cobblers, how to re-sole, re-heel, re-line -- in brief,  how to rebuild and restore your  spouse's or other loved one's favorite worn-out footwear to as-new condition in time for gala seasonal activities. Just slip their  favorite beat-up shoes out of the shoe caddy after they've gone  to bed, get to the PC or Mac with glues, nails, awl, rubber cement,  soles, and heels, shoe polish, and buffing wheel at the ready, and hit www.Santascobblershop.com.You should have a surefire surprise Holiday gift by morning.  And there's no bill to foot!

          * Here's a pioneering Yuletide gift sensation-- "Sno-Tacular!" Order before 7 pm on Christmas Eve (important:  include precise GPS co-ordinates!),  then gather with the whole  gang to watch on the live streaming Internet Sno-Tacular Channel  as a giant drone transport plane high overhead  drops up to  three tons of  pure, fine-grain Santa-approved snow for a direct hit  on the roof  and lawn of the lucky recipients' house. If they didn't know it  was Christmas before, they will now!

           * Sentimental? It's Holiday time--you're entitled! That's why www.magicalmemorialtour.com lets you indulge that  nostalgia to the full with a custom-shot, heart-stopping personalized cybervisit to the graves of any bakers' dozen  of deceased relatives, friends, or business associates. Professional camerawork, lingering pauses at every site, all reverent all  the time. Tasteful soundtrack to the music of Michael Jackson's last album - after all, he's just as dead.

          *Finally, if by any remote chance you've had your fill of all this and want a real fire in a real space with real hot cider and a hand-knitted sweater for a present, there's blankscreen.com. Just go to the site, click on the "E-nough!" button, and your computer will go dark, with no access allowed,  for twenty-four hours.


Bruce McCall is a New York artist and writer whose work frequently appears in the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.




Meatless Alternatives for Your Solstice Ritual

The Winter Solstice is a great time to reconnect with friends, family, and fellow- worshipers of Baphomet, but if you're like me, the pleasure of hosting can get a bit overshadowed by practical concerns. "Where will I seat everyone?" you ask, "What will I feed them? Can they be trusted with my First Cohort knowledge of the Dark Arts?" The second question becomes particularly vexing if you learn you're having vegetarian guests over. As a sort of traditionalist carnivore myself, I know how awkward a lunar rite can become when someone won't partake of the blood feast. Consider adding one of these meat-free recipes to the usual fleshy fare, and this year you just might hear a vegetarian chanting "yum" instead of "om" during the six-hour Incantation of the Goat.


Dark Squash in Crimson Sauce

You might turn some cloaked heads serving a plant of the harvest in the solstice month, but once they taste this jazzy update on mashed potatoes your company will quickly forget what they were hexing you for. Simply boil one large butternut squash and skin it in the manner you would a ram's head. Cube and mash with salt, pepper, and cat butter. Serve this with a cranberry garnish. I'll admit I use the canned stuff, but let's just keep this a secret between you, me, and our Dark Lord.


Faux-Fowl of the Left Hand Path

"But what about the turkey," you're asking, "--won't everyone expect me to sacrifice a turkey?" You still can, but just because you make a sacrifice, doesn't mean all your guests have to eat a sacrifice. After its soul is offered to the Nether Realm, the only guests who will care what's done with the bird are the ones who don't want to eat it, so, for them, mix up a bowl of my own turkey-like protein matrix to serve in its place. In making this dish, you'll first need ash of wormwood. You probably have a jar of it somewhere in your cupboard already, hiding behind the good goblets. Pour the ashes into a large mixing bowl as a base. Next you'll need flavoring. I use a blend of rosemary, garlic and peat moss. Make sure not to skimp on the moss: this will be the "meat" of your dish. After that? It's as easy as mash to a paste and enjoy.


Moloch's Goatfu

It's going to be a hard to get people to come to your ritual without a goat on the spit, but stir-fried tofu seasoned with pepper and mint serves as a delicious substitute for the no-meat contingent. I'm going to be honest, I mash this one too. If some of your more orthodox guests turn up their noses at the sacrilege of those who do not partake of the Goat , simply remind them of what this holiday is really about: taking time to enjoy the company of your friends and loved ones and to bring this world into the Age of Shadows once more.


I hope these ideas will enhance your Solstice dining.  To all a good ritual and an unholy night!



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



How to Look Like An Art Woman




The holiday season is the height of the art season: Benefit galas at your local museum, gallery openings where you may wonder why that candy wrapper on the floor is called an "installation," eggnog at your best friend's house where she's selling all her paintings of strange black sunsets over the local woods at a special Christmas discount.


But how do you, the non-Art Woman, enter this world of visually confident fashionistas? Because the true Art Woman is always making a visual statement of her artistic creed, a manifesto about how we all should look. And you don't want the other Art Women radiating "How'd she get in?" when you make your entrance.

Don't worry: With the right jewelry, you, too, can pass for an Art Woman!




*Befriend the manager, and score that Demoiselles d'Avignon compact even if you don't know which of Picasso's periods it comes from. But whatever you do, don't take it out when you're wearing Paloma perfume. No, no!

*Don't mix eras! Never combine such clashing art movements as Ancient Etruscan and Analytical Cubism.

*Make sure your jewelry is in the style of easily identifiable artists -- Matisse, for example. But if you don't have time, just wear some of your old jewelry and make up a name. Haughtily proclaim "This watch references Zeimo Borell." Then pause as though the Art Women around you should recognize that name. You'll score lots of points!





     *Turquoise: "My owner collects Native American lithographs."

     *Enormous silver pendant: "My owner can't stand it when a friend has an art opening."

     *Black and white tessellation: "My owner thinks she's an Escher woodcut."




It isn't Art Woman jewelry if it doesn't make some serious noise. Hollow plastics and brass are to be valued for their decibel-producing qualities. And remember: If the arm you wave around is clanging with bracelets, no one will notice that you're blathering nonsense about "Jasper Jones."




Want to look as though you just flew in from an international art capital? Choose from these:


*L. A.: Tiny replicas of Frank Gehry buildings

*Sydney: Found objects such as discarded sunblock caps

*San Francisco: Dangling spanking paddles





Put diamond studs in your pierced ears if you want to look like you're on the Museum Board. Hang four from your sinuses to pass for an art student. And if you don't have time to get pierced, just hint at unseen ones, and you can pretend to be a hot and controversial painter of male nudes. Enjoy the jealousy of Art Women!




Strike effective poses when being photographed: in profile with a bronze and ruby headband next to a white wall; lying on a chaise wearing nothing but your fifteen favorite rings  -- excluding the nipple ones;  or from behind, showing off your Edie Sedgwick coif and sixties hula-hoop earrings. You are a Stieglitz portrait of Georgia O'Keefe! You are an Odalisque! A Warhol! A Rohrshach!

And when you upload photos of yourself onto Facebook, remember: the true Art Woman always makes a jewelry statement, even in her profile pic.  Wear a bejewelled nose flute, perhaps.


Polly Frost is a playwright whose humor has appeared in The Atlantic and The New Yorker.She can be found on the web at  http://pollyfrost.com. 


Mr. Lost, Finder of Lost Stuff, Reported Lost

         SASKATOON--Cable TV, science, history, and military channels, PBS' Nova, and CD and DVD producers and other entertainment outlets everywhere faced ruin today after the man credited with virtually inventing "The Lost [Whatever]" as a block-buster media franchise was himself officially reported missing and presumed lost.  He had been on a search for the Lost Moose Jaw of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

        Details are unclear, since authorities have now confirmed that all information about the disappearance of the self-styled "Mister Lost" has, ironically, also been lost.

     Mister Lost was famed for his uncanny ability to locate valuable items of at least modest popular appeal that had vanished, been stolen, buried, suppressed, forgotten, or otherwise obscured from public view. "The ability to recover one after another priceless or at least slightly valuable cultural icon was his middle name," said a spokesperson for one we-found-the-lost thing-oriented cable channel, "although not, of course, officially."

        The Lost Dylan-Torme session tapes, The Lost Tomb of the Dwarf Girl Pharaoh, The Lost Godfather II Outtakes Outtakes, all fifteen Lost Gale Storm Show TV episodes from 1954, and Abe Lincoln's Lost Stovepipe Hatband were Mister Lost's findings during the last month alone.

      Media executives fear that Mr. Lost's disappearance means curtains for myriad shows dependent on the digging up of new lost stuff week after week to fill airtime. "They wouldn't have had the Lost JFK Autopsy Notes Manila Folder (History Channel), the Lost Beatles Apple-Break-up Paralegals'  contract amendments (Ovation) or the Lost Unhatched Pterodactyl Egg of Cincinnati (NatGeo) without him," said a heartbroken doculostamentary show creator. "Sure, Lost Spanish Galleon Treasures of Lake Erie, Sir Winston Churchill's Lost Broken Brandy Snifters, The Lost Anna Nicole Smith Royal Shakespeare Theatre Audition Tapes- they're all in the can," she continued. "But once we've exhausted the current Lost inventory, we're, well-- we're lost."   

        "Just last month we'd been talking about doing a show on Hitler's Lost Orthotics," added one cable-channel VP. "Mister Lost, of course, says 'They just came in!'  But then he calls back ten minutes later to say he's found something even better. He was right. That's why we'll be running 'Hitler's Lost Podiatrist's Appointment Book' next sweeps week -- one-hour, prime time, Morgan Freeman narrating."

       Adding a note of extra piquancy, close personal associates have just revealed that  ... that Mr. Lost ...  that he .... In his honor, we have just lost our train of thought.


Bruce McCall is a New York City writer and artist whose work often appears in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.



Dear ABC,


In the vacuum created by the impending departure of Oprah Winfrey's show in September, 2011, I, Teddy Wayne, have officially changed my name to Horpa and would like to formally announce my availability to host a network talk show at that time. Next week is good for me, too.

      Now, I admit that I am not, as some analysts might term Oprah, an eminently relatable-to and empathetic middle-aged African-American woman capable of forging instant bonds with anyone. I'm more what some of my former girlfriends might call a frequently moody and socially awkward 30-year-old Caucasian man-child who gets bored if the conversation doesn't revolve around him.

      My gender, race, and political correctness will also prevent me from spouting catchy affirmations such as, "You go, girl!"  I may, instead, say, "You may proceed, if that is what you so desire, empowered female guest who is unencumbered by any historico-patriarchal domination."

      Oprah trademarked the phrase "an aha moment" to express a "flash of understanding."  I am presently submitting a trademark application on "an a-ha moment" to describe the instant that one is seized with nostalgia for the Norwegian supergroup a-ha's 1985 ballad "Take On Me."

     To nip any controversy in the bud, I will invite Jonathan Franzen over for dinner.  Not to discuss his books, but because I want to tell people that Jonathan Franzen once came to my apartment for dinner. Still, he is free and perhaps should be encouraged to accept the invitation and then turn it down.

      My magazine, H, the Horpa Magazine, Not By Sapphire But With Her Support Nonetheless, featuring me on the cover each month with flattering Facebook photos, will cover the issues that matter to me most: if the hot bartender is actually interested in me or just being friendly for tips, whether the Mets will ever get their act together, whether I have OCD -- that is, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and not over-the-counter drugs, or osteochondritis dissecans, or an overseas control date, or...sorry, had some off-center discourse there.

      My political and cultural influence is widespread.  Many credit me for getting my friend Andrew Moscow elected to our high school's 1996 student-body presidency, thanks to the really cool "Dandy Andy" campaign posters I created with Microsoft Paint. And when I stopped eating red meat temporarily in 1989 after seeing "Bambi," so did my younger brother.

      Finally, to prove my philanthropy also knows no bounds, I will donate $200 of my own money (don't cash the check for a week) to the Horpa Leadership Academy for Very Flexible Postgraduate Women Into Yoga, in Terra Haute, Indiana.

      Please count me out if the job doesn't include all-pre -conditions-(including OCD)-more-than-welcome health insurance.  Thank you for your attention.






Teddy Wayne's debut novel, "Kapitoil," will be published by Harper Perennial this April.




Another Note from the Surgeon General

          What's up? Listen, I said some crazy things yesterday. Looking back on my proposed plan for hourly mammograms, I just shake my head and smile with embarrassment. What were I and all the researchers thinking! In the past twenty-four hours, scientists have conducted even more tests and studies. And now, I support a much better policy with regards to mammograms. No one needs them. Cool? Cool.

          Looking at the data, it's clear now that mammograms are pointless wastes of time and money. A mammogram is only good for bumming folks out and causing panic. Who wants that? Instead, everyone should just relax and not worry so much. And this new attitude isn't focused only on chests.

          For instance, prostate exams are no longer necessary. While they may detect early signs of trouble, it is not worth the awkward, uncomfortable examination. The anxiety a man feels before the exam can cause problems such as nervous sweats and mild stomach cramps. By forgoing the exam, these related ailments -all too real, as opposed to the hypothetical possibility of prostate badness -- will be cured.

          And the benefits of a colonoscopy do not outweigh the disgust the patient must endure as s/he drinks that yucky laxative the night before the exam. Instead of subjecting your taste buds and intestines to the that ordeal, simply visit your gastroenterologist if you feel something growing somewhere down there. And even then, wait a few weeks before making an appointment, because it's probably just nerves.

          We have also learned that ultra-sound tests during pregnancy should be stopped, because a) it's more fun to learn the sex of your child on the day they are born. And b) this test, like all tests, doesn't cure a damn thing.

          Along with these modifications to medical exams and their pointlessness, new evidence (collected early this morning) suggests that many procedures Americans think are helpful in actuality can be very harmful. Brushing your teeth doesn't fight tooth decay or gingivitis all that well. In fact, the act of brushing shifts harmful bacteria from one, dirty area of the mouth to another, healthy area of the mouth and then back again. Or the bacteria hide under your tongue, waiting to spring out again, strength renewed, after the rinse. And the data also suggest that flossing offers no advantage except as a way to stimulate the high-flying waxy-minty-string industry.

          Oh, and I almost forgot. There is nothing wrong with washing your hands with anti-bacterial soap, but this guy I know named Jimmy swears that wiping your hands on the leg of your pants or your shirt is just as effective, and saves on towels and laundry expenses.

          And speaking of saving, there is no need to replace the battery in a smoke detector, as a new report from Sweden shows conclusively that the human nose may be capable of detecting smoke without the use of a machine. Use the money you would have spent on nine-volt batteries to take a vacation to Stockholm this month and chill out -- ha ha.

          Also, if you have bloody stool, it could easily be nothing serious. Relax.

          Depression, anxiety, stress-headaches -- they are all caused by unnecessary, costly medical procedures. If we took a deep breath, watched a sunset, and sipped some wine, everything would be roses. That's why I'm offering my resignation today.


Dan Bergstein is still a freelance writer and part-time vigilante.


A Note from the Surgeon General

          Hey. When the research came out the other week that mammogram screenings should be reduced significantly, the scientists and experts were wrong. In the past few days, other, better scientists have conducted extensive tests and research, and we now believe that mammogram screenings should be increased. As Surgeon General for this great nation, I now support the following guidelines for the health of our country:

          Women--and heavy men--over the age of 40 should have a mammogram at least twice a year, or as many times as the patient would like. Women under the age of 40 should also be screened annually, or, at the very least, the left breast should be examined on even- numbered years, and the right breast examined on the odd-numbered years.

          If the patient's family has a history of bad stuff in that area, I advise monthly mammogram testing at first. If these tests do not find anything, mammograms should be performed weekly, then daily. If nothing is detected at this point, the patient should be given hourly mammograms, followed by an eternal mammogram test that will last until doctors finally find something scary.
          To better serve the public, we are currently looking into the possibility of placing self-serve mammogram machines in grocery stores and gas stations. We are also working with cell-phone companies to develop a cutting edge mammogram app. that would detect bad stuff and locate nearby surgeons in case an anomaly is detected. (The app. would also find restaurants and list movie showtimes.)

          Along with its mammogram findings, the new study has also indicated that other medical testing has become too lax.  When is the last time you had a nuclear-powered bone-density test? Exactly. Regular screenings for incipient osteoporosis will be part of a new mandatory physical exam, which will test everyone between the ages of 16 and 40 for signs of cashew allergies,  impacted wisdom teeth, bladder distention, heartworm, dwarfism (yes, you have to have the test even if you're tall), false pregnancy, Fred's hypoglycemia, Eunice's liver disease, and pink-eye. And a full body X-ray will be administered to determine if anything is broken or even a little crooked.

          These new protective advisories extend to the home. We have designed a handy laminated poster that contains an eye-chart, lists the symptoms for tuberculosis, and includes instructions on how to check yourself for thyroid anomalies. We encourage everyone to hang this poster in your shower, so you can make these new protocols part of your morning routine.  

          And we also have new standards for dental care. Brush after every meal, after inhaling humid air, and after drinking water that tastes a bit metallic or stale. We also advise that dental floss should remain between teeth at all times, to prevent bacteria from attacking wherever they see an opening.  If no floss is available, simply keep your mouth closed and ingest nutrients either nasally or intravenously.

          All human beings should be tested for tumors of the hair. Early detection is the key to survival or at least to avoiding "coconut head."  It is the patient's right to demand the test, even if his/her health-care professional refuses to administer the exam on the grounds that haironoma does not exist.

          Lastly, everyone should be tested for gout and gallstones before this weekend. I overheard on the D.C. Metro yesterday that December is a pretty bad month for these ailments. And if you feel a bit tired, be advised, you may have the first reported case of Infant Death Syndrome for anyone who can read. You should be tested promptly.


Dan Bergstein is a freelance writer and part-time vigilante.


Please Respect My Privacy

            As you all know, I had a bit of an incident this past weekend.  I am doing fine.  A little banged up, but I'll live.  I am issuing this statement to acknowledge my wrongdoing and ask that my privacy be respected. What happened this weekend was a private matter between me and my wife.

            I am not perfect.  I sometimes make mistakes, and just like anyone else, I sometimes lose control while riding a Day-Glo unicycle through a crowded mall.  But again, that is a private matter between me, my wife, and the half-dozen disabled veterans I injured when I attempted that 360 flip.  I ask that you respect my privacy, which I so deeply value.

            I am human.  Believe it or not, even I have trouble maintaining balance on a unicycle after ingesting several pints of Grey Goose vodka.  The fact that I suffered several scratches to my body should not be newsworthy.  Also like any other human, I am capable of being scratched when I crash through the window of a Wicks n' Sticks while naked.  But my incident of indecent exposure and destruction of property in a crowded mall is a private matter between me, my wife, the veterans, the staff and clientele of Wicks n' Sticks, the police department,  and of course, all the fine people over at Grey Goose vodka.

            Being a celebrity isn't easy.  How would you like it if every time you left the house, just trying to mind your own business and run onto a crowded freeway covered in gold body paint while screaming about a possum apocalypse, there was a news van waiting to capture the whole thing on camera.  Imagine if you couldn't walk into an elementary school wearing nothing but a makeshift crown of thorns and a diaper without worrying that someone might try and take your picture.  In short, imagine if you could never commit a crime in a public place without worrying about your privacy being violated.  Sound like America to you?  Not to me it doesn't.

            I'm not complaining.  I'm just asking that I be shown the same courtesy as any other high-profile American who breaks the law and then tries to hide from scrutiny for many, many days.  This is a private matter between me, my wife, all those people at the mall, on the freeway, at Grey Goose vodka, the police who are presently knocking on my door, and the cameraman I'm about to assault while he is recording the entire incident for network television.  I just want to be left alone.

            Thank you for your understanding in this difficult time.


Bob Powers is the author of several books of humor, including The Werewolf's Guide To Life and Happy Cruelty Day. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.


The Corner Office

                                    (after the New York Times)



CEO: InferCo

Q: How did you get the job?

A: I had a difference of opinion with my Previous Supervisor. Among other things, I really wanted to charge for admission up there, with a small percentage of the proceeds to go to me, because this not-for-profit attitude was making the project environment completely static-just Joy, Joy, Joy, with no almonds, if you know what I mean.

Q: So what happened?

A: Well, my supervisor and I had a frank exchange of ideas when I attempted to initiate trading in admissions futures. Basically I wanted to encourage our patrons to try to increase their hostly ranking by speculating in positive and negative decisions at the point of entry. I called it GateTrades. Then I wanted to derivatize some instruments based on those investors who seemed to have a knack-like the maverick who said that Michael Jackson, Irving Penn, and William Safire would not only get in but not even have to have the usual security check. Counter-intuitive. I go in for counter- in general.

Q: It sounds like you basically wanted to take over. Is that fair?

A: Well, it's no secret that I would have welcomed a chance for more responsibility.

Q: So you decided to go out on your own.

A: Thanks for putting it that way. Very diplomatic. Maybe you'd like a spot in corporate communications with our outfit. Heh heh. Heh heh heh heh. HA HA HA HA,

Q: You've run this organization with what seems to be increasing success and volume. What are some of your secrets?

A: I would be lying, as usual, if I didn't just admit that more and more patrons seem to be deciding to opt for our services all on their own. Many of our major demographics are growing so rapidly we can hardly keep up with them. Especially telemarketing tycoons and health-insurance executives -- they're all on the increase. But that's not really a problem for us, since overcrowding itself fits right in with our agenda.

Q: You still haven't told me about any innovations you may have made.

A: And? Your point being?

Q: Um, sorry. Never mind. Don't get angry.

A: Just funning with you. We've digitized many of our operations, like a new sound system that captures the loudest and softest of our patrons' responses to our services and plays them back 24/7/365 at a volume that Bose never dreamed of. And we have niche venues now -- instead of nine circles there are 47 Specialty Areas. No, wait -- 48. We just opened the Interviewer Inn.

Q: Oh my God -- really?

A: Watch your language, Buddy. Nah, don't sweat it. Get it? Listen, I know you have to talk to me, but I can't take all the credit. We have a great team here -- Oriax, over in Inhuman Resources, Beelzebub, our Deputy Director, Adramalech, who can really bring it when it comes to eliminating what I really hate-downtime -- and so on. In fact, one of my pet accomplishments is introducing the word "team" in non-sports contexts of human activities.

Q: Well, thank you for your time.

A: It's OK -- I've got nothing but. Where is this going to appear, by the way?

Q: On Page 4 or 5 of the Business Section, probably. Where it always is, alas.

A: Well, I can get it on Page 1, if you want to make a deal.  You know, I still enjoy a personal negotiation from time to time.

Q: It's tempting, but--

A: Journalism is tough these days -- more and more people competing for the few slots that are left. So much free content to overcome.


Q: Nah, but thanks.

A: Page 1?


Q: No, thanks, really.

A: Above the fold?


Q: Deal!

--Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic




Tyler Perry's New Moon

Dear Mr. Perry and Ms. Meyer,


Mr. Perry, your films have made $370 million, and you are the executive producer of two hit cable shows. Ms. Meyer, your Twilight books are a runaway hit, and the film version has broken box-office records. If you two teamed up and made a movie called "Tyler Perry's New Moon," I'm telling you (and no one else, because my co-workers here at LoRentFlix have already stolen my idea for hot dog soup, and I can't take that chance again until the greenlight shines) you would suck up all the U.S. currency in circulation. And I, Eugene Finsky, can help make that dream a reality-a would-be passionate and yet of course superficially Christian, reality.


On the surface, it might seem a bit of a stretch to combine a story about droopily lustful vampires with the faux-soulful African-American characters, but I'm up to the challenge. Before you cast me off as a high school dropout, wannabe filmmaker, know that I have two short films under by belt: The three-minute horror movie called "Blood Thing" which has 24 views on YouTube, and a documentary entitled "Assumptions of Safety," about drawing on a sleeping roommate with a marker. My co-worker Charlene (who knows a lot about horror movies, and who totally has a boyfriend) said my movies are, "OK, I guess."


For our flick, we need to replace Twilight's main character, Bella, the moody girl who moves to gloomy Washington State, with Izzy, the moody girl who moves to sunny Atlanta to live with her tell-it-like-it-is grandma, Madea. Instead of falling in love with a sullen white vampire, Izzy falls in love with a funny black vampire named Eddie C., and I know a thing or two about being funny. Charlene is always rolling her eyes saying, "Eugene, you are hilllllarious." Here is an example of a gag I wrote: Eddie C. predicts that the phone will ring, and then the phone suddenly rings, and he shouts, "Whoa. I'm psychic! I must have ESPN." I say this all the time.  


 Eddie C. is of course very handsome, but what really draws Izzy to him is that he is a responsible single parent. Izzy spends much of the film swooning over the way he raises his daughter. However, until the very end, the brassy Madea has her doubts, saying things like "Vampire? He looks more like a Vamp-liar to me!" (It took me less than an hour to come up with that one.)


Trouble arises when Izzy befriends the shirtless werewolf, Jacob. (Naturally, Ms. Meyer, all male characters can be topless, even the hot, young preachers. Charlene agrees that I would make a great werewolf-"Fangs a lot, Charlene," I said to her.) Vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies because of ... some reason.  Anyway, Eddie C. and Jacob argue over Izzy. But before things become physical, Madea steps in and diffuses the situation with her usual sass and maybe a sword.


The movie ends with the monsters learning to live and pray instead of prey together and Izzy realizing that she can accomplish anything...with a little help from family and friends and a black person.


This film is sure to be the biggest movie of all time. Tyler, call Oprah and schedule an interview to promote the film. Stephanie, call Radiohead and see if they're free to do the soundtrack. I'll work for scale.  I don't know what that means but I like to say it.  Deal? Deal! 



Eugene Finsky


Dan Bergstein is a freelance writer and part-time amateur nurse.


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).