Displaying articles for: December 2012

Truly Maybe the Best from a Year in Grin & Tonic

We at Grin & Tonic decided to celebrate the holidays and the end of 2012 with an Editor's Pick of some of our favorite pieces of the year. But then we didn't do it. Why? Or -- maybe better: Why not? Better yet: Why are we even telling you what we were going to do and then didn't do? Betterest: Why are we giving you all these alternative rhetorical questions?


Your Workplace Holiday Party

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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



The Maya Calendar Holiday Gift Guide

And it shall come to pass that when the 13th baktun comes to an end, so will the world. Everything, even the entombed red-cinnabar-coated kings, shall be destroyed in an apocalypse. So it has been foretold — and so many believe — by the ancient Maya calendar; even Maya deities like the jade-haired maize god and the goggle-eyed storm god must submit.” —The New York Times


As we approach the completion of the Great Cycle, you may be wondering:  What's the perfect present for these trying (and final) times?  We have cooked up the gift guide to end all gift guides, and, incidentally, to end everything else.


For the foodie!

There's always Cuisinart, but why not get groovy with DIY this winter solstice?  Try your hand at some homemade flavored salts (we like Meyer lemon and Kimchi!), and you'll impress your friend with your hearty nature and something-from-nothing skills.  She'll put down her immersion blender and say, We need people like you in the coming weeks, such as they are.  Now you're gifting like a guru!  Your delicious preservatives will have earned you a place in a secured basement three miles below the surface of the earth.  Ignore the futility of these foolhardy safety measures.  Bake loads of oatmeal bars instead! Place them in pressurized decorative tins—great for sharing. 


Hot tip: using your crafting scissors to fashion personalized hang-tags will give the desserts a “finished look.”  Hang-tags can double as toe-tags during the Great Clean-Up, after The After.     


Fun stocking stuffers under $30!

This year, everyone is on a tight holiday budget.  But we're not talking money—we're talking time.  Shop smart and stock up on easy-to-complete activities for the whole family.  We're especially excited about 5-piece jigsaw puzzles ($10), pre-molded artisan Play-Doh ($7), and Picked-Up Stix ($5).  You may have just enough minutes left before the precession of the equinoxes to watch the first season of Homeland ($27.99) on DVD, but no one wants to end the Great Cycle on a cliffhanger.  So it is written, the thirteenth baktun closes before the twelve days of Christmas even begin.  A pet bird ($30) may just be a great way to keep track of the diminishing hours: when the partridge in the pear tree falls, It will be upon us.  


For the little ones!

As the North Pole shifts from Polaris to Vega, so will the exact location of Santa's house.  Even mythology must reckon with these disruptive times.  Take out a map and help your children find his new address, temporary as it might be.  Use crayons!  Make it fun!  You can send their letters by USPS, but there's really no accounting for holiday delivery delays, especially with the recalibration of physics as we know it. Either way, your kids won’t be the wiser.  As the days dwindle, take them by the hand and tell them, If Santa exists, then so do catastrophic astronomical events.  Spin a dreidel to demonstrate the rises and dips in Earth's cycle of precession.  We also recommend the new Furby from Hasbro ($54).  It just might outlast us all. 


For the friend who has everything!

We all know this person: he's got the whole world in his hands.  But when the winter solstice sunrise moves towards the galactic center and the moon is in the seventh house, will he still?  For the friend who “had it all” before The Before, give an experiential gift.  Has he ever sky-dipped or thunder-surfed?  Now’s the time to buy him lessons!  Has he ever eaten solid air?  Give him the dining experience to end a lifetime! 


If he pouts at your presents, then take him to see the sideways solar eclipse on the Final Sunday.  Bring snacks!  Everyone will be there!  We have no choice.


Hilary Leichter has taught creative writing at Columbia University and Freebird Books. She is an associate editor at NOON Annual. She will be spending the Mayan apocalypse eating Chinese food and seeing a movie, of course. 


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).