Displaying articles for: February 2010

An Alternative Canadian Anthem

For closing day ceremonies in Vancouver:



     O Canada! My pretty decent land!
    Let’s hear two cheers
    Although it’s kind of bland.
    With modest aims, and careful steps
    We hope it’s safe to say,
    O Canada, we like this place
    We like this place okay!


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

My Public Apology

I have disappointed those of you gathered today in this conference room—which, because this is a studio apartment, is also my bedroom and kitchen. My roommate gets home in a few, so I’ll make this brief.
What I did--not washing out the pasta-sauce jar, removing the label,  and putting the jar in the recycling bin--was wrong, and I am sorry. I thought I was above the law, that the same environmentally conscious rules that applied to all other residents of this city didn’t apply to me.  I can atone for this not through words but through diligent study of the chart posted on my fridge and taking the time to figure out if Chinese food containers should go in the trash or not. 
God, it’s so annoying to wash out those jars, though.
I also want to apologize for not holding the elevator for my fellow-residents when I hear them checking their mail in the lobby.  If I knew that they’d just get their mail and pace briskly to the elevator, I’d definitely do it, but what if they’re the kind of person who looks over their mail first and perhaps even opens it right there and possibly drops and picks up all the stray magazine-subscription inserts?
I’m sorry.  I’ll hold it. I’m no better than anyone else.  It’s just … Maybe let me know if you’re going to take a while?
Yesterday, on a crowded subway train, a woman of a certain age was standing right by me, and everyone glared at me for not offering her my seat.  But when I say “of a certain age,” I mean it -- I’m not sure how old she was. Sixty?  Seventy?  Where’s the line of when you’re supposed to yield your seat?  Plus, I was reading a bulky hardcover, and she had nothing, so I was really making more use of the seat.  It’s not like she was pregnant.  I would have almost definitely given it up if she were pregnant.  Anyway, I guess I’m sorry, even though she got off at the next stop and I was riding it to the end of the line and didn’t have my iPod.
My bad for calling the barista at Starbucks “Kelly,” when her name tag actually said “Killy.”  Not to get nitpicky, but who’s named "Killy," anyway?  I think I should get some credit even for referring to her by name, injecting some humanity in an otherwise cold, late-capitalist transaction and demonstrating what a sensitive, respectful patron I am.


There go my chances of asking her out, by the way; that should suffice as my punishment.  And I had a perfect joke planned about seeing if she wanted to get coffee sometime.  I was going to say it in a way that suggested I knew it was sort of corny but, hey, it’s part of this crazy dance we call love.  Now, that opportunity is lost forever, and I have only myself -- and maybe the name-tag font designer -- to blame.
A couple other things I’m apologetic about: not replacing the toilet paper roll; failing to reciprocate a “How was your weekend?” from my cubicle-mate; yawning loudly as my friend Tom synopsized his girlfriend issues, even though it’s always the same stuff about the way she orders food in an ethnic restaurant in the accent of the native country, and he’s just venting and doesn’t care about my opinion.

My access to money (I make upwards of five figures per year and have both a checking and savings account) and fame (two bodega owners seem to recognize me) made it easy for me to feel like I could engage in this transgressive behavior without consequence.  I understand now that it was immoral, thanks to some lengthy soul-searching, intensive therapy, and even more lengthy and intensive PR-spin coaching.
My roommate’s about to come home and I left a bunch of pasta-sauce-covered dishes in the sink, so I ask that you respect our privacy as we work through this matter together, as cosigner and cosigner.
No questions.  Sorry for that, too.


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


Brain Freeze

For many Americans, this winter has been one of the toughest in recent memory. Luckily, the imaginative art of “creative visualization” offers an innovative way to lower seasonal stress.

 1. When a storm produces whiteout conditions, snow blindness can set in. In these circumstances, close both eyes, keep walking, and use creative visualization to picture yourself safe at home.  You may also wish to visualize a thorough renovation or in fact a larger house with better financing.

 2. If you must travel when winter storms threaten, be prepared by adopting 6-8 sizeable dogs from the local pound. Keep them with you at all times, along with some spare rope (dental floss or poultry twine will do in a pinch).  If a blizzard strikes, find rubbish from the nearest dump and lash dogs to makeshift sled (an abandoned wicker coffee table is ideal). Mush to safety, visualizing a speech to the National Geographic Society on your heroic journey.

3. When texting from your cell phone while driving on an icy road, always use helpful abbreviations, such as “Rly Sno1ng HRD!” or “OMG LUS1NG KNTRL.” Visualize your hands returning to the wheel in the nick of time.

4. If you are caught in an avalanche, be aware that a rescue party may be delayed if the storm continues. Freeze your brain into a cryogenic “safe mode” by (1) plunging your head into the coldest area of the snowbank and (2) immediately ceasing all thought.  Unfortunately, this means you will not be able to creatively visualize the future civilization that will use its superior technology to revive you.  So you might want to pre-visualize it right now (underwater cities, etc.)

5. Ice skating is wholesome family fun, but be aware of the lurking hazards of thin ice.  Visualize your loved ones successfully avoiding dangerous areas as they glide over a frozen pond.  Also, send the lightest children out first.

6. When traversing the snowbound forests of Siberia in an overloaded sleigh and pursued by wolves, do not attempt to distract the wolves and save your party by throwing out a baby.  Russian wolves grew savvy to this trick long ago, and will spurn infants as mere appetizers. Instead, visualize the wolves suddenly turning vegetarian. If by any chance that doesn't work, jettison the adult who has that vague flirty thing going on with your spouse.

7. In the event of a sudden skid while driving on a frozen patch of road, remember to steer *into* the direction of the skid.  Make this more effective by shouting “Yes!  This is exactly the direction I meant to go!” and creatively visualizing your car upright on a level road in summer.  As you crash through the guardrail, extend your visualization and see the yawning canyon below as a store where you are going to buy a new plasma television, marked down to an unbelievably low price.



Bill Tipper is the Managing Editor of the Barnes & Noble Review.

Traffic Report

by Edward Small and Daniel Menaker
Greetings, my superiors, and, as we must always say,  May the Canals Flow Again.  After several weeks of carefully observing the humans, we have determined that the phenomenon they refer to as a “traffic jam” is third only to death and dentistry in causing them anguish. (Our mandibles are vastly superior.) Almost all humans become extremely agitated when forced to sit in their vehicles with names like Celica, Axxess, and Escalade  that have no meaning even in their own languages and stare with their sadly limited binocular vision out of "windshields," as many are in great hurries to sit at desks and stare at computer screens, the irony of this juxtaposition evidently being lost on them.

The humans show a variety of behaviors when caught in traffic jams. The most common  at the start is honking their  horns. At first we could only surmise that this practice arises from the belief that the traffic jam is being caused by hundreds  of motorists in front of them forgetting that the speed limit is 65 miles per hour ( Martian pi X 4 canaleters/earth hour) rather than 7. (No further conversion necessary to make the point to you, my superiors.) We now have come to a different conclusion, however.

But first:  When the horn honking fails, as it always does,  most humans will begin to curse and yell incoherently. Then they pound on their steering wheels. Sometimes they exhibit all three behaviors simultaneously.   And so as none of this activity has any effect on the traffic jam itself, we have formed the new hypothesis that these activities are religious rituals of some kind, because they possess no other logic.

Further supporting this theory is that after fulfilling these rites, humans  begin changing the stations on their radios with great velocity. This practice, which-- when it includes traffic reports about the very jam in which they find themselves--often leads  to more horn honking and yelling, which must, again, achieve some kind of spiritual goal, as it achieves no other.

The ultimate cause of many traffic jams often turns out to be a car accident. To be more specific, generally when passing the car accident that has caused their specific traffic jam, many humans slow their vehicles down to a crawl (usually around pi X .5 canaleters/eh). Sometimes they stop their vehicles entirely and get out and look in a mesmerized fashion. We can draw no other conclusion from this behavior than that it is once again ritualistic and religious in nature--perhaps a prayer for the victims--as it does not lead the humans to reach their desks to stare at their computer screens any faster. Quite the contrary. The only conceivable alternative interpretation is that these strange creatures have a grotesque fascination with vehicular carnage, which would strain the credulity of even a Canalbug.

This concludes my report on human traffic jams, my superiors. The baffling precipitation-shielding "umbrella" devices are still under investigation. 

May the Canals Flow Again



Edward Small is currently a senior at Dickinson College. He interned at The Onion in the summer of 2008 and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.


Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic and the author of a new book, "A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation."

Our New Restaurant

We are pleased to announce the grand opening of our new restaurant, under the direction of Chef Beaufort Dacquoise, admired in culinary circles around the world for his innovative new pan-Asian country peasant-style molecular gastronomy cuisine. Chef Dacquoise’s first restaurant, “D’Acquoise,” received two Michelin stars, four stars from the New York Times, and earned Chef Dacquoise the Windsor Award for Outstanding Achievement for Pretentious Facial Hair.


Chef Dacquoise will be joined at our new restaurant by an accomplished staff, including his experienced sommelier, trained fromagere, bottled-water taster, salt crystal-expert and table-side pedicurist. Each of our culinary experts has been handpicked by our culinary-expert-elier, who has trained for forty years with some of the culinary world’s top experts in culinary experts. Chef Dacquoise will also be accompanied by his long-time sous-chef, as well as his dialect coach, who will instruct the waitstaff in correcting your mispronunciation of menu items with just the right amount of hauteur.


The menu will be available as a prix fixe for $375 or an all-you-can-eat buffet for $2700.


All of our livestock is certified humane. Our free-range chickens nest on beds crafted from 1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton, and our cattle enjoy a 100% organic diet, bi-weekly spa treatments, art-based psychotherapy sessions, and occasional weekend getaways to an all-inclusive resort in Anguilla. Similarly, our produce is grown entirely via sustainable and environmentally friendly methods. All ingredients are sourced locally and shipped to the restaurant on the backs of specially trained worker ants with US-Congress-level health insurance. Our certified drug-free, urine-tested farmers use only 18th-century agricultural implements and no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or overly dirty soil. Suppliers in violation of our stringent standards are immediately administered a 100% organic cruelty-free lethal injection, and their lifeless bodies are used for composting.


Our restaurant makes its home in a converted 17th century farmhouse featuring the original oil lamps and an atmosphere consisting entirely of authentic air siphoned from a 300-year-old French chateau and shipped to us in airtight glass containers. The  intimate three-table dining room is located one half-mile from the main barn in what was formerly a feed storage shed. Reservations are accepted for parties of one or two.


Because of high demand for seating, reservations are available on a first come-first serve basis by logging on to our Website 90 days prior to your desired reservation date. The reservation system opens at precisely 10 am and closes eight seconds later. Guests who register within the allotted time will be given an address. At that address, you will be approached by a man with a briefcase, who will administer a short quiz on Chef Dacquoise’s prize-winning pedigreed Tibetan Mastiffs. A passing grade entitles you to select one of ten keys from the briefcase, each of which opens a different locker at Newark Liberty International Airport,  each of which in turn contains an African burrowing cobra. One snake holds two confirmed reservations to our new restaurant in its jaws. If the cobra kills you, your credit card will automatically be charged a $500 cancellation fee.


On behalf of Chef Dacquoise and all of us at our new restaurant, we look forward to making you feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and unbearably self-congratulatory while eating unusual food in a public place.


Cash only.


Jason Reich is a television writer whose credits include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and VH1's Best Week Ever.

Google v. China, Day 5: Live From the Frontlines

Day 5: Why We Fight

JASMINE: We apologize for the interruption, but we have just received word that a tentative peace agreement has been reached between Google and China, perhaps ending the war. Let us check in with Randy Gall who has been on the frontlines of this war since it began. Randy, are you there?


RANDY: Jasmine, the news is trickling in from all over Google headquarters that this war has ended. Everyone here is celebrating--you can see champagne corks popping behind me and several employees are making homemade VC signs, symbolizing the Victory over China. It's complicated but stirring--first they make the V, then they use their thumb and-- 


JASMINE: How did this happen? The scenes from yesterday were grim.


RANDY: After the attack last night, Google launched a counter assault, which knocked out most of China's MP3 files. The streets were filled with riots as looters attempted to steal physical copies of their music in CD-form from stores, and homes of older people who never updated to MP3 technology. It was not a pretty sight. But things have settled down now, and---


JASMINE: Randy I hate to cut you off, but we’re getting word here in the studio that our ratings have dipped slightly since the peace agreement between Google and China was signed. Are you sure the war is over?


RANDY: Um…yeah, pretty much. 


JASMINE: Are you 100% sure? Randy, this is very important. Look around. Do you see any cyber terrorism threats? Any at all? Maybe a wonky computer monitor.


RANDY: Nope. Everything is fine here in China.


JASMINE: Dammit, Randy, if you don’t find violence or something dangerous to cover, we will lose the ratings war to Channel 8. Hurry. Look for anything. 


RANDY: Well, there’s a guy over here that might have swine flu…. 


JASMINE: Not good enough! Oh God!


RANDY: What is it? What’s going on?


JASMINE: Channel 8 is no longer covering the Google China War. They’re now showing footage of a flood in Mississippi. Randy, is there a flood near you? Maybe a really deep puddle. Anything?


RANDY: No. Wait.… I can spill some water on the …




RANDY: Jasmine? Jasmine!


JASMINE: Channel 8 has also announced that seven young women may have gotten inferior orthodontic treatment in Miami. Randy, do something! This attack is getting worse. We haven’t got much time!


RANDY: Ooh. I may have a really riveting story here Jasmine. Ready? In 3, 2, 1…[IN REPORTER VOICE] Good evening. The man next to me didn’t think "Avatar" was all that good. He even ---


JASMINE: You idiot! That's just fluff, and you know it.  We need real news of people suffering! No! Nooo! Channel 8 is flying their drone plane above us. Or it may be their traffic helicopter. In a matter of moments they will attack our station, and block our signal. We’re going to lose the war. Oh God. Not like this. Please, God, not like this….


RANDY: What can I do?


JASMINE: The station manager is dipping our regional Emmy Awards in gasoline, igniting them, and throwing them at the Channel 8 forces. It seems to be…No! It’s not working! Channel 8 is in the building. I repeat, Channel 8 is in the building. If I don’t make it out of here, tell my mother I always knew she loved me. And keep an eye out for my blog, where I will be posting hilarious news stories and my own two cents until I find another job.


RANDY: Jasmine, keep your head down. Don’t let them see you.


JASMINE: And I’ll be on Twitter! Follow me @NewsyGalReporter_9099! Please! It’s my only hope for relevance! The Channel 8 forces are in the studio. They have taken over the cameras, and my director is now blindfolded, dressed in rags, and being marched out to a makeshift prison in the courtyard…. They see me! They see me. What do I do? What do ---


RANDY: Jasmine!


CAROLINE HEARTWELL: Randy, my advice to you is to take the measly two-week no-insurance buyout package we at Channel 8 are offering you for the next thirty minutes.  Jasmine is gone. We will have breaking on the Miami orthodontics disaster later this evening. Reporting live from the new Channel 8 studios, this is Caroline Heartwell. 


Dan Bergstein doesn't like eggplant very much.

Google v. China, Day 4: Live from the Frontlines

Day 4: A Survivor's Tale

JASMINE: Good evening. Reporter Randy Gall has embedded himself with the Google forces at the Google Outpost #898, located somewhere deep within China. Unfortunately, with all electronic communications compromised in the attacks, Randy's report comes to us in various forms. First, we received this letter:


Dearest Jasmine,

I hope this letter finds you well. The nights are growing long, as the men and women of Google struggle to maintain focus. The rain is pelting our canvas tent like the sound of a million death drums. We hear helicopters throughout the night, followed by sirens, and the screams. My lord, the screams. The amount of data lost is too much.


How much longer can we keep fighting?


Jeffery Chan, who worked at Google for seven years, cracked last night. He held up his cell phone and yelled, "My 3G coverage is not working." And then collapsed in tears. When he awoke, he could no longer see. Stress blindness? Perhaps. Or perhaps the cyber assault is now attacking eyes as well. It would  not surprise me. Nothing would, at this point.


I'm sending this message the safest way possible, by gluing it to a donkey and then pointing the donkey towards the U.S. embassy. If you find this letter, please know that I'm still alive, and that the donkey's name is Steve.

With hopes of peace, I remain,
Randy "Warrior Poet" Gall


JASMINE: A few hours later, we received the following message by carrier pigeon.
Dear Jasmine,
This is Landy Lall. Do you understand that? I'm Landy? I'm worried that the Chinese spy planes will use x-ray scopes to scan and read all correspondences I send out. For that reason, this message has been encoded. I pray that you can decipher the message, which is: The ducks are not ducks. The Williams-Sonoma Third Symphony was dream-like and frowny.
With hopes of peace, I remain,
Landy Lall


JASMINE: Moments later,  Randy somehow sent this  telegram.

Dear Jasmine (STOP) It's me Randy (STOP) I hope you understood my last message (STOP) I was trying to tell you that Google is planning a huge attack tonight (STOP) Don't tell anyone (STOP) Well, you can tell Pete (STOP) Wait, stop (STOP). Don't tell Pete (STOP) Pete will just tell his wife and then everyone on Facebook will know (STOP) Like that time I told him about my hernia surgery (STOP) Anyway the Google troops are working hard planning the attack. When will they start?  (STOP) Everything outside is quiet (STOP) Too quiet (STOP) 


JASMINE: And finally we received a Morse Code transmission from Outpost #898 which read:


One computer up and running at Outpost #898. Though it can only access Myspace, which no one uses anymore (and I have long forgotten my password), and Oscar-pool websites (rooting for "Hurt Locker," as I have had  remotely similar experiences here in the Google War). Still… One computer is a sign of hope. Could the end be near? Heading back to Google HQ.



Dan Bergstein is a freelance writer who pronounces the N in autumn.

Google v. China, Day 3: Live From the Frontlines

Day 3: The Time of Six Billion Tears  


JASMINE: Our brave reporter Randy Gall is inside the Google headquarters in China as the Google/China War spills over into a third day filled with cyber violence. What is happening, Randy? Are you safe?


RANDY: The virus has spread! The China’s cyber attack has spread! We can now no longer open any photo documents. All photo documents have been eliminated. The size of this attack is staggering. Family photos, vacation photos, funny photo-shopped images…all lost. It's gone, Jasmine. All the photos are gone!


JASMINE: Randy, get to the shelter!


RANDY: I can't see through the fog, Jasmine. My gas mask has become foggy with my breath. We will try to….(FEED LOST)


JASMINE: Randy? Oh no. Randy? Are you there? Can you hear me? 


RANDY: I'm here. I'm here. The cyber attack has spread. It has now deleted not only all photos and contact lists but has destroyed spread sheet files as well. It's…I can't put into words what is happening. Please, tell my wife I love her. Tell her to name our child Henry.


JASMINE: Randy, are you in the shelter?


RANDY: The protective denim clothing layers they gave me have done nothing. The shelter, I'm told, was built simply to help boost the spirits of the Google soldiers. The man next to me brought his laptop with him into the shelter, and now all of his photos on the laptop are gone! Even the sample photos that came with the laptop! He is now kneeling in the corner of the room, rocking back and forth silently. Other employees are trying to contact loved ones with hand-written letters. Some need help to write, as they have never used a pencil before. Others have no clue how to address an envelope. And trying to explain the concept of stamps to these young heroes is like trying to explain hunting and gathering to an astronaut.


JASMINE: Can you tell us anything about the cyber-attack--where it came from? How it spread so quickly?


RANDY: Dammit, Jasmine! There are people around whose lives have been destroyed. All of their photos are gone. All of them! And even…no….don't tell me. Jasmine, it appears as if the virus has also eliminated everyone's bookmarks and favorites lists. 


JASMINE: We understand that some inside Google are already calling today “The Time of Six Billion Tears.” Is that right, Randy? Because three billion people times two eyes each  is-- 


RANDY: (OFF CAMERA) No, the stamp goes on the OUTSIDE of the envelope. Here let me show you…    


Dan Bergstein is taller than you might think he is.

Google v. China, Day 2: Live From the Frontlines

 Day 2: War

JASMINE :Good evening. The Google/China conflict has escalated into a war. We now go live to our reporter Randy Gall, who is covering this tragic event from the frontlines of the Google Chinese headquarters. Randy, are you there?

RANDY GALL: Hello Jasmine. I'm here. Can you hear me?


JASMINE: Yes. We can hear you. Can you tell us where you are right now?


RANDY: I'm inside the Google headquarters here in China. Around me the Google employees are hard at work, both strengthening defenses and organizing a counterattack. If you look over to the left, and I'm not sure if we can show this, you will see a pile of infected and frozen computers. This pile of dead computers is a grim reminder that every cyberwar has tragic casualties.


JASMINE: What is morale like inside the offices?  


RANDY: You may catch a smile or two if you look hard enough. But these brave men and women of Google are working on zero sleep. Sobs of frustration and anguish can be heard as employees attempt to restart infected computers, or run virus scans. At night, several workers will huddle together to keep warm, as they desperately try to remember their important contact lists. Even the .txt documents are gone. But as one courageous employee told me, "If you feel pain, that means you're still alive, right?"


JASMINE: You are inside the offices. Are you at risk of a cyber attack?


RANDY: My security liaison here at Google has outfitted me with this anti-cyber-attack suit, which consists of several layers of denim. I'm certainly at risk inside the walls here at Google, but it's a risk I'm willing to take, Jasmine. This will…No! (INAUDIBLE) Jasmine! Jasmine! (PANICKED SCREAMS)  


JASMINE: Randy? What's happening? Randy, are you there?


RANDY: Do not open (INAUDIBLE). Repeat, do not open e-mails with the subject lines "Funny vid" or "Puppy vs. cardboard box.” It's a trap! The Chinese have sent out spam-ridden e-mail viruses! Oh my God! Oh my God. This is it, Jasmine. The virus has been released. The world is at risk.  (PANICKED SCREAMS)


JASMINE: Randy! 


RANDY: (OUT OF BREATH) We're running for the cyber-attack shelter. We cannot take the elevator because it’s a coffin ready to happen if a cyber attack knocks out the elevator servers here at Google. Several brave men and women of Google have stayed at their computers to fight. The shelter is just a few feet away. I can see the denim curtain. I can see it! (END OF FEED)


JASMINE: Randy? Randy? We will try to check back with Randy Gall a bit later and just pray that he is OK.  


Dan Bergstein is a freelance writer. His latest novella, "Giggle Plop," still needs an ending, and a beginning. Basically, he only has the title right now.

Google v. China, Day 1: Live From the Frontlines

Day 1: Escalation
ANCHOR JASMINE BINKSWELL: Good evening. We turn our attention to China, where tensions are running high between Internet giant Google and the Chinese Government. We now go live to our intrepid reporter, Randy Gall, who is currently in Beijing. Randy, are you there?
RANDY GALL: Hello?! Can you hear me? I'm reporting from atop the hotel here in Beijing, where behind me sits Google's Chinese headquarters, which last night were viciously attacked…cyberlly! It's impossible to calculate the damage at this point, but literally hundreds of computers may have been infected with a virus!
JASMINE: Randy, there’s no need to scream. We can hear you. Can you tell us what you see? Is there a sense of panic or urgency outside Google's Chinese headquarter?
RANDY: If the camera will look down toward the street you will see several Google employees outside of the office, standing. Perhaps they are too frightened to return to work after the attack. Or perhaps they simply needed a break from dealing with the carnage inside. Wait! A man is now going back into the building. I repeat: someone is going back into the building. These employees are the real heroes, Jasmine. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
JASMINE: What has been Google's response to this attack?
RANDY: Google says the attack came from somewhere inside China, as a response to Google's attempt to ease censorship restrictions in the country. What we're… Hold on. Hold on, Jasmine. Oh my…Oh no.

JASMINE: Randy? Randy…
RANDY: My producer and I are heading inside our hotel now. We heard a mild buzzing sound. It's no longer safe to be on the rooftops here in China where we are sitting ducks for cyber bombardments.
JASMINE: Are you safe? Randy?
RANDY: It's (INAUDIBLE) and spreading to the e-mail servers at Google. We're going to (INAUDIBLE) with the security…(STATIC) backup the systems….(END OF FEED)
RANDY: Sorry. One of our cables was unplugged. Anyway modest estimates say all of Google’s internal e-mail accounts have been hacked. At this point, we can only pray those estimates are wrong.
JASMINE: Is it safe to still use Google as a search engine?
RANDY: I’ve been told that it should be safe, but to prevent a cyber attack from spreading to America, experts are advising that you use Google quickly, and then move on to another Web site before a Chinese cyber attack has time to assail your computer. You may also want to keep your computer away from pets and pregnant women while using Google. And only type with one hand, as this will ensure you have a backup hand in case your typing arm becomes infected with a Chinese cyber virus.
JASMINE: Many Americans want to help. Where can they go?
RANDY: Stay away from China. Donate blood at your local…NO! Pete, grab the equipment!  Let’s go! Let’s go! [BEEP]ing move it!
JASMINE: Randy? What’s going on? Randy?
RANDY: A second attack has hit! Oh God! We’re racing to shut down our computers here in China! Turn off your [BEEP]ing computer now, dammit! Now! Oh God! We’ve been hit! We’ve been hit! Virus scans do nothing! My Word documents have been corrupted! No! My screenplay! Everything is gone! It’s all gone!
JASMINE: Randy? Randy?
JASMINE: We will try to reestablish contact with Randy. Stay tuned.


Dan Bergstein did not approve this brief author bio.

Vancouver Olympics Opening Day Media Centre Updates

Some Media Centre Reminders:
--The Media Centre is open from breakfast to a sensible bedtime every day except Sunday mornings, when it is open immediately after church.
--Our American media representative guests in the Media Centre are kindly requested to keep their voices down.
--Only Official Hop-On-Hop-Off 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics toboggans are piloted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers (fur hats).
--The R.C.M.P. Musical Toboggan Ride will be part of the Olympic Games closing ceremonies. Don’t miss it!
Correction: The Consul General of Spain has asked that on page 206, paragraph 3 of the Official 2010 Vancouver Olympics Media Handbook, in the Spanish Olympic Luge Team section, “inept beginners” in line 5 be changed to “eager neophytes.” In the following sentence, please delete “…a cinch for dead last in a field of one.”  We hope this removes any potential offence to our fine guests from “fair Andalusia.” We don’t know how that got in there! (Secret Basque sympathizer?) The Vancouver Winter Olympic Games Fairness in Media Commission will meet in October to consider this and other theories as it begins debating its official preliminary report.
       In other words – “We’re on it!” 
--The Media Centre has a strict rule against smoking anywhere in the facility, but it is not that strictly enforced.

--Have You Heard That: It’s illegal in Canada to eat a sled dog?
        The first Canadian to win a Winter Olympic Games bronze medal had dual American citizenship?
        According to the Bureau of Geology/ Bureau de Geologie, Canada does not have a single tungsten mine?   
--Etiquette Tip: as a courtesy to your host nation, please use the spelling Media “Centre,” and not Media “Center,” in all written references. Please also use the Canadian spelling for “labour,” “colour,” “defence” and “offence.”
        These may seem to be “tremendous trivia,” but they mean a lot to us. Thanks in advance!
--On a Serious Note: while we recognize that a free press is important and freedom of speech the cornerstone of a democratic society, if you could just bear in mind in your reporting that Celine Dion jokes may hurt some Canadians’ feelings, it would be nice.
--Writing a “personality profile” on a Canadian Winter Olympic athlete? Please notify the Media Centre when you are finished, so that we can send a copy to his/her parents.
   P.S., Postage is on us!
 Scheduling Note:     
       Presentation of the Sir Waldo Mackerel Cup to the Most Gracious Loser in the Winter Games will be held seven days after the conclusion of the Games to allow the winner enough time to “buck up.” 


--Did You Know That:
             Canadians are just as bothered by cold weather as Americans are?
             The late zany Hollywood actor Don Knotts was almost born in Canada?                                                          


-- Who Would Have Thought That:
            British Columbia, the province hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, is not actually in Britain? (See the free two-hour video  "British Columbia, Modestly Proud – At Least We Like to Think!,” running continuously in the Lord Beaverbrook Room on the basement level.)

Just a reminder to all guest foreign journalists: Today is the last chance to enter your freehand drawing of a maple leaf for the chance to win a roll of genuine NHL hockey stick tape. See your volunteer hotel hall matron (blue touque) for details.                                                    

 Not to “hassle” our guests, but the Hospitality Team (white toques) have asked us
again to request that if you can, please try to settle those outstanding “bar tabs” before leaving Canadian jurisidiction.                                                    
Closing Ceremonies:  “Hats Off to Ice” cube-making contest is now “M-M-M Maple Syrup Tasting”… Quebec Habitant Folk Songs sing-along (in French only)… Torchlight tribute to Dr. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin... Synchronized "Cavalcade of Wheat” by Flin Flon Corps de Ice Ballet… And not to annoy you with too many reminders, but don't forget to stay for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Toboggan Ride.


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

Blades of Familiarity (Winter Olympics Reporting 101)

REPORTER: Outside the temperatures are below freezing, but the women's Olympic figure skating competition is heating up, as American Jennifer ______ goes up against Russian ______ ________skaya.  While the skaters warm up, let's take a closer look at America's Ice Princess. [Exciting music, the skirr of skates]     


U.S Figure Skating Star Jennifer ______ has dedicated her life to the sport, waking up at _ a.m. every morning for practice, often training for ___ hours a day. At the young age of five, this determined athlete attempted to skate and leap over an empty _____. The result was two broken ribs and the nickname "Little  ______." [Home video of Jennifer falling down] But her mother, Molly-Anne _____, is quick to point at that she's just a typical teen. [Mother sitting in rink stands, wearing earmuffs]   "She is no different from any other teenager," said _____. "She goes to the movies, talks on the phone, and even went to the Homecoming Dance last __ember."  


Jennifer  ______'s father, a former ____-driver, suffers from ______'s  Disease, but with the help of nurses and a fund raiser held in their home town of  ______ville, Ohio, he made the trip to watch his daughter bring home the gold. [Father taking a walk using cane]  He told us last night, "My daughter is my world. Watching her on the ice is like watching an angel do a _____." But Little _______'s parents aren't the only ones cheering her on to victory.  


Jennifer _____'s colorful coach has been described as both ______-ical and ______-ed, but watching Little _____ skate tonight, it's obvious that the hard work  and strict training were worth it. [Beefy coach waving arms around angrily]  Coach ______ Szabo is no stranger to these games. The former Olympian won the silver medal in men's figure skating during the 19_8 games, and became a local hero in his small European town of ___tsch__v__burg. [Picture of idyllic mountain village with steeple] The ______-faced Szabo taught himself how to skate when he was just 3 years old, on the very same frozen pond that claimed his mother’s life. After retiring from skating due to a __-hormone scandal, he moved to America and became a citizen so he could pursue a career as an instructor, and help get his brother out of war-torn ________. [Brothers embracing tearfully]  Love him or hate him, there's no denying his ability to make skating all-stars.   


Of course, controversy erupted earlier this year when the International Olympic Committee altered the rules of the competition, and allowed the judges to take _______ing into account for the first time. It will be interesting to see how this change will affect the performances. When asked if this new wrinkle would change her skating, Little _____ simply laughed and said, "Well, I came here to give it 1_ _%. I didn’t come here to get my _____ kicked." Maybe this Little _____ isn't so little after all.  From outside Olympic Stadium, this is ____ ____ reporting.  Back to you, Biff _______ and Nikki ____-____.

Dan Bergstein often daydreams to the song "Gloria," from the movie "Flashdance."

Dear Mr. Thomas Pynchon

Thank you for taking the time to open this envelope. I know that you, like me, are a very busy and serious man. I am a writer named Rhon Penny (silent h) and I am no longer married. I am writing to you today because I have just finished my latest novel, and it would be my great honor for you to blurb it. If you are unaware, a blurb is a glowing remark you find on the back of a book’s cover written by a highly-regarded author or T.V. chef.

For example if I were blurbing this letter it would go:

       “If you could only read two things this year, make one this letter...and the other maybe the Magna Carta!”

In today's literary climate, it is essential that a new writer obtain a blurb so that Joe Q. Dumbbell will feel confident that a book is worthy of purchase or library rental. As my primary care physician says, “Humans are fickle pickles,” which, while true, has never really explained why he has me on such a complicated smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals. I am very tired.

Like yourself (no doubt) I find blurbing absolutely repulsive. It is crass, pathetic, and couldn’t be less artistic. Just so you know, I am only doing this because the more I think about it, the more I would like to make a lot of money. Full disclosure: I named my conjoined Siamese cats Tommy and Pinchie. Tommy died not long ago, which makes   movement  difficult for Pinchie.  But she pushes on like a feline boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (F. Scott Fitzgerald).

 Like blurbs, an author’s choice of title is very important for sales. Take your masterwork, "Gravity's Rainbow." That is a terrific title. Why? Because it tells you exactly what the book is about. I would like to think that my book’s title does the same: "Cream of America Soup."

Okay. By this point, I am going to assume that you have agreed to blurb, so let me just say, “Thank you.” I’ve taken the liberty of creating a few sample blurbs for you to affix your name and well-deserved reputation to. Here they are:

       “Fifteen thumbs up!”
       "It is not for me to say if Ron Penny is a great new young talent, but I will say this: Yes, he is greatly talented, and no, he is not young!" [Note the misspelling of “Rhon.” This will get people talking.]
       "While reading Rhon Penny's latest novel I could not help but think that it was so much better than "Gravity's Rainbow" that I should give up writing. I am not even lying right now!"

You have to be wondering: What in the world is this novel I’ve agreed to blurb actually about? Well, it’s very much like "Gravity's Rainbow" in a way, and in other ways, not at all. It's also very much a post-9/11 book, but not overtly. I'm not saying you need to know a lot about the medieval feudal system, Lady Byrd Johnson, bats, or linguine...but it wouldn't be such a bad thing if you did.

Before I sign off, I suppose I should address the giant elephant in this letter. Yes, if you blurb my book I will blurb your next one. I just have a funny feeling that I’m going to “adore” and “love” and “highly recommend” the thing! Also, feel free to keep the enclosed sign that reads “Danger! Writer’s Zone!” That was a gift.

I look forward to seeing how you decide to praise me. Self-addressed envelope included. Stamps, not.

Yours in the words,
Rhon Penny


Scott Rothman is a screenwriter living in New York City.


Mike Sacks is a writer on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair. His first book, "And Here’s the Kicker," was published in summer, 2009.

It's a Hellish World After All

"Epic Mickey, designed for Nintendo's Wii console, is set in a ‘cartoon wasteland’ where Disney's forgotten and retired creations live.... The game, to be released next fall, will show the character's darker side."
—The New York Times
Jesus H.  Another damn alimony reminder from my ex.  I need that like I need another unpaid apprenticeship. I dunno, maybe things could’ve worked out with her.  I suppose our problem was that I’m stubborn, and she’s a castrating shrew with a serious cheese problem.  You know what they say: Does—can’t live with ‘em, can’t take ‘em to your parents’ hole without finding them compulsively at the Jarlsberg at three A.M.

Feel the rain coming today in my knees.  One too many pratfalls, I guess.  No rainbows around the bend either, Jack—only chronic arthritis and my lousy studio HMO that doesn’t cover physical therapy.  You’re very welcome for eighty years of service, jerks.

Did that damn duck finish my smokes again?  Cheap bastard.  Making millions off his bratty nephews and he’s still bumming my Parliaments.  Just as well he never gives the pack back—the second he opens the pack, he splutters all over them.  And he tells me I need to go to a speech therapist.  Put on some underwear, for God's sake.

Phone call—maybe it’s my piece-of-crap agent with a commercial spot that pays an insulting per diem.  No, it’s the dog with the hat, of course, asking if I remember his Gmail password … which is his own dumb name.  Question for shrink: Do I associate with morons because they make me feel better about myself, or because I’m a masochist?

Yes, yes,  Other Dog Who for Some Weird Reason Can't Even  Talk and Whose Name  Is No Longer A Planet--stop yapping, I’ll walk you again.  Though what’s the point, really—I’ll just have to do it again in another four hours, in an endless, meaningless cycle.  It’s like Kafka.  Or Beckett.  I think.  Wait, which one wrote Nearest Exit?

God, I should’ve gone to college.  But, no, I took the quick money to get in those black-and-white shorts, and now I’m an 81-year-old out-of-work rodent with no salable skills and a spotty résumé the past few decades.  Good career planning, Squeaker!

Stop blaming the studio for everything.  Remember what they branded into your pea-sized brain in Goudaholics Anonymous: “I am responsible.”  Do not get caught in that self-destructive mousetrap.

I should give my first boss, that old salt, a buzz.  A real slave-driver on that steamboat, but it’s been a while.  Might have some job leads.  Nah, to hell with him.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.

Hey, it’s a texttwit or whatever you call it--some kids who want to take their picture with me and then probably post it to their FaceTweetSpace!  No, no—of course this isn’t the least bit  degrading to someone who was once the biggest star in animated pictures.  Indeed, let’s say “Cheese!”—never heard that one before!


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


Overlooked (For a Reason) Super Bowl Moments

Super Bowl III: "Broadway" Joe Namath predicts his upstart New York Jets will defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. After his prediction proves accurate,  Jets assistant defensive coach Fred "Crow" Magnon,  under the influence of twelve beers at the victory party, predicts that "the earth will open as the mouth of a crocodile and swallow up the sinners as a child swallows ... something. I'm not sure what."
VII: Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian throws the clumsiest interception, and attempts the weakest tackle, in NFL history. Fans who were in attendance that day later try to make "Do a Yepremian" into way of describing a serious failure but, because the name is a little too hard to say, fail.  They then  try "Do a Garo" and fail again.

XXI: New York Giants nose tackle Jim Burt introduces the "Gatorade shower," for his Coach, Bill Parcells, following their team's victory. This custom inspires the Neil Armstrong Public High School in Kneebend Arkansas the following year to tie down their coach and give him a “spa day” treatment of a Sour Patch Kids scrub, Hershey’s Syrup detangler, and Cheetos-residue exfoliating masque.


 XXIII: Trailing 16-13 with 3:10 left against the Bengals, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana relaxes his team in the huddle by pointing out actor John Candy in the stands. Sitting next to Candy, as it happens, is Elizabeth Williams, an understudy in an Off Off Broadway production of Samuel Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape" who is so depressed by Montana's failure to point her out that she quits the theater and goes into real estate.
XXXIII: Winning Bronco quarterback John Elway runs off the field victoriously excaliming  "I'm going to Disney World!" to TV cameras. This in turn inspires Columbia psychology Professor Will Denker to finally complete his monograph "Underlying Motivations, Besides the Endorsement Money, for  Grown Men Sometimes Believing that Attending a Theme Park for Children Is Appropriate After a Significant Accomplishment."
XL: During the halftime show, Rolling Stones roadie "Bo" Ridley suffers a liver malfunction and the next day swears off drinking forever.
XLII: The New England Patriots' quest for the first undefeated season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins is marred when during a high-five exchange, trainer "Bone" Chip McGrath sprains  a thumb. Oh, and also, the Patriots lose. (That one was not overlooked.)


XLIV: The Indianapolis Colts square off against the New Orleans Saints.  Despite his team's convincing loss in the AFC Conference title game, blustery New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, in the tradition of Joe Namath, still guarantees that his team will win the game.  


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

TV Listings for Sunday, February 7, 6-9 pm

 Ch  1  Channel: regional soccer semi-finals (R)
 Ch  2: Redneck Channel: Baby Bass Fishing in Lapland(R)
 Ch  3: Nazi Channel: Hitler’s Lost Wedding Album (R)
 Ch  4: Paid programming: Smaller Bust in 5 min thru Prayer.
 [Fox:  SuperBowl (until conclusion)]
 Ch  6 PBS: This Week in New Jersey Primary School Education Fund Drive
 Ch  7 Paid programming: Bigger Bust In 5 Min thru Prayer
 Ch 8 NZBC: New Zealand Parliamentary Question Time and Follow-up Debate
 Ch  9 Public Access: Cribbage ’n’ Cheese Chat with Fran (R)
 Ch 10 Movie Hits: The Making of the trailer for “Heaven’s Gate,” Part III (R)
 Ch 11 C-Span: Sen. Wayne Morse (D-Or.) Roast (R)
 Ch 12 Slammer Channel: True Tales from the Folsom Prison Laundry (R)
 Ch 13: Womens’ Ice Rhumba Championships (preliminary rounds) from Manila
 Ch 14 Crap Channel: “Petticoat Junction” Reunion Special
 Ch 15 Laff Channel: Dutch Standup Comedy Festival ’03 (in Dutch)
 Ch 16 Used Sports Channel: l973 A’s-vs-O’s spring training exhibition (rained out)
 Ch 17: “Bla Nidza Ho!” Bulgaria Today
 Ch 18 Eating Channel: Deep-Fry That Fried Egg! (R)
 Ch 18: Hispaniola Hayride. Guest wagonmaster Peewee Herman 

 Ch 19: Canada Fashion Week Red Carpet Preview, Live from Saskatoon (R)
 Ch 20 Moldy Movie of the Month: Great Train Robbery (colorized, dubbed)


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

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

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).