Displaying articles for: June 2010

Subtext

(Flyer from a one-night, Way Way Off  Broadway production)
 
At first blush, you will probably dismiss my one-act play, Lemonade Cups For Sale, 50 Cents a Cup!, which premieres tonight at the 138th St. Performance Space/Big Lou’s Boxing Gym, as a slight, albeit charming, character study of Eddy Wain, an adorable scamp quixotically determined to raise enough money from his lemonade stand to buy two wedding rings and thus reunite his estranged parents.  But if that’s all you think, I'm sorry to say that you will be projecting your own childhood problems onto it and overlooking all its incisive geopolitical parallels with the U.S. military’s morally bankrupt occupation of Iraq, which I happen to know is the main point of the work, since I wrote it.

 I won't force-feed the allegorical meaning down your throat--my audience may take from the play what it will, in accordance with its own need to repress, as happened with some of those who saw  my début one-man show last fall, My Parents Divorced When I Was Seven and All I Got Was This Lousy Abandonment Complex.  (My closest friends found all sorts of social commentary in that 75-minute piece, from an indictment of the so-called “progressive” income tax to a scathing rebuke of our celebrity-obsessed culture.  I know this is true, because when I asked if they caught these underlying themes, they said, “Yes” and/or nodded.)

Still, even though I was regularly beaten up at recess, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t identified Lemonade’s schoolyard bully, Georgie, as a stand-in for former Commander-in-Thief George W. Bush.  Georgie is described in the stage directions as “wearer of a constant smirk suggesting a charmed life bereft of pain, self-knowledge, or bitter parental discord he will passively internalize for his own failed adult relationships.”  And the resonantly named child psychiatrist Ronald Vodkasfeld’s knee-jerk overprescription of Ritalin and Wellbutrin to a still-developing boy who simply has an active imagination and a perfectly normal tendency to sob uncontrollably from a fetal position when his juice box tastes too “apple-y--this obviously has little if anything to do with an author's self-pity and everything to do with a certain Secretary of State's paternalistically “prescribing” democracy to a Middle Eastern  Ba’athist state that may not be historically ready for it.

What about young Eddy’s tearful forty-minute conference call to his parents’ answering machines--a monologue so naturalistic it almost seems taken from real life while displaying a maturity and vocabulary far beyond the fictional character’s eight years? You might take it as a spoiled child's whining  instead  of what it really is--an indictment of the dwindling supply and price-hiking of lemons as a damning reflection of our foreign- oil dependency.

Finally, Eddy’s alternately cruel and indifferent older stepsiblings Derek and Nellie, both played by me, are not actually meant to represent Eric and Kelly.  They are of course the Iraqi insurgents.  Or the U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.  It’s deliberately ambiguous.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear the Muse calling, much unlike my father, who forgot to call on my last birthday.  The true artist is always intellectually aware of the abundant material presented by the world around him as his heart moves in profound sympathy with the suffering of others, such as those Iraqi children orphaned either literally or, worse, metaphorically.


Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel "Kapitoil," available from Harper Perennial.

Author Bio

I am a fiction writer, poet, lyricist, documentarian, and did I mention poet? I have written over 1,700 pieces of flash fiction, a genre that, as the novel and the symphony once did, is just waiting for its time to shine.

I am a frequent contributor to flash fiction websites Gruff Town, Mug Rump, Gruff Town Quarterly, Story-zilla, The Word Slinger, Little Platz, Lil’ Words, Gruff Town Monthly, Word Shack, Did Someone Say “Flash Fiction?”, Bobo’s Story Brigade, Gruff Town Weekly, Night Fantastix, Gruff Town Daily, Knight-Night, and Gruff Town Hourly. I also write the regular “Author’s Lament” column at Gruff Town for Kids.

Here’s a brief snippet of my latest piece: “Claudia looked at the tattered umbrella with a sense of …” (You can find out what happens next with a paid subscription to Gruff Town Weekly.)

 Oh, but I create more than just flash fiction! My twenty-three-part serial “Mr. Henderson’s Tea Cup” was published online at both Dragon Goblet and Mysterio Malady under my pen name Thaddeus Q. The Floridian Dream Pillow (a small, but up-and-coming e-zine) gave it nine Library Ladders out of ten. Comet Birdfeather, author of such fan-fiction pieces as "Horry Patter and the Boots of Poison” and “Cheers: Sam Malone Hooks Up With Carla,” said this work was, “The best piece of online literature since ‘Sandworms Ahoy’ and I expect great things from Mr. Q.”

My collaborator, Ethan (last name redacted) and I are currently working on an online novel, for the Online Novel Depot. I’m hesitant to talk openly about the work, but let’s just say it’s a sequel (of sorts) to our previous internet novel (or webovel, as everyone calls them) “Oh Come All Ye Witches to the Stairs of Hellpit,” except this will be much darker, but also satirical and sincere. Ethan describes it as “A Clockwork Orange meets Calvin and Hobbes.” And much as I wish I could, I can’t think of a better analogy.

We will also be releasing an audio version, as read by me and recorded via my voicemail, available for download at my Aunt’s website (JackiesFlowers1967.org) which is usually about flowers, but she’s letting me post this as part of my forty-first-birthday present. (Thanks, Aunt Jackie!)

Not to brag, but “Ophelia’s Lust,” my novella about a 17th-century sea voyage and 23rd-century nano-robots, was published in the "Foyer" section of Chomper’s Lounge, a website devoted to speculative shark fiction, and has received 45 comments thus far, although most of them are invective from Ethan.

At the age of only 41, I have outwritten, in terms of sheer bulk if nothing else,  the greatest masters of literature, and I consider myself a true wordman. If you are considering contacting me about publishing my future work, let me whet your appetite by divulging that I’m half-finished with a story about a dog that is also a cat.  
 
 
Dan Bergstein really does contribute to Mug Rump. No,  really-- he does.

Just In Case

The ancient Maya looked into the stars and predicted catastrophic changes to the earth, all pegged to the end date of an historical cycle on one of their calendars, Dec. 21, 2012.
     –The New York Times
 
Setting: Store Manager's meeting, On-The-Mark Retail Outlet, Ottumwa, Iowa 
 
First off, I wanted to surprise everyone with new On-The-Mark red polo shirts, but there was a misunderstanding with Headquarters so  all we have are extra-smalls.  However, we did get three or four more shirts than we need, and I brought some scissors and sewing gear, so, if we cut up the extras, hopefully we’ll all be able to piece together a shirt that fits. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the typographical error On-the-Murk.

All right, with that out of the way, let’s dive right in.  As you know, I like to use these all-staff meetings as a time to reveal our new theme for the quarter, such as “Quality” or “Relating to the Customer.” This quarter’s theme is a little different – “Just in Case.”

You might be wondering, why a theme of “Just in Case”? Well, last week, when I got back from my medical leave, I watched the "2012" DVD promo playing on our flat screens in Electronics. And, as some of you know, I’ve been suffering from insomnia after my “meltdown” (as local newspapers unfairly called it) over the one-for the-price-of-two fiasco last Holiday season. So I’ve had plenty of time to conduct late-night Internet research on the End Times, and now I'm back and have recently decided to stop taking all those pills. Anyway, just in case the prophecies come to fruition, we’ll need to make some adjustments.

To get the ball rolling, I have stamped all non-perishable food items, dinnerware, craft supplies, books and pretty much everything else with an expiration date of December 21, 2012.  Why?  Just in case. Just in case what?   Well, I certainly don’t want to deal with a post-apocalyptic nomad warrior who has a valid complaint about a vaporized Tupperware set. Do you, if you survive?

I’ve also done some re-prioritizing of our inventory. In a world without electricity, nomad warriors are going to need light. What could we carry that would give off light, rhymes with “porch” but isn’t as pleasant to sit on? Any guesses? No? A torch! Aisle F1, as of next Thursday, will no longer be vacuum cleaners – it will be Torches and Torch Accessories. I’m not sure what the accessories will be. Maybe torch koozies.

Now, It would be wonderful to imagine a customer base of only nomad warriors, but just in case there are mutants, we have to be sensitive. That’s why we will be frosting the mirrors in the fitting rooms. Looking at your reflection, which would you rather see: a nasty mutant or a blurry, possibly sexy silhouette? I have also asked headquarters for some three-sleeved shirts and eight-fingered gloves. Why? That's right--just in case!

Also effective December 21st, 2012, we will no longer be the On-The-Mark Sales Team – we will be the On-The-Mark Sales Tribe. Rival businesses will be rival tribes, and if you work nights, you may be recruited for raiding/pillaging duties. Lawn Care will be Bushwhacking and Nature Control, Sporting Equipment and Cutlery will be combined for our new Survival Department, and Bedding and Furniture will become a Museum Of Comforts We Are No Longer Afforded. We’ll call our Stockroom the Conjuring Circle, to inspire the belief in our customers that we practice the dark arts. This should cut down on shoplifting.

To inspire awe and respect in any Visiting Chiefs, I will be taking the most attractive female employee as my bride, but not in “until death do us part” way. This will be a new Bride of the Month Program because of the need for as much genetic variegation as possible. Perks will include employee discounts for friends and family (if you have any left)  and an invitation to join me  me in the break room –which will be renamed the Chief’s Royal Chambers.   But ladies, no stampedes to Cosmetics to doll yourselves up--the shelves are empty, anyway, in readiness for the sharp tribal-scarring instruments and quart-size eye black on order.

Right now, it’s time to get started on our team-building activity. Spoiler alert:  It may involve hot lava.

 

 

Sean Adams lives in the Midwest.  His humor has been featured on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Dislocate.org, where he writes a column as Landrew Kentmore.

Another Mixed (Up) Review

He Came in Jigglin’ and Slapped That Seagull With a Spoon: Discovering Biddie Wilkins
By James Redman
Watercress Press; 386 pp.

 

Until now, little was known of the cornetist Leopold “Biddie” Wilkins. We know he was born in St. Louis in 1901 and died in New York in 1934. His reputation rests on recordings made in fewer than ten sessions over the course of the years 1931 to 1933. For a time it was believed he was the author, under the pseudonym Polly Kreth, of the illustrated children’s alphabet book, “Apple Banana Cookie,” but, as it turns out, no.

 

So readers owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to James Redman, who was Wilkins’ trombonist on most of those ‘30s sessions, and who toured with Wilkins’ Hot Six or Seven from 1932 until the bandleader’s untimely death, of a rare, non-symptomatic illness, whose fatal effects were triggered suddenly when someone sitting to his left at a restaurant requested dressing on the side. Redman has written the definitive biography of Wilkins, a larger-than-life character blessed with musical brilliance yet so tormented by demons that by the end of his life, we learn, he was drinking a gallon of rye a day and would not even touch a crab cake, which doesn't sound that serious until you realize that in his twenties he made a point of touching at least two a week. (The title, as Redman explains in the prologue, is taken from one of the emotional, often incoherent stories Wilkins would tell on the road about his father, a St. Louis gambler and drunkard who abandoned the family when Biddie was five to take a job with the financial services firm Musky & Brop.)

 

The book crackles with tales of the road, as Wilkins, a relentless performer and notorious womanizer, delights audiences and seems unable to resist even the smallest temptation. Redman describes the agonizing visits of Wilkins’ wife, Rosie, who occasionally met up with the band on the road, unannounced. In one unforgettable scene, one of Wilkins’ mistresses is unable to suppress a sneeze as she hides in a hotel room where Wilkins and Rosie are dining. “He would simply throw tarps over them,” Redman writes.

 

In the bravado-thick, consequences-be-damned man’s world of New Orleans jazz, Rosie emerges as perhaps the book’s only fully sympathetic character. Redman describes her as “an attractive girl, probably a 3 in the face but, ooh gah ooh, her body was a 9, yielding an average of 6.” (Redman, it must be said, devotes far too many pages to an explanation of his rating system, including an entire chapter on how he decided, at age 40 and after much internal wrangling, to “allow .5s” because a 1-10 system didn’t do justice to the “infinite and varying terrain of feminine beauty.” And is it sweet or disturbing that he rates his own mom a 8.5?)

 

Still, Wilkins could have moments of tenderness and restraint, as Redman recounts: “We’d be tuning up before a show and one of the guys would pass around a smut magazine and all the cats would chime in with comments. And Biddie, he’d come in like he was always doing, puffing a cigar and holding a small scale model of Westminster Abbey, and say with a little tsk -tsk, ‘Man, that’s somebody’s daughter,’ and confiscate the magazine and then retire to his room to read scripture.”

 

Redman doesn’t hold back on the name-dropping, but that is one of the book’s indulgent pleasures. We read of Wilkins playing horseshoes with Cab Calloway and on the very same day discussing plate tectonics with James P. Johnson. And there is a rollicking scene, during a stop at the University of Michigan, when he and a young Louis Armstrong break into a lecture hall one night and make subtle changes to a large math problem in progress on the chalkboard, in a way the effusive Armstrong later said was “certain to affect the  outcome.”

 

And of course, there’s the music. Wilkins believed jazz should address and honor the struggles of everyday people, and Redman liberally quotes from the master’s lyrics, as in the 1931 hit “An Elephant’s Dream”:  "I don't mean to be confusin' / But have ya seen my darlin' Susan? / I spilled some tomatillo salsa on these new blue jeans / and need advice on what stain remover to be usin'."


Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times.

Bacon Schmaltz

Los Angeles—Today, BLASPHEMY, the only Beverly Hills-adjacent farm-to-table bistrattoria to garner notices from LA Monthly Magazine (“This new blissfully fauxhemian eatery is so, so wrong!”), announces its new seasonal summer menu, leading with chef-owner and television’s Kick-Ass Cook winner Mordecai McGillicuddy’s public debut of his secret recipe “Bacon-Schmaltz.”

Sourced from locally raised Jidori chickens cooked no more than 24 hours after their accidental deaths on dirt roads, Blasphemy's schmaltz is more than just old-school fowl fat. McGillicuddy, the son of a loving Jewish mother and Irish father, both busy ACLU lawyers, grew up in the working-class cultural hotbed of Great Neck, Long Island, where he often had to create after-school snacks out of takeout leftovers.

“One day, when I was 15, I was reheating a store-bought BLT and my grandmother’s chicken soup, when the bacon literally slipped out from between the two pieces of bread and landed in my bowl,” says McGillicuddy, 23, who sports a tastemaking tattoo of a Jewish star braided around a four-leaf clover on the front of his neck. “The memory of this event stayed with me, and then, last year, when I was training freshmen at the Culinary Institute of America, I found myself very stoned one night and wanting to sous-vide artisanally produced bacon in high-grade duck fat. That’s when I realized I had something. Only it could not be so pretentious. It had to have a real cultural grounding, because I just can’t stand people making more out of food preparations than what they are. Anyway, I substituted a version of my grandma’s schmaltz (or 'chicken renderings') for the upscale duck fat, and I had an instant classic on my hands!”

Served alongside tamarind-pickled rhubarb cigarettes and nanogreens on a thin slab of recycled local asphalt from Melrose Avenue, Blasphemy's Bacon-Schmaltz ($39) comes paired with a Manischewitz-Guinness smoothie served in a shot glass, and any one of the day’s special desserts, which can range from sweet cotton candy knishes ($12) to Nutella-glazed smoked salmon sausages on car-bomb-shaken Dublin crème ($16). Other items sure to be hits make their debuts on this summer’s menu, and will be served on the restaurant’s Iran-imported sand-patio alongside a three-person cold-plunge pool. These exciting dishes include: line-caught gefilte fish tacos direct from Ensenada, Mexico ($29), grass-fed corned-beef-and-cabbage quesadillas with a marijuana microsalad ($36), and boiled cow’s heart-and-brie sliders served on homemade rye bread with chopped wild quail liver and vintage 1972 Heinz ketchup.

“I’m not just extremely proud of this summer’s specials,” adds McGillicuddy. “I know that if they had met and been able to fly on lie-flat business class seats to LAX, my potato-farming great-grandfather from Ireland and Cossack-ravished great-grandmother from Lithuania would have loved this food in any season. And that’s who I’m cooking for: The real people who survived The Tough Stuff and still managed to be able to make me and Blasphemy happen.”

BLASPHEMY is located in the heart of Los Angeles, California. Complimentary valet parking for grapeseed-oil-run Mercedes biodiesel sedans. 

 

 

Adam Baer is a writer in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and GQ, among other publications.

Maxim Profiles Esther Rosenbaum

It’s a quarter past five at Louise’s Diner, and Esther Rosenbaum has fifteen minutes until the early-bird special expires.  I wait in a booth, anxiously scanning the door for her, checking my cell phone every few minutes for a message from hers until I remember that she doesn’t have one.  “I don’t even own a slide projector,” she’d trilled over her rotary.

With three minutes to spare, she arrives, an understated—though is anything with Esther ever truly understated?—95-year-old swirl of beige polyester pants, a gray cardigan (“I love knitting”), and tan orthopedic loafers.  Heads swivel as she enters on her walker, its silver legs blinged-out with friction-reducing split tennis balls--not the predictable green ones, of course, but International Orange.

“I could’ve sworn this place was on 83rd,” she says by way of apology for her tardiness.

My tape recorder is acting up, of course, as if it, too, is nervous in her presence. I tell her, and she quips, “Well, my hearing aid battery is on the fritz. So we’re even.”

 I ask loudly about her upcoming projects.

“I’ve been so busy I practically haven’t had time to use my asthma inhaler,” she continues.  A slew of holiday cards to write, Thursday night canasta with her “girls,” a few appointments with her hip specialist: To be Esther in 2009 is, clearly,  to be not only in the eye of the storm, but to be the storm itself, and not your average thunder-and-lightning affair, but a typhoon, a tsunami, an “I-don’t-think-we’re-in-Kansas-anymore” twister.

Her wild-widow days, well documented in the society pages of the Cherry Hill Jewish Community Voice, are far behind her, she assures me.  “I rarely go out on Saturday nights these days,” she says.  “I like to stay in and do my large-print Sudoku, call up my grandchildren, write letters to the editor.  I’m a huge—what do they call it now?—a huge dork.”

I, like everyone else not currently hiding out in the Pakistani mountains, have heard rumors of Esther’s rendezvous with various eligible seniors from West End Synagogue.  “I’m happy to talk about my public life—I understand that’s part of the game—but I was raised by my bubbe not to kiss-and-tell,” she demurs.  Instead, either out of misdirection or because she’s lost her train of thought, she tells me three separate times about her “Varga-girl-gorgeous” granddaughter’s recent promotion at “a business outfit in New Jersey,” though I have offhandedly already mentioned that I’m happily married, knowing of Esther's reputation for romantic maneuvers of all kinds.  When I press for details about her own personal entanglements, E.R. finally allows, “I can tell you I sat on a Riverside Park bench last week with a younger man, in his eighties.”  But, the senior-cougar-in-training adds coyly, “I can’t recall his name.”

It’s not hard to figure out what this mystery admirer saw in Esther.  One glimpse of The Hair—the supernova-white nimbus haloing her head about which enough ink has already been spilled—is enough to haunt any man’s dreams.  Then your gaze drifts down to the unfocussed eyes, bespeaking a wisdom equal to her years, the dappled hands, the skin as full of character as an old dollar bill, and you’re not quite the same person you were a minute before.

Esther, for her part, seems patently unaware of her physical allure, and in spite of her ignorance—or perhaps because of it—her grace reveals itself in microscopic, nuanced gestures: the casual wiping away of crumbs at the corner of her unadorned lips, the absentminded twirling of her bifocals’ turquoise nylon cord, her fetching habit of nodding off at regular intervals.

I’ve gotten so lost in pensive appreciation that I don’t notice Esther turning the tables and scrutinizing me.  “You would be so much more handsome if you got a haircut and put on a nice sports coat and slacks,” she says.  I think I actually blush, and stutter something about taking care of it next week.  This is the effect Esther Rosenbaum has on grown men: An backhanded compliment reduces them to mumbling adolescents.

Want strong opinions on art?  Just ask Esther, who’s unabashed about her retro sensibilities.  She grew up on black and white movies, with a special fondness for the silent era.  “Much classier than the trash they churn out now,” she says, noting that she rarely makes it to “the pictures” today.  “And I only watch PBS,” she adds, because it’s all she likes, and also she is never sure exactly how to change channels.  As for music, she has a vintage ‘50s phonograph and an enviable collection of big band LPs—and she was into it well before Swingers, which she’s never heard of.

After she asks the waiter to wrap up her half-eaten chicken salad (no, she’s not attempting to become one of those brittle, spindly spinsters wasting away on the cover of AARP—she’s just “trying to reduce” these days), she brings out a sunshine-yellow seven-day pill box.  “Is it Tuesday?” she muses.  It’s Friday, in fact, but for these quotidian concerns that most of us must attend to, E-Rose has an entourage—a daily nurse, a neighbor who checks in on her most nights, her son Harold the podiatrist in Cleveland.

When the check arrives, she slips me a hard candy from the bottom of her purse and a $5 bill.  I tell her the meal is on me, but she tells me it’s not for her “chicken sandwich”—it’s a little something for my birthday, which was four months ago.

 “Put it in a savings account,” she advises, with the sagacity of a woman who raised four children during the Great Depression.  “And don’t spend it all in one place.” It's hard to tell whether she means this to be an ironic comment on the economy and the proverb itself or a serious piece of advice. This is truly a woman of unmeasured mystery.

Then she recounts her granddaughter’s promotion, shows me a picture, and asks, with a hopeful, yet forceful, lilt in her voice, “Are you going with anyone?”

That's "The Rose" for you--mischievous and, now, once again, and quite suddenly,  lovely in her slumber.

 

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel "Kapitoil," available from Harper Perennial.

The Reunion

SCENE: A restaurant. Jenny and Ella sit together, happily drinking wine and talking. 

 

JENNY: As I drove over here, I was trying to think -- how long has it been since we last saw each other?  

ELLA: 1988. When we were bridesmaids at Lynette Gilberson’s wedding. 

JENNY: That long ago! I don’t know why we ever lost touch with each other. We were best friends from fourth grade through college! 

ELLA: BFFs, as the kids say today. To think we’ve been living only an hour away from each other all these years! 

JENNY: I’m just glad I found you again on Facebook. Fill me in. What have you been up to all these years? 

ELLA: Well, I met my husband, Stuart, at Lynette’s wedding. 

JENNY: No! 

ELLA: Yes! 

JENNY: Spill, girl! Gimme details. 

ELLA: I was standing by the buffet table and this cute guy comes over. “I need to get away from this nightmare chick who’s really hitting on me bad," he said. "Would you pretend to dance with me?” He told the band to play “Time After Time.” I’d never had anybody hold me like that.  

JENNY: Let’s see a picture of this magic man. 

ELLA: Sure. I’ve always kept the one of him from Lynette’s wedding. 

Ella takes her wallet out of her purse and opens it to a photo. 

JENNY: That’s Stuart? 

ELLA: You recognize him? 

 

Jenny does not respond. She stabs her appetizer with her fork. 

 

ELLA: Are you okay? Oh my God, you’re not the woman he was talking -- 

JENNY: (Putting down her fork) Look, just for the record: I did not hit on your husband. 

ELLA: Sure. Anyway, it was twenty-two years ago. It doesn’t matter. Stu and I hadn’t even met when you came on to him. 

JENNY: If that’s the way he wants to reinvent history. 

 

Neither woman speaks for a few moments.

 

ELLA: So … what have you been up to all these years? 

JENNY: I’m divorced. 

ELLA: I’m really sorry. 

JENNY: Don’t be. I’m much happier now. I’m with a wonderful guy. 

ELLA: That’s fantastic! Tell me about him. 

JENNY: We reconnected through Facebook, too. Hadn’t seen each other since twelfth grade. 

ELLA: Oh my god, who is it? 

JENNY: Al Carberry. Said he’d lusted after me ever since the senior prom. 

ELLA: What? He was my date! 

JENNY: Don’t be too upset. You got Stuart after I rejected him at Lynette’s wedding. 

ELLA: He was trying to get away from you! 

JENNY: I don’t think so. I had the paw marks to prove it! 

ELLA: For the history books -- Al Carberry told me at senior prom that I would always be the love of his life. 

JENNY: Did he say it while you were dancing to “Time After Time?” 

 

A hunky young waiter appears and sets down their entrees. The two women pick at their food. Finally, Ella sits up. 

 

ELLA: We have to get through this lunch somehow. How do you propose we do it? 

JENNY: Oh, Ella. I’m glad we’re here. I really am. 

ELLA: Me, too. It’s a good thing we got all this nonsense out of the way. On to renewing our friendship! 

 

Jenny sees the waiter at another table and suddenly registers how attractive he is. Ella follows her friend’s gaze. The waiter smiles at the two women and motions he’ll be right over. 

 

ELLA: Wow, our waiter’s certainly a hottie. And he’s really checking out my cleavage.  

JENNY: Don’t be silly. His eyes are on me. 

ELLA: Now he’s walking over. Do yourself a favor: don’t embarrass yourself by coming onto him the way you did Stu. 

JENNY: If you’re so happily married to the guy who tried to rip my bridesmaid’s dress off, why are you slobbering over a waiter young enough to be your son? 

 

The waiter arrives at their table. 

 

WAITER: You ladies enjoying your lunch?

 

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.

The Graduate: 2010 Edition

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say three words to you. Just three words.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Credit default swaps.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in credit default swaps.

Benjamin: No, I mean what is a credit default swap? I was a philosophy major.

Mr. McGuire: I see. Well, it's simply a type of credit insurance contract wherein one body makes a series of payments to another body to protect it should a particular debt instrument default.

Benjamin: ...What?

Mr. McGuire: Will you think about it?

Benjamin: Sir, I have a lot of student loans to pay off. Can you get me a job or not?  

 

      ******

 

Benjamin: For God's sake, Mrs. Robinson, here we are, you got me into your house, you give me a drink, you put on music, now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won't be home for hours.

Mrs. Robinson: So?

Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you're working for "To Catch A Predator," aren't you?

Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin, please. You're well over 18.

Benjamin: Oh, right.

Mrs. Robinson: Now, would you like to have sex?

Benjamin: Absolutely.  

 

     ******

 

Mr. Robinson: I do think you should know the consequences of what you've done. I do think you should know that my wife and I are getting a reality show soon.

Benjamin: Look, what happened between Mrs. Robinson and-- Excuse me?

Mr. Robinson: Yeah, we know a few execs over at Bravo. They thought a show about our family would make for great ratings. Sort of a Cougartown meets The Osbournes thing. We're all making $50,000 an episode. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, Thank you.

Benjamin: Gosh, you're welcome. I guess. Does this mean I can marry your daughter?

Mr. Robinson: Of course not. We ran it by the network. They said it wouldn’t be believable enough.

 

  ******

 

Benjamin (pounding on the church window): Elaine! Elaine! Dammit, she can't hear me.... (Benjamin takes out his Droid)

Benjamin (typing):  Elaine ... plz ... dont... marry ...that ... jurk. <3 Ben. And, send. That ought to do it.

Elaine (checks phone, looks up to the balcony): Ben! (Elaine runs up to meet Benjamin)

Benjamin: Elai—oh, one sec. My friend just sent me a link to a video called “Charlie Bit Me.” He says it’s pretty hilarious. I’m just gonna check it out real quick.

Elaine: You still want to get married, right?

Benjamin: Totally! I just need you to sign this pre-nup first. You know, in case it doesn't work out. I was having sex with your mom a few weeks ago, so I figure we’ve got a 50-50 shot, at best.

 

Edward Small himself just graduated from Dickinson College.  He interned at The Onion in the summer of 2008 and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.

Your Facebook Colonoscopy

Hey, it's me, your favorite hip, tech-savvy, "with-it" gastroenterologist, Dr. McGrath! I emailed before, but the auto-reply said you're out of the country and gave this phone number. Anyway, I've taken the liberty of posting the photographs of your recent colonoscopy to Facebook, tagging you in each of them. Just a heads-up that they've generated a lot of comments, so be prepared to sort through a bunch of email when you get back...

No, not just the internal photos of your colon and small bowel -- also the preparatory shots of you, half-naked and anesthetized on the table, as we inserted the long flexible tubing.  How did I get pictures of that? Um, I think my brand-new iPhone might have a digital camera with zoom!  Duh!...

"A serious breach of patient-doctor confidentiality, " you say? The very fact that you accepted my Facebook friendship after I invited you fourteen times sounds like you wanted me to share images and news of your polyps-removing procedure. Well, tentative news, in that I labeled one of the albums "High-Risk Colorectal Cancer Pics of Large Villous Mass in Cecum-What's YOUR Vote?" and invited everyone to observe the forthcoming follow-up exam.  (You're already scheduled for next Wednesday, 11:00 A.M.  Don't be late, as we're expecting a big crowd)...

No, you don't need to worry-though I suggested that you become a fan of "Chronic IBS Sufferers in Dayton, Ohio," you'll find you aren't the only one. I also posted my suggestion on your wall, so I'm sure a lot of your friends will sign up, too. And it includes that story about the time you had a mortifying accident at work you've kept hidden so far, so the stigma for others will be alleviated...

Hold on, I'm having some problems uploading the photos to TwitPic. God,  that's annoying...

Yes, I understand, but think about the positive aspects of this: you're now going to get a ton of relevant health products directly advertised to you, thanks to the email I sent with my diagnosis to your Gmail account and the hospital's listserv...

Oh, that sound you just heard? It's an MP3 of the severe gas you experienced post-procedure caused by air insufflation into the colon. I've put it on my blog for medical reference, along with a recording of this conversation as it's occurring. Technology, huh?  So, see you later-though, to be technically accurate, I've installed a camera inside your large intestine, so I guess I'm "seeing" you now, as are 3,258 other viewers on the live YouTube channel. Judging from what's going on in there, it looks like you're vacationing in Mexico...

Yep, that's right--I also posted a candid picture of you from the waiting room. Given the fluorescent lighting and low-quality security camera, it's not the most flattering shot. Totally understood  if you want me to take it down.


Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel Kapitoil, available from Harper Perennial.

June Weddings -- III

(After the New York Times)
 
                                          Meghan Mallory
                                      Muhammar Qaddafi
 
Megan Mallory of Syosset, Long Island,  and Colonel Muhammar Qadaffi, of Libya,  are to be married this weekend in the Mosque of the Five Djinns in Syosset.  Ms. Mallory, who swears she will be 18 by the end of this announcement, is the daughter of James Mallory, also of Syosset, a trader in radioactive elements known in Russia and the Middle East as "Strontium Jimmy." Her mother, who has remarried, is Ethel Nitrate, yet again of Syosset,  a formerly retired retirement counselor. The bride is a graduate of the Ortiz School of Spot Welding and works as a clanger at Test Your Metal, Inc.

The couple met during their appearance on the reality TV show "Beauty and the Petty Tyrant." According to Ms. Mallory, she picked Colonel Qadaffi out from among the other sheiks and martinets "because of that black pillbox situation on his head."  She added, "I was also turned on by the 'Q' without a 'u'. That takes real courage." Ms. Mallory welded the couple's wedding rings out of international plug prongs.  She said, "I did it as a symbol of'--" and here she blushed.

Qaddafi, 67 years old, was born in a Bedouin family near Sirt. Although this claim is not proven, there is speculation that his biological father was Al Jolson, whose passport shows a Lebanese stamp  dated 1941.  

 

Colonel Qaddafi categorically denies that his interest in Ms. Mallory has anything to do with her father's access to enriched uranium, even though he has said that he was attracted to her by "a certain glow." 

 

His previous marriage ended in a draw.

 

 

Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

June Weddings -- II

(After the New York Times)

                                                           Panamada Ramada
                                                                 Kekko Ippikak      
 
Panamada  Ramada and Kekko Ippikak  were married on Friday by Sri Pandit Jujubi, a whatchamacallit, an Indian clergy guy,  in South Oranji--I mean South Orange, New Jersey at the Nearly Universalist church. The bride, 26, will take a new name from whitepages. com at the start of every day. She is a hedge-fund manager for Bet Your Hedges LLC, LLP, LMNOP, in New York, a company that invests in greenery, mulch, and garden-tool futures.  "This is an arranged marriage," Mrs. Entwhistle (her name on Friday) said.  "In the sense that I arranged my lingerie just so when Kek first came over for dinner." She is the daughter of Dr. Uttar Pradesh Ramada, a pain-management specialist whose upper limit is 7 on a scale of 10,  and Ruth Liebowitz, a retired cooper, also of South Orange.  She graduated from Mrs. Pappajohn's College, in Gris Gusse, Quebec, with a degree in alternative packaging.

Mr. Ippikak, 46, originally from Helsinki, is an  adviser in the field of financial deviance risk-aversion metempsychosis management administration. "It's hard to explain," he says, "but just imagine you flipped coins a hundred times and found only one or two of them when you were finished  and I had the rest--that should give you a rough idea."  The son of two Finns--Dorsal and Huickelberrij-- Mr. Ippikak says that when he first saw Mrs. O'Shaughnessy (his wife's name yesterday), "I knew she was considerably younger than I was, but somehow I didn't mind."   His parents have earned fame in Finland for counting backward by thirteens.

The story of the couple's first date, which involved burning tires, Alan Greenspan, and a monsoon off southern Indonesia is fascinating, but as you might guess, it is too complicated to go into here.  


Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

June Weddings -- I

(After the New York Times)

                                                       Francesca Marinade
                                                              Joe Falangian
      
Francesca Calliope Marinade and Joseph de J. Falangian are to be married on the subway on Sunday by the Wrong Reverend Peter Petco. The bride, 31, will take her husband's name on weekends. "We want to be married on the F Train because that is where we met," said Ms. Marinade. "Joe came over to where I was sitting and asked me what I was reading. Since I wasn't reading anything, I knew that either we had the same sense of humor or he was blind. Luckily it turned out to be the former. Then he asked the blind person sitting next to me what he was reading and we had a good laugh over that." 

Ms. Marinade is the daughter of Jamienne Marinade, of the Aleutian Islands, and a stranger in the night who had appeared on an episode of "The Most Dangerous Catch" and the next day was washed overboard.  She works as an event planner for Eventually Yours,which plans events for kindergartens on the DelMarVa peninsula. She graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in "Twilight" Studies.

The bridegroom, also 31 and an event planner serving the Alzheimer community in Delaware ("They never show up," he says sadly), will take both of his wife's names when the mood strikes him, mainly on Saturday nights.  He  also attended  Harvard but refused to attend the graduation ceremony because he of his conviction that if Doctor of Philosophy is abbreviated Ph.D., then Bachelor of Arts should be abbreviated Ar.B. His major was Macaronics. "I dated Franny a  few times in college, but she rubbed me the wrong way back then," he says. He is the son of Benjamin Franklin Falangian, of Amenia Union, New York. Mr. Falangian owns a fleet of taxis, largely in rusting desuetude. "What was I thinking?" he says. Mrs. Falangian died of boredom not long ago.

World Cup Flag Facts

The high tedium quotient of the average soccer game  for most Americans affords motivation for the eye to wander--as mine is wandering right now-- and take in the event's vibrant surroundings, including the flags whose colors provide the teams with the design of their uniforms.  But not many know the backgrounds of these banners. Here is a handful of examples.

 

-- Brazil: few realize that that the flag of this historic world soccer power was borrowed from the label on a 1930’s lard pail, incorporating  a yellow diamond, a blue planet, and myriad stars, on a background of a rich green not found in nature. Flashy but confusing -- almost certainly a stopgap,  while this historically unsettled nation grapples with its identity. Coffee more important than rubber? Bossa Nova bigger than both? Let’s figure out all this and more, the Brazilian flag is saying to itself, and then come up with a design that shows it to the world.
 
-- Italy’s familiar green-white-red tricolor was designed in hopes of being mistaken for the even more familiar flag of richer, sexier France, tops worldwide in five-star Guide Michelin restaurants, host to the ultra-glamorous Cannes Film Festival, and otherwise always one-upping its Mediterranean neighbor. Italian military bands have occasionally been known to  strike up “Le Marseillaise” at public events, for similar reasons. And France has filed an injunction to prevent Italy from changing the name of Leaning Tower of Pisa to the Leaning Tower of Eiffel. “A line must be drawn somewhere,” sniffs the head of the Acadamie des Souvenirs Francaise. 
 
-- South Korea: Are the interlocking red and blue teardrop shapes forming that ball at the center of South Korea’s flag celebrating the qualities of yin and yang, and are those Korean-language quotation marks at the four corners making an ironic comment? Or is the design meant to represent a Zen soccer ball vibrating in place? An expert on South Korean history and heraldry explains: “The whole thing is basically meaningless, actually. We just wanted to drive Kim Jong-il and those clowns up north bananas by coming up with something they think is a secret code that they can’t decipher.  Plus, of course, it looks very good on the tail of an airliner.” 
 
-- Few people realize that the flag of Greece is patterned after a Ralph Lauren summer men’s shirt--crisp blue-and-white stripes with a white cross in the upper left hand corner taking the place of the polo rider. Take a good look at it now, while you can, because as one of the conditions for the bailout of the Greek economy, the European Union will require Greece to change the pattern to a pure white background on which a large amount of red ink has been splattered.
 
-- World Cup contenders Slovakia, Serbia and Slovenia share identical flag designs of horizontal red-white-and-blue bands, distinguished from one another only by a tiny superimposed national escutcheon. History tells us that these striking look-alikes were the handiwork of a fast-talking traveling flag salesman who swept through the region after the Balkan wars and sold all three sovereign nations the same design. By the time the three nations compared flags and the scam was uncovered, he was long gone.
 
-- To summarize: Of the 23 nations represented in World Cup competition, 12 fly flags consisting of simple vertical or horizontal bands of varying colors. Why the boring similarities? Research reveals that schoolchildren draw more flags than any other group in the population of a given nation, so the design must be geared to a child’s minimal graphic skills. And because the standard-issue schoolroom crayon box contains only red, yellow, blue, black and green, these – plus the white of a blank page -- are the colors most often seen in national flags.  And did you know that Uzbekistan's flag used to be a lion's head with the body of a sea turtle, because--

 

Wait!  Things are getting exciting down on the field. A player appears to be coughing and yawning at the same time!
 
        
Bruce McCall is a New York artist and writer whose work frequently appears in the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

Another Mixed (Up) Review

Hero or Hypocrite: A Life of Alton Abermarle
By Philip Flunt
Jorgensen Press; 221 pp.
 
Alton Julius Abermarle’s Pleasure Palace, a massive stone structure with turrets, hidden chambers and an eat-in kitchen, is mentioned for the first time on page B7 of the Charleston Post and Courier, on February 3, 1861. An accompanying photograph shows a smiling Abermarle shaking hands with President Lincoln. Abermarle, in his free hand, holds a laminated sign that reads, “Right after this photo we're going out for chili dogs."

The photograph adorns the cover of the historian Philip Flunt's new biography of Abermarle, the South Carolina aristocrat renowned as an evangelist of unorthodox sexual practices, proponent of a life centered around sadomasochism and inventor of a bestselling device called the Sue Schwartz. In his journal, Abermarle described it, in typical blushing and giggly fashion, as “a thing that, with the push of a button, pours hot coffee on your unsuspecting partner’s back while you and your unsuspecting partner are you-know-whatting.” His inventions and writings, especially the 1864 novella “Reader, I Blindfolded Her,” have earned him the longtime and unparalleled renown of the S&M community, but Flunt's book has unleashed a moral outcry and fierce debate with its assertion that Abermarle owned slaves.

In “Hero or Hypocrite,” Flunt gets several prominent intellectuals on the record, and even tracks down the elusive president of the Abermarle Society, who agreed to an interview only if Flunt would strap him into a leather chair and sear the answers out of him with a hot poker. There is a touching scene when Flunt has a moment of ethical reckoning: “I knew from experience that no doesn’t always mean no, but every time I touched the poker to his back he cursed me and cried out in agony for his Aunt Beatrice. Yet the interview was going quite well: such great quotes! Later, as we sat pleasantly over fruit tarts on his delightful wraparound porch, I learned that his Aunt Beatrice singlehandedly raised him and his seven siblings. What an amazing woman.”

Flunt also speaks with Bob Gerston, the editor of The Abermarle Quarterly; its pages have lately raged with debate on whether, given the slavery possibility,  Abermarle still deserves unequivocal praise. “When I was young, I worshipped Abermarle,” Gerston tells Flunt, disappointedly adding that he considers slave ownership a “deal breaker.” “He was my moral compass,” Gerston continues. “As a young man I retraced the steps of his 1854 pilgrimage to Barcelona. Later, I reenacted, down to the last detail, the events of his 45th birthday party, which is to say I watched as my 18-year-old son, who had given his consent, was ceremonially slathered with chipotle mayonnaise as I received a back massage from a recently-fired short order cook. Imagine my shame and sense of moral betrayal when I learned Abermarle was capable of treating other human beings with anything less than respect.”

But while some have turned against Abermarle, others accuse defectors of naivete. “How do you think he built the Pleasure Palace?” asks Gio von Pinclowicz, an associate sadist with the firm Punch, Morrissey, and Slaps. “Certainly not by himself, and certainly not by paying construction workers a living wage. Abermarle, famously, only paid for three things: knit caps, humorous welcome mats, and matches, which he would use to set his own leg hair ablaze while gazing through binoculars at a framed portrait of his attractive fourth-grade teacher, Sue Schwartz.”

If anything, the book leaves you with a sense of just how important it has become for intellectuals to take a stand on Abermarle, and the perils of taking the wrong one. One fervent Abermarle supporter, the gaffe-prone masochist Leonard Sprits, has found himself an outcast in the community after suggesting that even if the Pleasure Palace was built with slave labor, the slaves were duly compensated. “We have records of the slaves being humiliated and even called filthy, offensive names,” he tells Flunt. “It was basically paradise.”


Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times.

Calling the World Cup

Uh, hello, loyal World Cup TV watchers. I’m John McGrath, your new announcer, from Shaker Heights, Ohio. And I want to make it clear that the previous announcer is not at all being held hostage by a terrorist organization, that in no way have I been thrust into duty unwillingly from my seat nearby in the stadium on my family’s vacation in South Africa, and that I have certainly not been given the proviso that if I don't fill the time and call the game competently, I will be killed in an internationally symbolic attack on U.S. colonialism and ignorance.

So here I am, watching England versus…those flags look like--yes, it's definitely Brazil.Of course, outside of America they call it "football," because the game is played with the feet, though in the U.S. they named it after the socks they wear, so there it's known as "soccer." Except the goalie can use his hands, obviously. But maybe only in that, like, what looks like a helicopter landing zone, with the white lines around it? It goes out onto the lawn from that net thing.

Nice pass to the middle fielder. Midfielder? Yeah, that sounds about right-- midfielder. Since he's in the middle of the field. Now, it appears like he can play both offense and defense.  Can't he?  I think they all can, because they're all running around at random, it seems--I just meant he's sort of designed to do it. Because he's in the middle. Of the field. Hence, again, the position of "midfielder.Ooh, they just threw something yellow at someone who might well be Boris Becker--um, David Beckham. A yellow flag? Card, a yellow card. Which constitutes a warning, I believe. He'll be kicked out if he receives a second yellow card. I'm sure that'd put an unpleasant shrimp on the barbie of his wife, Australian singer Kylie Minogue.

Boy, maybe Beckham really shouldn’t have let his temper get the best of him there. We should all remember that anger and violence are never the answer, both on the field and especially off it in a padlocked television booth packed with hair-trigger explosives.

Brazil will kick the ball back in after England kicked the ball out of the boundaries of fair territory. Oh, yeah, I forgot--they can also use their hands on the throw-in. Wow, a lucky break for Brazil, as Ronaldinho takes several steps before tossing it in but isn't whistled for traveling. Get your eyes checked, ump!

Ronaldinho… That's not his whole name, is it? Although all the Brazilians seem to do that, like whatshisname. Can't believe I'm blanking on this one... You know, the really famous guy from the seventies...Pelé! That was weird--I could remember the sarcastic joke people make when you kick something badly, but all I could think of was "polo."  Just to recap, the joke is, "Nice one, Pelé," or alternatively, "Kick it over here, Pelé."

You hear that? The Brazilian fans are singing. No doubt a translation of "We Will Rock You." Or maybe "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)." Or maybe "The Lady from Y-Panama."

Ah, right--heading the ball is fair game, too. But I think I read an article where they said that like American football players--I mean, what we call football--soccer, I mean, foreign-football--players have a lot of neurological problems. So, kids, make sure you always wear your soccer helmets, while your brains are still OK.  Too late for these guys, I guess.

England has a two-on-one breakthrough!  Breakahead. No--breakaway! They better watch out for the off-sides rule. It's the same as in hockey, yes? I remember that from gym. Uh, Jim Andrews, my soccer mentor. Anyway, here's the shot from who I've been assuming all along is Beckham...

And it caroms off the whaddyacallit!

But Brazil is called for a penalty, and England receives a penalty shot, or a "freedom kick." Omigod, look where all the Brazilian defenders are putting their hands! That's so funny! You'd think they'd wear cups or something.

 Beckham, or some guy who I think looks a lot like him, lines up, shoots, and--POIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNT!

And time expires as England wins, 1-0. Phew. Thank God that's over. Huh?  Injury time? What's that? Well, why don't they just stop the clock earlier? That's so dumb.

Man, this game is slow. World's most popular sport--seriously? It's got fewer goals than a Brooklyn hipster. Hey, isn't a rerun of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" on now?   Oh, right—just joking!  Of course I would never watch that crass show promulgating vapid American materialism. It’s enough to make you want to renounce your American citizenship and get out of here alive.

 

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel "Kapitoil," available from Harper Perennial.

Calling the World Cup

Uh, hello, loyal World Cup TV watchers. I’m John McGrath, your new announcer, from Shaker Heights, Ohio. And I want to make it clear that the previous announcer is not at all being held hostage by a terrorist organization, that in no way have I been thrust into duty unwillingly from my seat nearby in the stadium on my family’s vacation in South Africa, and that I have certainly not been given the proviso that if I don't fill the time and call the game competently, I will be killed in an internationally symbolic attack on U.S. colonialism and ignorance.

So here I am, watching England versus…those flags look like--yes, it's definitely Brazil.Of course, outside of America they call it "football," because the game is played with the feet, though in the U.S. they named it after the socks they wear, so there it's known as "soccer." Except the goalie can use his hands, obviously. But maybe only in that, like, what looks like a helicopter landing zone, with the white lines around it? It goes out onto the lawn from that net thing.

Nice pass to the middle fielder. Midfielder? Yeah, that sounds about right-- midfielder. Since he's in the middle of the field. Now, it appears like he can play both offense and defense.  Can't he?  I think they all can, because they're all running around at random, it seems--I just meant he's sort of designed to do it. Because he's in the middle. Of the field. Hence, again, the position of "midfielder.Ooh, they just threw something yellow at someone who might well be Boris Becker--um, David Beckham. A yellow flag? Card, a yellow card. Which constitutes a warning, I believe. He'll be kicked out if he receives a second yellow card. I'm sure that'd put an unpleasant shrimp on the barbie of his wife, Australian singer Kylie Minogue.

Boy, maybe Beckham really shouldn’t have let his temper get the best of him there. We should all remember that anger and violence are never the answer, both on the field and especially off it in a padlocked television booth packed with hair-trigger explosives.

Brazil will kick the ball back in after England kicked the ball out of the boundaries of fair territory. Oh, yeah, I forgot--they can also use their hands on the throw-in. Wow, a lucky break for Brazil, as Ronaldinho takes several steps before tossing it in but isn't whistled for traveling. Get your eyes checked, ump!

Ronaldinho… That's not his whole name, is it? Although all the Brazilians seem to do that, like whatshisname. Can't believe I'm blanking on this one... You know, the really famous guy from the seventies...Pelé! That was weird--I could remember the sarcastic joke people make when you kick something badly, but all I could think of was "polo."  Just to recap, the joke is, "Nice one, Pelé," or alternatively, "Kick it over here, Pelé."

You hear that? The Brazilian fans are singing. No doubt a translation of "We Will Rock You." Or maybe "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)." Or maybe "The Lady from Y-Panama."

Ah, right--heading the ball is fair game, too. But I think I read an article where they said that like American football players--I mean, what we call football--soccer, I mean, foreign-football--players have a lot of neurological problems. So, kids, make sure you always wear your soccer helmets, while your brains are still OK.  Too late for these guys, I guess.

England has a two-on-one breakthrough!  Breakahead. No--breakaway! They better watch out for the off-sides rule. It's the same as in hockey, yes? I remember that from gym. Uh, Jim Andrews, my soccer mentor. Anyway, here's the shot from who I've been assuming all along is Beckham...

And it caroms off the whaddyacallit!

But Brazil is called for a penalty, and England receives a penalty shot, or a "freedom kick." Omigod, look where all the Brazilian defenders are putting their hands! That's so funny! You'd think they'd wear cups or something.

 Beckham, or some guy who I think looks a lot like him, lines up, shoots, and--POIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNT!

And time expires as England wins, 1-0. Phew. Thank God that's over. Huh?  Injury time? What's that? Well, why don't they just stop the clock earlier? That's so dumb.

Man, this game is slow. World's most popular sport--seriously? It's got fewer goals than a Brooklyn hipster. Hey, isn't a rerun of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" on now?   Oh, right—just joking!  Of course I would never watch that crass show promulgating vapid American materialism. It’s enough to make you want to renounce your American citizenship and get out of here alive.

 

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel "Kapitoil," available from Harper Perennial.

Beef Encounters

                       “[50 Cent] used to start beefs effortlessly. Now when he taunts other rappers, they don’t bother replying, the equivalent of an unreturned phone call.”--The New York Times
 
I write my own taunts. Some guys get big, get an entourage, and they start delegating. For example, when Fluffanutta’s third album went double platinum, he got lazy and outsourced his taunts to a firm in India. Then his fourth album had that line about me: "He looks good from a distance, but take a look closa / His face resembles a lentil samosa.”

 

First of all, there are worse things than being compared to a delicious appetizer. But more importantly, the thing to understand is that being taunted is in itself a compliment, a measure of a rapper’s worth. When I look back on my career, some of my fondest memories have to do with beefs I got into. Consider what the beef provides: assurance of my own artistic relevance, a call to verbal dexterity, sheer competition. And you can learn things in a beef. For example, there was that time Lil’ Ebenezer, the Los Angeles rapper with literary ambitions, threatened to murder me and all my loved ones with the Oxford English Rhyming Dictionary. I went right out and bought it. Or the humiliating time in 2005 when the James Beard Foundation stepped into settle my three-year dispute with Big Huge Carl Wilkinson about how angel hair pasta got its name. 

 

Last year one of my throwaway taunts resulted in a lot of hurt feelings. I was trying to start something with Java, the sensitive Southern rapper who famously abandoned his thriving St. Louis orthopedic practice for a life in hip-hop. So in my song “Medical Analogies” I included the line, “Now I don’t claim to be a licensed psychiatrist/But Fitty to Java as docta to podiatrist.” I eagerly awaited his reply, but his next album was the one all about different kinds of transportation. He didn’t even acknowledge the insult. And then a few weeks later I got a cassette tape in the mail from Java’s publicist, and it was just six hours of Java saying, “I have bunions” really slowly.

 

Still, I have this tendency to run off at the mouth. Earlier this year Page Six ran a story about how N-Valope owed The New York Public Library more than forty dollars in unpaid fines for children’s books. The thing is, I don’t even consider N-Valope a rival. He’s actually kind of a sweetheart. But on my most recent album I improvised a line about him, suggesting that the reason he was taking so long to return those books was that he never advanced beyond a third grade reading level.  And then at the farmer’s market the other day I ran into him. I walked up to him while he was testing the ripeness of a Haas avocado and said, “You probably want to punch me in the face, and I don’t blame you.”

 

He just smiled and said, “Now, why would I want to do that?” Was he bluffing? And then guess who appeared? It was Fluffanutta, carrying a basketful of summer squash. Fluffanutta looked nervous.

 

“Yo, Fluffanutta,” N-Valope said. “Can you think of any reason why I’d want to punch 50 Cent here in the face?”

 

Fluffanutta paused thoughtfully. “Well, yes.”

 

I asked N-Valope if he’d heard the track. He said no, he’d heard that I’d gotten out of the music business and started a day-care center. He asked me to sing a bit for him. I said maybe some other time. A crucial aspect of the taunt is not being around when the other guy hears it, and as you know from his videos, N-Valope is not only ripped but also carries a green bow and arrow. But he insisted, so I sang a line for him: “While I was dousin’ puppies with hot sauce and kerosene/You was in the corner with Stan and Jan Berenstein.”

 

“You said that about me?” I nodded. He looked like he was going to be sick.

 

“Shame on you,” Fluffanutta said. “Adult illiteracy is a serious issue.”

 

Now N-Valope was in a full panic and his basket fell to the ground. I remarked that he had gathered a great variety of produce.

 

“I don’t get enough fiber,” he said defensively. “I’m constipated. Why don’t you write a song about it?” He stormed off in a fit of tears and Fluffanutta shook his head and made a clicking sound with his tongue.

 

The thing is, I had written a song about his fiber deficiency. Did even those taunts not reach him?

 

I have wasted my life.

 

Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times.

Brian Patterson: Repressed Gay Realtor

Welcome! Please, come right in. Yes, Andrew, we spoke on the phone. I didn’t realize you’d be bringing a friend. Hello, Sean. Well, this is New York, and it’s always safest not to answer ads and just show up alone. Granted, Andrew, you knew in advance that I was a man, so you knew you had nothing to fear, sexually. What can a man do to another man – shake his hand vigorously? I can’t imagine anything beyond that. If possibilities exist, I haven’t given them a thought. And even if I had, there’s a world of difference between thought and actually taking action.

Yes, yes, the apartment. It’s had some really interesting past tenants. Just people, trying to make ends meet, with wants and desires. People who, at the same time, were not slaves to those desires, people who didn’t let appetites eclipse other responsibilities and concerns. You know -- people.

When I show this place, I always like to mention, just as a reminder, that we’re on the Upper West Side in 2010, not 1950s suburban Connecticut. It’s one of the place’s best qualities. There are a lot of families in the building, but a lot of the women work. It’s not one of those situations where the housewives are lounging around the house in curlers and seducing every last man with tempting aromas of homemade baked goods. Because what do they say about us men? We think about sex seven times a minute? Helpless in the face of womanly temptation? There’s just none of that here. Which, you know, thank God.

Here’s the bathroom. It’s a terrific design. As you can see, the Jacuzzi tub has two seats. Imagine, a seat for your feet!

Let’s say you’ve both had hard day's at work – I mean, let’s say Andrew put in twelve hours at – what do you do, Andrew? A civil engineer? Really! Well, let’s say Andrew has been working on a design for a new, super-secret machine. And let’s say that this machine will, I don’t know, unlock previously forbidden pleasures. So Andrew comes home, ready for a bath. But Sean is in the bath. Well, problem solved. Andrew, you’ll just give a tap on the door, to let Sean know you’re waiting. Sort of like a “Honey, I’m home,” but between friends. And Sean, you’ll think, “Well, this has been nice but it’s time to finish up and get fully dressed.” And then Sean will leave the bathroom and Andrew will take a bath of his own. And let’s say that tonight Andrew isn’t in the mood to linger, he just wants a quick bath, and then he wants to go out and chat with Sean about how his day went. Well, it won’t matter, because even if Andrew takes a really quick bath, by the time he exits the bathroom, Sean will be asleep. Nothing will happen.

Here’s the TV room. Do you like movies? There are movies that show how in extreme weather situations even groups of men will huddle together for warmth. It’s that survival instinct that helps them to get past the weirdness of clinging to a bunch of other guys. Well, that’s a nice segue, because here’s the thermostat. It’s incredible that we live in a world where technology allows us to control the climate. With a turn of the dial, you can make the place really hot, or really cold, but you could never take it so far that it would qualify as extreme. You could live the rest of your lives in this apartment and no one would make a movie about it.

So, here's my card, and you'll notice that my partner's name and picture are on it as well. My business partner, of course. Partners in crime! Not to imply that the way some people live is a crime. Oh, and by the way, the bedroom can easily be converted into two smaller ones.

 

Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times.

Oil's Well

When life gives you lemons, you don’t sit around arguing if the lemons were created by shoddy government oversight, greedy corporations, or a curious octopus just trying to have a little fun. You make lemonade or sell the lemons to dumb kids and let them worry about it. Such is the case with the BP oil spill. We need to focus less on the negative and more on the positive.

We’ve never seen an oil spill of this magnitude, so who’s to say what will happen when the shores of Louisiana, Texas, and Florida--and probably the entire East Coast---are soaked with black gold? Maybe oil-drenched beaches will be the cure for cancer or chronic dry skin. You don't know, and don't pretend you do. Maybe when this much oil mixes with sand it becomes delicious. Maybe the oil will eat away at the sand, and reveal priceless treasures such as crowns, scepters, and more oil.

And what about all the good BP is doing for the economy right now by creating jobs and hiring an army of public relations associates? Prior to this event, the most a graduate with a degree in PR could hope for was to work for a mismanaged pharmaceutical company. But now? Whoa boy! These young spinnakers have the opportunity to defend one of the most hated companies in the world! No better PR gig exists, until news leaks that a certain brand of popular gum is made from children’s tears and spiders. (Hint: It’s not Trident.)

Plus, BP is subsidizing The New York Times with its full-page ads. Without BP’s support, the Times would crumble. Rumor has it that several Times reporters were seen covertly diving into the Gulf with big hammers, perhaps to widen the leak and prolong the situation, thus prolonging their jobs. This new corporate tactic is called the "Eh. Why Not?" maneuver, and will be discussed at length in the forthcoming journalism text book entitled "What? Stop Looking at Us Like That."

And think of the children. This happy accident has taught American’s school students the difference between crude oil and sweet oil, and is boosting other vocabulary skills across the board. This past weekend, a precocious 7-year-old girl was seen on the news saying things such as "accountability", "protocol", and "Will this be the final nail in the Democrats' coffin? We’ll have to wait until the November elections to find out. I like macaroni."

Workers at the Minerals Management Service, while trying to look sad and tense, must secretly be ecstatic that people actually know their agency exists. MMS employees can now finally tell others where they work without adding, "It’s a real thing. No really. It’s not about multiple sclerosis. Where are you going?"

And finally, we need oil. And now we’re literally drowning in it. If you’re starving and spot an overturned pie truck, do you stand around complaining that the pies are damaging the eco-system? Of course not! You eat! And when you’re full, you toss as many pies as you can into your van and speed away. So get down there to the Gulf and press those oily pelicans into big profits. 
 
Dan Bergstein often smells mustard when no one else does.

Resolution

What am I doing here?

 

 -- It was your New Year’s resolution -- to overcome one of your fears and go paragliding. Now you have to see it through.

 

I knew you’d remind me.

 

 -- I’m your inner motivating voice. I want you to realize your dreams.

 

But why’d I pick paragliding? 

 

 -- You’ve fantasized about it ever since 1997 when you and Arthur were lying side by side on Pompano Beach. You saw them soaring with their brilliant colors above you.

 

I thought about how it could be Arthur and me, floating above the world. Then I heard him snoring in the sand. He didn’t even accompany me down to West Virginia for my three-day paragliding adventure! Said he wanted to work on that sauna he’s been building for the last ten years. He’s perfectly satisfied with his life. Designing routers. Waiting for our daughter Eileen to give us some grandkids. A special night meaning dinner at the Olive Garden.

 

 -- You know there’s more. You want to be like your friend Tracy. You read her last Christmas letter about helicopter skiing in the Cariboo Mountains. You envy the way she lives her life to the fullest.

 

It’s true. Oh no! The instructor just announced that there’s only one person ahead of me. I’m not as brave as Tracy. I’m going home. 

 

 -- And admit defeat? You’re forty-eight. Soon you’ll be a grandmother. Then a great-grandmother. Do you really want to look back at the age of ninety-six and regret you didn’t take a few chances?

 

You’re right. I can do this.

 

 -- That’s the spirit! I’m proud of you.

 

 -- Well, I’m not. This is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done.

 

Great, it’s my inner fearful voice. Get out of my head! You’re even more afraid of taking chances than I am.

 

 -- I’m only looking out for your well-being. What if you hit a wind shear and keep going up into the sky?

 

Good point. I knew I shouldn’t do this.

 

 -- You’ll do fine.

  

 -- No, you won’t. You stared at the instructor’s muscles more than you listened to his lessons. I bet you don’t even remember what he said about using the paraglider vario.

 

Listening to you two reminds me of something Tracy said. That the reason she likes to take physical chances is because of the adrenalin rush, which silences all the little voices in her head.

 

 -- Aw, c’mon, who needs adrenalin when you could be relaxing by the hotel pool? No one would ever know you didn’t actually paraglide.

 

Oh no, it’s my inner mellow voice! I’d never do anything if I listened to you.

 

 -- That’s right, follow my words instead. Chill out.

 

 -- Don’t be crazy.

  

 -- Kick back, baby.

 

Would you three stop arguing? I just heard the instructor say I’m up. What should I do?

 

 -- Soar like a bird!

  

 -- Say your prayers!

  

 -- Ditch this scene and have a margarita at a nearby bar.

 

     * * *


Wow, Tracy was right. It’s amazingly beautiful up here. And quiet. It’s the first time in my life I’m not hearing those little voices.

 

 -- Hello!

 

What? Who are you? I don’t recognize this voice.

 

 -- I’m your innermost voice. You’ve never had a chance to hear me before because those other three voices chatter so loudly.

 

Well, what do you have to say? I’m really doing it.

 

 -- Big deal.

 

 

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.

What I Learned from "24"

In 2007, while speaking at an international conference on law and security, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited the “hundreds of thousands of lives” saved by Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer on the TV series "24" as a defense of “enhanced interrogation” tactics. And more recently, in a campaign ad, California Republican Senate hopeful Chuck DeVore asked the question, “Who would Jack Bauer vote for?”  Like Chuck DeVore and Justice Scalia, I too am a fan of "24. " And, what’s more, like them, I base many of my life decisions and my worldview on the actions of fictional characters on television. For example, if it wasn’t for Dr. House, I would never have discovered Vicodin. With a full week now to reflect upon the passing of this zeitgeist-defining American pop-culture phenomenon, I offer as tribute to the show some of the important lessons I have learned from the Bauer hour: 

 

CELL PHONES ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS

As with the atom bomb, America must strive to achieve and maintain strict controls over the use of cell phones, PDAs, and BlackBerries.  Time and time again, "24" has demonstrated that when used correctly and yelled into with a gravely voice, they can prevent the deaths of millions.  At the same time the program reminded us that the shocking proliferation of Bluetooth wireless ear pieces among shady power brokers, string-pullers, genocidal dictators, arms dealers, terrorist madmen, and Goldman Sachs execs could doom us all. 

 

TORTURE WORKS ONLY ON BAD PEOPLE

Probably the most controversial aspect of the show was the relentless invocation of the “ticking time bomb” scenario to justify the use of torture.  Critics have complained that the show's portrayal of torture as an interrogation tactic is unrealistic and dangerous, given its real world implications. These terror-huggers fail to realize that "24" made clear that torture works only on evil people.  Terrorists will always tell you where the bomb is, whereas if you torture someone with a clean conscience--like Jack--they will hold out until their heart stops. As an added benefit, this phenomenon, in what passes for real life, makes it always easy to tell good from evil -- it's called "The Salem Effect."

 

EVERYONE IS S A TERRORIST

If nothing else, "24" has taught us all to be constantly vigilant about the apocalyptic terrorist threats that completely surround us.   Chances are you may already be involved in a terrorist plot and not even know it.  So if you suspect that you, your boss, ex-wife, neighbor, co-worker, fiancé, child, or sitting US President is a terrorist, you and they all probably are.  How can you be sure?  See the above lesson, about torture.

 

THE HR DEPARTMENT AT CTU IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD

Whoever does the background checks on employees for the government’s Counter Terrorist Unit is either the single greatest threat facing America or is simply fulfilling a covert quota for traitors, moles, and double-agents required by all government agencies.  How else to explain a vetting process that seems to boil down to “Are you a terrorist or will you work for the terrorists? Check yes or no.”  

 

A BLACK PRESIDENT DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR

"24" gave us our first black president, our first female president, and our second Richard Nixon president.  If it wasn’t for David Palmer, there might be no Barack Obama.   Yet unlike the usual Hollywood trope of dragging Morgan Freeman or Danny Glover into the White House right before an asteroid or tsunami hits, "24" gave us a black president who doesn’t preside over the what may be the end of the world. (But between Wall Street and the Gulf Coast things may yet work out according to script.)

 

HOW TO TELL TIME

Before "24," the numbers that flash in the corner of my television screen during sporting events confused me.  Sometimes they would seem to be getting bigger, while other times it looked like they were getting smaller. That was before I had "24's" tutorial to help me understand that they represented the passing of time.  I now get a full 8 episodes of sleep every night.

 

What I have learned from 24 will live on as testament to the legacy of the show, and will also provide solace, meaning, and protection for me and everyone else who just learned that life is a meaningless sham from the last epsiode of "Lost." 

 
 
Will Menaker hearts Chloe O’Brian.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.