Displaying articles for: August 2010

Middle School Tips

     Going to middle school, or Junior High if your school district is being prissy about names, is a time of growing, changing, and terror. But this guide (for the first time in English!) will not only get your through these awkward years. We have found that it will also make you nice and slender, for some reason!

Dress:

     Because your body will change drastically during these few short years, don’t waste money on form-fitting clothes that you will outgrow in a week. Instead, buy sweatpants and loose-fitting magician shirts. Instead of expensive shoes, cover your feet with warm, pliable modeling clay. And in the wintertime, buy only falconer’s gloves and get them at least three sizes too big so you can grow into them and also get super-protection against all those falcons with really big, sharp claws.

 

Myths:

     Smoking does not make you look cool. A better way to look rebellious is to support an unpopular war, and if you want to look really sophisticated, wear a top hat (or two) and become a Gustave Flaubert scholar. We have reason to believe that this is how Brad Pitt became so popular.

 

Facts:

     -Your gym teacher will ask you to run the mile. Train for this event by running thirty feet (roughly the length of a 25-foot boat) every day, for 176 days. This equals one mile. So by the end of the 176 days, you and your body should be prepared. Or you can bypass this task entirely by becoming pregnant and getting a note from your doctor. If you're a guy, get a girl pregnant and drop out and work in an auto-body shop.
     -Pluto is no longer a planet, the thumb is no longer a finger, and the triceratops is now no longer a real dinosaur. Science loves to prove your teachers wrong, and it’s just a matter of time before the number 7 is no longer a number but, technically, a flavor. If you go ahead and treat it as such now, you will either be considered a genius or score  minus-34raspberry (formerly minus-347) on your Math SATs.
     -Dating is going to be tricky in middle school because no one likes you. You knew that, right? Anyway, it’s no big deal, because soon you can move on to high school and college, and get lost in the background. Hang in there!
     -In order to seem hip and filled with angst, be the first one in your school to read "The Catcher in the Rye" and pretend that you love it. The truth is, no one really likes this book. We all read it because it seems like the right thing to do. It’s the same reason we eat tomatoes on hamburgers and tip the guys who bring our cars to us in parking lots. Oh--you didn't know about that? What did you think—that your dad was making a donation to the United Way?
     -Measuring angles can be tough. Here’s a simple trick: If the angle looks like the letter L, it’s 90-degrees. If it looks like a very skinny letter V that’s tilted, it’s probably 60-degrees or maybe 40. If it looks like this--^^^^--it means “mountains” on most treasure maps.


Teachers:

     Middle school teachers are only teaching right now as a way to make a living until their novel, about growing up in a dysfunctional family during the 1970s, is published or made into a Lifetime Original Movie starring either Ally Sheedy with a lot of "work" done or Meghan Somebody or Other.


Possible Answer (if called upon):

     “Photosynthesis” or "Indentured servant."

 

Pro Tip:

     Spice up any boring history class by raising your hand and asking, “Who won the Vietnam war?” or, “Pirates were once horrible, brutal people and now they are cartoon characters. Does that mean terrorists will one day be action figures you get with a fast food meal?”
 
Dan Bergstein was captain of the Football Team in high school. ("Football Team" was the name of his canoe.)

Grade School Tips

     A lot will happen between Grades 1 and 6. You will learn about fractions. You will learn why drugs are bad. And your parents will get divorced. (Sorry you had to hear it from us.) But with this handy back-to-school guide, you can breeze through these years unharmed and come out a better, stronger, taller, student who will probably abuse drugs and have tons of premarital sex.

 

Dress:

     It’s important to wear layers–eight layers, to be exact. The first three layers will keep you warm. The middle two layers will protect you from most Africanized bees and runaway drug needles, and the outer three layers will prevent you from feeling erotic. During these years, you must protect yourself from killer bees, drugs, and eroticism at all costs. According to news reports—and, quite frankly, they seem to know what they’re talking about—many children your age are already beginning to get high and pregnant, and those who aren’t are killed by bees. This is probably because they’re not wearing enough clothes. You may also consider wearing a helmet, to prevent brain injury and to stop birds from getting caught up in your hair as they attempt to give you bird flu.


Myth:

     If you don’t kiss someone by 6th grade, you are a loser. This isn’t true. It doesn’t matter if you kiss someone by the time you enter middle school, as long as you’re wearing the eight layers at all times.

 

Facts:
     -Reading is a big part of grade school. Since you’re already reading this article, you should be in good shape. If you cannot understand these words, ask a grownup for help. Hi, grownup! Don’t take this the wrong way, but your kid is kind of a moron. Don’t tell him I said that. Tell him this paragraph is about the zoo. Kids love that sort of thing. Anyway…so, are you seeing anyone? I’m having some friends over for some drinks later and … Oh, never mind. Yeah. It’d be weird, with the kid and all. But you should hit me up on Facebook or just stop by the coffeehouse. I’m doing some poetry there on Tuesday afternoons, in addition to writing these guides. I’m a poet. It’s just a hobby right now, but you never know. Talk to you later. Hey, do you party? Never mind. I’m just goofing around … sort of.

     -To get the most out of recess, it’s important to develop a certain skill, such as the ability to throw something far, or sing a song without using your mouth. Failure to do this will result in becoming nothing but a spectator and the rest of your life will be plagued with thoughts of “What if,” and “Why isn’t my wife as pretty as Jim’s?" or " '' ... my husband as handsome as Jim's,” as the case may be.

     -If you get picked on by bullies, you have to understand the most important thing about the situation, which is that it's not really our problem and we’d rather not get involved. You understand, right?

     -Start showing signs of maturity by calling the bathroom a “lavatory” or “restroom." You should also stop calling the elevator an “up-up” and stop using the word “ostentatious,” because you’re not using it correctly. (It doesn’t mean "more than ten" or "super-outstanding.")

     -Need help with multiplication? Here’s an easy tip: Assign letters to the numbers, and then step back and see what happens. 

     -Don’t bring nice things to school. If you take your fancy MP3 player, cell phone, or champion thoroughbred horse semen to school, it may get lost, broken, or stolen. Then your parents will no longer trust you with nice things or will start home-schooling you, which is even worse than school.

 

Teacher Types:

     Most grade school teachers know only about grade-school subjects. They can tell you all you need to know about whales and the Underground Railroad, but if you ask them about macro-economics in a loud voice, they will be paralyzed with fear for a few minutes and then send you to the principal's office for shouting an obscenity.

 

Possible Answer (if called upon):
     “Panama canal.”

 

Pro Tip:

     This is your very last chance to wear a cape to school.
 
Dan Bergstein often misuses the word “literally” by saying, “I’d like some literally for breakfast, please.”

Kindergarten Tips

     What can you expect during your first year of academia? Will it be fun? Will everyone hate you because you take off all of your clothes to use the restroom? Is there a God? These are the questions racing through every child’s mind on the eve of their first day of kindergarten. And so we have created the following guide. Following our advice, kindergartners will have the best year of their lives … which isn't saying all that much, if you think about it, but still.

Dress:

     If your mom makes you wear overalls, be sure to unfasten one buckle. This will keep you “street.” But unbuckle only the right buckle, as detaching the left buckle is a sign that you’re "weird," selling drugs, and supporting communism. This can be quite tricky, because you probably can't  tell which side is left or right. If you’re confused, simply try unbuckling one side. If someone approaches you looking to buy drugs or some communism, you know you did it wrong.

Myths:

     Older siblings and mean uncles enjoy spreading rumors about kindergarten. Take what they say with a grain of salt. For instance, your teacher does not keep her dead twin sister’s corpse in the supply closet. She keeps it in several buckets located in the art room. So rest easy.

Things to Know:

     -Study up on triangles and the color blue before setting foot in the classroom. Mastering these subjects now will make life easier for you later. If you need help, always remember that triangles are just circles with straight lines and three "hats,"  and the color blue looks like the color green, but stronger.

     -You will sing quite a bit about farming. Don't let these songs fool you. Farming is important, but there are many other opportunities out there. More and more kindergarten classes are including songs about maritime lawyers, anesthesiologists, and business-to-business marketing-firm associates, but not nearly enough.

     -Many people confuse lower-case letter B’s with lower-case letter D’s. You’re not alone. You can make this mistake eight times without any sort of penalty. After that, every time you transpose the letters, God kills a little dunny rabbit. Oops. Tying your shoes is difficult, but this simple poem helps:

    The snake crawls around the shepherd, and into the cave.

    He curls up in an obsequious manner while disrespecting the knave.

    He travels left, like a Scotsman, and bends forcefully moon-ward.

    He senses his brother’s biotelemetry, and his movements are deferred.

    The brother tumbles irrationally, yet ascends with arrogance towards

            disillusionment.

    The vanity of youth gives way to detestation … the makings of a malcontent.

    Tying your shoes sure is fun.

    Tug on the elephant's ears and you’re done!

Teacher Types:

     Your teacher will be a woman, or an undercover male cop like in that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.  It’s easy to confuse your teacher with your mom, but remember that you mom thinks you’re perfect, and your teacher thinks your lack of social skills may require medication.

 

Possible Answers (when called upon):

     “Pilgrims."

 

Pro Tip:

     It’s called, “volleyball.” Not, “bally-ball.”

Dan Bergstein does not know that for the hitter, an error counts as an at-bat.

Apologies

Some of my words and actions on this show lately have been inexcusable. Sometimes you have to stand firm in your convictions and bravely face your accusers. Other times you have to come clean, own up, and apologize. It's what my grandfather, early in life, referred to as "being a man." And what he referred to, later in life, after he had sorted out his issues, as "being a man trapped in a woman's body."

I'll start at the beginning.

 

We have a segment here on The Evelyn Smits-Davis Show called "American Vay-Cay," where people send in photographs from their vacations.  And since it's a radio show, my listeners, of course, can't see the photos. So I describe them. It's a joyous time for me each day – a literal snapshot of the American family.

 

But during an on-the-air call last week with Peggy Yates, from Bethesda, Maryland, I said something way out of line. I was overtired and my comments about her photograph veered off in a direction I hadn't planned, and still can't fully explain. I didn't mean to offend people, but I did. And that makes it wrong. Here's the beginning of the clip: "Well, isn't that a good looking family! Listeners, I wish you could see this. We've got Peggy, her shirtless husband, Randy, and a couple little tykes spread out on a beach blanket, enjoying a picnic lunch."

 

I won't play the rest. But as you've probably heard, it involves, among other things, my saying a word with a vile history in this country. Six hundred and eighty four times.
My hope is that my mistake will be the catalyst for a much-needed dialogue about chest freckles--which of course should not be considered grounds, as I said at the time, for "a spanking, then deportation, then a spanking."

 

I hope that we can put that unfortunate incident behind us. And move on to the inexcusable thing I did the following day.  My guest was the actress Ashley Penniman, who was here to promote her new film, "Bones Schneiderman." Ashley Penniman is so young and so lovely, and was very gracious in her appearance. Which, I'm sure, made my treatment of her seem all the worse.

 

Sometimes we do things we can't explain. We have a randomly used segment on the show called, "Captive Audience," where I sing to the guests, who are always taken aback because they assumed they'd have the chance to talk about themselves and their work. To Ashley, I sang "The Star Spangled Banner," our country's beautiful national anthem. But that's not the whole story. I replaced every fourth word with a word I will not repeat now, because I've since learned it is a euphemism for "otter vasectomy," and is thus extremely offensive to the Dutch.

 

As soon as I finished the song, I knew I'd make a terrible mistake. But this is talk radio, and the show must go on. Doing the right thing, the heroic thing – maybe offing myself with cyanide smoothie--just wasn't an option. I couldn't just leave twenty minutes of dead air. So I sang it again.

 

Sadly, this pales in comparison to my inexcusable behavior the next day.   As you recall, we did some cooking last week, when the celebrity chef Suze Campanelli was on. She was so kind, and so pretty, and I don't know if she'll be returning to the show because of how things ended, but if you're listening, Suze, I'm sorry for using the end of that segment to reveal that I'd placed a suggestive classified ad in The New York Review of Books claiming to be written by your  thick-ankled Aunt Rosemary. 

Finally, I need to apologize to the family of one of my longtime listeners, Rotini Johnson, of Oklahoma City. This morning, in response to Suze's informative segment on authentic Italian cooking, Mr. Johnson called in. At this point my mind was very much on dealing with Ashley Penniman's lawyers, who were demanding to see proof of my medical degree, which they claim is the only thing that will justify the Mammogram Surprise segment, which followed "Captive Audience." 

 

So I was distracted. But it's no excuse for the way I treated Mr. Johnson. He seemed delusional, and believed that because I had pronounced his first name during the Italian cooking segment, I might help him.  He said he was nearing the end, and simply needed to hear a human voice. Assuming a hoax, and wary of saying something offensive, I stayed silent. As much of the country now knows, thanks to the segment being played over and over again on cable news alongside a photo of my head, Mr. Johnson passed away during that call. Having since learned that he was of Dutch extraction, I must further apologize for slipping up and saying that vile word right before we cut to a commercial. I thought the mic was off. It's my sincere hope that my mistake will spur a national dialogue on the wisdom of naming your kid after a noodle.

 

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

Scared Straight

[Editor's Note:  This piece by Simon Rich originally ran earlier this year.  An explanation from Daniel Menaker about our August schedule follows below.]

 

  For years, "Scared Straight" programs have exposed juvenile delinquents to prison inmates in order to deter them from a life of crime. After meeting hardened convicts and hearing about the harsh realities of jail, many young offenders get off the road to ruin and put their lives back on track. The program was recently expanded to help other types of at-risk youths:
 
     Philosophy Majors
 
-- I understand you're a philosophy major.
-- Yeah, I'm really enjoying it.
-- Well, my name is Mr. Greenbaum and I'm here to scare you straight.
-- Oh. Okay.
-- I was a philosophy major too. I wrote a 160-page thesis in support of Rawlsian ethics.
-- That's pretty cool.
-- Yeah. Now I work for a company that makes bricks.
-- Oh.
-- I tried to get a job as a philosopher, but it turns out that job doesn't exist.
-- So... now you work in a factory?
-- I wish I worked in the factory. If I did some physical labor, I'd probably be less obese. I work in the front office. I spend nine hours a day in this tiny chair.
-- What do you do all day?
-- Not philosophy.
-- What are all these papers on your desk?
-- They're called R-72 forms.  I don't know what they do. I just fill them out to look busy, so they won't fire me. When I finish a hundred, I put them in a box. Then I carry the box to the basement and just leave it there. Even if I had free will, I'd have no choice.
-- Do you ... still support Rawlsian ethics?
-- I have a new philosophy now. It's called "My whole life is a nightmare."
-- I guess ... maybe I should try pre-med?
-- Good for you, son. That's a start.
 
     High School Sweethearts
 
-- So you really love your girlfriend, huh?
-- Yeah, Kayla's amazing. We met in 10th grade and we've been together ever since.
-- I got married when I was your age. Here's a picture of my wife at the wedding.
-- Whoa--nice work!
-- Yeah. Here's a picture of her now....That's right -- look at it. Take a long, hard look.... Okay. Now I'm going to play you a message she left on my answering machine this morning. (starts speakerphone)
-- Why is she screaming?
-- It's hard to tell. She's probably out of cigarettes. When I met her, she only smoked three a day.
-- (shaking) That's how many Kayla smokes!
-- Now my wife tears through a carton in three days.
-- Jesus.
-- Our therapist said I need to plan a special evening for her. I was thinking I could dump a garbage bag full of cigarettes on the floor so she can waddle in them like an animal. That's probably the only thing that would bring her pleasure. (phone rings) Oh God. It's her. It's the monster. Is this how you want to spend your life? Learn from me!
 
     Reality Television Stars
 
-- I hear you're going to be on TV.
-- Yeah, the Real World Cancun! It's going to be a non-stop party. Hey...wait a minute. You look familiar.
-- I was on Road Rules nine years ago.
-- Oh yeah! You're that guy who said that racist thing.
-- That's right. That's who I am now, forever. "That Guy Who Said That Racist Thing."
-- Well ... that won't happen to me. I'll just make sure not to say any racist things on camera.
-- You'll slip up.
-- But I'm not a racist!
-- It doesn't matter. It's bound to happen. It's how those shows are set up!
-- (runs away in fear) 


Humorists
 
-- So you want to be a humorist, huh?
-- That's my goal! Maybe someday I can even write for your magazine.
-- My magazine is folding next week. The entire industry is in ashes.
-- Oh. What about newspapers?
-- I assume you're joking.
-- Well,  then... what's left? There's got to be some place where written humor is still valued.
--There are a few digital outlets, if you're really desperate.

-- I'll take it!
 
 
Simon Rich is the author of two humor collections, "Ant Farm" and "Free-Range Chickens." He currently writes for "Saturday Night Live."

 

 

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A Seasonal Note to Our Readers from Grin & Tonic Editor Daniel Menaker:  

 

Mainly,  what on earth are you doing, reading this in the second half of August?  Trade this screen for sunscreen, get out there among the stinging jellyfish and tarballs and riptides, ogle men if you're a woman, women if you're a man, men if you're a gay man, women if you're a gay woman, yourself if you are alone and not entirely hideous, collect shells and then throw them away when they start to make unsightly bulges in the pockets of your trunks or the tops of your bikinis, marvel at the horshoe-crab exoskeleton just above the tideline, recall that it is one of the most ancient survivors among all living things, ogle it, very quickly get over your sense of wonder, kick the horsehoe-crab thing, take a swig from the styrofoam cup filled with now-warm sangria that you bought at the beach bar, gaze in awe at the ocean waves crashing ceaselessly one after the other, kind of like a pile-up on I-90, or like an angry mob storming the legislature in Lima, or like an annoying neighbor who plays the sound track from "South Pacific" over and over again, or like the sound of heavy broken glass falling from a great height onto a Posturepedic mattress, or like thousands of crumpets, if only because the word "crumpet" sounds like the waves crumpeting down on the sand—or like an Irish pennywhistle, a fig newton just sitting there, or Caruso's C above high C, if you are crazy.


But if you must read on, zoris still in the closet, understand that it is the second half of August, and that even if you're not, we at Grin & Tonic are on that beach, or more likely stuck in traffic on the way, and so are most of our contributors, and so, over the next few days, we are bringing back some of the classic humor pieces we've posted over the last year, with an eye to making you laugh—or say, "This isn't particularly funny, in my opinion"—all over again.

 

       —Daniel Menaker, Editor, Grin & Tonic

Beat Your Child -- At Chess!

[Editor's Note:  Bill Tipper's piece below originally ran earlier this year.  A note from Daniel Menaker about our August schedule follows.]

 

Her kindergarten teacher spotted her potential, you paid for the chess lessons, and now you’re suffering the consequences.  At first, you were throwing games -- "losing"  a couple of pawns and even a bishop to help her build confidence.  Then, for about a week, you trembled as she figured out your weaknesses. (Yes, her knight really was only two moves away from your rook -- and the whole thing was just a ploy to target your unprotected queen. When did she learn that?)   Now, she offers to play you without her queen, and you’re pretending to have a conference call every  Saturday afternoon.  How can you get "back in the game"?

 

"Beat Your Child  -- at Chess!" is the world’s first guide to adding to those precious few months when you’re even on the same chess planet with your son or daughter -- before all your credibility and authority are lost to her brilliant variation on a simple knight's gambit and you become a mere servant with a driver's license and the means to pay tournament fees.  "Beat Your Child  -- at Chess!"  offers -- oh, all right! -- perhaps ethically questionable but nevertheless prodigy-tested and game-proven methods that can extend  your rapidly diminishing intellectual stature in your child's eyes by weeks, months, possibly even a year.  It features:

 

CRAZY OPENINGS:  The Brechtian Defense;  the Magpie’s Overture; the Desperate Cuticle; and more. These fiendish first courses were  invented by the "surrealist grandmaster" Gustavus Mango-Sfyzy as he spent the waning days of World War I in a Bulgarian sanatorium playing against "Endgame" Miklovic, the eight-year-old son of the custodian and future inventor of the emoticon. His bizarre chess openings are just the thing to throw your budding Kasparova off her game long enough for you to snatch up an early bishop and stand some chance of survival. 

 

ELEMENTARY VENTRILOQUISM:  Throwing your voice is easier than you might suppose.  Once you’ve mastered our five-step method, you'll find it's a snap to “ghost whisper” your otherwise iron-willed young opponent into paranoia and confusion. Some examples from our catalog of  disembodied ploys:  "Caitlin’s in your room, scribbling on your unicorn poster"; "Mr. Whiskers is a very sad and lonely kitty because you're playing chess all the time"; "If you capture that rook, Mom and Dad will have another baby."

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE:  There are things even the most precocious little urban sophisticate isn't quite prepared to hear about, and Santa's nonexistence is just the beginning:  the workings of the adult endocrine system, the college application process, and what global warming means for penguins -- each topic, played right, clears your path to your opponent’s king.  For truly desperate parents struggling to keep up with 'tween players, we've provided a whole chapter on how to hint at what the mean girls are saying at school about chess nerds.

 

SPECIAL PREMIUM -- INSTANT E-CONSULTATIONS:  Use your cell phone to surreptitiously take a picture of the board (pretend to be capturing your beloved offspring mid-move) and text to KID-CHK-MATE; for a low one-time credit-card charge a series of up to 5 moves will be texted back to you in the time it takes for you to fake a trip to the bathroom.  Impoverished chess whiz-kids from across the former Soviet Union are standing by to help you salvage your dignity.

 

Order today.  You're  not getting any smarter -- but she is.

 


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

 

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

A Seasonal Note to Our Readers from Grin & Tonic Editor Daniel Menaker:  

 

Mainly,  what on earth are you doing, reading this in the second half of August?  Trade this screen for sunscreen, get out there among the stinging jellyfish and tarballs and riptides, ogle men if you're a woman, women if you're a man, men if you're a gay man, women if you're a gay woman, yourself if you are alone and not entirely hideous, collect shells and then throw them away when they start to make unsightly bulges in the pockets of your trunks or the tops of your bikinis, marvel at the horshoe-crab exoskeleton just above the tideline, recall that it is one of the most ancient survivors among all living things, ogle it, very quickly get over your sense of wonder, kick the horsehoe-crab thing, take a swig from the styrofoam cup filled with now-warm sangria that you bought at the beach bar, gaze in awe at the ocean waves crashing ceaselessly one after the other, kind of like a pile-up on I-90, or like an angry mob storming the legislature in Lima, or like an annoying neighbor who plays the sound track from "South Pacific" over and over again, or like the sound of heavy broken glass falling from a great height onto a Posturepedic mattress, or like thousands of crumpets, if only because the word "crumpet" sounds like the waves crumpeting down on the sand--or like an Irish pennywhistle, a fig newton just sitting there, or Caruso's C above high C, if you are crazy.


But if you must read on, zoris still in the closet, understand that it is the second half of August, and that even if you're not, we at Grin & Tonic are on that beach, or more likely stuck in traffic on the way, and so are most of our contributors, and so, over the next few days, we are bringing back some of the classic humor pieces we've posted over the last year, with an eye to making you laugh--or say, "This isn't particularly funny, in my opinion"-- all over again.

 

       --Daniel Menaker, Editor, Grin & Tonic

Dear Mom

"When Congress passed a law that eliminated the estate tax for people who die this calendar year--with plans to bring it back with a vengeance in 2011--the joke among estate planners was that 2010 might go down as the year of 'Throw Momma From the Train.'"

          --The New York Times


Dear Mom,

 

I just want you to know that even though it would be financially beneficial for me to do so, I would never throw you from a train, as certain newspapers and personal-finance consultants are hinting I might and suggesting I do. I wouldn’t even do it in any other proverbial way, like by tossing you under a bus or into oncoming traffic. Even throwing you from a really slow-moving train, like the shuttles at Disneyland or those fake retro-locomotives at Civil War battle recreation sites—even that would be essentially “throwing momma from the train,” in its full implication, because I know it would break your hip or crack your collarbone, which can often indirectly but rapidly lead to death among the elderly.  And what decent son would want something like that to happen?

 

I know what you’d be thinking if you could still process new information: Why would I even bring up that horrible thought to begin with? Because I care. I care about you, and since I know that, insofar as you can care about anything, what you most care about at this point is my well-being; by extension that means I truly care about my own well-being. If that makes sense.

 

I’m not suggesting you commit suicide or something awful like that (and Nurse Williams, if you’re the one reading this to her, I’m certainly not advocating you go Kevorkian on her). (Nurse Raquel, if it’s you reading this, why didn’t you ever get back to me about dinner? I thought we really hit it off on my previous visit last spring.) I’m just saying, Mom, that your quality of life at this point is essentially negligible, and as Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living!" (I wonder what he would have said about the almost entirely befuddled life.) By contrast, I have many potentially fruitful years ahead.

 

I haven’t given much thought to details yet, but here is how it shakes down according to some quick calculations I did last night: You are worth approximately $5 million. (For some reason, you and Dad were always hesitant to divulge specifics about this sort of thing.) If you die by Dec. 31st of this year, I would not be taxed on any of the $2.5 million I would inherit (assuming you have not, as you should, cut Sandra out of the will, which is a topic for another letter…). However, if you wait just one day longer to pass through the pearly gates to a better place, the estate tax, or “death tax,” would suddenly kick in. I would be taxed at a quasi-Scandinavian 55% rate on that money, reducing my inheritance to $1.125 million. One day, and a difference of nearly $1.5 million! Ridiculous!!! --especially considering the testator in question seldom knows what day it is anyway.

 

I love you, Mom. When this bill passed, I realized something: that I've always loved you. Nurse Williams/Raquel, please tell her that for me. It’s just that I sort of feel by hanging on, you are still punishing me for what you so tactlessly termed the "Orgnut Kart incident." (I still maintain that mobile organic donut wagons would have been a hit in the right economic climate.) As for Nancy leaving me, well, that’s really just between me and her and Carlos (and Natasha), isn’t it?

 

In summary, think about it. And remember that I love you now more than ever.

     Love,
     Tommy

 

P.S. Happy Birthday!
P.P.S. Enclosed, purely for informational reasons, is a brochure from the Hemlock Society.

 


Michael Wolman has had humor published in Defenestration and the SN Review. He lives in Brooklyn.

Monetize Our Tweetclicks

Son, now that your mother and I have relocated to Happy Valley and you are in charge of the business, I want to talk to you about the Internet.

Yes, the Internet. I've taken a two-week crash course in the subject, taught by one of the other residents here, despite the stroke he suffered last month. Such a generous fellow!

Anyway, as you manage  Reynolds Heating and Cooling Maintenance,  it's not enough that you know all about compressors and evaporator coils. I may be a little gray in the tooth, but I've done some hard work these last two weeks studying the future, and talking to other folks here about it. Now I need to share some of it with you.

I know that you're already a bit of a computer guy--I've seen you speedmailing on your Apple Phone--but bear with me.  You need to make Reynolds HCM the biggest thing on the web since Phil Gates. I need you to monetize our tweetclicks, and I need you to do it fast.

Last week, I talked to Manny, over in Assisted Living. He showed me his iBlog, I think he called it. It's basically a newspaper, but with hyper-roads to other news articles he finds while he's digiSurfing. "Great," I thought, "but who's going to find this?" Then he shows me his stats. He has over thirty people per day coming to read his NewsBlogSheet, from coast to border. How many maintenance calls do we get per day? About ten. Meanwhile, Manny is getting three times that number of people! And he says that's not even a lot!

Newsblast: Manny gets thirty customers per day and he's not even a licensed HVAC specialist with thirty years of experience in the business. He's not a licensed anything--not even a driver, as of last Monday. Therefore, I think you can safely assume that a new webfront will get one thousand people per hour, and at least half of those surfers may  need major heating and cooling repairs. It should now be clear that we are losing business every minute that we are not in the cyber-area.

So how do we scroll to a new window and out of this pickle? Easy.  First, I need you to fix up our webpage (I think the AOL passcode is in my desk). Correct the phone number on the contact page and build a FaceLook-like web system with frequently updated original content. Manny said that's how to get repeat customers. Then I need you to find out what  Second Life  is and how we get our phone number up there. Finally, hook our vans up to the internet so customers can track our position from their TVs.

Once that's done, make it viral. Real viral. I want people riding in, screen-capturing our information, then sharing it with other people over e-letters and MiniDisc. I want every visitor to have their desktop shelfpaper changed to our logo. I want every person in America to have to go to our website before they can do anything about being warmer or cooler.  I want us to be the  Yoohoo 2.0 of HVAC repair and maintenance. And make sure we don't get Napstered.

I know you've got a lot of other work right now, so I don't expect this to be done until the end of the week. But do you have an extra phone cord so I can get googled up?


Michael Lacher is a writer and designer in Chicago. You can find more of his work at mikelacher.com.

Author Bio

[Editor's Note:  Dan Bergstein's piece below originally ran earlier this year.  A note from Daniel Menaker about our August schedule follows.]

 

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.

 

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

A Seasonal Note to Our Readers from Grin & Tonic Editor Daniel Menaker:  

 

Mainly,  what on earth are you doing, reading this in the second half of August?  Trade this screen for sunscreen, get out there among the stinging jellyfish and tarballs and riptides, ogle men if you're a woman, women if you're a man, men if you're a gay man, women if you're a gay woman, yourself if you are alone and not entirely hideous, collect shells and then throw them away when they start to make unsightly bulges in the pockets of your trunks or the tops of your bikinis, marvel at the horshoe-crab exoskeleton just above the tideline, recall that it is one of the most ancient survivors among all living things, ogle it, very quickly get over your sense of wonder, kick the horsehoe-crab thing, take a swig from the styrofoam cup filled with now-warm sangria that you bought at the beach bar, gaze in awe at the ocean waves crashing ceaselessly one after the other, kind of like a pile-up on I-90, or like an angry mob storming the legislature in Lima, or like an annoying neighbor who plays the sound track from "South Pacific" over and over again, or like the sound of heavy broken glass falling from a great height onto a Posturepedic mattress, or like thousands of crumpets, if only because the word "crumpet" sounds like the waves crumpeting down on the sand--or like an Irish pennywhistle, a fig newton just sitting there, or Caruso's C above high C, if you are crazy.


But if you must read on, zoris still in the closet, understand that it is the second half of August, and that even if you're not, we at Grin & Tonic are on that beach, or more likely stuck in traffic on the way, and so are most of our contributors, and so, over the next few days, we are bringing back some of the classic humor pieces we've posted over the last year, with an eye to making you laugh--or say, "This isn't particularly funny, in my opinion"-- all over again.

 

       --Daniel Menaker, Editor, Grin & Tonic

 

 

Another Mixed (Up) Review

The Devil and the Rising Sun: A Year Inside the West Carolina University Admissions Department
By Cortoroy Chen
Hildegard House; 350 pp.
 
In the spring of 2007 the risk-taking journalist Cortoroy Chen embarked on the adventure that led to this brilliant and occasionally terrifying book: he got a job as a departmental assistant in the admissions office at West Carolina University. Dressed in linen suits with almond-scented lapels, he endeared himself to the staff in a matter of days. But this is far from some tweedy, elbow-padded comedy of manners: on his first day at work, Chen's translator is killed—Chen, having just discovered that everyone at the university speaks English, lures him deep into the stacks of Darden Library and bludgeons him with a non-circulating copy of Middlemarch.


The most fascinating and conflicted character we meet here is Leopold Roth, the dean of admissions. "Outwardly, Roth embodied the department's core values of professionalism and competence," Chen writes. "Privately, though, he wrestled with the enormousness of his power." Roth, "a man of unbridled ambition," rose to prominence as dean of admissions at the unusually tender age of 32, though Chen perhaps exaggerates with the Alexander the Great comparisons. (Furthermore, Chen is fond of assigning Homeric epithets to his characters, but it is hard to see what he is driving at with his constant mentions of Roth's "dawn-hued gums.")

 

The book is anecdotally rich. Chen illuminates the speech given by Roth at the Fall 2007 Accepted Students Weekend by showing us Roth's pre-speech ritual. It is a portrait of the most raw and naked madness: as a voice on stage introduces him, Roth is backstage in his Art Deco dressing room, spreading "expensive cheese on expensive crackers he would never eat, for he despised both," and, just before taking the stage, asking his undergraduate assistant where to find great deals on women's sweaters.

 

Still, it is the feuding, courting, and schadenfreude among the admissions personnel that most fascinates. "Dean Roth was the face of Admissions," Chen writes. "But Assistant Dean Paul Lambreth was the neck and the pancreas—the true creative force, and it was his prowess with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that ultimately helped him win the affections of Associate Dean Lynne Hoyt, who, as the department's sole female, harbored a secret love of being objectified."

 

If Chen dwells too much on the dirty details, this can be attributed not only to reportorial thoroughness but also to the inevitable effect of prolonged proximity to greatness. As he writes, in a particularly damning passage: "Like movie stars, they reeled you in, captivating you with a glamour that temporarily blinded you to their flaws. Blessed with that unique ability to simultaneously elicit envy and disgust, they dared you to question their lavish lifestyles, their elaborate carelessness." He goes on, "At times, in Roth's presence, I truly felt as though he were chewing on my arm."

 

By the end of The Devil and the Rising Sun, the mystique that has for so long shrouded the department has been punctured. We also learn of Chen's tragic fate: in an act of tremendous intellectual courage, he published the book knowing it would be used against him in the translator's murder trial. (He is now serving a life sentence as social media director at Sing Sing.)

 

His book, then, stands as a heroic example of public service. But beyond the outlandish tales lies the unassailable fact of the department's work. In the summer of 2008 the staff rented a mansion in rural France to compile what would become that fall's admissions booklet, which today is generally considered their masterpiece. (Among other things, that summer produced the famous photograph of Paul Lambreth wearing a t-shirt that read "Who the F*** is Leopold Roth?" that led to Lambreth's assassination.) That summer was, as Chen recalls: "a fog of marijuana smoke, sexual deception, and late night, booze-fueled philosophical discussions about diversity initiatives and financial aid." The fog has lifted, but the work remains.

 

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

A Doctor's Notes

     "For generations of pre-med students, three things have been as certain as death and taxes: organic chemistry, physics and the Medical College Admission Test. So it came as a total shock to Elizabeth Adler when she discovered … that one of the nation’s top medical schools admits a small number of students every year who have skipped all three … if they study humanities or social sciences instead of the traditional pre-medical school curriculum and maintain a 3.5 grade-point average."

      --The New York Times

 

Today I treated Lois Renkel, a mother of five- and seven-year-old boys, both of whom had head lice. Rather than satisfy her desire for mass slaughter, I gave her a copy of Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation.” Her family now sees the infestation as an “ecological correction.”

 

I may have majored in Whitman, and I know he sang the body electric and all that, but Walt never had to give a sigmoidoscope to Jerry Jankowski.

 

Don Donatello came in for a second opinion, having been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I found him to be pre-Raphaelite and post-Modern, but otherwise in good health.

 

Successfully treated Ruth Delvecchio, who had been heavily medicated for restless-leg syndrome, and was suffering profound side effects,  By applying the principles of phenomenology, I weaned patient off drug regimen by demonstrating that it wasn’t her leg that was restless, but the rest of her body that was overly static.

 

Bobby Brunner chewed my ear off for a half hour today about all his aunts and uncles who came down with Kotenmeister Syndrome, which I never heard of but apparently involves some progressive muscle thing or other. Made me really glad I took "Gender Confusion in Rocky and Bullwinkle" instead of genetics.

 

Absolutely stunned by the Pollockian energy, the layered emotional content, and the abstracted but nonetheless figuratively inspired aesthetics of Josie Jenkins’s sinus x-ray. It is sure to become part of my “Radiographic Epiphany” career retrospective.

 

Tried a clinical experiment with 74-year-old Roger Tarkington; took him off Cialis and introduced a reading list of erotically-charged late-Victorian novels and the history of Manhattan skyscraper construction.  Informed Roger that if arousal persists more than three hours, he should begin reading anything by William Gaddis.  

 

Can't believe it. I just redid my waiting room in mid-century modern. (Really lucked out when I found that Italian Murano glass magazine rack on eBay.) You'd think Mrs. Boskin - who claims to be an appreciator of the aesthetic - would notice that, but NOTHING. She overlooks my mid-century modern, I overlook that suspicious mole.

 

Based on the experience I just had with Monica Tibgett, that'll be the last time I preface the results of a blood test with a lyrical description of young Werther and the considerable joys of dying young.

 

An unscrupulous drug salesman thought I could be encouraged to prescribe his expensive drug over the generic simply by giving me the Criterion Kurosawa boxed set.

 

Bittersweet moment -- just saw my last patient.  Taking a new job in the Obama administration as Assistant Deputy Under-Secretary for Making Medicine Less Medical. Looking forward to introducing innovations like a Medicare music playlist (already got a call from Orrin Hatch pitching his song "Everything And More.") So many opportunities to extend access, improve wellness, and my personal favorite, integrate America's digital health records with the Phillip Glass symphonic discography.

 

Adam Hanft writes on the consumer culture for Huffington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast, and Fast Company. He also wrote TV comedy for Garry Marshall.

 

A Doctor’s Notes

                                                    by Adam Hanft

 

     “For generations of pre-med students, three things have been as certain as death and taxes: organic chemistry, physics and the Medical College Admission Test. So it came as a total shock to Elizabeth Adler when she discovered … that one of the nation’s top medical schools admits a small number of students every year who have skipped all three … if they study humanities or social sciences instead of the traditional pre-medical school curriculum and maintain a 3.5 grade-point average.--The New York Times

 

     Today I treated Lois Renkel, a mother of five- and seven-year-old boys, both of whom had head lice. Rather than satisfy her desire for mass slaughter, I gave her a copy of Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation.” Her family now sees the infestation as an “ecological correction.”

 

     I may have majored in Whitman, and I know he sang the body electric and all that, but Walt never had to give a sigmoidoscope to Jerry Jankowski.

 

     Don Donatello came in for a second opinion, having been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I found him to be pre-Raphaelite and post-Modern, but otherwise in good health.

 

     Successfully treated Ruth Delvecchio, who had been heavily medicated for restless-leg syndrome, and was suffering profound side effects,  By applying the principles of phenomenology, I weaned patient off drug regimen by demonstrating that it wasn’t her leg that was restless, but the rest of her body that was overly static.

      Bobby Brunner chewed my ear off for a half hour today about all his aunts and uncles who came down with Kotenmeister Syndrome, which I never heard of but apparently involves some progressive muscle thing or other. Made me really glad I took "Gender Confusion in Rocky and Bullwinkle" instead of genetics.

 

     Absolutely stunned by the Pollockian energy, the layered emotional content, and the abstracted but nonetheless figuratively inspired aesthetics of Josie Jenkins’s sinus x-ray. It is sure to become part of my “Radiographic Epiphany” career retrospective.

     Tried a clinical experiment with 74-year-old Roger Tarkington; took him off Cialis and introduced a reading list of erotically-charged late-Victorian novels and the history of Manhattan skyscraper construction.  Informed Roger that if arousal persists more than three hours, he should begin reading anything by William Gaddis.  

     Can't believe it. I just redid my waiting room in mid-century modern. (Really lucked out when I found that Italian Murano glass magazine rack on eBay.) You'd think Mrs. Boskin - who claims to be an appreciator of the aesthetic - would notice that, but NOTHING. She overlooks my mid-century modern, I overlook that suspicious mole.

      Based on the experience I just had with Monica Tibgett, that'll be the last time I preface the results of a blood test with a lyrical description of young Werther and the considerable joys of dying young.

        An unscrupulous drug salesman thought I could be encouraged to prescribe his expensive drug over the generic simply by giving me the Criterion Kurosawa boxed set.

     Bittersweet moment -- just saw my last patient.  Taking a new job in the Obama administration as Assistant Deputy Under-Secretary for Making Medicine Less Medical. Looking forward to introducing innovations like a Medicare music playlist (already got a call from Orrin Hatch pitching his song "Everything And More.") So many opportunities to extend access, improve wellness, and my personal favorite, integrate America's digital health records with the Phillip Glass symphonic discography.

 

 

Adam Hanft writes on the consumer culture for Huffington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast, and Fast Company. He also wrote TV comedy for Garry Marshall.

Who IS Evelyn Salt?

Who is Evelyn Salt? You may as well ask, Is identity fixed and unchangeable, or is it subjective, an endless labyrinthine funhouse of twisting perspectives?

For example, I could be Jorge Luis Borges, the famous dead  Argentinean literary author. I specialize in stories like "The Garden of Forking Paths" about the mutability of identity. Do not be troubled by the "fact" of my death; facts are no match for the power of my ficciones. Currently I may be writing—and  you may be reading—a screenplay for a spy thriller called "Salt," even though it doesn't look anything like a screenplay.  I have a weakness for cheap pulp melodrama and  literary hoaxes.

Or I could be Evelyn Salt--a beautiful American CIA agent. My job is interrogating Russian spies as if the Cold War were ongoing.

Or I could be KA-12,  a Russian sleeper agent. I’ve been living undercover in the United States for over twenty years.  Like those losers in Montclair, New Jersey—except I didn’t get myself caught.  My job might be to assassinate the President of the United States. Or it might be to write this.   

Or I could be Angelina Jolie. I’m a beautiful Hollywood star, and the stuff that tabloid dreams are made of. I play KA-12  who’s pretending she’s Evelyn Salt, 

Or I could be Wanda Biedermeier,  a housewife from Buzzard’s Breath, Arizona. I follow Angelina in all the tabloids—the breakups, the affairs, the pregnancies, the adoptions, the tattoos.  Sometimes I know so much about her I think I’m Angelina.

Or you know what?  I could very well be Kurt Swimmer, making believe I'm Jorge Luis Borges by writing this.  I’m a screenplay writer.  I’ve written screenplays for a dozen movies—including "Salt"—but you’ve probably never heard of me.  No, I’m not bitter. I just should have stuck with my original dreams to be a serious literary author—like,  say, Jorge Luis Borges.

Or I could be Wanda Biedermeier again. Who the hell  is this Jorge Luis Borges person? I’ve never heard of him. Sounds like an illegal alien, if you ask me.

Or I could be  Dr. Yu Tsun. I am a character from Jorge Luis Borges' most excellent story "The Garden of Forking Paths." Someone please to be telling me what I am doing here?

Or I could be Skippy Biedermeier (no relation). I’m an accountant from Montclair, New Jersey--yeah, where the spies come from. I'm sitting on the PATH train reading this on  my e-reader on the way to my boring day job and thinking what the hell?

Or I could be Robert Brenner, a freelance writer with literary pretensions. My work has appeared in New York magazine, the Huffington Post, Open Salon, and Happy. I live in New York City with my wife. I am not a CIA agent, a Russian sleeper spy, or Jorge Luis Borges.

GOODBYE, !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Polly Frost's new book, With One Eye Open, is a collection of 25 of her humor pieces. Her website is http://pollyfrost.com.

Outsource It, Inc.

At first, you weren’t sure – should you outsource jobs for your company? You were nervous when you sent the first department's assignments overseas, but it was just first-timer jitters. You got over it fast and began a crusade to externalize all of your company’s internal activity.  Any job could be shut down and reopened somewhere else. Hell, you’re so addicted to outsourcing now that you’ve even thought about sending your own job across the pond. There’s nothing left to outsource--right? Wrong!

 

Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Richard Hill, and I am the president of Outsource It, Inc. Ok, that’s not true – Richard Hill actually outsourced the job of writing promotional letters for Outsource It, Inc., or at least that’s what I think it’s called – we recently had our own company-naming work outsourced as well.

 

Here at Outsource It, Inc., we believe in one simple principle – there’s always something to outsource. Do you build birdhouses? Solve crossword puzzles? Enjoy cooking a hearty meal for you and your family every night? Well, we'll have the birdhouses made for you in Madrid. The crossword puzzles will be done in Dubai. As for the cooking, that’ll go to a small island in the Caribbean. We're right now in the process of outsourcing the food-delivery system that will bring it to your home.  

 

What's that about the Caribbean? Haven’t you and your wife been meaning to take a vacation? No need to worry! We’ve already outsourced your vacationing. Give us the word and we’ll fly two employees to Jamaica to drink Piña Coladas until they drunkenly make love in a hammock on the beach so you don’t have to!


Still not sold on our services? Then check out this testimonial--or hire someone to check it out for you. It's from Ted Simms, one of our best customers: “Outsource It, Inc., has changed my life. I am eternally grateful to the people who work there. Without them, I would have never been able to pursue my dream of doing nothing!”

 

What do you think about that? Seems a bit vague, maybe? Maybe even made up? That’s because it is! Mr. Simms didn’t want to deal with the stress of having to write an Outsource It, Inc., testimonial, and so you'll just have to guess how he handled the problem.... You're right!

 

In fact, Mr. Simms  has outsourced nearly 100% of his daily activities. For a while, all he needed to do was call us up and check to make sure everything had been properly outsourced each day. Then we outsourced answering that call and that company outsourced it, too! Then whoever they are outsourced it again. Now nobody even knows if anything is getting done anymore! Mr. Simms mostly just sits in an empty room and questions his existence--or he would, if we hadn’t outsourced that job to our new Do I Exist Office in Qatar.

 

So don’t wait! Or have somebody else not wait for you. Sign up for Outsource It, Inc., today. Better yet, let us handle that. We would say "That's our job," if we hadn't outsourced it.  

 

Sean Adams is a humor writer living in the midwest.  His work has been featured on McSweeney's, The Bygone's Bureau and elsewhere.

Compatibility

     "Wow!"
     "Wow is right."
     "That thing you did with the ropes. How'd you know exactly how tight I wanted it? I've never met anyone who made such perfect knots."
     "I've been perfecting my rope technique for years but right now was the first time I felt completely fulfilled by tying someone up."
     "It's hard to find someone who shares my particular tastes."
     "When I saw your profile on Nerve I thought we'd be pretty compatible."
     "But this went way beyond that."
     "So, what next?"
     "I'm starved."
     "Me, too. What do you say we get dressed, hit the Brooklyn streets and find a restaurant?"
 
 
* * *
 
     "I've heard this new steak house is amazing. It's completely locavore."
     "Huh?"
     "That means the chef only cooks grass fed beef from growers in New York State."
     "I don't eat meat. That place across the street seems better to me."
     "Raw vegan?"
     "Yum."
     "They don't even seem to have a bar. I could really use a Manhattan."
     "I don't drink alcohol."
     "Oh."
     "I have an idea. Follow me."
 
*  * *
 
     "Uh, I don't know about this cafe."
     "What, you don't like German Swiss cuisine? It's the hottest trend among cutting-edge chefs!"
     "Yeah, but this is all vegan knockwurst and raw sauerkraut and non-alcoholic beer."
 
*  * *
 
     "I don't know how much longer I can walk around before we settle on a restaurant."
     "Maybe we should call it a night."
     "Well, it was great."
     "Unbelievable."
     "And I guess we're still on for tomorrow night."
     "Sure."
     "All right, then."
 
 
*  * *
 
     "Mind if I sit at this bar next to you?"
     "Only if you don't mind me eating a big bloody steak right in front of you."
     "Actually that's why I picked this seat. I was drawn to your plate of beef. I am in such a carnivorous mood."
     "At 11 PM?"
     "Yeah, well, my date and I couldn't decide on a restaurant."
     "Too bad. But now you're at the best bistro in Williamsburg."
     "Everything on the menu looks incredible. I don't know what to pick."
     "Want to try a bite of mine?"
     "Really?"
     "Here."
     "Oh my God, that's the best thing in the world. And are you drinking a Manhattan?"
     "Have a sip."
 
*  * *
 
     "Can it really be 4 AM? These last five hours just sped by."
     "Talking about restaurants we've been to."
     "When you were describing that meal you have in Lugano in 1994. I felt like I was there having foam seaweed with you."
     "And the way you relished every bit of your chocolate pudding. It's great to meet a woman who isn't afraid of a few calories."
    "You know … I don't meet many people I have this much in common with."
     "Yeah. Hey, I know it's short notice but I'd really like to take you to that restaurant I was talking about. It will convince you of the beauty of Nova Scotian cuisine. It's a two hour drive to get to it but completely worth it."
     "Well, I did have something tonight ... but I can get out of it."
     "Then we're on!"
     "I can't wait!"
     "Just one thing you should know. I'm a gay guy."
     "That's totally OK."
     "And you?"
     "I'm just a girl who's into being tied up with elaborate rope knots."
     "And I have linonophobia. I can't be near anything even remotely resembling string."
     "Not a problem. We're compatible in the most important way."

 

Polly Frost's new book, With One Eye Open, is a collection of 25 of her humor pieces. Her website is http://pollyfrost.com.

 

Query Letter

Dear Jodi Reamer,

 

As you are the agent for Stephenie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn), I was hoping you'd represent my novel Goat-Sucker Meridian, a coming-of-age story about a star-crossed teenage chupacabra. The protagonist, Ralph, is an outcast in his tribe because he has no desire to be a "goat sucker"—which, if you're unfamiliar with these legendary creatures, is what a chupacabra by definition is generally doomed to be.

 

But Ralph is a vegetarian—a field trip to a chicken-processing plant at the age of 9 was the signal cause—and he believes his tribe should abandon their skulking ways and start to engage with contemporary society—a position that puts him at odds with his family and community, who cling to their proud traditions and distrust Ralph and his inexplicable interest in two-leggers (i.e., human beings). His father, Emmett, holds the 24-hour record for unassisted goat kills (72), and organizes bimonthly father-son hunting trips for the all the male tribe members; yet his son is more comfortable with the more traditional female responsibilities, e.g., gathering nuts and pasteurizing goat milk.

 

Goat-Sucker Meridian takes place in the hill country of western Texas, where the recent boom in golf courses, casinos and retirement communities has brought two-leggers into close proximity with Ralph and his goat-bloodthirsty kind, who have long believed themselves to be the last herd of chupacabras operating in the United States.  

 

But are they? And if they are, then who's sharing the obscure secret of the only way to kill chupacabras and strewing Sonic hot dogs in their territory? (They cannot digest Sonic hot dogs, but of course they can't stop eating them, either.) Who—or what—is helping the humans who seek to push the animals off their ancestral hunting grounds?

 

Because of his vegetarianism, which is now verging on Vegan, many chupabcaras suspect Ralph is the traitor. To prove them wrong, and to assure a future for his clan in west Texas, he must discover the real culprits—who may or may not be "goat suckers" themselves.

 

Jodi (your name would be Maxilla in the chupacabra language), the vampire craze has run its course, and the void will have to be filled by the next wave of fantastical creatures. Enter the goat-suckers of legend and lore, whose desire for goat blood is rivaled only by their desire to make little baby chupacabras. In short, we got a whole lot of blood and sex in west Texas. Knowwhatimsaying?

 

To give you a sense of my writing style, I've attached the first book in the 15-part Goat-Sucker Meridian series. Its title is Goat Tell It on the Mountain. Thank you for your time and consideration,

 

John Wayne L'Amour

 

Bio: John Wayne L'Amour is a goatherd and the self-published author of How to Self-Publish. His letters to the editor have appeared in numerous container-design publications.

 

Cameron Martin is a Page 2 columnist with ESPN.com. His book reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Barnes & Noble Review, and numerous Hearst and Tribune publications.

Don Draper, Off His Game

"Dish soap works because people are obsessed with one thing: cleanliness. And you know what part of the body people want most to be clean? It’s the mouth. Imagine a pretty young woman in a polka-dot dress walking by the sink, picking up the bottle of dish soap, and swigging it. She gags, then doubles over, and then a single soap bubble appears at her lips, and she smiles. She’s the only one in the world who knows that the bubble is a result of cleanliness, rather than sickness. And that makes her--and, more important for you, gentlemen, your soap--special."

 

"Now, look: there are very few people in the world who would argue that this so-called fast food that's cropping up everywhere will actually affect the American family restaurant. Are people going to choose a quick-fix meal on the go over the diners they have come to love and trust? I don’t think so. Still, if you're worried about the future of your family-dining establishments in light of this new threat, this should do it: We show a line of people waiting to eat at one of these fast-food places. They're attractive people, but after they eat, they’ll get less attractive. No, we don't show their future unattractiveness. We imply it. People will just know that they'll get less attractive after they eat the fast food. Also, because it’s fast food, they're rushed, and they haven’t had time to get completely dressed. The women haven't buttoned up their shirts. No, no, that doesn't make them look sexy. It makes them look lazy. So it’s a line of so-lazy-they-have-unbuttoned-shirts,  attractive-but-about-to-be-unattractive people waiting to eat this fast food. I know the effect that will have. If you don’t see it also, more's the pity, gentlemen."

 

"Every bank wants your trust. They use images of men in suits and ties, sitting behind big solid desks, their hair Brylcreemed, their expression stern but friendly. I think that your bank has to go in the other direction. What about an old man, crouched over a barrel of burning trash, warming his hands? And the slogan can be 'Banking on Anything is a Mistake. But You Can Bank on Everything With Us.' No, we don’t have to mention the bank's name. Let’s let them figure it out. People like a mystery."
 
"Celebrities don't always work but when they do, it's magic. I have four words for you: Barry Goldwater shower caddies."
 
"Don't look at me. Look at the chalkboard. I have written a simple phrase on it. 'In vino veritas.' You know what that means? 'In wine, there is truth.' So let's not go in for this idea that wine is a social lubricant, or a badge of sophistication. Let's show what really happens when people drink. A man on his back, shirt ripped, one shoe off,. Maybe in the next room, a wife crying and a child neglected. People buy products because of the effects they have, not the effects they don’t have. Oh, also, let's add a puddle of something vile next to the man's face. I’ll need a charcoal sketch by three."

 

"Can we sell Vietnam? Sure we can. Vietnam is about America’s ideals, and America is about growth, so I'm thinking a meadow of long grass. We're a country with a background of optimism, so we need a helicopter in the distance to represent the way that our ideals lift us. And we're all about encouraging togetherness and community, so let's have a bunch of villagers in the foreground and American soldiers poking guns into their backs. You know, for encouragement."
 
Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including the new "What He’s Poised To Do."

If Doctors (and Patients) Were Four Years Old

DR. SMITH: Welcome back, Timmy. What seems to be the problem?
 
TIMMY: Well, I’ve had a pretty bad stomach ache for the past few days. My older brother told me that meant I was going to die and he was going to get all my toys, so I figured I should come see you.
 
DR. SMITH: Hmm, you generally don’t see stomach aches leading to death, but is this brother of yours bigger than you?
 
TIMMY: Yes.
 
DR. SMITH: All right, then he probably knows what he’s talking about. Just in case, though, can you tell me what you’ve been eating recently?
 
TIMMY: Pixy Stix, Hi-C, Gummi Bears, glue, ketchup, Legos …
 
DR. SMITH: OK—a normal diet, nothing unusual?
 
TIMMY: Well, my mom did make me eat some cauliflower at dinner a couple nights ago.
 
DR. SMITH: Oh, come on, Timmy! You know how bad that stuff is for you! Why do you think it smells so weird?
 
TIMMY: I know, I know, but she said if I didn’t have at least three bites I wouldn’t be allowed to watch “Bob the Builder,” and I remember how unhealthy you said it was to miss that show. I made sure to wash it down with some chocolate sauce as soon as she left the kitchen.
 
DR. SMITH: Good. That probably means you were able to neutralize the effects of the cauliflower in time.
 
TIMMY: Exactly. Wait, what does “neutralize” mean?
 
DR. SMITH: No idea. But I heard my dad use it once and thought it sounded cool. Anyway, back to this stomach ache. I think I might have figured out what caused it. Have you been in contact with any girls recently?
 
TIMMY: Absolutely not!
 
Dr. Smith: Be honest, Timmy. You’re not at the monkey bars. No one’s here to judge you.
 
TIMMY: OK, OK—I was playing with the blocks in day care yesterday, and Mrs. Johansson made me share them with Lisa, and when I was giving her some of them I think she [gulps] might have touched my hand.
 
DR. SMITH: That’s what I thought. I’m afraid you’ve got cooties.
 
TIMMY: Oh no! Are you sure?
 
DR. SMITH: I’m positive. And not just because it’s the only disease anyone our age believes actually exists. The good news is, if this just happened yesterday, it means we caught it early enough to treat.
 
TIMMY: Phew.
 
DR. SMITH: I’m going to write you a prescription for two circles and two dots, and then you’ll have your cootie shot. I’ll also write you one for two circles and two squares to ensure that the shot is going to stay there, and I’d recommend having your mom kiss the infected area twice a day for the next week.
 
TIMMY: But I thought the whole reason I had this disease was because I touched a girl. How is getting kissed by a girl going to help cure it?
 
(Pause)
 
DR. SMITH: Duh, Tim—you know it’s not the same. Moms aren’t girls—they’re Moms.
 
TIMMY: Oh, right.
 
DR. SMITH: Now, if the stomach ache persists after all this, I’d advise you to see Billy, our resident gastroenterologist.
 
TIMMY: What are his qualifications?
 
DR. SMITH: He’s the only other one who knows how to say “gastroenterologist.” Also, he stole a metal stethoscope from his dad’s closet, so he doesn’t have to use one of these Fisher Price ones.
 
TIMMY: I see. Well, Doctor, thank you very much for your help. I’ll let you know how everything goes.
 
(As he’s leaving the office, Timmy coughs up three Legos)
 
TIMMY: You know, my stomach feels better already.

Edward Small is a recent graduate of Dickinson College.  He has interned at The Onion  and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.

Re-Extending Your Extended Benefits

The recent Unemployment Extension Act will provide relief to thousands of Americans still looking for work. Before benefits can be paid, applicants must fill out the following survey each week of the extension.
 
1.       Are you currently employed? (Yes/No)
 
2.       Are you currently able to work? (Yes/No)
 
3.       Really hard? (Yes/No)
 
4.      Have you looked for work during the past week? (Yes/No)
 
5.       In every single nook and cranny? (Yes/No)
 
6.      You've been claiming benefits for a while now. Are you even trying to find a job? (Yes/No)
 
7.      Really? (Yes/No)
 
8.       You know you're not going to be a marine biologist, right? That ship has sailed, my friend. (I know/News to me.)
 
9.       And you realize that you're kidding yourself with dreams of being a rapper? (I understand/Dreams can come true!)
 
10.       Have you considered farming? (Yes/No)
 
11.      If No,  why not? -- what, you're too good to be a farmer? (Yes/No)
 
12.     Have you considered working at the mall? (Yes/No, my ex works there and it would be weird/But I have a bachelor's degree.)

 

13.     What about going to Bartending School? (You sound like my dad/I'll give it a shot--ha ha.)
 
14.     How's your novel coming along? (So far, so good/I gave up because my sister needed to use the computer.)
 
15.     You're not taking this seriously, are you? (Yes I am/Enh)
 
16.     Have you considered selling your plasma? (Yes/No)
 
17.    Have you considered selling your dog's plasma? (Yes/No/You can do that?)
 
18.    Have you tried selling your CDs and DVDs on E-bay? How many times can you watch "Rain Man," anyway? (That's an interesting idea/I watch "Rain Man" more and more  often, it seems.)
 
19.   Would you be willing to help my cousin Jeff move this weekend? The gig pays $50. He's a good guy. (Yes/Well, um … My back is all messed up and … you know.)
 
20.   What about gambling? Do you feel lucky, today? (Yes/No)
 
21.    If No, come on--don't be such as tight ass. (You have a point/I don't like you when you talk to me like this.)
 
22.   What was the last job you applied for? (Ice Road Trucker/Two years ago I auditioned for "American Idol"--that counts, right?)
 
23.   How broke are you? (I'm behind on my bills/I ate road kill mixed with ketchup for dinner last night.)
 
24.   Are you discouraged? (Yes/[Silence, as single tear rolls down cheek])
 
25.   Stop crying. You don't have it that bad. Would you rather live in Ethiopia? (You're right/Does Ethiopia need a rapper?)
 
26.   Maybe we can write a screenplay together? (Yes/No, I don't work well with others.)
 
27.   Can you marry someone wealthy? (Yes/No)
 
28.   Down at the gas station, there's a guy who pays people to … Never mind. You're probably not interested. (I only take legitimate work/No, please go on. I'm intrigued and desperate.)

 

     
Thank you. We will evaluate your answers and determine if you are eligible for benefits this week. If you have lied to us on this questionnaire, there will be no punishment, except that which your guilt will inevitably visit upon you.    

Dan Bergstein pronounces his last name "Drawbridge."

 

Net Works

"David Fincher's 'The Social Network' will kick off the 48th Annual New York Film Festival with its World Premiere on September 24, making it the first time anyone will have a chance to see what the director has done with the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg."--ComingSoon.net

 

And we here at ComingALittleLater.net are pleased to give you some sneak previews of future social-network cinema events.      
 
 
"The Bird and the Book"

 
Plot: Ryan Jillaney, a young man living in Minneapolis, decides to synch his Twitter account with his Facebook status updates “to make it easier” for himself. However, as his Friends and Followers begin to comment and @ him on two different social platforms and then comment and @ on their own and each other's comments and @s, he realizes that far from simplifying his life, he has created social-network meta-complexities never before dreamed of. Can he keep his sanity, or will it be too much to handle?
 
Tagline: What would you do if you had to be in infinite cyber-places at once?
 
 
"Family Friends"
 
Plot: Lisa Cheng, an undergrad at the University of Iowa, has it all figured out. She heads the hottest sorority on campus, dates the captain of basketball team, and manages to party hard while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. But then, one fateful day, her perfect life goes sour when she receives a friend request from her boisterous, obnoxious Aunt Lynn. Lisa must decide: Does she deny the friend request, making for some awkward moments at Thanksgiving, or accept and suffer the annoying wall posts about sciatica and trouble with the hydrangeas and possibly embarrassing image tagging, such as Aunt Lynn's prize roosters and her weekly bridge parties?
 
Tagline: She loves her family, but does she "like" them?
 
 
"Scratching Post"
 
Plot: Amy Griggs, an actor trying to get her feet wet in the New York theater scene, wakes up one morning with the most original and hilarious idea ever – she’s going to make a Facebook profile for her cat, Hal. But then 536 of Amy’s friends post a happy birthday message to Hal’s wall after having overlooked her own birthday just the week before. Amy must reassess all of her relationships and post new and unbecoming pictures of Hal using his litter box.

Tagline: From tearing up her couch to tearing up her social life.

 
"Relation Status: Confused"
 
Plot: Gregory Smithson, a sales associate at Blockbuster, has just met Anne, the girl of his dreams. She’s smart, funny, drop-dead gorgeous, and totally into him… or so it seems. But when she accepts his Friend Request, his world is turned upside down. Because under "relationship status," she appears to be married to her best friend, Jill. Is she married to her or just "married" to her--the way some girls are on Facebook? You know. Things get even worse when he finds in Amy's photo album titled “Fry-Day Nite!!!” a picture of her hanging all over a guy with spiked, gelled hair; the caption says "Me and my Bro, Jim." Gregory is completely confused.  Is Amy married to a woman, having an incestuous relationship, or what? And who is this Ryan Jillaney, who has suddenly posted 127 Comments on Greg's page? 
 
Tagline: A very imperfect union.   

 

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.

Bloodsucker

The answer is yes--I, too, have spent hours online looking at photos of engorged bed bugs. It has been an exceptionally warm summer--which, from what I have heard, is perfect feasting weather. Bed bugs have gripped both the imagination and the tender flesh of city dwellers. 

Thing is, I’ve always had a perverse fascination with outbreak hysteria. And this feels like a real, old fashioned pandemic. I’ve enjoyed imagining it is 1890 and the only respite from the rampage is a doctor-mandated trip to Saranac Lake to take the airs. The days before antibiotics were –no doubt– grim. But I am awestruck by the rare photographs of smiling people from the Victorian era. Given what was going on in their underwear, they must have been very strong.

 

Growing up, my brothers and I had a fondness for discussing scourges. We swapped stories, like the one about the oblivious swimmer who arose from a murky lake to discover that he was covered with leeches. Even more ghastly and wonderful, we thought, was the antiquated health benefit of treating leg-rot with these same bloodsuckers.

Everyone in my family worked in medicine, so mealtime conversation revolved around scientific advances and oddities in the natural world. After dinner, my brothers and I would play our version of Bible dipping.  But in place of Scripture, we would flip open random pages of our stepfather’s medical textbooks. Each page presented a new, gruesome disorder. Whoever got the most frightening photo won. Highlights included: an enormous foot swollen by Guinea worms and a tumor with hair and teeth. Penile disorders were perennial crowd pleasers but on a bad night, the best we would get were some horrid rashes.

A week ago, my manfriend and I went to Cape Cod. I was excited– I enjoy ingesting filter feeders such as clams and oysters, and there’s nothing like liberating meat from an exoskeleton. There were no reports of West Nile in the area, and we had a lovely afternoon at the beach, which was delightfully free from medical waste.

Our room at the bed and breakfast was quaint–decorated with calico wallpaper and, judging by the smell, free of black mold. That evening, as I lay in bed reading; I saw a tiny, translucent, round bug hiking across the sheets. Without much thought, I flicked the voyager to the deep-pile rug. Only later would I learn that what I’d seen was a repulsively named bed-bug “nymph.”

Throughout the endless night, I was stabbed repeatedly by something that felt like a fondue fork. I scratched and marveled at my companion’s ability to sleep through the assault. For such a laid-back place, I thought, Cape Cod mosquitoes are quite aggressive.  But in the morning, the welts told a different story. Because of my early armchair entomology, I instantly recognized the tell-tale cluster formation.  I had become a casualty of the bed-bug epidemic.  After shaking our fists at the proprietress, we packed our bags and sped out of town. 

Now, at home, I’ve spent two days washing everything, including my luggage, in scalding hot water. Meanwhile, it feels like tiny thistles have been ground into the skin on my belly, ankles, and (especially disconcerting), the nape of my neck.  I haven’t developed any new bites, but dormant larvae may have hitched a ride in our moccasins or nestled in our Scrabble board. I must wait out the ten-day gestation period to see if any newly hatched Cimex Lectularius intend to open a souvlaki stand in my bed.

My lurid fascination with plagues, pandemics, outbreaks, and infestations, has been significantly diminished by this in-the-flesh encounter. Even if I imagine myself sewing doilies and listening to one of those gramophones with a trumpet-like speaker, there’s not much romance left to the whole idea of blights and plagues. Unlike the smiling, stoical Victorians, I am, officially, a wimp.

 

Rebecca Bazell is a New York-based writer. She is currently writing a memoir entitled "Lost at Sea."

Don Draper, Off His Game

"Dish soap works because people are obsessed with one thing: cleanliness. And you know what part of the body people want most to be clean? It’s the mouth. Imagine a pretty young woman in a polka-dot dress walking by the sink, picking up the bottle of dish soap, and swigging it. She gags, then doubles over, and then a single soap bubble appears at her lips, and she smiles. She’s the only one in the world who knows that the bubble is a result of cleanliness, rather than sickness. And that makes her--and, more important for you, gentlemen, your soap--special."

 

"Now, look: there are very few people in the world who would argue that this so-called fast food that's cropping up everywhere will actually affect the American family restaurant. Are people going to choose a quick-fix meal on the go over the diners they have come to love and trust? I don’t think so. Still, if you're worried about the future of your family-dining establishments in light of this new threat, this should do it: We show a line of people waiting to eat at one of these fast-food places. They're attractive people, but after they eat, they’ll get less attractive. No, we don't show their future unattractiveness. We imply it. People will just know that they'll get less attractive after they eat the fast food. Also, because it’s fast food, they're rushed, and they haven’t had time to get completely dressed. The women haven't buttoned up their shirts. No, no, that doesn't make them look sexy. It makes them look lazy. So it’s a line of so-lazy-they-have-unbuttoned-shirts,  attractive-but-about-to-be-unattractive people waiting to eat this fast food. I know the effect that will have. If you don’t see it also, more's the pity, gentlemen."

 

"Every bank wants your trust. They use images of men in suits and ties, sitting behind big solid desks, their hair Brylcreemed, their expression stern but friendly. I think that your bank has to go in the other direction. What about an old man, crouched over a barrel of burning trash, warming his hands? And the slogan can be 'Banking on Anything is a Mistake. But You Can Bank on Everything With Us.' No, we don’t have to mention the bank's name. Let’s let them figure it out. People like a mystery."
 
"Celebrities don't always work but when they do, it's magic. I have four words for you: Barry Goldwater shower caddies."
 
"Don't look at me. Look at the chalkboard. I have written a simple phrase on it. 'In vino veritas.' You know what that means? 'In wine, there is truth.' So let's not go in for this idea that wine is a social lubricant, or a badge of sophistication. Let's show what really happens when people drink. A man on his back, shirt ripped, one shoe off,. Maybe in the next room, a wife crying and a child neglected. People buy products because of the effects they have, not the effects they don’t have. Oh, also, let's add a puddle of something vile next to the man's face. I’ll need a charcoal sketch by three."

 

"Can we sell Vietnam? Sure we can. Vietnam is about America’s ideals, and America is about growth, so I'm thinking a meadow of long grass. We're a country with a background of optimism, so we need a helicopter in the distance to represent the way that our ideals lift us. And we're all about encouraging togetherness and community, so let's have a bunch of villagers in the foreground and American soldiers poking guns into their backs. You know, for encouragement."
 
Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including the new "What He’s Poised To Do."

Query Letter

Dear Jodi Reamer,

 

As you are the agent for Stephenie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn), I was hoping you'd represent my novel Goat-Sucker Meridian, a coming-of-age story about a star-crossed teenage chupacabra. The protagonist, Ralph, is an outcast in his tribe because he has no desire to be a "goat sucker"—which, if you're unfamiliar with these legendary creatures, is what a chupacabra by definition is generally doomed to be.

 

But Ralph is a vegetarian—a field trip to a chicken-processing plant at the age of 9 was the signal cause—and he believes his tribe should abandon their skulking ways and start to engage with contemporary society—a position that puts him at odds with his family and community, who cling to their proud traditions and distrust Ralph and his inexplicable interest in two-leggers (i.e., human beings). His father, Emmett, holds the 24-hour record for unassisted goat kills (72), and organizes bimonthly father-son hunting trips for the all the male tribe members; yet his son is more comfortable with the more traditional female responsibilities, e.g., gathering nuts and pasteurizing goat milk.

 

Goat-Sucker Meridian takes place in the hill country of western Texas, where the recent boom in golf courses, casinos and retirement communities has brought two-leggers into close proximity with Ralph and his goat-bloodthirsty kind, who have long believed themselves to be the last herd of chupacabras operating in the United States.  

 

But are they? And if they are, then who's sharing the obscure secret of the only way to kill chupacabras and strewing Sonic hot dogs in their territory? (They cannot digest Sonic hot dogs, but of course they can't stop eating them, either.) Who—or what—is helping the humans who seek to push the animals off their ancestral hunting grounds?

 

Because of his vegetarianism, which is now verging on Vegan, many chupabcaras suspect Ralph is the traitor. To prove them wrong, and to assure a future for his clan in west Texas, he must discover the real culprits—who may or may not be "goat suckers" themselves.

 

Jodi (your name would be Maxilla in the chupacabra language), the vampire craze has run its course, and the void will have to be filled by the next wave of fantastical creatures. Enter the goat-suckers of legend and lore, whose desire for goat blood is rivaled only by their desire to make little baby chupacabras. In short, we got a whole lot of blood and sex in west Texas. Knowwhatimsaying?

 

To give you a sense of my writing style, I've attached the first book in the 15-part Goat-Sucker Meridian series. Its title is Goat Tell It on the Mountain. Thank you for your time and consideration,

 

John Wayne L'Amour

 

Bio: John Wayne L'Amour is a goatherd and the self-published author of How to Self-Publish. His letters to the editor have appeared in numerous container-design publications.

 

Cameron Martin is a Page 2 columnist with ESPN.com. His book reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Barnes & Noble Review, and numerous Hearst and Tribune publications.

July 26: On this day in 1602 "A booke called the Revenge of Hamlett Prince Denmarke" was entered in the Stationers' Register by printer James Robertes.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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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.

Pastoral

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).