Thank you for your recent submission Winnie the Pooh . We at Button Books are always on the lookout for new material by promising authors. I found your manuscript to be well written, the characters engaging and the stories filled with enough charm and whimsy to entertain young readers.
Unfortunately I will have to pass on the book, at least for now. The characters and plot don’t have enough relevance in today’s world. The good news is, I have some recommendations that would help punch up the characters, add an edginess to the story and make it more appropriate and appealing for the 21st century. Please feel free to resubmit this work keeping in mind the following suggestions:
1. Rethink the bees and Pooh’s obsession with honey. With the rise in childhood obesity and the diabetes epidemic in this country, you might want Pooh to count carbs, practice self-restraint and try using Stevia. Unless, of course, you have a sequel in mind called Winnie the Amputated Pooh.
2. Change some of the names. Perhaps Geraldo, Miguel or Diego the Pooh or Omar, Mohammed, or Jibar - to be more inclusive? And could Christopher Robin be gay bisexual, or transgender? Maybe rename him, too? Try Lance, Brooklyn or Apple.
3. It’s great that Christopher Robin, Winnie and Owl have some attention deficit issues and learning problems as evidenced by their confusion, inattentiveness, and appalling spelling, but maybe another character (Piglet comes to mind) could be shy, obsessed with origami, and socially inept? A little Asperger’s would go over big.
4. Good problem-solving skills exhibited when Christopher Robin reads to Pooh for a week waiting for him to lose weight so that he can get unstuck from the tree hole. Reading is big (and we do sell books), but with weight loss at an acceptable 1-2 pounds a week, it would take much longer for Pooh to escape. He might even plateau. To kill time, have Christopher read Pooh a book by Proust or Tolstoy and then share ideas.
5. The multigenerational characters are wonderful. Maybe a conversation about where to put poor, confused Eeyore as he ages out of living independently? The other characters might visit some assisted-living facilities or interview home caregivers. Show Eeyore learning to use a walker.
6. To beef up the plot line and add some excitement, replace the many days of boring, never-ending rain depicted near the end with a tsunami.
7. As the story is set in England, a Downton Abbey touch would be useful. Have the characters get dressed fashionably for dinner or enjoy high tea. The honey would work too if used in moderation, assuming the Stevia recommendation doesn’t pan out. Pooh could wear a monocle and address Christopher Robin as “My Lord.” Monogrammed velvet slippers might add to the mood.
All and all, this is a wonderful idea needing minor work. I look forward to seeing your revisions. Promotional dolls and stuffed toys might be developed. Think American Girl but more British Pooh. Imagine an HBO series adaptation “Game of Bees” or “Pooh Corner Empire” and perhaps a violent X-Box game called “POOHF!”
Associate Editor, Children’s Division
Ricki Miller, an elementary school teacher for decades, is now pursuing an MFA in Writing from Stony Brook. She carries a piglet keychain.
Meteorologists have reported that a perhaps potentially dangerous weather pattern is developing over the mountains in the western part of the state. A Winter Storm Warning, which local weather officials have named "Doreen," has gone into effect for several counties. ( While typically only storms themselves have been named, we at alarmistweather.com agree that Warnings and Watches, a crucial part of weather panic, deserve some recognition as well.)
Snow is expected to begin falling sometime after 10am in affected areas, and may continue for up to several minutes. As ground temperatures are in the 40s, the snow is not expected to stick to roadways and overpasses, but it will definitely still fall on them.
Snow will also fall on cars, and may stick to them. Snow will likely stick to most cars, but it will only really stand out on darker cars. Owners of white cars are advised to keep in mind that the snow on their cars might be difficult to see—but that it may still be present. Windshields with snow accumulated on them may be difficult for drivers to see out of—in such cases, using windshield wipers is advised. This may be done while driving.
Snow may also stick to and accumulate on raised, grassy areas and outdoor patio furniture—one of the consequences of your not having heeded Patio Furniture Advisory Jim-Bob last fall. Snow may also accumulate on pets that are sent outdoors; it will be particularly visible and cute on dark-colored pets. Please send your photos of pets with snow on their noses to PetSnowNoses@alarmistweather.com. We’ll post our favorites on our website! But above all, according to Pet Nag Fido, defrost and dry your pet before allowing it to track through the kitchen and climb on the sofa
Overall snow accumulation during this putative storm is expected to be as much as .025 inch in some areas. Tiny, misshapen, dirt-filled snowmen may be formed using this snow by children under the age of six who were too young to remember the Great Letdown of ’10, which we herewith retroactively name Fizzle),and during which much of the state was perhaps not blanketed but certainly coverleted with over ½” of snow. Effusive praise of these snowmen is not recommended, as it will only encourage these children to hope vainly for more snow, which is unlikely to occur during the remainder of their childhoods. Send photos of your children’s snowmen, such as they are, to NiceTry@alarmistweather.com.
Please be advised that snow may also accumulate on trees, park benches, and hydrants, and that birds and other wildlife may be seen foraging through the snow for food, even as it continues to snow. Our official position about this matter is that they are funny that way.
Residents are encouraged to race to the nearest grocery store to purchase mass quantities of milk and bread prior to the onset of remotely-possibly-hazardous weather. The more milk and bread your household has stockpiled, the safer your family will be during Winter Storm Warning Doreen. In the event that you encounter other residents at the grocery store who are also attempting to stock up on milk and bread, do not succumb to the tempation to share, especially if you are bigger than they are.
Standing outside in the snow while it is actively snowing is not encouraged, although you should be warned that if you do this, and look straight up into the sky, it will look like the snowflakes are huge and are coming right at you really fast! Generally, snow will not accumulate on stuck-out tongues.
In the event that no snow occurs, residents are still urged to seek shelter, just in case. Finally, please be advised that temperatures are expected to reach the 50s tomorrow. No Watch or Warning is in effect at this time, but if there is one -- a Tornado Watch, say -- it is tentatively named Tornado Watch "‘Bradley," unless it turns out to look more like a girl tornado, in which case it will be Tornado Watch Meghan.
Molly Schoemann writes humor and satire and always stocks up on milk and bread, just in case. Her work can be found at mollyschoemann.com.Read more...
No, I'm not the bride. She should be here any—
I'm not sure. I think it's the “Pollyanna.” And I believe the color is “Bahama Breeze.” Is that available in—ah, I see. Well, I don't know. I suppose “Tahitian Sky” might be—I mean, it looks pretty similar, but—yes, I guess we'd better wait for the bride.
Well, I usually wear a 6, but I know these dresses—yes, of course. Oh, you do measurements here? Perfect. Sure, I can just—two inches “over” in the hips? What does that mean?
I wasn't planning to do a juice cleanse, no. I guess I could stand to hit the gym a little more often. I go to Pilates twice a week, and—no, Pilates isn't the gym. Yes, I understand it's not an aerobic workout. Do you think I can get away with an 8? Oh. Okay.
No, I understand. I'll take the 10.
Shoes? I don't know. I think she said something about open-toed pumps. In pale gold or neutral?
An up-do. With plenty of spray, to hold the shape—it's in July. Yes, very humid.
I guess I will need a good concealer. I'm not really much of a makeup—well, no, I wouldn't want my “face” to melt. I do want to look nice in the pictures. Look, I really just need your help with finding the dress, so maybe—
Hair, nails, and makeup are at 7:30 that morning. The ceremony's at 2.
Yes, I bite them. Filthy habit, I know. Since the sixth grade, but I read in Cosmo that short nails are in now so—
Oh, I don't know. Something metallic? Silvery pink? Or pink-y silver? Sparkly but not vulgar, she said. I wasn't worried about calling attention to my hands, but now—Azature? No, I'm not familiar with their “Butterfly Wing”collection. I don't even know what— Do you think Duane Reade—? Of course not. Where's the nearest—Madison and—? That's an hour from here! I'm sure it is the best.
You're right, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event. At least I hope it is, ha ha. Please don't tell her I said that.
So how much will the dress actually—? $539—that's with the alterations? Before the alterations. Okay. And with tax it's—?
Well, that's more than I was expecting, but—no, I don't have any cash. I can give you a— Oh. Am Ex only? I may need to call—
I'd really prefer not to come back here again tomorrow. Well, no, I'm not working, but—
Am I seeing—? As a matter of fact, I am—about six months. I'm thirty. 3-0. Yes, I guess six months is longer at thirty than it is when you're—but we're not quite ready to—oh? You did? After four months? Thirteen years and counting. Well. You can't argue with that. Yes, of course, when you know, you know, but don't you think—
The bride? She's five years younger than me, so twenty-five.
They met on OkCupid. O-K C-U-P-I-D. It's an online—no, I don't think it's just for freaks. A lot of people these days—when I wasn't with someone, I— There's nothing wrong with asking someone out at the grocery store, but that kind of thing just never seemed to happen to—
Do I think who's “The One”? Oh! Well, he's wonderful, but—
Do I hope I'm the one to catch—? I don't think she's doing that. The bouquet, that's right, I don't think she—yes, I know it's a tradition.
Well, yes, sure, I guess if she throws it, I'll try to catch it. It certainly can't hurt.
Raina Lipsitz edits short stories about herself and others at imaginarymoney.com. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Brooklyn Rail, McSweeney's, and Nerve.com.Read more...
Okay, everyone, we’re going to start out with something nice and simple: pasta with marinara sauce. Here we go:
1. Open a box of pasta.
2. What do you mean you don’t have pasta?
3. Yeah, I know “mom used to buy the pasta,” but we don’t live with mom anymore, remember? That’s why we’re all here.
4. And it used to be shaped like dinosaurs, yes, I remember.
5. You know that dinosaur-shaped pasta still exists, right? And that you can go out to a grocery store and buy it because you’re an adult, and you get to decide what you eat now?
6. Well, sure, technically “deciding” that you’re just going to keep letting your mom cook for you counts as a decision, but doesn’t she live, like, two hours away now? Don’t you think that would be kind of a burden on her?
7. “Knowing that her son still needs her is the greatest gift a boy can give to his mother?” Did you actually just say that? You know this is a cooking class, right? Not a Psycho remake?
8. The Psycho remake was terrible, I agree. Still can’t believe someone thought Vince Vaughn could pull off Norman Bates.
9. The type of relationship that I have with my mother is not the issue here, ok? The issue is that, when I sent out the email welcoming everyone to the group, I specifically wrote, “Please bring a box of pasta and a jar of marinara sauce to our first class.”
10. Well, if it was so hard to find, how come everyone else brought one?
11. Jerry didn’t bring one because he’s… Well, he’s going through some stuff right now, and pasta isn’t as cheap as it used to be.
12. I “favor” Jerry? I bring in one extra box of pasta for a guy who told me before class that he got laid off two weeks ago, and you think that means I “favor” him? Geez, sorry for showing some compassion for the less fortunate, Speaker Boehner.
13. It is too pronounced “Boner.” Stop kidding yourself.
14. Oh, crap. Jerry, I’m sorry. Come on, man, don’t leave! No one cares that you lost your job! You’re at an adult cooking class at a community college, for Pete’s sake! You think the rest of us have our lives together any more than you do?
15. Well, great, there goes Jerry. He was two credits away from graduating. Nice work, moron.
16. Yes, you earn credits here. It’s a college. What did you expect?
17. Wow. You are awfully condescending for a guy in a Chumbawumba t-shirt.
18. You know what? No. You can’t have Jerry’s pasta.
19. Because it was for Jerry, that’s why. And you, sir, are no Jerry.
20. Oh, yeah, make a joke about his unemployment. That’s classy.
21. Why did you even sign up for this class? It doesn’t seem like you’re that interested in cooking.
22. You want to impress “Katy?” Who’s “Katy?”
23. Whoa…and that’s…that’s a real picture?
24. Hey, does she have a sister? Or a cousin, or a friend, or anything like that?
25. All right, cool. Yeah, you know what? Why don’t you take Jerry’s pasta? It seemed like he might have been going to kill himself, so there’s no sense in letting it go to waste.
26. And here, I’ll give you my phone number, too, just in case you have any questions between now and our next class.
27. You should feel free to give that number out to anyone else who you think might be interested in learning how to cook, too. Or if you know anyone who’s interested in welding, I also teach a class in that.
28. Like Katy. Katy looks like she might benefit from a little welding knowledge. Or maybe some of her friends.
29. Mix in the marinara sauce with your pasta, and get ready to enjoy a delicious meal!
Edward Small is a contributor to The Onion and CollegeHumor. He has a green belt in cooking dinosaur-shaped pasta.
"The College of New Jersey, Princeton University and Rider University reported a banner year for donations in 2012, with each breaking its previous fundraising record.... [At Princeton] more than 8,000 volunteers worked phone banks, sent flyers and met with potential givers over the course of five years, bringing in donations from 65,120 alumni."
--Times of Trenton
How's it going? Long time, no speak, classmate! I'm sorry to be so slow in responding to your last e-mail -- the week-five reading assignment for Economics 102 is pages 236-248.
I'm sorry -- I think you may have sent this e-mail to the wrong person. I haven't taken an economics class since 1999.
Haha, friend-- you were always such a jokester! Of course you took an economics class in 1999 -- I was in your class! I'm just saying that I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write back to your e-mail about the reading assignment! But just in case you were still looking for that information, I thought I would let you know! Glad that e-mail address still works! I was just thinking about you the other day and wanted to reach out and say hello. Can you believe it's our 10th reunion year? It's been so long -- are you still interested in macroeconomics?
Uh, no, I'm not still interested in macroeconomics. What are you e-mailing me for? I barely even recognize your name.
You crack me up, old pal! I just happened to be thinking about you the other day and wanted to catch up! What have you been doing these past ten years? Where are you living? Do you have a family? Have you given yet to the class fundraising drive? So many questions, friend -- can I give you a call sometime? What's your number?
Friend O' Mine
No, you can't give me a call. Last thing I remember about you is when you knocked on my door, drunk, begging me to vote for you in some sort of student government election. We weren't friends -- what do you want?
Oh, what memories! That really brings me back, hombre. I was telling my wife all about you the other day. (You know I got married, right? Small wedding, otherwise we would have loved to have you there!) She couldn't believe all my stories about us -- that time we both did the reading for our Economics class, that time we both took that Economics exam, that time we got our transcripts and both had grades in Economics. Oh, man, it cracks me up. She imagined you'd be exactly the kind of friend who would be amazingly generous to the alumni giving campaign. Have you given yet? Just curious -- not at all in my role as head of the fundraising committee for our class, but as your friend. You sure I can't give you a call? Maybe swing by for brunch?
See you soon,
No, we are not having brunch. I haven't given any money, no -- I'm still paying off my student loans. I don't know why you're pretending we're friends, but please take me off whatever list I'm on and stop contacting me.
Wow, you were always a little paranoid, friend -- you're not on any list, and, according to our records, you're actually delinquent on those loans. A fact I wouldn't want to see come out as we put together our awesome 10th anniversary yearbook, paid for by funds from generous classmates like you. I hear that the head of the fundraising committee is planning to include some crazy photos of everyone who doesn't donate. Just letting you know, buddy. Hey, I've got an extra spot in the car for a camping trip with some old pals this weekend -- you want to come? Let me know.
Your Best Bud
I'm not going camping with you -- I barely even know you. And I have no idea what kind of photos you're talking about, but I'm really not concerned. I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to donate to the class this year, good luck with the fundraising, and please stop e-mailing me.
Of course -- why would I keep e-mailing you when I'm right outside? I know you can afford to give something to the class -- that's a beautiful ottoman you've got. I just want to reconnect, remember old times, and -- Oh, the photos -- you know, sophomore year, fraternity initiations? It's amazing what people can do with Photoshop these days, that's all I'm saying. Look, pal, I just think it's a shame when people have a grand old time at college and then don't give back -- especially when they pretend on their resume that they graduated with honors and it's part of what gets them their job over at 1462 North Salem Boulevard, Suite 627. As your friend, I just want to save you from yourself, and I think I'm going to have to clue your boss in, unless of course you can prove that you have the kind of school spirit I've always known you do.
Did you know you can donate online??!
I can see you,
Okay, whatever, you win. I'll give $20 on the website -- just leave before I call the police. Happy now?
Thrilled, mate! And, you know, it's never too early to start thinking about our 15th reunion -- perhaps you can start planning for a more substantial gift. I've put a reminder in my calendar to check back with you, and to send that e-mail exchange about your pretend honors to the entire class, depending on your participation in our future campaigns. That's not a threat, friend -- you know why? Because I can tell you've truly rediscovered the old "Rah, Rah! Sis, Boom, Bah!" and can't wait to put your name on a plaque in the brand new student center.
Take care -- my wife sends her best, my kids can't wait to meet you, and I've still got my eye on that ottoman of yours!
Turn around slowly...
"Less than two months after the 2012 election, political mavens are already afflicted with eye-glaze from absorbing the initial spate of ebooks and now-it-can-be-told campaign retrospectives." --Columbia Journalism Review, 1/4/13
THE YEAR'S MOST ANTICIPATED EBOOKS: A PREVIEW
January 22 -- "Inside The Inauguration," an exhaustive, insider'sl ook at Barack Obama's second Presidential inauguration, set to be published just twenty-four hours after the President takes the oath of office. Featuring almost twenty-four hours of interviews with some of the key players, as well as more than seven minutes of writing and editing, this eBook promises to be the most complete account of the inauguration published that Tuesday. The book will feature rare perspective from historians who were alive at the time of the event, as well as complete video footage of President Obama preparing to give his inaugural address (the actual address will only be available in the book's revised edition, to be published six hours after the initial release).
February 3 -- "Inside the 'Inside The Inauguration' eBook: The Behind-The-Scenes Story," taking you minute-by-minute into the writing of the "Inside The Inauguration" eBook, and the aftermath of its publication. Learn how the book was conceived, written and published, all before the ink was dry on the only piece of real paper still being used by anyone. By literally embedding themselves inside the podium where Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office, the writers of the book will be able to gain first access to the sound of the words, and thus, by mere fractions of a moment, release the most immediate account of what happens.
March 19 -- "Inventing an eReader Fast Enough to Handle the Speed of the Publishing of the 'Inside the 'Inside The Inauguration' eBook' -- The Inside Scoop," an action-packed ride through the development of eReader technology advanced enough to allow the "Inside the 'Inside The Inauguration'" eBook to be purchased and downloaded before it is even written. With exclusive access to the scientists behind the latest in eBook development, you will learn how ideas are now being beamed directly into the minds of readers without requiring the time-intensive processes of writing, editing, or even reading. (This eBook is also available in cheese-flavored and hybrid electric editions.)
June 27 -- "The Next Presidential Inauguration: What Will Have Happened," a page-scroller that takes you into a future that will have not yet taken place... but that won't stop the writers of this eBook from being first to get the story. In order to get this book to market as quickly as possible, it has already been released, and the contents of it wiped from the memories of all who had the chance to read it, so as not to destroy the space-time continuum and unalterably change the future. The eBook is an invaluable guide to understanding what is to come, with reflections and insight from a number of commentators who will not even be born by the time the next inauguration takes place.
July 14 -- "2013 eBook Preview: Six-Month Anniversary Edition," a commemorative eBook edition of this very humor piece, revised and expanded from its original form, with additional content, new listings, and never-before-seen photos of eBooks in a number of exciting locations. Now in its thirteenth edition, you may also purchase this book yesterday, or twenty years ago, before the first eBook was ever published. Now in its fourteenth edition. Fifteenth.
Jeremy Blachman is working to develop robots that can write humor pieces. Read some of their work at jeremyblachman.com.Read more...
Hello, Americans! That's what we say here on Zyscthjistan Avenue, the main boulevard of our newly refurbished capital city, Plink. We usually must have to say it to each other, because there are still, without explanation, not enough Americans trodding our streets and investing in our recently discovered and very rich mining operations for jejunium, the now discovered last year new element that has rapidly stepped into having such a vital role in the manufacturing process of making those certain high-ended digital devices.
The time of now is upon us and American dollar bills cash can become millions swiftly!
A mine in the rural village of Umnmnmw has produced upwards of 75-degrees of money daily! And that mine is a scant 1,099 horses deep! Using money we can buy state-of-the-government technology and can mine deeper and get even better, purer, more flavorful jejunium!
What a great time to have money and give it to us!!!
As you are aware, history has been unkind to our land. The economy suffered sincerely after the great air flood took our water in 1957*.
Bad politics and intelligent brides also wreaked havoc on our land, leaving us with little opportunity for growth and cinema. But in the last decade, scientist and man Tuljkk Vletij Miller discovered that jejunium can be used to make the pocket TVs that are popular today and tomorrow amongst the youths of people.
Now you can become part of the cash ka-boom!
An investment of only 34-degrees money will yield a return of 90! That math doesn’t lie because it cannot.
Your money will directly flow into our mining, refining, shipping, and legal hotels. Within a matter of time, you will see profits rise and rise like an air boat!
We invite you to come to Zystchjistan and see our operations first-hand! You will marvel at our facilities and world class ceilings! Enjoy spectating our national sport of Tournament Yoga. Visit one of our famous painting and sculpture zoos! Eat! And if you are old or pained, visit our electronic doctor’s office!
Here in our country you will see all that we offer. If our mining brings fright to you, there are other investments for your money! Many!
Due to tax proclamations, those wishing to open dental offices are tax exempt for life, as dental work is believed to be mild sorcery and our government wants no part of that evil money. Those savings are passed on to you and your fellow teeth wizards! Starting a clinic is easy and we already have plenty of desks and artificial metal!
Agricultural is very good here, as both rat wool and sour corn are chief exports! Investing in a farm is fast and we will personally handle all currency exchanges...late at night when dimwitted farmers are not paying close attention.
Our new shoe factory in the town of 83 will be up and running in a few months as soon as the curse is lifted, and beverage designer Spruce-Juice is opening a new plant that will make lavender soda and condensed celery water that is 79-percent potable! The newly registered town of James Bond is also offering huge discounts on barber shop licenses and to anyone good with folding.
New factories are popping up all over! And because our maps are only oral, zoning regulations are difficult to uphold in court! As are crimes!
For those with adventure in their hearts, why not invest in our mountains, where legend, and our constitution, says a witch will grant you nine wishes if you bring her fingers. By investing in our mountains, you can ensure the witch’s safety and double your money thanks to wishes and tourisms.
We also have a leading bio-optics facility and a trillion-dollar defense contract with nine different nations.
So act now, friend! Write us a money check or just send gift cards! And do not forget to like us on Facebook*!
We look forward to working at you!
Vlad Dalv Jr., Chief of Economics and Knots
Dan Bergstein is a Sub-Avatar of Jerome Lester Horwitz (Curly, of The Three Stooges).
We at Grin & Tonic decided to celebrate the holidays and the end of 2012 with an Editor's Pick of some of our favorite pieces of the year. But then we didn't do it. Why? Or -- maybe better: Why not? Better yet: Why are we even telling you what we were going to do and then didn't do? Betterest: Why are we giving you all these alternative rhetorical questions?Read more...
Welcome to your workplace holiday party-- we're so glad to have forced you to come. And this must be your plain-looking wife. Here's where we make a comment that could be construed to mean we're unhappy with your work and your job is in jeopardy. Now we laugh, because we're kidding. Or maybe we just like to laugh. Please, take off that vagrant's coat you're wearing. No, don't put it near our coats.
Come join an awkward conversation circle with the woman who stole your promotion and the guy who thinks you don't know he dented your car in the parking lot and didn't leave a note. Yes, that local sports team is doing terribly. Sure, the stock market is a thing that exists. No, there is no one across the room you can pretend is giving you an excuse to leave this conversation.
Please enjoy this delicious spread of food paid for with the money that used to fund our health insurance plan. It might make you sick, but that's entirely your responsibility since July 1st of this past year. How's that working out for you? Time to gossip about people who aren't here. Now aren't you glad you showed up? That makes one of us.
Hey-- the CEO is starting his speech about how wonderful his compensation package is. Watch him stumble over his words and not realize his index cards are out of order. See, he's no smarter than you. He just got lucky. Doesn't that make you feel better about your life? It doesn't? Should it? These are some of the questions you should ponder, instead of listening to the CEO explain that you probably aren't getting a bonus.
The gift exchange is about to start. Did you obey the $10 limit? How silly of you-- now your gift will seem embarrassingly cheap. You might wonder why we force a gift exchange among colleagues who have no interest in actually exchanging gifts. It's actually all for our own amusement. Just like the way we sometimes shut off the air-conditioning system. You think it's broken? Nope, we're multi-tasking--saving money and torturing you at the same time.
Look at that raffle prize! It's worth almost three months of your salary. And who's going to win it? The CEO's wife! Yep--some people have all the luck. What? Of course your ticket gave you a real chance to win-- if by "win" you mean "lose." You probably also thought the liquor tonight was free. Nope-- you'll see its cost deducted from your next paycheck, along with a service fee, plus a hefty tip for the bartender, who just happens to be the CEO's son. He's going to invest it in a start-up that's working to develop robots that can do your job-- much better than you can, and for a fraction of the cost. Now you're feeling that cocktail, right? And not a moment too soon.
Oh, look-- your boss is leaving. That means it's okay for you to leave, right? Or so you think. What you don't know is that he's actually coming right back, and you're going to miss the part of the night when the few people who are still here get their health insurance back and receive a hefty raise. You'll hear about it tomorrow. And everyone will ask why you left so early. Are those tears of joy? Yes, it's a lovely party, especially the private room in the back, where you're not allowed.
We'll see you tomorrow, on our surveillance cameras.
Jeremy Blachman is working to develop robots that can write humor pieces. Read some of their work at jeremyblachman.com.
“And it shall come to pass that when the 13th baktun comes to an end, so will the world. Everything, even the entombed red-cinnabar-coated kings, shall be destroyed in an apocalypse. So it has been foretold — and so many believe — by the ancient Maya calendar; even Maya deities like the jade-haired maize god and the goggle-eyed storm god must submit.” —The New York Times
As we approach the completion of the Great Cycle, you may be wondering: What's the perfect present for these trying (and final) times? We have cooked up the gift guide to end all gift guides, and, incidentally, to end everything else.
For the foodie!
There's always Cuisinart, but why not get groovy with DIY this winter solstice? Try your hand at some homemade flavored salts (we like Meyer lemon and Kimchi!), and you'll impress your friend with your hearty nature and something-from-nothing skills. She'll put down her immersion blender and say, We need people like you in the coming weeks, such as they are. Now you're gifting like a guru! Your delicious preservatives will have earned you a place in a secured basement three miles below the surface of the earth. Ignore the futility of these foolhardy safety measures. Bake loads of oatmeal bars instead! Place them in pressurized decorative tins—great for sharing.
Hot tip: using your crafting scissors to fashion personalized hang-tags will give the desserts a “finished look.” Hang-tags can double as toe-tags during the Great Clean-Up, after The After.
Fun stocking stuffers under $30!
This year, everyone is on a tight holiday budget. But we're not talking money—we're talking time. Shop smart and stock up on easy-to-complete activities for the whole family. We're especially excited about 5-piece jigsaw puzzles ($10), pre-molded artisan Play-Doh ($7), and Picked-Up Stix ($5). You may have just enough minutes left before the precession of the equinoxes to watch the first season of Homeland ($27.99) on DVD, but no one wants to end the Great Cycle on a cliffhanger. So it is written, the thirteenth baktun closes before the twelve days of Christmas even begin. A pet bird ($30) may just be a great way to keep track of the diminishing hours: when the partridge in the pear tree falls, It will be upon us.
For the little ones!
As the North Pole shifts from Polaris to Vega, so will the exact location of Santa's house. Even mythology must reckon with these disruptive times. Take out a map and help your children find his new address, temporary as it might be. Use crayons! Make it fun! You can send their letters by USPS, but there's really no accounting for holiday delivery delays, especially with the recalibration of physics as we know it. Either way, your kids won’t be the wiser. As the days dwindle, take them by the hand and tell them, If Santa exists, then so do catastrophic astronomical events. Spin a dreidel to demonstrate the rises and dips in Earth's cycle of precession. We also recommend the new Furby from Hasbro ($54). It just might outlast us all.
For the friend who has everything!
We all know this person: he's got the whole world in his hands. But when the winter solstice sunrise moves towards the galactic center and the moon is in the seventh house, will he still? For the friend who “had it all” before The Before, give an experiential gift. Has he ever sky-dipped or thunder-surfed? Now’s the time to buy him lessons! Has he ever eaten solid air? Give him the dining experience to end a lifetime!
If he pouts at your presents, then take him to see the sideways solar eclipse on the Final Sunday. Bring snacks! Everyone will be there! We have no choice.
Hilary Leichter has taught creative writing at Columbia University and Freebird Books. She is an associate editor at NOON Annual. She will be spending the Mayan apocalypse eating Chinese food and seeing a movie, of course.Read more...
Good evening, and welcome aboard Parsimonious Air Flight 75 with three-stop service to a field reasonably close to Boston. This flight is a codeshare with our partners at NegliJet and is being operated by PilotsByPhone, a subsidiary of Amalgamated Telegraph. While we are being towed to the runway by a less fragile aircraft, we ask you to pay attention to the screen at the front of the plane so that we can show you a brief vintage filmstrip containing safety instructions for today's flight.
Our Academy Award-winning crew, trained to act as if this flight meets all FAA safety regulations, is currently coming through the aisle, looking to ensure that your seat backs are in an upright position, your window panes are mostly intact, and your tray tables are covered with a minimum viral load from the sneezes of previous passengers, as is required by law.
In a moment, we will be making one final trip through the cabin so that you may purchase a seatbelt for today's flight, if you did not bring your own on board this evening. Once purchased, lift the buckle and place the metal end of the strap inside. Close the buckle slowly, removing your fingers in time to avoid having them injured by our factory-seconds equipment.
Under your seat, those of you in First-ish Class will find a Depression-era life vest. Those in our Economy cabin will find a new sponge. In our industry-trend-setting Steerage Passenger Container, it will be a used sponge. In the event of a water landing, scheduled or unscheduled, those with the life vests should place them over their heads, attempt to inflate them, and pray to our mascot, Kenny the Kiwi. Those with sponges should soak up as much of the ocean as possible, so as to decrease the odds of drowning.
If there is a change in cabin pressure, the overhead bins will automatically open. Passengers who passed out on previous flights and are being stored in the bins may have shifted during takeoff, so be sure to take extra care should they fall. Oxygen masks will be available in a box placed in the center of the cabin. Please line up in an orderly fashion to collect your mask, and be especially sure to attach your own mask before it is snatched away by one of the unaccompanied delinquents we often have onboard.
There are currently 15 exits on this 100% recycled 767-- one over the three-quarter wing on the left, two in the back, and twelve holes that are currently hidden by assorted scraps of remnant carpeting. Please locate your nearest exit, and be aware that due to flak damage incurred during the Battle of Britain, it may be directly under your seat. If you are seated in an exit row, which, we have found through extensive laboratory testing, can be any row, depending on where the plane splits in two, in order to save yourself you must be able and willing to ignore those who need assistance.
Please now turn all electronic devices to the off position for the remainder of the flight. Our K-9 dog, Nosedive, has been trained to find and destroy any electronic device that remains on. (Unfortunately, he is occasionally unable to distinguish between consumer electronics and consumer genitalia.)
Finally, on behalf of our Atlantis-based crew, we'd like to thank you for choosing Parsimonious Air. We know you all must have made your airline choice solely on price prior to taxes and fees, and so we thank you for failing to do any further investigation. If there's anything we might be able to do to make your flight more enjoyable, please let us know now, since the more prudent members of our crew will be departing the aircraft and remaining safely on the ground for the duration of the trip.
The majority of Jeremy Blachman's writing meets all FAA safety regulations. More can be found at jeremyblachman.com.
Maestro, I am writing to tell you
that your serenade in D minor
with its stretches of martial confidence
then some sweet wanderings of the woodwinds
has not really brought me to the edge of anything,
yet compared to the inane movie
being shown on this long flight to Seattle,
listening to your music has made me a better
person than that other self,
so slack of jaw and fishy of stare,
who would have watched the movie to its end
oblivious to the startling 33,000 feet of air below.
I never visited your tomb in Prague
or even the site of your former apartment
on East 17th Street before it was demolished
to make room for a hospital for sufferers from AIDS.
So I am thanking you here for the lift
of a tune to ride with over the clouds
high above towns bisected by roads,
and fields with their plowed circles.
You remind me of a canary
I once stared at for an unusually long time
and the communion that developed between us
as we gazed into and out of the unhooded cage.
Time well spent, I thought,
as the bird broke it off and began to peck
at the image of his twin in a little oval mirror,
leaving me to return to the many ways
we have concocted to waste our lives --
ten thousand at least, wouldn’t you say,
Maestro, with your baton, your furious pencil,
and the closet where all your dark clothes used to hang.
Billy Collins is the former poet laureate of the United States. His most recent collection of verse is Horoscopes for the Dead.
The Ethicist is on vacation. This week's column features advice from the Macbethicist.
CORPORATE LADDER OR THE HANGMAN RATHER?
I am a vice-president -- one of a dozen -- of a multinational corporation. Recently, the president's secretary left a document in the photocopier that was unquestionably intended to be confidential, as it contains information that if known by others would spell the end of his career. While I am not immediately next in line for the presidency -- a position I would like to have eventually, to be sure -- the removal of the president would move me that much closer to the job. Putting my own ambitions aside for the moment, however, do I have a responsibility to the company, its shareholders, and/or the public to reveal what I know, notwithstanding that I learned it by accident, even if would ruin another person's career? NAME WITHHELD, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.
Before we get to the crux of your question, I have to note my surprise that you managed to become a vice president of a multinational corporation in the first place -- unless you are the favorite nephew of someone on the board of directors -- because you obviously are unqualified to lead. You suggest that we put aside your own ambitions for a moment. A moment is too long to put aside your own ambitions. Ambition is everything.
Some wise women I know once told me, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Someone else might or might not have once said, "Business is war." Your first duty is to yourself, if you are to climb the corporate ladder. Should you reveal the damning contents of the confidential document left on the copier? No. What you should do instead is kill the president -- murder him while he naps at his desk, if possible, framing his secretary (fitting punishment for her carelessness), then dispatch the vice presidents more senior than you in turn over the following months, clearing the way for you to ascend to the throne of your company.
After my beloved father died under mysterious circumstances, his brother married my mother, prompting me to suspect that my uncle in fact murdered my dad. Imagine my feelings when the ghost of my father appeared to me and told me as much. I was, in a word, enraged. So I had an idea: I would pretend I was having a mental breakdown, treat my girlfriend rudely, and hire a local improv troupe to reenact my father's death by his brother's hand, which I thought might prompt my uncle to admit to the crime. (It didn't work, and shortly afterward I accidentally killed my girlfriend's father.) I'm sure that my uncle now suspects that I know that he killed my father (and he tried to have me killed too! Way too much to get into here but I escaped; two guys I went to school with and some pirates were involved), and now my girlfriend's brother also wants me dead, after what I did to his father. Also, his sister drowned herself because I was mean to her. What should I do now? (Bear in mind that everyone still thinks I'm clinically insane.) NAME WITHHELD, ELSINORE, DENMARK.
The people who think you're mad are onto something. I think you're mad. The answer to your dilemma is right before your eyes, not unlike a dagger, its handle toward your hand. Clutch that dagger, son, and use it to kill everyone. Kill them all. Kill your uncle. Then kill your girlfriend's brother. For good measure, you might want to kill your mother, too. You mentioned a couple of school chums. Are they dead yet?
Even if you hadn't told me that you had (had) a girlfriend, I'd have known that you don't have a wife. A wife would have told you what to do. I have my doubts that you'd have listened to her, though. You didn't listen to your father's ghost, after all. If experience has taught me anything, it's to listen to wives and apparitions. Wives and apparitions tell it like it is and know best.
EXIT, SUBDUED BY THREE BEARS…
I'm a young girl with striking blond hair, which isn't at all relevant to my question. Last year, while strolling through the woods by myself -- I'm just a preteen but already really into hiking solo -- I came upon a cottage. I found the door unlocked, so I let myself in. No one was home, so I ate some hot cereal, broke a chair, and fell asleep in one of the beds upstairs. Eventually, the homeowners returned -- a couple of bears and their cub. I ran out before they could eat me, but also before I could apologize or offer to pay for the food or the damage to the chair. Should I let sleeping bears lie, so to speak, or should I go back and try to make things just right? G.L., THE WOODS, ENGLAND.
Finally, someone who gets it! And a babe in the wood, no less. Kudos to you for seizing an opportunity to take what belonged to others when their backs were turned. If a family of bears cannot be bothered to lock their cottage when they are out, then they deserve to have their home invaded by a stranger. Perhaps the only thing you did wrong was to leave when they returned. You had rightfully lain claim to the premises and its appointments. You should have stood your ground…but I can understand why you would have chosen to beat a hasty retreat under the circumstances. You were outnumbered, and they were bears.
Now, however, you can yourself return to the cottage -- with an armed mob from your village -- and you will have the element of surprise, being that it has been a year since your last encounter with the careless bears. Moreover, if you time your attack properly, you can lay siege to the cottage whilst the occupants are hibernating. Kill them while they sleep the sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care. Then unseam them from the nave to the chops, and make their hides into rugs for your new castle. Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and your name to the mailbox.
A SORRY SIGHT!
Although my husband, the Thane of Glanis, was recently also made Thane of Cawdor, he seems to be resting on his laurels of late. For instance, he is supposed to be making arrangements for everyone in the household of the Thane of Fife to be put to death, including the women and small children, but now I find that he's playing at giving advice. Don't you think he should get back to murdering everybody? LADY M------, INVERNESS, SCOTLAND.
Matthew David Brozik has ambitions that put the ambitions of mortal men to shame. Read about them at imdb.name.Read more...
"I often find myself changing positions when reading a book or asking myself what position I should be reading a book in. What are your suggestions? What works for you? Please tell both for reading for school and fun." -- From Yahoo Answers
You did the right thing by asking. Too often a reader will spend a lifetime consuming all manner of text -- from books to parking signs to their own arrest warrants -- in the wrong position, often resulting in headaches, back pain, and no time off for good behavior.
Let us examine a few surprisingly effective positions that will not only combat pain and lessen fatigue, but also increase reading comprehension and make you the center of attention.
THE WHOLLY MOSES: Based loosely on an inaccurate Bible translation, this position involves the reader sitting at a 73-degree angle, as if his or her back is leaning against the base of Mt. Sinai. It's been reported and debunked -- and then reported again, by covert sources -- that Moses proofread the Ten Commandments in this position. Moses is said to have found two unnecessary commas and the wrong form of "they're" in the first draft. He also did some light editing by omitting an entire graph from "Thou Shalt Not Kill" which explained that this item didn't refer to spiders and if you accidentally kill a deer ("Woodland Camel," in Hebrew) it's a minor offense.
THE INVERTED WELSHMAN puts the reader's head upside down and dangling off a sofa, bed, or church pew. Reading upside down forces the eye to move against gravity as you progress through a page of text. Think of it as lifting weights for eyeballs. After reading a novel in this manner, your eye muscles will be strong enough to lift an average-sized piece of penne pasta without sauce.
(Please Note: THE VERTED WELSHMAN position, despite its name, is not the opposite of THE INVERTED WELSHMAN. It is difficult to discuss in mixed company, but this position involves nudity and emollients and should only be attempted by those who know the "i before e" rule down cold and have a good grasp of the exception sentence: "Neither scientific foreigner seized the weird height.")
THE VACATIONING BUTLER POSITION: If eye strain is an issue, try reading in a well-lit area such as oh, let's see -- I've got it -- outdoors on a sunny day! Or in a dental exam chair with one of those bright, Cyclopean lights. In France, for some reason, this is called THE BELLIGERENT FOX position.
If eye strain is not a problem, and you like to read and move without really moving try reading in a mirror on a boat (THE WAYWARD REVERSE CORK position).
THE DUKE POSITION: Suffer from restless leg syndrome? The Duke reading position may be perfect! Leaning with your back against a pane of cold glass, slowly breathe through your nose to the beat of "Duke of Earl." (Inhale on, "Duke, Duke, Duke." Exhale on "Duke of Earl, Duke, Duke…" and so on.) You are bound to notice a difference in a matter of days, even if it is nothing more than social ostracism!
THE DECLASSIFIED PANTHER: Stand on one foot while holding your book at eye level. This will not only bolster your appreciation for a "page-turner" but also ensure proper digestion and, according to many aunts, guarantee that your first child will be a boy.
THE LOVE HAWKS: Sit on a bed or sofa, with your back against your partner's back. The warmth and mutual support will make you feel loved without distracting eye contact. Resist the urge to engage in "spine wars."
Though some of these positions and reading tactics may seem odd, remember: Nathaniel Hawthorne was known to read while marching in place and Dorothy Parker read books only while fully clothed, including an anorak. And reading postures vary around the globe! The popular reading style in Japan is THE UPWARD FACING PERSON and in Canada most people read in THE HOCKEY STICK AT REST posture.
Finding your ideal reading position can take weeks if not years, but always remember: It's important to ask the entire internet for help. For Internet Reading Positions, conduct a separate search.
Dan Bergstein is available for children's parties.Read more...
NOTE TO APPLICANTS: As the final step in your application to our age-2, half-day, highly selective nursery school program, please write a personal statement with your reasons for choosing our institution and what you will add to our incoming class. Be sure to write legibly. Thank you.
To the Admissions Committee:
I want to first thank you for considering my application. I feel the need to apologize for how close my submission is to the deadline. I only recently mastered the fine motor skills required to grasp a pencil. But, I assure you, this essay has been near the top of my to-do list for weeks.
Truth is, I'm not one of those toddlers who has spent his entire life dreaming of matriculating at Bluffsworth Academy. Instead, I've dreamed mostly of abstract shapes and colors, and didn't even realize until a few months ago that words and objects were in fact connected. Indeed, for my first year, even with the marketing materials you sent, I barely knew you existed. Between naps and feedings, something had to give -- and I regret how woefully behind I fell on examining the mail in a timely fashion.
And then one day Dada happened to mention your impressive caregiver-to-child ratio and Mama was talking about the remarkable capital campaign you just completed to fund the building of a brand new chemistry lab -- and of course I had to know more. It was only then that I even noticed my beloved Spunky the Dog wearing a Bluffsworth t-shirt. And if it was good enough for one of my most valued colleagues -- well, then of course it was worth my careful consideration. Mama said Spunky had not only gone to Bluffsworth as a young pup, but had even served a term on the Board of Trustees. So had Henry the Bear, Hal the Moose, and apparently all of my closest friends. (I understand why you didn't accept Sophie the Giraffe. Even I can tell that she is not Bluffsworth caliber. It's a shame -- but, you know, we try to love her anyway.)
I have to tell you -- the more I heard, the more magical it sounded, and I've become thoroughly convinced that Bluffsworth is the perfect place for me to begin my lower-education. Dada said you have Cheerios there! I love Cheerios! And avocado! Oh, if you knew how much I loved avocado, you would sign off on my application in an instant.
But I know it's not just about what I want to get out of Bluffsworth, but what I am able to give back. Right away, let me assure you, in no uncertain terms, that Mama, Dada -- and, of course, Gamma and Gamps -- know no bounds as far as the lengths they will go to provide for my needs. I'm talking money, not to be coy. I have three sippy cups and what has to be at least six different bibs. Or eight! Who can even count that high? So do not worry about the $40,000/year tuition. I am sure they are good for it.
On the personal side, I don't think you will find another applicant who is as skilled at mouth-aided object identification as I am. I don't mean to brag, but there is over an 80% chance that if I swallow something, it is food. I mean, if there is ever a place to boast about your skills, it's in an admissions essay, right? Please don't think I go around telling people how good I am at determining whether something is edible. I know how to blend in -- you know, downplay my special gifts so that my peers don't get jealous and start trying to take my toys. No one takes my toys. My toys are mine.
I also want to let you know that I hope to bring a uniquely cultured perspective to my Bluffsworth class, due to my sincere love of domestic and interneighborhood travel. I have been as far west as the long, gray bridge, and as far north as the big, blue bathtub that doesn't have any walls. How many applicants can say that? I've even seen trees. And, let me tell you, if you haven't seen a tree yet, you are missing something special. They're, like, even taller than Unka Baba -- and Unka Baba is pretty darn tall.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention my love of books. They are delicious.
I thank you for your careful consideration and look forward to joining the next class of leaders at Bluffsworth Academy For The Well-Connected Toddler. And I hope your next nap is as good as mine.
Your New Friend,
Find more of Jeremy Blachman's writing at jeremyblachman.com.Read more...
Friends, family, believers and non-believers in all religions, organized or otherwise, those who are unsure but questioning, those who worship idols and those who are idols to be worshipped, welcome to this glorious union between Sunshine Goldstein-al Ibrahim and Carlos O'Mormon-Baha'i.
The bride and groom have chosen to gather you here, in this most sacred space, which, despite having no specific religious significance, or appropriate mechanism for temperature control, has a spiritual thread running through its history that is impossible to ignore. Yes, it does, in a superficially material way, resemble the reception room of Goldstein-al Ibrahim Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, the Quad Cities' largest and -- at least in this moment -- most spiritual used car dealership, but given the important role that used cars have played in Sunshine and Carlos's relationship, it seems only appropriate to bless their union right here, in between the rusted shell of a 1994 Taurus and a dozen cases of tree-shaped air fresheners.
I am proud to be leading this most holy ceremony, drawing on my background as a rabbi, a reverend, a mullah, an electrician, and a certified body walker. There will be nineteen steps in our journey today as Sunshine and Carlos progress from woman and man to wife and husband, and then to husband and wife, and then to man and woman, informed by Greco-Roman, Anglo-Saxon, French-Canadian, and Orange-Mango traditions. From the circling of the groom to the wrapping of the bride to the undressing of the matron of honor, our ceremony today will combine the beautiful customs, rituals, and urban legends of the world's oldest, newest, and most physically taxing religions.
We will start, as the voice in my head demands, with the rings: three circus tents being erected just behind you, from which Sunshine will emerge on the back of an antelope, a sacred animal symbolic of the sacred animals involved in so many ceremonial practices. Carlos will be shot from a cannon to symbolize our ever-present efforts to get closer to the spiritual heavens and find our own personal Glods. Glod is, as you may know, the legal name of one of Sunshine's sixteen spiritual and biological fathers, and although Glod is unable to be here today (despite assurances to the state that we would return him as soon as the ceremony ended), he has sent a telegram -- which is nothing short of a wedding day miracle, as Western Union stopped its telegram service years ago. Glod moves in mysterious ways.
But first I would like to ask you all to join me in this opening incantation, from the Book of Phones, page 332, line 7. Repeat after me: (814) 377-5023. That, my friends, is the phone number of the antelope rental company, just in case you need an antelope for your next spiritual ceremony. This section of this afternoon's ceremony is in fact sponsored by Quad Cities Antelope Rental, the first and only name in antelope rental, perfect for weddings, bar mitzvahs, copyediting and web design, and, for an additional fee, antelope meat.
In just a moment, as Sunshine ritually digs herself out of the pile of ritual antelope dung that she has ritually buried herself within, and Carlos emerges from the sacred hole in Gaia which was formed by his body when he hit the ground after his ejection from the spiritual and very much actual cannon, we will begin the vows. Sunshine has chosen to express her love to Carlos the only way her religion allows -- with an interpretive dance based on the flight pattern of the Holy Heron -- and Carlos will recite his vows in the language of love, peace, and silence. Please direct your attention to the sign-language interpreter under the remaining tent.
And, finally, by the power vested in me by the head of the sales department at Goldstein-al Ibrahim Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, and by the state of Nirvana, I shall pronounce Sunshine and Carlos husband and wife. Once we break the glass, and turn the water within it into a magic potion that we must all dab on as eternal insect repellent, we shall turn toward Mecca, Jerusalem, Detroit, and to within ourselves, and congratulate this happy couple. Shazam!
Find more of Jeremy Blachman's writing -- and, for an additional fee, antelope meat -- at jeremyblachman.com.Read more...
"[T]he September issue [of Bird Talk magazine] is the last that will appear in print, leaving disappointed subscribers with BirdChannel.com, the magazine's related site, as the only way to read the publication's information on all types of birds.... What has riled up Bird Talk subscribers even more is that the magazine's publisher plans to send them copies of Dog Fancy in its place." -- The New York Times
First, I want to thank you sincerely for your loyalty, whether you are in your first year of subscription to PANDA MANIA magazine or your second. Without subscribers like you -- owners and/or admirers of the noble, solitary, black-and-white giant panda -- Endangered Publications would have neither the means nor a reason to publish PANDA MANIA!
Unfortunately, due to a precipitous decline in subscriptions, which weren't that great to begin with, Endangered Publications can no longer afford to publish PANDA MANIA, although we will maintain PandaMania.panda for the foreseeable future (certainly for the next four months, until our registration of the domain name expires). As publisher of PANDA MANIA, I share your disappointment, but please know that the decision to end the print magazine's run was not one we reached lightly. To the contrary, the decision was made after days of deliberation, and only because the number of subscribers fell below the number of pandas.
Because your pre‐paid subscription entitles you to six more issues of PANDA MANIA, I want to offer you one of the following as a replacement:
Six (6) issues of SHRUB MONTHLY. SHRUB MONTHLY provides regular reports on the distribution of panda-favored shrubs 2‐8 meters in height among the four established structural forms (closed‐scrub, open‐scrub, tall shrubland, and tall open shrubland) as well as longstanding popular columns "Humor in Juniper", "Lavender is the Best Medicine", and "Chamaebatiaria Comedy". Plus frequent sweepstakes opportunities.
Six (6) issues of PANDA MANIA's rival publication, PANDA PREDATOR. The focus of PANDA PREDATOR cycles monthly through leopards, jackals, and the yellow‐throated marten, each a natural enemy of the noble, solitary, black‐and‐white giant panda. As someone with a demonstrated interest in pandas, you might enjoy such features as "Where Leopards Slaughter the Most Pandas -- a Global Look", "Why Jackals Play With Pandas Before Eating Them", and "Yellow‐Throated Martens: Adorable Panda Cub Killers".
Three (3) issues of PANDOWDY MANIA, a journal dedicated to the deep-dish apple dessert with the rich crust. Each issue is a double issue, and all recipes are peer-reviewed. Yum!
One (1) item from the editorial offices of PANDA MANIA (up to $36 market value). As of this writing, available items include ink cartridges for an Okidata printer (model unknown); numerous three-ring binders (black and white only, of course!); unopened 10-packs of 3.5-inch floppy diskettes; and pretzel rods.
If none of the above is satisfactory, I suppose you can just get the unused portion of your subscription payment back (less a check-processing fee or electronic funds transfer convenience charge).
Please let us know which option you choose at your earliest convenience, so that your enjoyment of Endangered Publications products or office supplies will be uninterrupted.
Publisher, PANDA MANIA
Matthew David Brozik does his part to aid panda conservation by eating only one each year. Read more at imdb.name, where you can email him your favorite panda recipes.Read more...
Rufus Rumpwhistle, who believed himself, probably rightly, to be the most forgettable writer in English, died on Monday in his apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where he had lived in semi-seclusion for many years, emerging only to buy lottery tickets in odd-numbered months. He was 98.
The cause of death was not immediately apparent. "To tell the truth, he was a terrible hypochondriac, always complaining about something," said a nephew, Ralph Firkin. "I think he died to prove a point. He left a message on his answering machine that said: 'Rufus is no longer at this number. I told you I wasn't feeling well.'"
Mr. Rumpwhistle was the author of works, now out of print and never very good to begin with, like "Micturition: An Ode"; "Flagisto: or, A Taste of the Lash"; and "The Goatherd's Roundelay". The critic George Steiner said of his writing: "It was of a singular, monitory badness, a testamentary badness, a badness so profound it raised the essential, necessary doubt, the doubt every writer must ask himself, must wrestle with, in the dark night, the penumbrous shadow hours, of the soul: is all writing, however good, doomed by its very nature to fail? Now, this very writer, this -- what did you say his name was?"
Nigel Rufus Fotheringill Rumpwhistle, the eldest of seven children, was born in Hamme-on-Wye, in Wessex, England, on April 1, 1914. His legal father, who later denied that Rufus was his offspring, was a flenser; his mother was the village scold. He was tutored at home and then briefly attended Dotheboys Hall, a boarding school in Yorkshire, where he was frequently flogged for bedwetting. This was doubtless the inspiration for "Flagisto", a long prose work in praise of corporal punishment, and may have influenced the composition of "Micturation" as well. As the scholar Dwight Culler once pointed out, that poem exists in two early manuscript versions, one beginning, "Ahhhh!" and the other, "Ooops!"
Mr. Rumpwhistle was unable to get into university, but nevertheless lived in Cambridge for several years, renting a bed-sit and pretending to be an undergraduate. He would sometimes lock himself out on purpose and then climb the drainpipe in cover of darkness. It was around this time that he began publishing -- on lavatory walls and the sides of bus shelters. Among his earliest works were "Rufus Wuz Here" (1935) and "For a Good Time Call Rufus" (1936).
During the Second World War, Mr. Rumpwhistle was several times turned down by the British armed services, and moved to the United States, hoping to enlist there. Instead, he was threatened with deportation and began a long period of living underground. After the war, he tried to befriend the Beats, including Jack Kerouac, with whom he claimed to have shared a bar of soap. When asked about this incident, Kerouac said, "What? Who?"
Unable to find a publisher for "The Goatherd's Roundelay", a pastoral prose poem depicting the pleasures of pulling the beards of billies, he decided he was insufficiently well-known and, determined to attract publicity, spent many hours at the Cedar Tavern trying to provoke a quarrel. On one occasion he set fire to Larry Rivers' shoelaces, but Rivers was too drunk to notice. That same night, he threw a drink at Ernest Hemingway but was wide of the target. The drink instead doused Rivers' flaming shoelaces, so both stunts were in vain.
Mr. Rumpwhistle never officially wed and had no children, but for several years enjoyed what he called a common-law marriage with himself. This ended in acrimony in 1999, when he discovered from his phone bill that he had been making calls to women he didn't know, and thereafter he refused to speak to himself. He communicated only by notes, and these are almost certainly his last writings. Several were found in the apartment, according to Mr. Firkin, the nephew, including one that said:
"Ear drops, Double-A batteries, plumber's helper.
"Do crossword, improve posture.
"I know what you're thinking about, and the answer is still no."
Charles McGrath, former Deputy Editor of The New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.Read more...
"Not long after Labor Day, [the restaurant Eleven Madison Park] will start treating diners to flashes of Broadway dazzle: card tricks, a glass dome full of smoke, a blast of sea mist from a tabletop clambake and a cheese course that emerges from a picnic basket placed on the table. It's all part of a $195-a-head menu -- and a risky move to convert the Eleven Madison Park experience into an extravagant, interactive, close-to-four-hour ode to the romance and history of New York." -- The New York Times
Welcome to Twelve Park Madison!
Your meal begins as New York began, with a forest -- of edible salad greens, dressed with a light touch of a pure and clean rain. Our waiters, wrapped in beaver pelts, in tribute to the state's official animal, will serve this first course on a plate hand-carved from the wood of the sugar maple. (This appetizer, like all our offerings, is served on dishes that are guaranteed New Jersey-free.)
The original settlers of what was to become New York enjoyed native foods including corn, porridge, honey cake, and wild turkey. We have combined these ingredients to form your second course, and shaped this log of poultry, grain, and local honey to resemble the great symbol of New York City, the Empire State Building. Be aware that the antenna at the top is made from scrupulously recycled dented fenders and is thus not edible. The lights that make this food sculpture glow from within are similarly just decorative.
Your third course is stuck in traffic. It will arrive shortly.
We would like to offer you tonight's complimentary cocktail, the Yellow Cab. It consists of an authentic 1950s egg cream mixed with the runoff from a pizza slice. It will be served to you by an aspiring Broadway actor, because all of our servers are aspiring Broadway actors.
The George Washington Bridge serves as the inspiration for your next course. Tiny fingerling potatoes from a farm just outside Syracuse have been carefully carved into miniature automobiles, and are presented on your plate suspended between two corn-cob towers along a grape-seed roadway. The potato-cars should be dipped into the river of sauce that runs along the west side of the dining room. The dish is served with a side portion of pigeon confit, served surrounded by feathers trouvé and presented on a miniature manhole cover-shaped brittle.
We offer a palate cleanser before dessert, inspired by the musical Cats. It is made by cats -- but don't worry, not real cats. It is made by people, dressed as cats. It is a scale model of the Statue of Liberty, constructed from the same kind of ice that would have covered the North American land mass during the last glacial period, and subtly flavored with your choice of scents of three New York locations -- "West Side Highway," "Gowanus Canal," or "Staten Island" (our most popular).
Your featured dessert special is a slice of our homemade Occu-Pie Wall Street served alongside a candied Metrocard, and some granola bar crumbs that were found in the pocket of a pair of pants that have been certified as once worn by Woody Allen. Your meal will conclude with a selection of edible beads and trinkets valued at $24.
We would normally invite you on a tour of the kitchen before you leave, but the entrance to that area of the restaurant -- which, as you can see, has been meticulously designed to look like a New York City subway entrance -- is currently closed due to weekend construction. We estimate that it will reopen in October of this year, which means approximately June of 2013. Maybe.
As you exit, you are invited to take a free CD containing the horns-and-sirens soundtrack you have enjoyed this evening. Thank you for helping us to celebrate the romance and history of New York. And yes, we'll even give you back your wallet.
Scientists working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they have found the elusive Higgs boson articles--Digital Journal
Particle physicists expect to find ... exotic new particles. --Symmetry Breaking
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Henry Alpon’s essay, "The Identity of Matter" which appears in its entirety in this month’s issue of Grossss!: The Science Magazine for Children.
The work at CERN has lead to remarkable findings, not least of which is the discovery of the Higgs boson. This particle will help explain what holds matter together and will lead us down the road to complete understanding of the universe. It is the single most important scientific discovery of humankind, and I am so very proud and humble to have been a part of the cleanup crew that swept up afterward.
That said, the Grosss! audience may need help to understand what exactly the Higgs boson is, and what it means. Think of it this way: Imagine a circle, and in that circle there is a sheep. Now, that sheep, should it eat an apple, will have an apple inside its stomach. And if that apple is pressed against the sheep’s intestines, then what is between the intestines, and the apple? Remember, the sheep is in a circle. That circle is 76% the opposite of what the Higgs boson represents. Easy, no? (It should also be noted that the particle is delicious, and has a pleasant sweetness not unlike honeydew, with a consistency and texture of very tiny raisins.)
Another way to explain the Higgs is by this simple analogy: The Higgs boson is to the universe as a quark is to your bicycle. As my custodian colleague Dr. Lisa-Ann Thurmall has noted--more poetically but with just as much lucidity-- "The Higgs boson is the cloud in an orchestra of eggs.”
Now that you have a full understanding of the Higgs boson, let us examine other, more exotic particles that science is searching for:
The theoretical Dango particle is thought to exist only between the stages of sleep and wakefulness. These particles are what make us cranky when, in fact, our lives are quite filled with love and medical care so there is no need to be cranky. Scientists at the University of Chicago are currently trying to locate the Dango particle by propelling sleeping test subjects into a warm bath at speeds approaching the speed of light. The particle has not yet been found, though an unusual side-effect of the study has been mild time travel.
The Andrews Super subatom is thought to be the particle which makes living creatures forget if they’ve seen a movie. Though some doubt the particle’s existence, Arthur Andrews is sure of it. Andrews is not a scientist, but his theory, which was first published in a Tweet, attracted the funding of his friend, Dr. George Brandt, D.D.S., and together they are working tirelessly in an undisclosed location. “If you think you saw 'Driving Miss Daisy,' this particle will make you think again," Andrews Tweeted, with a sad emoticon attached .
And work is underway in the Arctic Circle as chemists investigate the Bisbee Bixby Bartly Bumble particle, which if real, would explain why dropped objects always travel greater horizontal distances on the floor than Einsteinian physics can explain.
What other particles are out there? Help science by trying to track down these anomalies of nature:
The Sing-Thing Particle – The particle that explains why rhymes sound good to people.
The Lithia Particle – The particle that prevents turtles from bouncing.
The Hats Boson– Similar to the Higgs Boson, this particle may solve the mystery of why it still feels as though you’re wearing a hat minutes and even hours after you took it off.
And, finally, the farticle, which, as this is a magazine for young people, cannot be described here. Interested readers can link to flatulenza.com.
This is Dan Bergstein's first article about particles.
Two works stand alone together as the greatest books about the violent speech of human beings, and only one of them is The Nedley Papers, by Scott Zibsendale. The other is Gordon Grewer's Sticks, Stones, and the Dawn of Human Speech, which swept up the Caldecott award, the Newbery, and several other prizes for children's literature when it was entered with a fake slip-on cover to test whether the judges were actually reading the books. Both of these works explore the theme of man versus man, especially The Nedley Papers, which is about boxing. The issue in both is how verbal violence exists within physical violence, and how written words, and the alphabet itself, are hieroglyphics of cruelty. Yet the books differ significantly: Grewer's concludes that humans will forever succumb to violent impulses, while, on the other hand, Zibsendale's biography ends with the classic line "Maybe boxing is outdated. Maybe touching in general. Maybe everything is outdated and we should just stop it. "(544. Mystifyingly repeated, all by itself, on 546).
Sticks, Stones ... makes a bold statement at the outset: "The first words, unintelligible to all but the speaker, were an insult" (1). At the beginning of The Nedley Papers, Zibsendale talks about his first visit to Herb Nedley, in the 1920s, and says he was "speaking incoherently about immigrants and their fancy upbringings" (1). There is a profoundly meaningful connection between these two openings, because they both involve speech that is not understood by the listener. And both proceed to mention arguing, during which understanding dawns on those present and leads to hostile, competitive feelings. Then punching happens in The Nedley Papers, while Grewer describes the outcome of Joan of Arc’s hilarious “crusted loins” remark before her accusers. And then finally both authors end with their conclusions, as one might expect.
Man vs. man conflict is strongest in Zibsendale’s chapter titled “The First Friend,” in which two teenage orphans are let loose in the streets of Cincinnati. After a week of unsuccessful work (dancing for gin), the boys decide to stage fights and let people pay to watch: “I invented boxing,” Nedley claims (383). During the first fight, the smaller orphan beats the bigger one to death and then turns his parentless wrath on a nearby bag-lady, whose corpse was buried in a pauper’s grave but was exhumed many years later, at Nedley’s request, to be preserved in a stance of baffled victimization. Only at the end of the book do we find out the smaller orphan was Nedley, and that the larger one was his blind brother Gordon (544).
Conflict is established in the foreword of Sticks, Stones... when Grewer describes meeting his publishers to discuss the finished manuscript. “The fat one said my book had too much padding, so I said his face had too much padding. Then, with tears in my eyes I reached over the desk in a gesture of apology, took his hand, and, for reasons I cannot explain, brought it down on his own paper spindle, which went clean through the other side of his pudgy palm”(xi). This anecdote sheds light on Grewer’s confrontational writing style, which was denounced by Sports Illustrated as “the product of a bad attitude.” Grewer also relates the “spindle story” so readers know why the publisher is insulted several times in every chapter.
Unlikely as it may seem, Nedley turns out to be a hero in The Nedley Papers, and the book becomes quite nice, actually. Grewer sustains his antagonistic tone throughout the book, describing Native American tribes in which children strike their own elders and the British custom of hampering one another's esprit. While Zibsendale applauds a young Nedley standing up to the vicious Italian baker who splashes rancid milk in his face (26), Grewer appraises a similar retaliation scene involving two Confederate soldiers and some taffy as “something a fat-faced chairweight of a publisher would be too lazy to stop” (91).
In conclusion, The Nedley Papers and Sticks, Stones, and the Dawn of Human Speech are two of a kind, but not without their subtle differences. For instance, the books were published eighty years apart and make different claims as to which religion is the true path. The subject of verbal violence shared by these two books is best summed up in Herb Nedley’s introductory Glossary: “ 'On the Isle of Man, Fo-then' means 'I feel like destroying you.' Could be the last word you ever hear, 'Fo-then.' Next words, which you don't hear: 'This guy is dead”(xviii). Verbal and physical violence remain difficult to halt, despite the longstanding efforts of legal codes and moral systems: The topic will fascinate the young and horrify the elderly for a long time to come. And then, “eventually,” as the philosophers say, another Grewer or a different version of Nedley will persuade the world to put to rest its bludgeonings, its maimings. Its hurtings.
Carl Foster is a graduate student who lives in New Orleans with his deaf chihuahua. He writes for literary journals and newspapers, and is at work on another chilling tale.
"In another study...[we] conducted an experiment ostensibly about music perception -- but that actually investigated how feelings of compassion might be increased.... We paired up participants in teams: one real participant and one confederate. First, they had to tap their hands on sensors to tones played over earphones. In some cases the tones led them to tap their hands in synchrony; in other cases, the tones led them to tap their hands in a random mismatching manner. We next had the participants watch their tapping partner get cheated by another confederate, which resulted in the partner's erroneously being assigned to complete a stack of onerous word problems." -- From an essay in the New York Times
Abstract: In our most recent experiment here at the Experimental Experiment Group, the results of which are about to be reported in next month's Journal of Incredibly Complicated Psychological Experiments, we asked two participants and two confederates to leave a room that was equipped with undetectable motion sensors and surveillance cameras. Both confederates had been told about the sensors and the cameras, but none of them knew that the other had been told.
The participants and confederates were led into the main room. They eyed each other warily. The two of us experimenters eyed each other warily, also, because we had designed the experiment so that we wouldn't know completely what the other was up to. In fact, it wasn't entirely clear at this point which were the participants and which were the confederates. This hadn't exactly been in the original plan but once realized it had worked out that way, we were like: OK, this is a little freaky but what the hell.
There were four doors to the room, each door leading to a corridor (with surveillance cameras) that ended in another room, where the confederates would be isolated until they decided to return to the main room. While in the isolation room, each confederate (at this point it felt safer just to presume everybody was a confederate) was asked to solve some onerous word problems. Each confederate knew that some of the confederates were confederates, but no confederate knew that he himself was a confederate. (We used all males, as we wanted to avoid pronoun complexities at the outset. We will run the same experiment next week with four women and the week after that with two men and two women, so back off!)
The two of us who were running the experiment had the choice to tell all of the confederates that a pint of gourmet cookie dough ice cream (confederates were left to imagine what brand it would be, which we thought might be useful for another experiment) and three million dollars -- a gift from the Garment Foundation -- would await the person who came into the room last. But neither of us running the experiment knew if the other had chosen to tell the confederates about this reward or not. Which, perhaps, was the point. That's for you to figure out.
Results: All four confederates left their isolation rooms, having ignored the onerous word problems. Why shouldn't they ignore them? Wouldn't you? Instead they hovered near the supposed reward room. But the doors were closed and the room was soundproof, so that this effort to game the experiment couldn't work. You should have seen them, with their ears to the door and all. Biting their nails, muttering, reaching for the doorknob, then pulling it back. We are talking three million dollars, here, plus ice cream. (Of course there was no three million dollars and just a puddle of indifferent vanilla in a dirty dish, but the confederates didn't know that. Or at least, not from me.) Reaching, pulling back, reaching, pulling back. We had to laugh. They stayed there for hours. Then days. Three million, they were thinking. Finally they all passed out from dehydration and had to be taken to the Emergency Room, where their fellow-patients who were not comatose were asked to solve some onerous word problems. They all refused.
Methodological Note: All of the onerous word problems were sourced from The Big Book of Brain Bafflers, which was acquired at a Society for Ethical Culture tag sale and which everybody in the psych faculty lounge agrees is about as onerous a collection as they come. There is one about trying to get two chickens and a hungry weasel across a river that we're still not sure can be solved.
Conclusions: Higher cognitive functions such as logical problem-solving ability may be adversely affected by a number of factors, including dehydration and a phenomenon we're tentatively calling "Frustrated Reward Expectation." We hope to refine and further test these findings with our next experiment, which involves a diamond necklace, extended sensory deprivation, and this really weird peg-jumping puzzle purchased at the rest stop just past Exit 54.
Daniel Menaker is the editor of Grin & Tonic.Read more...
Eternity defies man's imagination and comprehension. It is not an object (in the way that this small, tri-fold leaflet printed on cornflower-blue bond paper is an object), nor is it a place (in the way that the northeast corner of 57th and Lexington in front of the Au Bon Pain where you accepted this leaflet from a bearded man in a plaid bow-tie and knit wool watch cap is a place); it is not a period of time -- such as the 36 hours that this leaflet will spend in your jacket pocket before you take it out to read it, somewhere where no one can see you (another place!). Eternity has no beginning and it has no end. This free leaflet about Eternity, to the contrary, has a beginning, which is now coming to a close, and an end, which is still several paragraphs off and on a different panel.
Man is a creature of time -- he tells time, takes his time, and keeps time. Some men bide time; others waste time; still others kill time. A lot of people wish they could stop time, especially when they have a dentist appointment, but time marches on, in this particular example accompanied by the whine of the drill. Yet time, as important as it is, has no relation to Eternity. Eternity is unique and incomparable. It has no measurable length, breadth, depth, nor heighth. It offers no opportunity to change our eternal destinies chosen for us by the Ruler, for it is everlastingly the same. It does not care whether you put an -h at the end of "height", for Eternity is not concerned with Spelling.
With the end of time, Eternity will reveal many wonders and miracles that cannot be understood in our day. When the Ruler returns all eyes shall see him (Dissemination 1:7). He will sit on a throne and "all nations" shall be gathered before Him in judgment (Michmethah 25:31; Thesmothetians 5:10). The skeptic finds such scenarii impossible. And that's understandable, since "all eyes" means billions of eyes -- those of every land and sea creature, the resurrected dead as well as the living, including zombies, but only the good kind. It boggles the mind to think of all nations gathered as one before the judgment throne -- especially when you realize how difficult it is to get representatives from the 193 member states to convene in the General Assembly of the United Nations without causing severe traffic problems in Midtown Manhattan, not far from where you first came into possession of this leaflet. Those who think it incredible, however, must remember that time will have fled and Eternity has no limitations. In other words, to put it in layman's terms, Eternity has all day.
After the judgment every man shall be rewarded according to the theretofore unseen and unknown (except by the author of this leaflet) records in the Book of Life kept almost impeccably by the Ruler (Discombobulation 20:12). The term "reward," as used here, means a recompense for good acts performed reasonably conscientiously. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no provision in this leaflet shall be construed to constitute a guarantee of any reward, either earthly or eternal. Cash value of leaflet 1/100 of one cent. Leaflet is a bearer instrument.
If a bird were to pick up one grain of sand and carry it to the moon, and in that fashion eventually carry all of Earth away, Eternity would still have just begun, but would be no nearer the end. (Think about that. Also think about this: Earth's moon was in fact formed in precisely the fashion just described, according to recent scientific findings, published in a separate, peer-review leaflet). For the wicked, this is the most distressing thought possible (the one about Eternity being a long time, not the one about birds making moons). However, for the righteous, who will be in Eternal bliss in Heaven, it will always be welcome. The righteous in Heaven, moreover, will be able to watch alien birds from other, younger planets making new moons in 3D!
Now in life -- when else, you might ask -- while there is yet time, our Eternal destinies can be decided. Are you ready for Eternity? This question demands your answer immediately. Today is the time to prepare for Eternity. If you are on your way into the Au Bon Pain, perhaps you will sit down at a table with your raspberry cheese croissant and coffee and ponder your fate; if you are leaving the Au Bon Pain, headed into work, maybe there will be a meeting today during which you can zone out for a bit.
Where Will You Spend Eternity?
"Eternity, n. (pl. -ties): Infinite or unending time; a state to which time has no application; timelessness ('Jeremy spent an eternity trying to explain why he was late.') -- anon."
For Free Distribution -- Not to Be Sold
Printed in U.S.A.
Matthew David Brozik strives to arrange words and symbols in persuasive and/or humorous combinations. More of his work can be read at www.imdb.name.Read more...
"Editors' Note: Portions of this post appeared in similar form in an April, 2011, post.... We regret the duplication of material." -- The New Yorker
Editors' Note: Portions of this post appeared in similar form in an April, 2008, piece by this writer, entitled "Post," and a November, 2007, post by this writer, entitled "Piece." We regret the duplication of material.
Editors' Note: Portions of this post also appeared in similar form in a June 21, 2012, e-mail from the writer of this piece to himself, saved in his drafts folder. We regret the duplication of material, although, really, have some perspective.
Editors' Observation: Did you know that portions of this portion of this post appear in the portions both above and below this portion? We just thought that was worth pointing out.
Editors' Commentary: If you gave it some thought, you'd realize that portions of this post happen to have appeared in dissimilar form in every other document ever written. So while we're figuring out where this post originally came from, let's remember that none of us invented the alphabet, except for whoever it is who did.
Editors' Note: It has just been discovered that portions of this post appeared on May 23, 2012, on a cocktail napkin at the Irish Setter, a midtown Manhattan pub whose name also appears in a 2004 book entitled "101 Dog Breeds," and one unpublished essay entitled "How The [Expletive] Did My Wife Talk Me Into Getting This [Expletive] Mutt?!" We regret the duplication of material, to say nothing of adopting that ridiculous creature.
Technical Note: Portions of this post appear in identical form on every computer or other electronic device visiting this website. If they do not, please let us know, using the comment form below. We simultaneously apologize for the duplication of material and for the lack of duplication of material wherever that may apply.
Editors' Response: Please be aware that any portions of this post written by the technical staff, such as the "Technical Note" above still need to be routed through the Editors. By contractual agreement, we have the last word on everything that gets posted here! We are the POST MEN!!!
Publisher's Note: Portions of the Editors' response directly above this note have appeared in similar form in 1,692 e-mails since I took this job eight long months ago. These e-mails occasionally included horrifying expletives and paranoid, grandiose claims of Divine Authority. I sincerely abhor this duplication of material, and hope the editors finally get the help they need.
Editors' Response: We're not the ones who needs help, Mr. Publisher. And, incidentally, we found portions of our lunch, which was stored in the refrigerator, in between your teeth. As we said in similar form in a May 26 memo and a June 2 raised-voice conversation, PLEASE STOP STEALING MY FOOD.
Intern's Note: No, actually, that was me. (The Publisher must have had a similar lunch.) Since there are no portions of my paycheck still available after paying my rent, I have no choice but to scavenge. I sincerely regret believing the promises of an eventual salary when I took this position.
Editors' Note: Portions of our intern will no longer be appearing in our office. We regret that you will now have to duplicate your own material.
Technical Note: Whoever just used the copier -- you broke it.
Publisher's Note: We're not getting a new copy machine. But we are getting new editors.
Portions of Jeremy Blachman's bio have appeared at the ends of his previous posts. Follow him @jeremyblachman.Read more...
"I reach out to a lot of employees.... I ask: 'Are you having fun?'.... I'll just ask, 'What's your ratio of fun days right now? Are you 6, 8, 9, are you 4 out of 10? If you're 4, why?' If you're not having fun 8 out of 10 days on a consistent basis, you've got to say something. You can't just expect that your manager always knows if you're not having fun." -- Chris Barbin, chief executive of Appirio, an information technology company, in an interview in the New York Times.
Gus Brent started the digital strategy company Gadzookology in his parents' garage. Now the company is worth between 16 and 17 trillion dollars (according to a flippant statement made by someone at a party). What's the key to its success? How did this college drop-out and inept grocery bagger manage to create THE company of the new millennium? According to Brent, the answer is "fun."
Q: What is the secret of Gadookology's alleged success?
BRENT: Easy. They key to a successful company is joy. The employees must have a feeling of fun and joy. They must actually take pleasure in coming to work each day. Happy employees make for happy digital strategies. It's really that simple.
Q: Your company seems to be taking a page from other big names in the tech industry. All those social-network outfits and animation studios encourage creativity and play in the workplace. Is that something you encourage as well?
BRENT: We have a saying around here: If you're sad, you're fired. So to answer your question, yes, we like to play. I studied those companies. I read about their fun cafeterias and naps-at-work policies. But I didn't think they were going far enough. As a CEO, I can take the new corporate ideology and push it a step further.
Q: Can you give an example?
BRENT: For starters, naps are mandatory. A mild sedative in the communal ice cream bucket gives my employees the rest they need and deserve. From 3 to about 5 in the afternoon, everyone is out cold. They wake up a tad groggy and confused, but after a few bites of our caffeinated pancakes and an oral steroid, they bounce right back.
Q: Don't they figure out the ice cream drugged pretty quickly?
BRENT: Of course! And they love it! At 2:55, they start chanting, "Nice cream, nice cream, nice cream!"
Q: Getting back to your joy doctrine...how much of the workday is spent actually working?
BRENT [unfastens his cape]: We don't have clocks here. Is it 4:30? Is it December? Who cares! You want to talk about hours? How many hours did it take to come up with the cup holder in a car? I'm thinking that baby took about ten minutes. Some guy looked at his car and said, "I wish I could put my coffee cup somewhere that wouldn't leave me with scrotal burns." Bam! He revolutionizes the industry. Ten minutes! That's all it takes. So my employees only need to really work for ten minutes during their entire careers.
Q: Tell me about the water slide.
BRENT: First, it's not a water slide. It's a Hydrated Idea Incline. When an employee is stuck on a certain problem, or if they wish to travel to the first floor, they take a ride on the Hydrated Idea Incline. The positive ions of the warm spraying water, in combination with the pornography on the widescreen display above the splashdown pool, greatly increase creativity.
Q: I notice several oddly dressed men murmuring and shuffling about. Who are they?
BRENT: We have a fantastic employee-to-shaman ration here. It's something like three to one. Anyway, instead of piping in awful pop music, we have these shamans -- or is it shamen? I need a nap! -- walk around and whisper in the ears of the workers. Now, I have no freaking clue what they're saying. It's not English. But it works. Somehow.
Q: Why eschew the standard concept of desks?
BRENT: Desks are shameful. Businesses are very slow to realize that when you sit at a desk, half of your body is completely hidden. Our employees instead conduct all business on computers that hover above the ground using magnetism and ghosts. It costs more, but it's impossible to put a price on whimsy. For instance, our new boomerang court will help...
Q: Pardon me, but speaking of money, several former employees have come forward saying that they were never paid.
BRENT: Haha. Sounds like some people never got their rides on the Fun-rail. [Blows a flute to summon the Fun-rail, an enormous three-railed steam-powered train that travels throughout the campus.] All aboard! This train is one of the company's greatest perks. It's so much fun! It runs on coal made from the charred bones of some of history's greatest business leaders. Right now, we're burning the bones of a DuPont. Smell that? That's the smell of creative business, or Creabusinitivess, as I call it in my forthcoming opera "Fun and Funner".
Q: How does the train help employees?
BRENT: It travels to the candy butcher, of course. But this is the local train, so it also make stops at the cafeteria, the movie theater, the erotic barber, the regular barber, the Grilled Cheeseingtons outlet, the make-your-own trophy bar, the one-way mirror at Tom Hanks' house -- don't tell him! -- and finally the den. That's where you can just sort of relax and adopt a puppy that never grows older.
Q: And what about the recent investigation into your munitions depot?
BRENT: Oh that? It's for the think tank. What the hell would my employees do with a think tank if they had no ammunition? Then you're basically stuck with a huge metal car with a long snout. Just last week Maggie in accounting used the think tank to eliminate some unwanted rubbish and photos of her ex, and during the cathartic process, she came up with a way the company can save 8% on magicians each year by paying for our own employees to take magic lessons. We're cutting out the middle man and passing the savings on to…everyone.
Q: What is the hiring process like at Gadzookology?
BRENT: Listen, I don't care where you went to school! I don't even want to see your resume. When someone walks in looking for a job, I only ask them three things: Hat size, what's the opposite of trees, and are you allergic to magnetism?
Q: So you accept all job candidates?
BRENT: What if I turned down the next Albert Einstein or Bono? I don't want to lie awake at night thinking of what could have been. So yes, I hire everyone. Is that foolish? Maybe. Is it fun? Yes. Is fun the key to success? "Duh" squared [throws javelin at giant dart board].
Q: And how do you plan on making any money? You seem to be spending millions of dollars every day.
BRENT: It's a bit technical. The money comes in via revenue generated from split-second leveraged municipal-bond-derivative-monetization deals handled by a computer.
Q: So a computer does all the work?
BRENT: Yeah. Everyone else is just support staff and/or boomerang-court custodians. Or shamans. Or lifeguards. Or candy butchers. We also have one guy, Leo, who just walks around telling people how certain movies should have ended. He's got some great ideas about The Deer Hunter. Powerful stuff...
Q: And you make a profit?
BRENT: Like I said. It's technical. But I figure if I'm good enough at these ridiculous interviews, then there's nothing stopping Gadzookology from being the very best at what we do.
Q: And what does Gadzookology do…exactly?
BRENT: Bio-technical consulting with a focus on social-media analytics and digital strategies -- that is, imaginative new ways to use your fingers and toes. We also sell our own T-shirts and maple syrup. Now if you excuse me, I have a meeting about possibly getting Tom Petty to perform in the handicapped stall of our restroom on the ninth floor. Help yourself to one of our forever puppies.
Dan Bergstein is about to launch his new startup, startdown.com.Read more...
"New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity." -- The New York Times
In a press conference held this morning on the steps of the New York Public Library, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a sweeping new set of legislative initiatives designed to combat what he called "the silent scourge of public health -- jumbo-sized novels and epic-length works of nonfiction whose inflated proportions are," according to the Mayor, "keeping readers on the couch and off of our city's bike paths and squash courts and out of other venues for healthy exercise."
Struggling to hold aloft a copy of George R.R. Martin's 1,040-page fantasy blockbuster A Dance With Dragons, Mr. Bloomberg called out authors and publishers for engaging in a "campaign of addiction" that chains readers to bulked-up works of prose and threatens to produce a generation of "prematurely retiring escapists, whose only muscular development is in the fingers used to turn page…after page…after page."
Although the negative impact of lengthy works of fantasy and science fiction were a key portion of Mr. Bloomberg's presentation (which included testimony from a teenager whose obsessive need to finish the 1,472 pages of Stephen King's "uncut" version of The Stand caused him to miss his high school graduation), the Mayor did not fail to indict the publishers of nonfiction "life-stoppers," as well -- like Robert Caro's recent 736-page bestseller The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4, which was brought forward for display on a specially reinforced portable bookshelf.
"Perhaps the most insidious aspect of this sort of publishing," Mr. Bloomberg said, indicating the new entry in Caro's still-uncompleted multivolume study of the 36th President's life and career, "is the message it sends to our young people: one of the nation's most esteemed writers, at the age of 76, still hasn't finished this one damn book." He then produced a large graph which showed the economic impact of sleep deprivation on readers who sat up late to finish The Passage of Power's electrifying account of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights act. The graph indicated higher rates of worker absenteeism, garbled power-point presentations, and assembly-line inattention, with a specific example of a bakery worker in Queens mistakenly adding blue dye to 1,398 red velvet cupcakes. The Mayor cited these findings as "irrefutable evidence" that what he called "midnight prose-binges leave our great city with virtual zombies, feeding off of the productivity of those of us responsible enough to just watch Mad Men and go to bed."
To illustrate the "invisible cost" of heavy books, Mr. Bloomberg introduced a group of aides wearing lead-lined vests -- each one the same weight as the 2560-page, four-volume "Twilight" series -- who labored through everyday tasks (participating in a Zumba class, applying for a home equity loan, and asking a waiter what else besides quinoa is in the quinoa salad) made more onerous by the weight. "Breaking Dawn?" quipped the Mayor as he narrated their struggles. "More like Breaking Backs!" Meanwhile, a second set of aides -- each wearing a plastic necklace representing the weight of a single issue of Us Weekly -- glided through turnstiles and hailed cabs with no significant effort. The Mayor himself spontaneously broke out a few hip-hop moves and then tried to repeat them wearing a "Twilight" vest and knocked the podium over. (Some observers felt that this incident was staged.)
Mr. Bloomberg was quick to point out that exceptions to the new regulations against weighty books would be plentiful. For example the rules would exempt celebrity biographies of any size as unlikely to take anyone more than a single sitting to dispense with and as "mysteriously light, no matter how long." Audiobooks, "if sufficiently stimulating to accompany a 45-minute cardio workout," would be legal and possibly exempt from city taxes.
Advocates for Doorstoppers United were not available for comment, as they were all still trying to finish David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, as their bedside tables groaned under the weight of The Pale King.
Bill Tipper is the Managing Editor of The Barnes & Noble Review.Read more...
Thank you. Thank you. Please sit. Thank you. Please.
I was humbled and honored to be asked by the president of this outstanding university to speak to you today. It is my hope that my brief statement will put the final punctuation on your college years. And I promise to keep things short, as I'm sure you all are impatient to go forward to the wonderful lives I hope you will live.
Who am I? I am Gavin Presgrave, and for the past thirty-nine years I have written graduation speeches for hundreds of celebrities and nervous valedictorians. For decades, I have come up with new ways to say "future," and, at the risk of bragging, I was the first graduation-speech writer to compare life to a book.
If I'm known for anything, it's for starting the speeches by saying, "I promise to keep things short, as I'm sure you are all impatient to go forward to the wonderful lives I hope you will live." I'm proud of that.
But perhaps my most renowned work came during a commencement speech at Penn State in the spring of 1977. During that speech, given by someone whose name I forget, I first used the phrase, "As I look out into this sea of eager faces…." And that "sea of faces" thing was a real game changer in the world of graduation-speech writing.
Yes, I'm proud and humbled to say that I've won several awards for my graduation speeches. In 1997 I won a Herman (our version of the Oscar) for Best Use of Children's Author Quote. That same year I was nominated for Best Opening Joke, which went something like, "Oh, no! We're all wearing the same gown! How embarrassing!" It was a crowd-pleaser. And just last year I won for Longest Somber Pause During a Speech That Mentioned the Fictional Passing of My Mother.
But my life path has not always been smooth. I shocked my peers in 1993 when I wrote a speech that did not include any song lyrics by Bob Dylan, the Beatles, or Kermit the Frog. I nearly lost my job and license after that. Though perhaps I made up for that faux pas a year later when a speech I wrote for the President of MSU consisted of nothing but quotes from Einstein, Yoda, and Steve Jobs.
So what I have I learned during my career? What important lesson can I pass along? To be honest, I'm not sure, but I'm nevertheless, as usual, reminded of the day my mother died. Moments before her passing, she told me that life was a book, and even the saddest of chapters shall come to an end. If you can read the sad chapters swiftly and the happy chapters slowly, then yours will be a life worth living. So, Mom, this one is for you. [Raises face to the sky. Pauses somberly.]
Most of you have no idea what lies ahead or what course your lives will take -- two other ways of saying "future" for just the one honorarium. But I do know this. The journey you are about to embark on -- three! -- will be filled with twists and turns. We may not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but it can't hurt to carry an umbrella. As Gavin Presgrave once said, "Tomorrow is a gift wrapped in time. Now is the time to open it!"
There are some out there who will not remember my name or my speech. In that sea of eager faces, I can see that many of you are not even listening. But a good graduation speech is one that is not exactly heard and remembered but is in its way, well, absorbed. What does that mean? You're college graduates now; you tell me.
Let us never forget where we came from, or to use directional signals, or racism, or our nut allergies, or the Alamo, or how terrorism has changed the world.
Let's also remember what Curious George Said: Nothing. He didn't say anything. The Man in the Yellow Hat said everything. Are you going to be Curious George or the Man in the Yellow Hat? Both are good choices, and that's my point.
And also never let us forget that Einstein once failed Math.
You are all about to open new chapters of your own books. A book called life. Shall we turn that page together?
The Beatles put it best when they sang, "All you need is love." I would add "Plus, in this economy, your old room back."
Dan Bergstein flipped his mortar-board tassel the wrong way.Read more...
"Plenty of things will grab a dog's attention: squirrels, tennis balls, funny smells, other dogs. But a TV channel? Absolutely, say the makers of DogTV, the first cable network to deliver 24-hour programming for dogs." -- The New York Times
"Okay, I've had Wolf Blitzer's agent on the phone for an hour, and he's not going to sign. Without Wolf, we don't have a morning show. Not after we lost Ellen Barkin. We can't keep rerunning Fox & Friends."
"Our audience loves Fox & Friends. Especially the fox. I don't think the morning is our problem. Throw a few reruns of Bones in there, and everyone's happy."
"I didn't get into this business just to program reruns. I want to develop new programming. I just screened the pilot of Ruff Justice, and I think it's a winner. We can pair that with Mike & Collie and that's Monday night, completely taken care of."
"Yeah, at a thousand times the cost of our flying frisbee show -- and we haven't had a single complaint about twelve hours a day of flying frisbees. I don't know what you're worried about."
"I'm worried about stagnation. We can't keep running frisbees, mailmen, Lassie episodes from twenty years ago, and old Alan Ladd movies and expect our audience to stick around. We have to innovate. I have a doggerel competition in development -- surely we can do something with that. I've had interest from Claire Danes to be the moderator -- she'd obviously be great. She even volunteered to read some Archibald MacLeish poems."
"Did you even read the focus group reports? Our audience wants Goofy and Pluto cartoons, Alpo infomercials, and selected episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos -- at least three times a day. You're barking up the wrong tree. They don't want highbrow."
"They don't know what they want until we give it to them. I want to do a political hour. I have a call in to Barbara Boxer. She'd be perfect. Plus, Angela Bassett is interested in narrating a documentary about the Bouvier family."
"Don't be so cavalier -- you're not listening. I want wagging tales and fetching beauties. You saw what happened with your attempt last season at a game show."
"Heel of Fortune could have been a huge hit if we gave it more time. There's a learning curve. Our audience needed to get used to the format. We had the perfect host, and now I don't know if Bob Barker will even take our calls. You're not thinking about the future. At some point, we're not going to have any episodes of Benji left in the vault."
"Then we'll run them again. Our viewers won't know the difference."
"This is what you always do -- you underestimate our audience. We don't have to pander to the lowest common denominator. We can enlighten while we entertain. I'm not saying we need to cancel the bouncing balls. I'm just saying we don't need to run a marathon of them every single weekend. What about some service journalism, a Jim Shepard story reading, or maybe an evening concert with the Pointer Sisters?"
"We don't have the budget for any of that."
"Which is why no one watches our late-night programming. It's all infomercials for chew toys and three hours of a dancing stick."
"That stick gets our highest ratings."
"We can do better -- especially with our older, more mature, middle of the night viewers. I know I've pitched this before…"
"No -- for the last time -- DogTV After Dark is off the table."
"I'm just saying, there's an audience for that kind of thing. And we already have the collars and restraints…"
"There is not an audience for that kind of thing."
"At least let me develop some reality shows. Jersey Paw? Actual Dog the Bounty Hunter?"
"No. We just need more frisbees. You get me more frisbees, and then we'll talk. They are the warp and woof of our business"
"Fine, Buster. I'll get you more frisbees."
"Thanks, Buddy. I appreciate it. And I hope the station owner gets back soon. I really need someone to take me out."
Jeremy Blachman wishes his apartment building allowed dogs.Read more...
A Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction Book of 2013: Quebec sleuth Armand Gamache ventures to a secluded village over Christmas to decipher how one of the world's most famous people in Earth has disappeared, and why only a crazed local poet knows how to find her.
A Barnes & Noble Best New Non-Fiction Book of 2013: The motives, passions, and intimate diaries of the most important woman in Chinese history are revealed in this stirring biography of rebellion, antiquity's arrival at modernity, and international love and war.
This newly translated work of a forgotten and high-minded European intellectual garnered advance publicity aplenty, thanks to the involvement by literary light Jonathan Franzen, who finds in Karl Kraus's work the template of our own disaffected age.