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First and Last Paragraphs of a College-Admissions Essay that Didn't Get My Niece into Dartmouth Like She Wanted by Martin Bell

Man-on-the-Street Interviews

The Songwriter by Christian McNeil

The Great Gob in the Sky by Josh Abraham

Commands My Dog Hasn’t Yet Learned by Amy Shearn

Are We Having the Same Conversation? by Lisa Grover

Polish Fact

Machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles.

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Good heavens, you have a lovely bosom. May I touch it?

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November 24, 2003

First and Last Paragraphs of a College-Admissions Essay that Didn't Get My Niece into Dartmouth Like She Wanted

[First ¶:]

As my rugged Timberland boot made contact with the hobo's grizzled visage, I could feel the aching in my temples. It wasn't because my fellow ninja recruits had scarred my forehead earlier in our initiation rite. The feeling ran deeper: here was the raging pulse of the new urban American angst, the circulatory manifestation of a nation gone mad, a nation in which dressing up in black and ganging up on a homeless man with five or six of your new best friends represented the best sanity had to offer.

[Last ¶:]

I watched Joe Stanzik's last breath escape his lips that night. It was chilly enough to follow the mist as it raised from beneath his handlebar moustache up to the heavens in staccato bursts—poof. poof. poof.—until it all stopped. I knew then that I couldn't do this anymore, that Paulo had been right all along, that there had to be another way. Stingy Pete handed me back the corkscrew. I realized in the dim light of the alley that the point was still covered in bile. The ooze was a familiar shade of green, but which shade, exactly? Forest green? Kelly green? Or could it have been Dartmouth green? It never would have mattered before, but then a lot of things hadn't before that day at the old folks’ home and that night in the alley. Big things, future things, silly things. As Pete and I ventured into the night, and Tamika ambled after on her good leg, I could feel my world swelling. Also, I worked at a soup kitchen last summer.

November 21, 2003

Man-on-the-Street Interviews

Q: Hey, man, I bet you can't guess what's in this wrap.
A: What?
Q: I've got a tasty wrap here from the deli/make-your-own-salad place up the block. I bet you can't guess what's in it.
A: Um. Yeah, I'm sorry, pal. I gotta go.
Q: Grilled chicken, with peppers and mushrooms and olives!

Q: Hey, buddy, I bet you can't guess what's in my wrap.
A: Grilled chicken, peppers, mushroom ’n’ olive.
Q: Fucking hell, man, that was right on the nose!
A: I heard you shout at that guy while he ran away.
Q: Oh, well, I bet you can't guess what's in my pocket.
A: The wrap is in your pocket. It's hanging halfway out.
Q: Sic semper tyranus!
[Runs away flapping arms.]

Q: Hey, ma'am, I bet you can't guess what's in my wrap.
A: I have pepper spray on my keychain.
Q: Peppers and...?

Q: You sir. You look like a good-natured man.
A: I'm all right
Q: Wanna guess what's in my wrap?
A: How about I push you down a flight of stairs?

Q: Hey, mamacita, que es en mi wrappo?
A: I'm not Latina, you asshole.
Q: Hey, mamma-san, uh, domo arigato.

Q: Hey, mister, I bet you can't guess what I've got in this wrap.
A: What wrap?
Q: This wrap, right he—Oh, shit. Where—? I lost it. Damn it! That Spanish-speaking Chinese girl stole it. She told me she loved me…

Q: Excuse me, Miss, have you seen a Chinese girl eating a mushroom-and-chicken wrap—Ow! Ow! My eyes! Oh, it burns! Oh God!
A: I told you I had pepper spray.

The Songwriter

The following was excerpted from the last will and testament of Mark Auger, who died October 29 in Portland, Maine, of injuries sustained in a potato gun accident:

...but the most important matter of this will, much more important than the distribution of my meager property, is the notion of credit where credit is due. Let be hereby known that in my early years, I was a lyricist for many beloved children's songs. You will understand from my opus why I had been reluctant to claim this credit for much of my lifetime -- all of my life since childhood. But the prospect of death makes me seek some way to preserve at least the memory of my name along with my lifework. My songs have become fantastically successful, and if my name could live on, sharing in any small part of that fame, I would be satisfied beyond the grave.

Towards that end, I have established a small trust of a few hundred dollars to finance a vigorous investigation to confirm these following claims:

My first success, "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells," was composed during music class at Johnson Elementary on December 12, 1966. Its lyrics are well known to the English-speaking world:

Jingle bells, Batman smells
Robin laid an egg
Batmobile lost a wheel
And Joker got away. Hey!

Witnesses included my good friends Charlie Warren, Dean Ward, and Steve Lavoie, all of whom are still residents of Standish and will testify that I was, indeed, the lyricist. Another witness was Donna Levasseur, who tattled on me to Mrs. Watson (now deceased). Within a few weeks, the song had gained popularity in towns as far away as North Conway and Lewiston. The earliest printed reference I've found is from the June 30, 1967, issue of The Weekly World News. It reported that an anonymous prank caller (suspected to be a bitter former lover) sang the lyrics to Adam West. The song has been sung in hundreds of thousands of schoolyards since then, but you will not find any credible references to it prior to mine.

At about the same time I came up with a variation to another holiday favorite, "Noël, You Smell," but this wasn't a very original idea and lots of others have claimed authorship of similar lyrics before me.

A second big hit came to me on February 19, 1967, at Donna Levasseur's eighth birthday party, when I added, “You live in a zoo / you smell like a monkey / and you look like one too,” to the finale of “Happy Birthday.” This one ruined Donna's birthday and her parents, who still live on Oak Hill Road, remember the incident well. As far as we can tell, it gained its popularity when Steve Lavoie wrote the lyrics on a birthday card to his uncle, who played a clown on a children's television program in Florida. The show was called "Curly's Circus", and it featured the song a few days later when a chimpanzee lip-synched the lyrics in a birthday tribute to Curly. The program was broadcast live, and no known tape exists; however, many lifelong Ft. Lauderdale residents recall this episode well.

At the time, I was completely unaware that my songs had found an audience beyond Standish. I continued to write new lyrics, but most of them lacked the wide appeal that a national hit required. As I recall, they generally drew upon personal experience, focusing on teachers or bus drivers who smelled a certain way.

My swan song was my biggest hit. Its erotic theme hinted at the advancing maturity that would devastate my career as a songwriter. Its tune is derived from Arabian traditionals, inspired by the music that would conventionally be used in snake-charming:

There's a place in France
Where the naked ladies dance.
There's a hole in the wall
Where the men see it all.

The thought of such a place thrilled us, but also caused the singers to repress their boisterousness. The first boys to hear it outside Johnson Elementary School didn't have the pleasure until early July 1968, when I taught it to the other boys in our bunk at Boy Scout camp. When summer ended, the Scouts took the song home to all corners of the state. I know of several men my age from away who first learned the song from local kids in Old Orchard Beach or Bar Harbor while their family was on summer vacation. One camper from Aroostook County translated a French version that subsequently spread throughout Québec; not fluent in French, I cannot remember its title, or the translator kid's name.

Nonetheless, I am confident that investigators will confirm these claims. The final item of my will: I insist that my heirs will not attempt to collect any royalties or profit from my songs in any way. They were written for good of the schoolchildren everywhere, and I hereby release them into the public domain. Posthumous adulation is the only payment I will accept.

Mark Auger

November 20, 2003

The Great Gob in the Sky

Nobody knew for certain what the great gob in the sky was. The town’s elders, advised by a think tank of scientists, declared it a mass of jelly; the pundits, typically critical, argued it was jam. The general populace more or less agreed it was preserves—except for isolated crackpots shouting “marmalade” or even “vegemite.” We, the children, had our own speculation: Jell-O, or, at least, a generic brand of gelatin. But none could agree what flavor its ruby-red color indicated: Strawberry? Raspberry? Cherry, grape, cranberry?

Only one thing was assured: whatever it was, it was heading straight for us. Many fled, but the stupidly brave and the terminally inquisitive alike stuck around to see just what the hell the big glob could be.

When it struck, we were all proved wrong: it was a fig-flavored fruit spread, and now we are all stuck in it up to our necks, forever suspended in this gummy, gluey, gooey mess until we eat our way out, which will be a long, long time indeed.

November 19, 2003

Commands My Dog Hasn’t Yet Learned

roll over*
left hook
drop it
French braid
rake the leaves
make nachos

* But almost!

Are We Having the Same Conversation?


"May I speak with John, please?"

"This is John."

"Hi, John. It's Lucy."

"Hi Lucy. How are you?"

"I'm doing pretty well. I'm just recovering from that surgery."

"What? When did you have surgery?"

"I had surgery a couple of weeks ago. You knew this."

"No, I didn't. Good god, are you O.K.?"

"Yes, it was just routine foot surgery. I told you all of this over lunch about a month ago."

"It's been longer than a month since I've seen you. We never had lunch. My goodness. Do you have to do physical therapy?"

"Yes, of course, that's why I'm calling. You said you'd be able to drive me back and forth."

"I don't even have a driver's license. It got suspended a couple of months ago."

"Then why did you tell me you'd drive me to physical therapy?"

"I wouldn't have said that because of the suspension. I was hauling Class C explosives across state lines without the proper permits."

"What? What were you doing with explosives?"

"What do you mean? I'm a blaster. I blast for a living. I always have explosives. I let the permit expire by accident."

"I thought you were a lawyer."

"A lawyer? I hate lawyers. A lawyer killed my parents."

"Your parents? Don't they live in Bethesda? I met them about six months ago."

"They've been dead for ten years. You knew that. It happened on your birthday. You went to the funeral."

"I didn't go to any funeral for your parents. Wait a minute. Is this 555-3284?"

"No, this is 555-3824."

"Oh, sorry about your parents."

"It's O.K. Hope your foot gets better."



November 18, 2003

Daddy Left Me Alone with God

God sprawled on the bed at the Plaza Hotel and strummed His guitar while my father sat at a nearby table and chopped up a couple lines of coke.

"Knock it off, You tone-deaf asshole," said my father.

Of course he didn't know he was talking to God.

God lifted himself up off the pillow, propped Himself on an elbow, and cocked His head at my dad through half-closed eyes. I could see He was thinking about a wicked comeback line but then made the wise decision that it wasn't worth the dear price of losing the dope. Besides, God agreed with my dad. He didn't really believe He was God, either.

As for me, I didn't want to miss the opportunity of God with His eyes open. I leaned up against the dresser, facing Him, while I ran a hand through my long blonde hair and stuck out my tits.

He smirked and looked me up and down and knew at that moment He'd have me later. I could tell He liked the idea so I did what I thought was a subtle groin-thrust but it was overkill and God frowned, though of course I didn't realize why at the time. I mean, how could I?

I was seventeen years old.

"Here you go, you slimy, little no-talent schmuck. Try some of this," said my father, waving his razor at God.

God threw His guitar to the floor and leapt out of bed.

"Look at the way you treat your instrument. You're a fucking disgrace," said my father.

"It's a bloody guitar," said God. "They're indestructible."

"Not if you're Pete bloody Townshend," I piped up.

God looked at me and laughed.

"Pete's insane, isn't he? He's a great mate of mine. Brilliant man. If you're a good little girl and say ‘please, oh please,’ I'll introduce you sometime. I know he'd love to meet your father."

"We've met. He's an even bigger asshole than you are," said my father.

God winked at me and took a 100-dollar bill out of His pocket. He rolled it into a tight little cylinder and bent down over the lines my dad had set out, inhaling them like the expert He was.

"I'd rather meet Keith Moon," I said.

God gave a loud, hearty laugh. I could see I'd regained some points.

"Hey, this is some good blow," said God.

My father scowled. "Yeah, well, when I do something, I do it right. Not like morons such as Yourself who pick up piece-of-shit electric guitars and learn to half-ass play Your fucking excuse for music." He hit his fist on the table as an exclamation, not the best idea when there's powder about. In an instant he got out his razor and neatened up the lines. It was good that he was preoccupied because I had a feeling we were about to get the lecture again.

"The Beatles killed jazz," he said.

Oh no. I looked at God, wondering how He'd react to that piece of news. I was hoping He'd say something like "You're wrong, dickhead, it was people like you who killed jazz," but no, God didn't want to mess up His little deal here; that was obvious.

"Yeah, there are people who believe that," God agreed. "But not me. I admit it -- I learned everything I know about my craft from American jazz- and blues men like Charlie Christian and Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. I owe them my career."

I looked at God, surprised, but what did I know.

"Your craft? You weasel. How dare You mention Your name and Your so-called career in the same breath as those legends? Ha! You stupid little asswipe. Here's Your shit. Give me my bread so I can get the fuck out of here."

God laughed. He got a kick out of men like my father. He secretly wanted to be just like him, I realized.

Now I'd have to sleep with God for sure.

"Can I hang out here with you for a bit longer?" I asked Him.

"I don't know. Can you?" He looked over at my father with a wide smile.

My father shrugged and looked away. He helped himself to the last line off the small hand mirror on the table and then wiped the remains clean with his finger, swabbing his gums with it. He stood up and put on his jacket.

"I'll have her back early," God drawled.

My father ignored Him.

"You have your keys, April? I've got some more stops to make and then I don't know where I'll be after that," he said.

"Yeah, I've got them, Dad."

My father turned on his heel and walked out the door, leaving his firstborn daughter all alone in a fancy hotel room with God.

November 17, 2003

A Plea to the People of Northern Vermont

My fellow Northern Vermonters,

I, Edward Higgins, write to you today to ask for your support; to support me, and to support my legislative body, and to ignore the stones cast at me by your “Representative” Avi Schumacher and his hateful followers. As your legitimately elected member of the House of Representatives, I believe it is in the best interest of everyone from Burlington to Montpelier that these issues be dealt with post haste.

Let me start by saying that the group that Mr. Schumacher is a part of is not, I repeat NOT, the House of Representatives. Furthermore, those people that Mr. Schumacher claims to be “making laws” with are NOT representatives from other states.

I fully understand why some of you may still believe that Mr. Schumacher is your representative. After all, he did use his many powerful media connections to falsely report that, not only that did he easily win the election, but also that I have joined forces with a group of fellow election-night losers and some local transients to form an unfit, renegade governing body. These reports couldn’t be farther from the truth. I won the election and it was, in fact, Mr. Schumacher who called me to concede. I will now share with you the transcript of that conversation as recorded by my Undersecretary of the Interior, retired Army Rear Admiral and 1993 world Scrabble championship runner-up, Andres Jaregui:

Schumacher: Hey, Edward, I just wanted to tell you that I concede to you the election, which you won decisively.

Me: Why thanks, Avi, I really appreciate that.

Schumacher: No problem, I mean I didn’t have much of a chance anyway given my spotty record and your ruggedly handsome good looks.

Me: Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Schumacher: No really I mean it, the better man won. Heck, I’ll come right out and say it: the best man won. I know you are going to do great things for Northern Vermont.

Me: Thanks again.

Schumacher: No need to thank me. It’s been a pleasure just knowing you. I love you.

Now I am sure some of you are thinking, “That seems like a clearly fabricated conversation.” Those same people are probably also thinking “If he’s our real Rep, then why does his Congress operate out of a hotel in downtown Baltimore while Representative Schumacher works at the Capitol?” To those people, I ask, if my Congress—operating out of the beautiful Downtown Baltimore Holiday Inn—isn’t real, than why is it called “the Real Congress”? Only my group of Representatives is known as “the Real Congress.” If Mr. Schumacher’s Congress is so reputable and legitimate, then why doesn't it include the word “real” in its moniker? Could it be because Mr. Schumaker's “Congress” is actually not real, but fake? Mr. Schumacher works on Capitol Hill, that much is true. But do a pretty white building and some hard-to-duplicate security passes make a legitimate representative body? In my opinion, they sure don’t.

When it comes right down to it, my fellow Northern Vermonters, you have a decision to make: Do you recognize the lawmaking powers of a man working with a body whose name itself connotes truth? A man who graciously accepted a concession phone call from his opponent? A man whose smile has been described as “good enough to eat” by the former supermodel Twiggy? Or do you recognize the laws made by a man who conceded an election, a man who works for an organization without the word real anywhere near its title, a man whose breath has been described as “tomato juice with a hint of broccoli” by a high-ranking White House official? The decision, Northern Vermonters, is clear.

Yours in Freedom,
Edward Higgins

P.S. The Real Congress is now equipped with almost fully operational lasers. Can Mr. Schumacher’s group make that claim?

November 15, 2003

Yes, or Psoriasis

from: David Meiklejohn [SexNotProms@aol.com]
to: Y.P.R. [ypr@yankeepotroast.org]
subject: The P in Alex P. Keaton

A friend of mine said it stands for Parkinson, but she's just insensitive.

In case you're still looking, I found this Web site, and if it's on the Internet...


David Meiklejohn

November 14, 2003


"How was the weekend, Phil?"

"Not too bad. Went to the in-laws on Saturday. We took the kids to one of those water parks on Sunday."

"We've been meaning to take the kids. They just love the water. How was it?"

"It was really a nice day. The weather held, so the kids were splashing around all over the place. They set up some tables on the side for the adults, so the wife and I sat down and had a nice lunch. It wasn't too expensive either. Next time we go, I'll give you a call and we can take the kids together. I think they'd really like that."

"That sounds like a great idea. I'll tell Brenda tonight. She's been in Phoenix the last few days. Hey, where are you going?"

"I don't know. I'm following these guys. Why is she out in Arizona?"

"There's some conference out there for work. She says it's been boring meetings all day, every day, but she and the girls go out for some drinks at night, so it's not all bad."

"As long as she gets some time with the girls, I'm sure it's fine. I wish I knew where the hell we were going. Did you hear what happened to the Logistics division?"

"No! What happened?"

"Someone went crazy and led the whole division off the side of Eastwood Ravine."

"Man, that's the second Logistics division in three months."

"I know. Only two survived. They'll be heading up the new division. We've been walking forever. I wonder where we're going."

"No idea. I'm following you. Did you catch the game last night?"

"I caught that shot at the end. Unbelievable."

"I know and with no time on the clock. Can you see anything ahead of us?"

"No. I'm sure we're just walking, though. Did you ever get the numbers for the Weinstein case?"

"Phyllis said she was going to run them today. I think it looks pretty good for us. Is that a cliff?"

"Nah, couldn't be. You feel good about the numbers?"

"I'm pretty confident. Are you sure that's not a cliff?"

"Yes. All right, let's hook up again later and review the numbers."

"Sounds good. O.K., that's definitely a cliff."

November 13, 2003

The Paris Film: Director's Commentary

Interestingly enough, Shannen Doherty was our original choice to star in the film, but there was a falling out due to creative differences. We’d been through weeks of intensive rehearsal and had just begun our first night of filming when Shannen admitted she ultimately had issues with the “doggy-style” element. She simply didn’t feel it was in her character. At that point, we were already behind schedule, so a rewrite was totally out of the question. Luckily, Paris Hilton stepped in at the last minute, and she turned out to be perfect. Looking back, I can’t even imagine the film without her. I’m not saying Shannen wouldn’t have worked in the role—it just would have been a different film.

Now, here’s a bone I have to pick with our post-production facility. Look at Paris's eyes. Just look at ’em. We wanted a very delicate otherworldly look to it, and they went way overboard. I even told them during editing, “Less Blargon 7, more Earthling.” And as bad as it looks now, this is actually after they toned it down! You can’t imagine how freaky the eyes were at first. Anyway, we’re done using them for post. They didn't listen and wound up clouding my artistic vision. It’s something I’d really like to see if we can digitally correct in next year’s Special Edition DVD. Oh, wait. Did you catch that? Look at how Paris instinctively knew just when to look toward the camera. You can’t direct that. It’s just natural. Paris really brings something genuine to the role. Did you know her mother, Kathy Hilton, was an actress in the 70s? It’s clearly where Paris gets it from. It’s in her blood.

O.K., the green night-vision perspective? I was trying to make a statement about our soldiers in the Gulf. You see this shot here? Where I'm railing her and I pan down toward my own penis? That's meant as social criticism on the fucking that our troops get over there in the desert. I think it speaks for itself. It’s fucking deep, isn't it? Ha, ha, no pun intended.

O.K., you see that right there, where Paris turns her head toward me, then to the camera, then back toward me, then back to the camera again, and that back to me one final time—we shot that take at least 20 times. It’s very tricky timing, and a complicated staging, and we just couldn't get the right rhythm right. Paris was a real trooper though. She never complained, no matter how many times I asked her to try again. She gives each and every take her all. A real professional.

Now this scene right here… what can I say? I’m pretty proud of that shot. I love the mise-en-scène here, the way Paris’s breasts obscure my face … it suggests—what? Mystery? Something bad about to happen? Maybe nothing, but it looks awesome. She’s got a hell of a rack, that girl. I’ll tell you what I’m thinking right there: I’m thinking, “Rick, you’ve got this hot 19-year-old heiress riding you like she’s in the Kentucky Derby, her ass is flying all over the place, she’s got more money than God and a body so delicious you could just weep, and you, Rick, you are just a lowly filmmaker who’s barely holding this project together … does life get any better?” That’s what I remember I was thinking right there.

O.K., you're going to have to watch very closely now. Don’t take your eyes of the screen. Did you see it? It was quick improvisation on my part, but I gave her a nice slap on the ass. Wham! Very quick. And she just went with it. She totally was not expecting that, and she just sailed through the scene. I cannot overstate this girl's talent. It’s like hamburger vs. steak.

Ah, here, where the phone rings. You’d think it was set up, right? It was real. Paris forgot to shut her ringer and right there, in the middle of the scene, it goes off, but I told the cameraman to keep rolling, because sometimes you catch something extra, something genuine, that you could never have planned for. What’s funny is I had totally reamed a P.A. just that day for the same thing. His cell phone went off, and we totally lost a whole scene. Anyway, we liked how this played, Paris on her phone, but we really debated whether or not to include the scene in the final edit. We almost cut it, because, while it was great character development, we felt that it ultimately distracted the viewer from the narrative. Test audiences went berserk for it though, so we left it in. Funny how things like that just work out.

Ah, and here’s the big climax—you know, we searched and searched for just the right track to use as background for this scene. We really wanted to juxtapose the sensual intimacy with a standup routine from a young black comic. We went through, like, thousands of tapes—Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, even old stuff like Richard Pryor. We almost gave up too, but then one Friday night, I was just pooped from the long editing process, and my wife and I were in a little bed and breakfast upstate, and we flipped on the TV and there was “Def Comedy Jam” playing, totally by random chance, and we found it. We knew instantly. I looked at Shannen, and she said, “Rick. This is it.” And she was right. It was perfect.

You know, my wife really never liked the end … the whole oral scene, she felt, was too much to cram in there in the final reel. I don’t know if I agree. I’ll say this, though: you really have to respect a woman who will spend hours and hours getting fucked sideways and then turn around and blow the guy that was fucking her. There’s something about that. The Germans have a word for it: It's called “class.” And Paris Hilton is class from top to bottom.

Kathy Hilton's Filmography

[courtesy IMDb]

  1. If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind!!! (1979)
  2. Everyday (1976)
  3. I Love You, I Love You Not (1974)
  4. Tender Loving Care (1974)
  5. Cocktail Hostesses, The (1973) .... Lorraine
  6. Heads or Tails (1973) .... Show-Me
    ... a.k.a. Sex-Dämonen (1973) (West Germany)
  7. Teaser, The (1973)
  8. Dr. Carstair's 1869 Love-Root Elixir (1972)
  9. Erotic Adventures of Zorro, The (1972) .... Esmeralda
    ... a.k.a. Chevauchées amoureuses de Zorro, Les (1972) (France)
    ... a.k.a. Sexcapades of Don Diego, The (1972) (UK)
    ... a.k.a. Zorro und seine lüsternen Mädchen (1972) (West Germany)
  10. Pleasure Unlimited (1972)
    ... a.k.a. Drop-Out Wife (1972)
  11. Exotic Dreams of Casanova, The (1971) .... French Maid
    ... a.k.a. Young Swingers, The (1971)
  12. Hawaiian Split (1971) .... Lady Chatterly
    ... a.k.a. God Children (1971) (USA)
  13. Terror at Orgy Castle (1971) (as Bambi Allen)
  14. Toy Box, The (1971) (as Kathie Hilton)
    ... a.k.a. Orgy Box, The (1971)
  15. Sexcapade in Mexico (1970)
  16. Don't Just Lay There (1970)
  17. Harem Bunch, The (1968) (as Sherrie Land) .... Toblowsky
    ... a.k.a. Undercover Vixens (1968) (USA)
    ... a.k.a. Desert Odyssey (1968) (USA)
    ... a.k.a. War and Peace (1968/III) (USA)
  18. Little Women Get Ahead (????)
  19. Separate Vacations (????)

November 11, 2003

Things I Hope to Find in Hell

Lite Beer
Marilyn Monroe
A previously unutterable curse word
Vampire bats
Baseball bats
Pool tables with built-in beer coasters along the rim
Soft-core porn
More than enough lawyers
Ramen noodles
Baking-soda toothpaste
Andy Kaufman
Chia Pets
Final exams
Walt Disney
A chance to start at the bottom in the bureaucracy of Satan’s Empire
The cure for the common cold
The Cure
That-girl-who-played-Felcitiy’s hair
Keyboards missing the ‘Ctrl,’ ‘Alt,’ and ‘Delete’ keys
Jimi Hendrix
Yankee pot roast
Slightly-less-than-Cuban cigars
No locks on the doors
Free, yet closely monitored, Internet access
A speck of blue, somewhere
Fashionable, yet constraining, neck ties
Disco bowling

Things We Hope to Find in Purgatory
(Nipping This in the Bud)

Déjà vu
Copier/fax/printers (no toner)
USA Today
Rice cakes
Beige, taupe, ecru
Lukewarm Pepsi
Guys named “Mark”
Jews for Jesus
Limbo sticks . . . (ha, ha)
. . . but not Rush Limbaugh (ha.)
Toyota Priuses
The 1990s
Garrison Keillor
The touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives
Sting’s last four albums
The excised skits from 90-minute “Saturday Night Live” episodes that are truncated to 60 minutes for syndication.

November 04, 2003

I Was a Teenage Snarkist

It all started in eighth grade when Billy Noodleman wore those paisley bellbottoms. I mean, come on, what was this, “The Brady Bunch,” for God’s sakes? This was the Midwest, land of farmers and hog butchers. I couldn’t help myself. I spread the word that he looked like a “complete nerd.” Obviously the rest of the Alan Shepard Junior High School agreed. Noodlemen fell firmly into denim form after that.

Then there was Janet Chisholm’s project on the Hoover Dam. First of all, it was a dated artifact—almost fascistic in its monumentalism. I mean, she might as well have repeated the report she did in fourth grade on the T.V.A. I had no choice; I had to protect the class from this idiocy. So I scrawled “Chisholm’s a Damn Shame” on the blackboard, behind the map of Arizona. When Mr. Urskowski snapped it up, there was my review. Snarky? Yes. Necessary? Well, let me put it this way: Janet never repeated her errors again and she ended up being top of her class at Northeastern University’s School of Nursing. I think if she saw me today, she’d thank me. I mean, really thank me.

The varsity concert band just sucked royal lemons, if you know what I mean. Was it untoward of me to fiddle with the electronic tuning meter before our big spring concert in 10th grade? I think not. How many more Leroy Anderson versions of the “Happy Typewriter”—or whatever that stupid song of his was called—did the public need to endure? As soon as Mr. Kubaloric gave the downbeat and the discordant bleat of the brass echoed through the auditorium, I knew the concert was over. It took twenty minutes to retune the band. Was that snarky? You be the judge. But don’t cast a stone until you’ve sat through the complete oeuvre of Leroy Anderson. I call it public service, that’s what I call it.

It was me who put the paper bag over the head of Emily Hollingsworth. Guilty.

And when I led the school-wide backlash against A Separate Peace, well, who could blame me? Even Mr. Crouch, the A.P. English teacher, acknowledged that teaching that piece of drivel was like listening to Liberace play Bach. Painful. It wasn’t totally my idea to have everyone in the cafeteria stick their copies of that book, complete with that sensitive painting of the boy, to the puke green brick walls of the cafeteria with refried beans. I mean, I was in on it, but Mike Fried had a helluva a lot to do with it too. But I’ll take the heat. Hey, if there wasn’t merit to my snarkiness call on that one, why were 126 copies of the book plastered to the wall for the following week and a half? I ask you.

But I’m happy to say, all of that is behind me. No more snarking around for me. That was just youthful bravado. Me, I’m a “Millionaire”-watching, Coors Light-drinking, Taco Bell-eating, Stephen King-reading Yankee doodle dandy. Just don’t try and show up at my house with bellbottoms, that’s all.