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Christmastime Is Here

A Holiday Update from the Kinsleys by Julianne Flynn

Season's Greetings by Stephen Loomis

The Stanton Family Christmas Newsletter by Jonathan Shipley

The Annual Holiday Newsletter from the Guy Who Does the Voiceover for NBC Primetime TV Previews by Michael Ward

Letter from the White House to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum by George Motisher

Polish Fact

Local long-form name:
Rzeczpospolita Polska
(The Republic of Poland)

Learn a Foreign Tongue!

Habla Español!
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Andy Richter's talents are completely wasted on "Quintuplets."

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December 24, 2004

Christmastime Is Here

In which Y.P.R. posts some holiday cards it's received from extended family.

Some Holiday Cards

Merry!

Humbug, anyone?

A Holiday Update from the Kinsleys

Dear Friends and Family,

As the holiday season approaches, our family would like to share news of the extraordinary changes and growth we’ve experienced this year.

As many of you know, my husband Frank has been prone to embarrassing bouts of intestinal gas after meals. This year, Frank finally got off his duff and went to see experts at the Mayo Clinic. The doctors concluded that Frank had a piece of rotting cabbage caught in his the wall of his large intestine. Apparently, it’s been slowly decaying in there for years! Fortunately, the doctors were able to dislodge the cabbage with a metal probe. Frank pooped it out the next day and our lives have happily returned to normal.

This year has brought about many challenges for our two children as well. As the local newspaper has so meticulously detailed, our oldest daughter Sara was caught shoplifting by the security guards at Lord & Taylor. Despite this painful revelation, Sara remains a bright light of our family. Her rambunctious spirit and an incredible sense of humor have gotten her through this arduous experience.

With a modest bribe, the juvenile court judge was gracious enough to grant Sara a sentence of public service. So this year, Sara spent most of her afternoons picking up glass bottles and aluminum cans strewn about on the side of the highway. The experience has humbled Sara tremendously. Sara now claims she wants to work with street orphans in Bucharest, Romania, when she graduates from high school. To think, just last year Sara couldn’t stop cutting herself and now she wants to be a missionary!

Our youngest child, Stewart, is growing like a weed. I can hardly believe he is in the fifth grade already! We have recently put him on a sugar-free and wheat-free diet hoping that will control his mood swings and temper tantrums. We are keeping our fingers crossed and hope to see some tangible results in 2005.

Stewart’s teacher says he still struggles with reading. Somehow, he still can’t grasp the idea that individual letters form words. But Stewart’s teacher says not to fret about it too much. “Every child learns at their own pace.” But still, I wondered if there wasn’t something I could do to coax him along a bit. So this fall I marched down to the local library, filled out the paperwork for a library card, and returned home with sacks and sacks of books for Stewart. I wish you all could have seen me! I looked like Santa Claus! To my dismay, Stewart took the books and threw them around the room like Frisbees. Our little Stewart caused quite a commotion! He knocked over our Tiffany lamp with The Giving Tree and hit his sister in the head with Where the Sidewalk Ends. Then he just glazed over and went back to his PlayStation game. Boys will be boys. What can I say?

As for me, I can’t complain. My slipped disk still pinches a nerve in my lower back. As a result, I still can’t stand up entirely straight. But I’m learning how to cope and take care of myself during flare-ups. I find warm bathes and any album by Enya soothes and nurtures my spirit, preparing me for the many challenges that lie ahead. Being a mom is the greatest most rewarding job in the world full of so many gifts and surprises.

At this magical time of year, we wish you and your family a safe and healthy holiday and a new year filled with joy, love, peace.

God bless,
Jenna, Frank, Sara and Stewart Kinsley

Season's Greetings

Dear Sis,

Merry Christmas to you all!

It sure is nice getting your Christmas letters each year. Sisters should be close.

I sure am glad everything's fine with you all.

Vice President of Marketing. You must be so proud of that husband of yours. Jim always was my favorite Yankee. Ha-ha!

Two kids graduating Harvard. Jennifer in medical school and Jim Jr. in law. That’s real nice. I’ve heard good things about Harvard.

I only regret Momma didn’t make it to Christmas. She’d be so proud to the see the first of her grandkids who graduated school. I admit I still blame Poppa. I know he claims it was an accident, but he never should have been cleaning that old shotgun in the house anyway.

But, you know me, I always try to look on the bright side.

I have a lot to be thankful for too.

Bobby Ray has been sober for three weeks now. That’s a record for him. The bruises are starting to fade and I feel lucky this time. If he keeps it up, he'll be able to hold a job soon.

We’re expecting the results of Jason’s DNA test this week. You remember my grandbaby Jason? Our lawyer says DNA is short for Don’t kNow Anything, which is what all these guys say about the baby. But Luanne’s convinced she's got the list of possible fathers narrowed down to four boys and she swears one of them will have to pay. I sure hope she's right. It would be nice to get the trailer paid off and have a place to call our own.

We are confident that Junior will finally graduate high school this year. Of course, I know I’ve said that before, but, now that he's learned the alphabet, he's doing much better in school. Who would have thought that knowing just 21 letters would make such a difference?

It looks like this will be a great year for the twins too. Johnny's up for parole in September and, if Dwayne gets out of rehab by then, we may have a family Christmas this time next year. That would be nice after so long.

We'd love to have you for Christmas next year, but I'll understand if you don't want to. I guess Jim's still mad about what happened at the family reunion. Bobby Ray never would have broken his nose if he hadn't been drinking. I know Bobby Ray feels real bad about it. He'll never admit it, but I know he's sorry.

Well, Sis, it sure has been fine talking like this.

So you take care of yourself and we'll look forward to hearing from you again next year.

Your loving sister,
Mary Frances

The Stanton Family Christmas Newsletter

Hi,

Jim has testicular cancer. Pray for him. He’s doing OKAY but pray for him. The growth has reëmerged in his left testicle. We’re hoping to get him out of the hospital for Christmas. If we do get to take him home (cross your fingers and pray) we’ll put him in bed, turn on the Barbara Streisand Christmas album, and maybe serve him up some of my famous ham. (Cleta, you’ll get the recipe when I die. I’ll put it in the will. – ☺)

The kids are doing OKAY. Jimmy has a restraining order against him by his third wife, Melly. Jimmy and Melly have had it pretty rough lately, what with Jimmy getting laid off at the paper mill and Melly getting in the newspaper for the incident at the paper mill, but I think (pray, everyone pray) that they’ll get back on track and see, once and for all, how much they mean to one another and how much they love one another (scars notwithstanding). That’s what Christmas is about, right? Forgiveness for sins. Or is that Easter? Or is it one of those Jew holidays? Never mind, just pray for them and their happiness.

Virgil’s baby has a cleft palette. They’re hoping to get some money scraped together to fix it. I’m not giving them one dollar, though. I didn’t think they should have even HAD that baby.

The twins, Monique and Jesse, are doing wonderfully in Los Angeles. They called me the other day and told me they had an agent and everything. They’re going to be in movies! It’s true. Go to the local video store sometime soon and ask the clerk if they can show you Moby Dicks. That’s their first movie. They’ve already signed up to be in another movie, The Brides of Frank N. Stein. I heard it’s a horror movie but really good anyway. I asked them if I could come to the set sometime but they said no. Something about confidentiality and copyright infringement or something.

As for me? Well, OKAY, if Crohn’s disease is OKAY. If you’re not up on medical terminology (and who is?!) Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that affects my digestive tract, including my mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and anus. Did I say ‘anus’? Unfortunately, yes. It’s terrible having the disease during the holidays! There’s nothing that ruins a holiday feast more than diarrhea. Diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort. Diarrhea, gastrointestinal discomfort, and sharp pains in my anus.

Happy holidays!

Virginia & Jim Stanton

The Annual Holiday Newsletter from the Guy Who Does the Voiceover for NBC Primetime TV Previews

Dear Friends:

It’s been an EXPLOSIVE 2004 for the Jones family. You WON’T BELIEVE when you hear what’s been happening. First, in a SHOCKING TWIST in late March, a routine inspection of the septic tank reveals a COSTLY corrosion problem that brings the Jones family to the BRINK of financial DISASTER.

Then, in April, a series of FAMILY TRIUMPHS, as Timmy scores the winning goal in the EXCITING FINALE of his youth soccer league, and Caroline scores a SURPRISING acceptance to Dartmouth, her first choice.

TRAGEDY strikes the Joneses in July, as Great Aunt Edna passes away unexpectedly and the family STRUGGLES to cope with the LOSS of someone who had been around since the very beginning.

Then, in the HEAT of August, the annual family trip to Lake Pannewachuate in New Hampshire brings some ALL-NEW ADVENTURES, as a whitewater rafting trip goes OUT OF CONTROL, soaking the family and making MEMORIES and MUST-SEE pictures that will last a LIFETIME. Plus, Caroline brings boyfriend Teddy along for the first time. After a ROCKY start, Teddy begins to find a place as the NEWEST MEMBER of the family.

An UNBELIEVABLE opportunity in late August NARROWLY slips through Betty’s fingers as a Senior Account Executive position opens up at Insurtainty and Betty appears to get the job, only to have the original person return at that LAST POSSIBLE MOMENT to reclaim the position.

September starts off with a BANG as Caroline heads off to college and Timmy begins his sophomore year of high school with an UNEXPECTED selection to the varsity soccer team. Also, in a rerun of last year, Bob undergoes another MEDICAL PROCEDURE to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. (If you didn’t know about it before, it’s NEW to you!)

Finally, you WON’T BELIEVE what happens in November, as an e-mail from an OLD FRIEND brings a NEW FRIEND into the family, when Bob’s old college roommate gets in touch out of the blue about an unwanted Labradoodle puppy. Two weeks later, Scruff joins the Joneses in the MOST TOUCHING new entrance to the family since FAVORITE feline Snuggles became a member in ’97.

All in all, it’s been another ELECTRIFYING year for the Jones family.

But stay tuned for an even more EXPLOSIVE 2005, when at least one family member will leave the family FOREVER. Will it be crazy Uncle Eddie? Or perhaps Mr. Shnookums, the family guinea pig? Or, someone else . . . ? Plus—will being off at different colleges finally force Caroline to break up with her TRUE LOVE, Teddy? Will Timmy continue his soccer SUCCESS? And, will Betty finally get the CHANCE OF A LIFETIME at Insurtainty?

You’ll just have to wait and see in next holiday season’s annual “Keeping up with the Joneses” newsletter.

Happy Holidays,
The Jones Family

December 23, 2004

Letter from the White House to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

Waxworks.

December, 2004

Dear Madame;

The White House has recently been informed that you have created a new Nativity scene, with biblical characters being portrayed by wax sculptures of sports legends, entertainers, and political leaders.

The White House tries to keep an open mind about this. We loved Charlton Heston as Moses—he is an icon in the United States due to his charitable works with the N.R.A. We also did not object to Jim Caveziel’s portrayal in The Passion of the Christ, because the film was produced by a Patriot and true Christian. The life of Jesus has often been depicted in motion pictures, and we realize the important presence of stars to draw sinners to the beautiful message of Salvation offered by the Christmas story.

That being said, we do not, however, think you made appropriate casting choices, and would like the following changes made:

  1. A soccer star as Joseph is unacceptable, as this is a sport enjoyed mostly by brawling fans from foreign nations. Many of the countries where this sport is practiced never signed on when we declared war on terrorism.
  2. The President is a big baseball fan, as are many others in the United States, and feels that a baseball icon would be more appropriate in the role of Joseph. Suggestions from our cabinet are mostly sluggers, such as Jason Giambi. While a homerun hitter could drive home the proper message, our President prefers pitching great Roger Clemens, who is from his home state, and never backs down to threats from the opposition.

    Posh Spice, while a lovely young lady (the President even confesses to enjoying her music), is a bad choice for Mary, due to not being a true virgin.

    We grant that it is difficult to fill this role. Most stars looking the proper age are no longer virgins. We suggest here that a political pundit be cast. Ann Coulter is probably not a virgin, either, but she is frigid, and that, likely, is as close as you will come.

  3. The Shepherds. Some within the administration applaud your casting of an African-American in an important secondary role. We also note that Mr. Jackson is a better choice than P-Diddy. But we must question his roles in other films. He has played murderers and drug dealers, and has had white girlfriends. We would prefer a more respectable minority person, such as Colin Powell, for the role. He would appreciate the work, and is amenable to playing small parts.

    Graham Norton is a comic, and therefore not a good choice for a dramatic role, as well as showing incompatibility with Conservative values. We would prefer a serious player here, someone like our own Dick Cheney.

    We have no problem with Hugh Grant. After his encounter years ago with that Hollywood hooker, he is totally believable as a lonely and desperate shepherd. His contrition afterward would indicate to us that he has truly seen the light, and many of our female staffers find him cute.

  4. The hovering Angel should not be played by a rock star. We would have put Roma Downey in this role. She is far more qualified, and also far better looking than Ms. Minogue. She alone—perhaps with wings from Victoria’s Secret—would entice far more men to the Christian Message of Salvation.
  5. We approve of Tony Blair and the Duke of Edinburgh as wise men, although we feel that someone else would have more box office clout than a little-known Duke.

    But we object to the depiction of our wise Mr. Bush as one of the sages from the East. Kings from the East smack of “Iranian Ayatollah,” or the Taliban. Even though these two evil entities did not exist in the time of Christ, there are many today who think of them when the East is mentioned. We suggest that Ariel Sharon be included among the wise men, due to his fine reputation among Christian Conservatives, and that the Duke also be replaced with someone from the East with the proper credentials; Hamid Karzai, for example.

Mr. Bush should be cast in an important role, however.

We note that the Baby Jesus in your crèche appears to be a mere bundle of swaddling clothes. We urge you to replace this bundle with a living person; one blessed as an inspirational leader. George W. Bush is the proper choice to be Jesus.

Sincerely,
Andrew Card
White House Chief of Staff

Merry. X-mas.

December 15, 2004

Selected Tips from Emily Post's Etiquette for Ukrainian Dinner Parties


Guests should be seated beside their spouses and opposite their assassins.

Use a darkly colored tablecloth, so that spilt wine or bodily fluids are less noticeable.

The large spoon is for soup, the medium spoon for eye-gouging, and the smallest spoon is not to be used until coffee or tea after the meal.

When pulling the ol’ switcheroo, always start with the poisoned goblet to the left of the victim. Goblets should be swapped in a counterclockwise flourish.

Salad is too early to kill, dessert too late.

When choking or strangling, see to it that the victim’s chair is first pulled back six inches from the dinner table, so that his flailing arms and legs do not upset the place setting.

Keep some rolls of paper towels nearby, so as not to ruin the fancy napkins mopping up blood.

When serving poisoned soup, always serve from over the victim’s right side.

If stabbing a guest, do so under the table so that no blood will splatter bystanders or their meals.

After successfully killing your mark, do not shout any victory whoops or slogans in favor your cause. It is uncouth to shout at the dinner table.

Keep the music low enough to maintain pleasant conversation, but loud enough to veil the gurgles of a wounded victim. Bach seldom fails.

No hats.

Always wait for a suitable lull in conversation before stabbing with a butter knife. (Tip: For effectiveness, butter knives should be inserted between the third and fourth ribs.)

Dioxins and dry white wines are best served at a temperature between 8º and 10º centigrade.

Avoid discussion of politics or religion in mixed company, or at least until after those with differing opinions have been brutally dealt with.

Don’t sit next to Rasputin.

December 08, 2004

Letter of Rejection to Dr. Phil

Dear Dr. Phil,

Thank you for submitting your application for the director’s position at the National Institutes of Health. As the N.I.H. is the principal force guiding America’s efforts in medical research, we have strived to consider every candidate’s application seriously.

Our first impression was not a good one. You have a loud and exuberant manner that is an oddity in our network of colleagues, and for the duration of the interview process, you were physically sitting on top of Dr. James Watson (a man considerably smaller than you), oblivious to his muffled and strained murmurs beneath you. We found this quite distracting and wonder what this reflects of your character. Furthermore, although he has only a minor role in the selection process, the Nobel laureate was quite put out. As the conversation continued, we found other characteristics that troubled us. Your commitment to, as you call it, “big ideas,” whilst commendable, seemed a tad impetuous. Your mention of using your television program or perhaps “your good friend” Oprah’s television program to (in your own words) “GIVE FREE GENE THERAPY TO EACH AND EVERY MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE!” is frankly very unsettling to us.

In truth, we fear that your celebrity status may ultimately impede our principal mandate of excellence in health research. Although some of our members thought it wonderful that you have a Muppet in your likeness on “Sesame Street,” your list of other references (e.g., “I drink scotch with Kelsey Grammer on a regular basis”) hardly elicits confidence. To be blunt, your scientific C.V. is poor and your repeated attempts to demonstrate your scientific prowess were laughable at best. (Adjusting the pH in your hot tub does not count, nor does your vasectomy.)

Finally, we found your tendency to talk in meaningless, corny phrases very irritating. Responses like “Sometimes you just got to give yourself what you wish someone else would give you” or “You’re only lonely if you’re not there for you” are very confusing, to say the least. In fact, our members felt that overall you were even more irritating than the applicant who used the word “testicular” 67 times in his interview. One member of our hiring committee actually wrote the comment “Who the [expletive] is this guy—Foghorn Leghorn doing Yoda?”

Consequently, the hiring committee regrets to inform you that your application has not been shortlisted for further consideration at this time. Please tell Ms. Winfrey to stop bothering us.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Paul Batley Johnson
Hiring Committee
National Institutes of Health

December 07, 2004

Advice from Topeka

“Never trust nobody & you’ll live a long life.”                               —Edna Peatree

A woman slips a note into a copy of the latest Reader’s Digest on sale at a shop at Dallas airport. The note reads:


Hi. I’m Muffy. I'm young and gorgeous but lonely. Please write to me!
miffedmuffy23@hotmail.com.

Edna Appleby finds the note and responds:

Dear Miss Muffy:

My name is Edna Appleby, from Topeka, Kansas. My granddaughter, Dotty, bless her heart, gave me that Reader’s Digest with your note in it because she knows how much I love Reader’s Digest, dear. She herself never reads it because she’s a fashion designer in Los Angeles. I’m much older than you, I suspect, and I’m very, very concerned you might be slipping this contact information in other magazines and it will fall into the hands of an ax murderer, one with brains enough to figure out where you live. And I know all about ax murderers because Elmo, my uncle by marriage to my sister who never had any sense, was one. He done killed six women in a farm outside of Topeka in the space of they say three minutes, including my sister and her bingo friends, because he was a very big horribly strong man with a vile temper and no control at all and ugly as a dung beetle to boot. And they fried him, thank the Lord, so he’s been getting his just deserts for years.

You’re a very lucky young lady, Miss Muffy. I just got this Web TV thing in the mail from my grandson Bobby and my naybor's son Billy teached me how to use it and I’m having so much fun. Just imagine yesterday I found one of my elementry school classmates what lives in Baton Rouge and she writes me all about little Joey Figs, what used to be class clown, so she tells me all about how he’s been indicated for securities fraud. You never can tell about people I always say which is what you should always be bearing in mind, dear, because the world is full of all sorts of terrible people and I don’t know why but the Lord has a reason for everything. Amen.
Now my husband, Willy, who passed away five summers ago, bless his heart, was a good man and he worked hard while the babies came bursting out of me like little popovers. We fed those babies and I took a job in the tire factory and they all growed up in good health except for two who was stillborn. And except for Elmo and my nasty drunk daddy, I can’t really say I got too many complaints about my life because I was very very careful to never get mixed up with dangerous mean fruitcakes so now I’m ripe as an apple what's already fallen from a tree, but a little bored but don’t you be telling anyone that.

Maybe you’d like to correspond and make a lonely old lady like me happy because the kids and the grandkids don’t write or visit much because they’re very busy and to tell the truth they try not to speak to me probably because I lost most of my hearing and had to get a hysterectomy, and then decided to go for a sex change, you know life is a bitch when you’re a woman. Anyways, I look forward to finding out where you live and what you do and whatever else you want to tell me.

Sincerely,
Edna

December 06, 2004

“American Pie”—A Fresh Slice

The song “American Pie,” by Don McLean has been heavily analyzed since it was first released in 1972. As with many popular songs containing largely symbolic lyrics such as “Stairway to Heaven” or “Hotel California,” the song’s meaning is examined and often misinterpreted. Of the three, “American Pie” is the song with the most widely accepted interpretation. However, close examination of an early draft of “American Pie” reveals the song’s true meaning. Without the confusion of vague metaphors and mythology in later drafts, one sees how the song’s simple message has been misunderstood for more than thirty years.

“American Pie” (the first draft)

A long, long time ago
I watched Bill’s TV show
And prayed he’d never build a time machine
’Cause I knew that if he had the chance
He’d charm my teenage mom out of her pants
And keep me from ever being conceived

But my faith in God was shattered
When Bill Nye studied antimatter
I began to panic
When he learned quantum mechanics

I swear I almost shit my pants
When I saw him make those neutrons dance
I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance
If Bill went back in time

So Bill Nye the Science Guy
Was sooner or later gonna travel through time
And hit my mom with some bad pickup line
Saying “Hey there, baby, your place or mine?”

I never knew who my father was
I never asked my mom because
She always kind of freaked me out.
One day she looked deep into my eyes
Said my dad was the kid from “Family Ties”
But I knew she was telling sweet, sweet lies

I chalked it up to all the LSD
She took when she was pregnant with me
I though it was senility
A scientific impossibility! (Whoo!)

Back at his lab on the very same day
Bill made a time machine out of a Chevrolet
I knew he’d take my life away
The day Bill traveled time

I started screaming:
Bill Nye the Science Guy
Was gonna travel back in time to my mom’s junior high,
And keep my dad from ever catching her eye
Nothing could stop him but I still had to try.

I jumped in the back of Bill’s car
With fungus in a jelly jar
I had a plan to save the day
When we got there I ran in my mom’s house,
Slammed the door and locked him out
He wouldn’t keep my dad from getting laid.

I found my mom and used my confection
Designed to give her a yeast infection
She said she’d seen me somewhere before
But then a knock came at the door

I looked out the window, didn’t trust my eyes
A DeLorean was parked out in the drive
And I knew that I would stay alive
Even if Bill came inside

He got there too late

Bill Nye the Science Guy
Drove his Chevy to my Mom’s house
But my mom was too dry
He came back from his car with a tube of K-Y
And walked in on her with Marty McFly.

December 05, 2004

Urban Dance


WEEK 1: SUBWAY TANGO

Hi, I’m Patricio, your instructor for today’s Subway Tango. Just before we start, can I check that everybody has read the introductory leaflet? Yes? Thank you. So . . . for the next four weeks we are learning very special dance activities, relating to living in this wonderful city. You are all loosened up? Yes? O.K., so we begin with gliding steps; slide your leg forward and . . . stop! Imagine that the automatic door to the train carriage has just slammed on your foot, and you will achieve the perfect movement.

The tango is characterized by sudden stops. Practice a glide, as if sliding into the space left between a suitcase and two cardiganed women, add a graceful neck bend to fit your head into the curved space near the door and . . . stop! Excellent.

Sometimes we add a little cha-cha element. This is not classic tango, but if you enjoy improvising, it can be fun. So . . . imagine a backpacker in front of you suddenly turning ‘round. Back, two, three—small, fast steps . . . curve the spine to avoid the bag hitting your midriff, and that’s it—the Subway Tango.

Don’t forget next week’s lesson will be the Feng Sway. Please practice your steps from this week, especially if using mass-transport systems, and I will be looking forward to next week when we change the pace to something a little dreamy.

WEEK 2: FENG SWAY

This week we learn the Feng Sway—an urban dance that removes clutter and enhances working life. So . . . start by watching the progress of a “difficult customer” file, or folder maybe, around your office. It will be moving in false time. Your turn to partner the file will come, and when it does you need to . . .
Lead with the file, having located the desk for the hand-over. Take the file across the office, nice and slow, but without hesitation: this is a purposeful step. Take your timing from internal mail—ultraslow.

Once you are level with the desk, lean your head to the right as though telling a dirty joke and sway with your right arm, holding the material lightly but firmly, until the file touches the desk. O.K.! Now straighten, about-turn, and a neat quickstep back to your desk. Very well done—you’ve mastered the Feng Sway.

Lots of practice before next week, please, and concentrate on the sway—it is so important to this deceptively simple performance. You will find that with practice you can reduce your working hours by many percent and this is a good thing because it gives you more time to dance!

WEEK 3: REFRESHMENT SHUFFLE

This week we’re learning something difficult but rewarding, yes? O.K., this set piece can be done in coffee shops, sandwich bars, and McDonald’s, and provides a thorough workout for experienced performers.

Here’s what you do: from the queue position, make sweeping hip movements laterally, ready to jeté to a counter when one comes free. For true refinement, add a head tilt to read the blackboard specials, but don’t compromise your laterals to achieve this. Keep the elbows out to inhibit other queue jumpers.

Once at the queue’s front, add the staccato cha-cha we mastered in Week 1. Use your loose change to rap on the counter, too. If possible, syncopate this with your swiftly tapping feet—the server will speed up if your tempo is right! Don’t forget to tip your barista; just like your humble dance instructor, he or she may rely on you to keep for survival when paid starvation wages.

Experienced dancers can try ordering lunch for all the office—it’s a real footwork challenge to get back safely to your desk.

WEEK 4: THE BOSSA NOVA

Most people will find themselves in this dance sometime, but if you ever feel you’re not ready, stick a pen up your nose until it bleeds and go home.

Otherwise, imagine your boss is about to be sacked: you’ll know this is happening by the sudden outbreak of nosebleeds. If—and only if—you are confident, imagine you can hear a band playing “Girl from Ipanema” and glide across the room as he is clearing his desk.

Before the boss picks up his cardboard box of executive toys, give him a smooth handshake (don’t add any back-patting), and say, “Good luck,” or, “All the best.” Do not improvise here, it could ruin the performance, and your career, if you have one A low-key shuffle back to your desk will leave people believing you have integrity, without compromising your relationship with the incoming boss—hence bossa nova. As I say, this one’s not for the fainthearted; the pen is an easier option.

I hope you have enjoyed your taster course in Urban Dance and that your new skills are much enhancing your life in the lovely city we have here. I just want to remind you that I am happy to give individual tuition in your own homes at very reasonable rates and say that I hope we will see you back again soon for an intermediate course in City Beat. Come again soon!

December 03, 2004

What Truffaut Taught Me

I knew nothing of the world. Experience abandoned me to my adolescent womb, my senses dull from disuse. Then, one day, I ran away.

I ran and the strong ones followed, determined to invalidate my freedom. When they got close, I ducked inside a dark theater. They hurried past, while I remained to enjoy the rest of the film. I already knew The 400 Blows and recognized the final scene at a glance, a boy running. I knew the runner. It was Donier.

So I joined the marathon.

We ran together but Donier did not notice me at first. I shadowed him until the beach, which had captivated his attention. Finally, he turned and froze.

I spoke. “What happened to you? Why were you running?”

Reticent at first, he soon warmed up to me and began to tell his story. He told me everything, including his first experience with a woman.

I wanted to know about the fucking. “What was the best part?”

He considered the question for a moment, unwilling to look me in the eye, then he grinned, demure and amused. “Le cigarette.”

We laughed together and started running again.