The Way We Live Now

BTdingbat3.gifIncoming! March 7, 2005
by your humble coëditor, Josh Abraham, over at The Black Table.

Y.P.R. 3.1

O.K., Y.P.R.keteers, we're back again and this time everything's more or less working smoothly. The site's archives are being built up quite slowly, and you may find some links or pages to be working screwy. Wally, our tech assistant, is running on all gears. Please be patient.

We're also digging through the submissions mound and we've nearly reached the end of the mixed-metaphor tunnel. If you've submit something less recently than the other day and not yet heard back from us, please assume we never received it, or received it but lost it, and kindly consider sending it again.

Meanwhile, submit!

As always: hasselhoff - @ - yankee pot roast . org

& Recently . . .

Niles from “Frasier” Takes Acid on an Overnight Spelunking Trip with Deebo from Friday and Reënacts Plato’s The Cave by Brian Champlin

Hamlet by P. G. Wodehouse by Jaime J. Weinman

Andrei Codrescu, exquisite corpse

Hills Like Stuffed Tigers: Calvin Discovers Hemingway by Russell Bradbury-Carlin

Disquieting Modern Trends: iPod Edition by Will Layman & Chris Osmond

Malcolm Gladwell, quick thinker

Blink!

Polish Fact

Industries:
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Mein Milchshake holt alle Jungen zum Yard.
My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

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March 11, 2005

Niles from “Frasier” Takes Acid on an Overnight Spelunking Trip with Deebo from Friday and Reënacts Plato’s The Cave

nilesanddeebo.gifSatiated after large helpings of their frank-and-bean dinner, Niles and Deebo sit shoulder-to-shoulder inside the cave. Behind them, next to their spelunking gear, a small fire blazes. It throws shadows onto the wall opposite them. They stare at these shadows, ruminating. Niles is feeling philosophic and—intellectually unintimidated by his friend—didactic. Deebo is sleepy and slightly annoyed by his own gassiness.

Niles: My friend, we are in a cave. A very deep and profound darkness is all we can see. I propose, however, that sometime within the next few minutes a distinct vision will appear. This vision will emerge from the darkness as something that we that might call “light,” and what that “light” consists of, exactly, will be in direct correlation to the depth of darkness that each of us has allowed ourselves to experience—as well as, of course, the psychological baggage that we have brought into this cave with us. I, for one, have brought—metaphysically, of course—a small duffle bag filled with the number zero bent into the shape of the mouth on the figure in Munch’s The Scream. As well as a few of the medium-point blue Pilot Precise pens of which I am quite fond.

Deebo: Sounds good, bitch. I’ll bring the ladies.

(In the darkness, Niles looks disconcertedly at his friend.)

Niles: Whatever makes you happy, my friend. Anyway, getting back to the point, this vision—or light, we might say—will begin to shine at any moment, and it will disrupt our respective darknesses by taking the form of something we recognize on a very deep, very personal level.

(Niles tilts his head, considering thoughtfully.)

Niles: It may be the outline of that expensive stainless-steel blender that we just spent entirely too much money on, and which, as of yet, has failed to provoke a single admiring comment at any one of a number of dinner parties.

Deebo: What, bitch?

Niles: Or it might be an outline of that unfortunate hamster, which we, at the tender age of—

Deebo: Yo, stop. Little man, you better start making—

Niles: Yes, yes—you’re right, you’re probably right. Better to let things lie. Literally. Ha. Anyway, moving along, it might also be something less concrete, a vague manifestation of an equally vague yet powerful feeling. In any case, our vision will mean something to us despite the fact that we will not completely understand or recognize it, and it will simultaneously make perfect sense to us and enlighten us. It will surprise, as the poet Yeats said, with a fine excess.

Deebo: You mean like J-Lo’s booty?

Niles: In other words, my low-brow friend, the vision that will eventually emerge from the darkness will be one that we will recognize without completely knowing why—and it will be the one thing that we need to see or experience at the exact moment it happens to appear. It might be similar, I suppose, to that rock and roll song you might know and identify with. You know: “But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need, oh, yeah . . .”

Deebo: That’s deep, little man.

(A moment passes.)

Deebo: You got five seconds to stop singing. One. Two.

Niles: Sorry. My friend, what can one say to the other when both one and the other have been living for some time, feeling for some time—when both one and the other are moderately intelligent and moderately perceptive, and when both one and the other have continually throughout their lives asked the question, consciously or not: “Will the world please stand up and validate my perceptions and feelings?”

Deebo: Are you hitting on me, bitch?

Niles: Soon, each of us will be captivated by our own respective visions. After that moment occurs we will then adjust our vision and search for another illumination, but we will be greeted only by darkness. Suddenly, we will feel deeply our own mediocrity—and at that point, we will begin to learn the world anew. We will realize what we have realized before, only again this time: that we do not have any thoughts that we can honestly call our own, that the process that we call “perception” is in fact only a type of darkness that Plato has already discerned for us. We will realize profoundly that there is nothing truly objective for us to discover.

(Both men reflect silently for a moment.)

Niles: I know what you might be thinking, my large friend. What then, are we able to call our own? And to that very good question, I answer simply: only the depth of our own darkness, only the shape of our own light.

Deebo: Yeah, right. And mine is shaped like J-Lo’s booty.

Niles: Ahh . . .

(Niles shakes his head regretfully. After a moment he begins again.)

Niles: Eventually, of course, we will give up this metaphysical nonsense and move on. In doing so, we will of course be willingly fooling ourselves into seeing the consistent, clear, normal, daytime vision we call reality. We will even fool ourselves into believing that this “reality” holds actual meaning, and we will not be at all alarmed, then, by the fact that we know that what we are seeing is false. It makes a comforting alternative, does it not, to the darkness that is never dark enough, to the light that never seems to emerge, and to the sounds that are way, way too silent.

Deebo: Silent but deadly?

Niles: No, no, you buffoon! Ugh! Push over, I’m going sleep.

Deebo: Yo, get your hand off—

Niles: Ouch!

Deebo: Well, step off then, fucker.

Niles: Fine. Good night, my innocent friend. May these cold stones seep not into your soul. May you not be tainted by their earthly cynicism.

Deebo: Thanks, bro.

(A moment passes. Deebo continues to stare at the wall.)

Deebo: What about the vision, man?

Niles: Oh, damn the infernal vision! Go to sleep, you ninny!

Deebo: I think I see J-Lo’s booty.

Niles: Sleep! Sleep, I say!

Deebo: It’s right there, bro. Look.

(Deebo reaches a big hand out and snatches up Niles.)

Niles: Alright, let go, let go!

(Niles stares at the wall.)

Niles: Oh, yes, well, oh my! That’s does bear a remarkable resemblance to Ms. Lopez’s posterior . . . .

Deebo: Word, bitch.

a.k.a.

According to the IMDb, Tiny Lister Jr. is sometimes credited as:

Tommy Lister Jr. ‘Tiny’
‘Tiny’ Lister Jr.
Tiny ‘Zeus’ Lister Jr.
Tiny Lister Jr.
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister Jr.
Tommy Lister Jr.
Jr. Tiny Lister
Tiny ‘Zeus’ Lister
Tiny Lister
Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister
Tommy “Tiny” Lister
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister
Tommy Lister
Z-Gangsta

March 10, 2005

Arrrrrtwork

threejokesaboutpirates.gif

Behold "Three Jokes about Pirates," a short piece of humor writing, and a digital painting, and a short film, sort of, via arrrrt.com's artPad, by Dennis DiClaudio, (who really ought to get the lead out).

(Viewing tip: Set the thing to "Fast.")

Hamlet by P. G. Wodehouse

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“A Mr. Hamlet to see you, sir,” said Jeeves, having floated into the room as noiselessly as a fakir popping up in the middle of some sort of ritual pillow fight in the Far East.

Hammy’s an old University chum of mine. I’ll never forget the time we pinched the vicar’s pet chimpanzee on boat race night. He’s a bit of a gloomy type, probably owing to his being a Danish chap. Jeeves once said something about the state of Denmark being like a year-old egg, or something like that—I’ll have to check with Jeeves to be sure.

The first thing I noticed about him was that he was dressed all in black. Well, I don’t need to tell you that seeing my old school friend looking like an out-of-shape 8-ball left me feeling a little nicked off the magnifying-glasses, if you know what I mean.

“What ho, Hammy, old Dane,” I said. “Now, what’s the deep hidden meaning of coming here dressed as a shoe-polished penguin?”

Hammy sighed. “Oh, Bertie, old bean, I don’t mind telling you, I’m in worse trouble than a cat at a tennis-racquet convention.”

“Down at the castle, you mean?”

“Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile. It’s that old gorgon of an uncle of mine. He’s knocked off my guv’nor, and he’s just got my mother to do the Hymen’s-knot routine. And what’s the topper, the ink in the super-squirt fountain pen, my pater’s come back as a ghost to shoot off his beak about revenge and honor and all that rot.”

“Hmm. Sounds like the stickiest of wickets, if you ask me.”

And I wasn’t exaggerating a bit. If ever a black-suited cove was suspended above the eternal tureen of soup, it was Mr. Hamlet “Hammy” Denmark, Esq. There was only one course to be followed.

“We must ask the advice of Jeeves,” I said. “His well trained noggin, nurtured as it is by a steady diet of fish, will come up with a solution to your problems in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, or three shakes of an armadillo’s.”

And, sure enough, even as I spoke these words, Jeeves had materialized at the door like Lyle Swoonworth in the Pellucid Pictures Super-Super-Film, Moonbeams and Magic. I put the problem before Jeeves, to which he responded with a raised eyebrow, indicative of concern.

“Jeeves,” I said, getting down to the nitty and the gritty, “can you formulate an appropriate solution to this difficulty?”

“I have, sir. It is a plan based on the psychology of the individual. The butler at the Danish Royal Castle has informed me that Mr. Claudius is a high-strung gentleman, prone to attacks of sudden remorse.”

“You mean he’s a loony?”

“That is a term that might be used, sir. If you and Mr. Hamlet were to pay a local Danish theatre troupe to perform a lively entertainment about fratricide, Mr. Claudius would be so panicked that he would get up and leave the room, demonstrating his guilt.”

“I say, Jeeves,” said Hammy worshipfully, “you really are the pterodactyl’s aftershave.”

“Not at all, sir. I endeavour to give satisfaction.”

Andrei Codrescu, exquisite corpse

Y.P.R.

1. Hey, what's up?

A.C.

Nothing as far as I can see, but that's bound to change as soon as they reverse my mood.


Mr. Codrescu is a poet, novelist, an essayist, a screenwriter, a columnist for N.P.R., and the editor of Exquisite Corpse. His most recent novel is Wakefield.

March 09, 2005

Ari and Aaron Exit Stage Right: What's Up with That?

Well, it looks like it’s the week for Jews in the media whose name starts with “Ar” or “Aar” to leave the White House or, at least, a recreation of the White House on a Warner Bros. studio lot. Frankly, I find it uncomfortably chilling how often virtually identical situations like this happen at or around the same time. Like when Armageddon and Deep Impact both hit theaters within weeks, and then both of them sucked. Or Antz and A Bug’s Life competing to be the children’s movie that finally pushes my pathological phobia of anthropomorphized insects beyond “charming quirk” and into the realm of “clinical psychosis.” Or Britney and Christina both dyeing their hair brown, as if that would thwart my stalking efforts. Frankly, I find it uncomfortably chilling how often virtually identical situations like this happen at or around the same time.

In fact, there’s a whole list of things that come in twos that not only confuse me (and, therefore, are consequentially juxtaposed in my head time and again) but make me shake, sweat, and eventually pass out when trying to wrap my noggin around the cosmic statistics that produced two (2) improbable flukes.

For example:

One adorable actor with a wonky pituitary gland landing a hit primetime sitcom in the 80s about an inner-city black orphan adopted into a rich white household is about as big a spoonful as my appetite for implausibility can swallow. But two of them? That’s just so freakish, my head’s ready to explode.

Countries that start with “Austr” and end in “ia.” When the boatload of seafarin’ delinquents landed on a naked Aborigine and it was time to declare a name for their new land, surely somebody had at least heard of Austria, right? I mix these two countries up all the time, and it really wrecked my attempt to score a bargain on Priceline last summer. Well, it’s irrelevant now, as I am banned from both nations. Not only are their names so similar, but also they share laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol, tobacco, or firearms to minors. I guess they both just want to be like America. But, hey, who doesn’t?
Look, no matter how many times I learn it, I will never be able to distinguish stalactites from stalagmites, flotsam from jetsam, Flashdance from Footloose, meiosis from mitosis, or my Bubbe and Tzayde Smith* from Bubba and Zadie Smith.

Anyway, it’s probably for the best that White House Press Secretary Aaron Sorkin is leaving his post, because he lost all credibility after that hallucinogenic-mushrooms-in-the-carry-on trick at the airport. And Ari Fleischer might as well leave before “The West Wing” resorts to the usual ratings-booster tactics: “President Bartlett, meet your new Cabinet member, Cousin Oliver.”


* Gentile translation: “Bubbe” is Yiddish for “Gramma,” and “Tzayde” is Yiddish for “Grampa.”

Hills Like Stuffed Tigers: Calvin Discovers Hemingway

hemingwaybywaterson.gif
I am on the hunt. My hands feel gritty against the stock of my rifle. Sweat and dirt have tightened my grip. I turn to my faithful friend, Hobbes.

“Do you have the scent of the prey?”

“What prey?”

“An antelope. A buck, I’d prefer. I think we should climb that hill. We can settle in a bower and wait, just as we did that time in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.”

“Sure, what ever you want to do, Calvin. But don’t you think that your dad will be upset with your taking his gun?”

“I think, being a good man, he’d tell me not to return without blood on my hands.”

“That sounds kind of yucky to me.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

And we were off.

I thought about Margaret, back at home. Her wondering if I would return.

She was always too concerned. She didn’t understand my need to hunt. She understood little. Yet, I did feel a bit of love for her. Enough, it seemed.

“What do you think it means to be man, Hobbes?”

“I wouldn’t know, I’m a tiger”

“It is moments like this, that I know I can test myself—see what separates the boy from the man.”

“You weren’t much of man last night when you wet the bed.”

“Is it the light breaking through the trees while I perch behind a rock, ready to shoot? Or is it the sound of skinning your dinner—freshly killed?

“Or is it the sound of your dad chewing you out?”

“When we get home, Hobbes, I owe you a drink—maybe more.”

We settled in behind a large oak tree. We would have to wait until dusk for the hot fetid sun to set. Then, the animals would appear looking for food and water.

*   *   *

I considered my friendship with Hobbes. An odd thing, having conversations with a stuffed tiger. Perhaps this is not what a man does. It is what a boy does. I eyed the talking tiger suspiciously. Perspiration ran down the back of my neck.

“How long are we going to sit here, Calvin?” the tiger asked.

“As long as needed.”

“I thought we were going to tape down all of the toilet seats at home.”

“Those are children’s games, Hobbes. I am on the verge of no longer being a child.”

“Too bad, sounds like fun.”

A group of young boys played football in a distant yard. Grunting, rolling around in the dirt. I felt a dryness in my throat that could only be quenched by a stiff drink. Something hard. Like grape Kool-Aid.

“Hey, Calvin, I know. Why don’t we grab that bag of balloons you borrowed from Margaret’s party, fill them with water, and throw them at her?”

Doesn’t this tiger ever stop his talking? How can I keep my head clear with his incessant noise? Perhaps, this “Hobbes” was more of a liability than I had previously considered.

Perhaps this was that moment when I would truly become a man.

I gripped the stock of my rifle harder. A hot breeze blew over the hill.

“Hobbes, is that an antelope over in Mrs. Wilson’s yard?”

“An antelope? Here in the neighborhood? I can’t see it”

The stuffed tiger was turned away. I brought up the barrel of the rifle.

The harsh caw of a crow echoed in the tree above us.

But, the barrel was caught on my pant’s leg. I fell forward. My face landed in the dirt. My finger pulled on the trigger of the rifle accidentally as I hit the ground. A metallic click told me that the rifle was empty. Something I had not considered.

I lay in the dirt for a moment. Humiliation struck a match and began to light up, like the old Guajiros I had encountered in that dusty Cuban town.

“Calvin, that wasn’t an antelope, that was Margaret. And, look she’s all dressed up to go to a party or something.”

I jumped up, ready with a new plan.

“Hobbes, let’s go get those balloons!”

“Great!”

I was already halfway down the hill.

March 07, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell's Blink!

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Y.P.R. solicits your spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff, split-second, ad-lib snap judgements regarding Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking.





Blink!

Disquieting Modern Trends: iPod Edition

We really thought that if we both got iPods—the big honkin’ ones with like 60-gig of memory and a cool carrying case that makes us feel utterly up-to-the-minute and young again—we’d stop finding contemporary society to be a continual screech of disquieting annoyance. Yet here we are, the music industry’s annual masturbatory chuckle they call “the Grammies” long over and our iPods chock-a-block with slippery funk rhythms, still finding many modern trends to be Ashlee Simpson-offenses against our delicate eardrum souls. Forthwith, those things making us cringe this week.

Music Too Hot for Work
The object at hand is the recent U2 single “Vertigo.” This song has reduced both of us to unproductive and nigh-upon-uncivil quivering masses of flesh cowering between our iPod earbuds as we affect some sort of work-appropriate activity when in fact we are RAWKING OUT on the job.1 For those of you think that (a) U2 is a washed-up stadium rock behemoth that is not as cool as the Arcade Fire, (b) you’re tired of that iPod commercial and you would never think a song from a commercial was cool, or (c) Bono is a leftwing celebrity-weenie who should shut up about world hunger and just play music, our reply is: Have you heard this song? And, oh yeah, Bono and Liam Neeson (the Irish bastards) are both sleeping with your girlfriend.

People with Jobs That Make No Sense
Speaking of work: everyone we know, but everyone, now has a job that we cannot understand no matter how many advanced degrees we accumulate or how many cocktail parties we gamely attend while nodding sagely and lustily eyeing the Chex Snack Mix. It seems that all of America is now a “consultant” and not only does nothing but also works for no one. We demand that people return immediately to jobs that can be explained in a single non-jargony sentence such as “I am a fourth grade teacher” or “I make shirts for cocker spaniels.” No more Web-based marketing-integration specialists, no more “technical assistance” consultants for state-affiliate organizations, and—for crissakes—no more telecom-IT-network maintenance programming. Somebody, please, get a real job before China puts us all under martial rule.

Concern Over “The Obesity Epidemic”O.K., folks, look: America is fat. It’s what we do. It’s what our boys are fighting for. Ever since Elvis deep-fried his peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwich, it’s been our birthright. So the news that grownups in this great country are more “wide load” than “compact” is not a news flash. 2 If you like the Ho-Hos you’re gonna be packing a few extry, so quit whining or straighten up and fly right. And don’t get that Al Roker staple-your-stomach surgery either. That shit is sick and kind of gross. Didn’t mom tell you to chew your food? Long intestines are just like that, only—um, enzymatic. So don’t shorten, staple, spindle, or other wise dick with your GI tract. Just drink, like, water instead of Yoo-hoo and walk some stairs. Or buy some proper shoes and go run. But no intestine-dicking-with. And Al Roker’s head is now way to big for his body. You don’t want to end up looking like a flesh-and-blood bobblehead now, do you?

Ringtones That Sound Either Like (A) Actual Songs, Not Cheesy Casio Synth-Songs or (B) Like Actual 1930s Telephones
First off, we have nothing but admiration for cell phones and cell-phone users, the ruder the better. Life is too freaking dull and having some goober talk to his wife about her upcoming gynecologist appointment in the local burrito place is entertainment to us, not to mention how it makes us feel about our burrito. 3 But here we get nostalgic for the early days of the ringtone, when people had just started to branch out from the irritating “Nokia Song” to get classics such as “Für Elise,” “The William Tell Overture,” and “Genie in a Bottle” but (and this is the key) all played only in single beepy computer notes. This dorky sound was cheeky and great—Hey, it’s Beethoven, but it’s on my stupid little cell phone! Now people’s phones are capable creating surround-sound polyphonous MIDI arrangements that make it sound like the person actually has Yo-Yo Ma and violin-diva Anne-Sophie Mutter in his front pants-pocket. It’s a phone, people, not a boombox. Of course, the opposite trend of having your cell phone ring as if Thomas Edison owned it is just the kind of pseudo-nostalgia we hate. We know several people who like to say, “I should have been around in 50s!” at which point they usually start singing “Mack the Knife” or “Strangers in the Night.” 4 These people, antique ringtones, and Anne-Sophie Mutter all: disquieting, deeply so.

“G-d”
Hey! What’s the fucking deal with people who write “G-d” instead of “God”? I mean, is this some kind of “taking the Lord’s name in vain” thing, or is it some kind of weird atheist thing? In other words, this particular affectation is so nonsensical and vague that you don’t know if it’s the fundamentalists or the heathen who are behind it. On the one hand, if you believe in a Big Guy Almighty Pulling the Daily Strings Dude, do you really think He cares if you type out His name properly using the vowel? I mean, in your eyes, He invented vowels, right? On the other hand, if He doesn’t exist, if the world is a chaotic whirl of chance and meaninglessness, writing “His” name without the vowel isn’t exactly some kind of self-actualizing nihilistic touché, is it? We must consider renaming this column “Flat-out Idiotic Modern Trends” as this one is not really disquieting but just dopey. We do not want anyone to dare write out our names in full from now on, O.K.? Make it “Chr-s” and “W-ll” from now on. St-p-d!

Next installment: The mad horror of child protection device proliferation in our otherwise convenient and R-rated homes.


1 Will is doing better than Chris, since he still manages to present himself before students four times daily and communicate coherence of some sort. Chris is a mess. He is like some Blue Man Group cattle-call audition before they’ve decided you are worth the expense of making you up. His bald head bobs and weaves spasmodically, banging against the wall of his cubicle whenever that fucking chorus kicks in, and his “yeah, yeah, yeahs” at the end are drawing complaints from the bank branch on the floor beneath him. It’s really quite horrible.
2 The whole fat kid thing, though: now that’s troubling, and is a direct result of school boards in the 90s whoring out their students’ milk money to Coca-Cola in exchange for the computers they couldn’t afford to buy because public education in this country is funded at about the level of herring inspection in Finland. So that’s a real problem right there. Shame on you school boards! Double shame on you, Coca-Cola! For this and for Diet Vanilla Coke, which sucks.
3 Exception: We do not want to be interrupted by ringing cell phones while we are listening to “Vertigo.” Even worse: a “Vertigo” ringtone. We know some of you already have this, and the only solution is a revocation of your cell phone privileges until Bono and Liam Neeson are done sleeping with your girlfriend.
4 Only one of these songs, by the way, was a hit in the 60s (and the other in 1959 when the 50s were about petered out), which just goes to show you that most people don’t have a clue about what happened yesterday, much less before they were born. Side note: In a fistfight, Sinatra would have turned Bobby Darin (or Kevin Spacey, for that matter) into applesauce.

Malcolm Gladwell, quick thinker

Y.P.R.

1. How's life treating you?

M.G.

Well, I’m on my book tour, which is exhausting, and I’m now in England and suffering from major jetlag. But yesterday, I had a few hours off in the afternoon and went for one of those magical walks that are really only possible in London—and got transported into an alternate reality. So the answer is: not so bad.

Mr. Gladwell is the author of Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Trapped in Malcolm Gladwell’s Hair

Day 1: It has taken me a while to get my bearings. I spent an unknown amount of time disoriented and unconscious, but I’m more lucid now and more comfortable. This environment is stifling and odorous. The best I can tell, I’m lost in Malcolm Gladwell’s hair.

It was at Rainy Day Books, in Kansas City, that I saw the New Yorker scribe speak and sign copies of his new book, Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking. Being a fan of the peculiar, everyday scientific writing of Gladwell, I was excited to get to ask him a question on risk theory and how it shapes modern stockcar racing. His erudite answer and telling anecdote about a conversation he had with Nascar legend Richard Petty made us both look good. I stuck around afterwards with my friend Trish, hoping to meet Gladwell. Eventually the store closed. As I stood to leave, I looked over my right shoulder in time to see a brunet mass approaching. It swallowed everything in its path, blotting out the track lighting. I fainted. When I came to, my limbs were tangled in thickets of long, curly hairs. Eventually, I gained the strength to free my arms and legs. Now I rest up against a sturdy stalk of hair.

Day 2: I can reach my bag and I have some provisions, although half a bottle of Dasani won’t last me long. I’ll have to ration. I twisted my ankle trying to get out of the hair. This makes leaving a bit trickier. Gladwell gave a lecture today on the evolutionary importance of the common greeting. It’s not so bad being stuck next to such a mind.

Day 3: I have had diarrhea all day, which arouses very real fears of dehydration. I reread my unpublished piece on a scientific Atlantis off the coast of El Salvador. When I get out of this hair, I’m going to do more exploring. I smell jerk chicken and shrimp ... with fennel.

Day 4: I found a bag of groceries with water and many non-perishables. I feel awful for the old lady holding the bag. She was dying when I found her. Getting caught up in this man’s mane must have been too much for her. I’ve had a few cans of peas. I don’t like iced tea, but I’m drinking it. The only thing I won’t touch is the asparagus.

Day 5: Stronger, but the ankle still needs a little more recuperation time. Plus, I’m almost done with Blink. Think of all the snap decisions I’ve made that have turned out right. Literally a ton.

Day 6: I woke up this morning to see some movement in the hair. Initially, I thought it may be a rescue effort, but it turned out to be the welcome, yet haggard, figure of my high school friend, Steve Ergen, in a torn, sweaty I ♥ Scopes T-shirt. Steve played bass and sang lead vocals in my post-funk ensemble, Brass Tax. I played timbales and directed movement. Steve was at Syracuse University (upstate New York, all right) where Gladwell was speaking on unintended acceleration. He was using the bathroom when Gladwell came in and stood at the urinal right next to him. Now he’s in the hair; small world. Steve is a freelance writer now. He showed me his notes for a piece he’s writing on Gladwell’s new book. I told him it looked very nice. I let him have some broth before turning in for the night. I think I saw a rat today, but it might have been trash.

Day 7: Steve and I struggled to get out of Gladwell’s hair to no avail. My ankle is still sore. I explained to Steve, in lay-terms of course, my independent research into the psychological implications of space on the immigrant experience. Steve spent the afternoon looking for escape routes. I worked on a crossword puzzle and rested the ankle. I definitely saw a rat today.

Day 8: Woke up to find Steve dry-heaving. He said we needed to cremate the old woman’s body. It took more than a few matches and most of Steve’s notebook to get the whole thing burning but it went fast. Steve slept all day, missing Gladwell’s lecture on the fallacy of non-volatility in democracy from Athens to Iraq.

Day 9: Steve’s dead. He wasn’t breathing when I tried to wake him up this morning. I used up the rest of his notebook burning the remains. If I have to start a signal fire, all I have left is Gladwell’s book and a few of my unpublished manuscripts.

Day 10: I’m down to a roll of Necco wafers and a can of Ensure. I’m starting to wonder about Gladwell. When is this man going to wash his hair?

Day 11: Feeling weak and the diarrhea has returned. All a running leap did was re-sprain my ankle. I’m ready to go home. The ground is littered with ashes. It smells of my waste. I’m hungry. I’m bored with speeches about the brain’s unconscious abilities of deduction. I understand Occam’s Razor like never before. What I don’t understand is why Gladwell never washes his hair.

Day 12: I ate a piece of hair today and cried. Gladwell spoke today on key decision-making by figures in the days leading up to the Boxer Rebellion. I wish I was in the Boxer Rebellion, because then I’d punch my way out of here.

Day 13: I’m leaving this diary behind in the off chance that Gladwell ever uses shampoo. If you find these words, please honor a dead man’s wish and get my manuscripts published (no preference where). And tell Malcolm Gladwell he might want to shave his head for sanitary reasons.

Two Real Case Studies in Snap Judgment Involving My Parents

Scenario 1: My Father

I’m watching “Evening at the Improv” in the mid-90s when my father enters the room.

“What are you watching?” he says.

“This comedienne named Ellen DeGeneres,” I say. “She’s pretty funny.”

He snorts. “Looks like a lesbian to me.” Then he takes the remote and flips the TV to “The Dallas Cowboy Weekly.” In this brief amount of time my father saw through Ellen’s façade. Something about her that he couldn’t quite describe betrayed her rejection of the penis and saved my father from wasting years enjoying her unique brand of humor and clever television shows only to find out she is excited by the thought of a vagina. He went through the heartache and betrayal of laughing at a closet homosexual with Paul Lynde, but his instincts spared him with Ellen.

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Scenario 2: My Mother

My mother and I are stopped at a traffic light in her car when we see a man walking down the sidewalk. In less than five seconds, my mother assesses the situation. Using her Darwin-given instincts she realizes the man’s skin is darker than hers and she locks the car door. Racist perhaps, but what if the man had thrown down his briefcase, loosened his tie, pushed his stroller out of the way, and chased down my mother’s car? What if he had grabbed the rear bumper and brought the car to a screaming halt, throwing the back door open and dragging me off into a dark alley somewhere to fulfill his mission as an evil cyborg sent from some post-apocalyptic future in order to keep me from ever writing the Internet-based humor piece that would finally turn the revolution around? Something about the man or the situation just didn’t seem right to my mother. Perhaps it was his laser-beam eye.

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Blink . . .

. . . , rub his eyes, stare in disbelief, and finally call his lawyers is what Paul Simon did when he realized Garfunkel had published a pseudonymous memoir. (As if those damn Norwegians weren't headache enough. Now this!) Did admit to Edie that the guy can still pull off a pair of spectacles.

A Brief, Reasoned Argument to Counteract the Two-Second Judgment You’ve Made to Buy Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking

This book is not going to help your fiction. Seriously. Don’t buy it for that. I mean, buy it if you really want to read it, but don’t buy it just because you think it’s got some revolutionary thing to say that you can crib (and by “crib” I mean steal) for your fiction. I know, I know, you are not a plagiarist, but you know what I’m talking about. Don’t pretend that you don’t. It’s why you read Stiff and pretty much anything by Susan Orlean. Not that you didn’t like the writing, but c’mon. Be honest with yourself. Secretly, in that dark, awkward place that’s lacking security and covered with a sheet in your head, you were assessing this book’s worth for what it may do for your new fiction. Maybe, just maybe, like all those other cultural analyses and pop psychology pieces and quirky feature writings that you’ve plugged up your bookshelves with, maybe this piece of easy-to-read non-fiction is going to be the key to making your fiction more meaningful. It’s not. I know, that’s harsh. But it’s the truth. Did Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild or Into Thin Air suddenly make a Jack London out of you? No. So stop it. Leave the bookstore empty-handed and go out and get your own ideas. And really, while you’re at it, stop trying to find some obscure piece of history that you can distort into some overblown turd like Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code. It’s embarrassing.

P.S. Don’t you think this book had to be some marketing guy’s wet dream? I mean, a book about how spontaneous decisions are good and right? “Impulse buy,” anyone? Jesus, I’d be gluing these things to the Borders’ clerks’ foreheads if I were that guy . . .


The Way We Live Now

BTdingbat3.gifIncoming! March 7, 2005
by your humble coëditor, Josh Abraham, over at The Black Table.

Y.P.R. 3.1

O.K., Y.P.R.keteers, we're back again and this time everything's more or less working smoothly. The site's archives are being built up quite slowly, and you may find some links or pages to be working screwy. Wally, our tech assistant, is running on all gears. Please be patient.

We're also digging through the submissions mound and we've nearly reached the end of the mixed-metaphor tunnel. If you've submit something less recently than the other day and not yet heard back from us, please assume we never received it, or received it but lost it, and kindly consider sending it again.

Meanwhile, submit!

As always: hasselhoff - @ - yankee pot roast . org

March 01, 2005

The Humor from China


1. Auditorium

One day, I went into a restaurant to have my dinner. I waited for a long time, but no waiter served me. Seeing the people eating with great relish, I went to the chief of the dining hall: “Excuse me, didn’t I sit on the auditorium?”


2. Don’t Blame Me

A man, not to be good at socializing, used to say something not to be auspicious at the happy time. One day, his neighbor gave birth to a child. Many people went to congratulate them on it. And he went, too. As soon as the neighbor saw him, the master hastily let him to eat and drink so that he couldn’t say more.

The man ate and drunk without a word.

When the banquet was over, the silly man said to everybody, “You see, I haven’t said a word today. If the baby die one day, don’t blame me.”


3. I Don’t Want the Eggshell

Three persons went to a small restaurant to have breakfast.

The first said to the waiter: “A fried egg without the yolk.”

The second said: “A fried egg without the egg white.”

Now it’s the third turn. The waiter asked: “What about you? What didn’t you want?”

The answer was “I don’t want the eggshell.”


4. Pig Brains

At night, three boys went to a small restaurant. They chose “Pig Brain Soup”. Because there were many people in the eating room, in order to make things easy, the waiter shouted: “Pig Brain! Pig Brain! Three Pig Brains!”

Three boys simultaneously answered: “Yes. Here! Here!”


5. A Man of Ability

A stingy boss ordered the servant to buy wine, but not give him any money.

The servant asked: “How can I get the wine without money?”

The boss answered: “It’s easy to buy the wine with money and everyone can do it. If you can buy the wine without money, you are really a man of ability.”

After a while, the servant brought back an empty bottle and the boss was very angry, cried: “How silly you are! What do I drink without wine?”

Calmly and deliberately the servant said, “It’s easy to drink from a bottle filled with wine and everyone can do it. If you can drink from an empty bottle, you are really a man of ability.”


6. Judgment

A husband hated his mother-in-law living too long with his family, so he consulted with his wife for a plan to deal with her.

The husband told his wife: “When we begin to have supper this evening, I will pretend to say the food not to be cooked well and you insist on them cooked well. Then we will begin arguing. Last we will ask your mother to make a judgment. If she agrees with you, I will let her out. If she agrees with me, you will ask her leave.’’

According to the consultation, they were arguing when they had supper. At the end, the husband asked his mother-in law: “How do you like the food that your daughter has done?”

The old lady answered: “It’s too short time that I’ve lived with you, and it’s hard to tell you that the food is good or not. I will make a judgment for you after several months later.”


7. Mortgage

A customer of a restaurant: “I’m sorry, Boss. I think I can’t pay for the meal because I don’t have any money with me.”

The boss of the restaurant: “That’s all right. You can pay for it next time, but you must sign your name on the wall.”

The customer: “That won’t do. Everyone will know it.”

The boss: “You can put your coat on the wall. That will cover it.”


8. Chicken

A waiter was serving a chicken to a customer.

The customer: “Why is the chicken one leg long while one leg short?”

The waiter: “What does it matter? Don’t you like to dance with it, Sir?


9. Birthday’s Courteous Reception

A husband has never helped his wife to do the housework chores. He was prompted by a sudden impulse and said to his wife on her birthdays: “There’s no need to wash the plates and bowls for you today.”

The wife was overjoyed: “It’s very kind of you. Thank you for your help.”

The husband answered: “You may wash them tomorrow.”


10. Don’t Beckon the Businessman

I always have baked pancakes for the breakfast near my office. The boss gets to know me well for this reason. When I stretch one finger, he will bake one pancake for me. If I stretch two fingers, he will do two.

Yesterday morning, I got up earlier than usually and had my breakfast at home. When I passed the pancake room, I waved my hand to greet the boss. Then I went to my office.

After a while, I found the boss rushed into my office, a bag with his hand. “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“You stretched five fingers just now, and I have baked five pancakes for you. But you didn’t come to eat them, so I carry them here for you. Please have them as they are still hot!” he said.