Apr 092013

One surprising thing I learned recently is that coffee is losing its effect. Here’s a diagram from Science which shows how coffee’s ability to stimulate is undergoing exponential decay:


I don’t drink the stuff myself (too acidic), so I’m not concerned. But I wrote about the “brewing” state of affairs on the New Yorker’s website: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2013/04/the-day-coffee-stopped-working.html

 Posted by at 11:57 pm 5 Responses »
Apr 032013


A museum guide is leading a tour at the Smithsonian Museum of Weird Shit.

GUIDE: And this is the Presidential Wing…Here, you’ll see the remarkable inauguration gowns worn by the First Ladies over the years. Each is one of a kind, each has a story to tell, and underneath each, you’ll see the First Ladies’ skeletons, which are used to hold the gowns up.

MAN: And these are…replicas?

GUIDE: All these dresses were actually worn by the First Lady at the inauguration.

MAN: I meant are these the real skeletons themselves? Not just…I don’t know, some high-quality, resin-based replicas made from a mold of the real skeletons?

GUIDE: These are the real deal.

The guide leads the group to the first display.  

GUIDE: It’s the evening of April 30, 1789, and President Washington is speaking at Federal Hall. At his side is Martha, wearing this dress of fine salmon-pink faille. Grand, isn’t it? It might have shocked some patriots to learn that this dress was made in Britain – by the Queen’s dressmaker. But they would have been well-pleased to know that Mrs. Washington’s skeleton was reinforced for the event with strong American hickory.

He reaches out and knocks twice.

WOMAN: Wait, where did you get all these?

GUIDE: They’re on loan from the current First Lady.

WOMAN: The skeletons, I mean.


They walk to a new display.

GUIDE:  This is the dress Mary Todd Lincoln wore in 1865. The deep purple velvet was chosen by her African-American handmaid. And, if you grab her arm and pull, you’ll see what a creaky skeleton she had.  It could often be heard outside of her body as she performed her duties – writing letters, hosting state dinners, keeping in working order the tank that held the deceased First Ladies’ skeletons. Does anyone know which famous catchphrase resulted from this?

BOY SCOUT (hesitantly): “Abraham Leakin’ heard Marry Todd Creakin’ and decided to oil her bones?”

GUIDE: That’s right. Of course, her husband would rarely have had time to carry out a complete oiling, so the procedure was usually was performed by her physician – whose skeleton you can see on her right.

BOY SCOUT:  Man that’s a small cage.

GUIDE (shrugging): People were smaller back then. Moving up a century or so, we have Mamie Eisenhower and Jackie Kennedy. A quick look at the two,  and you’ll see a major shift in fashion.

WOMAN: What are all those marks on Mamie’s femurs?

GUIDE (takes out glasses): Huh. Those are probably from her husband’s claspers.

WOMAN: But they’re so deep.

GUIDE (winking): Guess it shows how much Ike liked her. No, you’re right. They’re unusually deep. And it could be biological, or it could be from back in the seventies, when a group of schoolboys got their hands on the skeleton and did a great deal of whittling and carving. You can still see their initials and messages to each other.

MAN: Did the schoolboys make those bumps?

GUIDE: They did not. Those are called “bone roses” or “skeleton thorns,” and they occur naturally.

MAN: They look painful.

GUIDE: They would have been extremely painful. It’s likely Mamie never even knew where she was, much less that she was the First Lady. Now, finally, over here, we have Ida McKinley, who is popularly believed to have had the greatest wingspan of any First Lady. However, that honor actually belongs to Barbara Bush. Can anyone see how she did it?

BOY SCOUT: Extenders.

GUIDE: Precisely. That’s why we have them fighting here. Obviously, these are not their inauguration dresses. They’re some cool unitards we designed. If there are no further questions, I’ll conclude the tour by pressing this button, and letting them begin. Please stay out of the range of their swords.

MAN: What about all those skeletons over in that corner? Aren’t those part of the exhibit?

GUIDE: Yeah…they’re sort of on their way to the dump, though. Okay, have a good one, folks.

The room fills with sounds of swords clashing and pained robotic bellows. 

 Posted by at 2:14 pm No Responses »
Mar 222013



Here’s how I decided to deal with my acne when I was thirteen:

An office. My 13 year old self is sitting at a desk. Tweezers enters.

Tweezers: Sup.

Me: Oh…hi. Are you some tweezers?

No response. Tweezers just sits down in the chair in front of the desk.

Me: If you are I think you’re in the wrong place. Because I recently got acne and I’m holding interviews to determine the best way to get rid of it.

Tweezers: Yeah, that shit’s all over your face. You should use me to get rid of it.

Me: What? How?

Tweezers: I have sharp metal edges you can poke at your face with.

Me: That would get rid of my acne?

Tweezers: [shrugs] Maybe. [Leaning in to peer at my face] Damn. I sorta wanna touch that shit…

Me: [shrill] No, don’t! [Then, trying to be calm] I was thinking more along the lines of Oxy? Or my friend Alex, right before his Bar Mitzvah, I guess he got this face treatment, right? So he wouldn’t break out that weekend. Do you know how they do that?

Tweezers: Tweezers, probably.


Tweezers: Probably he got his face poked at with sharp metal tweezers.

Long silence.

Me: Well…thank you for coming by. I’ll let you know.

Tweezers: So, who else is in the running? That Clearasil waiting out there?

Me: Sure, maybe.

Tweezers: Because I killed that Clearasil before I came in.

Me: What?!

Tweezers: [shrugs] It’s just some soap.

Me: Oh my god. Oh my god.

Distressed, I run my hands through my (cool, gelled) hair as I try to figure out what to do. Finally, I look up.

Me: Okay, I’m going to give you one chance… but only because semi-formal is tonight. [spraying cologne everywhere] Now come on, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

 Posted by at 9:40 pm 1 Response »
Mar 062012

 “Kanye West media trainer quits after disastrous ‘Today’ interview” – New York Post

Dear Mr. West,

I’m writing to inform you that I will no longer be working as your media trainer.  I reached this decision after your interview on the Today Show—specifically, when I was standing on the rim of Mount Erebus, and I scraped the frost off of my goggles only to see the contrail of my own biplane arching above me. But I’ll try to explain myself in full, since the roots of the problem stretch back further than that.

You came to me a year ago, Kanye, and asked for help. You had recently humiliated a teenager in front of millions, over a piece of trash-metal that MTV had found in its trash. As I watched footage from your other appearances, it became clear that the incident with Ms. Swift was only the beginning. Still, despite the things that gave me pause (your daily assertions that the “2Pacalypse” was at hand; that time you said the members of Coldplay were more talented than The Beatles), I agreed to take you on as a client. I know what media attention does to people. Without accredited training, everybody ends up doing the same things you did.

Unfortunately, you fostered such a toxic work environment that it was almost impossible to help you. On my second day, you heard that a blogger had criticized one of your songs.  You immediately held a press conference and said, “Don’t blame me—didn’t write it.” Then you told everyone that my husband had. That hardly seems necessary, I thought.

Things only got worse. For a man who had criticized George W. Bush in such spectacular fashion, you certainly spent a lot of time with Dick Cheney. One merry afternoon, the vice president was tossing vases at the ceiling and a shard of glass cut me above the eye. You laughed and laughed.

You expected me to perform tasks that weren’t stipulated in my contract. Take these shirts to the dry cleaner. Get me some sushi. Develop me a four-dimensional video camera that records images of music.  (With the budget you gave me, did you really think I could succeed? And did you always have to point it at me, after it became clear that my prototype could “only” predict the death of whomever it was filming?)

I did not enjoy riding in your five-wheeled car. I found it frightening and impractical.  For Christmas, you gave me a Swarovski crystal swan. That’s a really bad present.

But none of these things on their own were enough to make me end our partnership. In spite of everything, you were making progress. You charmed the crowd on Letterman. When you went on The View, your head didn’t explode even once.

Things changed you went on the Today Show. I hope you understand that my clients cannot think that I coached you to act that way. Getting tripped up by Matt Lauer’s routine pleasantries. Taking offense at the most innocuous questions. Tweeting about how unfair the interview was the moment you left the studio. Getting on the first Japanese whaling vessel you could find. Working for your transportation all the way to the Southern Ocean. Sneaking off at night and stowing away on a Finnish icebreaker until it reached the shores of Antarctica. Meeting up with a group of American scientists and forming a close bond, only to tie them up, push snow on top of them, and leave camp with their sled. Riding at breakneck speeds along the ridges of the weakest glaciers, so that they’d collapse and reveal the Palace of the Ice King. Telling the Ice King that if he let you live, you’d perform a concert at in the hall by the menagerie of the snow-beasts. Turning the speakers so loud that they stupefied these people—these gentle people who had never heard anything louder than a swimming seal, or the chimes of an icicle choir. Rushing up to the King as he and his retinue lay dazed, and stealing the man-lings he reared in his warm pouch, thrusting them roughly into your satchel. Taking the tiny creatures to the polar bear who guards the ruby nests, and forcing them to risk their lives to steal the rubies, which you planned to bring to the Seahorse of the North, the scourge of the Frozen Realms and sworn enemy of the Ice King. But some of the rubies, you said, you would give to your media trainer. All the media trainer had to do was come down to Antarctica, in her little trainer’s plane, and the media trainer would get them.

Ash is raining down from the sky. It will not be long till Erebus erupts, and yet I find myself crawling closer to the rim, closer to the one warmth here.