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Querido person who stole my iPhone outside of a kebab restaurant in Barcelona at 4 a.m. and the prostitute who molested me immediately after:

I just wanted to get the Canadian girls’ email address and some fourth meal, not an unexpected $749 Verizon purchase upon return to the States and an aggravated right nut.

Shifty Thief, you’re a heartless motherfucker. Can’t you find a way to target individuals who actually listened when the Verizon associate told them getting the insurance is a good idea? But, Shifty Thief, I must be honest: Easy target aside, you are good at what you do. I don’t even know when you got me or what you look like, and I had even sobered up. I either placed it on the counter at the kebab restaurant and you swiped it, or I didn’t get it all the way back into my pocket and you picked it when I was molar-deep in some rolled-up European tastiness. I never thought I’d like any combination of food that included cabbage, but I was wrong, and no matter what you might have lifted from me, Shifty Thief, I’ll always have my cabbage epiphany.

Dear Mr. Sheik,

I’m writing for a couple of reasons. First of all, I recently bought this amazing tumbler with your likeness on it. I think you’ll agree that this is the best beer mug in all of existence. So in your honor, I’m having a giant beer.

I also have a few questions if that’s OK.

Have you ever considered competing on Iron Chef? It’s a cooking show where contestants try to make better food than the “iron chefs.” Whenever I hear someone refer to that show, I think of you on accident. (I’m a child of the ‘80s, so this makes sense.) And whenever I happen to catch an episode of Iron Chef, I’m inevitably disappointed because there are no suplexes or Boston Crabs; instead, it’s usually just a bunch of cooks hurriedly cutting up vegetables.

Dear Mr. Brown,

First of all, congratulations. Your discovery of Eris in 2005 led directly to the reclassification of Pluto, profoundly altering our conception of the solar system. More importantly, in the process, you simultaneously broke the hearts of sentimental saps and/or third graders everywhere.

I should know: I used to be one of those saps. I have to admit, when Pluto was demoted in 2006, I was pretty depressed. Let me explain: I’ve always felt a certain kinship with Pluto. Like Pluto, I live in a far-flung, cold area that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. It is called Minnesota. At 5’6” and one-hundred-and-something pounds, I am also pretty small. You could say that I was the Pluto of my high school football team. Everyone publicly admired me for my pluck, but in private, my teammates rolled their eyes at my feeble attempts to fit in where I so obviously did not belong.

The other day as I was driving my daughter to a doctor’s appointment, a woman pulled up alongside us, leaned over and held a book up to the passenger-side window. I gave her a friendly wave, because I’m always up for a good book recommendation. But she continued to hold it there, staring straight ahead, as we both edged forward in the traffic.

Gosh, I thought. She really likes this book. And seems to think that it’s just the book for me!

I took a closer look: the title was The Marketing of Evil, and on the cover was an apple being temptingly proffered. Later that day, I looked the book up online and read the description:

Paul Tremblay’s Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye (ChiZine Publications) is a contemporary version of Animal Farm amped up on bitterness, future technology and sad realizations that things are not going to end well. Our unnamed narrator is forced into situations beyond his control, a reluctant hero in search of his mother, an angry youth who has little love left for his father, a boy not quite ready to be a man.

As a teen, he runs off to work at Farm, thinking he is helping his mother. Years later when his paychecks bounce back to him, her account closed, he fears the worst. An opportunity to escape presents itself, and he flees Farm, only to run into his father, who has set him up to be the next mayor of City—or perhaps just a patsy waiting for the fall.

Six Shakespearean Tailgaters

 

The Comic’s Complaint

How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
How come you listen but won’t laugh at my gags?

(based on The New York Times feature)

Sundays start early for Aristotle von Buckingham, the 32-year-old venture capitalist and professional yo-yo master.  He and his girlfriend, Madonna Luxembourg, live in the penthouse of an Upper West Side brownstone with their pet elephant, two and a half children, and a life-size statue of Zach Galifianakis.

Please explain what just happened.

My sixteen-year-old cat just sneezed a tooth at me and looked at me like, “Really?”  I didn’t know what to tell him.  I’m going to put his tooth under my pillow, and maybe I’ll get a new cat.

 

What is your earliest memory?

On the bookmobile at age four.  My mom is trying to make me talk to a girl my age.  I am terrified, and I may have cried.

“[This American Life] said [Mike Daisey’s] story about meeting underage workers at Foxconn… was untrue. The program says Daisey also lied about meeting a man who mangled his hand making iPads… [and] that factory guards carried guns. ‘The only people who are allowed to have guns in China are the military and police,’ [China bureau chief Rob] Schmitz said in a phone interview from Shanghai. He also doubted Daisey’s contention that he met factory workers in a Starbucks, a pricey venue assembly workers would never visit.”
Mercury News, 3/17/12

Not every game that I played with my parents required so large and so mathematically sophisticated an apparatus as our beanbag tic-tac-toe set: with its ever shifting planes of experience—Xs and Os—victory and loss—all poised on invisible pins and ready to pivot from pleasure to pain to panic—that nightmare land of indecision—at the slightest provocation.

We also enjoyed simpler pastimes, such as hide-and-seek.

Imagine that Cinderella’s been murdered, distracted by a bluebird and run over by a truck in New Never City. Now imagine her stepsister calling on Rumpelstiltskin (stripped of his villainy as punishment for rage issues) to investigate. This is the premise of  J.A. Kazimer’s Curses!: A F**cked Up Fairy Tale.

Cinderella’s stepsister Asia, believing her sister’s death to be a case of foul play, shows up at what she thinks is Sherlock Holmes’s door. Only, he hasn’t lived there for a while, not since RJ, as Rumpel prefers to be called, stuffed him into the chimney and took over the residence. Asia, much better-looking then the original story had led us to believe, convinces RJ to help, but really he’s just doing it in hopes that she’ll sleep with him.

I should be in school right now, steeling my ear canals against a six-hour onslaught of Finnish verb conjugation, suffixal agglutination, and phonemic molestation. While there, I’d watch the sky go from black to leaden to wan and back again. I’d pour coffee in one end of my body and drain it out the other. I’d envy the reindeer begging for alms outside the nearby train station. I’d weep.

For publishers, authors, and agents, coming up with the perfect book title causes great consternation. In some cases, hundreds of titles are suggested, batted about, and batted down months before a book’s official publication date. The highly volatile selection process often results in finger-pointing, idle threats, lollygagging, and, in some rare cases, irritable bowl syndrome. Sadly, like many of my colleagues in publishing, I’ve experienced this aggravating process firsthand.