Perhaps Offensive Chart

One of our two major political parties has been commandeered by a voter population that includes a large block of zealots. That’s not new. What is arguably new, however, is that an influential subset of these zealots have crossed a Rubicon not breached in recent history.







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You, For One, Will Welcome Your New Gaboon Overlord

Gaboon6The nation is in a struggle to choose its next animal.

Many couples can relate. Let’s say you’re moving and debating which furry quadruped will bedevil your family for the next decade.

“I’d like a dog,” you say. “They’re not perfect, but they’re fiercely protective and they force you to get off your ass, if only to clean up excrement.”

“I want a cat,” your wife says. “They’re softer and less likely to kill the neighbor’s kid if you leave the gate open.”

“I hate cats,” you say. “I’m allergic. Don’t you know they secretly hate you? A dog will keep us safer.”

“Cats comfort the sick and elderly and don’t go bat-crap berserk on visitors,” she says. “I’m not a cat person, I’m sensible.”

“I want a sub-Saharan Gaboon viper,” says Uncle Joe.

I forgot about Uncle Joe. He’s moving with you. In fact, he’s pitching in on the down payment on the new house, so you can’t swing this deal without him.

“What is that?” you ask.

“Biggest, most venomous viper in the world. Hugest fangs, amazing venom, just incredibly lethal. Some people call it a forest puff adder or swampjack, but I think Gaboon viper has the coolest ring.”

“It sounds dangerous,” says your wife.

“It doesn’t fool around,” says Uncle Joe.

“Um…no. The kids need a dog. It’s important. But if you’ve just got to have a no-good, horrible cat, maybe we can figure out—”

“Gaboon viper!” shouts Uncle Joe. “Or forget about the house.”

“What?” you say. “We’ve got kids! Are you joking right now?”

“Five letters. V-I-P-E-R. As in Gaboon.”

“Have you ever had one of those things?” you ask.

“Nope. Just dogs and cats. They all screwed me. Well, I had one dog I loved. And my dad had a cat he liked. But I am completely sick of dogs and cats. It’s time for a Gaboon.”

gaboon_3 pets


“I could consider a small dog if I had to,” says your wife.

“You liked a dog before. There’s not one you’d accept? A Beagle? Chihuahua? Mutt terrier?

“I want my Gaboon.”

You get angry.

“You know what? If we had gotten our act together we wouldn’t even need your help! I really resent what you’re doing right now.”

“Coulda woulda shoulda. Gaboon.”

“We are not getting a Gaboon,” says your wife. “And that is final.”

“Final my ass. Let me tell you people something. You two lightweights never listened to me, but now you’ll listen. We will not be getting another brainless butt licker or evil scheming puss if I have any say. And for once, I have a lot of say. You know what that means?”

“A coyote…” you plead.

“Gaboon Gaboon Gaboon! Most successful ambush viper in world. It will be absolutely amazing.”

“Uncle Joe,” your wife says. “Did you ever think that it might kill you?”

“Unlikely. While they are among the fastest-striking serpents and those two-inch stupendously venomous fangs scare the pee out of everything, they usually only kill when provoked. Hell, they’re even friendly when they need to be. If they get their steady diet of hares and doves.”

“I can’t believe we’re even talking about this,” you say.

“You better sort this out,” your wife says to you. “We agreed to put our final choices in a hat and have little Ellie choose one, but I never imagined that your bitter, angry uncle would—”

“Another thing about the phenomenally great Gaboon viper,” says Uncle Joe. “He’ll remember who loves him. And he will see that my concerns are taken very, very seriously. That means things will change. It’ll be fun to watch you losers cowering in a corner wondering when he’ll sink his fangs into you.”

“Dear…lord,” your wife says.

“That’s the Gaboon way,” says Uncle Joe.

“I…this isn’t over,” you say.

The next day, you hand him your cell phone.

“It’s your old friend, Mitt.”

He rolls his eyes and lays down his newspaper.

“Yes, Mitt,” he says. Squawking ensues. You hear “kids” and “disaster” and “unsmart.” Uncle Joe just repeats “uh-huh.” Then he abruptly says, “Okay you take real good care, bye now.” He hands your phone back.

“So?” you ask.

He snaps the newspaper stiff and resumes reading.

“Read my lips: Gaboon viper.”

It’s time for groveling.

“Uncle Joe, please. I don’t understand why this isn’t clear to you. It could kill…everyone. Even if it never got loose, if we somehow kept it locked in its cage 24/7, we could never relax for one minute. And God forbid if a stranger came in, it would freaking–”

“That’s just what the doctor ordered,” says Uncle Joe, still reading. “Getting a little tired of strangers. Seems like everything’s a little too strange. Don’t you think?”

“Definitely,” you say.

The down payment is due. Joe wants your pledge that Gaboon will be in the hat, and if little Ellie makes the wrong choice—and he’s watching for hijinks—it’s Gaboon time. You’re praying for long shots. Maybe the authorities will step in say “sorry, no Gaboons allowed.” Maybe you’ll kick the Gaboon out after a month, but that’ll be ugly, too. Uncle Joe holds a note on your house and he will not go gently into the Gaboonless night.

Or, God, maybe the epically deadly Gaboon will somehow make your home the coolest, safest…

Whoa, you’ve got more than a drop of Uncle Joe’s blood, don’t you?

Gaboon’s in the hat. Start thinking cages.



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1905 Reporter: Election To Wreak Salvation of Journal-ism


News-Papers Must Support
Wealthy G.O.P. Gentle-Man
Ridiculed For His Comb Of Hair

News-paper men, and ladies in the Trade, reporting on the ongoing in-state contests to choose the candidates for the U.S. Presidency, are displaying hostile aversion to one of the gentle-men of the Republican Party. They strongly fear this gentle-man, known for the constructing of conglomerate dwellings and appearances on the tele-vision, will now irrevocably win the nomination and lay destruction to Lincoln’s Party, and—should he prevail in the Presidential election—destroy any well-being of the United States.

While this gentle-man’s name is written daily in this broadsheet, my reckoning of the shoe leather sentiment held by the finger pecking ranks in this foul smelling office, usually cloaked well under-neath their inked stories, was deemed invective and I was requested to “not go there,” which our night broom man informed does not reference any existing place a man could go.
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With Great Sadness

momMy dear, beautiful mother, Joan, passed away this past Sunday afternoon, August 16, after fighting lung cancer. She was 81. She was my best friend, my best editor, and my reason for living. I miss her more than words can express.

Everyone who knew and loved my mom knew she was an incredible human being. I’m heartbroken that she’s left me, and I’m trying to just get through each new hour without her gentle eyes and warm smile. She was the life and light of our family and her leaving has left a void that hurts unbearably.

To honor her, we are creating a scholarship in my mom’s name for bachelors and masters students in the School of Social Work at Rutgers University in Camden and New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Rutgers is my mother’s alma mater, and she was a most non-traditional student. She enrolled in college when she was 58.

We’ve created the Joan Geraci Memorial Scholarship so other wonderful human beings like my mom can fulfill their dream of becoming a social worker…without waiting 35 years to do so.

Mom’s story

Having stopped her education at the eighth grade in Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey, mom began working to support herself in Philadelphia in her teens and married her husband, Samuel, in 1954 when she was just 19. They soon settled in Bellmawr, NJ, right outside of Philadelphia. After watching John F. Kennedy make a speech about volunteering in the early 1960s, mom decided she wanted to be a social worker. But it was not to be, for more than three decades.

After raising four children and while caring for her husband Sam during a long illness (my dad passed away on Christmas Day in 1997, a few months before their 43rd anniversary), mom started college to become a social worker at age 58. She soon earned her bachelors, and went on to earn her masters in social work at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey at age 64.

Mom had a successful decade-plus career as a full-time social worker, working with juvenile sex offenders, incarcerated youths, displaced children and troubled families throughout Camden County. She has many “success stories” who have better lives today due to their regular sessions with “Miss Joan” — most poignantly a little child named Brittany who mom helped escape a very troubling life in foster care. Mom considered little Brittany to be her most special “success story,” and though she was not allowed to contact Brittany after she left mom’s oversight at age 8, mom thought of her often. Brittany would now be in her late teens, and is one of many children and adults who remember the caring, patient, tireless woman who became her friend and protector and port in a storm in an unkind world.

When she stopped working full-time in social work in her mid 70s, she still continued helping many people end addictions, leave abusive relationships and find resources to care for needy or sick loved ones. Most passionately, she encouraged–championed–anyone who wanted to further their education. She helped many young and older people enroll in community colleges, trade schools, four-year universities and masters programs.

We’ve created this scholarship so that mom might continue to touch lives in this way.

We approached her with the idea of this scholarship for students majoring in social work just a few days before she passed away. She liked it very much. When asked whether the scholarship should focus on non-traditional students aged 35 and older, or be available to all students, her answer was clear even though her voice was quite weak. “Open to everyone,” she said.

Each year, the Joan Geraci Memorial Scholarship will help a deserving student at the Rutgers University School of Social Work in Camden or New Brunswick earn their BSW or MSW with a little less burden. Mom struggled financially to complete her college education in her late 50s and 60s. She couldn’t afford books and had to borrow teacher’s editions and photocopies. It took her many years to pay off her loans. Through her scholarship, we hope to help students seeking a career dedicated to helping others struggle just a little less than she did in the years they spend earning their degrees.

The yearly scholarship will start at $4000 and will grow over time, as the Fund grows. We plan to award the first scholarship in the fall of 2016.

If you knew mom, you know there is so much more to say here. (We are talking a woman so indefatigable, she once found a way to phone the baseball manager of the Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, in the dugout during a live game to request a signed photo of 1960s-era pitcher Sandy Koufax for me. It arrived by FedEx the next day.)

Even though mom has been taken from me, her love and compassion and courage remain as vivid as ever in my life.

If you might briefly consider making a donation to her scholarship fund, I’d be eternally grateful. Donations can be made online with at, or the old-fashioned way by sending a check payable to “Joan Geraci Scholarship Fund” to TD Bank,  129 South Black Horse Pike, Runnemede, NJ 08078. (The donation will also be accepted at any TD Bank location.)



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Brian Williams Still Can’t Say the “L” Word

Brian_Williams_color7Brian Williams still won’t say he lied.

After four months.

In his first post-suspension interview on June 19, safely on the home NBC turf of the Today show, he persistently dodged a pivotal question Matt Lauer asked but didn’t press forcefully enough: Did he actively know that he was lying when he was telling his many exaggerated tales?

He wouldn’t go there. He just repeated that he got things wrong. Said things “that weren’t true.” His ego made him pump up his stories, but he never intended to mislead anyone.


As genuinely ham-fisted as he’s trying to appear in his sorry-soaked reemergence, Williams is still far from genuine. He’s still putting forward a persona, still trying to sell a man sitting across from him on buying the product he’s creating. Those long-breathed mea culpa sentences are meant to seem clear and naked enough to distract you from noticing they are still equivocations, still conspicuously never add up to I knew I was lying and I kept doing it. Read More »

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On Cooking


I’ve become a fair to middling cook in the last year, due to repetition. Chopping, mincing, sautéing, grilling. Watching how heat changes and destroys something. Learning to control the destruction. That’s what cooking is. Controlled destruction.

It’s tactile. If you mainly work with words and other brain figments, attempting to distill air into digital bits that will be inked on a pulverized tree weeks or months down the road, or left as bits, doing something tactile and physical is welcome. The simpler tasks in preparing food can be meditative and unwind a worded-up brain much like drinking alcohol. You’re doing something with your hands that’s tangible and multisensory. It can start and end in the same slice of day. It produces a result that you can hold and taste, one that hits the first slab on the Maslow pyramid. Cooking is what writing isn’t. Read More »

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Seven Humble Pleas to the General Contractors of Earth

ManHammeringNail copyIf I’m trying to get a project bid from you, I’d appreciate it if you would…

Get a fucking website. It’s not 1975 anymore. I’m going to look you up after someone gives me your name or I find you on HomeAdvisor or Thumbtack or any of the other referral services. You have no website? Game over. I’m not gonna hire you for anything important. How fucking serious could you be? Okay, maybe “you have so much work you don’t need one.” Keep in mind you sound like some 70-year old fool who said he didn’t need a telephone in 1960.

Refrain from only sending out the fucking sales dude. I know, you’re paying a commission to this guy with the polo shirt and brochures to be your front man while you’re off working and earning money. I get it. You can’t be doing estimates all day. So I’m here talking to Cliff or Joe or Derek and wondering if anybody tells him he wears too much cologne. Thing is, I know I’ll never see this schmoe again. I want to talk to the guy who’ll be swinging the hammer. Or onsite telling somebody else to swing the hammer. Until that person comes and looks at the job, I won’t take your bid seriously. Read More »

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When Common Sense Kills

Pope2Pope Francis arrives at the Tacloban Airport in the Philippines on January 17, 2015. Image: Wikimedia Commons

I like Pope Francis. It’s hard not to like him. He’s folksy. He goes crowd wading while his security staffers piss themselves. He’s got a smile that’s both kind and a little devilish. I’d like to have a beer with him, to cite the ultimate good-human test.

The breathtakingly stupid mom-slur analogy he made on January 15, during the press session on a plane heading to the Philippines, even underscores why I like him. (Translations vary mildly, but he took a shadow jab at some hapless papal stooge and said something close to, “If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, a punch awaits him. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”)

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Let’s Quit the Fake Spartacus Statements

spartacus-movie-clip-screenshot-i-am-spartacus_large copy

The early backlash to the “je suis Charlie” phrase began hardly a day after the eight Charlie Hebdo editors and illustrators (plus four additional people) were murdered by terrorists in Paris on January 7. Several contrarians painted it as a hypocritical, beer-muscled line mostly being parroted by people who would never display the reckless courage of the Charlie Hebdo staff, don’t have a clue about the newspaper’s editorial point of view and likely wouldn’t be nearly as broken up about the identical slaughter of people who, say, were gunned down for drawing caricatures of Jews or blacks. Or maybe Americans.

Of course, “je suis Charlie” is just the latest iteration of the “I am” rallying meme that starts going around after a bloody event. For example, “I am Trayvon Martin,” “I am a Jew,” “I’m Michael Brown,” etc. By now, some people have closets with nasty identity disorders. I get that the broadly intended meaning of this Swiss Army slogan is “I’m united with the persecuted party” or “when you hurt them, you hurt me.” But I’m pretty tired of hearing it from people who are in no way similar to the entity they are supposedly boldly supporting.

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Chart: Probability of Insanity vs. Comment Posting Frequency


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Cecil the Cursing Cat, 1/7/15


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Cecil the Cursing Cat, 12/12/14

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Cecil the Cursing Cat, 11/18/14




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The Martian Invasion of 1938

War of the worlds4

Image: Wikimedia Commons

How old were you when the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast was aired?

“I was little. If it was on Halloween in 1938, then I was four years old. I was little but I have some vivid memories from that night. We were in my grandparents’ farmhouse in Ferrell, New Jersey, and my grandmother and grandfather were listening to the radio as usual. Their names were Mary and George. They were my father’s parents. All of a sudden there was a lot of confusion in the house and the next thing I know we were down in the cellar. But it wasn’t a normal cellar, it was just a dug-out hole. It was all dirt. Not just the floor, everything was dirt. I don’t know what it was used for. I had never been down there before. I left that house in the fourth grade and I never went down there again. The house is still there.

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1905 Reporter, 10/25/14


Your Horo-Scope Fortune

January 20 – February 19
You’ll encounter another unusual request. Such as being asked to jot fortune-telling lines akin to those on cards dispensed by a scale in Piggly Wiggly.

February 19 – March 20
Try bathing but once every three days to perhaps stop stenching of perfumed agents that offend the nose and eye.

March 21 – April 19
Endeavor to reduce. If you must remain corpulent, dress as a dignified stout person would.

April 20 – May 20
Stop walking about in your night clothes.

May 21 – June 20
Be certain that you are not wagering much of your pecuniary existence on a small portion of your trade that can absconded by a few university cock o’ the walks. Or one fellow named Craig.

June 21 – July 22
Your confidence in your water is frightful. Have processed ale on the offer at every meal for those who do not share it.

July 23 – August 22
You overuse the zipper. The contrivance must not replace buttons or latches or laces on every single thing that can transmute a seam. Carry no more than one about you at any given time.

August 23 – September 22
Request “leave” or “holiday” or “days of absence” from your employer. Asking for “personal time” sounds as if you are bedeviled by some distasteful matter of hygiene.

September 23 – October 22
Carry a pocketknife. Engaging in a battle of might with every third carton you touch insults our species.

October 23 – November 21
If you are a man, do not embrace another non-blood man as a greeting unless that person has just saved the life of someone dear to you.

November 22 – December 21
Do something about “convenience stores” without toothpicks.

December 22 – January 19
Do not become angry at a curious soul who disassembles your ringing device.

– 30 –


1905 Reporter was brought back to life by an unnamed newspaper to save print journalism from extinction. Email him at ©1905Reporter

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Cecil the Cursing Cat, 10/22/14

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Cecil the Cursing Cat, 10/20/14

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Recipe for Lean Times

Image: Wikimedia Commons

 What is wolf stew?

“It’s a hamburger dish we ate when money was tight. We had it about once a week when I was a kid, in the 1940s. Beef was a treat during the war. We had more pork, because we lived on a farm and we had pigs, but we didn’t have beef too often. Wolf stew could feed a whole family with a few potatoes and one pound of hamburger. My grandmother made it. Everyone in the family called it wolf stew. When I asked my dad why we called it that, he told me that during the Depression they were very poor, there was no money, no food, and they heard a noise at the door. It was a wolf. So they shot the wolf and they had wolf stew. I believed him. I was a young kid. We all believed it. Everything was rationed during the war; you couldn’t get meat, so we believed it was wolf. We thought that where they stored the meat, the pork, they just went there and got wolf. When I got married in the 1950s, I started making it for my kids and they called it wolf stew. We had it about once a week. It’s always been one of my favorite dinners.”

How do you make it?

“You just get three or four onions, cut them up, and fry them in a little oil in a large pan on medium heat until they’re golden. Then add a pound of hamburger into the pan, all crumbled up. Cook the meat thoroughly while stirring. After the meat is cooked through, stir in two cups of water, and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring on medium heat until it’s all well blended and you have a nice gravy. Then mix about a tablespoon of flour in a half cup of water and add it to the stew to thicken it. Let it simmer about ten minutes or until it’s as thick as you like it. Serve it with mashed potatoes.”

— Joan Geraci, age 80, Bellmawr, New Jersey


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Introducing 1905 Reporter

1905reporter2No Quorum on Rubber Costume 

Preparations for All Hallow’s Eve are said to be seeing discord among persons who judge the anticipated course of some revel-ers to adopt the costume of a man in rubber sheeting from head to knee, anchored in ducking waders, as ill-considered. It is thought that this costume seeks to represent a man of medicine or science who tends to patients gravely sickened by a feared contagious disease that is now on the loose in the United States.

The death and misery wrought by the particular infectious affliction, which has traveled from its quarantine on the African continent, is the reason for the offense. The complaining citizens insist such a costume will mock carnage and despair. Persons familiar with Autumn Halloween traditions will note that innumerable varieties of disguises are used for parlor get-togethers and society balls to effect a grotesque or whimsical appearance, with liberality generally unquestioned. Therefore rumors of discomfort among some quarter is alleged to be news-worthy and fit to serve as a “break-in story” for a newspaper man who stiffened spines in Tammany Hall.  Read More »

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An Open Letter to Derek Jeter


Thanks for being a pro athlete that might not kill my 10-year old son

By Pete Miller, West Orange, NJ


Dear Derek,

Emotions are exploding inside of me as your immortal run in Yankee pinstripes comes to an end. They’re making me realize exactly what you’ve meant to me for the better part of 20 years. To me, you weren’t just The Captain. You weren’t just a “class act.” You were a hero. The kind of hero I and legions of other fans will probably never see again.

You are a multimillionaire professional athlete that I would actually consider letting my 10-year-old son be alone with for maybe 30 seconds or so.

I bet you don’t realize how rare that is. Read More »

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The Summer of Forgotten Kids

hot sun3_Every few years, media attention cycles back to parents accidentally leaving their children in hot cars to die. This pediatric version of Shark Week surfaces each summer in hot states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, but it’s clinging to the spotlight with a vengeance this year.

The current go-around started in mid-June after a Georgia man let his 22-month-old son die of heat stroke in a closed car amid suspicious behavior, like sexting six women as his child lay dying. It made his “forgetting” stink of murder.

So we had yet another mystery involving a dead child.1

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Normandy 2014: Ernie Corvese

DDay photo B&W

I’m badgering an 88-year-old man to remember a few minutes that happened 70 years ago. The memory is, arguably, of historical importance. And he’ll likely be gone relatively soon, to put it bluntly. It’s the reality that gives every word he says gravity. So maybe my questions carry the gentle authority of seeking details for posterity, for the historical record. As if the record needed it.

So at 6:50 pm on June 4, 2014, in a hotel lounge in the small town of Bayeux, France, a twenty-minute drive from where he landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944, I make an 88-year-old man uncomfortable.

The man’s name is Ernie Corvese. He’s a retired newspaper photoengraver from Providence, Rhode Island. He’s traveled to Normandy with his wife of 62 years, Dolores, for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. As one of the ever-fewer surviving veterans still able to talk about his war experience, Corvese has been interviewed several times in the last few years, telling and retelling the story of his glimpse of hell during that rainy day back in ‘44.

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A Kiss Worthy of Cinema History

lifeboatpic2I recently had the opportunity to see Hitchcock’s Lifeboat on the big screen again.

The 1944 film follows nine people in a small boat in the north Atlantic after their Allied ship is torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II. The British and American survivors have all the diversity convenient to brew conflict and unlikely alliances—they span from a bejeweled woman to crewmen to a business tycoon. But the presence of the German U-boat commander, rescued from the sea after his sub is destroyed, creates the central tension in the film.

I’ve seen Lifeboat perhaps four times, but only twice in a theater.1 A lot has been written about it, as with any Hitchcock film, though much justifiably centers on Tallulah Bankhead not wearing underwear on the set.2 You’ll also find mentions of John Steinbeck’s anger over the dumbing down of his black character3 and a few musings on the damaging controversy that gutted the film’s box office performance. Regarding the latter, several critics and other influential voices in ’44 felt that the German U-boat captain (Walter Slezak) was portrayed as too competent, too gentle-faced and too appealing in every regard to represent a hated enemy.4 This reportedly spurred Twentieth Century Fox to cut promotion efforts and the $1.5 million film did poorly in theaters.

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The Death of Quirky

monkey“She wasn’t quirky. She was crazy.”

This was my friend’s assessment of a woman I had met on OKCupid. She had ended our pleasant test drive after two months when I showed ambivalence about naked time, which sometimes happens when I realize I’m not in it for the long haul but still enjoy the dinner conversation. Sort of like an actor in a play that’s closing. Even if the backstage mood sucks, you might still like getting dressed and going on.

My friend’s comment wasn’t empty. She was psychologically troubled. It didn’t take a medical degree to see that. Bits of her past trickled out in the first two weeks and then dropped in large chunks. An abusive parent, pill addiction, years of crippling depression, weight swings, promiscuous eras. On “medication.” The drugs were heavy-duty mood stabilizers, not like the ones in the commercial with the frowny ball. Ads for these pills could use Amanda Bynes.

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Do Not Say “Welcome to Middle Age”

father-knows-best. Jim Anderson
Where’s the cancer?

I don’t want cancer. Unless that’s going to be in the cards soon anyway. I want my body to stop irritating me with a series of annoyances that cause me to see some doctor, take pills, bitch and lose productive time.

A variety of bizarre, premature shit has cropped up solely to piss me off in the last few years. Arrhythmia. A temporarily half-paralyzed face. A Dupuytren’s whatever-the-frig in my left hand. Gout. Pneumonia.

Pneumonia. The old man’s friend. I’m not yet 45.

Meanwhile I’m healthy. “Healthy.” When people say “Thank God for good health,” they specifically mean me. No brain tumor. No lung cancer. No lupus. No diabetes. No Lyme disease. No Lou Gehrig’s disease. No artificial limbs. Nothing that qualifies me as bad off in the slightest.

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Confessions of a Former Leg Man

nowalk3If you leave a city like New York for an extended stay in the suburbs, one of the first changes you’ll notice will be a drastic drop in the walking you do every day.

Everyone knows this.

Most suburban areas are famously unwalkable. You can’t perform any errands on foot. Maybe the odd errand to a nearby spot, but that’s it. Biking isn’t a reliable answer either. Your destinations are just too far away and far apart.

This is the definition of the suburbs. Your bank is two miles away. The dry cleaners is three miles in the other direction. The supermarket may be in the same strip mall as the cleaners, but how will you get the groceries home? The frozen food will melt.

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When a Bar Dies


Wrenching the old payphone off the wall should have been harder. A man who’d been pouring beer ten feet away for better than twenty years muscled a pry bar between a cinder block and the black metal box, and the relic heaved forward with a crunching groan, its broken attachments hanging like mangled arms. Two grey cords strained from the wall, like some last-ditch plea to let the phone stay where it’s been for, God, longer than anyone can remember. The bar opened in 1945. “Sometime after that” often ended discussions about the origins of things.

I was in the carcass of The Back Fence, a saloon on Bleecker Street in the Village. It was the afternoon of Sunday, September 29, 2013, a few days after it poured its last official beer given an ill-timed tangle with the city’s department of health. The bar had long been set to close on September 30, but the health-department troubles spurred the owner to go dark early. Perhaps most hurtfully to long-time regulars and employees, it meant canceling the goodbye shindig planned for the final weekend.

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Explaining Facebook to a 1949
Factory Worker


T R A N S C R do not copy image2 copy 3I P T


THURSDAY 3/17/49
12:15-12:40 PM CST
41.455196 -91.022739

PAGE 1 OF 4 

I go back Tuesday. I needed the break. All I do is work on my thesis. It’s like a massive term paper that you have to defend against the Supreme Court. No thanks I don’t smoke go ahead.

I’m doing my thesis on something called Facebook. Face book. It’s a seminal social media . . . [UNINTELLIGIBLE] . . . [UNINTELLIGIBLE] . . . average people. You know that bulletin board outside your boss’s office? The one crammed with a thousand pieces of paper, the bowling league rankings, those fishing trip photos . . . Facebook is a bulletin board like that but it covers the entire planet.

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Silent with Prejudice

oldphoneMy father was born in 1915.

He never really cottoned to the telephone.

At least from his sixties onward, he regarded a ringing phone to be a minor emergency. Like a Western Union man banging on the front door with a telegram. The telephone was an expensive communication device to be used sparingly, if at all, and it posed several technical hurdles that were marks of a contraption not quite perfected.

One was dialing. This act required opening a book, adjusting eyeglasses, concentrating intensely to place a finger in the correct hole in the delicate rotary thingy and applying just the right clockwise force to make the desired number register.

Naturally, being up in years increased his difficulties with gadgetry. But I never took his pained approach to using the phone as a late-life issue. I tend to think he always viewed the telephone as something between a technical nuisance and a clanging miracle box. Hell, when he was a kid, you still had to turn a little crank to get some telephones to work. He told me that. The nickel the only handy phone required? That was a slice of pie. Dropped calls pissed you off.

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Old-Time Radio Shows:
Why I Listen to This Ancient Crap

Listening to old radio shows is not a pastime that suffers a lot of discussion.

There are several reasons. First, the whole genre of “old-time radio” is alien to most people under 75. The big-network sitcoms, dramas, cop shows, horror and thriller series, westerns, variety programs and so forth that defined America’s home entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s were all effectively dead by the mid 1950s (the period known as the “golden age of TV,” not coincidentally).

This means that a person born after, say, 1936 will typically react with a squinty-eyed gaseous expression when you mention old radio shows. As if I Love Lucy1 isn’t back far enough and you’re trying to out-old them.

Secondly, a lot of people consider the idea of listening to a recording of a play featuring long-dead actors—people even their parents would not remember—to fall, on the entertainment scale, somewhere below knitting in prison.

At least knitting has a point. Tell someone you basically like to switch on TCM and then stare at a wall, and you’re asking for judgment.

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The Mid Night Howl

When I was writing a book eight years ago, I engaged in a temporary mode of living that was hyper focused and backwoods boring. I would rise every day at about 5:30 am, work in a determined fashion until noon, eat, exercise, see an old movie at a nearby theater or meet a friend, eat, and then be in bed by 8:45 pm. I’d listen to an old radio story while I read a blog or two, then fall asleep by 9:30 pm.

At about two am, I’d wake up. Or rather, I’d open my eyes and find myself in a state that felt a lot like wakefulness, but not quite. I’d have a highly sensitive perception of the dark room I was in, but no sharp awareness that I was no longer asleep. It was an odd, placid form of being awake; more aware but less alert. There was no tug of tiredness trying to pull me back under, nor any restless notion to get up or turn on a light. It was a ripe sentience that allowed clear but limited thought and wanted stillness.

I was experiencing segmented sleep, something that was as normal as defecating outside up until about 150 years ago. It’s as close to Lincoln as I’ll get. (Segmented sleep, I mean.) Evolution probably created it so we could listen for predators, count the younglings and tend to a dying fire. Internet porn is a more recent use.

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Caged Heat, with More
Blood and Less Heat

Raze-Choker“Because you watched The Human Centipede.”

These words sat atop my Netflix homepage for weeks and could not be removed. The movie suggestions below were not helpful; think of movies like The Human Centipede that you’ve never heard of. When the film came out in 2010 and caused a mild ruckus, it played at the IFC theater in New York. I meant to see it there but never did. Years later, after I ventured a private viewing via Netflix, I was reminded of it every time I launched the damned website.

I envisioned the doorman in my building, Mike, standing in my apartment with a cop while covering his nose and clicking though my laptop. “I don’t know what he died of, but I can tell you what he liked to watch,” he says.

When the next deviant-but-talk-worthy movie came out, I’d catch it in the theater. Keep things tidy.

So I saw Raze on the big screen.

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The Farrah Poster

Hobo! / Foter / CC BY


Like about ten million other Gen-X guys in the mid 1970s, I was exposed to the Farrah Fawcett poster in a typical way: courtesy of an older brother. A friend’s older brother, in my case. He was fifteen, reckless and mean, getting into the kind trouble that would cause him to have a short life. An aroma of denim and pot followed him. He lived in my friend’s basement where he played his Led Zeppelin records. At six, I was curious about what went on down there. Whatever it was, I was pretty sure it would kill me.

The poster appeared in the basement stairway one day, on the slanted ceiling above the basement steps. Near the bottom. I was heading down behind my friend, perhaps shuttling a Coke to the older brother, or some message from his mother that likewise required two to deliver, and there it was.

Most memories of that basement are down to faint odors of musty carpeting and the pastel covers of board games that were missing pieces the baby sister would occasionally cough up. I remember that poster, though. I remember looking directly at her eyes when I was halfway down the stairs. I saw those teeth. Those teeth and that hair. The next step down was one small step for a six-year-old, but one giant leap for a boy beginning a life that would hopefully be complicated by females.

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View from the Pitchfork Mob

The disturbing public excoriation on Twitter that upended the life of 30-year-old PR exec Justine Sacco on Friday, December 20, 2013—after she sent an ill-conceived tweet that read, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”—was one of the greatest spectacles of mob violence in social media to date.

I couldn’t resist joining in.

When I got wind of the brouhaha going on via a blog post on at about 7 pm that night, I booked over to the #HasJustineLandedYet Twitter feed and had myself a good time watching the blood orgy on my phone.

There was a juicy charge to the situation: the victim had no clue she was being attacked by Twitter users worldwide. She sent the tweet a little after 10 am EST while in London, then boarded an 11-hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. She reportedly flew first class on British Airways, enjoying amenities1 that sum to a veritable inflight anus licking but evidently don’t include that newfangled trifle called WiFi.

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