Koga the Gorilla Takes a Break

Koga, a 24-year-old male gorilla, escaped from his cage at the Buffalo zoo and was captured in the staff lounge.

Associated Press

“How come stupid humans get lounge Koga no can go in lounge?”


Cold cold cold cold cold.  Why does anyone live in this godforsaken place, it’s cold ALLA TIME!  If stupid humans had more highly-developed brains they never would have left Africa for upstate New York.

How do they freaking stand it?  You’ve got winds howling off the lake, nothing but hockey to watch all winter long.  I wonder if they’re hiring at the St. Louis Zoo?

“Excuse me–is there a Starbucks around here?”

I’m busting outta this joint–gotta find someplace warm.  Maybe giraffes are stuck here, but I’m a goddamn great ape–I can climb!  Do they really think a little thing like a ten-foot high metal fence is gonna stop me?

There we go.  MUCH better!  No barriers between me and zoo-goers now.  Breaking down curatorial walls between the spectator and the exhibit–hey, where’s everybody going?  Used to be they all took my picture, now they run away.  Gotta check mirror–maybe that candy bar the kid threw me made me break out.

Hmm–zookeepers running to building.  Wonder what in there.  Huh–staff lounge.  Hey, how come animals don’t get lounge, gotta be exposed to elements all day long.  No fair!

zoo staff
“Hey–where’s everybody going?”


Oh well, I’m part of the staff here at the Buffalo Zoo, might as well take a load off my feet, get a cup of that black stuff the humans drink, schmooze a bit.  Only way to effect change in an organization is to make it happen yourself.  “Management by walking around,” blah blah blah.

Hey Nate–how they hangin’ buddy?  Nate–it’s Koga.  You know me.  What’s the matter?  You still sore about the time I grabbed you at feeding time?  And kept you hostage overnight?  C’mon, lighten up.  You probably went through something tougher to get into your college fraternity.

All right, fine–be that way.  I’ll just s-t-r-e-t-c-h out on this luxurious burnt siena sofa and de-frag the old simian brain.  Man, these guys don’t know how tough I’ve got it.  They sit in their warm little offices all day, pushing paper around.  Me, I’m ON all the time; monkey see, monkey do, gotta do monkey stuff all day long for the paying customers.  And when the trustees come out for the annual meeting?  Man, I gotta whoop it up, do the whole Tarzan thing–it’s embarrassing.

Might as well catch up on my reading.  Hm, what we got here.  Buffalo Bills 2016 Yearbook, Marie Claire–ah, here we go, People!  The magazine that’s just right for frazzled ape brain looking for a little mind candy.


Best & Worst Dressed issue always fun.  Can’t believe some of these outfits!

I mean, I hate to be anti-science, but how you expect me to believe in evolution after reading this?

“In Love With Lichens” Helps Girls Forget Stupid Boys

CONCORD, Mass. Ethel Farley has been a teacher in the schools here for over two decades, long enough to be able to spot a young girl with a broken heart halfway across a crowded lunch room. “They get a valentine from a boy and they read too much into it,” she says as she comforts Tracy Nubin, an 11-year-old who’s just been given the cold shoulder by Kenny Reynolds, a hyperactive boy in her fifth grade class who was required by Massachusetts regulations to send a valentine to every person in the fifth grade at Mosi Tatupu Middle School, as well as the class turtle.

Image result for happy girls
Fun with lichens!

In the spring, young boys’ fancy turns to things other than girls, Farley has discovered, particularly once the Red Sox season starts. “Once the boys start thinking about baseball,” she says, “all the ‘Be Mines’ and ‘I Go 4 U’s’ are forgotten, leaving a trail of shattered dreams in their wake.”

“I said I liked you? What was I thinking?”

So Farley has devised a special curriculum to help girls get over Valentine’s crushes gone bad–”In Love With Lichens!”–which takes girls’ minds off boys by substituting thoughts of the fascinating if gross-looking hybrid organisms.

“I love you man.  In a non-erotic way–for your knee-buckling change-up.”

Lichens are a composite of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner, usually either a green alga or cyanobacterium. “Boys have fungus between their toes,” explains Diane Forskett, “but they don’t have green alga, although their teeth look that way sometimes. So who wants to be photosynthetic partners with them?”

“Lichens don’t need boys–and neither do we!”

Many lichens (pronounced “LI-kens”) reproduce asexually, another feature that Farley says makes them an appropriate object of study for the girls, as well as a role model for later in life when artificial insemination may seem preferable to listening to a blind date’s fantasy football draft strategy. “A lichen needs a lover,” she notes, “like a fish needs a thesaurus.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Kids: They’re Cute When They’re Young.”

At the All-Night Children’s TV Station

          Boston’s public television station will create a 24-hour channel dedicated entirely to children’s programming.

The Boston Globe


It’s 2:55 a.m. and I’m about to go on the air for the 1,339th edition–not that I’m counting or anything–of my late-night kids’ show “Are You Going to Eat That?”, a freewheeling, no-holds-barred look at the things kids will put in their mouths.  My ratings are down, and the station manager says I’m going to have to do something, anything, to goose them up.  He didn’t say exactly what would happen if I didn’t, but I figure I’ll be busted down to an off-camera position; cue-card holder, crowd-warmer for the station’s live phonics show, maybe the guy who gives the loser on Math Challenge! a home version of the game.


It’s hard to believe how far I’ve fallen since I burst on the scene as a fresh-faced seven-year-old late-night host wannabe five years ago.  I won a Pediatric Emmy for my hard-hitting expose of the lack of sugar in certain over-the-counter candy products, forcing the Snack-Industrial Complex to enter into a nationwide settlement, issuing coupons worth fifteen cents to underage consumers across the country, and paying the class action lawyers $25 billion.  They asked for $30 billion, but the judge told them not to be greedy.

Now, the station says they’re looking at younger faces to appeal to a more free-spending kids; the all-important four-to-six year-old demographic, who drive parental choices in the stuffed animal, DVD and crayon markets.  It’s enough to make a twelve-year-old bitter, and some TV critics says my personality has gone from a ray of sunshine to the scary thing under your bed.

I take the clipboard from my producer, Cindy Felchner, the gal who keeps “Are You Going to Eat That?” going even when I’m in a foul mood like today and the other days in the week that have the word “day” in the them.

“Who do we have on tonight?” I ask.

“There’s a kid who eats grass . . .”

“Haven’t we done that before?”

“He does it in the winter–when it’s brown.”

“That’s it?”

“We have a girl who ate her mother’s lipstick.”


“Did we get pictures of the vomit?”

Cindy gives me a look that could thaw a Creamsicle.  “Does Oscar Mayer make hot dogs?” she says with the withering smart-aleckiness that makes me hope she’ll be my Valentine come February.

“I should have known.  So that means I’m going to have to take calls to fill the time?”

“You’re the King of All Kids Media,” she says matter-of-factly as she turns and walks off the set.

Dream wedding.

The camera boy starts his countdown: “Are You Going to Eat That in five–four–three–two–one,” he says, then pans in as our theme music begins to play.

I wouldn’t eat that, if I were you–
It looks like something they’d serve in a zoo.
You’ll probably get sick and you may get fat,
And that’s why we ask “Are you going to eat that?”

The studio audience applauds wildly–I’ve hyped them up with unlimited free Lik-M-Aid before the show–and I bound onto the stage with my best poop-eating grin to greet the gang.


“Thank you, thank you everybody–thank you,” I say, motioning for the audience to quiet down even though they’re not really that loud.  These are good kids from Public Television Homes.  They’ve probably never ridden in an American car, and the closest they’ve ever come to deprivation in their sheltered little lives was having to settle for a vacation on Nantucket one summer when daddy got laid off by his hedge fund for failure to meet his “hurdle rate.”

“How’s everybody doing?” I ask of all and sundry.

“Okay!”  The kids have been prompted by my sidekick Ronnie Blasberg, a rising 8-year-old comic with an air of menace about him that recalls the early Bob Goldthwait.  He told them if they weren’t sufficiently enthusiastic, they wouldn’t get a Barney stuffed animal as a promotional consideration.  Then he told them he’d come to their houses and eat their pet turtles.


“Who’s going to stay up past their bed-time tonight?” I ask with affected curiosity.

“WE ARE!” the kids shout, punching the volume meters in the control room “into the red,” as the sound engineers say.

“Great!  Let’s bring out our first contestant!”

I turn it over to my sidekick who introduces Timmy Nobles, a third-grade spelling champ from Framingham.  “He’s distinguished himself on the playground and in the classroom, where on a dare he ate a guppy from the class fish tank, so let’s say a big hello to–Timmy Nobles!”

Timmy’s a personable little kid with a big smile, which makes my life easier.  I’ve studied film of Art Linkletter from the 50s doing his “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” schtick and I have to say, I don’t know how he did it.  He was a genius, a master at drawing out his little guests, some of whom obviously were IRS Revenue Officers in the making.


We palaver back and forth a bit–how many siblings he has, what’s his least favorite subject in school, etc.–and then it’s time for the game.

“Okay, are you ready to play?” I ask, and Timmy nods yes, so we head over to the Challenge Bar, where there are three progressively-tougher items to consume, with increasingly more valuable prizes to win if he can keep them down.

“Pile #1–250 points!” I proclaim loudly, as my assistant Darlene sweeps her lovely lithe arm over a greyish mound of . . . something.  “It could be edible, or it could . . . something else.”


Timmy looks the stuff over, correctly guesses that it’s non-toxic, and pulls the trigger.

“I’ll eat it for 250!” he says and, after sticking his finger in and scooping out the minimum requirement, he eats it, makes a face–and then breaks into a two-dimpled smile that must have the girls back at Mosi Tatupu Elementary School begging to go into the cloak room with him.

“It’s liver pate,” I say.  “A disgusting food that adults eat, but it won’t kill you.”

The crowd applauds, but the stakes rise as we move on to Pile #2.  “It’s another mystery substance, worth five hundred points.” says Ronnie Blasberg in a portentous voice over the studio’s p.a. system.

“I’ll give you two hints,” I say, “but they’ll cost you fifty points apiece.”

“Don’t do it,” comes a call from the audience, countered by an immediate “It’s worth it!”

Timmy hesitates, then hesitantly says “I’ll buy one clue.”  The audience applauds, and I hand him an envelope, which he promptly tears open to read “It’s something your hippie big sister eats in natural food restaurants.”

“What say you, Timmy?”

“If it’s good enough for Claudia, it’s almost good enough for me.”


He takes a scoop and, after eating it, I let him know that it’s nothing more than lentil stew, a high-protein entrée that keeps New Age types flatulent.

“We’ve got just one more to go, the grand prize, worth a thousand points that you can redeem for swell prizes including a Tickle-Me-Elmo, a Barney and Friends pup tent, or a physically-correct doll approved by the Boy Scouts of America for Female Anatomy Merit Badge training.”


A hush falls over the audience now that the stakes have risen.  I see Timmy glancing over at the toys stacked up from a card table–this is public broadcasting–almost to the ceiling.  Darlene wheels out Pile #3, and does a yeoman’s–or is it yeowoman’s?–job of disguising whether the stuff stinks.

“This is for all the marbles, Timmy,” I say, trying to impress upon him the seriousness of the decision he’s about to make.  “You’ve got 700 points.  If you eat just one spoonful of that, you’ll have 1,700, and you’ll be the richest kid in the third grade.  If you gamble and lose, you’ll go home with a consolation prize and probably end up sleeping on a heating grate outside the Boston Public Library.”


Timmy mulls it over, and I can almost see the synapses snapping underneath his scalp.  He could have a bike, a fishing rod, a baseball glove autographed by some steroid-swilling slugger, or he could go home with–a lot less.  An aquarium, one of those Bolo-Bat things I can never get to work, maybe a jump rope.  In other words, as one of life’s cautious losers.

He thinks about it a little more while the audience screams their encouragement.

“Do it!”

“Go for it!”

“Don’t be a chicken!:

Finally, and with a look that says that he needs to go to the bathroom soon, he says “I’m gonna pass.”

A collective groan goes up from the crowd, as the dreamers, the risk-takers–or those who just like to watch other people go first–register their disappointment.

“Is that your final decision?” I say, trying to squeeze the last little drop of drama out of the situation.

“Um, yes,” Timmy says finally.

“Okay,” I say.  “It’s your funeral–or not.  Darlene–let’s tell him what he’s missing out on!”

My comely assistant glides downstage, picks up a card lying face down on the Challenge Bar, and hands it to me.

“Ooooo, Timmy,” I say, my voice freighted with sadness.  “It looks like you passed up a chance to eat . . . dog doody!”

The audience erupts in cheers, Darlene kisses Timmy and I clap the kid on the back in congratulations.

“That’s all for tonight!” I shout over the roar of the crowd.  “Tune in tomorrow night to meet a boy who picks his nose . . . and eats it!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Kids: They’re Cute When They’re Young.”

Ask Mr. Car Person

Spring is here, which means driving fun time, unless your vehicle is a garbage truck or there’s a guy in the back seat with a gun who demands that you take him to an Eagles reunion concert.  How do you keep your car in tip-top shape?  Ask Mr. Car Person!

Dear Mr. Car Person:

My wife and I decided to get our daughter a new car as a surprise graduation gift.  I went down to the Toyota dealer after work to take care of it since it was my wife’s bowling night.  I called her up after I signed the papers (my wife, not my daughter–that would have ruined the surprise) and told her I got the Toyota Highlander, not the Sport model just the basic one without leather seats.  My wife started screaming and said don’t you know that if you drive around in a Highlander with the back windows down and the front windows up your head will explode, she heard it on the Today Show or Good Morning America, she can’t remember which.

At least my head didn’t explode!”

Mr. Car Person, now I am worried that my daughter will forget about the back window problem some night and her head will explode and she will be permanently disfigured, which will hurt her marriage prospects as she already looks like my mother-in-law.  Any suggestions?

Durnell Holman, Knob Noster MO

“Why is that little light blinking?”

Dear Durnell–

Relax!  While the Highlander did indeed suffer from the exploding head defect from the time it was first introduced in 2009 until 2013, Toyota has added a dashboard light beginning with the 2014 model year that gives drivers ample warning before they lose consciousness.  Bonus safety feature–if only one rear window is rolled down damage is limited to internal organs!

Oldsmobile Delta 88–sweet.

Mr. Car Person–

Last night I let my son Wayne borrow my restored 1995 Oldsmobile Delta 88 to take his girlfriend Sue Ellen to the Dairy Freeze, we were out of ice cream.  They didn’t get home until like 12:30, and this morning I noticed there’s a big spot on the back seat.  I asked Wayne how it got there and he says “Dad, with a front engine/rear-wheel drive layout you often get transmission fluid leaking into the back seat cushion, don’t get all bent out of shape.”  Do you think Wayne is lying?

Oren Embree, Paducah, Kentucky

“That spot?  We, uh, spilled some ice cream.  Over our shoulders.”

Dear Oren:

Our children represent the future, and we must trust them if they are ever going to mature into irresponsible adults such as us.  Because the Delta 88 featured the patented “Tilt-Away” steering wheel, there would be no need for teenagers to crawl into the backseat to “do what comes naturally.”  You are apparently projecting your unfulfilled sexual needs onto your son, and your time would be better spent trolling the internet.

Dear Mr. Car Person–

There is this girl at school who I will call “Tina” because that is her name.  She is nice to me whenever I drive to school but if I have to walk she ignores me and just hangs out with the Pep Squad.  I tried out for the Pep Squad but didn’t make it because my stupid mother put my pom-poms in the washer the night before and they came out looking like overcooked spaghetti.  How can I tell if “Tina” likes me for who I am or is just “along for the ride.”

Linda Lou Holcomb, Hoxie, Arkansas

Tina: Sometimes gets carried away.

Dear Linda Lou–

You should not hold a grudge against your mother as she apparently allows you to drive to school sometimes, which is more than a lot of kids get.  I have referred your question to the Teen Beat columnist, who will answer it if space permits.

Pepsi-Cola hits the spot!

Hey Car Person–

I have been told if your radiator overheats you can use soda to cool it down until you get to a gas station.  Last night I asked this girl Lurleen who I was on a first date with if I could pour her Diet Dr. Pepper into my six-cylinder Honda as the needle was inching up into the “red zone,” and she says “Don’t you know anything?  Diet soda only works in four cylinder engines.”  When I got to the Sunoco station out on South 65 the guy says your cylinders are scored, you need to get them sleeved quick or else you’ll have to buy a whole new engine block.  I told Lurleen she had to walk home, I wasn’t going to risk any more damage, and now she’s gone and told everybody I’m not a gentleman.  The way I see it, she should pay my repair bill.  What do you think?

Mike Dalton, Jr., Ottumwa, Iowa

Next time, come prepared.

Dear Mike–

The answer to your question depends on the “ground rules” you set before Lurleen ever got into your car.  Unless you agreed to go “Dutch treat,” your date has no liability for engine damage even if you paid for her soda, according to Dewayne Norbert, Esq., a lawyer who has written extensively on pre-marital dating claims.  You can get a good styrofoam cooler for $1.99 at any Kwik-Trip convenience store, and I suggest that next time you come prepared for an emergency with extra cans of soda.  The Honda owner’s manual recommends Mountain Dew.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

Settling the Grigori Perelman Family Feud

Mathematics genius Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman has refused over a million dollars in prizes for his work and has moved back home to live with his mother and sister. 

                                                                        The Boston Globe

I’ve come to St. Petersburg to try and solve a riddle that has perplexed parents for centuries; how do you get a kid to move out of the house once he’s finished school and become the most brilliant mathematician alive?  I have some personal experience in this area, having hung around my parents’ place for three months after I graduated from college with the highest grade in my senior metaphor seminar.  It was an independent study so I got the lowest grade in class, too–neat trick, that.  I’d like to see a math genius figure that one out.

The mathematician in question is none other than Grigori Yakovlevich “Grisha” Perelman, who first turned down the Fields Medal worth $15,000, then the Clay Millenium Prize worth a cool $1 million, and then moved back into the basement of his mother’s apartment, where he plays ping-pong against a wall all day.  You can imagine how that’s going over.  PICK-pock.  PICK-pock.  PICK-pock.  All freaking day long.  No wonder his mother called me.

I knock on the door and steel myself for Perelman’s withering, owl-like glare.  He answers the door in his Babar the Elephant pajamas.  Cute, but not the right image if you want to persuade a math department to hire you after you unceremoniously turn down job offers from Princeton and Stanford, but maybe that’s his intent.

“What do you want,” Perelman asks, imperiously.  “I am in the middle of a ping-pong game against myself, and I don’t want to lose track of the score and find that I’ve cheated myself when I get back.”

“Your mom asked me to . . .”

“Please–she is not ‘mom’ to you.  She is Yana Kuzmin Perelman–all three, given name, patronymic, family name; nothing less.  Got it?”

“Got it,” I say.  ”Shall we ask her to join us?”

Grisha’s face clouds over.  I can tell he wants to return to his masturbatory-ping-pong game, but I know that his mother has told him to go out and get a job–some job, any job–Harvard, MIT, it doesn’t matter, just get up and out of the house every day and earn your keep if you’re going to keep turning down million dollar prizes.  And make your bed, for God’s sake!

Grisha grabs a broom stick and taps the ceiling of his basement apartment several times.  I hear footsteps overhead, and soon we are joined by his mother.

“Grisha, this nice man is going to help you either get a job, or stop turning down all the big prizes people want to give you,” she says by way of explanation.

“I am not an animal in a zoo,” Grisha sniffs.

“You coulda fooled me,” I say looking around the cramped, windowless apartment.  “This is going to take a while,” I say to his mother.  “I’d better order a pizza.”

Grisha gives me a wild-eyed stare while his mother hangs her head.  “Thin-crust, all onion okay with everybody?” I ask.  Grisha grunts while his mom says “Fine” wearily.  I call the Domino’s in Pushkin Square and place the order.  “Do you have any coupons?” I ask the two after the guy at the other end of the line gives me the price.

“No–what need have I for coupons!” Grisha shouts at me.

“You keep turning down million dollar prizes, you’re going to need a lot of coupons, pal,” I say knowingly.

We sit down around a coffee table fashioned from an abandoned telephone cable spool, and I try to talk some sense into one of the smartest guys in the world.  If I break this logjam I hope to walk away with the $15,000 Fields prize money as a nice mediation fee.

“So Grisha,” I say, trying to put him at ease.  “What’s with the overweening pride?  Why can’t you just graciously accept it when some schmo wants to give you a million bucks?”

“You cannot cheapen mathematics with such meretricious frippery as a prize awarded by some stupid committee that does not understand my work!” he thunders.

“Meretricious frippery”–good one.  I’d been hoping to use that in a sentence first, but he beat me to it.  “Fine,” I say.  “It means nothing to you–but think of your mother.”

“Yes, Grigori Yakovlevich ‘Grisha’ Perelman,” she says, not stinting on the names in the hope of persuading her wayward son.  “Think of me.”

Grisha is sullen, like an overgrown teenager.  Happy to mooch off mom as long as she doesn’t make too many demands, I figure, but not willing to put himself out for the woman who brought him into the world.

“We are related, but blood is not as pure as mathematics,” he says coldly.  His mother breaks into tears at these words.

“I’m not just a mathematical genius, I’m the Czar of the Hair Club for Men!”


“Look, Grisha,” I say, changing to a brusque tone.  “If that’s the way you feel, then you should think of your mother as . . . your landlady.”

“Landlady?” his mother exclaims.  “But he is my baby!”

“There’s no way you’re going to get this guy to put down the ping-pong paddle and get a job until he understands what it costs to maintain his idle lifestyle,” I say.  “What’s a basement studio apartment go for in St. Petersburg these days?”

“I don’t know,” she says.  “I’ll go check the classifieds in Pravda.“  With that she toddles off up the stairs and I face Grisha again.  I hold all the cards now.

“Look, Brainy Boy, we can do this the easy way or the hard way,” I say.  “Either you start accepting some of the swag the world tries to throw at your feet, or you’re going to be paying room, board and laundry–you savvy?”

For the first time the genius’s face reflects a teensy tiny bit of sympathy.  “Well, I suppose I could use a couple hundred grand.”

“Are you kidding?  That’s just walking-around money!  Take the whole thing, stop riding the subway, get yourself a nice car.”

“Like what?”

“All the big math geniuses ride in style.  A Cadillac Escalade, maybe a Lincoln Navigator.”

“You don’t think that’s . . . too flashy?”

“Flashy?  Get outta town.  Did you ever see Poincare’s Stutz-Bearcat?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“That thing was loaded.  Stackable turntable in the front seat so he didn’t have to listen to stupid AM radio.”

“Sweet,” Grisha says.  The doorbell rings–must be the guy from Domino’s.  “You need any money?” he asks.  I guess he’s finally coming around–starting to develop some feelings for his fellow man.

“I got it,” I say, being magnanimous.  “How much?” I ask the kid with the chain’s patented HeatWave Hot Bag, which eliminates unwanted moisture and keeps pizzas hot and crisp.

“Four hundred and thirteen rubles,” he replies, and as always I freeze as I try to compute the tip.  “Let’s, see,” I say to myself.  “It’s not like he’s a waiter, but I don’t want to seem cheap.  Eighteen percent is about right, I guess.  Eighteen percent of 413 rubles is, uh . . .”

“What’s the hold-up?” Grisha asks.  “I’m hungry.”

“I’m not too good at Russian currency,” I say with a weak smile.  “What’s eighteen . . .”

Grisha’s face turns cold again, and he gives me an outraged stare.  “You . . . cheap . . . bastard!” he says, the veins popping on his neck.  “Take ten percent–what’s that?”

“Forty-one rubles.”

“Now double it–what’s that?”

“Uh . . . eighty-two rubles.”

“Now–what’s 82 and 413?”

“Like . . . four hundred ninety, uh . . .”

“Round up!” he screams.  “Give the kid 500 and let’s eat!”

Outrage as Dean Calls Freedonian Studies “Bogus Claptrap”

CAZENOVIA, N.Y. Curtis Bascomb is head of information technology at The Chronicle of Ethnic Studies, but he says he’ll be looking for a new job following a weekend when he was on call 24/7. “They don’t pay me enough to give a crap as it is,” he says as he coils wire around his arm like a rock group roadie. “If I have to give up my hobby of Spanish-American War re-enactment I’m outta here.”

His idea of weekend fun.


The cause of the crisis that crashed the academic journal’s servers was an article by Dean Lisa Tilden of the State University of New York-Cazenovia attacking the work produced by candidates for advanced degrees in the nation’s Freedonian Studies departments, which ended with a facetious call for universities to divert scarce resources currently spent on such programs to Friday night keg parties. “We would be better off producing graduates who are unemployable because they are drunk, not drunk because they are unemployable,” she wrote.

Tilden, casting a gimlet eye at a Freedonian Studies major’s senior project.


Tilden quoted from a number of dissertations in the field to make her point, including “Who’s Your Nanny: An Examination of Goat-Human Eroticism in 19th Century Freedonian Vers Libre” by Dos Fledens-Gzodny, a Ph. D. candidate at SUNY-Cazenovia. “My work is as respectable as so much of what is written in other less untraditional departments like Women’s Studies and Sports Management,” he says, clearly agitated. “I spit on the grave of this so-called ‘dean’s’ mother, this is how bad I am thinking of her.”

Spoiled potatoes used to make spoiled instant mashed potatoes.


Freedonia was formed after World War II from portions of Albania, Serbia and New Jersey, along with a boxcar of instant mashed potatoes that spoiled before it could be served to liberating U.S. troops. A Freedonian diaspora followed a brief but intense civil war between rival ethnic groups, the Large and Small Curds, which U.N. peacekeepers were unable to prevent due to bribes paid in zlotniks, the nation’s unwieldy currency whose coins are as large as manhole covers.

Freedonian women harvesting Tater-tots while men remain at home, drinking fermented malt beverages.

Tilden says she expects to be fired, but for now is on unpaid leave while the journal’s Board of Academic Advisors determines whether she violated the publication’s Standards of Civility. “It’s not like they were paying me before so I can’t complain too much,” she says. “On the other hand, every footnote in that post adhered strictly to the Chicago Manual of Style.”

Freedonians are sometimes referred to as America’s most neglected minority, always by members of the ethnic group itself. How, this reporter asks Fledens-Gzodny, can he be offended at verbal slights that are directed at him as a member of a fictional if vibrant culture.

“I hear your words,” he says defiantly. “What is your point?”

Fake Your Way With Biz Cliches

If you want to get ahead in business, it is not enough to be intelligent, hard-working, and decisive.  The Great Plains of Commerce are littered with the corpses of men and women who possess these qualities, and who were nonetheless stung to death by a swarm of buzzwords.

“. . . at the end of the day, it’s the end of the day.”


My own shortcomings in this regard became apparent a few years ago when I made the mistake of saying in a meeting that a proposed course of action, while potentially sound, might be perceived as a bit too–I groped for le mot juste; aggressive? greedy? rapacious?  Everybody ignored me and we plowed ahead until a v.c.–that’s a venture capitalist, not a Viet Cong–who had arrived late stopped us in our tracks.  “I don’t like it,” he said.  “The optics aren’t right.”

Of course! everyone agreed.  How dense we’d all been! What were we thinking? How did we lose sight of long-term fundamentals?  It’s the optics, stupid!  The problem wasn’t that it was wrong–the problem was, it looked wrong.

Deep down, we’d been very shallow.

“. . . in order to interface our core competencies with our first-mover advantage . . .”


In the mad scramble to the top of the heap, it is thus important that you know just the right thing to say if you want to avoid claw marks on your back and inflict them on others.  Thankfully, the friendly folks at MSN CareerBuilder.com have compiled “12 Workplace Phrases You Probably Don’t Know . . . But Should,” so you can acquire a core competency in first-mover advantage while you bladda-bladda . . .

“Let’s all touch the screen on Bob’s laptop and leave greasy fingerprints!”


Wait a minute.  The first rule of business is–you don’t have time to read!  That’s what assistant vice presidents are for!  That’s why they put business books on tape, or edit them down to the length of a candy bar wrapper.

In the interest of saving your valuable time, I have distilled the top 12 workplace phrases currently in circulation down to the really top 4.  After all, you don’t want to be in the lower two-thirds of anything!

Let’s Not Boil the Monkey:  In order for a business phrase to achieve widespread usage, it is essential that it be both colorful and obscure.  Thus when Todd Breathmintsky from the Midwest regional office flies in to corporate headquarters to propose a consolidation of distribution centers to maximize supply-chain efficiencies (yawn), the only way to cut off his path to the promotion that is rightfully yours is to furrow your brow, purse your lips, put your fingers together in a little church-and-steeple and drop this stink bomb on him:  “That’s all well and good, Todd, but let’s not boil the monkey, okay?”

“Todd is such an idiot!”


What does it mean?  Who cares?  The all-knowing way in which you say it will cast doubt upon everything Todd has just said, and will ever say again in his miserable career.  In six months he’ll be sleeping under a bridge.

Who screwed the iguana?  A few years ago the phrase “screw the pooch” became popular, for reasons that remain obscure.  It meant “make a terrible mistake,” but this wasn’t always apparent from the context of the discussion, or the tone of the speaker’s voice.  As a result, those who didn’t “get it” would return to their offices and search for “screw the pooch” on their computers.  When they were directed to bestiality websites, the guys in the information technology department would report them to compliance, and security would usher them out of the building after giving them just enough time to remove family pictures from their desks.  Maybe that was the plan all along.

“Officer, I never met that pooch before in my life!”


A backlash resulted, and “screw the iguana” was eventually accepted as a conversational safe harbor because there are no pictures of anybody screwing an iguana on the internet–yet.  Even iguanas don’t like to screw iguanas.

Sparadigm.  Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is a highly-readable work of philosophy, and for that reason alone we ought to cut him some slack.  But his term “paradigm shift” entered the business world and became an all-purpose chew toy, something to gnaw on when your jaws needed a workout.

As a result of overuse, there has been a paradigm shift away from “paradigm shift” towards “sparadigm,” which refers to a course of action that, while it may not be the best, is the only one your company can afford.

It’s not rocket surgery.  When sniveling, weak-kneed, limp-wristed eunuchs in the engineering department raise objections to your Five-Year Plan for Market Domination, saying it can’t be done without an investment of resources comparable to that which went into the Space Race, turn your most withering gaze upon them and say “It’s not rocket surgery, you nimmy-not!”

“No, really, it’s safe.  You go first!”


Like a sucker punch, this out-of-the-blue non sequitur will stun your critics, who will be left scratching their heads, while you torpedo their careers by whispering to the CEO “I think you’d better check those engineers for head lice–they seem to scratch a lot.”


Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

Voodoo Makes Inroads in Stressed-Out Suburbs

WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass.  Marci Scribner looks like a typical housewife in this affluent suburb of Boston as she climbs into her forest green Range Rover, Kate Spade handbag in hand.  “I’m always on the go,” she says with a smile as she drives her 17-year old son Tyler to his weekly appointment with a tutor who she hopes will increase his SAT scores and get him into Dartmouth, where she went to business school.

Her pride and joy


But if that fails, Marci has an ace up her sleeve.  “We know two other kids in Tyler’s class are applying there, and they won’t all get in.”  So while Tyler studies, she’ll keep an appointment of her own with voodoo priest Togbui Assiogbo.  “We need to use every trick in the book, because Dartmouth is Tyler’s ‘reach’ school.”

“I’m praying for Tyler, and praying against his little maggot classmates.”


And what does the priest have in mind?  “Let’s just say when he gets through with those other two kids,” Marci says with a sly smile, “their minds will function like they sniff a tube of glue for breakfast.”

Voodoo, once confined to West Africa and the Caribbean, is spreading to American suburbs and displacing traditional Protestant denominations such as Episcopalianism as the affluent look for a religion that can give them tangible results, not the pie-in-the-sky of an afterlife.  “The whole ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy is a boatload of crap, if you ask me,” says Marci’s husband Dennis, a venture capitalist who works in the Route 128 technology corridor that rings Boston.

“Until next class, study hard, and rub chicken bones on your head.”


Other families are using voodoo for less intellectual pursuits.  Alicia and Tom Phillips, friends of the Scribners in this town where fixer-upper homes start at $1.3 million, say they used Mr. Assiogbo last year when their next-door neighbor bought a new Jaguar.  “We couldn’t stand how he looked down on us because we drove a two-year old Saab,” says Alicia.  “Mr. Assiogbo gave us a menu of options ranging from a broken driveshaft for $1,000, a fender bender for $2,500, or the ‘VIP’ combo for five grand.”  They opted for the most expensive package and were “extremely pleased” when the Jaguar was totalled and the owner’s golden retriever died mysteriously after chasing a tennis ball into a wooded area.

Local ministers say they will fight to maintain their congregations, even if that means incorporating some of the more dramatic elements of voodoo into their traditional liturgy.  “If we have to add a little spectacle to your typical Protestant christening or a wedding to draw a crowd, that’s what we’ll do,” said the Rev. Oliver Westling, pastor of the United Church of Christ here.  “I’m not above a little animal sacrifice, as long as it’s done tastefully.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Blurbs From the Burbs.”

Apologia for an On-Line Flirtation

(pace Matthew Prior)


You say you saw what I said last night
to a woman whom I’m not married to;
a quip on a social media site
dear, that’s what people—when on-line–do.

This sort of thing has happened to wits
since before the internet was invented.
Their women object to the things that they’ve writ
overestimating what was intended


by a fillip, a lagniappe, a mere bagatelle
that’s tossed to an acquaintance casual
of the opposite sex, who for all they can tell
is a rival, a lover quite actual.

The mistake that is made, by those not in the trade,
of stringing together words idly,
is to think the facetious one wants to get laid
by flirtations the poet casts widely.


At the end of the day (as the business drips say)
I always return home to you, dear.
And along the way, I never stray
I really have too much to do, dear.

You get my paycheck by direct deposit
you can see on-line all my expenses.
If it’s an affair of the heart you’re trying to posit
The facts rebut your inferences.


What woman would go with a man so cheap
that he’d only pay cash for his wooing?
If another woman I wanted to keep
lack of funds would be my undoing.

So let us end this tiresome strife,
it’s consumed too much of our night and our day.
I’ve many girl “friends” but only one wife
And believe me, I want to keep it that way.



Me and “Curvy” Barbie

          Mattel has introduced a fuller-figured “curvy” Barbie to counter criticism of her unrealistically thin shape.

               The New York Times

It was a typical Sunday afternoon for me, browsing through the thrift shop on Comm Ave, looking for old books and records, when I spied a familiar face out of the corner of my eye.

“Barbie?” I asked tentatively.

She rolled over in the toy bin where she lay and looked up at me.  “Oh–hi,” she said as she brushed her blonde hair out of her eyes.  “It . . . it’s been a long time.”

She looked like she’d seen the wrong end of too many little bottles of gin, her skin faded from the perfect flesh tone I remembered to a shade that recalled jaundice.  Probably the result of long hours under fluorescent lights on the one hand, and the bright glare of the sun through the front window on the other.

“How’ve you been?” I asked.

“Oh, you know–hangin’ in there.”  Just barely, I figured.  She was plumper than I remembered, but so was I so many years later.  To tell the truth, I like my dolls with a little extra plastic on the bones.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Looking for old records, Benny Moten, Andy Kirk–Kansas City jazz.  And books–George Ade, Ring Lardner, you know, Midwestern smart alecks.”

Bennie Moten by R. Crumb

A laugh issued from her oh-so-delicate little mouth.  “I guess you can take the boy out of the Queen City of the Prairies, the Gateway to the Ozarks, the State Fair City . . .”

“Don’t forget the County Seat of Pettis County, Missouri,” I added out of a sense of completeness.

” . . . but you can’t take the–”

“Right,” I said, cutting her off.  The Celtics game starts at three.

In her prime

There was an awkward silence as she batted her lashes, heavy with mascara, and looked away, at the streets of the student ghetto out the window.

“So . . . find anything?” she said finally.

“Nope–no luck today,” I said.  Again–stiff silence, both of us at a loss for words.  “How’s Ken?” I asked finally–bad move.  Old lawyers’ rule–never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.  Old lawyer should have followed it.

She snorted with contempt.  “Haven’t seen him in years.  For all I care he can go shit in his hat.”

O-kay.  I felt sorry that I’d brought back painful memories and hurt her little plastic heart, and I decided to try and make it up to her.

“Say–you want to get out of here and get a cup of coffee?”

She looked surprised–I guess years of rejection, of being picked over, picked up and thrown back into the bin had taken their toll.

“Well, sure,” she said after a moment.  “I’m not really dressed . . .”

“You look fine,” I said.  “Everyone dresses more casually these days.”

“Okay,” she said tentatively.  “You’ll have to pay . . .”

“Sure–it’s on me.”

“What is this guy’s game?”

“No–I mean to take me out of here.”

“Right, right,” I said.  Obviously a touchy subject.  Lincoln freed the slaves, but he did nothing for figureheads of a line of Mattel-brand dolls and accessories.  “How much are you?”

She turned away, and I thought I detected a sniffle.  “Sign’s up there,” she said, burying her face in a Beanie Baby.

Fifty cents–so that’s how far she’d fallen.  Stay upbeat, I told myself–laughter, like herpes, is contagious.

“No problem–come on, let’s blow this pop stand!” I said with enthusiasm.

We checked out and headed down to the Starbucks on the corner.  I trotted her up to the register they way I used to move her around the Barbie Dream House when forced to play with my sisters in order to get them to toss a football with me.

“No foam skinny vanilla latte for . . . Barbie?”

“What’ll you have?” I asked.

“I like my coffee like I like my men . . .” she purred, showing signs of her old good nature for the first time now that she was out of the dismal confines of the thrift shop.

“Bold, with flavor notes of hazelnut?”


“Tall, with extra foam?”

No . . .”

“Black, with . . .”

“No!  Bitter–like you!”

It was my turn to have my feelings hurt, I guess.  “That was the old me,” I said, and from the look on her face I could tell she knew she’d wounded me, if only a little.

“Sorry–you used to be awfully sarcastic,” she said.

“Yeah, I know, but having kids changed me.  I didn’t want to infect them with my warped view of the world.  I wanted them to look for the good in people.”

“I’m sure you’re a great dad.”

“Of course, they’re hopelessly naive, but life will knock that benighted crap out of them.  How’s . . .” I stopped myself before I stepped in it again.

“Skipper?” she said, picking up the thread.


“I don’t hear from her much,” she said as she turned her head with a far-off look in her eye.

“Yeah, sisters are like that . . .”

“She wasn’t my sister,” she said bitterly, whipping her head around to face me squarely.

“She wasn’t?”

She looked down at her cup and hesitated before she spoke.  “That’s just what Mattel wanted you to think,” she said.  “She was Ken’s love child.  Then he dumps me for Midge.”

I understood then why she’d been so negative when I mentioned his name.

“I . . . had no idea.”

“Nobody did,” she said.  “We had a million-dollar marketing campaign to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.”

“Nobody can break your heart like a kid can,” I said.

“Tell me about it,” she said.  She seemed to have regained her sense of self-possession, so I tried to turn the conversation back to happier topics.  “Speaking of pulling the wool over something–and don’t take this the wrong way, you look great.”


“But you seem . . . slightly more zaftig than I remember.”

She smiled–flattery will get you somewhere.  “You would know,” she said.

I blushed.  Dressing and undressing Barbie back in the day had been my introduction to the female anatomy.  “Yeah–but I had to, remember.”

“Bullfeathers,” she snapped, but she was smiling.  “You could’ve played ball with the Morris boys, or George Kuehn, or Billy Shue, or . . .”

“Okay–you got me.  I . . . used to enjoy slipping on your stewardess outfit, and the MBA one . . .”

“The one with the floppy bow tie and the briefcase?”  She threw her head back and laughed loud enough that a guy pretending he was writing a novel on his laptop two tables away glared at us.

“I used to pick those out, you know,” I said, smiling but a little embarrassed.

“You did?”

“Sure.  It was easy shopping for you . . . I mean my sister.  Every Christmas or birthday, just go to the toy store, grab something off the rack and you’re all set.”

“Oh, gawd,” she groaned.  “Well, I guess I was in style for the times.  Still, when I look back . . .”

“I know–it seems weird.  Say . . .”


“You think it might be fun to go shopping again?”

She looked at me, sizing me up, one eyebrow raised, but still a trace of a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“That’s kind of a ‘couple’ thing to do, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah.”

“And you’ve got a ring on your finger . . .”

“Right, but . . .”

“But what?”

“My wife won’t mind if I handle artificial boobs as long as they’re attached to a plastic body.”