The Stoneslide Corrective. A bad habit for good readers.

The Cynic's Notebook

Everything, in chronological order:

The Pony Parenting System

Every kid loves a pony. This well-known fact forms the basis for a revolutionary new parenting system based on the combination of leading-edge behavioral research and bleeding-edge technology.

The Stoneslide Corrective is proud to introduce the Pony Parenting System. Here’s how it works:

Let’s take a common example of a disciplinary problem. Your child gesticulates wildly at the dinner table while relating a pointless anecdote from his day. He’s only four; he doesn’t know how banal his story is. But then he knocks over his glass of milk. You reasonably say, “Clean that up right this instant.” But what does he do? He sits there and sulks. Maybe tears trickle down his cheeks. There’s no cleaning happening. He’s not learning the lesson you are attempting to impart.

Now, imagine that at this very moment, you could say, “Listen, son. Did you know that I have a pony? I do. He is adorable. He has a long white mane and a ribbon tied around his tail. He can run faster than a car. I keep him in a stable just a few miles from here, because, of course, there’s no room for him to live with us. I would like for you to get to ride him someday, maybe soon. But, you know what, son, every time you do something wrong, I have to go and hurt that pony. He cries, but I have to do it if you don’t behave. Now, if you don’t clean up that milk, I will have to go to the stable…”

At this point, as you can clearly see, the child gets back on track and cleans up the milk.

The Pony Parenting System provides you with easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions to implement this foolproofpony disciplinary system in your own household. But it’s much more than that. Using the latest in image-rendition software, the Pony Parenting System creates a series of video clips with what looks like a real pony and renders your image in a fully realistic fashion administering appropriate disciplines and rewards to the pony. Used together, the dialogue and scenarios in the Pony Parenting System Handbook and the power of the Pony Parenting System “Hand of God” Videos can overcome any amount of whining, recalcitrance, or acting out.

The video system comes with numerous settings to accommodate family preferences. Are you an upright Christian family? You’ll be proud to see a cross displayed in your pony’s stall. Are you an idealist who’s settled into a comfortable bourgeois lifestyle? You’ll appreciate the poster of Che in your virtual stall. The system is fully detailed to ensure the children don’t suspect that this is one more ruse you’re pulling over on them, like Santa Claus. For instance, it registers which is your dominant hand, so that your avatar will hold any lashes, razors, wrenches, or ice picks in the appropriate hand. It also visually renders rings or other jewelry you regularly wear.

Soon, you can be on your way to effortless discipline and a well-balanced, happy family life.

Children love ponies. You will love the Pony Parenting System!

More on contemporary parenting:

Government Support for a New Small Firearms Industry

Take Your Lazy-Ass Son to Work Day

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How to Feel Good About Yourself (no matter how fat, dumb, or insignificant you may be)

We came across this advice column in the April 2014 issue of Lint Fancier, and we thought it could be useful to a broader audience.

Recent research has shown that nothing is better for our sense of well being than staying in touch with other people. But what if people can’t stand to be around you? Here are five simple steps that will have you on the way to social intercourse, despite all your personal failings:

1- Take a test drive. Of course you know that you can go to any car dealership and take the latest models out for a spin. But the best part is the relationship you can form with the salespeople. They’re always happy to see you. They’ll shake your hand, slap your back, talk about sports, even go out for a drive around the neighborhood with you. It’s friendship, without any of the hassles. For maximum effect, do some research before your visit. Find out what’s the biggest turkey on the lot. You’ll be glad you did this when you see the look of joy on your new friend’s face when you say you’ve been thinking of purchasing one of those. Another thing I’ve noticed is that salespeople always respond well to warmth. If you give them a little hug, they’re sure to hug back and, unlike some other people I can think of, they won’t slap you. I’ve heard people say that capitalism is cold-hearted, but I think this shows that the opposite is the case.

2- Share your expertise. The internet is filled with discussion boards, chat rooms, and forums. Each of these is in turn filled with people looking for answers to questions that are dearly important to them. You can help them—and receive their gratitude. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about anything, people are grateful just to be given a clear, authoritative answer. There’s nothing like the feeling of helping someone else. I’ve been called “the best,” “awesome,” “a godsend,” and “da man” by some of these thankful people, and walked around for days with a little glow. Here’s how it works: I find a discussion board, say one devoted to mountaineering. I look for a question that hasn’t gotten any responses yet; in this case, it might be, “Does anyone know if the route from the summit of Adams to the north peak is passable without crampons in the winter?” Then I jump in. It’s important to be clear and succinct. This makes people feel better. It also helps to throw in some personal experience. This makes them feel comfortable with you. “Sure. I’ve done it in January and in February. It’s a blast. Go for it!” See how encouraging that is?

cuteanimals3- Sign up for e-newsletters. Go to the websites of major retailers or any large charitable organization. Most of them have a button that says “subscribe” or “newsletter” or “learn more.” It costs nothing to sign up for these email services. You will then get regular messages in your inbox, which you can look through and think about each day. I have done this. I now get dozens of messages each day directed just to me. And I feel a little lift of my heart every time I see that greeting, “Dear Mike.” The art of letter writing is dead, but a new art form has taken its place. As an added bonus, you can tell people that you spend hours every day just going through your email. They will assume that, 1- you are very important, and 2- you have many friends and associates to stay in touch with. Half the joy of friendship is letting others know how well endowed you are in that respect.

4- Go to a free concert. There are many of these given by choirs and orchestras where they play the great works from the history of music. Apparently, no one likes this music because they have to give away tickets. You probably won’t like it either. But if you pick a seat that is behind the conductor, you will see what these events can really do for you. When the music begins, all of the musicians and singers look at the conductor, filled with intensity, almost reverence… and you, being right behind, will feel like they are looking at you. If you get the angle right, you really can not tell the difference. You now have many options. You can just look over the array of faces and enjoy the attention. You may feel a little shy, like “What did I do to deserve all of this?” but try not to be inhibited. You may want to choose a favorite—one girl or guy who particularly catches your eye. Through the course of the evening, you can progress from shy glances (is she really looking at me?) to longer exchanges (getting to know each other) to outright stares. You will see that you have aroused real passion in her. She will keep looking back to see that your eyes are still on her. It’s an experience that never fails to make my heart sing.

5- Become a blood donor. Have regrets about missed opportunities in your past? Spent too many Saturday nights alone with the latest X-Box release? Here’s a chance to change that. Find a blood drive near you and sign up. You may not think of yourself as the kind of person who does things that involve pain and bodily fluids, but there’s more to it than you realize. They will ask you a long retinue of questions. The questions are highly personal (“Have you ever given money in exchange for sex?” for instance). But don’t be offended; they only ask because they really care about you. Think of each question as an opportunity to imagine something you wish you’d done. Then describe the life you wish you’d had to this attentive, sympathetic audience. They will often ask lovely follow-up questions like, “What countries were they from?” or “How many times did you do that?” Again, it’s the bonds with other people that make life worth living, and you will find that your fantasies are more real when you share them with someone else. The difference between memory and fantasy is a slim one, and I propose that this is actually the better way to have a life of carnal debauchery. And don’t be afraid that you’ll have to pay for this experience by letting yourself be stuck with a needle. If you do it right, they won’t let you give blood anyway.

I have used these techniques to fill every day of my life with gratifying interactions. I hope they do the same for you!

More from “A Life Examined:”

The Saddest Reddit AMA Ever

Some Smell Thing

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After Accident, Utility Bars Investigators from Plant

A Northern California power company is stopping government inspectors from probing a mishap that sent five employees to the hospital.

Three days ago, workers at Tohd Power & Light were injured after a defective coupling allowed gasoline to leak. The company, headquartered in New Moldova, California, fifteen miles south of San Francisco, has denied any responsibility. The gasoline from the defective coupling ignited, and according to officials at New Moldova’s Alta Strench Hospital, five maintenance workers taking lunch outdoors in the company’s motor pool suffered “first degree burns on their lower backs and buttocks.”

Investigators want to inspect the facility to determine if the public is at risk and to discover the cause of the defective coupling, but the company has refused to let them enter. CEO Danvorious Tohd says he wants to “protect workers and managers from questioning by these invasive federal agents. This is our property. I’ll be damned if my people will be threatened by a bunch of government thugs masquerading as ‘investigators’.”

Tohd says his battle is a battle for human rights: “the human rights of people, and the human rights of corporations.”

The company has stationed private guards armed with shotguns, stun grenades, and high-powered rifles at its gates. Tohd says all guards have permits for the weapons, and adds that he is acting under the authority of a New Moldova ordinance that requires companies to ignore federal and state regulations that could impede economic growth and thereby harm the residents of New Moldova, while also empowering the head of any New Moldovan company with more than 1,000 employees to appoint a militia to defend and implement the law.

Tohd Power & Light is the only company of that size headquartered in New Moldova. It made substantial donations to city council members who supported the law. Nonetheless, councillor Jake Steppinup casts the law as an idealistic cry for local liberty and Tohd’s actions as heroic resistance to oppression. “We saw the Mary Jane lovers up in Oregon could just make their own rules, andtohdtread we thought we should do that here, too. People here love economic growth. Growth is the substance we want to ‘smoke’ and I think that’s a good thing. I know Dan Tohd and Dan Tohd couldn’t sleep at night, even after an hour in that 12-person jacuzzi he has, if he weren’t on the side of right.”

Yesterday afternoon, as government safety inspectors again demanded entry into the plant and were again rebuffed, Tohd, wearing a red windbreaker, climbed up a tower at the gate and spoke on a loudspeaker. His voice was heard more than a mile away. He said he’s “sick and tired of the government thinking they can abuse American citizens. I’m a citizen! I pay taxes! Well, actually I don’t pay taxes because of my shelters and deductions. But I still pay sales tax! And that’s the fairest tax of all because you’re only assessed on what you consume! The government should back off and start investigating real crime, like these guys who break into cars or rob banks.”

A bystander outside the fence who wore an orange t-shirt with “Let Tim Smoke” printed on it asked Tohd if by bank robbers he meant “rich Wall Street types who lost people’s money during the meltdown, and then begged for government help to save themselves?”

Tohd told the man to “Shut up.” Tohd then spoke to a guard, who appeared to make a phone call. Tohd climbed down from the tower, and several minutes later sheriff’s deputies arrived and handcuffed the bystander before driving him away in the back of a patrol car.

A researcher who specializes in corporate executive behavior says Tohd’s actions should be no surprise. Abraham T. Kornkeister, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, is co-author of the paper “Blow, Winds, and Crack Your Cheeks: Browbeating, Umbrage-Taking, and Childish Rampaging by CEOs at the Most Highly Profitable Companies.” In the paper, Kornkeister and his co-authors point out that despite the perception of some members of the public, many CEOs are not power-drunk manipulators. “Many heads of large corporations are decent human beings.”

Kornkeister’s research shows that CEOs at the most successful companies are often focused on profit and the accumulation of personal wealth, both of which are more important than human relationships.

One of Kornkeister’s co-authors, Gloria Foondozzle, a professor of management and organizations at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, says that for their study, ultra-powered CEOs were defined as those whose companies ranked in the top two percent in profitability within their respective sector, such as banking, phone manufacturing, or, in the case of Tohd Power & Light, electricity and natural gas distribution.

Tohd Power & Light is the second most profitable utility company in the United States, and the most profitable west of the Ohio River.

Kornkeister says that one sign of someone being an ultra-powered CEO is regular complaints of misbehavior from subordinates. He says that employees are on the receiving end of much of that bad behavior, but there is one non-employee, in almost every case, who takes the worst treatment. “The people these CEOs treat the worst are their spouses. Next worst off are the assistants of their direct reports, then middle managers (when they come into contact with them), then random delivery people, store clerks, and restaurant servers, then their domestic employees (when they come into contact with them), then their direct reports, then their neighbors, then their stepchildren, and then their own assistants.”

Almost never mistreated, the researchers found, are ultra-powered CEOs’ pets.

“The simplistic response is to call ultra-powered CEOs bad people,” says Foondozzle. “But that’s always a mistake. They are often misunderstood as being selfish or arrogant, but this is because of their relentless focus on what’s good for the company, which is, after all, a means for improving the collective good of many people. And their profits speak for themselves.”

Kornkeister adds, “Where would we be without great companies? It is companies, not artists or politicians, who are now pulling society forward, bringing us innovations and great ideas. The lone genius is long dead. We need to be very careful before we do anything that could shackle these geniuses of our age: the genius corporation.”

Kornkeister and Foondozzle’s work was funded by the Excellence Institute, a project of the US Chamber of Commerce.

Many residents of New Moldova say inspectors should be allowed onto Tohd’s property to check up on the operation.

“What if there’s an explosion?” resident Bob Darnit asks.

When questioned about public safety, Tohd says there is no danger because the plant is strategically located in a poor part of town.

Mortimer Fuckledunch, who lives in Orina Seca, about 30 miles south of New Moldova, says Tohd “should be able to do whatever he wants. It’s his company. He creates jobs. What do these ‘inspectors’ create except headaches and paperwork?”

More on Tohd Power & Light:

Utility Outsources Safety Inspections

Utility Executive Demonstrates How Average People Will Suffer if His Company Is Fined

More on life in the workplace:

Sociologist Finds Absurdity Has Critical Role in Human Power Dynamics

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A Middle Manager Fends Off an Attacker with His Resolve and Quick Thinking

CLIENT: This is unacceptable.

MIDDLE MANAGER: I’ll get my supervisor.

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A Middle Manager Heroically Fights the Battle of the Sexes by Dispensing Dating Advice to His Nephew

You would think it’s the really dark nose hairs you have to worry about, but actually it’s the light-colored ones. They stand out a lot more. Unless the dark ones are protruding from your nostrils—then you need to trim those, too.

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Plunge

by Joseph San Savino

Lydia saw the man crouched on the parapet first, and despite being nearly passed out drunk, she shrieked, “That guy! Is he gonna jump?”

Then I saw him outside, perched on the balls of his feet, arms out for balance, butt hanging back into the bar’s third floor patio, gazing down at the street despite the crush of flesh sweating and gyrating behind him in the night air, despite the thumping bass coming through the speakers. The crowd didn’t see. They kept their eyes where they always do, on tanned and glistening midriffs, cleavage, muscled shoulders, fertile regions.

I didn’t want to be there,  held by the sweaty air, amid the bricks and pleated Naugahyde, surrounded by autographed photos of sports guys I’d never heard of next to autographed photos of swimsuit models. But I was. Lydia had dragged me. Two of her friends were getting married. This was the bachelor/bachelorette party. The groom had just lost his job and they were going to have to live with her parents, but it didn’t keep anyone from partying, including the couple.

I stood up and yelled, “Dude!”

The guy on the wall didn’t hear me. No one did.

“You gotta stop him, Nolan.”

The Jumping Man. Could it be him? Eleven jumps from eleven buildings. From the roof of the neighborhood’s most expensive restaurant; off the eaves of St. Matthew’s Cathedral; out a second floor window at City Hall. Never injured. Never stopped. Someone had caught his act in a blurry video and posted it online. The TV news ran it. A local sporting goods store took a frame from the clip and turned it into a t-shirt, a white silhouette with arms and fingers outstretched against a black canvas; gave him the name in screaming block letters.

No one had reported a jump from this height. Everything so far had been a two-story affair. I pushed through the crowd andplunge5 people pushed back, almost knocking me to the floor. I didn’t know what I would say if I caught him in time—maybe appeal to common sense, although I felt instead like asking for an autograph. But Lydia was watching. She saw danger. She wanted a hero. It could be me. It could be him.

The guy rocked, building momentum and, I guess, courage to spring from his precipice. I slipped a hand onto his shoulder and he twisted his head around to see who dared interrupt. His eyes opened wide. The pupils narrowed like he could fire laser beams and vaporize distractions. But the rest of him—his face and body—looked incredibly average. Not an idol at all. Just … a guy.

“It’s the third floor, man. Gotta be a good twenty-five feet to the sidewalk. That’s concrete down there.” I felt a little stupid for telling him the obvious.

“I know,” he said. “You think I don’t know?”

“How can you do this?”

He looked across the busy boulevard, leveling his gaze at an office building on the other side, maybe triangulating the distance of his drop. He let out a breath and to my surprise, answered. “Timing. Technique. Toes extended, knees bent, and you start rolling before you even touch the ground. Distributes the impact.”

I should have asked why, but I missed the chance. The guy turned away from me to resume his focus. I looked out to the walkway below, where people were making their way to restaurants and clubs for their usual weekend revels. He’d have to time his leap perfectly to avoid landing on an unsuspecting fun-seeker.

I turned back toward Lydia, who stood, waving and swaying a little as she tried to get a waitress with a tray of beers to register the scene and bring a bouncer or a barman to help. The chick ignored her and continued her rounds.

“Listen, man …” I shouted to be heard over the music and the laughter. “You could get hurt …”

He vaulted up and out. His body expanded as he stretched his hands and feet as far as they would go, reaching for currents of air, and he held at the apex of his jump for what seemed like a few seconds before gravity took hold. I leaned over the low wall to see the Jumping Man angled down toward a gap between pedestrians. A few feet from the sidewalk he tucked his body into itself and hit, toes first, like he’d said, and rolled onto his side, rotating his hip and shoulder, completing two somersaults on the unforgiving surface and continuing on to the street. The people on the ground gasped, and shrank back from the spot. A heavy woman fell to the sidewalk as though he’d produced a shockwave. The force of the landing caused the Jumping Man to roll into the gutter, into the filth and trash that lined the road, into the stink of the city. When he finally stopped he sat up next to a sewer grate and brushed himself off like it had been no big deal, although he couldn’t get the grease and shit off his clothes. But before anyone could get close to him, he popped up and ran through traffic, across the street and into the sliver of shadow between two skyscrapers.

Twelve jumps, twelve survivals.

The people up here, except for Lydia and me, had no idea what had happened. That’s not quite true, though. We saw it, and we had no idea what had happened either. Later, we went to another bar for a nightcap. I wanted to talk about the Jumping Man. Lydia talked about what a great party it had been. We’d been together for almost two years, so this lack of communication was nothing new. We’d grown used to it, and even joked about it sometimes.

***

Reports of Jumping Man sightings made the media almost every day after that, although many of them sounded made up, like aliens landing in the Nevada desert. The legit ones described how he managed, unseen, to infiltrate supposedly secure places: the fourth floor ledge of the FBI building, the roof of the Delta terminal at the airport. Before the guards or cops could get close, he’d launch, a skydiver without a chute, pinpointing his landing far enough away from the authorities to roll and rise, and bid a quick adieu.

Yeah, that’s right, the fourth floor. He’d gone higher. And he didn’t stop there. Once he perfected his technique and learned to defy the physics of hard landings, the limits on height came off. Billboards. Water towers. Ferris wheels. He jumped from the top of a parking structure and bounced off a school bus to a perfect, upright landing on the street. To see him do it (he was all over the web by this point) was to witness a form of genius, to my mind. In slow motion you could see how his body became liquid as it contacted the earth, his limbs and torso distributing the impact so that it was shared equally throughout, minimizing the cuts and bruises, eliminating broken bones.

He made it look so easy it brought out copycats. The city’s hospitals and morgues soon filled with them, so many that the Jumping Man sent an open letter to the city’s last remaining daily, which only printed twice a week now, imploring people not to try what he alone could do. But in his plea he didn’t address what I wanted to hear. What was the point? I refused to believe his jumps were merely a stunt, that it was all for thrills, or money, and that soon he’d leap with a corporate logo on his chest, or he’d retire and write a book about his journey downward. I’d looked into his eyes. Something more than those things drove him.

The letter, in addition to avoiding the real issue, also didn’t dissuade the imitators. Teenagers turned their jumping into contests, and posted videos online. Someone broke a leg or a neck every few days. A parents’ group formed, demanding the police find the Jumping Man and confine him. The guy would have to quit or bear the public’s accusations for the injuries and deaths of the kids who worshipped him.

***

A month later, another of Lydia’s friends’ parties. She had given up on trying to get me to dance, or even, at this one, to mingle. I couldn’t understand why no one else wanted to watch the spectacle on TV. “Is that the same guy we saw jump?” she asked.

“He must be five hundred feet up,” I said.

“What’s wrong with him?”

The Jumping Man stood on a tower of the city’s tallest bridge. He had waited this time, until the law and the media gathered in numbers sufficient to chronicle his efforts. The structure spanned a river that had become so polluted it affected our drinking water. Local industries had lobbied to keep from paying for the cleanup, and despite public outcry, they’d been successful. At last his actions smacked of political statement. The Jumping Man’s drama, his defiance, would rekindle the issue.

I looked over to see the party guests in some kind of tribal ritual, sweat-sparkled bodies grinding against each other out of time with the pulsing music. When the mass shifted, I saw Lydia close-dancing with some guy, their hands wrapped around each other’s butts. At first I was ready to run over there and flail on him, yet I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen. The Jumping Man was making history, and they all ignored it.

The TV cameras zoomed in, but Jumping Man remained a blip against the dull sky and the duller gray of the bridge. Somehow, still, I was the only one watching. Lydia may have called to me—or someone did—but I refused to answer.

He waved to the police and news choppers as he took off and spread himself on the wind. He did a barrel roll in the air before twisting into an upright, rigid arrow, toes pointed in order to part the river, arms wrapped around his neck and face to protect them. He hit with barely a splash and went down, down, who knows how far.

Then, nothing. Two minutes. Five minutes. No Jumping Man bobbing, alive or dead, from the fetid chop. The helicopters circled closer to the impact. Two wetsuits dove in to look for traces.

A speedboat cruised nearby, piloted by a woman in a windbreaker, sunglasses, and what looked like a headset. The cops tried to wave her off, but she cut through their perimeter, to a spot a few hundred yards away from where the search had concentrated, and slowed.

There! A head. An arm. She threw a rope ladder over the side. The Jumping Man grabbed on and hoisted himself onboard. They were a half mile ahead and pulling away before anyone started to pursue, and lost the choppers by ditching the boat on the far shore and running into the woods.

The TV crews hovered, filming the empty strip of sand that bordered the trees. I would have kept watching, but some woman grabbed the remote and changed the station to a dance party show. I said what the fuck, we were already at a dance party, and she gave me a funny look.

I walked into the thick of the crowd and found Lydia drinking a beer from a bottle. “Did he make it?” she asked.

I dragged her to the middle of the dance floor. “Of course,” I said. “He never misses. Thirty seven jumps now.”

“Nolie, I don’t feel like dancing right now,” she said.

She looked like she was getting drunk again, so I took her home. I got her into her apartment, but didn’t try to stick around. “You don’t wanna come in?” she said.

“I need to do some thinking.”

She said okay, and then grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me down for a kiss that must have lasted two full minutes. “You sure?” she said.

It was a tough choice. But we’d had sex enough times that I thought I could skip one. I had to make sense of what I’d seen. “Yeah, I’m sure,” I said.

She closed the door slowly. I didn’t hear it click shut until I was almost back to my car. It struck me then that maybe there was nothing political about the Jumping Man’s stunts. Like Lydia said, something wrong with him.

When I went home I took the stairs to the apartment building’s roof and walked out to the edge. Three stories looked like a thousand feet, like staring into the maw of a canyon. What did the Jumping Man see when he looked down? For me, diving down meant falling, going out of control, crashing into concrete or earth that had no intention of giving. I saw survival only in the most painful of terms. For him, jumping meant something else. Obviously.

I swung my leg up on the little cinder block wall that ringed the roof, maybe two feet high, and straddled it. A stiff breeze came up, and I grabbed the wall with my hands, never mind that it cut my fingers. He always jumped down. Well, he couldn’t jump up, could he? No one could. Not that high. Gravity wouldn’t allow it; otherwise everyone would be doing it. I must have been drunk too. I know I was scared up there. It was only twenty-five feet or so, but still way too high to consider.

***

The next morning Lydia called. “I don’t want to see you anymore.” Talk about getting to the point.

“But we’ve been together for so long. That has to mean something, doesn’t it?”

“You don’t like to have fun.”

I could have turned the tables, accused her of not taking an interest in anything important, but I just took it. “I have fun all the time,” I said. Truth was, Lydia’s friends needed a wakeup call. Here was this guy who risked his life, and all they wanted to do was party and get drunk. And their wasted lives had affected her judgment. But if she really wanted to dump me, I wouldn’t fight. I’d been thinking about dumping her, to be honest.

Later, I had a couple of beers. Instead of the top of the apartment building, I went out the second floor exit to the outside stairs and climbed over the railing, about twelve feet up. I faced out with my hands clutching the cold steel behind me, and stood, staring first at the pavement below, then at a high school football field in the distance, for maybe five minutes. Or maybe half an hour.

No one saw me, or at least bothered to call to me or call the police. So I closed my eyes and let go. When I felt myself leaning past the point where I could stop, I pushed off and opened my eyes.

Falling. The exhilaration of going down so incredibly fast slammed my heart up into my throat, and my guts into my chest, and as I plummeted through the air I was alone, disconnected from the world, and from myself. For those two seconds nothing else mattered.

I forgot all about what he’d said to do on the landing, and even though I went into a roll, it was only because I’d hit off balance and fractured an ankle.

But so what? For the day I lay in the hospital all I could think of was my jump—I analyzed every nanosecond of it. Once I’d let go nothing could stop me. Each instant offered a rush of experience, overwhelming my senses, as though I’d barely used them before. I remembered even tasting the air as I fell. I asked the doctor to discharge me early, because I wanted to get home and try it again, cast and all. Maybe from the third floor this time.

I still couldn’t say what the Jumping Man felt when he took off from those dizzying heights, but I hoped it was something like I felt.

Before I could get used to moving around with the cast and the crutches, Lydia came over. She banged on the door to my place and yelled to let me know it was her.

“Nolie, baby. I heard about what happened. I don’t know why you want to kill yourself,” she said. “I’m going to take care of you, honey. You’ll always have me.”

For a few seconds I almost didn’t let her in. But then I did and she came in and started to cry. She hugged me and kissed me. She draped my arm around her shoulder and walked me to the couch, and then went into the kitchen and heated up some soup that I didn’t even know I had. “Everything is going to be okay,” she called from the other room. “We’ll get married and you’ll never want to do anything crazy like that again.”

She watched me as I ate. I made sure to compliment her on the cooking.

When she went back into the kitchen to wash the dishes I sat up and started surfing the Web on my laptop, looking for news about the Jumping Man. I didn’t find any, but that was okay. Lydia called out to say that I was a messy guy, and that she would clean the counters and the shelves too. She would straighten everything out.

I heard the water rushing into the sink, and I heard Lydia humming to herself as she worked. One of my crutches was within reach, and I used it to hoist myself up. Amid the sounds of housekeeping, I slipped out the front door, hopped to the elevator, and got in. The button for the top floor glowed like a beacon, and I pressed it, and when the car began to ascend I couldn’t be sure if the jitter I felt came from the machinery or from me. I tried to will the car to go faster. Through the walls and the elevator shaft, I could barely hear Lydia, pounding on the doors below, calling to me, “Come down, Nolie. Come down.”

Read Joseph San Savino’s bio.

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Alex Rodriguez Preemptively Apologizes for What the Next 40-Plus Years Are Going to Be Like

Author and occasional journalist Greg J. Detter was in New York over the weekend. Alex Rodriguez happened to take to a podium, and Greg was there to capture it. Rodriguez had some things he wanted to get off his chest—or perhaps his back—and spoke at length. Here’s the transcript of that ghastly appearance by ghastly A-Rod.

Listen, guys, I’m gonna be real honest with you right now. And let me clarify that pledge—I’ll be honest with you right now … and not a singlearodtaur-1 moment beyond that. I’ll evade, twist, muddy, cloud, and outright lie on the topic of my alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, but for one shining moment, I’m going to be uncharacteristically forthright.

This is gonna get ugly; it’s gonna get tired, and frankly, I’m going to drive this thing into the ground like a coffin, hopefully for years to come. And for that I apologize. I’m genuinely sorry … but make no mistake—I’m not nearly sorry enough to make this any less painful for fans of baseball or the general public overall. Buckle in, my friends, I’m not going away any time soon.

As the evidence against me mounts, coupled with my reduced suspension of 162 games, conventional wisdom says that I find the deepest hole, quietly crawl into it, and cross my fingers in hopes that history reflect kindly on my accomplishments when it’s time for Hall of Fame voters to decide my fate. But really, do you expect me—ME?—to embrace conventional wisdom? Not only am I much more comfortable spewing half-truths (no-truths) through these beautiful lavender lips of mine, but baseball has a precedent for ducking the truth in this situation. Hell, Pete Rose all but frolicked through the meadow with his bookmaker while Caesar’s Palace betting tickets dangled from his back pocket, yet he stood firm on a granite platform of denial for the better part of two decades before confessing to any semblance of guilt. Barry Bonds may as well have shot steroids in the batter’s box during Game Six of the World Series, but he appeared repeatedly on national TV with a head so inflated, he looked like a Blow Pop, pronouncing his innocence to an unbelieving yet deferential audience around the world.

Remember my high-profile interview with Peter Gammons a few years ago where I masterfully and categorically denied any wrongdoing, save for a brief error in judgment in 2003? Well, that interview will look like George Washington admitting to wayward use of an axe when you see the suspense-free theater with which I plan on regaling you across the coming decades. Anthony Bosch went on 60 Minutes recently, telling tales of drawing blood in a nightclub bathroom, blowing the whistle on the hundreds of text messages I sent him, and even exposing himself as a dumdum of the highest order for declining my offer of $50,000 just to keep his mouth shut. You may be moved by his account, but even the most compelling of evidence will crumble like yours truly in the playoffs when I play the “liar, liar, pants on fire” trump card. And if you’re not buying it, well, I just don’t care. I’m pretty sure the old saying doesn’t go “Confess! Confess! Confess!” As the great motivator Stuart Smalley once said, “denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.” And he’s right, because one of the few things I do better than flex my beautiful muscles is deny that they are anything less than God’s creation. Deny! Deny! Deny!

In the coming years, the interviews and statements are bound to appear on smaller stages under dimmer lights, but don’t mistake that for me going away. Peter Gammons will turn into Maury Povich, which will give way to me sharing a room with Dee Snider and William Baldwin on a VH1 reality show. I don’t care if I’m calling bingo at Adventureland Theme Park in Des Moines, Iowa—you’ll always be able to find me refuting any and all claims that I’m anything less than the pure-as-the-driven-snow slugger you’ve never so much as hoped I actually was. But hey … I’m innocent, so why wouldn’t I? LOL, right? Yeah, I know, I said I’d be truthful for the moment, but I really need the practice.

I suppose while I’m on this momentary vacation from my true character and under the very brief spell of honesty, there are a few others to whom I should apologize. Pipe down, Seattle, I’m not talking to you. If anything, you should be thanking me, or at least taking back all those hurtful letters you wrote me. You called me Pay-Rod and A-Fraud when I left for Texas—among other more colorful and vengeful sobriquets—but yours was the only team that got what everyone seems to have wanted from me—purity. I still don’t see why being pure is such a desirable quality, by the way. Do you want a virgin in a white dress or do you want a monster who hits 50 bombs a year?

Anyway … back to the apologies. I guess while we’re on the topic, I should probably say a little something to Ken Griffey, Jr. Griff, I’m sorry. I used to spit in your Gatorade and put my toenail clippings in your pregame sandwiches. But I was supposed to be the handsome golden boy—not you! And you know what? If you had gone the same route that I went later in your career, you might have been able to run from first to third without stopping by the Disabled List. Say what you want about my reputation, but you looked like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 4 the last few years of your career.

Texas, you’re up next. I’m not above saying it … I’m genuinely sorry. I’m sorry I ever signed with the Rangers. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and your mouths are no exception. Yeah, in my three years in Arlington, I took more needles than a pin cushion, but I gave you what you paid for: 156 homers, three All-Star games, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP award. And you’re mad at me? I made Babe Ruth look like a Little Leaguer and traded my testicles for bacne … and I did it all for you. Texas, I’m sorry I’m not sorry. In fact, how about a thank you?

New York, I don’t even know what to say to you. I’m sorry I could never be your pretty boy Jeter. Hell, I thought I left Griffey in Seattle. What’s the obsession with these little angels? You may think Jeter’s shit doesn’t stink, but I’ve got news for you … well, you’re right. It doesn’t stink. In fact, it smells of lilacs with chamomile. But what makes Jeter so special? Because he’s actually good at professional baseball when the games matter the most? Hmmmph … big deal. Remember that 500-foot jack I hit against the Royals in July? You’re welcome. More on Jeter in a minute … and quite possibly for the rest of your life.

A couple others real quick: America, I’m sorry I ruined Madonna for you … and trust me, I don’t think you’re going to hear any complaints on my chemical makeup from the Material Girl, if you know what I mean. Also, my apologies if you can’t help but think of me when you watch There’s Something About Mary and Almost Famous, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of touching home plate with Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson. But, you know what, the truth is—see, truth again—I want you to think of me whenever you see one of those lovely dames of the silver screen. I want you to be forced through the power of insinuation to imagine my naked body lying and thrusting against hers. I want to be in your head all the time, because, really, I deserve that. Whether or not the Hall of Fame voters think I belong in their little club, I’ll definitely be in their heads, Kate’s heels bouncing off my grade-A gluteus.

Lastly, I can’t forget my boys over at the Biogenesis Clinic—even you, Anthony Bosch. I know I was your best customer, but those Nosey Nellies ruined that for all of us. It stinks, too. My Customer Rewards Card was full and I had a free shot coming. And that Bosch—for all his many faults—really knew how to mix a mean peach testosterone smoothie.

Guys, here’s the bottom line: I just wanted to be the man. You know the cool guy blaring music out of his Camaro, windows rolled down, slapping the side of his car to the beat of the music … that guy was the man! And I just wanted to be him. Really, is that so wrong? I would have done anything to be that guy. Anything. It’s important to me that you know what that means. Would I shoot, drink, eat, rub, and absorb any kind of performance enhancing drug under the sun, just to be the man? Well, obviously. But I wouldn’t stop there. I’d shoot a baby seal, eat it on Thanksgiving Day, wash it down with children’s tears and serve the Pope’s kidneys for dessert if it would make me a better player. Why doesn’t that level of commitment mean anything to you people? And why don’t I get credit for having not served that marine mammal-themed Thanksgiving dinner? Sure, you’ll have to slap an asterisk on just about everything I’ve ever done in my career, but you’ve never heard my name come up in any kind of baby seal poaching controversy. Yet you guys act like Jeter is the only good guy in the game. And that has always been my biggest problem. No matter what I do, it’s always been about Jeter. Jeter! Jeter! Jeter! [At this point Rodriguez pauses to regain his composure. He wipes tears from his eyes.] And before you ask, the answer is yes. Yes, I absolutely would slash Jeter’s carotid artery and harvest his organs for a couple points on my batting average.

In Seattle, Griffey was the man. But he was there before I got there and had time to brainwash the fans with his stupid backwards cap and childish grin. But when I got to Texas, it was like all my dreams had come true. I was the man. I was the guy blasting REO Speedwagon and slapping the side of my car. And look what happened when I was the man. I had one of the greatest three-year runs in the history of baseball because no one was casting a shadow on my radiant light. So when I got to New York, why wouldn’t I still be the man? Why would that Punch and Judy Jeter be so beloved by fans and teammates? Sure, he’s pretty, but have you ever seen him with his shirt off? He looks like Steve Urkel mixed with Screech. And Heaven forbid the golden boy ever have to hit the weight room or make a commitment to improve like the rest of us. Yet, despite his refusal to do everything it takes, we’re about to be subjected to six months of fans everywhere acting like Jesus Christ Himself is retiring. So what am I going to do with myself until I can get back to hitting majestic bombs thirteen months from now? The answer to that is simple: EVERYTHING I CAN. I’ll do every radio interview, talk show appearance, autograph signing, celebrity boxing match, and public appearance I can find. I’ll come to your kid’s bar mitzvah as long as you give me a microphone and an audience. I am—I AM!—going to outlast this guy and put the spotlight where it belongs … on The Man. A year from now, when he’s in his rocking chair and I’m getting showered with love and attention for my brilliant comeback season, we’ll never have to hear that name again. Jeter! Jeter! Jeter! [Rodrigueze pauses at length again.] … God, how I hate that [expletive] guy.

Anyway … I’m sorry. I’m not sorry for chemically engineering the five-tool stud I was for most of my career (though the only tools I could typically turn to in the post-season were sweaty palms and a tightly puckered you know what). I’m only sorry for what happens next. Dig in, pack a lunch, and brace yourselves because the only thing I do better than hit testosterone-fueled long balls is deny the obvious truth. I’m all natural, and I’m here for the long haul.

Read Greg J. Detter’s bio.

Read other preemptive apologies:

Brewers Fan Apologizes for What He Will Do in May 2014

LeBron James Apologizes for Not Doing Something, Whatever It Is, that You Think He Should, before Not Doing It

CEO Apologizes for Extra-Marital Affair She’s About to Have

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Success = Insanity

It has become clear to us that all successful people are completely insane. Some hide it better than others. But to our minds, whenever you look closely and long enough at someone who has attained a level of eminence, you’ll find there’s a sort of film between you and that person, because they have separated, if ever so slightly, from the reality you inhabit. This may seem obvious when you hear that Shaq spends $1,000 a week on apps, or that a senator like John McCain thinks his opinions matter. But look closely also at the people around you—your boss, or your boss’ boss, or your boss’ boss’ boss. Is there not something in them that remains ever unaccountable, a little odd?

We have been observing this universal companion of success for some time and have noted that it seems to be true across fields, personalities, and cultures that otherwise have about as much in common as a stalking cheetah and a raccoon carcass. So, we set our brains to trying to understand why this is so.

The key fact, which many people choose not to see, is that in any meaningful human endeavor—meaning one subject to the complexities of real life, not a game—it’s impossible to say with certainty why one effort succeeds where another fails. Think of two embryonic businesses or fledgling movies about to sail into the market. Sure we look back, after one has risen and one fallen, and find a batch of reasons for the difference—the plot, the lead actor—but no one can look at these things a priori and declare which will succeed. If they could, we wouldn’t have failures.

The greatest proof of this in our minds is that Shakespeare wrote King John. He’s arguably the greatest literary mind of all time, and he didn’t know ahead of time that that heap of words would bomb like a plucked turkey thrown from the Tower of London (or live turkeys thrown from a WKRP helicopter).

Add on the fact that, while we can’t know what actually made a venture successful (and the answer may be luck, which is just another word for “I don’t know”), we always look for explanations, clamp on to the ones that have the slightest meat of plausibility, and worry, shake, and gnaw them into splinters. Thus an actor, after appearing in one successful movie, gets a $20 million payday for his next project. Someone thought he was the reason the first film was a success.

So, we don’t know ahead of time what makes any effort successful or not, we then look desperately for a reason to explain it, and finally we try to repeat what we suppose worked. But, as you can probably see at this point, we’re as likely to be wrong as right in the factors we select to explain success, and thus what we go on repeating. And so each time we succeed, we risk moving further away from reality by repeating our mistaken twist of reality.

This process occurs in small-scale, individual successes as much as the familiar examples we’ve discussed above. Imagine a prototypical, unfortunate successful person as she goes through this painful process. She excels in school. She gets a good job and makes moves that lead to her shooting up the career ladder as her peers bob and lag behind her. She keeps doing things that work, and so she keeps finding explanations for why they worked, and then she keeps replicating those factors to repeat the success.

Maybe the first time she closed a deal, she was wearing heels, which made her feel taller and stronger. After wearing heels and succeeding a few times, she won’t wear anything but heels, and in fact becomes terrified of not having enough heels to wear. She probably has a closet full of them. Or maybe a whole vacation home stocked with backup heels. Or possibly she’s hired someone to buy as many heels as possible and always be on call, 24 hours a day, in case of emergency. Maybe she even has another person on call in Milan, Italy, which, if you consider it, is about the only place on the planet any reasonable woman would ever buy shoes (unless a Milanese cobbler comes to the reasonable woman’s home once or twice a year to fit her for her bespoke shoes).

You can see how success is like a train ride, moving consistently and inexorably toward Crazy Town. This phenomenon is acting all the time everywhere there’s success, but it’s often invisible, since the successful person rarely chooses an explanation as visible as shoes or a superstitious twitch—but rather chooses the most pernicious lie, their own competence. Thus, with each success, they become more and more convinced thatsuccess2 some quality within them—intelligence, persistence, talent, judgment, charm—is the consistent force nudging them up the ladder. Since they’ve found their explanation within themselves, they believe they deserve any recognition that comes with success. Thus you have arrogance. You have billionaires believing they’re entitled to whatever they have and whatever they don’t have but want, pegging the value of their souls at a few million times that of the average person because of the wealth they’ve accumulated through a series of successful decisions. Thus we have executives with gold wastebaskets in their offices. We have tycoons throwing parties where champagne pours out of ice statue penises. And they’re completely sure they deserve it. That is the dispositive symptom of their insanity.

Have we succeeded in convincing you?

Read other Stoneslide Corrective articles:

Two California Counties Prepare to Designate “Job Creator” Lanes

Sociologist Finds Absurdity Plays Critical Role in Human Power Dynamics

New Business Helps Wealthy Hold Onto Self-Importance in Modern World

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Minister Trademarks Word “Fornicate”

An Evangelical Christian pastor hopes use of a word describing sex will put money in his bank account. The Reverend Johnny Gawn says, “the word ‘fornicate,’ first of all, should be stricken from the language. But if people must use it—and worse, commit it—it should give greater glory to God.”

Reverend Gawn says glory can best be given to God via revenues streaming into his—that is, the Reverend Gawn’s—bank account. Anytime anyone uses the word, he says, God should receive a royalty payment. “Whenever a preacher, whenever a righteous politician, whenever a God-fearing governor or a pious prosecutor, whenever a talk show host, teacher, or deacon uses ‘fornicate,’ God should be given the gains. The wages of sin are disbursements to our Lord and Savior!”

Gawn, the pastor at The Everlasting Love and Compassion of Christ church in Dimswarth, Indiana, says all forms of the word, including “fornicating,” “fornication,” and “fornicatorial,”—although “fornicatorial” might not in fact be a word—will fall under his trademark.

How does he claim ownership of a word that’s been around for centuries? “We all know that God created the act, right? So, He also created the wordwordsfromgod-1 that describes it. There would be no ‘fornicating’ without fornicating, would there? So, He naturally has a right to the word and I am merely His representative and claiming His rights,” he says.

Gawn says that proceeds from his trademarking of the word will go toward—or, in his words, “near”—his congregation’s Christian ministry to the needy and others.

Kemper Fide, an analyst with Morning Moon Investment Advisors, says the word “fornicate” and its various formations are used in written and verbal speech roughly 4.2 billion times a year throughout the English speaking world, particularly in the southern United States. “That could, theoretically, put a great deal of money in the Reverend’s bank account.”

However, Fide, says, collecting said money could prove problematic. “Look at [NBA executive and former coach] Pat Riley. He trademarked ‘three-peat.’  How did that work out for him? Or Gene Simmons of KISS trademarking use of the word ‘axe’ when it’s meant to indicate an electric guitar—it’s the same story. What’s this guy going to do, sell ‘fornicator’ t-shirts?”

No one has yet challenged the legality of Gawn’s claim, but Joan Van Sant, the policy director of the Midwest office of the ACLU, says the organization opposes this use of trademark law. “We can’t allow property rights to expand so far that they devour free speech rights. The Constitution protects our right to ‘fornicate,’ or ‘copulate,’ or ‘do it,’ or ‘get busy,’ or ‘make love,’ or ‘boink,’ or ‘f*ck’ or ‘hook up’ or ‘enjoy each other’s company,’ or ‘make like Wilt Chamberlain at a disco.’ That is all constitutionally protected speech.”

Dimswarth’s mayor, Henry Diptwiddle, says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the Reverend’s action could benefit the town’s poor. “Honestly, I’ve never heard of Pastor Gawn. But if he says he wants to help people, more power to him.”

Reverend Gawn says his move has already brought success. He says he’s secured a loan for a new Escalade  using projected “fornication” earnings as leverage. “Just think of all the furniture I’ll be able to deliver to the homeless with that thing.”

Reverend Gawn says he has plans to generate even more glory for God. He is teaming with a group of Jesuit priests to claim both trademark and copyright interest in the term “missionary position,” as well as any depiction of that act in movies or television. They calculate they are owed more than $12 million in royalties by Cinemax alone.

Read about other innovative approaches to generating or retaining wealth:

Psychologist Identifies “Golden Hour” for Best Financial Performance

New Business Helps Wealthy Hold Onto Self-Importance in Modern World

Gamblers Predict Chicago Mayor Will Declare Martial Law

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True Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Anyway

WIFE: I’ll leave in a couple minutes, and I should be home by 5:30.

ME: Okay. Please drive carefully, sweetheart. I’d hate to get stuck making dinner for the kids if something happened to you.

More True Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Anyway:

True Things: “pretty like you”

True Things: arriving at Grandma’s

True Things: “you’re all wet”

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True Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Anyway

COWORKER: Good morning.

ME: Hi. How was your weekend?

COWORKER: Same old. But any weekend’s good. How about you?

ME: Yeah, the usual. Though a funny thing happened last night.

COWORKER: Yeah, what?

ME: I had this really long, intense sexual dream about you.

More True Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Anyway

True Things: “I’m so sad”

True Things: “as well as usual”

Posted in A Life Examined | Comments closed

True Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Anyway

WIFE: Will you ever leave me?

ME: Never! I mean, not unless I get one of those brain tumors that makes you do crazy stuff. Like the guy who became an arsonist.

More from A Life Examined:

Advice to Expectant Mothers

Advice to Expectant Fathers

While Waiting to Check Out

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True Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Anyway

WIFE: It’s so exciting that in just a month you’ll be married.

FEMALE FRIEND: I know!

MALE FRIEND: Any advice for us? What’s the key to a happy marriage?

ME: Always delete your internet history. I’m serious. Every single time.

More from A Life Examined:

How many times have I done the right thing

Special Occasions

Parental Love

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Needy People

by Amitabha

The samosa wallah at the street corner is back. His stall now has a blue tarp roof held up on bamboos. When he sees me, he shouts in Hindi, “And, sahab, everything alright?”

“Everything’s great. With you?”

“All fine. Just back from village. Brother’s sons.” He points at the two boys in stained tees hunkered in the small enclosure.  With delicate twists of their fingers, they are sealing samosas for frying. The place hums with the scent of salted dough and nigella seeds.

As I take his leave, a silver Lexus zips by, driving over  the nearest pothole. I automatically bring my umbrella down to deflect the splash.

Much of the way till the café is lousy with potholes. I have still decided to walk. The rains have let up, and there’s a spell of mildness before it becomes hot again.

I get a text saying she’s going to be late: there’s a traffic jam.

I walk on, in and out of the gap-toothed shadows of the high-rises, passing crows hopping on dumpsters, dogs with paws caught in plastics, and vendors standing behind barrowfuls of veggies till I reach the traffic signal by the tree with the yellow bangles.

The tree is an old cluster fig. It has had its monsoon bath. The sooty branches now end in clean greenish pink leaves. Tyres painted yellow have been pulled over its branches. There is black brushwork over the tyre nearest to the ground: “Punchur Repar” it says and gives a cell number.

I wait at the traffic lights, behind a gaggle of moms clutching their children’s wrists with one hand and with the other keeping their saris inches off the wet ground. It’s two in the afternoon; the kids are fresh off school, all shirts untucked, half-pants hanging askance from butt-cheeks, mouths busy in chatter.

“Excuse me. Do you speak English?”

The speaker is a young man in shirtsleeves and jeans. He is unshaven, and his bloodshot eyes are focussed on me.

“Yes?”

“Umm … this is so embarrassing … I’m due for an interview in an hour. At … M. G. Road. My wallet’s been picked. Could you please lend me some cash? I swear I’ll pay you back.”

The capillaries in the man’s eyes are inflamed at the edges, leaving clearings at the centres. He is upwind, and, when the breeze from the park rubs  past him, I smell alcohol.

“Can’t help you. Sorry.” I turn to cross the street.

 

***

 

I notice them when I’m at the divider: women nursing infants, and a smattering of men on the footpath lining the park. Villagers. The women in saris, the men in dhotis. Large studs on earlobes. When I reach the sidewalk, one from the group—an old man with a trust me moustache—greets me.

“Sahab,” he says, his palms clasped in display of respect, “we’re going for pilgrimage, sahab. At the platform, they stole everything: boxes, beddings … money—everything. Didn’t leave anything. Don’t even have the money to go back to village. Stuck here with women and children. Be very gracious of you, if you—”

He cuts himself off as he sees me glance across the street. On the other side, the interviewee is slowly shaking his head at the pilgrims. He stops when he sees me looking.

I turn to face my accoster. His eyes hold my gaze for a second and drop. Others from his crew step forward.

I smile. “Just bad luck today.”

 

***

 

An immaculately paved, eucalyptus-lined avenue leads to the café from the park. Although the café is at most a hundred meters from the main road, the racket of traffic is almost non-existent here. The hush only draws attention to the on-off beats of unseen sprinklers.

 

***

 

At the café, all chairs under the awning are taken. The tables are littered with iPhones and iPads. Occasionally, a cup of latte rises from this ocean of touchscreens like a flipped iceberg. People are talking, laughing, and pausing to snap photos of food.

The interior of the café, beyond glass doors, is deserted save the baristas and a teenage girl with a Livestrong wristband at the corner table. When I enter, she checks out my reflection and goes back to her Dell.

The conditioned air chills my ears and nose within minutes. I order a coffee and choose a table beside the bookshelf. There are lots of Asterixes, and Vogues, and an ill-treated The Old Man and the Sea.

The door opens, and a girl in a pink Adidas windbreaker enters.

“What the Delhi government doesn’t get is the outrage the—”

The door swings shut, cutting off the voice from outside. The girl sits opposite Wristband, gives my reflection a once-over, pulls the windbreaker sleeves to her knuckles and says to her friend, “I’ve a headache.”

“Done breaking up?” Wristband asks.

“Oh yes. Know what the—” Windbreaker lowers her voice and releases the adjective with an exaggerated lip movement that exposes her lower incisors “—fucking bastard did?”

Wristband raises an eyebrow.

“He deleted my entire phone! Can you believe it?”

“As in?”

“As in my complete, total phonebook, my messages, trip photos, everything! I totally need my contacts. Such a psychic he is!”

“Psychotic.”

“Whatever! Know what he says? He knew I was gonna dump him, so he did it on purpose!”

“You want some coffee? For your headache?”

“Yeah, okay. I still can’t believe he did that.” She looks at Wristband’s laptop. “What you doing?”

“Econ. Copy from me later.”

The hiss of steam from the Cimbali eats up Windbreaker’s reply. I pull out my cell and dial.

She picks up after two rings. “Hey.”

“Wow, you took the call. I thought you only look at the cell to check messages.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“How far are you?”

“Shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes. The jam was bad: state buses and autos. Anyway, guess who I met?”

“Who?”

“Arpita.”

“Arpita? College Arpita? Wait, she’s not coming with you, is she?”

“Yes. Poor thing. She was getting down from the bus in a hurry and got a scrape. I took her to get a Tetvac. All that rust.”

“Hmm. How long is she gonna be with us?”

Meera’s voice drops a notch. “Be kind, she’s having a bad day. Today’s her half-day too. Okay … see you.”

“See you.”

I disconnect the call and pull the Hemingway out from the bookshelf. The door opens again. Of the two women who walk in, one is carrying a baby within a lavender-coloured sling tied with a knot over her shoulder. Both are wearing cheap, printed saris. Their elbows are white with dust.

They seem stunned by their own courage. At first, they huddle (the mother rights the sling and gently pushes in the jutting knee of the baby) takingneedy in the surroundings: Windbreaker gawping, her friend twisting in her chair to get a better view, the baristas frozen in tableau. God only knows how I seem. Then, in a show of defiance, with her glass bangles tinkling, the mother drags a chair out and sits side saddle. She is barefoot, and … yes, so is her friend.

I get a glimpse of the baby: smooth skinned, muscovado brown, and asleep. There’s a daub of kohl on its temple. The mother touches its cheek with a finger, and it smiles.

The other woman stands beside her. She’s holding a tightly pressed piece of cloth. It looks like a hand towel that’s been folded over and over. I have seen clothes like that many times before. On construction workers. It’s what they use as a buffer to carry a Jenga tower of bricks balanced on their heads.

She clenches it and walks up to the counter. She peers at the pastries on the display shelf and says something unintelligible to the barista.

“Huh?” the barista says, leaning forward. His nametag catches light and gleams: Amol.

She points at the muffins and asks in accented Hindi, “How much?”

“Seventy-five. PACHATTAR RUPIYA,” Amol says.

The woman backs off and licks and bites her upper lip. After some twisting of the cloth in her hand, she reaches inside her blouse and pulls out a crumpled bill.

“Brother,” she says, “make a little less. We are poor people … got paid today only.”

Amol, practically a teenager himself, glances at his colleagues. They shrug. Amol turns back to the woman, his lips moving in silent calculation. Then he says, “Sixty-five, can’t make it less than that.”

The woman nods.

The mother gets up and joins her. Cautiously, they unwrap the muffin and break it in two, collecting the crumbs on the mother’s palm.

“Excuse me,” Windbreaker waves at Amol, “we need some service over here?”

“Sure ma’am, be right there,” Amol starts on his way out from behind the counter.

I pick the book up. My cell buzzes: V r almos thr

And again after a few seconds: Oh i c u don come out :)

I look up and spot Meera and Arpita at the far end of the awning. From the drop in light outside, it looks like clouds are massing again.

There’s a noise of rushing air as Amol flings the door open and runs pell-mell, his apron flapping, causing Arpita to grasp a chair in alarm, his eyes on the fast-disappearing lavender knot.

“What was that?” Meera asks, when they reach me.

I speak while pulling out chairs, “There were two construction workers. Women. Think they didn’t pay. Anyway, hi, Arpita, how’re you?”

“Don’t ask. It was such a bad jam. I ran into your would-be, she got all worried and took me to the Chemist.” Arpita points at the Band-Aids on her hand and upper arm. “In this weather, this one is going to be a pain—” she taps the one on her arm “—intra-muscular.” She adds with a tiny smile, “Don’t worry, I’ll be off quickly.”

“Nonsense. Stay. So, you still in that HR job from campus?”

“Yeah. Don’t ask.” Arpita moves the loose hairs off her forehead, combing them back with her fingers. She wears her hair short now, but the gesture reminds me of the college days when her hair used to fall to her waist  “Still can’t afford a car, not even with EMI. Nightmare in this city, it is, let me tell you. Every single day, this counting change for bus fare is such an irritation. You won’t believe the way the conductors behave if you ask them to break a hundred. I really need to get a car.”

Meera leans forward, her brown eyes gleaming with a mix of mischief and compassion, cheeks dimpled with a smile, and says, “Guess what she did today?”

“What?”

“She gave away all her change to these people she met at the terminus. They told her they were stuck, all their money’d been stolen.”

“Oh Arpi—”

Amol is back. The mother is trailing them reluctantly: her friend’s wrist is in Amol’s grip.

“Suresh!” Amol shouts, “Police, call police. Saali chootni, first calls me Brother! ‘Make it a little less. Poor people.’ Then shows hundred-ka note and runs away  without paying!”

The woman’s lips are swollen, especially on the left side of her face. Her chin trembles. Tears glisten in her eyes as she struggles to free her wrist, speaking rapidly in her tongue.

“Stop the drama!” Amol raises his free hand. She flinches, and the fold of cloth perched on her head wobbles.

“Amol!” Suresh, the elder barista, is beside Amol, hissing, “Customers!”

Amol swallows and whispers back by way of explanation, “You would have taken it out of my salary. As it is the difference—” he is drowned out by a screech from Arpita.

She’s stood up and is wagging her finger at the mother. “You! You told me your money was stolen. Remember? Today itself? Showed me your baby and cried? I gave you eighty-five rupees? What happened? What? No answer now?” She whirls to face Amol. “Call the police, I’ll tell them! Robbing honest people! Ooff!” Arpita pulls her arm down and massages her deltoid.

“Please, Arpi.” Meera takes advantage of the silence. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t wanna insult you, the exact same thing happened to me three days back, but she has a baby. Look.”

I exchange a glance with Meera and say to Arpita, “Arpi, come on, let’s go somewhere else.”

 

***

 

By the time I put the girls in a cab and get back to my building, the rain is coming down hard. In front of the lifts, a crowd has gathered: three street dogs with pleading eyes.

As I wait for the elevator, an auto rickshaw pulls up. Plastic curtains cover the sides, but you can see the nose of a dog poking out in between. Mr. Mehta, my neighbour from third floor, steps down and gropes inside. Finding the end of the leash, he tugs.

“Lucky, come on!” he says in Gujarati. Inch by inch, the yellow Labrador slides out of the carriage and, after climbing on over the building floor, slumps and doesn’t budge.

Lucky’s coat’s been shorn at intervals, and the skin in those gaps is mottled. The rest of his hair is styled in arrowheads. As Mr. Mehta pulls him toward the elevator door, the mongrels make way, and, after some deliberation, one barks. The Labrador does not reply.

I hold the elevator door open. Maybe spurred by the noise of the auto backfiring, Lucky stands up and shuffles inside.

Mehta says to me, “Thank you. Eight years old. Took him to the doctor.”

I am about to follow him inside when two small girls bound down the stairs. “Uncle! Uncle!”

The one with pigtails is carrying a much scribbled-on paper, and the other’s clasping a collection tin and a pen.

The girl holds the tin up. “Hi, uncle. Ten rupees each, please.”

“For school? For what you are collecting?” Mehta asks as I reach for my wallet.

“Needy people,” they say.

Read Amitabha’s bio.

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An Aid to Our Readers and All Writers

We love to help our readers. If you occasionally have to write reports or summaries, if you like to be informative in your holiday letters, or if you just like to send emails that are cogent, we believe we have a great gift for you. And of course, if you write for a living, we’re here for you without question. Because we care.

Throughout history, assemblers and collators of linguistic sensibleness such as the estimable Henry Watson Fowler have combined great advice with excellent examples of sound usage. One of Fowler’s many contributions is his defining of collective nouns, such as “pride of lions,” or “flock of sheep”—“pride” and “flock” being the collective nouns in these cases.

A lot of people who only read Fowler superficially complain mistakenly that he’s a blockheaded prescriptionist, but he is much more sophisticated than that, and he knew that languages evolve, and societies, too.

Having just the right term for something can reveal the inherent truth inside that something. We at Stoneslide have teamed up with downsized dictionarypagelexicographers from American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and the Oxford English Dictionary in order to find the deep truth within the following occupations and affiliations. We’ve created these helpful expressions for you.

We hope you’ll enjoy the increased power and precision in your English usage.

a collision of commuters

a petri dish of schoolchildren

an echinacea tab of schoolteachers

an unfortunateness of poor people

an invisibility of homeless people

a cluster fuck of legislators

a bumbling of bureaucrats

a circle jerk of Republicans

a rim job of Democrats

a drum circle of Green Partiers

a taxi stand of Independents

a ridgeline of Libertarians

a hand job of governors

a blow job of judges

a sucker punch of voters

an ebola scab of lobbyists

a clipboard of coaches

a pharmacopeia of football players

a plug of baseball players

a pancake breakfast of Boy Scouts

a cookie sale of Girl Scouts

a Roman collar of pederasts

a scanty of strippers

a lap dance of Secret Service agents

a shoulder mic of cops

an agony of dentists

a scrub of doctors

a group hug of therapists

a beard of professors

a mendacity of lawyers

a slot of Nevadans

a tree hug of Californians

a handle of Wisconsinites

a pint of Michiganders

a fifth of Yoopers

an accent of Minnesotans

a kindness of Philadelphians

a courtesy of New Yorkers

a traffic jam of New Jerseyites

A Frost of Vermonters

a James of Bostonians

a Joyce of Dubliners

a Yeats of Irishmen

an Allende of Chileans

a perfection of editors

a divinity of writers

Read other very important developments in communications:

Obscene Gesture Benefits Economy

Sociologist Finds Absurdity Has Critical Link in Human Power Dynamics

CEO Apologizes for Extra-Marital Affair She’s About to Have

Parents Use Big Data to Engage More Meaningfully with Children

Stoneslide Media releases new ad to air during Super Bowl

 

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The Stoneslide Story Contest

Open to any kind of story up to 10,000 words in length.

We’re looking for previously unpublished stories that exemplify the power of narrative to make one think and feel. Ideal stories will use character, plot, description, humor, and concept to open new emotional and cognitive territory for readers. The contest is judged by the editors.

Submit your story now.

PRIZES

1st $3,000 + publication

2nd $500 + possible publication*

3rd $250 + possible publication*

Four stories will also be recognized for:
-striking use of wit: $100*
-beguiling character: $100*
-description that makes us think we were really there: $100*
-propulsive plot line and/or scene $100*

*All honorees will be considered for publication in the forthcoming Stoneslide Collection, and/or in The Stoneslide Corrective

DATES

Contest opens Thursday, March 20 (first day of spring)
Entries due by Saturday, June 21 (first day of summer)
Notification made on Tuesday, September 23 (first day of fall)

HOW TO ENTER

What do you have to do? Write a kick-ass story. Pay a $10 entry fee.
Wait for an answer…
Wait…
Get more and more anxious.
Yell at your kids and the dog.
Imagine how good it would feel to win.
Try using the Rejection Generator to calm your nerves.
Rabidly check your email on September 23.

Submit your story now.


More Details

  • All work submitted must be original and never published before.
  • All submissions will be read blind, meaning that the readers and judges will only see the title and body of the story before making a judgment.
  • Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must withdraw a work immediately if it is accepted for publication elsewhere, with no refund of the entry fee.
  • The contest will be judged by the editors of The Stoneslide Corrective.
  • Family members of the editors and editorial staff are ineligible to enter.
  • Up to ten stories may also be designated “honorable mentions.”
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Due to Misunderstanding, Discussion of Housepainting Becomes Most Crowded Event at AWP

More than 3,000 writers showed up to hear a talk given by a professional housepainter and self-published author about how his two worlds overlap. The attendance was greater than that at any other talk at the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which is being held in Seattle this year. AWP officials said they thought the heavy attendance was due to a misunderstanding of the title of the event, which was “Stripping and Writing about Stripping.”

Gene Dyeford, the housepainting author at the center of the brouhaha, said that he just wanted to share some of the writing lessons he’s learned through hard experience, and that he was thrilled that so many of his fellow writers turned out for him. “I chose to talk about stripping, because to me, that’s the key step in both painting and writing—and one that’s often overlooked. You have to put in the hard work to get a clean surface, scrape away the old misbeliefs and doubts, if you want to create something new and beautiful. You see?”

Many would-be attendees couldn’t fit in the small conference room assigned to Dyeford, and at the talk’s start time, a large crowd stood outside the door, craning their bodies and standing on tiptoe trying to look in. A small contingent of recent MFA graduates started chanting, “No strippers, no peace!”

One person who actually made it in the room, current MFA student Luke Allison, seemed grateful for Dyeford’s advice. Says Allison, “I think what he said made sense. But to be honest I kept looking to see if there was a curtain or another door where someone else might come out. Then when I realized it was just this dude, I tried to leave but everyone else was pushing in at the door. Then I kind of gave up and sat back down. But, you know, my mom wants me to paint the rec room this summer, so I learned how to use a drop cloth.”

The organizers of AWP took responsibility. “We should have anticipated that the title of the talk could lead to some confusion and asked the gentleman to change it,” said Cindy D’yermaker, AWP’s associate junior vice president for apologies. “Even though the description of the event clearly stated that Mr. Dyeford was a housepainter and wanted to share his experiences related to that fine profession, we should have known that no one reads past the headline anymore, especially writers.”

Posted in A Life Examined | Comments closed

The Numbers

numbers

  1. Once again, the numbers came in one unit above despair. So we started again.
  2. We were told to follow the data but we weren’t told the numbers were heartless tricksters.
  3. We tried to elicit sympathy from a number once, but much as we sobbed and pleaded, it just lay there bent on its side (it was a five).
  4. We decided numbers don’t understand us, so how could we follow them anymore?
  5. We asked the data to tell us about the stars, and it replied with naked digits. We knew it had gotten something wrong, because the awe was gone.
  6. We looked at the stars ourselves and counting was an act of wonder. We felt like kneeling.
  7. We thought we were free from the numbers, but the hive speaks with numbers. We languished without them. We were too alone.
  8. When we started, we thought each number was fixed, but they float lighter than butterflies outmaneuvering our hands.
  9. We found their refusal to be known made us madder than the cold severity we’d once imagined.
  10. But sometimes when we chased them, we wondered if the numbers thought we teased them by not pinning them down. We just never found a way.
  11. Though we’ve returned, we still feel alone. Those around us believe in the numbers, while we’ve been stabbed by doubt.
Posted in A Life Examined | Comments closed

I hate moderation,

somewhat.

Posted in A Life Examined | Comments closed

Two California Counties Prepare to Designate “Job Creator Lanes” on Highways

Being wealthy can be difficult. Perhaps no one knows that more than job creators, the men and women who supervise people who supervise other people who run companies. Their morning and evening commutes can be brutal. Even with a driver, phone, beverage, and suite of printed and electronic reading material, sitting in traffic has to be irritating for someone as important as a job creator.

The California Department of Transportation and two Silicon Valley counties want to make commutes less traumatic for job creators. Beginning next month, in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County new lane usage will be mandated on Highways 101, 92, 85,  237, and 1, and also Interstates 280, 380, 680, and 880. Only job creators will be allowed to use these lanes. Additionally, lanes on El Camino Real from Sunnyvale to Burlingame’s southern border and from Millbrae through Daly City will be designated for the exclusive use of job creators.

The job creator lanes grew out of an economic analysis of potential improvements to the state’s highway system. A panel of economists scored six different proposals based on how much they would increase economic production in the state. The job creator lanes stood out. The average job creator’s time is worth 17,000 times as much as the average worker’s, so an approach that helps only a few job creators turns out to be more valuable to the economy than one that helps thousands of normal folk. “All men may be created equal, but job creators do a lot more for the economy,” says Hernando Bosch, one of the authors of the study.

Job Creator Lanes will be located in the leftmost portion of roadways. Depending on the road, these lanes will either shift carpool lanes rightward or eliminate them entirely. “We didn’t want to have to wait for the roads to be widened,” says Cal DOT’s Heinrich Febricci. “These job creators should receive this much-deserved benefit sooner, not later. And frankly, the economy needs this boost sooner, not later.”

Regular people who use the lanes will be fined $1,500 for a first offense, and their vehicle will be impounded. Further, they will be charged $100 an hour for every hour the vehicle is held. A regular person caught a second time using a Job Creator Lane faces up to a year of jail time, a fine ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, and vehicle seizure. Fines will be scaled inversely to offenders’ incomes. The lower the person’s income and ability to pay, the higher the fine will be. All fines and fees will go to support an annual summer picnic for job creators, along with an ongoing public awareness program that will relentlessly inform regular people of the contributions job creators make to society. A third violation is considered a capital offense.

Some job creators think this doesn’t go far enough. Winston Beedlekrump is the CEO of Creekside Plastics & Combustibles, a manufacturing company located in Millbrae, California (San Mateo County). He says, “Unless they make it a mandatory death penalty charging, that bleeding heart Kamala Harris, as the A[ttorney] G[eneral], will make sure these jerkoffs don’t get the needle. She’ll lean on the D[istrict] A[ttorney]s, and the bums will sit in some cushy prison for the rest of their lives, watching cable TV I pay for with the $44 of income tax I have to hand over every year. Thank God my company doesn’t pay income tax.”

Beedlekrump adds, “Don’t get me wrong, the highway lanes are a good start, but the people in the other lanes can still look in at you. If these counties really want to make themselves a global capital for job creation, they’ll take up a plan I’ve floated several times to build an elevated roadway just for us. We wouldn’t be limited by existing entrances and exits. We could have a lane that takes you right to Carnival North, or Madera. If they’d really look at my plan, I think it’d blow their minds.”

Sheriff’s deputies, police, and highway patrol officers will be issued readers that register whether or not a vehicle is owned by a job creator. Because it would be an affront to ask job creators to affix government-issued stickers to their vehicles, transmitters will be put in their cars and trucks that will project a hologram with the letters JC visible in bright, golden light.

The process to apply to be recognized as a job creator is straightforward, according to Cal DOT’s Febricci. “Everyone who counts already knows the governor.”

jccarThe determining factor as to whether someone is classified as a job creator isn’t, interestingly enough, the number of jobs a person creates. The measure is a person’s net worth. Febricci explains: “Because job creation is good, and because a person’s level of wealth is the most reliable indicator of inherent goodness, this method makes the most sense. Basically, if your net worth is greater than 100 million dollars, you’re considered a job creator, and you’ll receive this benefit. Some of these people got rich and stay rich by cutting jobs or shipping them elsewhere, so actual ‘job creation’ is not the most useful measure.” The benefits also extend to job creators’ spouses, children and stepchildren of legal driving age, and domestic employees who chauffeur the family around using the family’s vehicles.

The head of the Valley of the Silicons Chamber of Commerce sees the lanes as a mixed blessing. Chamber president Steve Perturbernot says, “Of course I’m in favor of anything that aids job creators. But what about small business owners? I guess I could be convinced that their not being rich enough makes them less deserving. I just wish more businesspeople could be allowed to participate in this excellent idea.”

Environmentalists and clean-air advocates oppose the plan. They say its elimination or impeding of carpool lanes poses problems. Febricci brushes aside their concerns. “Job creators are a heck of a lot more important than the environment and the penny-pinching carpoolers who are so infatuated with it,” he says. “And let’s not forget, people can still carpool. We’re not outlawing it or anything,” he says. “In fact they’ll have to, since gas is so expensive and median income keeps going down.”

Beedlekrump couldn’t agree more. “It’s good to see the government do something right for a change.”

Electrician Ed Bempter, of Fremont, California (Santa Clara County), thinks it’s a bad idea. “I’m on the road all the time. Don’t these super rich people already have enough advantages? Do they really need more?”

Talmudichter A. Jones, a professor of traffic awareness at Ball State University, in Indiana, says he’s studying the situation closely. “This could prove interesting, beyond northern California,” he says. “I hearken back to the Roman roads built in the second century, which were such improvements in their day, but later provided the means for the Goths and Vandals to strike at the heart of the empire. You never know what will come of traffic measures.”

Mega-billionaire Walter Smorgasboard, of Omaha Nebraska, has learned of the plan and says he opposes it. “Wealthy people should be doing more to help America, not harm it. And this is definitely harmful.” He adds that in his view wealthy people who support such high-visibility privileges are thinking too short-term. “Sitting in traffic and watching you zoom by is going to make that ‘average Joe’ blame you. Then he’s just one step away from grabbing a pitchfork in his hairy hand and coming after you. Sure, your car has the bullet-proof security package, but Mr. Joe will certainly scratch the paint. I tell my friends, you don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Febricci doesn’t think the controversy will amount to much. “We have 2.6 million people living in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. You’re bound to have a few bad apples who complain every time there’s progress.”

Applications to be classified as a job creator living in, working in, or commuting through either of the two counties will be accepted beginning next Tuesday.

More developments out of the Bay Area:

University of California’s Standards for Student Athletes Ridiculed in Rival School’s New Recruiting Materials

Utility Executive Demonstrates How Average People Will Suffer if His Company Is Fined

More about wealth in America:

What’s It Worth to Ya?

New Business Helps Wealthy Hold Onto Self-Importance in Modern World

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White House Hires Facebook Programmer to Write Algorithm Improving President’s National Security Feed

Being president is a time suck. Doesn’t matter if you’re the president of Bulgaria, Trader Joe’s, or the United States of America: it’s a hassle.

In a move to save the US president time and increase his efficiency, the White House is using a new (but secure) website that they say revolutionizes how this and future presidents will deal with the intelligence community. Staffers say that the beta rollout alone is cutting President Barack Obama’s time spent dealing with terrorist threats, kill orders, and the like by 20%.

natsecbook

Facebook is notoriously known for gutting users’ newsfeeds of content from their friends and relatives and inserting ads for nearby carwashes, farm implement manufacturers, or other businesses. White House staff are now using a similar algorithm to pick and choose which intelligence reports are displayed to the president based on his previous interests and demographic information. They say this has cut out a lot of “unnecessary claptrap” and allowed him to get to his basketball game 20 to 30 minutes earlier each day.

 “Time he used to spend agonizing over drone attacks (which he always ultimately approved), he now spends shooting hoops or engaging in other healthful activities,” says Marcy Dugan, administrative administrational aide to the president.

Obama says, “I love that this gives me more time for the girls in the morning. Of course, at their ages, they’d rather die than spend time with me so I use the opportunity to play Brick Breaker or GTA: Vice City.”

To critics, aide Dugan says presidents have always received filtered intelligence messages. “No sitting president has ever known about every piece of data every day. To think otherwise is to think like a complete idiot. Just ask the late Lyndon Johnson.”

According to people familiar with the new intelligence system, the president hasn’t been bothered with an update from the Middle East in at least two months. “There’s always something happening there, but really nothing ever changes,” says one West Wing source. “How many presidents have given themselves ulcers hoping for some good news on the Palestine question? That’s not going to happen on my watch.”

While the president remains blissfully unaware on some issues, he can keep an eye on things that matter to him, without it going through the bureaucracy of the President’s Daily Briefing. “About half of his updates have something to do with Uzbekistan. We think it’s because he once clicked on a story about a swimsuit model from there.”

The United States National Transcontinental Chamber of Commerce has expressed great interest in this development. “We think that if the president is going to cut his intelligence briefings, perhaps that time could be filled more productively than with exercise or family time. Perhaps, like with Facebook, this time could be filled with ads, but live ads, presentations from business representatives who have or want to have contracts with the government.” The Chamber goes on to say that they think “the president owes it to the American people to pay greater attention to the needs of business.”

The former Facebook programmer who wrote the algorithm says it can be expanded to free up more of the president’s time. “I can make this thing cut his domestic policy briefings, too. Anything, really. From the environment to unemployment, I can make it so he doesn’t really have to be informed about anything that’s dull or annoying. Congress would be out of the picture entirely. This could be a great efficiency booster. Bush II would have loved this.”

Mortimer Fuckledunch, a Tea Party member and Republican from California, calls this a great development. “Normally, I hate every single thing Barack Hussein Obama has done, including being born. But this here’s a good idea. Anything to increase efficiency. And if they do the ads thing, to let businesses not be trampled on, even better. As long as the money stays in the private sector.”

The former Facebook programmer says his next assignment is to eliminate all presidential cogitation surrounding the upcoming White House Easter egg hunt.

More articles on governance and innovation:

Fast Food Trade Group Wins Over American Taxpayers

Gamblers Predict Martial Law Coming to Chicago; Hedge Funds Bet on Nationwide Infrastructure Disaster

Utility Executive Demonstrates How Average People Will Suffer if His Company Is Fined

 

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The Stoneslide Corrective Valentine’s Day Beauty Lighting — From Camhag to Camgirl

by Erica Gingerich

It was a Skype call last week that made me realize why there are almost no old people in movies or TV shows about the future. Why? Because as we all learned as kids from The Jetsons, in the future, everyone would be using video phones, Casio watches, and G-type-main-sequence-star-solar-powered Jumbotrons to communicate across the vastness of outer space.

And let’s just be brutally honest here, shall we? Nobody over the age of about 12 besides Captain Jean-Luc Picard looks good on those big viewscreens they like to use on Starfleet control bridges. Nobody. Not in movies about the future, and not in our video-conferencing, webchatting present.

Whether it be FaceTime, Skype or Chatroulette, by the time you’ve reached 30 at the very latest, it’s near impossible to mask the damage wrought by that bottle of Malbec you killed all by yourself and chased with two double whiskeys the previous evening. There’s apparently an East Coast plastic surgeon these days specializing in “FaceTime Facelifts” to help freshen up “mature” faces so they’re webcam-ready and palatable to all those tween digital natives who think wrinkles, nose hair, and, like, full-time jobs are groooossss! But who has time between webchats for plastic surgery, right?

Okay: so back to that shocking Skype call last week. It was with a fresh-faced, zaftig 20-something HR person who was calling me about an opening at her company. She was a pleasant-albeit-rather-average-looking girl, but she had youth on her side. I didn’t. Her cheeks were full and rosy—in the little video thumbnail of myself at the corner of the screen, my cheekbones loomed sharp and harsh. She leaned into the camera (a-ha, so that’s what Sheryl Sandberg really meant?). I leaned back as far as I could. I leaned left. I leaned right. I did the hokey pokey and I turned myself around in the swivel chair. I turned the desk lamp on. I turned it off. I lowered my office chair. Then I raised it again. Nothing helped.

In that little thumbnail of myself, I swear I was the spitting image of Ricardo Montalbán in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. And with great chagrin, I realized that if I were in a movie about the future, I’d already be dead. Either “retired” by an android-assassinating cop played by Harrison Ford, or “renewed” in a “Carrousel ceremony” that looked like the ultimate bad LSD trip.

Or I’d be playing the part of the old black lady oracle character from the “Matrix.”

Sure—Khaaaaaan exuded a menacing, ageless sort of intergalactic Latino sexuality in that tight-fitting, futuristic Jazzercise bodysuit of his that played up all that great man cleavage he had going on. And that, like, totally awesome! 1982-post-punk spiky coif he sported in the movie—the one that looked like Barry Manilow’s and Billy Idol’s hairdos had danced the merengue and cha cha with themselves and made a lovechild? It was a modified shag meant to evoke a sort of macho, youthful insouciance. Even after all the battle scenes, exploding dilithium crystals, space junk schrapnel, and hand-to-hand combat with Kirk, there was not a hair out of place on Khan’s luxuriant, Rogaine-worthy mane.

At age 62, “Mr. Roarke” was still undoubtedly one of the most handsome and virile men to have ever graced the silver screen. Or planet Earth, for that matter.

But every time he appeared on the USS Enterprise’s big flat-screen monitor—the kind you could get for a few hundred bucks at Best Buy nowadays—and threatened Kirk and his crew with total annihilation, you couldn’t help but notice that he had wrinkles beneath that cosmic-ray-induced permatan of his. He EVEN had décolleté wrinkles, like the rich bitches of a certain age sunbathing on the French Riviera with their hunky Balkan boys. Khan may have been a “genetically superior tyrant,” but he nevertheless could have done with some Botox and Restylane fillers to plump out those “11s” frownies and gaunt, geriatric cheeks of his.

So as I was having my own “Wrath of Khan” webcam moment last week, I realized that it was time to take control of the situation. If I already look this old and wrinkled now on webchats at the tender age of 40-something, I can only shudder to think of just how off-putting I’ll be to younger chat partners someday when Verizon starts offering holocalls in 2035.

“Hey, grandson, does this hologram make me look fat?”

So just in time for Valentine’s Day 2014, The Stoneslide Corrective has launched the Internet Beauty (lighting) Initiative. St. Valentine, are you listening? We’re ready for our close-ups!

The SC Internet Beauty Initiative is for people over 30 who have been too scared ’til now to turn on their webcams when they Skype. Or as Barbra Streisand sang, it’s for people who love people over 30, but just don’t want to have to suffer the eyestrain of all the wrinkles and accelerated decrepitude when they do a quick Facetime call with an older loved one.

How to solve the problem? Sure, there are fancy smartphone apps like Chromic that allow you to add funky filters when you take videos or pix with your smartphone. And we’re sure there are apps out there somewhere—or in development somewhere—that will allow webchatters to alter their appearance for the better in real time. Maybe they give you Miley Cyrus’ peachy complexion with Beyonce’s bodacious butt and Marilyn’s sly smile.

We’re also anxiously awaiting the app version of those 1980s shopping mall “Glam Shot” studios that would give you wind-machine tresses and the glow of a gazillion jean jacket rhinestones illuminating your face.

But for the rest of us old farts who have finally ditched our dumbphones—well, to put it delicately—HOW much time do we really have to wait around for these technological advances before we shuffle off this mortal coil? I mean—we’re over 30. Knocking on death’s door. We need something that we can use NOW. Today.

That’s why the SC Internet Beauty team is reviving a then-state-of-the-art technology from the 1970s, and transforming it into a bold new design idea for electronics that Steve Jobs definitely definitely definitely should have thought of when he made the first iPhone, but didn’t.

Remember those makeup cases you could get at JCPenny’s or Woolworth’s that came with the pop-up makeup mirrors with lights? Back in the glory days of disco and women’s lib, those mirrors had three settings you could imagine Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda using to get ready for work at 8:15 a.m. in the movie 9 to 5. Three settings that said it all about a modern woman’s life and beauty needs in 1979: natural daylight, office fluorescent, evening.

We seem to remember that they even made a special Bianca Jagger Studio 54 version with settings for:

  • sunrise
  • film set / model agency atelier
  • first class 747 cabin
  • sundowners / sunset
  • and disco

As a girl, I was fascinated with my mom’s beauty-light makeup mirror. My sister and I would sit in front of it for hours (or until the batteries ran out) and shuttle as fast as we could between the different settings. Bright white. Blue white. Soft amber gold. Our little smooth-skinned, unwrinkled eight-year-old selves were too naïve to comprehend why anyone would care about what they looked like in natural daylight. And we certainly didn’t understand why anyone would need to put on makeup in the evening, when she was going to sleep.

But that was then, and this is now. Apple and Samsung, Microsoft and Asus? You listening? Women make, what? like 80 percent of the purchasing decisions on electronics, digital devices, major appliances, and cars? So start making female-friendly equipment! Make me a laptop, tablet, or smartphone that’s got beauty lighting built right into the case. With light settings that have been updated and specifically tailored to the lifestyle of today’s modern woman: Post-Cabernet-binge apricot; Bikram-yoga glow; boardroom beige; first-sip-of-latte foam; subway drizzle.

I personally don’t care about getting the latest netbook or laptop or tablet that’s ever thinner and lighter. Actually, most women don’t, because we’re smart enough to convince men to carry all of our shit for us. We could still be lugging around old Commodore 64 consoles in our handbags and you men would offer to schlepp them for us just to get laid. Give me a laptop with beauty lighting so that I’ll look great on Skype, and throw in a drawer next to the DVD drive for my makeup brushes and tampons, and an extra USB port for my e-curling iron while you’re at it.

But until the day the Samsung Stepford 1 with beauty lighting comes onto the market, the best present you can get for that special 30-plus woman in your life this Valentine’s Day is a bouquet of GE or Sylvania soft-pink, 40-watt incandescent bulbs. Forget the roses and chocolates. These little pink beauties are the gift that keeps giving. We know they’re getting harder to find now that all those commie socialist liberals in California and New York have pushed for bans on “dirty bulbs.”

But it’s not a Luddite recalcitrance and resistance to LED and fluorescent lights that has us hoarding the last incandescent light bulbs being produced by mankind before production stops forever. In a modern economy where all of us will be working until we’re at least 75, ensuring that we’re enveloped in a soft-pink incandescent glow at all times well into the 2040s and 2050s is also good for our financial bottom line, too.

For those of you romantics out there who will be without power this Valentine’s Day as the next polar vortex rips through your particular part of the country, you can forego the light bulbs altogether and just bring home a bouquet of long-stemmed taper candles. Because if your smartphone or laptop still has enough juice left to allow you to webchat at all this Valentine’s Day, do it—just imagine how great you’re gonna look in the soft flicker of candlelight.

Read Erica Gingerich’s bio.

See life-improving devices designed by The Stoneslide Corrective.

SnoopBuster

Rudolph the Red-Cheeked Sobriety Buddy

Hitcoin!

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How America’s Heroic Celebrities Can End Inequality

President Obama has been hopping up and down at his bully pulpit decrying the growing levels of inequality in our country. He says he wants to fix this cancer eating at the core of our society with a few tax incentives or some such over-the-counter-strength remedy. And even that has no chance of getting through Congress, which is constitutionally disposed against anything that can be called a remedy.

Many in the punditocracy say it’s hopeless. They sigh and imply that we will all just have to live with inequality (fortunately, they just happen to be on the fat end of the equation). But they are missing something so obvious that we start to wonder if they all have logs in their eyes.

It is particularly disappointing that President Obama, who probably does care about the issue, has missed this obvious solution. His enemies on the right would say he’s spending too much time hobnobbing with celebrities to do anything useful, but it’s precisely because he’s been hobnobbing with celebrities that he really ought to have seen this solution.

What is the problem with inequality? In essence it means that a few people have way more of the stuff everyone wants than most people can get. In the United States, the richest 0.1% now have so much of this stuff that they can build towers with it, dive and swim in it, and use it to perform personal ablutions, all while the poorest go cold and hungry for want of it.

Well, fixing that is hard. Because the rich have the money, they have the power, and you can’t just take it away without a fight. But what if we simply created a new kind of thing that everyone would want and gave it only to the people at the bottom of the income distribution? Then they have something that the rich want but can’t have. We can re-balance society without having to rework the economic system or fight against entrenched interests.

Here’s how it works.

Everybody loves celebrities. Everybody wants to see them sing, or dance, or act, or do other things that someone has clandestinely recorded and uploaded to the internet. Their fame sometimes seems like a lustrous, golden oil that they bathe in. Others want desperately to feel the touch of that oil.

Well, imagine if celebrities banded together to create a new class of entertainments that would be available exclusively to those in the bottom incomedressingroom2 brackets. A concert series, a new hot TV show, something else. The exact form doesn’t matter; it is a venue for allowing normal people once-in-a-lifetime access to our demigod stars. All the tickets are given away free and only to the poor.

Now we have a decision to make. Are these entertainments exclusively for the poor, meaning that tickets are non-transferable, or can they sell their tickets for a quick profit? If we allow them to sell their tickets, we know what will happen. The rich will pay out a comparatively small amount of their money and end up with all the tickets and nearly all the money. The point of our plan is to create an alternate source of value available only to the poor, and so we have to make tickets, or access in whatever form it takes, non-transferrable.

This is where the real genius of the plan kicks in. You see, the involvement of top celebrities will make our entertainments irresistibly desirable. Imagine if I told you that right now in a theatre downtown, your favorite stars were luxuriating and displaying themselves in ways they never have before? What if I said that some class of people is allowed to go in and see, but you are not?

The rich hate it when they can’t have something. That’s why they’ve done everything they’ve done—worked hard, slept with whatever unsavory types was necessary, sold out whomever they had to—to never be told, no you can’t have this. The ability to wave their hands and acquire things that others long for is precisely what makes them rich, and being rich is what makes them feel worthwhile.

So being locked out of these new shows will drive the rich a little berserk. They’ll spend their free moments—whether sitting in the backseat of a Mercedes or waiting for a companion at Le Cirque—dreaming about what they must be missing out on. They’ll turn over ideas and schemes about how to get it. They’ll talk amongst themselves about what they don’t and can’t have. The tables will be effectively turned, the rich longing for what the poor have, and the poor of course still longing for mansions, jets, etc.

This is a new form of equality, in which both sides crave what the other has.

Now this whole plan relies on celebrities using their power for good. You may wonder if they’ll really follow through. The celebrities who participate will, of course, lose out on a little time and potential income. However, this will be more than made up for by the salve such performance provides for their liberal consciences. Also, the knowledge that they are, by the power of their talent and fame, remaking American society for the better will appropriately bolster their egos. If President Obama really wants to fight inequality, he will explain this to some of his Hollywood pals and make them feel like the saviors of society that they could be and always have known they were in their hearts.

More articles on society and governance:

Government Support for a New Small Firearms Industry

Take Your Lazy-Ass Son to Work Day

Sociologist Finds Absurdity Has Critical Role in Human Power Dynamics

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Utility Company Outsources Safety Inspections

CEO dismisses criticism as “class warfare”

A California power company is shutting down all safety checks. The utility says teams from an out-of-state corporation can perform the inspections at a lower cost. Tohd Power & Light, headquartered in New Moldova, California, is slashing jobs and tightening its corporate belt in order to boost profits. In 2013, Tohd P&L earned $1.7 billion on revenues of $16.4 billion. That’s a downtick in profits of 6% from 2012. CEO Danvorious Tohd says he expects profits to climb by at least 15% in 2014.

Tohd P&L has contracted with a Nevada company, DarnGood Inspectin’ Inc, to check its natural gas pipes, electrical lines, warehouses, physical plants, and all other infrastructure.

In recent years, Tohd P&L has eliminated its vehicle maintenance department, its cafeteria workers, most of its administrative aide pool, most of itstohdmanor accounting pool, and all of its janitors. These functions are now contracted out to other companies, or to individuals who work as independent contractors.

Tohd says, “Now, as we jettison this final peripheral function, safety inspections, all we do is deliver gas and electricity. We can focus on what we do best, which is buy low, sell high.”

Tohd responded to criticism that this latest cut could lead to lowered safety standards and increased risk for people who live near power plants and major gas lines. Most such facilities are strategically located in working class communities, Tohd explained, so the danger is well contained. Mr. Tohd says that as CEO his most important duty is to maximize returns for shareholders. “If you’re not rich and getting richer, what’s the point in living?” he asks.

Tohd goes on to say, “That Tom Peters gentleman, the venture capitalist who finally told the truth about all these scumbag 98 percenters, he’s on to something. I feel like people are vilifying me all the time.”

Tohd provides an example of this vilification: “Look at our Community Responsiveness Board. Whenever you see that mentioned in the paper, do they talk about what a great job it’s doing or how its members are spending hours each year thinking about how our activities might affect normal people? No, they just write about how everyone on the board is either my family member or a lawyer working for my family trust. Do you see how mean-spirited that is? They’re implying that my family doesn’t care about anything but themselves. That’s the kind of attack we rich folk have to live with every single day.”

Tohd further points out that this sort of “class warfare” is entirely unidirectional. He and his ilk absorb the blows without retaliating. “It’s one of the burdens of wealth,” he says. “I could cut off electricity for everyone who complains about this mythical ‘safety problem.’ We know who they are. We track all that social media stuff against our records. But do we do it? No. Sure, one time I gave the go-ahead, but I was just mad that the Warriors lost and I called it off the next morning.”

Tohd says he’s “sick and tired of the middle class complaining about ‘oh, the rates are too high,’ or ‘oh, how will my kids eat?’ If you were a good parent—and a good person—you would be wealthy, instead of middle class, and you wouldn’t have these mundane concerns. If you think about it, the middle class are childish, always complaining. People worry about the demise of the middle class, but I say, if they’re going to be such whiners, good riddance! The middle class can’t be choked out soon enough, in my opinion.”

When it’s shown that “choking out” the middle class simply means there will be greater and greater numbers of poor people, whom he seems to hate even more than the middle class, Tohd says that poses no problem. “Yes, I hate the poor. Who in his right mind doesn’t? But at least they’re easier to control.”

Tohd says one of the things he finds most distasteful about the middle class and the poor are their tacit demands “to be treated with respect, even reverence. If you’re rich, you constantly have to attest to the ‘greatness’ of the middle class and the ‘nobility’ of the poor. It’s sickening. But all rich people have to do it. I swear to God, the only thing more repulsive than the middle class and the poor is kowtowing to the middle class and the poor.”

Tohd Power & Light is known for innovative strategies and tactics to ratchet profits skyward. Several months ago, CEO Dan Tohd convinced California residents, lawmakers, and regulators that fining the company after it was caught intentionally overcharging customers would be “a mistake, because fining businesses kills jobs.”

Tohd Power & Light closed at $66.45 per share yesterday, a gain of $0.75.

More from the worlds of business and finance:

New Company Helps Wealthy Hold Onto Self-Importance in Modern World

Gamblers Foresee Martial Law in Chicago

CEO Apologizes for Extramarital Affair She’s About to Have

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The Saddest Reddit AMA Ever

brandguy08:
I’m an entrepreneur and an expert in consumer brands. AMA

brandguy08:
Okay let’s get started…ama

brandguy08:
Any questions?

brandguy08:
I’m here for the next hour…

EagleEyeMama:
What makes you an expert? Can you tell us what you’ve done?

brandguy08:
I’m anonymous here, so I can’t be specific, but I’ve dealt with lots of big brands—Fritos, Sony, others.

EagleEyeMama:
You mean you eat chips while you watch TV?

brandguy08:
No, I’m an observer. A cultural critic. And a savvy brand advisor.

EagleEyeMama:
So, your friends ask you what you think before they buy a new phone…

brandguy08:
Yes. Yes, they do, because they respect my opinion and my judgment. Lots of people have told me they’re glad they listened to me. And not just about phones, lots of things. Like restaurants. Do YOU know how to tell if a Chipotles is well run? I can tell you. The food’s not the same at all of them.

EagleEyeMama:
Does it make you feel important to act like a big shot? Anyone could say they like Fritos.

brandguy08:
I’ve been studying this for years. This is what I do. And Fritos is an undervalued brand. A lot of people don’t get that.

EagleEyeMama:
Studying? Did you finish college or did you leave when you were just three classes short of a degree because of some girl in Pennsylvania? If the latter, do you regret not listening to your mother who said you’d end up a jobless bum if you didn’t finish—and now look at you?

brandguy08:
Hi, Mom.

brandguy08:
Anyone else? Anyone?

EagleEyeMama:
Have you considered getting a job?

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Volunteerism:

a way for meaningless people to find meaning.

Posted in The Cynic's Notebook | Comments closed

Volunteerism:

a way for useless people to be useful.

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Volunteerism:

a means to an end whose result is the volunteer’s conceitedness, appropriately suppressed.

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Volunteerism:

another means for pissing off Ayn Rand lovers.

Posted in The Cynic's Notebook | Comments closed

Volunteerism:

just another way of saying voluntarism.

Posted in The Cynic's Notebook | Comments closed

Volunteerism:

a means for liberals to do what conservatives preach.

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Volunteerism:

earn your way to Heaven with one Saturday a month.

Posted in The Cynic's Notebook | Comments closed

Volunteerism:

absolution for the non-religious.

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Volunteerism:

if everyone did it, no one would have to do it.

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Volunteerism:

confuse your parents and their bridge partners.

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