Stoneslide Media Releases Second Super Bowl Ad, aka Ad II

Stoneslide Media will again inject a moment of reflection into the great American ritual of hedonism called the Super Bowl by airing an ad touting the virtues of the written word.

Stoneslide’s Sylvester Stonesman said, “We hope to spread appreciation for the written word at a moment when people aren’t thinking about reading much, other than, say, reading the names on various chip bags. And even then you recognize them more by the logos and the colors, don’t you? It’s true NBC claims they lost our check, and so the ad won’t be on the main broadcast, but I’m going to a Super Bowl party, and I’m going to bring my iPad and show it to everyone there, at least.”

If you believe in the written word, consider backing our Kickstarter campaign and getting a copy of our new print magazine, which happens to include many lovely words.

Stoneslide Corrective Launches Kickstarter Campaign by Thanking People before They Contribute

Online literary magazine The Stoneslide Corrective has again turned things upside down. First, we created The Rejection Generator, a tool to help writers build rejection immunity by experiencing soul-lashing rejection without ever submitting work. Now, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to help print a new paper-based magazine. But instead of waiting for people to back the effort, we are preemptively thanking anyone who even thinks about doing so.

This “Kickstarter Thank You Generator” is believed to be the first mechanism for rewarding good intentions alone, or even the mere consideration of maybe having good intentions at some point conveniently in the future. As such, it is a rebuke to the cold, quid pro quo logic of gratitude.

The new print magazine motivating all this thanking is called The Stoneslide Corrective No. 1, and will include moving fiction, refreshing satire, and spots of pure zaniness. It will reach high enough to tickle the winged thoughts of a philosopher and low enough to stroke the feet of a giggly toddler. It will include contributions from great writers, like Mark Wisniewski, Douglas W. Milliken, Jude Polotan, Sati Melendez, Libby Cudmore, Will Mayer, Ellen Larson, and Kiik A.K.

Now, our Kickstarter campaign is already backed to the tune of $6,300 (as of 10 a.m. Pacific, Tuesday, January 27), but we’d like your help, too, if you haven’t pitched in yet. If you donate, you’re in line to receive a selection of thank you gifts. To learn more, and to be able to make a donation, simply go to our Kickstarter Page.

We hope you can help.

Oh, and here’s where you can find the Thank You Generator.

Facebook Posts We’ll Never See, Because People Aren’t Honest Enough

realfbposts21) I’m very emotionally needy. Like, very, very. And as with so many emotionally needy people, I’m secretly an emotional bully. (I’m not a physical bully, because I’m such a twerp, but wow, emotionally I’m a big strapping he-man/warrior princess bully. Big time.) Share if you’re basically a piece of shit emotional bully who needs constant affirmation and coddling, too!

2) I’m clinging desperately to the image of myself that I had in my twenties. I’m so worried people who see me don’t think I’m sexy anymore that I spend hours every day trying to take selfies where I look young and hot. I’ve found I need just the right light and angle. And if I hold my shoulders back as far as they go and jut my head forward, the skin under my neck doesn’t look wrinkled. I order fancy cocktails just to hold them up to the camera; I can’t really tolerate much alcohol anymore. But I’m worried. I’m living a Dorian Gray thing where my pictures on Facebook are staying young, and I’m afraid to see what’s really happening to my body. Share if you’re a total fake, too!

3) I love the environment. I really, really love the environment. You know this from all the heartbreaking pictures and articles I post about how our wretched species is about to kill its own mother, Mother Earth. It makes me so furious. We have to do something! But I’m paralyzed with fear when I think about walking out my door. I find getting really upset and angry at the polluters and the people who don’t care helps me forget how I nearly wet myself when I imagine setting foot on a Greenpeace cutter. Who else is terrified of doing what they know is right?

4) I only post to Facebook when I’m drunk. I post a lot.

5) I post so many pictures of cute kittens because my ex-girlfriend Amy loves kittens. Every now and then, maybe one time in 20, she’ll like one of the pictures, and I feel like maybe I have a chance of winning her back. It lasts a second, but that’s the best I ever feel.

6) When I was a junior in college I got knocked out of bounds into the water coolers and up over into the stands and somehow I got spooked. After 15 more downs, I never played another snap of Division II football, or any kind of football, again. I think deep inside I’m still trying to deny that that ever happened. Think of that when you see all my posts about little Gunnar and Megan killing it at soccer.

7) People used to tell me I was smart. Teachers praised me and gave me good grades. The people at my first job all acted so impressed when they heard where I went to college. But being smart is hard work, and I’ve gotten too tired to go on doing it. Fortunately, people are always posting clever things here on Facebook, like this placard that says, “OUR DAUGHTERS MAKE THE FUTURE POSSIBLE. SHARE IF YOU HAVE A DAUGHTER YOU LOVE.” This is so much easier than thinking.

8) I’ve given up on getting people to like ME. All I want is for you to like this post. Please. Can’t you even do that for me?

9) I’m sitting here waiting, waiting. I have 463 friends. One of you must be doing something interesting right now. Come on, people! How can 463 of you not have any new anecdotes or pictures or check-ins? I’m waiting. If something doesn’t come up soon, I might have to turn around and look at the disaster of my own life or read the newspaper and have my mind slashed by all the disasters there. I’m still waiting.

Political Innumeracy Compromises Voting Decisions

by Sam Holloway

The bipartisan hold on the overwhelming majority of our nation’s elected offices may be linked to a previously unrecognized cognitive disorder, according to results of a recent university study.

Sociology doctoral candidate Karl Müdjen of Gulf Isthmus University announced the findings at a press conference yesterday in front of the university’s crumbling Social Sciences Hall.

Through a series of controlled studies, Müdjen and colleagues established that in a voting context, many Americans lose the ability to count past three. The findings may help explain features of American politics that scholars have long found puzzling. Müdjen explained, “It’s not only the dominance of the two parties, despite their logical inconsistencies and moral bankruptcy, it’s why policy discussion is so limited and alternatives are shot down so quickly.

“We have Democratic voters who claim to want peace, and then elect—and re-elect—a president who regularly slaughters civilians with drone strikes,” added Müdjen. “We have Republican voters who say it’s all about individual freedoms, but vote for politicians who attack the freedoms of large numbers of their fellow citizens. Yet, we see very little challenge to the two parties.” The research originated when Müdjen noticed that online commenters who raise these kinds of inconsistencies or point to possible policies outside the platforms of the two major parties are quickly dismissed as “promoting a third party.” The use of this term intrigued him.

Müdjen and his team staged a mock election, complete with mock exit poll, using a representative sample of moderate to left-leaning voters, monitoring each participant with an electroencephalograph (EEG).

Of the 113 subjects involved, 110 were registered Democrats, two were Greens, and one was an unaligned Marxist-Leninist. The ballots listed only the presidential candidates from the 2012 national general election. Predictably, the Democrats and Greens voted along party lines, while the Marxist-Leninist crumpled the ballot and walked out, saying “[Expletive] this [expletive].” What intrigued the study team, however, was the results from the EEG.

Junior psychology major Albert Loft handled polling and the EEG monitoring. “Like, 88% of the Dems had like close to zero activity in their, you know, parietal and frontal lobes. In every one of them, though, the cerebellum—especially, like, the amygdala and the hippocampus—was lit up like a Burning Man.”

“You should’ve seen the liberals’ amygdalas explode when I asked them about Nader in 2000,” said Loft, with a laugh. “But that was Karl’s idea. I have no idea what the question meant, but it was cool.”

The other exit poll question got to the point of what had initially piqued Müdjen’s interest.

“We asked all of them if they had ever voted ‘third party,’” he said.

All but three of the Democrats said ‘no,’ and both Greens disputed the question. “One of the Greens, she goes, ‘that doesn’t make sense. There are more than three parties out there,’” reported Loft, with a low chuckle.

During that portion of the questioning, the brain readings of nearly all the Democrats decreased significantly. “It was like everything but the reptile brain shut down,” said Loft.

Once Müdjen noticed this trend, he added another element to the study. He called back the participants the next week, and had them step into the mock voting booth again.

“I put in a different ballot, one with a Democrat and a Republican at the top, and then a Green, a Libertarian, and two other parties,” he said. “Instead of voting, I asked each subject to count the parties out loud using ordinal numbers.”

Every Democratic voter began by identifying the Democrat as ‘first’ and the Republican as ‘second.’ Starting with the Green candidate, however, every other candidate was announced as ‘third.’ Müdjen repeated the entire process twice, and the results were identical.

“After the elections I had each one of them count ten marbles the same way, and they had no problem naming ‘first, second, third, fourth, fifth,’ and so on,” he added.

There was enough left in the budget to repeat the counting experiment with a control group made up of eighty different Democrats and two Greens, and the results were the same.

“It seems that when their minds are fixated on voting, self-identified Democrats have trouble processing ordinal numbers. Everything after ‘second’ becomes fused into a single entity, without significant differentiation,” said Müdjen. “Given the data we’ve accumulated, I think it’s safe to call this pathological.”

Müdjen speculates that this inability to count is caused by a wider shutdown of critical reasoning functions when otherwise thoughtful and intelligent Americans think about electoral politics. “The shutdown of broader analytical thinking is necessary for the individual to associate with such a fundamentally rancid thing, in this case the Democratic Party, without suffering horrific shame and guilt,” explained Müdjen. He plans future research to explore how this phenomenon affects policy preferences.

 

Read Sam Holloway’s bio.

More on governance and politics:

Producers of Summer Blockbusters to Sell Ideology Placements

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

Investigation Reveals Chicago Mayor May Be Kleptomaniac

More Sayings of Joanna M., a Kept Woman

-Good god, they walk their own dog.

-Good god, they do their own yard work.

-Good god, they installed a TV themselves.

-Good god, they cleaned their own gutters.

-Good god, they pruned that tree themselves.

-Good god, he changes the oil in their cars himself.

-Good god, they clean house themselves.

More Sayings of Joanna M., a Kept Woman

-I think he continues to take delivery of a physical newspaper  only so he doesn’t have to talk to me during meals.

-If it doesn’t have a helipad, is it really a yacht?

-If the pebbles up the drive aren’t rounded river rock, is it really someplace you’d want to party?

-If you have to fly first class instead of a private charter, why not just stay home?

-If you can’t get to Milan once or twice a year to buy decent shoes, why bother wearing any?

Most Read Stories of 2014—Fiction

We’re deeply proud of every work we published in the last year.

Don’t Ball the Boss
By Sara Dobie Bauer
A friend called a week ago and asked if I was looking for work. In Hollywood, we’re always looking for work. I’m a personal assistant to the stars, and I’m real good—like Meryl Streep at Oscar time good. They say I’m discreet and subservient; stars like that.

So my pal calls up and tells me there’s this up and coming British star on his way over for a movie premiere. The film is huge, the kind that makes back its budget in a night, and this Brit plays the bad guy. He’s never been to Hollywood. He needs someone who knows the right barbers, tailors, call girls …

That’s where I come in: David Baron, assistant to the stars.

The First to Cross the Bridge
By Chloe N. Clark
One morning I’m sitting in the booth at my favorite café; it’s my favorite because no one ever notices me there and I can sip my coffee for hours and hours. There is a woman at the counter; she’s talking to the waiter about a dream she had. I usually hate to hear people’s dreams because they aren’t meant for me, but this woman has a beautiful voice. It is how a bell ringing in some temple on a mountain would sound, if you were climbing toward the temple and knew it was still a long way off. In the dream she was a shark in the ocean. She was always swimming to stay alive; swimming just to keep breathing. One day she comes across a shipwreck, there is a man tied to the mast of the ship and he is drowning. So, the shark woman swims up to him and bites the ropes. His body spins up to the surface and he gasps for air. He makes it back to land and tells everyone that a shark saved him. She just keeps swimming.

How to Murder Your Friends
By Libby Cudmore
Smother me with a pillow in my sleep, Reese says.

Reese’s blinds are broken and his apartment is too cold. We’re out of beer and it’s twenty past midnight and we’re trying to figure out how we’d kill each other if such an occasion arose. It’s not a suicide pact, just a way to determine the depth of our friendship. Murder is so personal; you don’t know how much someone really loves you until they’ve admitted how they would end your life.

Murdering Reese would involve something sweet, something more gentle than leaving him flailing for his last breaths. Antifreeze, I say. In your Diet Coke. You’ll hardly notice the taste.

Iceman
By Neil Mathison
My son plans a violent act. My girlfriend says she’s thinking of moving out, at least until my son’s attitude improves, and if Heidi suspects violence, something more than a fifteen-year-old’s petulance, I know she’ll leave.

Last August, when Jacob’s mother sent him here, to this Idaho ski town where she birthed him, she declared he needed a change of scene. In new snow, Rachel said, a sapling breathes. Such koan-like utterances pepper Rachel’s speech, leftovers from when she studied to become a Buddhist nun, although in this, as in motherhood, Rachel only half-completed the job. Though what Rachel half-completed, I never began. I intend to make amends.

Plunge
By Joe Ponepinto
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.

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?
By Christopher Wachlin
Beneath a moon sliced cleanly in half, Jason reread the note—his suicide note—and then crumpled it up. He stepped off the sidewalk into the gutter and squatted on his haunches. He pushed the note through a sewer grate. The note fell, but got caught in the spiky branches of a seedling growing sideways out of a crack. He found a stick and knocked the note free and it fell again, all the way. Now it would end up in San Francisco Bay, where he hoped to end up. He stood. He pushed his shoulder-length hair behind his ears. He looked skyward, at the halved moon, at the stars, and, across the bay from where he stood in Berkeley, the twinkly San Francisco skyline.

Recipe for Fidelity
By Tracy Elin
Tanya met the hussy when she picked up Gary for Thursday choir rehearsal. But she came up with her plot a few hours later, as she snapped long strands of spaghetti to fit in their little pot, crumbled ground turkey into bits, and chopped through a fleshy green pepper.

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.

Our Father
By Chelsea Clammer
He’s not the TV character Jim Bob on The Waltons.

He’s not the musician Jim Bob Morrison.

He’s not Jim Bob Cooter—the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos.

No, this Jim Bob is a family man—a (good) husband, father, servant of God. This Jim Bob’s specialty is not in entertainment or professional sports, though he is a coordinator. He has to be. Jim Bob’s the father of nineteen children. Nineteen. As of October 2013, he’s aiming for twenty. That’s a lot of coordinating. CEO of the family. Nineteen names to remember.

Poptimistic
By Douglas W. Milliken
It took less than six months for my luck to run out and like a worm under a rock, I was found. Joel. That big brutal fuck. Quite likely the last person I wanted to see. With his fallen prince face and mouth like an open sewer. A smoldering ghost of ruin and violence. Joel and I’d had good times and bad times but our friendship kind of petered off when he went to jail for hassling some young girls, an event that I’d heard he blamed me for on account of I was there when it started and was in a unique position to stop it or join in and instead chose to walk away. Apparently he thought I ought to’ve gone to jail, too. He’s probably right.

Stoneslide Gift Assist: Little Elf Utility Blade

Have you ever tried to open a Barbie Tawny Horse and Pony Play Set? Chances are if you’ve started in on such an endeavor, you’re actually still engaged in it at this moment. The total time required to unfold, cut, hack, twist, and untie all of the rubber bands, twist ties, and baling wire used to secure the toy in its packaging is just about an hour less than the lifespan of the average American male, and roughly nine years greater than that of the average Belarusian or Nepalese.

Stoneslide Giftworks today released a device that brought that opening time down to a mean of 42 seconds in laboratory trials.

The Little Elf Utility Blade includes everything you need to open modern toy packaging in a snap, such as a butane blow torch, a 400 watt CO2 laser, and cemented carbide cutting edges, as well as reserves of hydrochloric acid and TNT explosive.

elfblade

Available to American consumers for the first time, the Little Elf Utility Blade has already become a hit in Peru and Italy. The Little Elf can also be used to slice fruitcakes.

Not intended for use by children under 12. Stoneslide Giftworks cannot be held liable for any damage to toys or injury caused by use of this product. Always read all safety warnings before using product, especially the one about maintaining a distance of 15 yards from the product when in use.

More gift assists from Stoneslide (just in time for the holidays):

Stoneslide Gift Assist: SnoopBuster

Stoneslide Gift Assist: For the Couple that Can’t Agree on the Holidays

Stoneslide Gift Assist: Rudolph the Red-Cheeked Sobriety Buddy

Most Read Stories of 2014—Humor

Research shows wide gap in incomes and happiness of fans of the band The Replacements compared to fans of the band R.E.M.
A classic that launched on the first day Stoneslide went live and continues to delight readers.

chillSociologist Finds Absurdity Has Critical Role in Human Power Dynamics
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve always known this deep in your soul. But this story will help you laugh at the bleak reality.

Obscene Gesture Benefits Economy
Who knew that the simple act of raising a single digit could do so much good in the world? How does it work? Think efficiency.

Organizers Hope Take Your Lazy-Ass Son to Work Day Sees More Participation
If this new holiday takes hold, layabouts from coast to coast will learn that it doesn’t kill them to come within spitting distance of actual labor.

hlThe Devil Reads the Hobby Lobby Decision and Has Some Questions for Justice Samuel Alito
The Supreme Court holding that corporations have religious rights confused many, but none more than Satan, who now has to clean up the mess.

PTA President Pens a Desperate Plea for Strength
Do you think PTAs are just about bake sales and hugs? More like egos and sadism in this case.

Vatican Authorizes Prayers Optimized for Social Media Age
The young people these days only know how to communicate with their thumbs. At last, God will be able to understand them—even if their parents don’t.

Seattle Seahawks Fan Sues Team over Hearing Loss
Sometimes the twelfth man is the first casualty.

Gamblers Predict Chicago Mayor Will Declare Martial Law
Can so many bettors be wrong?

poetsfootball2Advantages Poets Have over Football Players
There are so many reasons to become a poet rather than a professional athlete. Let us count the ways.

Stoneslide Gift Assists: A Present for the Parents of Young Children

Any parent of a toddler or young child knows how the simplest daily rituals can become drawn-out battles of will.

You approach the child, toothbrush in hand, with the straightforward ambition of brushing her teeth–just as you do every single night. What happens? She clamps her hands over her mouth and stares at you shaking her head, no. So, you put the toothbrush down to pry her hands away, then use one hand to keep her arms elevated (while she pulls back as hard as she can), and the other to lever at her clenched jaw. Just as you start to worry about leaving bruise marks on her cheeks–bruise marks that some teacher will be sure to ask about–she flops, falling totally limp to the ground. Since you were leaning over, this jujitsu move causes you to tumble forward to your knees. You put out a hand to steady yourself, and what’s there to catch onto? The open toilet. So you change the shirt that got wet at the sleeve, wash up, and again pick up the toothbrush, to find your little girl again with both hands clamped over her mouth.

There has to be an easier way!

There is!

Clouton, Inc., today releases the Care Pillar, a fully functional hygiene procedure enabler that makes brushing teeth, washing face, clipping fingernails, and other basic activities a snap.

carepillar

Made from sustainably sourced teak and cherry woods, the Care Pillar will fit beautifully in any nursery ensemble. But its real beauty lies in its functional design. Easy-to-use one-hand latches, counter-weighted hinges, and solid construction make the Care Pillar a joy for any parent. Crushed velvet linings and an adjustable-height stand mean your child will be so comfortable, she may soon be reminding you that it’s time to brush teeth!

Just imagine how much easier your life will be when your precious little one puts her head and hands into the gentle restraints of the Care Pillar.

More gift assists from Stoneslide (just in time for the holidays):

Stoneslide Gift Assist: SnoopBuster

Stoneslide Gift Assist: For the Couple that Can’t Agree on the Holidays

Stoneslide Gift Assist: Rudolph the Red-Cheeked Sobriety Buddy

Advantages Poets Have over Football Players

The Society for the Advancement of Poetry and Poetry Scholarship (SAPPS) recently released a list of the top 34 reasons promising young athletes should consider a career in verse-making.

•Poets are not often asked to debase themselves by endorsing products or businesses in exchange for lucrative reimbursement.

•Although experts and failures alike will criticize poets’ work, it won’t be criticized by morons whose only qualification is that they can sit and hold onto a beer at the same time.

•Poets are not usually pursued romantically solely because of their incomes.

•Poets are not usually pursued romantically because they’re seen on television every week.

•The professional failures, missteps, and embarrassments of poets aren’t usually nationally, or even regionally, televised.

•The personal failures, missteps, and embarrassments of poets aren’t usually written about in national magazines or blogs of universal appeal.

•Poets, when arrested for a DUI, usually don’t see their names dragged through the mud. If they teach, then maybe they’ll be dragged through the mud, but this is almost always due to the academic appointment, not the writing.poetsfootball2

•Although some poets are washed up by the age of 35, or even 30, many of them aren’t.

•Poets aren’t generally required to wear jerseys, let alone throwback jerseys.

•An MFA graduate of great promise who fizzles out upon turning pro isn’t usually insulted 5,000 times a day in a very public manner.

•The start times of readings and other poetic events aren’t determined by TV networks.

•When a poet sidesteps a professional risk it’s almost certain that tens of thousands of people won’t call him or her a pansy.

•Rarely do poets face violent injury in the course of their work.

•If a poet receives effusive praise, it is often clear, articulate, effusive praise.

•Poets aren’t required to take drug tests.

•No poet has yet been harmed leaping into the stands after completing a stanza.

•The smell of ink can have a mild narcotic effect, while the smell of stale perspiration is generally considered displeasing.

•Poets almost always have day jobs, and even multiple day jobs, so their lives are more interesting than football players’ lives.

•Although the children of poets might in fact think the poets suck, they don’t have to overhear other people talking about said suckage.

•The parents of poets rarely have to worry about their children being concussed or exposed as dirty cheats every weekend.

•The biggest writers conference on the planet will still be less crowded than the Super Bowl, or even a divisional playoff game.

•The accomplishments of athletes are regularly surpassed as science advances and training regimens improve, while poets’ work is often most appreciated long after they’re dead.

•“Vinnie from the Bronx” has never called into a radio talk show to comment on a poet’s performance the night before.

•A poet isn’t likely to require anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction before her twenty-fifth birthday.

•If a poet gets involved in a nightclub brawl, his fans will think he’s a god.

•A poet can fumble all the words she wants, and critics will praise her fearless high dive into the avant-garde.

•At least since the time of ancient Athens, poets have not had to worry that their greatest successes could be undercut when fans riot in the streets, overturning vehicles and trashing storefronts.

 

Advantages Future Poets Have Over Future Football Players

•When in high school, unless they have physical features that are attractive to the extreme, future poets are often undistracted by ubiquitous romantic attention from others.

•Future poets aren’t catered to by coaches, teachers, and administrators to the point that they can get away with blatant rule-breaking, law-breaking, or other transgressions (unless they’re smart enough and resourceful enough not to be blatant, and therefore avoid detection in the first place), and due to all of this often learn better how to fend for themselves than do future football players, who often develop a sense that the world should meet their every whim and desire, like they’re a bunch of babies weighing anywhere from 180 to 350 pounds.

•Future poets don’t have to be concerned about being distracted by cheerleaders while they perform.

•Smoking, or the use of alcohol or other drugs, can’t get future poets kicked off the poetry team. There is no poetry team.

•Future poets don’t usually have to sit in the living room and hear college recruiters lie to them and their parents.

•When visiting prospective colleges, future poets rarely have to deal with hyper-attractive people being sent their way to entertain them.

•Undergrad poets can accept unlimited gifts and perks from highly literate and wealthy alumni without risking violation of any labyrinthine rules.

More from The Stoneslide Corrective:

An Aid to Our Readers and All Writers

The Stoneslide Corrective‘s Television Ad from Super Bowl XLVIII

Seattle Seahawks Fan Sues Team over Hearing Loss

 

 

Climate Scientists Deny that Climate Change Denial Actually Exists

This essay originally appeared in the Duncastle Eagle, November 13, 2014:

President Obama has just concluded negotiations with Chinese President Xi over an agreement between the world’s two largest economic powers (and largest polluters) to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But now he faces the real challenge: persuading members of the opposing party in Congress. The question of what actions to take, if any, in response to climate change was widely seen as one of the most contentious policy issues in the recent federal election. It is an area in which the two parties have vastly different views. It’s generally understood that Democrats see global warming as a real threat that should be addressed at its cause by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, while Republican policy on the environment is motivated by a genuine doubt that climate change is real or, if real, that it is caused by human actions. While this is a widely held understanding of Republican disbelief, there has been no meaningful research or investigation to back it up.

Looked at afresh, the idea that Republicans don’t believe in climate change and its effects on the natural systems that support human life, despite the clear consensus of the scientific community, strains credulity. Independent studies have found no meaningful intelligence gap between Republicans and Democrats. We firmly believe it is implausible that such a huge portion of the population could genuinely hold the denialist position.

All three of us have devoted our professional lives to better understanding climate change, and its natural, political, and cultural causes and consequences. So we began a genuine empirical investigation of the question of what Republicans really believe, as opposed to what they say–the first study of its kind. Our finding, in short: There is no reliable evidence that Republicans don’t believe in global warming.

This may at first surprise you, because you have heard denialist statements from both leading Republican politicians (“The so-called ‘consensus’ is simply wrong,” Senator James Inhofe, presumptive chair of the Senate Environment Committee) and that guy at work (“How could humans change God’s creation? I mean, really?,” Walt in Accounting.). But, as we have already argued, it is implausible to think that Republicans could be simpleminded enough to actually believe these statements. There are, in fact, several preferable explanations for such expressions of climate change denial. For one, many public figures of the Republican persuasion are paid directly or indirectly by companies such as ExxonMobil and Tohd Power & Light that have a financial interest in the use of fossil fuels. Republicans may simply feel that they are well paid to voice these fatuous opinions. Republicans may also enjoy making liberals angry and so derive pleasure from absurd and counter-factual statements. Another explanation that is more plausible than genuine belief stems from the guilt that Republicans feel over the fact that they prefer policies, such as tax breaks for oversized vehicles, that are destroying the planet to the sorts of steps that would preserve Creation for future generations. To cope with this guilt, they publicly rationalize their actions by claiming not to believe they are harmful.

These suggestions are speculative, but they are no more speculative than the suggestion that Republicans in their hearts believe the climate denial line, and in fact they are all distinctly less absurd.

In our paper in the forthcoming Winter issue of the Journal of Speculative Outcomes, we describe the results of a pathbreaking literature review, crossing the borders of hard sciences and social sciences in search of one scrap of irrefutable evidence that so-called denialists actually believe their statements. Not one single study out of the 4,000+ we looked at presented such evidence.

Given that no positive evidence for genuine denial exists and that there are several more reasonable explanations on offer, we have to conclude that climate denial is not a genuine phenomenon.

So, why is the assumption that climate denial is real so prevalent? We think the most likely culprit is the media; whether they are mindlessly repeating conservative claims because of some inherent bias or whether there is some conspiracy to mis-inform voters, possibly as a gesture to appease high-carbon advertisers, we will not speculate. One possible interpretation of our research is that the differences between Republicans and Democrats are not as large as they sometimes appear. Again the media benefits from the high-conflict narrative of politics. But the polity doesn’t benefit from this distorted view. The debate over climate change needs a shot of truth. We hope our work can contribute.

[signed]

Hal Squeemy, Professor of Political Science, Wye Sprite University

Victoria Wellen, Associate Professor of Psychology, Wye Sprite University

Willem Hash, Professor of Earth Sciences, Wye Sprite University

More on enforcement and governance:

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

Coalition: Privatize Courts, Slash Deficits, and Make American Justice Pay

The Devil Reads the Hobby Lobby Decisions and Has Some Questions for Justice Samuel Alito

Look on My Works and Wonder

Ozeem, the sub-deputy governor of the province, had the patience of a bureaucrat who has learned that nothing good arrives in time for you to appreciate it and an imp’s glee in practical jokes. When an order came down to ensure that all Grade 2 and higher roadways had accurate and durable mile markers, Ozeem was put in charge of commissioning the appropriate signs and overseeing their installation. He had 14,323 miles of qualifying roadway within his province. The applicable regulations left him some discretion in materials, as long as the resulting marker clearly listed the mile point and the roadway and was durable. Ozeem ordered 14,322 markers in sandstone. And he ordered one, Mile 27 on Route 14A-C (chosen almost at random), in marble.

He knew that while the sandstone would likely last longer than the routes it measured, and thus fulfill its purpose, over the course of centuries, it would wear away. The one marble marker, however, would last millennia longer. It would even remain readable.

Ozeem liked to think about how one day a future society with no memory of his own would find this singular marker, with “Mile 27, Route 14A-C” chiseled into its side, and be forced to create some meaning out of its singularity. He’d imagine future theories about the sacred nature of the number 27 or how this marker was placed at the center of some ritual space, and he would emit a bureaucrat’s silent, cautious chuckle.

Movement for Money Rights May Reshape Elections

Danvorious Tohd hopes this election will be the last one that’s corrupt. As he sees it, politics is currently defiled by unjustified restrictions on individual and corporate spending—what he calls “handcuffs made from regulations and rules.” Tohd is an outspoken proponent for a California ballot measure known as Prop 88, which he believes would fix the problem by outlawing any restrictions on spending in elections. Such restrictions would be deemed unconstitutional intrusions on individual liberty.

Prop 88 was thought to be a long shot, but a recent infusion of money from the Tohd Family Foundation’s Initiative for Money Rights has boosted its poll numbers, and forecasters now say it’s likely to become law—and to reshape politics as we know it.

The Stoneslide Corrective caught up with Tohd, the CEO of Tohd Power & Light, after a rally he held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Tohd spoke for about 15 minutes to a capacity crowd at the 18,000-seat arena, laying out the reasoning behind his push for money rights, which he said is really about protecting the rights of every individual. His speech came between sets by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Daughtry in what was billed as a We Want To Be Free! Concert. (Representatives of the bands later said they were unaware the event, sponsored by the Tohd Family Foundation, had a political purpose and they were just playing for the money, not the cause.) Tohd received his loudest cheers when he announced that he was paying for free beers at the concession stands for the rest of the day.

This reporter managed to catch Tohd on his way out of the arena. Standing near the corner of Figueroa Street and W. 12th Street, Tohd wore sunglasses against the afternoon glare and was accompanied by assistants and functionaries. Three held phones for him and provided updates on the price of natural gas and Tohd P&L’s stock price, as well as other financial information. One seemed focused on the straightness of Tohd’s tie. The others relayed messages to a waiting limo and adjusted Tohd’s schedule on the fly, as he seemed to be scheduled down to the half-minute.

Asked why he was doing so much to try to pass Prop 88, Tohd replied, “A lot of people think this is about power. But it’s really about love. Our relationship with our money is the most intimate relationship we have. Many of us love our money more than our wives or our children. We tell things to our money that we’d never say to a doctor, even. The law needs to recognize this love, not stifle it. If the gays and the lesbians can love people of the same sex, normal people should be able to give full expression to their love of money.”

moneyrights

Prop 88 has generated widespread debate, but one plank stands out as most controversial: the call to allow citizens to sell their votes to the highest bidder.

Tohd, whose pro-business views have made him a darling of conservative radio and a lightning rod for liberal hate, has been vocal on this point. In a sixty-second television advertisement being run in four major markets, he tells the camera, “You deserve the right to profit from your decisions. I know times are tough right now for many of you. Why cut off a revenue stream? That’s like cutting off your own arm.”

In our interview, he also argued that allowing vote buying will lead to more effective leadership in government. “After all, people willing to spend more money for office must want it more and so are likely to work harder so their investment won’t go to waste.”

While Tohd was speaking with The Stoneslide Corrective, a small crowd gathered and chanted, “Votes can’t be bought! Votes can’t be bought!” Seeing that this reporter had become nervous at the raucous shouts, Tohd turned to the demonstrators and called out, “Here’s $100 for each of you, go get some Starbucks.” He handed a stack of bills to an assistant, who approached the crowd and handed out the money. The chants stopped. The crowd dispersed.

“Why would you make that a crime?” Tohd asked, sounding as sad as a child looking down at a dropped ice cream cone. “You see, they’re better off. They’re happier now that they have a hundred bucks. You’re happier because you’re not scared anymore. I’m happier because I don’t have to hear their misguided squealing. That’s what economic exchange does—it makes everyone better off, without exception. It’s more democratic than democracy, you might say.”

One concern about Prop 88 is that it could put state law at variance with federal campaign laws. But Tohd points out that there’s a precedent for this in California’s medical marijuana laws. “Again, it’s about not bowing your neck to tyranny,” says Tohd. “Besides, I love growers. They’re great electricity customers.”

Some critics have called Prop 88 a throwback to days of oligarchy and white male privilege, pointing out similarities to property-based restrictions on voting that existed in the early years of the American republic. Tohd becomes animated in rebutting this argument. “I think property requirements are wrong. Government should never require anything. That’s just crazy. But how can you argue that every man deserves a vote and then turn around and deny that man just compensation, negotiated fairly and openly, for that vote he owns? That’s socialism right there.”

An assistant stepped in to end the interview, but Tohd brushed her aside, saying he wanted to make one more point. “Anyone but a dolt can see that markets can improve politics. When this resolution passes, PayPal will be here tomorrow to make it easy for you to sell your vote, or maybe eBay’ll do it, and that will create jobs.” Tohd’s voice takes on a dreamy tone. “Money rights are human rights, as I always say.”

He heads off, waving away a final question about whether he has further political ambitions after the fight for Prop 88 has ended. But whether he answers that question or not, rumors will continue to swirl that Tohd is preparing for a big move into politics.

And the Winner of the Stoneslide Snap Contest Is…

Writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson famously said that nobody but a blockhead ever wrote for anything except free entry to the annual AWP Conference. Or something like that. We couldn’t agree more if we were a Scottish biographer.

We are delighted to be able to announce that of all the amazing, dazzling, and gripping entries in our Snap Contest for flash pieces, author Libby Cudmore takes first place with her story “How to Murder Your Friends.” Libby wins free registration for all four days of the AWP Conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs, for folks scoring at home) in April 2015, to be held in Minneapolis. In addition, her story garners publication in The Stoneslide Corrective. Go read this excellent piece of flash fiction.

Libby’s stories and essays have appeared in recent issues of The Big Click, Big Lucks, Chamber Four, the Vestal Review, Pank, and The New Rivers Press American Fiction Anthology #13. Her short story “The Redemption of Oren Barry” received an honorable mention in the Stoneslide Story Contest and her debut novel is forthcoming from William Morrow in Winter 2016.

snapwinner

Producers of Summer Blockbusters to Sell Ideology Placements

The deeply held political beliefs of the American people can’t be bought. But movie producers are betting that they can be sold.

The Stoneslide Corrective has acquired proposals prepared by major studios and independent producers to insert ideological content in movies slated to be released in the summer of 2016, just before the next US presidential election. The proposals were sent to the Super PACs of major candidates and both political parties asking for payments ranging from $50,000 to $15,000,000 in return for ideologically friendly zingers, characters, and even whole subplots. Analysts say this is merely a logical development of the increasing use of product placement in feature films in recent years. Call it ideology placement.

Stoneslide has seen proposals made by director-producer Steven Spielberg, as well as neo-slapstick filmmaker Judd Apatow. Both of these directors have capped ideological inserts at 4% of the total film and limited the range of ideologies they’re willing to incorporate. According to our sources, however, Michael Bay, director of the Transformers series, has offered up to 96% of his planned 2016 release and is open to any suitor who can pay.

Here is one excerpt from a major studio pitch document obtained by The Stoneslide Corrective for the forthcoming Virtue’s Stalker:

-THE PLACEMENT “Always finish off your enemies. Now that Obamacare is the law of the land, if they’re not stone dead, they’re sure to be nursed back to health and then they’ll come looking for revenge.”

-THE STORY Ned Striver, a grizzled veteran of the war in Afghanistan, gives this advice to his 8-year-old son Kyle. The boy grows up and forgets his father’s words. With charm and intelligence, Kyle finds success working as a partner in a secretive global investment firm… until he stumbles on the wrong secret and his partners turn against him. Then he needs his father’s toughness and cynical realism if he’s going to survive, and the two team up to fight their enemies.

The producers are asking $250,000 for this quip. They argue that it plays a pivotal role in Kyle’s development and comes from the mouth of the admirable Ned, and so will sink into the audience’s subconscious, creating a deep and pervading positive association with President Obama’s signature health care law. They suggest the line could add a full point to top-line Democratic approval numbers.

Some other pitches uncovered by The Stoneslide Corrective:

-THE STORY In Death Squeeze, Hank Ellway, a burned-out special ops animal control officer, ends up the only man who can save a small Florida town besieged by genetically altered Burmese pythons. In a pivotal scene, Hank saves eight-year-old Johnny, who was cornered atop his school jungle gym by three enormous snakes. After Hank slices off the heads of all three snakes with one mighty swing of a reconditioned chainsaw, the boy gushes:

-THE PLACEMENT “You’re a real hero!” Hank responds: “A real hero would kill the Democrat-backed regulations that are strangling our economy, kid.” Guaranteed applause line. Cost: $350,000.

 

-THE STORY Mega-man’s nemesis is the wily and nefarious Dr. Destructo. After creating a space-time portal in a meteorological experiment gone awry, Destructo threatens to unleash the armies of ancient Mars on planet Earth. Unfortunately for the side of evil, Destructo has a lieutenant, the bumbling Entero. Entero repeatedly voices Randian declarations of autonomy and superiority only to find himself unable to complete the simplest assignments without relying on the talents of members of the proletariat.

-THE PLACEMENT In one telling scene, Entero is trying to plant an explosive device in a toilet but ends up locking himself in the stall and has to call desperately for help from a janitor as the timer on the bomb ticks. That’ll prove that glibertarians really need the common man. Cost: $1,000,000.

 

-THE STORY Julie thinks her luck with men has finally changed when she meets Charles at the engagement party of her deeply religious cousin. After being paired up in a Noah’s Ark party game, the two fall head over heels in love. Trouble arises when Julie, a lawyer for the ACLU, finds out that small-business owner Charles doesn’t provide contraceptive coverage for his employees. Julie swears she’ll never see Charles again. But then she’s assigned to go undercover in Charles’ company to investigate his health plan. On the inside, she sees how Charles is adored by his employees, who admire his deep principles and upright character and appreciate being saved from their own promiscuous impulses. Julie comes back to Charles, declaring:

-THE PLACEMENT “Even business owners need to keep their own consciences.” A Good Man, a Good Boss is sure to win over liberal-leaning single women. Cost: $1,500,000.

According to a source inside one of the studios, they have field-tested ideology placement, and the results are off the charts. In one test as many as 15% of viewers changed their preferred candidate. Assuming a given summer blockbuster reaches 25% of the voting population, this could be enough to change the outcome of a tight election. Says our source, “When you’re in a condition to believe in flying men in spandex for two hours, you’ll believe in supply-side economics, too. It’s the perfect way to reach voters.”

ideology300However, the same tests found that placements that were too specifically tied to one candidate could backfire. “People want to be told what to do, but they don’t want to think that they’re being told what to do,” explains our source, who participated in the research underlying ideological placement. “So a thinly veiled ad is perfect. They can pretend to be thinking for themselves while actually giving up all autonomous thought. That’s really what pop culture is all about.”

Experts predict that pollsters and poll aggregators, like Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com and Real Clear Politics, will have to incorporate the box office returns of Democratic and Republican films into their models.

Critics are likely to see ideology placement as one more example of the corrupting force of money. If even our summer blockbusters can be pulled into the political-money vortex, what is safe? We spoke with Chad Winet, a political science professor at Wye Sprite University who has studied 21st century partisanship. “I would see it the other way around,” he said. “This is an extension of the civic debate, which our founders saw as absolutely critical, into popular culture. How could it not be enriching for audiences to be exposed to these issues? Those who question this practice are really questioning the intelligence of the American people and their ability to participate in political discussion. And that pisses me off. We have the greatest movies in the world, and we have the greatest health care system in the world, and we have the greatest democracy (or vaguely representative system) that has ever existed. Frankly, I’d say anyone who doesn’t like this doesn’t get it, and should go live in some other country.”

 

More on money, politics, and governance:

-University Purchases City for Economics Experiments

-Gamblers Predict Chicago Mayor Will Declare Martial Law

-Coalition: Privatize Courts, Slash Deficits, and Make American Justice Pay

Vatican Authorizes Prayers Optimized for Social Media Age

by Tia Creighton

Not since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s has the Catholic Church seen such a change in the Liturgy as in recent times. A first set of changes was made in December 2012 to more closely adhere to the meaning of the original Roman Missal written in Latin. Now, in a stunning reversal, the Church is ditching its adherence to the dead, though revered, language and moving into the “language” of social media, whose bedrock is abbreviations, symbols, acronyms, and pictures.

“There’s been a struggle within the Church over language in the last ten years,” says Bishop Kell Ryan, a member of the Synod of Bishops and an expert in language and liturgy. “Some want to go back to the baroque and alienating language of the past. Others want to ditch words all together and post pictures of Sunday Masses on Instagram. As with all negotiation, we needed to meet in the middle. But something had to be done, because the last, most recent changes that were made alienated Catholics the world over.

“‘Peace be with you.’
“‘And also with you.’ That just rolled off your tongue,” says Bishop Ryan.

“‘Peace be with you.’
“‘And with your spirit.’ Who says that? Why don’t we all just dress in friar’s robes? It was a poorly thought-out change and a giant leap backwards.”

The Act of Contrition is the Church’s first official translation of a prayer into the language of social media. With the newly rewritten prayer, the Church has also agreed that Catholics may now text their confessions into their parish priests.

The Act of Contrition (2014)

OMG! I am Very sad smiley crying for having Red Furious Smiley Thee.
And I Evil Blue Smiley – With Animal Eyes all my Very cool smiley, smoking a cigarette because of Thy just punishment
But most of all because they Surprised Smiley Thee, my God, who art Smiley with a thumb upand deserving of all my Smiley that says “<3? (Heart).
I firmly resolve Smiley that says: “Yes Master” with the help of Thy Grace to Pirate Smiley (with an eyepatch) no more and to avoid the near occasions of Black Devil Smiley

Angel smiley losing its aura

Stoneslide Story Contest: The Results

The Stoneslide Corrective is thrilled, elated, honored, and generally pleased as punch (vodka-laced) to announce the winners of our first annual Stoneslide Story Contest. The top prize in the contest is $3,000, and the contest drew 300 submissions from writers all over the world. The quality of work, the depth of feeling, and the care in expression evidenced in these submissions was breathtaking. But out of this remarkably strong pool, one story rose to the top.

contestbadge1st

The first prize goes to Jude Polotan, with her story “Dog People,” which captures the knife-edge balance between accumulating regret for choices made, and the continuing hope for new avenues.

contestbadge2ndTaking second prize and $500 is “Forget Me Not,” by Ellen Larson. “Forget Me Not” is a riveting journey in the life of a woman previously unable to escape her greatest love and torturer, her own brother.

contestbadge3rd“The Viewing,” by Martin Dodd, receives third prize and $250. Narrated by a slightly out-of-place witness to a funeral, Dodd’s story masterfully combines biting cynicism and poignancy.

We look forward to publishing these stories in the coming months.

Four stories were also recognized in categories of special achievement, receiving $100 awards:

  • Striking Use of Wit: “Voice Male,” by Marion de Booy Wentzien, uses both humor and surprising observation to limn the pain of loneliness and the perils of hope.
  • Beguiling Character: “All together now,” by D.R. Glass. The protagonist of this story, a young girl named Emma, is both remarkably strong and remarkably vulnerable, while being entirely believable.
  • Description That Makes Us Think We Were Really There: Thomas Lelache’s “Heel” thrusts us deep inside the awfulness and the scalded beauty of a professional wrestler who wishes he had done more, and so much less, with his life.
  • Propulsive Scene and/or Plot Line: “Ways to Escape,” by Greg Girvan, crackles with the wildness and rage of youth while the people in it show us the lethargy, despondency, and moroseness that can also come with being young.

In addition, twelve stories are recognized as honorable mentions, each worthy of appreciation and commendation:

  • “The Anarchic Hand,” by Lynn Stegner
  • “Choose Your Own Adventure,” by Linda Davis
  • “Continental Divide,” by Hal Ackerman
  • “Food for Work,” by Frank Light
  • “How to Live at a Hotel,” by Joe Ponepinto
  • “The Month is July,” by Sebastian Barajas
  • “On the Other Side,” by Idrissa Simmonds
  • “Parker,” by Tracy Gold
  • “The Push,” by Sarah MacKenzie
  • “The Redemption of Oren Barry,” by Libby Cudmore
  • “Smash,” by Ann Stewart McBee
  • “Something in the Water,” by Dan Stintzi

The bios of winners and honorees are below:

FIRST PRIZE

Jude Polotan holds an MFA from Emerson College, where she was fortunate enough to be mentored by Andre Dubus III. She’s a three-time participant at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and has attended the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy, twice (yes, a real sacrifice!). “Dog People” is Jude’s first published story.  Though she’ll always be a New Yorker, she now lives in the sunshine of Gulf Coast Florida with the Love of her Life, Ken, and their irrepressible puppy, Claude. She’s currently at work on a new novel.

SECOND PRIZE

Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. She has sold stories to AHMM (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp and is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil, featuring a sleuthing reporter. Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (Carefully crafted whodunit -PW starred). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she developed a love of different cultures. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude.

THIRD PRIZE

Martin Dodd lives in Steinbeck Country: Salinas, California. Following his retirement from community service, he began creative writing in 2002 at age 67. His work has appeared in Cadillac Cicatrix, Hobart Journal (web issue), The New Yinzer, Homestead Review, Holy Cuspidor, Foolish Times, Monkey Bicycle, and Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul (poem). He has won, or received recognition in, various contests: Gimme Credit Screenplay Competition (super short), St. Louis Short Story Contest, Writers Digest, By Line Magazine, Glimmer Train, Inkwell Journal, Writers Weekly, Central Coast Writers (California), East of Eden Writers Conference (2008), and NorthernPros.

SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT

Marion de Booy Wentzien was a recipient of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award (twice). The New Letters Literary Award. The Chicago Humanities for the Arts presented one of her stories in their Stories on Stage. Her stories have appeared in Seventeen Magazine, Blue Penny Quarterly, The San Francisco Chronicle (twice), Scholastic Books, Story Magazine, On the Page, Big Ugly Review, The Quotable, Prime Number, The Sonora Review, Bareback Lit, The Stone Hobo, Tattoo Highway, Red Fez, Cossack Review, Citron Review, Extract(s), Drafthorse, Solstice, ROAR, Spry, Literary Orphans and other literary journals. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize as well as for Best of the Net. She lives in Saratoga, CA with her husband and some formerly stray animals.

D.R. Glass lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Greg Girvan grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Slippery Rock University. His writing appears or is forthcoming in The South Carolina Review, Sleet Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Revolver, Our Stories, and a number of other periodicals. He currently works as a freelance writer and editor in Pittsburgh.

Tom Lelache is a 20-year-old South Jersey native who owes everything to the unfaltering support he regularly receives from his family and friends. Although he thoroughly enjoys his current job of renting and selling instruments to the world’s next generation of brilliant musicians, he does hope to someday be able to devote himself full-time to creating his own words and music. “Heel” is his first published short story.

HONOREES

Hal Ackerman is co-area head of the UCLA screenwriting program. His book, Write Screenplays That Sell…The Ackerman Way, is the text of choice in a growing number of screenwriting programs around the country.

His fiction has appeared in North Dakota Review, New Millennium Writings, Southeast Review, and The Pinch among, others. “Roof Garden” won the Warren Adler award for fiction. “The Dancer Horse” was nominated for a Pushcart prize. “Belle and Melinda” won the Southeast Review’s WORLD’S BEST SHORT SHORT STORY CONTEST. His play Testosterone: How Prostate Cancer Made a Man of Me won the William Saroyan Centennial Award for drama. Under its new title, Prick, it was named best play at the 2011 United Solo Festival.

His novel STEIN STONED won the Lovey Award for best first novel in 2011; followed by STEIN, STUNG in 2012.

Sebastian Barajas grew up in Arlington, Virginia, where he graduated from high school in 2010. He is now a sophomore at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, writing his first novel intended for publication, as well as a series of short stories and political/satirical essays.

Libby Cudmore’s work has been published in Pank, Big Lucks, The Big Click, Chamber Four, Connation Press, New Rivers Press and others. She blogs about mix tapes and writing at www.libbycudmore.com.

Linda Davis was the winner of The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest and her story “The War at Home” appeared in their January/February 2014 issue. “My Boyfriend is a Senator” is forthcoming in the new adult anthology, Perception, from Elephantine Press. She was the runner-up in Flyway’s Notes from the Field Contest, judged by Rick Bass, and her story “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” appeared in their March 2014 issue. Her essay “This House” was published in the anthology Morning Coffee and Other Stories: Mothering Children with Special Needs. Other publications include The Literary Review and Gemini Magazine. She worked with Antonya Nelson at Bread Loaf and Brad Kessler at Antioch University, where she received her MFA. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband and three children.

Tracy Gold is an M.F.A. candidate in Fiction at the University of Baltimore. Find out more at http://www.tracycgold.com/.

Now retired, Frank Light lives in Virginia with his wife Sally; they met on the Buddha the Taliban would later destroy. “Food for Work” is adapted from an unpublished memoir titled Adjust to Dust: On the Backroads of Southern Afghanistan. Frank’s recent writings have been or are scheduled to be published in Even the Smallest Crab Has Teeth (an anthology of Peace Corps nonfiction), Make literary magazine, War, Literature and the Arts, James Dickey Review, Mosaic Art & Literary Journal, Beetroot, The Greensilk Journal, Consequence Magazine, O-Dark-Thirty, Amsterdam Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review, Serving House Journal, and Winning Writers.

Sarah MacKenzie was born in Toronto in ’95, and until recently has been a loyal Suburbanite to Ontario’s GTA (evidently, the inspiration for her writing is often the mundane and curiously ordinary lives brewed up in the otherworldly Suburbia).  She’s now a first year university student in Montreal, where she studies in creative writing and history, and thinks longingly of home. 

Ann Stewart McBee was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She earned her PhD in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where she still teaches undergraduate composition and creative writing, and served as an editor for cream city review. Her work has appeared in Ellipsis, Untamed Ink, So to Speak, and At Length among others. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband and a mischievous terrier. Her novel Veiled Men, is looking for a home. See more at http://annmcbee.tumblr.com/.

Joe Ponepinto is the co-Publisher of Tahoma Literary Review. His fiction and reviews have been published in many literary journals, most recently The Stoneslide Corrective, Lumina, BULL, Passager, Fiction Southeast, and Prime Mincer.

His collection, The Face Maker and other stories of obsession, was published by Woodward Press. He has an MFA from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts., and lives in Washington State with his wife, Dona, and Henry the coffee-drinking dog.

 
Idrissa Simmonds’ poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Event, Pearls, Black Renaissance Noire, The Caribbean Writer, As/Us, Zora Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships from VONA, Bread Loaf, Poets House, and Hedgebrook, and is the 2013 winner of the Crab Creek Review poetry award and a 2014 finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize. She is curator and chef of the literary and food salon Brunch and Word, where writers gather in her home for literature, fellowship, and good food. She calls Brooklyn home.

Lynn Stegner’s books include the novels, UNDERTOW and FATA MORGANA, both nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and BECAUSE A FIRE WAS IN MY HEAD, Faulkner Award for Best Novel, a 2007 Literary Ventures Selection, and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her novella triptych, PIPERS AT THE GATES OF DAWN, was awarded a Faulkner Society’s Gold Medal. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Western States Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship. The anthology, WEST OF 98: LIVING AND WRITING THE NEW AMERICAN WEST, which she co-edited and introduced, was published in September of 2011; and she has recently completed a volume of stories entitled FOR ALL THE OBVIOUS REASONS. She teaches at Stanford University. Currently at work on a new novel, she divides her time between San Francisco, California and Greensboro, Vermont.

Daniel Stintzi graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2011 and received his MFA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University in 2014. He lives with his wife in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

 

Some Favorite Fried Egg Sandwiches

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-prepared horseradish
-two-year-old cheddar cheese
-salt and pepper
-bread
-grated top panel of Hewlett-Packard 200A Audio Oscillator, stolen from the Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, California

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-Havarti cheese
-salt and pepper
-frozen butter, shaved
-bread
-shredded Bill of Rights, with 1st, 4th, and 8th amendments in ALL CAPS

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-dried oregano
-ketchup
-salt and pepper
-bread
-crumblings of seared page corners of each page of the Patriot Act

eggstitution

-over three-quarters fried egg
-mayonnaise
-two-year-old Reggiano Parmigiano cheese
-salt and pepper
-bread
-folded cover sheet of transcript of Senate debate over Gulf of Tonkin Agreement

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-Dijon mustard
-butter lettuce
-salt and pepper
-Oroweat brand onion bun
-shavings of copper plate used to make commemorative etchings of opening paragraph of the US Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-caramelized onions
-winter savory, steeped for 5 seconds
-Emmental cheese
-salt and pepper
-bread
-shredded Articles of Confederation, translated from English to German, German to Yiddish, and from the Yiddish back into the English

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-1 Tbsp Sauvignon Blanc
-Dijon mustard
-salt and pepper
-bread
-folded, dampened page of Joe Biden’s plagiarized speech about the environment

 

-over three-quarters fried egg
-brown mustard, made with Baker’s bourbon
-salt and pepper
-bread
-ink chemically lifted from the Fort Laramie Treaty

Nearly Half of Conversations Now Involve Facebook; Researchers See Further Rise Ahead

A new study out of Upland Downs University has found that nearly half of conversations in the real world start with some variant of, “You know what I just saw on Facebook?” The study used observers placed in coffee shops, train stations, and public parks to record thousands of unprompted exchanges between friends, family members, and complete strangers, and found that 47.2 percent of conversations that could be observed depended on material posted in a speaker’s Facebook feed. This rate was up from 26% two years ago and just 16% in 2010.

fbdinnerThe lead author of the study was Lavinia Loope, a professor of communications at Upland Downs, and she argues that this phenomenon is driven by the “lowest conversational denominator effect.” Says Loope, “It takes energy and effort to sustain any conversation, and so people will naturally look for the lowest effort point of shared interest or knowledge. Today, that low point is Facebook.” She also points out that people crave approval, and repeating something funny you saw on Facebook is an easy way to get that reward.

fbgraph2The study, which was published in the Journal of Implied Outcomes, also predicted that the percentage of conversations based on Facebook will peak at 97% in 2017. At that point, nothing new will be posted on Facebook, due to the fact that everyone will only be talking about what’s already on Facebook. This will usher in what the researchers call the “helicopter phase,” in which Facebook memes will go around and around, keeping the percentage of conversations based on Facebook at 97%, until everyone realizes that they’ve seen and talked about everything on Facebook already, at which point the percentage will collapse.

For those readers curious about what the future holds, the remaining three percent of conversations will be about traffic, weather, and intestinal ailments. Those subjects cannot be completely eradicated.

The researchers used two models to form these hypotheses, one from the world of epidemiology and one based on studies of the changes in predator and prey species populations over time. “Whether you think of Facebook as a parasitic streptococcal bacterium or a vicious member of the mustilidae family, commonly known as weasels, the result is the same,” says Loope. “Facebook destroys normal conversation up until the point when there are no hosts or prey left, and then Facebook collapses.”

fbbreathlessThe paper also discusses some of the likely effects of this boom-bust cycle on other aspects of daily life and economic activity. For instance, by the first quarter of 2018, Facebook will employ 12% of the global population. The eventual implosion of the company will lead to global economic depression. Given the tendency of videos and photos to draw more attention than plain text on the social network, literacy rates will decline by 26% worldwide and the art of writing will largely disappear, being sustained only in a few remote places without broadband access.

The Stoneslide Snap Contest

Win a pass to the April 2015 AWP conference.

We love writers. We love the writers who contribute to Stoneslide. We love the writers who read Stoneslide. We love the writers whose work we read.

If you fall into one of those categories, know that we love you.

Since we love you, we’d like to make your life a little easier. We have one badge for admission to the 2015 AWP Conference available, and we’d like to give it to a writer we love. If you are thinking of going anyway, this will save you a few shekels.

So here’s what we’re doing… a snap contest for flash fiction. Send us a story up to 666 words. There is no entry fee. We’ll choose one story that we think is the strongest, and the author of that story will receive the badge.

Interested? You can submit your work here.

The details:

PRIZE
One badge for entry to AWP 2015. By accepting this badge, you have no obligation to represent Stoneslide in any way, but we do hope you’ll visit our table to say hello.

DATES
Contest opens September 8
Entries due by October 3
Notification made on October 28

SUBMISSION
The contest is open to any previously unpublished work of fiction up to 666 words in length. Each individual may submit up to two works. All submissions will also be considered for publication under our standard terms.

Again, here is the submission page.

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.
  • The contest will be judged by the editors of The Stoneslide Corrective.
  • Family members of the editors and editorial staff are ineligible to enter.
  • Stoneslide will provide the AWP badge to the winning author. The badge will provide access to the conference. It cannot be exchanged, traded, or redeemed for any other prize. It is what it is.

Guest Rejections from Author Will Mayer

The Rejection Generator is a labor of love for Sylvester Stonesman. He spends more time with the machinery than with his wife or his children or his aging parents. Because the Generator is in the basement of Stoneslide headquarters, those people often come here seeking him, but we don’t answer the door, and they go away. We frequently glimpse Sylvester stroking pistons, buffing pins and rods, and tenderly cleaning dust out of sprockets, and we have more than once wondered if his deep devotion to helping writers (the reason he invented the machine) has morphed into some form of misguided obsession with the means alone. But then the day comes when he emerges from the basement to tell us of another feature he has built into the machinery or a new mechanism for enhancing the preventive agony inflicted by it.

This week, he stuck his face out of the basement door and announced that The Generator could now automatically produce rejection letters based on the style and imagination of any living writer. The author in question needs only to provide a few milliliters of blood, a cheek swab, a list of at least 14,000 influences with brief explanations of what each has meant to her or him, and transcripts of seventeen hours of psychotherapy sessions focused on rejection. The machine does the rest.

We have not yet been able to find a willing participant for this feature. But this week’s author, Will Mayer, kindly volunteered to write a few rejections himself. We fed those into the Generator manually, and it found them pleasing.

Experience them yourself.

rejgenmech2work

Back-to-School Gift Assist: Get What’s Yours

Kids, school is right around the corner. Have you thought about what you’ll do if your parents try once again to take credit for your successes? Say you and a couple friends beat the crap out of the pedophile gym teacher and you, as the initiator, face the worst repercussions. You make it out of Youth Authority intact and get admitted to a different school. Yet it’s your parents who receive praise from relatives and family friends for being “so supportive” of you in this “difficult time.” You’re the one who rid the district of a predator! Stop all that misdirected praise immediately with the latest from Stoneslide Giftworks: the Glory Shall Be Mine Fist®.

fist2The Glory Shall Be Mine Fist delivers a blow to the face or body of anyone you direct it toward.

Maybe you kill it on the SATs and do all that other overachiever BS, and your parents’ friends say how “proud” they must be, as if they have anything to do with your intellect other than an egg that lay there and a sperm that ran into it. What a twisted helix of self-aggrandizing, contemptible bowel movements your parents are! Have them be done with their simultaneous attention-seeking and false modesty once and for all, with the Glory Shall Be Mine Fist.

Made of basalt and an industrial-grade steel alloy, its spring-loaded, fist-shaped ball is suitable for injuring parents, relatives, or anyone else who tries to make it seem like you have nothing to do with your very own triumphs. They are all, every last one of them, lying cul-de-sacs of failure. Don’t take it anymore. Tell your parents to keep their grabby mitts off your successes in the most effective manner you can, with the Glory Shall Be Mine Fist.

Available online and at most good skate shops.

More Stoneslide Gift Assists

See It before They Do: The Loser-Diluter Handyscan
Prevent Fatherly Tomfoolery

Back-to-School Gift Assist: Prevent Fatherly Tomfoolery

Your hell-raising dad’s hell-raising friends are coming over. You have homework on fractions and your state capitols to memorize. You’re in so much trouble with your teacher about your homework, your fighting, and some of the language you use on her tests and quizzes that you would really rather these idiots not be invading your house. The only good thing about these get-togethers—that your dad lets you sip off his beer—has lost its novelty, although not its allure. Also, one of these fuckers inevitably comes into your room, picks up your cheap-but-still-meaningful-to-you, Japanese-made, Gibson SG rip-off, and knocks it out of tune, a couple times even breaking a string. If you stop them, or even just say something, you get the shit kicked out of you after they leave.

Stoneslide Giftworks has the solution. Keep unsavory parental friends out of your home with the inflatable Fatherly Tomfoolery Fort®.

The Fatherly Tomfoolery Fort has 30-foot walls that shoot up around the house as soon as the airlock is released. The walls are made from materials developed by Russian industrialists in consultation with former KGB and Stasi operatives and will repulse a nail fired from a pneumatic gun. The Fort is also heat-proof and will not succumb to bonfires, M-80s, adult-male flatulence, road flares, motorcycle exhaust pipes, or the breath of scotch, bourbon, or rye drinkers.

tomfooleryThe Fort deploys in just 15 seconds. Such quickness means even a last-minute “I’m in the neighborhood” visit can be thwarted.

When undeployed, the Fort takes up no more space than a garden hose.

For apartment dwellers, the Fatherly Tomfoolery Fort Mini® shoots a C-shaped wall up into the air right in front of your door. The wall rises no less than seven feet and no more than 16 feet, and will not damage aging plaster or popcorn ceilings.

The easy-to-use “Thank God They Gave Up and Left” latch safely deflates both the Mini and standard models, after which they can be rolled up and stored until needed again. With a self-recharging air canister, the Fort and Fort Mini last through thousands of deployments.

Finally, you may be thinking, “Well, this’ll be great the first time I use it, but my parents will just confiscate it after I deflate it.” Don’t worry. We have you covered. Our SmartFiber™ material can detect the age, via a person’s skin elasticity and mean hydration level, of someone touching the Fort or Fort Mini and automatically repulses anyone over the age of 21 with an electric shock. Anyone wearing gloves is shocked automatically, and the use of rubber gloves results in the release of sarin gas.

Now, your other concern probably is, even if my parents can’t confiscate the Fatherly Tomfoolery Fort, I’ll still get the crap beat out of me after the first use (and all subsequent uses). We’ve thought of that. Your safety, amid all that dysfunction, is our main concern here at Stoneslide Giftworks. So, we now direct you to another new Stoneslide gift assist: the Glory Shall Be Mine Fist®.

Face it, now that you’re a fourth-grader you have to take care of yourself. At just $49.95 (and only $29.95 for the Mini), Stoneslide’s Fatherly Tomfoolery Fort is a tool for modern living you can’t afford not to buy. You could probably get those kinds of funds together with just four or five riflings of your mother’s purse.

More Stoneslide Gift Assists

See It before They Do: The Loser-Diluter Handyscan
Back-to-School Gift Assist: Get What’s Yours

Back-to-School Gift Assist—See It before They Do: The Loser-Diluter Handyscan

 

You’re the kid who’s been bullied since second grade. It’s obvious why, right? You’re skinny, tall, and uncoordinated. You play wizard games, or worse, “house,” at school. You painted your fingernails that one time in fourth grade. You wear cotton sweatpants. Your parents are Wiccans. You still carry a lunchbox.

But it’s back to school and time to retool. You’re entering sixth grade—middle school!—and it’s your chance for a new beginning. A fresh opportunity to define yourself!

You need the Loser-Diluter Handyscan. This nifty tool fromStoneslide Giftworks will scan your body for any and all signs of dorkism. How does it work?

Before leaving for school each morning, stand before the Loser-Diluter Handyscan and let it work its magic. It’ll alert you to the lice on your head, your faded Harry Pottert-shirt, your fisherman sandals, even the eczema on your elbows. It can see inside pockets for that nail clipper you keep using during class. It can scan your lunch bag—no more lunchbox for you—for Wasa crackers and the sandwiches your mom cuts into dinosaur shapes.

Then, the Loser-Diluter Handyscan makes suggestions for alternatives. Switch out those six-to-a-pack crew socks for Nike Elites. Trade in your wire-rimmed glasses with the adjustable nose pad for Ray-Ban Jr. frames. Swap your pocket edition of The Hobbit for this month’s Maxim magazine. The Loser-Diluter offers you website links and QR codes for products you can purchase or alternative styles you might try. You can view the report onscreen or send it wirelessly to your parents’ printer.

As an added convenience, you can remove the scanner from its standing bracket and use it as a handheld device. This allows you to take the scanner with you to scan and decode the dorkiness prevalent on your bicycle, your parents’ cars, your house and yard…even in your friends!

Customer testimonials

“I scanned my bike, and the Loser-Diluter immediately told me to remove my Schwinn squeeze horn. It was a quick fix, and I was off to school in less than five minutes.”

“Viewing my parents’ car through the Loser-Diluter really opened my eyes. I took a razor blade to their Equal Rights and ‘Proud Parents of a Davis Bell Honor Student’ bumper stickers. Did a little damage to the bumper, but at least those annoying messages are gone.”

“I was so used to it being there that Ildilute stopped noticing the Lego Star Wars Chewbacca keychain on my backpack. But when the Loser-Diluter picked it up in its scan, I saw its douchey qualities so clearly. I was able to make the adjustment before the start of eighth grade, and it’s really made a difference. I have my first girlfriend!”

We realize your parents may not be willing to fork out the money for all the sweet clothing and accessories the Loser Diluter will suggest, but don’t worry. It’s summer now, and often kids are home alone or with very limited supervision. Use that to your advantage!

  • Your parents pass you off onto friends over the summer, no doubt. Go into your buddy’s siblings’ rooms and filch those kids’ gift cards. Use the bro’s Lids gift card for a new baseball cap; use the sister’s Sally Beauty gift card for some hair gel.
  • While you’re at other kids’ houses, you might notice that some families have jars of change right out on the counter! You can get away with taking most of the quarters without anyone knowing.
  • And if your friend’s cool factor is high, steal his stuff!

 

You can start bragging. Committing petty crimes will raise your reputation, because crime is cool!

  • Plug-and-play technology makes it easy to install
  • Superior USB interface wirelessly transmits data to your smartphone, tablet, or computer
  • CCD light sensors scan from up to 12″ away at 5 mm resolution and 230 scans per second
  • High quality ABS plastic ensures long life. Ergonomic design feels comfortable in the hand
  • Weighs 5.6 oz.; measures 6.3 x 2.4 4.2 inches (H x L x W)

 

Package includes:

– 1 x Scanner

– 1 x English-language user manual

– 1 x Standing bracket

– 1 x USB data cable

Forego the dangerous once-over from the popular kids. The Loser-Diluter Handyscan looks you over before school the way the bullies do at school. Now you can stroll confidently onto school grounds knowing you don’t stand out. Your puny body and fragile ego will be spared, and your parents will save on doctor, dentist, and psychologist bills.
Go from lame-ass to badass with the Loser-Diluter Handyscan!

 

See  Stoneslide holiday gift assists:

Silent Night and Day

Rudolph the Red-Cheeked Sobriety Buddy

Keep Your Nosy Parents Out of Your Activities

 

By All Means, Carry On

We at The Stoneslide Corrective recently came across this item on the wires and thought our readers would want to know about it:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Coming back from your latest open-carry demonstration, are you ever hit with that sinking feeling? You know, the feeling that you just haven’t done enough? Sure, you walked through the aisles of the Chili’s with your Glock in your holster. You heard everyone get quiet as they noticed. You watched the hipsters who can’t handle freedom slide out the restaurant’s side door. But you still feel like people don’t get it. They don’t understand how important guns are to every facet of life.

That ignorance is exactly what will enable the tyranny to creep into our lives. You are right to be worried.

But now CunningGun Inc introduces a range of firearms lifestyle products that will empower you to show the world that guns matter ALL the time. ALL the friggin’ TIME! The Second Amendment cannot be confined to shooting ranges and hunting. You shouldn’t let it be.

puffalavender

Available in liberty-loving gun shops today:

PuffaLavender™ scented ammunition. There’s nothing like the smell of a clean house. And there’s nothing like the smell of gunpowder in the morning, noon, and night. Now while you or the wife do the housework, fire off a round of our PuffaLavender™ scented ammunition and fill the room with the perfect melding of a flower garden and a hot firefight. Our patented, super potent scent crystals explode into the room, spreading the smell of freedom. Available as blanks and as live rounds.

GustaWind™ picnic kit. Open the top of this peaceful-looking picnic basket and you uncover the makings of a perfect day. Inside the main compartment is a holster that will accommodate any make or model of sawed-off shotgun. But, you think, I may be picnicking in a park that doesn’t allow shooting, won’t I just be frustrated looking at my Remington and not being able to squeeze the trigger? No, the GustaWind™ set comes with a special shotgun-powered drink mixer. Fill the barrel muzzle-load style with your favorite concoction—works great with lemonade mix, rum and Coke, or Kahlúa—then aim your gun at the target glass, fire, and the energy of your shot is converted to mixing power by our patented mechanism. Mixing drinks for your whole party may require multiple shots, but that only adds to your fun. As an additional benefit, small-minded picnickers who don’t appreciate the sheer joy of a weapon discharge are likely to move away and leave you and your party more room to enjoy yourselves.

Gun Lovers Are Great Lovers™ romance kit. You have a pistol under your pillow already, and a reasonable home-defense piece stowed under the mattress. You’ve tried gun-shaped candles. You’ve cut out your favorite product shots from Guns and Ammo magazine and posted them around your boudoir. Still, nothing works. Nothing in the bedroom can get you up quite like the feeling of squeezing that hard trigger and feeling the thunderous release of a round. Leave it to CunningGun to solve another of your little troubles. This 14-piece romance kit uses the science of positive fetishization to enhance your marital duties. A one-of-a-kind adapter will allow you to hold your favorite piece while in the act and even use it to caress and stimulate your partner. A holster and other accoutrements add to the helpful associations, while scented gun oils bring the aroma of the range into the bedroom.

Never forget that when you let a moment go by where you’re not using your gun, you let the liberals win. Instead, CunningGun will help you prove that a gun is always a good thing.

MORE ON GUNS AND GUN CONTROL

-Tea Party-Affiliated Group Calls for Families to Do their Part to Protect Guns

-An Originalist Solution to Gun Control

Mayor of Great American City Apologizes Preemptively for Her Upcoming Dumb Idea

 

You may have heard of Oakland, California, and if you have it’s likely because of the notorious three-time Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders or the nine-time World Series Champion Oakland Athletics. But there’s so much more to Oakland than those two standouts.

The New York Times named Oakland number five in its “45 Places to Go in 2012”—nestled between London and Tokyo. Oakland offers waterfront saloons, upscale dining, and urban wineries. It features Victorian architecture, a renowned industrial-arts scene, as well as the 300,000 square foot Oakland Museum. Oakland is California’s 8th largest city. The city has its own lake, redwood forest, and 100,000 acres of parks and trails that feature breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay. Oakland’s historic Fox Theater is arguably San Francisco Bay Area’s top music venue, drawing acts such as Lenny Kravitz, Lorde, and Widespread Panic. In 2013, NPR named Oakland one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States.

However, depending on the stats you review, Oakland is the number two most crime-ridden city in the nation, with a violent crime rate almost triple the national average. Trying to maintain solvency, the city has taken on huge debt and cut government services. Its overwhelmed police department has been taken over by a court-appointed monitor. Oakland suffers from an unemployment rate hovering around 12%, a crumbling transportation infrastructure, and both a population decline and a decline in household income that have led to a shrinking tax base. Plus, the marquis A’s and Raiders are perpetually threatening to leave the city.

If there was ever a town that needed a strong leader with a vision, it’s Oakland, California. Instead, Oakland has Mayor Jean Quan.

Quan has deep roots in the city. She has lived in Oakland over 35 years. She served as a school board member for 12 years and as a city council member for eight. She is a UC Berkeley graduate, a former Kellogg Fellow, and the first Chinese-American female mayor of any major US city. However, Quan lacks any talent to manage. Everything she touches has turned to arsenic for the city of Oakland—so much so that she has faced two recall attempts since her election in 2011.

Her plan, up to now, for saving what could be America’s greatest city is based on erroneous crime statistics and recruiting volunteers to work with disenfranchised youth. But Jean Quan has a new plan—one she is sure will fail like her others, only this time she’s actually apologizing. And not only is she apologizing, she’s doing it in advance.  

Today, Mayor Quan stood before cameras and said:

I’ve had a really busy year, well, several years, of course, trying to get our city out of deep financial trouble—what with the loss of redevelopment money we so depended on here in Oakland. This city has a lot of moving parts. I’ve worked very hard. I’ve balanced budgets. I’ve come up with a lot of ideas about ways to keep Oakland moving forward. Okay, I’ve come up with no ideas. I will stipulate to that. I’ve had no good ideas. However, I will have one idea here coming up that I’ll pitch at the end of the first fiscal quarter. It’s kind of a funny idea, poking fun at myself but also taking a page out of the local sports teams’ marketing playbooks and trying to emulate their sucess. I’m apologizing now in advance for the idea I will pitch, which is a Jean Quan bobblehead doll.

To encourage residents to pay their local public debts—whether they’re library fines, building permit fees, parking tickets, whatever—for every payment received in full—no matter the amount; it can be from as little as $1.35 in library dues to $3,600 in commercial garbage fees—payors will receive a free Jean Quan bobblehead doll. I know, I’m sorry.

This doll will be designed by the same company who did the A’s “Chip and Chili” platter—that’s Chip Hale and Chili Davis—and the Coco Crisp garden gnome. I’ve actually been very involved in the design. I thought, there has been a lot of media hype about my most recent car accident, almost to the point of cartoonish attention, where everyone said I ran a red light and was checking email, which I wasn’t but the police have completed their investigation and have determined that, well, they’ve determined they can’t make a determination due to lack of evidence. See? I said I wasn’t checking email, and this lack of evidence proves it. But since there has been so much attention to this minor accident, I thought let’s turn this into an opportunity for Oakland. Let’s turn this on its ear and make it positive for Oakland. It should be clear now how much I care about this city.

So the doll, they call it a doll, it’s really more like a small statue or a trophy, but the doll will be me, my likeness, in my car, my front and back bumpers smashed between two other cars, my head out the window—bobbing out the window (is it “bobbing” or “bobbling,” since there is an “L” in the item itself)—and a cell phone in my hand. We might also have the rear fender of the car in front of me be a bobbling part, too, we’re not sure about the final design. (I’m guessing it is “bobbling,” so I’m going with that, and as mayor it’s my prerogative.)

It’s a funny idea. It’s a good idea. So why am I apologizing? In advance? People won’t get it. They’ll take it wrong. They’ll be offended and mostly people will just think it’s ugly despite the best design we could do. People will think it’s ugly and people just don’t like me, and they won’t want my likeness in their homes or on their dashboards or wherever you put a bobblehead. I don’t know. I don’t have any bobbleheads. Well, I have them. The sports teams do send them to me, but I’m very busy and I don’t have time to open the boxes. So they’re collecting in my garage.

I’m sure the Jean Quan dolls similarly will start stacking up in the basement of Oakland City Hall because instead of people rushing to pay their bills to get the doll, they’ll hold onto their money because they don’t want the doll. And even people who do regularly pay their bills will stop paying because they don’t want the doll, or mini statues or whatever you want to call them.quan

In fact—and this is where I’m most sorry—people will stop visiting the most popular and profitable public places in Oakland. The plan is if you pay an entry fee to any public space in Oakland—the zoo, the parking lots of our miles of trails—you get a Jean Quan doll, because that’s like paying a bill, too, right? It’s giving money to the city. Revenue will actually drop at these places. I’m talking about the Oakland Museum, the Chabot Space and Science Center, Lake Merritt—basically, the money-making bright spots in the city. These attractions are very popular with tourists, but tourists won’t know what to make of the dolls and if they do pay their entrance fees, if they do enjoy these attractions, they’ll end up leaving their dolls behind. So there’s going to be that, too, an additional expenditure, for cleanup and removal of what my doll will then become, which will be garbage, on top of just the lower attendance numbers and revenues at these attractions.

The other thing is, well, I said I would be most sorry for people stopping their visits to the most popular and profitable places in Oakland, and I will be sorry for that, but I will really be most sorry when it is revealed that my family, the Quan family, not my husband’s family, has murky ties to the Chinese-based manufacturer of the dolls whose factory is located very near the North Korean border in the Liaoning province of China. There will be talk that I have somehow profited financially from the dolls.

In addition, I’m also apologizing because, unfortunately, we’re in for a re-occupation of Oakland by Occupy Oakland. This organization will feel that if Oakland has money for dolls, it has money for real people and so will retake Frank Ogawa Plaza only this time they will build an impenetrable wall around their encampment by mortaring together all the discarded Jean Quan dolls they can find in the city. They will shut down City Hall. They will once again shut down the Port of Oakland and then will actually move on and succeed in shutting down the Oakland Airport, which will of course send traffic to San Jose and San Francisco and cut into our tax base. You can see the cycle. You can imagine the financial ramifications. I mean it’s going to be a doll, people, I can’t believe there will be this much disproportionate reaction to it. But, okay.

On a personal note, I want to apologize to the families and friends of the City Hall staffers who use the disparaging, hurtful term “Quan-fusion” to describe the state of mind I’m usually in and the state of affairs in City Hall. I am very sorry that you must live with people who have so much ugliness in their hearts that they could utter such a disgusting neologism. (“Neologism,” that is what it’s called, right? I believe it is. I’ll have my staff look into it.) Clearly they are horrible people, but I believe I am partially to blame for this behavior of theirs: if my ineptitude weren’t so perfect and comprehensive, perhaps no one would have ever thought to come up with such a mean-spirited quip at the expense of another human being. For I am, without doubt, a human being, who deserves compassion and love, just like everybody else does. I love this city (although I do have an odd way of showing it), and I hate what my actions have created and fostered in its residents’ hearts. Furthermore, I preemptively hate what my actions will continue to create and foster in everyone’s hearts, residents, visitors, and haters alike.

I also want to apologize in advance for my next political move, which will be winning reelection later this year. I’m sorry. I will be your mayor in 2015. Thank you so much.

See other preemptive apologies:

-by a CEO, before she has an affair

-by LeBron James, for not doing something, before he doesn’t do it

-by a Milwaukee Brewers fan, before he has a meltdown while ranting at Ryan Braun

University Purchases City for Economics Experiments

People have long said Wye Sprite University’s great weakness is its location. The university is highly ranked across all its academic programs, especially in science and medicine, but the city of Duncastle that surrounds it has been economically depressed—with low graduation and high crime rates—since the meat packing and rivet industries moved out in the 1960s.

However, what used to be seen as a weakness may have just turned into the university’s greatest strength. University administrators recently announced that the school had struck an agreement with the City Council and the mayor whereby Wye Sprite will assume all outstanding city debt and commit to a future $100 million annual donative in return for the right to set the city’s regulations and policies in a number of areas.WSUbuyscity

The deal is believed to be the first of its kind and will pull the city out of potential receivership or bankruptcy after years of mismanagement while at the same time enabling the university to open new areas of inquiry in the social sciences.

“The great limitation in the social sciences has been that we can’t run experiments like in medicine,” said University President Creath Wibuket, a former professor of economics. “Does a higher minimum wage help or hurt workers and firms? We argue back and forth but no one knows for sure. Now we can do randomized trials by varying the minimum wage block by block, say, and measuring the effect over years. This makes us the greatest place in the world to study society.”

The Department of Economics will manage the city and have full control over variables such as zoning, taxes, employment law, and education policy. The economics faculty is already designing experiments to look at questions such as the effect of tax rates on productivity and the effectiveness of safety laws as compared to industry self-regulation.

Professor Tom Jones will lead one of the first experiments—a close look at employment laws. “We will exempt companies from child-labor limitations and measure the effects,” Jones says. Manufacturing businesses throughout the city will be randomly assigned to one of three regimes: current law, a lowered minimum age of 12, or a lowered minimum age of 8. “Theory says that employers should want to retain workers, and so accident and fatality rates shouldn’t go up much. We will see.”

Jones says the entire department is energized by the new opportunity and is already generating ideas that are likely to greatly affect the future of the field. “One of my colleagues is working on a plan to offer tax rebates to high-income residents that will offset the effects of federal marginal tax rates, and we will measure the effects on productivity. You can’t do that anywhere else. Another is going to make the city’s best parks fee-based to see if this improves the quality of life for people using the park.”

The psychology department is developing a questionnaire and follow-up examination that they believe will uncover connections between personality factors and various life outcomes. They believe it will be the most comprehensive of its kind. The monthly, six-hour process will be mandatory for all Duncastle residents (though Wye Sprite employees and faculty are excluded in order to avoid conflict of interest).

Another experiment will cut high school and grade school teacher salaries by 50% to determine if this actually affects the quality of education. “Our hypothesis is that the best teachers do it for love, not money, so municipalities can save a lot of money without losing much in terms of quality,” says project lead Eliza Lint, another professor of economics. She points out that a democratic government would never be able to make this kind of bold experiment due to fear of being seen as disadvantaging some citizens. “Sure some experiments won’t work out,” she says. “But with a leading university in charge, I’m sure people will be better off–at least the median person will be.”

“Quite frankly, these people have held us back for a long time,” continues Lint, referring to how the poor reputation of Duncastle affects Wye Sprite’s rankings. “They may not believe in education themselves. They can drop out of high school and sit on their stoops all day, but they’ll still be doing something to advance a great university. I think there’s a poetic justice in that.”

The buzz in academic circles is that, by virtue of this coup, Wye Sprite will now attract the top talent in social sciences. “Would you want to go somewhere else and work with models and old data sets, or get to test your ideas on people’s real lives, in real time?” said one recent economics PhD who asked to remain anonymous because she was applying for a job at WSU. “It’s a classic disruptive innovation. Every other university will have to do something to keep up.”

“The city is now our petri dish,” says Wye Sprite President Wibuket. “One giant petri dish, and we’ll swab all sorts of exciting things on it.”

More on economics, finance, and society:

- Protests Erupt over the Lone Banker Convicted for a Role in the Financial Crisis

- Wealthy Individuals Offer “Benign Interceptions” of Lottery Winnings to Aid Middle Class and Poor

- How America’s Heroic Celebrities Can End Inequality

The Devil Reads the Hobby Lobby Decision and Has Some Questions for Justice Samuel Alito

 

Sam,

I know you have previously ruled that corporations are people, but I’ve always understood that to be a legal fiction, meaning they can act in the world of commerce—make contracts, be held responsible for debts—as if they were people. I thought this had nothing to do with me. But now I read your ruling in Hobby Lobby, which says “for-profit corporations can exercise religion.” This brings the world’s millions of corporations squarely into my sphere of influence, and now I have to figure out what to do with them. Do you realize that there are more corporations today than there were souls on the planet a few centuries ago? Yes, I’ve grown my staff in the meantime, but I can’t tell you how much trouble this is going to cause. I would ask you to reverse but I know you never change your beliefs (despite what you might have been forced to say in a Senate confirmation hearing).

As a result of actions you yourself undertook, I’ve been going through your opinion in detail, and I have some questions and comments.

You wrote:
No conceivable definition of “person” includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.

I get it. I now have to consider corporations equal to human beings in their exercise of religion, and thus their moral culpability. Now, human beings are held accountable through the persistence of their souls after death. Does the corporation have a soul? I have appointed a task force to study the matter and make recommendations. They could use your guidance on a host of related questions. For instance, when is the corporation conceived? Is it when a job creator first has an idea? Is it when he calls his lawyer? Is it when he signs the papers or when he has the intent to sign the papers? Is it wrong to then prevent a job creator from giving birth by, say, refusing funding (the IUD of corporate reproduction)? At the other end of the spectrum, are bankruptcy courts death panels? I would greatly appreciate your views on these issues.

You wrote:
The purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees.

hlI always understood that the purpose of a corporation was to create some space between the owners and agents of the corporation and the liabilities incurred by that corporation—in religious terms, the consequences of their sins. In other words, the shareholder doesn’t pay the full cost if his company implodes under massive debt. But your logic leads me to conclude that you believe the owners of a corporation should keep all rights and privileges in relationship to the company, while not bearing all responsibilities. That may work in the law, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to make the same exception in my judgments, much as I’d like to. I’m very sorry, because I know this exception whereby one gets all the benefits without any downside is convenient for you and all your friends and associates who own large, precarious companies.

You wrote:
Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law. States, including those in which the plaintiff corporations were incorporated, authorize corporations to pursue any lawful purpose or business, including the pursuit of profit in conformity with the owners’ religious principles.

I know that you know (and you know that I know) that “pursuit of profit in conformity with religious beliefs” is an oxymoron in a Christian framework. It was the original Christian, Jesus, who said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” But let me salute the beauty of your rhetoric, which makes this jagged chicken bone of a contradiction go down like a strawberry-banana-mango smoothie with a shot of gingko. This kind of thing helps me so much. It only takes the slightest hint to get people to form religious beliefs that will conveniently enable them to pursue the worldly lucre they actually long for. (Somehow they simply overlook or explain away anything contradictory, and think they’ve pulled the camel through the eye of the needle.) Then they rail (and bring lawsuits) about how they should be able to do everything in conformity with their (pre-conformed) religious beliefs. Wonderful trick, no?

You wrote:
[The contraception mandate] requires the Hahns and Greens [the owners of the companies] to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception.

I’m a bit confused here, I admit. I thought the corporation, which is now a person, was exercising its religious rights. Now you tell me it’s the Hahns and Greens, presumably people as well, acting through or as the corporation, who are exercising their religion. Are they one with their corporations from a religious point of view? Perhaps owner and corporation are two persons in one essence? Are you using the Trinity as your model here? Please clarify.

You wrote:
It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable…. The Court’s “narrow function . . . is to determine” whether the plaintiffs’ asserted religious belief reflects “an honest conviction.”

Oh, Sam, I envy you the simplicity of your world. To simply find a reflection of honest conviction and stop there, and not have to delve into the twisted labyrinths of a man’s heart, to not have to view what he does when he thinks he’s alone, to not view his florid fantasies and explosions of hate, to not see that he relishes crushing others under the heel of his beliefs, to not know that he will trade one conviction for the next as soon as the new one stokes his fancy. Now I must do the same for every corporation. Every oil company, for instance, says it is working day and night to save the planet. You would see the pretty pictures of forests on their website and stop there, having found your reflection of conviction. You would feel happy to be surrounded by such righteous and helpful corporations, even as these same companies spread blackness and waste somewhere beyond your usual haunts. But me, I’m afraid I will have much work to do to untangle this tangled yarn.

I hope my note does not seem accusatory. It’s true I feel you have opened up an immense new territory that I will have to survey and hoe and plant and reap, but I remain appreciative of everything you do. I hope we will be able to discuss these issues soon, perhaps at the next meeting of the Federalist Society.

With kind regards,
S.

Other articles focusing on legal matters:

-Coalition: Privatize Courts, Slash Deficits, and Make American Justice Pay

-Protests Erupt over the Lone Banker Convicted for a Role in the Financial Crisis

-Seattle Seahawks Fan Sues Team over Hearing Loss