Mad Hatters' Review

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East of East
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Dear New York
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From Under the Slush Pile
column bullet Domenick Capobianco
Your Man at the OED
column bullet column bullet Rae Desmond Jones's
The Cloacal View
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'Goatbreath Babble' by Sir Castor BayleyGoatbreath Babble
by Sir Castor Bayley


Fug It

The key component in the “Fug It” attitude is not in the mere statement of intent but in the actualizing of the obvious manifestations. For instance, one should refrain from being simply an expounder of “Fug It,” instead extending the statement to become a doer of “Fug It.” Intent is grand, but follow-through is grander. Case in point: Of a recent day the time was getting well past the hour time limit of my usual lunch period, which prompted me to say to myself, “Oh well. Fug It if I’m late.” Well spoken; with passion, virulence, vitality unmatched. Then the crucial moment drew near. Would I truly adapt the “Fug It” perspective and lag until I was “really” late, or would I chicken-shit my way out and race back inside to avoid being “too late”? Suspense time is over. I took the chicken-shit path.

There is much in this example to learn with regards to adopting the proper attitude. I remember back to those misty-hued glory days, a fellow, Jack for our purposes, who had so easily and effortlessly adopted the “Fug It” attitude that he was time and time again able to channel the mere statement of “Fug It” intent into action of epic proportions. So much did he epitomize the concept that to this day he remains an icon to me. Perhaps then for myself I need to be more like Jack, keeping firmly in mind his visage before I choose to act or not act on my next “Fug It.” Hmm…let’s see. Just today my boss asked to create and release a report that I happen to know is as useless as it is long — read that “verbose” — an annoying habit that all his so-called reports are lately prone to. So what will I do? You got it: Fug It! That’s right, by the time he finds the remains of his would-have-been report it will be pushing up daisies in the tundra of corporate should-have-could-have-would-have-been-a-winner Hell.

Readers may write to Sir Castor Bayley c/o Place "Goatbreath Babble" in the subject line of your email.

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Carol Novack
Image © 2007 Phil Nelson
Better Than Court TV: Sensational Cases from the NYC Courts

by Carol Novack


6/22/2007 6:54 PM EST

Anonymous jurors sat impassively while the defendant, Officer Robert Reilly Johnson, testified about his trip to Cohen Opticals a few hours before he fatally shot Ishmaeli something or other we can't pronounce on a rooftop in Bensonhurst. According to Alphonse Derschovitz (bigimportantlawyerblog), this is the first instance in America that the defense of “Myopia Nervosa Cornea,” a.k.a. “Negligent Optical Illusions,” or rarer, “Negligent Optical Retailers,” has been permitted to proceed to trial. “On every other occasion, well, really only one," Dershovitz is alleged to have said to his former student Gertrude Klotz (an intern with Fox News, and a gad about town at MySpace), "the courts have refused to consider the affirmative defense, which is widely recognized in Ubetzuasshcanstand and other parts of the former USSR nobody here has heard of except Borak, but then of course, he's not from here.”

Tensions were ascending when the defendant took the stand, as nobody thought he'd get up and swear. On direct examination, Johnson testified: "The sun was laying down on the roof like this glaring monster alien egg yolk. I couldn't see with those dang new glasses. … I swear this kid, with these huge sunglasses, looked just like that Osama guy, and when he did something with his left hand, I did like any good American, like they teach us to shoot before we gets shot at. It's what you do when you're an officer of the law and you love your country and you're faced with an Arab looking guy you have reason to believe is a terrorist. God bless America."

Judge Weezel admonished an elderly male juror, known as "the knitter," for giggling "inappropriately" when Johnson blessed America.

At the close of today’s proceedings, the defendant's mother, Gertrude Kvetzchinitz Johnson, of somewhere around Nashville, Tennessee, stated: “He was always a quiet boy, a bit slow, to tell the truth. It took him at least 15 minutes to pull the feelers out of the ugly creeping critters around these parts. It was hard to get him in to supper ’cause he took so long. And he was kinda quiet too, and a bit messy, drooling all over the cats and them babies and all and it were kinda strange how those babies and all would plum disappear and he was always eating crickets without gravy. But BobBoy was always a good boy and quiet. We were mighty right proud when he became a policeman in that awful city.”

Stay in tune tomorrow when the Kings County District Attorney Amanda Poccolocco —still under investigation for fraud and bribery — is scheduled to make a rare appearance to cross-examine the defendant. According to her ex-husband, real estate mogul Horace H. Houghton, Ms. Poccolocco has never cross-examined anyone but him, and that was during his alleged affair with the infamous Madame Beatrice. Houghton alleges that his ex-wife did a “pathetic job.”

The outcome of this case may well make waves in the legal field if the defendant is acquitted and the action holds up on appeal, post-appeal, post-post appeal, and certiorari, although legal scholars unanimously agree that the optical defense would hit a fatal blindspot if it were to proceed to consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court, as a majority of the justices believe that “defenses are not rights that are protected by the Constitution, as if defendants had any rights to begin with.” Flugmire v. U.S., 1463 U.S. 2777 (2007) (Scalia, J).

Readers may write to Carol Novack c/o Place "Carol Novack" in the subject line of your email.

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'The Cloacal View' by Rae Desmond JonesThe Cloacal view, or Gazing Up from the Anus of the World

Australians have a reputation for earthy humour. This may come as a result of living deep in the South end of the earth, from where we have historically gazed fearfully North-wards. There resided hordes of Asian persons all of whom (we collectively imagined not so many years ago, from our sanitary perspective) gazed with greedy eyes upon our wealth and our pallid complexions.

The world has changed, but many elements of our cloacal focus have not. Where once we looked to the British Empire, we now serve as loyal deputies to American foreign policy. We have consistently maintained the same colonic attitude, despite the smooth passage of colonialism, communism and (perhaps) terrorism. We could not survive without an ism to pass through the schisms. In unity, we are saved from the embarrassment of thought.

There are numerous irascible exceptions to this, but as in most democratic political systems, too much deliberation creates discontent. Discontent creates motion, motion creates revolution, revolution is bad for the balance of trade. That isn't good for the mortgage, or our digestion. Best to take a glass of bicarbonate of soda and relax safe in the arms of the USA, which has nothing better to do with its primary producers than to look after our wheat exports to them. Not.

Our status has served us well. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating turned our focus firmly and positively upward. He proclaimed that we were in fact a part of Asia. No matter which way you twisted the globe of the world, you couldn't get us anywhere near the Isle of Man, or even Hawaii.

Keating's capacity for astringent wit ensured his much deserved downfall, which he now exercises on his successors. He was replaced by John Howard, who has accepted the direction but not the strategy. Howard is a superb haemorrhoid, with an ability to make the passage of any progressive idea painful in the extreme. Having acted with United Nations support to ensure East Timor's independence from Indonesia, we have cleverly ripped off the East Timorese for a substantial share of their oil. Well, Empire comes with certain advantages, and a lot of uncertain shit. Ask Dick Cheney.

This year we have an election. Mr. Howard is being threatened by another small bespectacled haemorrhoid with hair, and he now sees the virtue of many environmental issues that never made it to the ascending colon before. The Leader of the Opposition and haemorrhoid in training, Mr. Rudd, adjusted his spectacles and saw that there was a terrible drought, and that it may have been caused by global warming. Why, a former American vice president said so. Mr. Howard saw the votes in this. There's only one better way to get people to vote for you than ensuring their comfort, and that's to make them crap themselves in panic. The present American president doesn't say so, but he knows it.

It looks like an interesting year. History is repeated with excretory persistence down here, but there is more than the usual flatulence around.

Readers may write to Rae Desmond Jones c/o Place "Rae Desmond Jones's Column " in the subject line of your email.

'Step to the Rear' by Rich AndrewsStep to the Rear:
Tales from a Lapsed New York City Bus Driver
by Rich Andrews

Semi-true stories from your NYC bus drivers.



The Metropolitan Transit Authority has a promotion-from-within policy/structure. Only bus operators can become dispatchers. On one hand, that’s a good thing because who's better qualified to be the boss but someone who's been bossed? On the other hand, power corrupts. Too many operators suffer instant amnesia and delusions of grandeur the moment they're promoted.

These neuvo-Napoleons come to work with brand-new magnifying glasses and fine-tooth combs, violation forms, fresh pens and rulebooks. They write up guys they've just been working with, for the slightest infractions and there's about a million slight infractions in those nice new rulebooks.

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Most drivers adopt the Catch-22 approach: Pay no attention to the rules because, bottom line, rules are like mini-works of art — each viewer interprets them differently. Badges, for example, have to be draped over the right shoulder unless you're wearing a hat, in which case the badge has to be mounted on the hat. That's clear enough — or so one would believe. But within the magical realms of the Transit Authority, a different kind of reality exists, one more, well, mobile.

Jeannie K. began her day on the B4 bus at 7:04 a.m. This route stretches from Sheepshead Bay out to the western tip of Bay Ridge. After two round trips, she was a bit disheveled. Not paying too much attention to where her badge was, she pulled up to the checkpoint where Dispatcher Sal C. had been assigned.

Now Sal had a reputation as a ladies' man, all 5 foot 5 inches of him. His jet-black wavy hair and boyish grin must have been the main attraction that caused women to swoon. During his years as a driver, there had always been a dame hanging on his farebox. When he made dispatcher and had to stand on a corner right out in the open, we figured Sal's Lothario days were over, but au contraire. Now there was no passenger guard rail to get in the way.

On this rare occasion, Sal happened to be alone and glad of it; he was partial to female bus operators, unless they were lesbian. Jeannie wasn't a lesbian and wasn't hard on the eyes, either. Sal went into Don Juan mode. Jeannie opened her doors, the unintended metaphor not lost on Sal, who instantly smiled and started shooting his shit.

Jeannie was dog-tired and couldn't care less about Sal, his smile or what he was saying. Sal must have felt the icicles forming on his face. This caused something like a Hyde-to-Jekyll effect.

All business now, Sal says, "Where's your badge?" Jeannie had buried the badge between her right shoulder and her ample right breast, whether intentionally (to protect her identity) or accidentally. With innocence born from years of practice, Jeannie digs between her luscious right tit and her upper arm to liberate the badge.

This puts a dance in Sal's pants; he knee-jerks back into Don Juan mode, making overtures that would make Vivaldi's pale in comparison. But Jeannie is almost yawning in his face. In total frustration and abashment, Napoleon Sal writes her up.

In the big boss' office the following Monday, Jeannie tells the chief her tale of woe. When she gets to the part about where the badge actually was, she uses the word "bosom", which sends Union Rep Bill H. into a some kind of coughing/choking fit. The boss scowls at Sal, who just stands there waiting for the guillotine blade to chop off his dick. Bill recovers and the inquest continues but not for long.

"So the badge could not be seen, you're saying?" the boss asks Jeannie.

"I couldn't see her badge," pipes up Sal. "No one could see it."

"Well how hard did you look for it?" says the union rep, then slams his hand over his mouth, producing a strange sound between a gurgle and a fart.

The boss tries to look livid. "Hey! You think this is a joke?" he says to Bill.

"Who cares what he thinks?" Jeannie hollers. "I don't think it's funny one bit. My tits aren't funny!" Bill scrambles out of the office laughing in tears.

The boss, having been a dispatcher and before that a bus driver, looks at Jeannie and tears up the violation. "Some outfit I got here. My dispatchers can't keep their flies zipped and your union delegate has tit fits." Jeannie has no idea what the hell she's feeling. The boss tells her to get out of his office. "And take your bosom with you, for crissakes."

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: Step to the Rear. Comments may be published.

'From Under the Slush Pile' by Helen RuggieriFrom Under the Slush Pile
by Helen Ruggieri


“The Workshop Method”

You can not escape a poetry apprenticeship without participating in a “workshop.” Inevitably you end up sitting around a table or in someone’s living room taking part in a “workshop.” This method works by pitting members against each other in a war of words.

Leave ’em or sleep through ’em — nobody loves ’em. The commentary ranges through a gamut of emotions from A to B. There’s supportive useless back patting, “Oh, that’s so wonderful!” Or it will represent the graduate school piranha pool where you get stabbed in the back. Notice the use of “back” in both contexts. Nothing is up front.

It is not all take. The workshop method (based on early works of the Marquis de Sade) gives you a chance to annihilate the work of others by going in for the kill, so to speak. You look for the weakness in the poem — stick your hand in and yank out the beating, bleeding heart. It came to me while watching Survivors that instead of being on an island you are seated around a conference table in a closed room with a group of people set on having you removed from the tribe whose language each one believes they are in charge of purifying.

Of course, what goes around comes around, so you must couch your comments in “easy speak,” never stating directly what you mean. You employ weasel words by the gallon, perhaps, somewhat, could you, might, and so on. That way you modify, somewhat, the retaliation that will follow in any case, but at least it will be coated in the rhetorical slime which is polite discourse.

Sometimes, the commentary you receive about your poem will be useful to you as you go about rewriting, but often it’s a reflection of the ignorance or spitefulness of the other members of the workshop. You know this because the commentary is prefaced by “I don’t get …” And since you aren’t usually allowed to respond until the discussion is ended, you have to let them muddle along. Some even build their own poem out of the missreadings.

The comments are usually restricted to how the poem says what it says. Seldom does the group ever deal with the content other than as a reflection of “understanding, “ as in “I don’t get...”

Sometimes in a workshop where there is a hierarchy, comments are uttered just to please the high yoda who is in charge. I.e. I know he hates … so when someone uses … it’s good to jump in and say, don’t you think you can eliminate the …. Thus one strikes a coup.

If you need to make comments there follows a list of possibilities for use in emergencies:

that’s politically incorrect

that’s too obvious

that’s not obvious enough

try the present tense (past, future, whatever)

delete all the adverbs, all the adjectives. (nouns, verbs, misc.)

the line breaks need work (enjamb/don’t enjamb)

the introduction doesn’t pull me into the poem (more explication)

the ending isn’t earned (is way too earned)

cut one of the following stanzas (your choice)

the figurative language is unbelievable, too believable

And so the evening goes …

Perhaps the workshop method goes back to some busy Iowa professor who one day said to himself (that’s gender bias), “Why don’t they do this meaningless explication of childish poetry?” He’d been traumatized by reading one too many bad student poems. He is thinking about his career. Let them babble on, I’m working on a paper, he thinks to himself. Voilà — the workshop method.

Why do people participate in such an odious experiment? They end up with a poem that is totally inoffensive. Everyone understands; everyone is happy. And we move on to the next McPoem.

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: From Under the Slush Pile. Comments may be published.
'East of East' by Pete DolackEast of East

The culture of “political incorrectness” and right-wing mythology

Of all the many ways that the corporate media controls the contours of communication, perhaps none is more insidious than the concept of “political correctness.” The allegedly all-pervasive pressure to be “political correct” naturally spurs the righteous declaration of “politically incorrectness,” that desire to say anything, do anything, no matter how obnoxious, in a desperate blow for freedom.

But a funny thing always seems to happen on the road to free speech nirvana — the possessors of the megaphones, electronic and otherwise, who proclaim their right to be as obnoxious as they wanna be, become most distressed when the targets shoot back. Although this trend seems increasingly pervasive throughout the industrial capitalist world, we can again count on good old fashioned American culture to carry the trend to its logical extreme. In places like the United Kingdom, there is enough lingering cultural heritage to require at least a modicum of wit or playfulness when on the attack, but such trifles are no requirement in the United States, where the inalienable right of the privileged to attack is quite undiluted by quaint concepts such as human decency.

No subtlety, please, we’re Americans. Two of this year’s cultural kerfuffles provide a handy example of the United States in microcosm: the racist and sexist comments of national radio broadcaster Don Imus and the case of the Duke University lacrosse players. Mindless racist and sexist name-calling, wrapped tightly in a cocoon of self-righteousness, brought down Imus, despite this material being the dominant programming on talk radio in the United States and Imus being one of the pioneers. (It is successful in part because it’s utterly predictable and never challenges the bias of the listener, thereby happily avoiding any need to think, but let us not digress.) Imus’ “commentary” backfired because the Rutgers University women basketball players turned out to be successful students and presented an all-around safely middle class image, making it safe for middle America and its coastal equivalents to join the outrage. Of course, Imus’ show was cancelled solely because nervous advertisers began pulling their ads from the program, putting it in financial jeopardy, not out of any quaint concern for human decency; we can safely assume the program had been very profitable and that is quite enough value, thank you.

It was quite predictable that conservatives of all types rose up as one to rally to Imus’ side; there is nothing more American than attacking African-Americans and women, although, it must be admitted, certainly not unique to the planet. The First Amendment is in jeopardy! Call someone, quick! What was much less comprehensible was the spectacle of so many left-of-center folks — “liberals” as we use the term in North America; “social democrats” or the equivalent for most of the rest of you — jumping so enthusiastically on the bandwagon. “I’m not political correct! I’m for the First Amendment!,” our left-of-center friends proclaimed, outraged that poor, defenseless Imus (who drew a yearly salary of tens of millions of dollars and had his show carried on dozens of radio stations in almost every large city in the U.S.) was being deprived of his precious right to free speech. Although, oddly, few of these left-of-center folk seem at all perturbed that their own political viewpoints are eviscerated and censored in the corporate media.

This is classic misapplication of the First Amendment, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantor of free speech, which proscribes government interference in the content of speech but is silent on corporate restrictions on speech. Nobody has silenced Imus; he is quite free to continue to make cliche-ridden rants about all the minority groups he loves to stereotype in his dreary, unoriginal style and to hold his opinions, however calcified in the 19th century they may be. What is at question here is the right to uncontested speech. What all the right-wingers screaming about the First Amendment really mean is: “You have no right to talk back to us.” Those uppity Black people and uppity women talked back. How dare they! It is difficult to not take note that groups that are continually attacked are supposed to shut up and take it, all in good humor, of course. We may very well ask why it is that the First Amendment does not apply to the subjects of hate speech, but only to those who engage in hate speech, in particular those who have the megaphone of a national radio program.

The official form of this curious formulation of free speech is the sanctity of the constitution, and this is an entirely safe space. We’re all against censorship. In the U.S., conservatives are particularly adept at symbol manipulation, and because they have such a stranglehold on the corporate media, they can blast their message incessantly across newspapers, radio, television & etc. Declare all this a god-given right and there you have a nearly irresistible juggernaut — god and country, and all their institutions, and the combined might of the corporate media, proclaim the right of the advantaged to stomp on the disadvantaged without rebuttal. This goes on in all spheres — who could count the number of television business shows and newspaper business sections that cheer every corporate layoff because a few executives are going to become richer. Those employees who just lost their job, and might lose their home, are so many numbers. Who cares about losers like that?

The cultural concomitant to that attitude, and an indispensable component, is the pervasive brutishness of public discourse. Once groups of people have been declared losers who can be easily dismissed, it is a short journey to dehumanizing them. Since capitalism, like all systems of conquest and domination, can only exist through the skilled use of divide-and-conquer techniques, some groups have to be designated as lower still. Because sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and other social ills are sadly pervasive, with a traditional set of stereotypes to reinforce them, a panoply of divisions can be fostered. This is a global pattern, not unique to any corner, but in the U.S. the cultural components of this endless process is elevated to a constitutional principal.

That this pattern appeals to the conservative mind, frightened of change, seeking the swift administration of “order” and suspicious of any Other, is no surprise. But why do American liberals, who wouldn’t dream of standing with overt racists, buy into this? We should be leery of making any sweeping judgments, but it is difficult not to conclude that they have absorbed conservative, right-wing ideology. Anybody who proclaims “I’m politically incorrect” or “I’m against political correctness” has allowed themselves to be corrupted. That does not mean that a liberal has ceased to be a liberal — we all contain contradictions — but that the liberal has not stopped to think through his or her own ideas. Again, the manufacturing of opinion in a corporate-dominated society is the nearly sole preserve of an overwhelmingly dominant corporate media, which reflects the right-wing viewpoints of the corporate elite and the need of that ruling elite to continually divide and conquer to maintain its dominant position.

Most people, conservatives included, have some awareness of class, even if the word itself is a taboo. How nice, then, to be able to strike a blow against mythological elitists who are always telling us what to do ... by screaming insults and kicking people who are already down. Those elitists, the right-wing corporate media incessantly tells us, are liberals. So if liberals defend the rights of minorities and women, then we must attack minorities and women, and the liberals who take their side. Liberals indeed travel far down a slippery slope when they adopt this ideology as they do by insisting the likes of Don Imus have an indisputable right to peddle hate speech and no one has a right to oppose that hate speech, and do so under the banners of upholding the First Amendment or combatting so-called political correctness.

This is backlash culture. After every period of social progress, a backlash sets in, as those with the most privilege see their privileges called into question, and they do not like that at all. The movement for political incorrectness is a crucial component of this backlash, fostering a climate of divisiveness by putting the traditionally disadvantaged on the defensive, creating a more secure environment for those at the top of the corporate pyramid by setting off various groups against one another. The backlash, until a counter-movement arises strong enough to push it back, steadily gains in intensity, leaving steadily less space for any challenge to any component of a society ever more dominated by the top of the corporate pyramid.

The Duke University sexual-assault case is a classic example of backlash culture. This case featured a collision of gender, race and class — a struggling, working-class Black woman was hired as a stripper for extremely privileged White male athletes from wealthy backgrounds, who played for a lacrosse team with a long history of anti-social behavior. There seems to be no doubt that the woman was attacked in some form, and there has not been a rebuttal to the fact that the woman fled the scene under a shower of racial epithets. Regardless of which individual may or may not have done which act, the very fact that the athletes were highly privileged was enough for the corporate media to thunder at the outrage of a miscarriage of justice and, besides, that Black woman deserved it. The case quickly became a backlash perfect storm, through the skillful use of right-wing mythology.

The case fell apart as it was handled poorly by the prosecutor. The career of the prosecutor has ended, with his license to practice law revoked. How dare a prosecutor abuse his power, the corporate media, in full backlash fury, intoned. Funny, ain’t it, that thousands of minorities are railroaded into jail across the United States, but there is never a call for any of those prosecutors to step down, much less to have their licenses revoked. A few years ago, there was a Texas case where a lone-wolf law-enforcement officer went to a rural country and managed to get one-quarter of the local Black population thrown into jail, along with a few Whites who associated with Black people, on obviously manufactured evidence. The officer was honored as the “Texas Lawman of the Year” for his heroic efforts. Some of the railroaded spent years in jail before getting out. Where is the indignation at the prosecutor who helped carry out this miscarriage? There are endless examples of this sort of thing, and they are met mostly by silence.

This is the result of the battle against political correctness. This has been a remarkably successful misinformation campaign, but all we need do is open our eyes.

Readers may write to Pete Dolack c/o Place "Pete Dolack Column " in the subject line of your email.
Tantra Bensko's 'Strange as it May Seem Column'Strange as it May Seem


The Accidental Voyeur

The lucid windows were washed today with cream, when no one was around. The cream was soft and moist, thick and white. The windows loved it, their panes being slid against lovingly, slowly, with finesse. “I enjoy having my backs stroked,” the lucid windows said, lifting their shirts over their heads, and turning their backs to be washed on the other sides. “Just use your own style and panache.” A little disconcerting.

As they were so intimately being stroked shirtless, a man in a yellow suit wandered by, smoking a cigar outside the most expensive restaurant in Europe. He didn’t want to disturb the guests inside with the smoke, but he had purchased an expensive cigar for dessert, so he was wandering about in the fresh air while his friends finished their colorful meal. He noticed the windows with their shirts raised, was concerned someone might break in, and stuck his head inside lucidity, admiring the little lights inside, as it was an antique model. As he looked beyond the nobs and dials and wheels, he gasped, realizing what reality really was. He was astonished by the clarity it was possible to see it with and yet still live. He understood. It was like nothing he had even begun to imagine.

He didn’t realize the lucid windows were in the midst of their stroking, had thought he was alone until he heard them begin moaning and the cream frothing, and so he turned to face them and his mouth fell open, his eyes enlarged, while at the same time the cream realized he had his head stuck inside when they thought they were alone at such a tender moment. All parties shuddered, grew pinker, and the man in yellow turned away suddenly, with a mumbled apology, but with a memory he imagined he would return to often, a memory that would come back in new scenarios in his dreams, that would make him reconsider the commitment to his personality, and compel him to pull back the petals of flowers and peer inside their trembling panties. He had seen.

On the other side of the lucid windows were scenes that were specific to the man in yellow. He had seen something no one else would ever see just in that way, but the themes were universal. The truth was undeniable. He had wanted to lick lucidity, curl his tongue and take it back inside his mouth, curl it all the way down his throat, let it bulge inside his neck, feel it snake into his stomach, and come out into the netherworlds with warmth and satisfaction. He burped instead, the emptiness of lucidity he was suddenly aware of in his innards making air that longed, air that seeped its juices in futile anticipation.

His eyes burned and watered after having glimpsed visions of lucidity, and felt they wanted to be washed with cream too, lovingly. Tears were forming at the edges of his eyes, poignantly hovering on the precipices of the lids without ever dripping down, suspended in that state of welling, welling, welling. He put his head in his hands and emitted a long, gruff moan. His cigar burned his forehead, as he had forgotten he had it in his hands. He threw it down, expensive as it was, onto the parking lot of the most expensive restaurant in Europe. He shook his head within his hands.

He didn’t want to go back to join his friends for their colorful meal. But he did. And they each said, “I enjoy having the neck of my bottle of wine wrapped in a napkin. Just use your own finesse.” The waiter precisely put the napkin on the neck of the expensive wine, without letting his fingers linger lovingly to feel the glass, and the friends watched the extremely long hairs of his black, arched eyebrows that so vigorously flourished on his debonair face which was made to look down at people at their tables, without lowering his head to face them. The man in yellow took the napkin off the neck of the wine bottle so he could pour it. He needed a drink to settle him, to loosen his tongue so he could once again fit into illusive, mundane conversations.

The waiter saw that the napkin was off the bottle’s neck and came over to place it back on even more precisely, his head held even higher, and it seemed as though his eyebrows were crawling higher as well, one cocked, as if to suggest that the man in yellow was the most uncivilized thing he had seen that day. “Would you like dessert?” the waiter asked, as if, of course, the man in yellow was too uncouth to have the correct answer. He responded, “I’m not very hungry any more. I’d just like some melon, please.”

Hmmf. “Of course, yes, Sir, very good.” When the waiter brought the melon, the man in yellow began eating it with a spoon. The waiter leaped across the room and said, “Sir! Melons are eaten with a knife and fork.”

At that point, the man in the yellow suit curled his lips so far backwards they entered his throat and pulled in the whole scene of the restaurant with them, tasting it all with their delicate nerve endings. He swallowed it all, without the use of a spoon, knife or fork. He burped from the emptiness of it all, the longing to eat something more substantial, such as the visions of lucidity he had spied in their moment of nakedness and enjoyment. But it was the lucidity that made everything else he saw never enough because he saw that for humanity nothing was ever enough, and he wanted meaning that went beyond meaning.

He let the scene in the restaurant engorge his innards, as he looked outside through the hole he had created by eating the restaurant, and all his friends, and the waiter, and the neighboring diners, with their conversations. He peeked his head through the hole, boldly. With no apologies this time, no sense of embarrassment.

This time, his eyes watered and the tears welled, but with such joy, such panache, such satisfaction, he smiled bigger than he had ever smiled, with his lips that had been sucked inside his body. He had a big belly laugh. And he decided that it was time for another walk.

Readers may write to Tantra Benski c/o Place "Strange as it May Seem " in the subject line of your email.
'Dear New York' by Debbie Ann EisDear New York


Dear New York,

It has been sooo long since I spoke to you last. How long, sweetie? Did you save my last letter? Let's see, last time I wrote, I came out of the box, enticed by women with magazine hair and tennis racquets. I took a shot at it all, but, as you know, I have that New York mouth. (Oh, we love our mouths. And our jaw muscles are so wonderful and loose. My grasshopper genes, you know.) Anyway, that little slip about my grasshopper parents, along with my aphid children (the magazine-hair women were concerned about that, New York), then, well, my cicada husband did it for me. Seems bugs were not what they were in New York! So, back in the box I had gone. I can only tell you what managed to slip inside this box, which was quite a lot. You will be surprised, New York!

I was able to hear my aphid children come and go whilst munching faux tulips and plastic leaves. I got a glimpse of them every so often. They were a bit hyper and fat, but they met other aphids at the faux green grocer. All of them munched the same plastic flowers. So all were fat. I was not too worried. Why do aphids have to be tiny dots on flowers? Who says an aphid can't be a fat blob on plastic? Right, New York? Life is relative. Or hopeless. Something like that.

Oh, and it seemed cicadas no longer went away for seventeen years. Apparently, they could come back any time, something to do with warmer air, or no food. Or other cicadas no longer wanting sex. So, my cicada husband was hanging around the yard again.

I said, well, OK, so cicadas don't wait seventeen years anymore, OK, but (you will be so proud of me, New York!), stay the fuck out of my box. Just like that. I said it loud and clear. Fuck. Out. Of. My. Box. (Don't mess with us, right New York? We are enablers, yes, but only because we like to complain. But don't go getting in our box, right, New York?) Go, I said, out there with all the other returning cicadas, and drink your nectar and drive our aphid children around Connecticut. There must surely be new things you guys can do, what with all the weather changes. So, he hopped in his new Metropolitan (which can hold at least one hundred aphids. Which, New York, has encouraged the kids to collect friends like coins.) And off they went.

Things started changing.

No one with magazine hair and tennis racquets came around. My cicada husband said something about tennis being cancelled due to new laws about cell phones. Seems you could no longer have a cell phone in a car anymore, because new elected officials banned them. (Has there been an election, New York? Will my post-Democratic syndrome finally be cured? ). These new guys said maybe we shouldn't be talking into cell phones whilst driving a car. With the elimination of cell phones, women stopped drive SUVs. So no more tennis games, because how could women get there?

My cicada husband also told me other things. He speaks into the crack in the box, New York. (Remember how tight our boxes were in New York? All of us yelling at each other because there were no cracks? But we were all bugs and so who cared? Oh, New York how are my bug friends?) Anyway, he said he went to the theatre and there on the screen was this boxy looking man with a Southern accent, pointing to graphs and melting glaciers, telling everyone that things were screwed up and, yes, that little chic was right, the sky was falling. (Really, New York, tell me, did this happen? )

Anyway, my cicada husband said the Southern boxy man went to Hollywood to retrieve an Oscar. And what he did next was amazing! Apparently, he looked into the camera and said, "life outside the suburbs is important"!! And, New York, everyone here listened because, well, it was Hollywood and there he was holding an Oscar, all clean-cut and white! So, they said, maybe he's right. And, like, things have changed! My cicada husband said there are bug-like cars on the road now. The Metropolitans are used to house the homeless. And apparently, according to my cicada husband, bugs are back! It's OK to be a bug in the suburbs now, and, in fact, everyone thinks maybe we should try to have more of them around. Even here, even in Connecticut. (Can you believe this, New York?!) My cicada husband told me grasshoppers are everywhere, and it's actually considered cool to have one somewhere on your family tree! Come out of the box, katydid, he said!

Oh, New York, it seems the coast could be clear. But you must write back and tell me. Is it OK to come out of the box? What are the new officials saying about bugs in boxes in Connecticut? And ask my grasshopper parents to come for a visit? I just don't know.

Hope all is well with you. Please write me when you get a chance.



Readers may write to D. A. Eis c/o Place "Dear New York Column" in the subject line of your email.
'Your Man at the OED' by Domenick CapobiancoYour Man at the OED

Dear M.A.O.E.D.:


Olivia d.F

* * *

Dear Olivia:

Opabinia - ( Diese Seite übersetzen )

Opabinia. Opabinia is a curious animal found in very early fossil deposits. ...
Opabinia has no known relatives except possibly Anomalocaris. ...

Very few persons know that Nero had a sister, Opabinia. The reason for this being that he kept her locked up in a wine cellar most of her life. She was unhappy there, but happily consumed large quantities of fine Roman wines.

He kept her hidden because she resembled, in many ways, a fish fossil.

Occasionally, out of pure kindness, Nero would toss some poor soul, about to be fed to the lions, in with her to spend the night. It is written that the victim did not mind too much dying after that.

Opabinia passed her days drinking, fucking, and writing poetry. Not at all a bad life, all things considered.

Her best-known poem, largely ignored (the original in Latin, of course, and below a very rough translation which loses all the beauty of the original Latin) is 'Wine do I drink and in winery live and whine do I do.'

First the Latin:

/merrum bevo ed canti tensi gemi fac.
ei cari ne voi? Huh?
ne ve sagù
sol e buono, OH e ben
lui conclu panci di leo
ne sa nessu
mater altre
an migli
ne fra temp, chè vino/

And the translation:

/Wine do I drink and in winery live and whine do I do.
and darling dears wouldn't you? Huh?
wouldn't you

it's no fun
not seeing the sun

Sago was good, oh he was fine
he ended up in the belly of a lion

no matter
there will be others
even better

meanwhile, there's wine/

The above poem was found—after poor Opabinia's sudden and unexpected death at age 99—scratched into the wall of the wine cellar, presumably using her fingernails, although some scholars have surmised that broken bits of glass would have served also. It is an unresolved question since Opabinia's nails were worn down to the tips of her fingers. Prof. J. B. Bently of Eton has stated, "Of course, she chewed them, anxiously awaiting her next brief one night stand."

Got a word that you do not know the meaning and/or origin of? Write to:

Your Man At The OED
Strand Towers 15th Fl.
688 Nelson Place
London SE, England


This is from Beverly T. of The Whitehall District In London

Dear Sir At The OED:

Exactly what does eintopf mean?

* * *

Dear Beverly:

Eintopf, in German, means ‘one pot.’ It is now used as the name for a philosophical concept formalized by Martin Heidegger in mid-career while studying Zen Buddhism in Japan. At the time Heidegger was interviewing the Zen master Roshi Ryo Watanabe, who had invited him to sit in on private sessions with individual student monks. The monk Kushi Mitsubiyama, who would in time himself become a Zen master, asked Roshi Ryo Watanabe if we are reincarnated after dying, a question never addressed by the Zen Buddhists in all their writings and historical records. The master paused for a moment and then replied with a question of his own: "If all the shrimp are in one pot how can any of the shrimp get out?"

Heidegger was immediately enlightened by the master's question, which he interpreted as an answer. He then came up with his concept of 'Eintopf,' which is basically a philosophical theory that all life and all energy is
contained, bound, and limited, and will be contained forever. In a paper
presented to the magazine ‘Philosophy Now!’ (Vol. 36, n. 6), he outlines his proof ‘that reincarnation is not only possible but is inevitable and unavoidable.’

Got a word that you do not know the meaning and origin of? Write to:

Your Man At The OED
Strand Towers 15th Fl.
688 Nelson Place
London SE, England


From W. J. Kidder of East Coventry

Dear Mr. OED Man:

Would you be kind enough to elucidate for me as to the exact meaning of the word schoenabatic?

* * *

Mr. Kidder:

(A) schoenabatic is a person addicted to M. F. Schoen’s music. (Martin Foster) Schoen is a mostly now-forgotten early 20th century composer, a contemporary of Eric Satie, who predated the late John Cage. His most famous—or infamous—piece is ‘O’, a non-existent work for no instruments. He claimed that it was constantly being performed if we would only stop to listen.

Martin’s career started at age ten. An avid collector of sleigh bells, he had amassed an amazing collection of over 500, which he displayed, sort of, piled up on a large shelf in his room. One day, whilst reading an Archie comic book, the shelf came down. The ensuing sound, and the shock that immediately came with it, was a revelation to Marty, who then explored noise, and the lack of it, for the remainder of his too short and creative life.

Martin committed suicide at twenty-two by swallowing an uncut pineapple.

Got a word that you do not know the meaning and origin of? Write to:

Your Man At The OED
Strand Towers 15th Fl.
688 Nelson Place
London SE, England

Readers may write to Domenick Capobianco c/o Place "Domenick Capobianco Column " in the subject line of your email.
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