Pop. Politics. Sex. So On.
Hypothetical greeting cards from business luminaries, circa December, 2001.
In Adobe Acrobat format.
The Ultimate Movie Collection: Christmas Edition
Freelancing is not the business to be in if you expect perks like "respect,"
or "money." But Gear falls even below my minimum standards. In 1999
I interviewed for a job there. The interview went very well. At one point
I mentioned that I thought the magazine's Ultimate Movie Collection feature
should sometimes be themed, and the editor asked if I could write, as a sample,
blurbs for the three best Christmas movies of all time. In two days. I said
sure. After turning those in, the editor called to say I'd made the first
cut, and he asked me to write a critique of the magazine. Now, I admit I botched
this assignment, but I still expected that someone would at least call to
let me know their decision. Instead I only found out after contacting them
myself a few weeks later that they'd hired someone else. And then the December
issue appears, and there's my Christmas movies article. Without a byline.
Repeated requests for payment went unanswered. Bottom line: I love Christmas
as much as the next American Jew, but Gear is an evil, evil magazine. And
I'm not the only one who thinks
GQNo Strings Attached: A Survivor's Memoir
If I put as much thought and effort into all my humor pieces as I put into
this old-fashioned casual, perhaps they would all come out this good. Not
sure it'd be worth it, but it's a thought. I owe a debt to Jon Fine, who mass-mailed
the NYT quote that inspired me.
The Trendspotting Generation
A trend story about the trend of writing trend stories. GQ actually got a
letter from someone who accused me of committing the same sins I condemned
in others, so I guess the piece qualifies as subtle.
May Contain Nuts
The PowerPoint Anthology
. Great works distilled to their essence and presented in
the most efficient form of communication ever devised. After originating on
this site, an expanded version was selected for publication in May
Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor
, and the concept was
spun off for a feature in Slate
Just some stuff that happened to catch my eye. Before I was not updating
my blog regularly, I was not sending out these e-mails regularly. But McSweeney's
was compiling them all.
A deconstruction of a humorous essay about Broadway disasters that I tried
and failed to get right for publication in GQ
. Dave Eggers
put the beginning of this piece on the back page of the second issue of McSweeney's
an allusion to the fact that it was a comment on back page humor pieces
but he forgot to indicate that it was continued inside the magazine,
so pretty much no one has ever read it in its entirety.
Modern Humorist"Purple Dragon
Lunchbox, Mr. President"
. Remember when West Wing creator Aaron
Sorkin was busted with a bag of 'shrooms? This parody was significantly
more funny back then.
Potter and the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
. Is the layout
of this piece odd? Why is the link to the excerpt, which is the heart of the
parody, below the link to the blurbs, which were just kind of tossed off?
Saga: Inside the Making of the Star Saga Saga
. An elaborate behind the
scenes of Star Wars parody of which I am still quite proud (written with Michael
Tritter). Buy me too many martinis sometime and I just might break my confidentiality
agreement and tell you the equally sordid real life behind the scenes story.
. The e-card way.
. Recoil in horror as I shamelessly kiss Judd Apatow's ass.
. Relive the tedium of the second season of Survivor. Then
see me go head-to-head with TV's evil Richard Hatch and TV's also evil Bryant
Gumbel live via RealPlayer on the CBS
Early Show Survivor Roundtable
. (Scroll down to 4/20).
Modern Humorist's 2000 Convention Coverage. Relive the tedium
of the 2000 Republican
conventions. There's actually lots of stuff here that was pretty funny at
the time. I edited both pages and wrote the daily Spit Take column on the
National Geographic AdventureWeb
Links to Adventure
. I did a lot of hack work for a lot of years (not anymore,
of course). This piece is fairly typical. My editor (whom I like a lot, in
this particular case) tells me the magazine wants something funny and quirky.
I turn in a draft, only to have a more senior editor decide it needs to be
less funny and more useful. In the end, the piece isn't bad, but I wonder
why they didn't just do it in house, since it doesn't really sound like me
anymore. Anyway, my Stim
column got me a lot of gigs writing
about odd Web sites for while, including a monthly column at Esquire for all
of three months.
New York PressIronic
. "Yet strangelyironically,
if you willMs. Morissette has almost no idea what the word 'ironic'
means." This evisceration of Alanis Morissette's 1996 hit song is as
fresh as it was in 1996, give or take seven years.
To Know: The Selling of Sassy
. A eulogy for one of the best magazines
of the 1990s, and an inside look at how it all fell apart. Jane Pratt hates
me because of this article, which is sad, because I don't want anyone who
was involved with Sassy to hate me. I did print some less-than-flattering
comments that other people made about Jane, but they are not my opinions,
and I tried repeatedly to reach Jane for comment before I published them.
Also, this article landed me in a stupid pissing contest with another Sassy
fan in the early days of the Web, which I have always regretted (the pissing
match, not the early days of the Web; well, both, actually). Her
of the story is about 75 percent correct.
Jerk: Only Correct
. After I burned out on writing the popular 8 Days column
for the Press, I briefly wrote a single-topic weekly column called Knee Jerk.
This riff on The New York Times' corrections page was one of the better installments.
The New York TimesLet Women
Compete for Best Actor
. Some Oscar night many years from now, when all
movies are in IMAX 3D, your grandchildren might ask you, "Why did there
used to be different categories for boy actors and girl actors?" If that
glorious day arrives, you will know that it was this New York Times Op-Ed
piece that sparked the revolution (though I will not take the blame for IMAX
3D). Truth be told, I still prefer the less
strident, slightly more funny version
that the Times saw unfit to print,
and that the London Guardian stole
outright, apparently assuming that I'd never Google myself. (They were very
apologetic when I called them on it, and agreed to pay me in their funny,
colorful banknotes. Then they accidentally sent my check to the Times, which
an expanded, color version of my Op-Art piece that appeared in the Times on
the first anniversary of Sept. 11. According to the editor, I was the Op-Ed
page's first ever crossover contributor. Suck it, Salman Rushdie!
The New Yorker
. "Contrary to what riders waiting for the crosstown bus
at Amsterdam Avenue and Eighty-sixth Street have been led to believe, Dana
Fisher would not, if she had a million dollars, 'buy a car and a cute driver
to go with it.'"
Why American Kids Don't Consider Harry Potter
an Insufferable Prig
. Translating Harry Potter.
Book In You. Blogging is so writing. This is the essay
that earned me a Gothamist
Pet Goat Approach. What Bush was reading on 9/11, and why.
The (London) Observer
In Bed With Fidel
. A breezy profile
of Marita Lorenz, Fidel Castro's mistress and attempted assassin.
Review: Ash Wednesday
by Ethan Hawke
. Of the dozen or so book reviews I've written for People,
the only one I could find online was on the site of the Australian edition,
Who. My editor attended the publication party for this book and told me he
overheard Hawke muttering, "People ripped me a new asshole." I think
that's overstating it. Delicately cut a new asshole, perhaps. The headline
(which I didn't write) makes it sound worse than it is.
Bone Up Your Shakespeare: A Study Guide
to the Complete Porno Films of the Bard of Avon
. The version of this piece
that appeared in Playboy was dramatically shorter, less informative, and less
funny. Here it is the way I intended it to be. I learned about the bardcore
genre from a Lingua
by Andrew Hearst, who said he wouldn't mind if I did a
lighter take on the same subject. WARNING: Contains language of the type you
can reasonably expect from review of porno movies, plus a few images that
are mild by my standards, but which you may not want on your monitor at the
It's the End of the World
and the Writing is Bad
. A humorous overview of Evangelical Christian end-times
Radical Society Eminem Makes Steve Earle Look Like Toby Keith:
Why Hasnt Anyone Noticed?
Toby Keith, you'll recall, by which I
mean, you've probably forgotten, is the country singer who scored a hit with
his all-American song about putting a boot in Osama's ass. Steve Earle, of
course, was cast by the guardians of patriotism as Keith's polar opposite,
thanks to his allegedly un-American attempt to get inside John Walker Lindh's
head. Eminem, well, you know who he is. But somehow, his angry post-9/11 anti-American
fantasies got no attention. Until I wrote this. Although, since I wrote it
for a periodical with a circulation of 17, I'm not sure that counts. RadSoc,
as it is inevitably called, is a hip, fun, smart journal of leftist politics,
academia, and pop culture. You can find it here
. This article will haunt me forever. Some years ago, I was one of
the first writers to call Michael Moore on his bullshit. Once Moore-bashing
became a cottage
, people began contacting me out of the blue with stories of the
big man's latest outrages, seeking my advice, or trying to enlist me in their
anti-Mike crusade. Frankly, I'm way over Michael Moore. Despite that, and
despite this article's fan base among insane right-wingers, I remain pretty
happy with it. I probably should've left out the fat jokes, though. Be sure
to read Moore's hilarious
too. (He never did sue, of course.)
New York Times' Refer Madness
. In a shocking article, the newspaper of
record reveals that many Net users are deviating from officially mandated
Just Say No drug rhetoric!
It Fits In a Box: Old Media's Dumb-as-a-Post Gushing Over New Media Conceals
a Secret Disdain
. Ah, 1997. When people still said "new media"
without smirking. Or at all. And yet, too much of this essay remains true.
Watching Ice Freeze
. Relive the tedium of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Potter: The Digital Remix. An interview with a guy who created a new
voiceover for the first Harry Potter movie. I'm very happy with how this
turned out, though I have to admit I would have been happier if it had appeared
in The New Yorker, which it was going to until The New York Times scooped
Quiz. Man, do I miss the Slate News Quiz. I was a regular player for
a long time, and I guess Randy
thought I was good at it, 'cause when he took a week off, he invited me
to be a guest host. I'm particularly proud of my Gag
Reflex Extra comparing New Yorker cartoons with The Lockhorns (scroll
The Pledge of Allegiance: The
PowerPoint Version. The very likable David Plotz at Slate called out
of the blue one day to say the site wanted more humor and did I have any
ideas for a funny and inventive recurring feature? I assured him I did not,
but that if he wanted brainless hackwork, I'd be happy to spin off my PowerPoint
Anthology of Literature to cover current events. This was the first and
The August 6, 2001 President's
Daily Brief: The PowerPoint Version. I know you don't quite remember
what this was now but it was all the talk of April, 2004.
John Kerry's Military Records:
The PowerPoint Version. Slate readers had a very hard time processing
the idea that I was making fun of both Republicans and Democrats.
My Life, by Bill Clinton: The
Very Special Webster: The Devil's Playground
. The shortlived Stim (5/96-8/97)
was one of the first Webzines (itself a fairly shortlived coinage). Backed
by Prodigy (slightly longer-lived), it was one of those early attempts to
get a handle on what this whole Web thing was about. My monthly column, A
Very Special Webster, was built on the model of weekly column I had done for
several years at the New York Press, only instead of riffing on dumb things
in newspapers, I riffed on dumb web sites. Even then, there were a lot of
them. This was the first installment. I recently rewrote it for 101
Very Special Webster: Oh Sandy, My Darling
. Return with me now to the
thrilling Web of yesteryear, when a certain Sandra Bullock was the most popular
lady around. Don't expect a single one of the links to work.
Very Special Webster: Making Me Sick
. Health and stuff.
Very Special Webster: Ferret-Face
. Man, did people slam me for this one.
Apparently not everyone thinks ferrets are foul, loathsome creatures. This
was probably the best of the Webster columns. A version of it appeared in
the first edition of Mirth
of a Nation
Special Webster: The Grudge
. I'm sure all these people found that creating
a Web site solved their problems.
Special Webster: Safe Surfing
. Around this time, Stim instituted a theme
for every issue, and my column was expected to follow suit. What did I have
to say about "security"? Not much, apparently, but it's kind of
funny/sad that the first graf was actually a provocative statement for its
Very Special Webster: Star Trek, The Web Generation
. Some Trekkies are
still mad about this one. Which was, of course, the point.
Special Webster: Searching for the Truth
. If words like "X-Files"
and "HotBot" flood you with waves of late-90s nostalgia, you'll
want to read this, maybe.
Special Webster: Les Memes Choses
. The French are funny. In that first
graf, I probably meant "e.g." not "i.e." No one was really
bothering to edit by this stage of the game.
Girls: In Praise of Skanky Chicks
. If Maxim was around then, maybe this
article would've gotten me hired. Looks like I put a lot of research into
By All The Bemusement
. I take on a pet peeve: overuse of the word bemused
in hack journalism. Hard to believe Prodigy pulled the plug, huh?
SuckEndsville, Postponed: What
if Frank Sinatra Had Lived?
This one-joke comic is actually quite cruel
when you think about it. And you have to understand, I am huge Sinatra fan.
I don't know what got into me.
. Another comic. This one at the expense of Christy Turlington
and Esquire. Again: what could have gotten into me?
VergeHow to be an X-Phile Without Being a Geek.
C'mon, you remember Verge! Well, probably not. This tech-culture mag from
was around for a couple of years in the late 90s. I got
this one article out of it (written just before the X-Files jumped the shark),
and a nice working relationship with the editor in chief, who later went on
to MH-18, which folded even before he could ask me to write for it.
Most of what I write as contributing editor at are short recaps of whatever
the pundits are getting most worked up about this week. From time to time,
I'll get to do a slightly longer Briefing, giving more extensive background
information on a subject in the news. These get archived on The Week's web
site, so here are a few:
Little Man In Hollywood
. What it takes to win an Oscar.
the War Zone
. What's up with Israeli settlements on Palestinian land?
(Or, as The Week's strict objectivity policy demands that I say, "land
claimed by Palestinians.")
. What is this thing you call a blog?
TV's Phony Ratings
. Do those Nielsen numbers mean what you think they do?
The Decline of
. Opinions on this subject are held so fiercely, it's nearly
impossible to find a simple discussion of the facts. Until now. I'm a rare
neutral party. I don't think there's any good reason for it (beyond the
thing), but I also don't think it does any harm.
The Rise of the
. Everything you need to know about neoconservatives, except
how to stop them (objectivity, remember?). At least one Week reader felt
I neglected to explore a certain angle thoroughly enough, and he had a pretty
good idea why. "Let me ask you a question first," he began his
call. "Are you Jewish?"
and the Rise of Children's Books
. By any measure, the Harry Potter books
are the most popular children's books ever written. Whether that delights
you or depresses you, you'll want to read this.
Conquered the World
. Hint: it involved blotting out the sun.
is a Tiger
. Who can forget the great wild-animals-as-pets trend of 2003?
Forging A New
. I'm not gonna say which one here, since I don't want to end
up on anybody's Google Web Alert
if you catch my drift.
The Weekly Standard
The Village Idiot
. I'm not a personal-is-political
kind of guy. Sure I disagree with 90 percent of what The Weekly Standard
stands for, but if they want me to write for them about the other 10 percent,
I'm not going to say no on principle. I'm also not a personal-is-political
guy in the identity politics sense, so the editors there correctly guessed
that they'd be pleased with my critique of the Village Voice, back in 1995
when the Voice was at a particularly low point. And yet, I do not like the
Weekly Standard's editors slipping their own views into my work, which happened
in this article. I mentioned Noam Chomsky, and someone there (I suspect
Podhoretz) tossed in a bullshit parenthetical comment about Cambodia without
telling me (I've removed it). I haven't written for The Standard since.
Nor have I read the Voice, though I understand it's gotten better.