Academy Awards Quiz

Academy Awards warmup. For each tagline, name the corresponding motion picture which won an Oscar as “Best Picture”.

“His Triumph Changed The World Forever.” [answer]
“A Nervous Romance.” [answer]
“The first casualty of war is innocence.” [answer]
“The shadow of this woman darkened their love.” [answer]
“… look closer.” [answer]
“It’s all about women—and their men!” [answer]
“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” [answer]
“A Thousand Hours of Hell For One Moment of Love!” [answer]
“In memory, love lives forever.” [answer]
“His whole life was a million-to-one shot!” [answer]
“All it takes is a little confidence!” [answer]
“The loverliest motion picture of them all!” [answer]

Shareholder Meeting

Let me ask you a question. Say that you were a shareholder in a big corporation — heck, just to be topical let’s call that company “Enron”. And let’s say that the CEO of this company launched a number of enormous initiatives, projects which would require untold amounts of manpower and money. And I mean “untold” in the literal sense: the CEO will only reveal the names and goals of the initiatives, refusing to tell the shareholders any of the specifics.

Well, that might not be too unusual — CEOs rarely talk nuts and bolts with each and every person holding stock. But let’s further suppose that the CEO won’t even tell the corporation’s own Board of Directors what the initiatives are all about. He just tells them that he needs lots and lots of money, but refuses to answer any of their questions about how the money will be spent. He insists that they don’t need to know.

And, finally, let’s say that this corporation is already well in debt, with no sign of profits in sight.

My question: How confident would you be in the value of your shares?

Got your answer?

Good. Now read this.

Judge Joe Brown

How to win on daytime tv’s Judge Joe Brown.

Judge Joe Brown: [to plaintiff] Okay, now let me talk to you for a moment, because, frankly, I think your story has a lot of holes in it. You say that the defendant, here, came over to your house, unprovoked, and broke your nose, so you’re seeking $1000 in medical costs. Is that correct?

Plaintiff: Yes, sir.

JJB: Now, originally you told the police that this had happened at his house, right? In his back yard, during a barbecue?

Plaintiff: I never said that. He come over to my house and punched me in the nose. Unprovoked. And that’s exactly what I told the police I called.

JJB: You called the police? They say he called them.

Plaintiff: No, sir. I called them.

JJB: The police say that the defendant called them. Furthermore, their report says that you had got drunk at his barbecue and assaulted him, yelling, quote, “my hot dog did not plump when I cooked it!’, unquote. And then you hit him in a jaw. I have the x-ray of the defendant’s jaw right here in front of me, and it’s clearly fractured. Your nose, on the other hand, looks fine to me, despite the fact that this all happened last week.

Plaintiff: That x-ray is of my nose — the hospital guys must have gotten confused and wrote the wrong name and face-part on it. And those police, they were drunk.

JJB: [shaking head] Your story is simply unbelievable. I’m afraid I have no choice but to rule in favor —

Plaintiff: Wait! I should also mention that the defendant didn’t actually punch me, his kid did.

JJB: His kid?!

Plaintiff: Yes, his six year-old son.

JJB: What the –?! [to defendant] You just let your son run wild like that?

Defendant: Yes… wait, what?

JJB: This is America, you know. And in America you not only have to take responsibility for your own actions, but you also have to take responsibility for the action of your children.

Defendant: My children?

JJB: You cannot just let your kids run around wild, punching people in the nose.

Defendant: I, I don’t have any children.

JJB: You’re not even aware you have a son? What are you, some kinda deadbeat dad?

Defendant: Deadbeat?

JJB: Well, I’ve heard enough. My verdict is that Mr.Love-em-and-leave-em here must pay the $1000 to the plaintiff, and pay $500 a month in child-support to the wife he abandoned.

Defendant: I’m not married!

JJB: Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.

Book Review Barbs

If you are an author and have recently written a bad book, please send me a review copy so that I may use the following Dorthy Parker-esque zingers.

  • Your novel profoundly moved me: thirty pages into it I gave up and opted for a stroll.
  • This book had me overcome with sensation and put tears in my eyes. But, then, paper cuts are always the most painful of wounds.
  • Your skill in word choice is surpassed only by your inability to put them in a coherent order.
  • I was simply unable to put your book down after the third chapter, owing mostly to the fact that I never again picked it up.
  • Your work is a forceful testament to the often overlooked benefits of illiteracy.


Yesterday evening I attended The Pollack/Hodgman Interviews at the Richard Hugo House. The titular “Pollack/Hodgman” were Neal Pollack and John Hodgman, both of whom are affiliated with The Phenomenon That Is McSweeneys. More to the point, Pollack’s book The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature has just been published in paperback by Harper Perennial, which means they are flinging him all over the country to do book signing and readings and performances and other such Funny On-Demand events.

This was the conceit of the show: Neal Pollack would be playing the character of “Neal Pollack, the Greatest Living American Writer”, an author with countless National Book Awards and Pulitzers and Emmys and so forth, and Hodgman would be playing his former literary agent, who interviews him. Which is to say that Pollack, who has only written one book and has received no awards more prestigious than a pat on the back, would be playing a fictitious character, while John, who really was Pollack’s literary agent at some point in the past, would be playing himself. Hilarity would ensue.

Here’s what actually happened. First, Mr. Hodgman got on-stage and rambled along amusingly for a spell, reading the first piece he ever had published in McSweeney’s (which I cannot find a link to) and threatening to digress into a long discourse on “Lord of the Rings” at any moment. Then the “opening act” came on, young Tommy Wallach, who was so fresh-out-of-high-school that I was prepared to find him thoroughly Not Funny and was surprised to discover that he was Very Funny Indeed. (However, Tommy, if you are reading this, and I’m almost certain that you are: you need to trim that Cat In The Hat Piece by about a third.) Tommy is associated with McSweeney’s — and, by extension, Neal Pollack — because of this very fine short story he wrote for their publication. When I was Tommy’s age I fancied myself as funny as he, but upon reflection I realize that I was not, and for this I resent him.

Tommy was followed by Ana sAsKiA, a performance artist who either did an uncannily accurate rendition of a Bjork song or sang a non-Bjork song in the style of Bjork. Using the word “Bjork” three times in a sentence makes my spellchecker very unhappy.

Finally, the Pollack/Hodgman Interview began (although I am not here using the word “finally” to imply that I did not enjoy the material that proceeded it, because I did). Pollack and Hodgman sat in armchairs and sipped scotch as they spoke, all to further the illusion that Pollack was a highly respectable member of the literati and Hodgman was stolid and rather pretentious literary correspondent. Hodgman had a list of questions (on the subject “How to Write A Novel”) and Pollack had nothing, the idea being, apparently, that Hodgman would play straightman and Pollack, in character, would ad-lib hilarious, impromptu replies. I am not sad to report that the two gentlemen failed miserably in adhering to the premise. Try as he might, Pollock could not stick to his “Neal Pollock, Greatest Living American Writer” role, and kept reverting to “Neal Pollock, Amicable Goofball, Who is Frankly Astounded That He Gets Paid to Sit on Stage and Drink Bourbon and, Let’s Be Honest, While a Funny Writer, Really Isn’t That Great at Improvisional Comedy.” Hodgman, on the other hand, who is skilled at ad-libbing and mostly stayed in character, kept trying to keep Pollack on track, all while delivering many of the funniest lines of the night in the dry, monotone voice of a literary snob.

Hodgman [quizzing Neal Pollack, Greatest Living American Writer, on the first lines of famous novels]: Okay, here is your next one. “My name is Hubert Humbert, and I want to have sex with a little girl.”

Pollock Uhhh … Lolita! Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov!

Hodgman No, I’m afraid the correct answer is “Reviving Ophelia” by Mary Pipher, Ph.D

All this made for a show that was certainly funnier than it would have been if things had gone as scripted (or if, indeed, they’d had a script at all). Conducting an interview with The Greatest Living American Writer would have been amusing for a while, but conducting an interview with a guy who had somehow written a book, despite the fact that he couldn’t go more than 30 minutes without making a reference to Snoop Dog or attempting (and failing) to make a joke about “Nuclear Viagra,” was good for non-stop guffaws. It is no exaggeration to say that I laughed more during this show than I have at anything else in recent memory.

About two-thirds of the way through the performance and well into his fourth scotch, Pollack pointed menacingly at the crowd. “You better not blog about this!” he bellowed. “I don’t want to show up on no Google search!”

Teenage Girls … On The Bus!

TGOTB1: Hey, I’m goin’ to that Sonics Game wit you guys.

TGOTB2 [alarmed]: What?!

TGOTB1 [alarmed that TGOTB2 is alarmed]: What? Uh, I said I’m, uh, going to that Sonics game with you.

TGOTB2: Oh. Oh. Hah, I thought you said you were going to a “Science Thing” with me.

[Both girls laugh with relief now that the misunderstanding has been cleared up.]

TGOTB1: “Science Thing!” Yeah, like I’m going to a “Science Thing”. Now yer trippin’!