Dr Pepper, Adjunct for Hire

Dear Search Committee Chair:

I am writing to apply for the Humanities Instructor position announced last week’s issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. I recently passed my doctoral defense at the University of Georgia, specifically in the Tate Student Center Café, where I studied under some of the world’s top Snapple lids. My dissertation was both a personal and critical exploration, entitled Why There’s No Period in “Dr”: The Semiotics of Absence.

I have a broad range of research interests, drawing from twenty-three unique academic disciplines. I am currently in the exploratory stages of a paper examining Baudrillard’s simulacrum through the lens of Diet Berries and Cream, tentatively titled “Has ‘Berry’ Lost All Meaning? Yes, It Has.” I also coedited Sweetest Scriptor: Collected Essays, a forthcoming anthology examining the extent to which the Death of the Author can be linked to high-fructose corn syrup. Your bulletin mentions a lecture course on American Thought and Culture in the Twenty-First Century; I would be a natural choice to lead such a class, as my areas of study encompass everything from the Red Fusion Era of 2002-2004 to the 2014 advent of Vanilla Float.

I believe in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, that the intangible benefits of education endure beyond the commercial value of a diploma. Such is my conviction — otherwise I would have simply gotten an MBA like my cousin Justin Pibb. I base my teaching philosophy on the premise that if I approach learning as an end in itself, I will inspire my students to do so as well. Or put more succinctly: I’m a Pepper—wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?

While I am a carbonated beverage and not a human, it is my understanding that your institution is an equal-opportunity employer. Furthermore, my lack of either dependents or a mortal body makes me ideally suited to live on your advertised salary and benefits package of eight thousand dollars and a parking pass.

I plan to attend the MLA convention next January and would be happy to meet with you for an interview at your earliest convenience. I will be on the fifth floor of the downtown Marriott and can be reached by pressing E4 or by shaking the vending machine vigorously.


Leslie Pepper, PhD

The Eight Limbs of Brazilian Waxing

Pratyhara (Sensory Withdrawal) – Prior to Appointment

In utter fear you read about the procedure, research the salon, and try to find information about how to decrease if not eliminate the pain. Then wonder if you can combine all the pain relieving mechanisms together. In essence, you plan to achieve complete sensory withdrawal by eating pineapples (for their natural anti-inflammatory qualities) three days in advance, rubbing numbing cream on the site an hour before, and taking Motrin twenty minutes prior.

Pranayama (Breath Control) – The First Time

You arrive early having forgotten all the pre-appointment pain relievers, probably out of fear — and wax wouldn’t adhere to cream anyway, would it? You approach the desk and whisper to the receptionist why you’re there. While waiting, the epiphany of what was I thinking hits. Unfortunately, as soon as you get up to leave they call your name. Shit! You enter with the notion of maintaining ujjayi breathing, a classic yoga practice to provide focus, clarity, and the proper movement of energy throughout the body. During the actual procedure, however, you spastically alternate between Lamaze breathing and no breathing.

Yama (Nonviolence) – The Esthetician

As this woman puts hot wax on your privates and rips off the unwanted hair, you must set aside your violent reflexes, practice continence (in bladder and behavior), and learn to honestly accept and forgive her.

Asanas (Postures) – Positions

Savasana (Corps Pose): Your first time in every way. In preparation for your wedding night, Mom leaves you to the care of the Pakistani woman and says: “Give her the works. I’ll be back to get her in a few hours.” Here, your virgin body simply flops down on its back and lies there awaiting its unknown fate.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Butterfly): Feet together, knees fall apart, with a slight modification. Rather than having one hand on the heart and the other on the belly, you have one hand on your gaping mouth and the other on your jewels. The latter is for the wax woman’s sake. She needs help pulling the skin taut.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog): The pose is typically achieved on hands and feet. In this case, the folding table assists the position as you lie face down, just one of several options for easy access to the derriere.

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose): Lying on your back, you bring your legs up and hold them open, souls of the feet pointing to the sky. It provides a second option for accessing the hindquarters.

Goasana (Table Top): Option three for the backside bonanza happens with you on all fours. A helpful modification here is done on the forearms, which facilitates access to your posterior while requiring a very tight sphincter or else.

Apanasana (Hugging knees to the chest): Just when you thought you had seen it all, a new waxer wants to know if this position is ok. You nod, too focused on suppressing the air your body is about to expel. She rips and so do you. Oops.

Samadhi (Ecstasy) – Post Waxing

Staring at your prepubescent looking honey you experience a newfound joy and wonder. The second Brazilian, a few years after the wedding night, even reawakens your disconnected (now ex-)husband. The missing hair allows the nerve endings in your down-there skin to magnify the pleasure and yes, yes, yes. Post divorce, when freedom returns, you never get tired of your latest lover’s eyes widening at the moment of reveal.

Niyama (Self Discipline) – Deciding to Upkeep

All that positive reinforcement makes you promise to make Brazilian waxing a part of your life. Forget the wincing pain, itchy feeling as the hair grows back, and the embarrassment of putting your unmentionables in the hands of a complete stranger. You even become an evangelist for this strange form of torture, a torture that comes with a payoff of course.

Dharana (Concentration) – DIY

You attempt to do your own waxing, because a spontaneous date came up. How hard could it be? If those women can do it, so can you. You’ve got this. You sit in Malasana (Yoga Squat) with a mirror directly under your lady bits. But soon you realize you don’t got this and you are back on some esthetician’s table, half-waxed, in their position of choice.

Dhyana (Quieting the Mind) – Today

By now, the process has become a part of you. After making the appointment your mind goes completely quiet and the poses just follow. Amid this quiet, you become aware of a glaring difference between the two practices. Whereas in yoga one flows in sync with breath, in Brazilian waxing she is stiff and breathless.

Food Applies to be a Deity

To the Divinity Resources Department,

I, Food, am applying for the position of Deity in Firmament.

I understand that there is an anticipated vacancy due to the weak job performance of a current post-holder, God (Judeo-Christian version).

God has recently struggled to fulfill his responsibilities of inspirer, prayer-answerer, awe-striker and vengeance-wreaker. Let’s face it, God’s KPIs are in the dumper. Look at church attendance. I mean, isn’t it Deity job requirement numero-uno to attract devoted worshippers? God just doesn’t get the butts in the seats anymore.

You can be confident Food will reverse this trend. Indeed, Food is already fulfilling many of God’s job responsibilities without commensurate title or compensation. For example, on Sundays, Food’s temples — Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans (Northeastern congregation) — are filled to capacity. Bottom line, I’m eating God’s lunch.

The Religion of Food has ready-made denominations. I’ve got your Vegetarians, your Vegans, your Low-Carbs, your Clean-Eating, your Paleos, and your Gluten-Frees. And that’s just the main-stream communions. Alimentation only knows how many more there are! Like proper sects, they demonize one another, averring they alone know the true path to Me.

I command legions of priests, from the brainy and Jesuitical (Michael Pollan) to the free-wheeling and evangelical (Guy Fieri). You think seminary is tough? Try Chopped.

It is the responsibility of any legitimate Deity to offer a dark and a light side. Got that too. Present occupants of Food Perdition include the following demons: High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Trans Fats, Partially Hydrogenated Shortening, Aspartame, Salt, Soda, and GMOs. The denominations mentioned earlier could add scores to the list (conflicting of course) concerning the occupants of Hell.

A true Deity must shift the boundaries of sin over time, as happened with gay marriage on God’s watch. Keeps adherents on their toes. I am no slouch in that department either. See “Cholesterol” and “Low Fat.”

Want punishment? Expiation for sin? One word: Diet.

As for Holy Scripture, Amazon currently shows 16,627 books containing both the words “Food” and “Bible” in their titles.

It is customary in a job interview to ask the applicant to reveal His greatest weakness. I therefore must state for the record that, unlike God, Food to date has not inspired far-reaching violence and bloodshed. I’m thinking Crusade-level here.

However, it is widely believed due to climate change, a war the likes of which the world has never seen will be fought over Food. (It is similarly customary for the applicant to turn His weakness into a humble-brag.)

I am aware you must be receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of responses from aspiring applicants for Pantheon inclusion. To name just a few entities in a similar position as Food to replace God: Spinning, Reiki, Malcom Gladwell, Airline Points, Landmark Seminars, Iron Man Triathlons, Colon Cleansing, TED Talks, Parenting, Social Media, Money, and Barcelona.

Against this list, I offer you one of my most powerful seraphs, Kale.

It will not be an easy decision for the Board to choose among these CVs. But no entity is in a better position than Food to respond to the current divine business challenge. With Food on your team, you will see a turnaround. Just imagine the PowerPoint slide showing how, by a mere change of personnel, Google searches have increased!

Current queries for God now stand at 784 million. For Food, 2.4 billion.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience when We may schedule an interview.

Yours Sincerely,


– – –

Like this piece? Check out Anna’s novel Saint Brigid’s Cloak.

We’ve Cast a Tiger to Play the Next James Bond

After a long and arduous process, the casting committee has finally chosen the new James Bond: Cybil the Tiger.

We realize this is an unconventional selection. We’re all used to a more, shall we say “anthropoid” Bond. The main aim of the casting committee was to identify a candidate who embodied the social progression that the James Bond franchise would like to help Hollywood to pursue. That vision led us to Cybil the Tiger, who represents almost every underrepresented minority group in Hollywood.

First of all, Cybil the Tiger hails from Asia. Yes, we stole her from her natural habitat, which defies ethics, especially since we’re discussing an endangered species, but it was important for us to bring an Asian actor into the Hollywood spotlight, and in a movie that isn’t about ninjas, Samurai, or how to travel the world in a decidedly dull 80 days.

Cybil the Tiger is also female. James Bond will still go by the name James Bond, but we felt that, at this time, we would generate far more opening weekend revenue from feminists if we used a female lead. A lot of feminists go to the movies. We’re simply trying to adapt our demographic so that young women can also grow up with dreams of becoming cold-hearted, ruthless, sex-addicted killing machines.

Furthermore, Cybil stands 3’6”. We received a lot of complaints that James Bond always stands somewhere in the range of 5’9” to 6’3”. A lot of people felt that shorter actors were not receiving realistic shots at the role. Cybil was the shortest candidate we auditioned.

To remain in aesthetics, Cybil weighs in at a whopping 357 lbs. That said, I should note that she will be placed on a strict diet and a workout plan. James Bond will still appear athletic as ever, mostly because our writers do not possess the experience to write authentic storylines such as James Bond struggling with metabolism issues or losing confidence over his body type.

Gingers flocked to us with surprising ferocity during the casting process. They felt that James Bond was a prime opportunity to thrust a ginger into the Hollywood spotlight in order to show the world that gingers can be more than secondary characters such as Scooby Doo’s Daphne Blake, Harry Potter’s Ron Weasley, and the Rugrats’ Chuckie Finster. Cybil the Tiger is admittedly only part ginger, but we feel the casting committee made a suitable compromise given the opposing pressure from James Bond diehards to tune out all the complaints from underrepresented groups and either hire someone with the classic look of a Henry Cavill or send Pierce Brosnan back in time in order to give it another go at not screwing up all of his movies.

An obvious concern with selecting a tiger for the prestigious role of James Bond is that tigers can’t speak English, but that is precisely the point. Cybil the Tiger not only appeases the complaints of our foreign fans to finally have a Bond who did not grow up in an English-speaking England, but her inherent incapacity for language will help to ease the franchise’s transition into silent films.

Elephants were considered for the role. So were a few monkeys, one dog, and a particularly spirited mountain goat.

We do thank these and all other candidates for their effort and participation throughout the casting process, especially Idris Elba. Idris was phenomenal in his auditions, truly sensational, but the casting team felt Idris was too…how to put this lightly? Idris didn’t have the right look.

Surveys of our key demographic — white males ages 18 to 35 — told us that fans don’t want to see our movies get too dark. Batman dark. The good Batman movies. With Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman. You know, like a melancholy, sort of depressing movie that feels just a little too real. The presence of a tiger will help to keep James Bond light.

All things considered, Cybil the Tiger embodies all of the diverse qualities we were searching for in the next James Bond.

Thank you all for coming today. On behalf of the entire James Bond franchise, I sincerely hope you enjoy Cybil the Tiger in the upcoming installment of the 007 series, for which, if you’re interested, we’ve cast Alan Rickman as the villain. There were a lot of complaints from dead people that Hollywood has been ignoring them.

Signs That You Might Be Abe Froman

When you go to the grocery store to buy sausage — whether at Dominick’s at West Division Street or the Jewel Food Store on North Pulaski — your face is on most of the labels in the sausage section.

After a Chicago Bulls game during 1992’s Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, you hung around outside the old Chicago Stadium on West Madison Street and asked Michael Jordan to autograph your Jordan jersey. When he asked you what your name was, you said “Abe Froman.”

Your wife Sarah likes her friends to refer to her as the “Sausage Queen of Chicago.”

When you were a bartender at Butch McGuire’s, your name tag said “Abe” and you were famous for putting sausages in your Bloody Marys. And your mimosas. And your cosmopolitans. And your margaritas. In fact, you were a bit melancholy when the Sausage Margarita didn’t catch on.

You frequently ask Governor Bruce Rauner to officially change the State Nickname from “Land of Lincoln” to “Eat More Sausage”

When Chicago native Scott Turow wrote a legal thriller loosely based on that time you got kidnapped, he called it “The Sausage King Disappears.”

When you deliver sausage to Ed Debevic’s restaurant, Mr. Debevic greets you by saying “Hello, Abe.”

You applied for a job to be a stock boy at Marshall Field’s one summer while you were a student at Northwestern and on your job application you wrote “Abe Froman” under “Name” and in the space where it asked for your “Work experience” you wrote “Sausage King.”

Bob Fosse consulted with you when he was choreographing “Chicago.” You suggested that he call his signature move — involving the performer extending her hands with palms toward the audience and fingers splayed and waving exuberantly — “sausage fingers.” He did not take your suggestion but you and Bob Fosse became fast friends nonetheless.

You once had a fling with Deborah Calhoun, the Peppers and Onions Queen of Chicago.

When Oprah was doing her show on “Sausage Kings from Around the World” she invited you to represent Chicago.

When you got the high score on the video trivia machine at the Navy Pier Beer Garden and the machine asked for your name, you wrote “Abe Froman.”

Your Illinois license plate reads “SAUSAGE.”

On Wednesday June 5, 1985 you went to have lunch at “Chez Quis” and your reservation had been snatched by three high school kids led by a young man named Ferris.

Bedtime Conversation With Myself

Chelsea 1: I am sooooo tired.

Chelsea 2: I know, right? Better get to sleep early if you want to go for a walk in the morning before it gets too hot. (Turns on white noise machine.)

Chelsea 1: Let’s check tomorrow’s temperature. Oooh. Seventy by 8 a.m. You might want to get some tweezing out of the way now.

Chelsea 2: Good idea. (Turns on lighted makeup mirror.)

Chelsea 1: Nasty cut there. Eyebrow razors aren’t as great an idea as they sound. Hey, whatever happened to that slashed model, what’s her name?

Chelsea 2: I’ll Google.

Chelsea 1: That’s OK. I remember. Marla Hanson. Wonder what she looks like now.

Chelsea 2: I’m on it!

Chelsea 1: Never mind. I’m tired.

Chelsea 2: Yo. Check it.

Chelsea 1: Aw, jeez. I didn’t want to see her after the attack. That’s terrible! I just want to know how she looks now.

Chelsea 2: You know? You’ve never heard a Pussy Riot song.

Chelsea 1: And?

Chelsea 2: Doncha wanna?

Chelsea 1: No! Yes… In the morning.

Chelsea 2: You won’t remember.

Chelsea 1: You’ve got me there.

Chelsea 2: YouTube!

Chelsea 1: I told you: I’m tired. Remember what happened last night. And the night before. And… hey, they’re good! I like a radical who can carry a tune. Whatever became of Abbie Hoffman’s kid, anyway?

Chelsea 2: Way ahead of you. According to Goog…

Chelsea 1: As long as we’re this awake, we might as well check Facebook notifications.

Chelsea 2: Facebook? I’m intrigued!

Chelsea 1: Figured you would be. Check email one more time, too, while you’re at it.

Chelsea 2: Chelsea?

Chelsea 1: Hm?

Chelsea 2: I don’t think I can fall asleep now.

Chelsea 1: It’s this bed. You need a divan. Or a daybed.

Chelsea 2: What’s the difference? Yeah, I know: Google.

Chelsea 1: Shh! Hold it. What’s that racket? Sounds like someone yelling outside.

Chelsea 2: Uh-oh. Could be a slasher. Quiet, while I turn off the white noise machine.

Chelsea 1: (Whispering) Let’s submit this tomorrow.

Chelsea 2: (Mocking whisper) We don’t have an ending.

Chelsea 1: Sleep on it.

Chelsea 2: I can’t sleep.

Chelsea 1: Find an ASMR video on YouTube.

Chelsea 2: Have they quit yelling?

Chelsea 1: I don’t know. Listen harder. Want a snack?

Chelsea 2: Snack, you say?

Making a Murderer’s Dean Strang and Jerry Buting Go to Pizza Hut

AMBER: Hi folks. My name’s Amber and I’ll be your server tonight.

MR. STRANG: Could you please spell your name for the record?

AMBER: A-m-b-e-r.

MR. STRANG: Thank you Amber. My friend Jerry and I would like to order the Grilled Chicken Rustico Pizza and one large Diet Pepsi, two straws.

AMBER: Oven’s broken.

MR. STRANG: Can you repeat that?

AMBER: Oven’s broken.

MR. STRANG: The pizza oven?

AMBER: That’s correct.

MR. STRANG: The pizza oven that is used to make the pizzas is broken?


MR. STRANG: Here at Pizza Hut?

AMBER: That’s correct.

MR. STRANG: And so because of the oven not being in service, you won’t be serving pizzas at all tonight?

AMBER: No, sorry no pizzas tonight.

MR. STRANG: That seems somewhat odd, doesn’t it — especially at a place called Pizza Hut?

AMBER: It happens.

MR. STRANG: It happens.

AMBER: It happens.

MR. STRANG: How long have you been working at Pizza Hut?

AMBER: Two years.

MR. STRANG: At this location here in Madison?


MR. STRANG: And other than today, in those two years has the pizza oven ever been out of service?

AMBER: Not that I know of.

MR. STRANG: Not that you know of. But you said “it happens,” did you not? Just a minute ago?

AMBER: Yeah.

MR. STRANG: So when you say that “it happens” you just mean that it could happen, not that it has happened?

AMBER: I guess, yeah.

MR. STRANG: You have many pizzas on your menu, correct?

AMBER: Correct.

MR. STRANG: Six or seven, something like that?

AMBER: Something like that.

MR. STRANG: It says on the menu here that you serve eight different pizzas.

AMBER: Yeah, eight pizzas, that’s right.

MR. STRANG: Eight pizzas. And you advertise these pizzas, correct?

AMBER: Yes we do.

MR. STRANG: On flyers and billboards, that sort of thing?


MR. STRANG: This restaurant is called “Pizza Hut,” correct?

AMBER: Correct.

MR. STRANG: So it would be reasonable to assume that people come to Pizza Hut for the pizza. Wouldn’t it?

AMBER: I suppose so.

MR. BUTING slides a coupon over to Amber.

MR. BUTING: Can you read this coupon for out loud please?

AMBER: “Enjoy a free pizza on the house at Pizza Hut.”

MR. BUTING: Enjoy a free pizza.

AMBER: Yes, that’s what it says.

MR. BUTING: That’s a coupon for a free pizza, right?


MR. BUTING: You’ve seen these before, right?

AMBER: All the time.

MR. BUTING: All the time. And when people give you those coupons, you give them a free pizza. Am I right in saying that?

AMBER: Not if the coupon’s expired.

MR. BUTING: Can you read the expiry date on the back of the coupon?

AMBER: March 31, 2019.

MR. BUTING: And what’s today’s date?

AMBER: January 18, 2016.

MR. BUTING: So can my friend Dean and I have a free pizza? “On the house”?

AMBER: No sir, I’m sorry but pizza’s unavailable tonight.

MR. BUTING: No pizza. No pizza for me and Dean.

AMBER: I’m sorry.

MR. BUTING: We planned this dinner months in advance.

AMBER: I’m very sorry.

MR. BUTING: Is there something else on the menu that you recommend?

AMBER: Tuscani Chicken Alfredo’s good.

MR. BUTING: Tuscani Chicken Alfredo?


MR. BUTING: Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s some kind of pasta is it not?

AMBER: Yes it’s a pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce.

MR. BUTING: Not a pizza.

AMBER: No, it’s not a pizza.

MR. BUTING: And this coupon is for pizza, isn’t it?

AMBER: We can honor the pizza coupon for the Tuscani Chicken Alfredo.

MR. BUTING: Really?

AMBER: Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem.

MR. BUTING: That shouldn’t be a problem?


MR. BUTING: So our two Tuscani Chicken Alfredos will be free. Right?


MR. BUTING: “On the house.”

AMBER: That’s correct.

MR. STRANG: Tell her Dean wants extra cheese.

MR. BUTING: My friend Dean would like extra cheese on his Tuscani Chicken Alfredo.

AMBER: Extra cheese is $1.50.

MR. STRANG: That’s unconscionable.

MR. BUTING: We’d like to appeal this decision to your manager.

The Year Is 2196 and Science Fiction Is a Thing of the Past

Trumptober 37, 2196

Mr. Wasimov:

I have now read your manuscript, “Saturn Daylight Five,” which I thank you for transmitting my way. While you display a great aptitude for penning compelling characters and natural dialogue, unfortunately I found that the plot of your purported science fiction novel simply is not feasible, inasmuch as every circumstance, major or minor, that presents a challenge to the protagonists can be solved with the most common of modern tools.

In the opening chapter, for example, when your adolescent hero, Fallon Starr, oversleeps and as a result needs to get from his home to his high school in short order so that he won’t miss his final exam in xenomixology, you have him disable the speed governor of his hoverjalopy. I understand that this is to establish early on his facility with hypermotive technology, but it isn’t a believable solution to that particular problem. More likely, Starr would either teleposit directly from his bedroom to his classroom (or, if his family has only one telepositor, from wherever in their home they keep the unit) or use his personal chronograsp to stop time for everyone else. As it happens, I found it necessary to do both of those things this morning, myself, in order to arrive punctually at a mandatory staff meeting. (It wasn’t worth it, between you, me, and my Dictawave.)

Not long after this first instance, Starr is introduced to the romantic interest, Luna Doone. Something tells him that she’s very sad about something, and Starr wonders if maybe Doone has a broken heart. I realize that I’m perhaps being too literal here, but if Starr genuinely believes that this fetching young lady is suffering with a cardiac injury, or any other physical ailment, rather than try to find out about it through the grapevine, he would have put on his X-Ray Speeks, which would have revealed immediately — and audibly — any condition that might have rendered Doone less than ideal as a mate. After all, isn’t that why each of us is issued a pair? To keep the human race alive and well?

The abduction of Fallon’s plucky kid sister, Ruby, by the villainous android-reptile-people of Adrastea is problematic for two reasons:

(1) The kidnapping provides the impetus for Fallon and Luna to venture off-planet to retrieve Ruby, and indeed much of the novel recounts their attempts to find the girl, but why wouldn’t Ruby activate her cerebrocortical loco-signaller at the first sign of danger? As an unemanicipated minor, she would have one. (There is no evidence that the Starrs are technophobes or neo-Amish.)

(2) Ruby’s captors bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the lizard-robot-people of Amalthea, with whom humans have had a mutual non-aggression and non-defamation treaty since 2143.

Much later, when Fallon, Luna, and the nearly-rescued Ruby are surrounded by the angry, advancing hordes of seductive Venusian Flytramps, the trio formulates and executes an elaborate escape plan… but Luna could have used that time to reproduce asexually, repeatedly, providing our heroes with a small army of disposable Luna-clones of their own! For better or worse, you can’t ignore the result of thousands of years of evolution and advances in women’s rights for the sake of fiction.

Finally — and I’m afraid that even if you were able to address all of my other concerns, this one would remain and render the novel unpublishable — why would Fallon bother to struggle to remember his xenomixology lessons in order to concoct a perfect Spiral Arm Swizzle to serve the monarch of Pulsar Prime in the climax of the story when he could have just asked Google for the recipe? Even deep under the surface of that alien sun-world, he would have immediate access to all the information stored in the nebula.

Please believe me, Mr, Wasimov, when I tell you that I admire the work you’ve done here. Regrettably, however, it would seem that the age of science fiction as our forebears knew it is behind us. Nonetheless, I expect that you could easily use your talents to write something formidable in a different genre. (Have you considered penning a Western? There is still much material to be mined from the ongoing exploration and settlement of the farthest reaches of the Milky Way.) Whatever you choose to write next, I hope you will contact me again, telephasically, telepathically, or otherwise.

All Glory to Ggodd,
Chester del Rey-Gunn

Life Hacks from the Literary Deconstructionists

Most known for their philosophical approach to literature, stripping it of meaning due to the inherent instability of language to mean what it says, literary deconstructionists Jacques Derrida, Paul De Man, and their cohorts were also lifestyle experts, their writings littered with tips to help folks organize their closets and perform other household tasks with more efficiency.

Here are some of their best life hacks: 

How to Fold a Fitted Bed Sheet
First, is the sheet king, queen, or twin-size? Observe, then put that information aside. It has no bearing on the proceedings, unless you have an unnaturally long reach. Are you alone? No? Are you sure? How do you know? Put the sheet on the floor. Find an edge. Make one hand a shovel and slide it inside one pocket. Find its partner. Reject the word partner as a pernicious anthropomorphism. True partnerships are impossible as all human relations are a priori unequal. Is the sheet folded yet? Can you trust your phenomenological experience? Look. Your sheet has unfolded itself in a disavowal of your violent hierarchies. Ball it up and hide it at the bottom of your girlfriend’s closet.

How to Prevent a Tea Bag Tag from Falling into Your Cup
True or false: Your apartment is cold. How can you know what cold is? Have you failed to pay your heating bill? Then you probably need to reuse your tea bags. So it would behoove you to keep the tag dry. Here is a method that has proven efficacious, even for Post-Structuralists, well-known to drink weak tea. First, wrap the string around your drinking vessel’s handle. Next, pour tea. Tag remains outside. Bonus tip: When the tea bag dries, you can put it in your roommate’s footwear to absorb the unpleasant odor. Serge’s sneakers have long been olfactorily — and epistemologically — abhorrent.

How to Remove a Splinter from the Palm of Your Hand
Does it hurt? Would it hurt if you were someone tougher? Admit the truth. Now go further to the truth beneath that truth. Can you see it? I’m talking about the splinter. Keep up. Get some Epsom salt. Put it in warm water. Then read this ten-page exegesis on suffering in the works of the Brontë sisters, including the 100-page footnote on the semiotics of pain, both physical and psychological, impossible to grasp in its organic totality when words are mere substitutes for phenomenological experience. Afterwards, look at your hand. Were you soaking it in the Epsom salt while you read? No? By now it’s probably infected. Amputate it. You only think you need it.

How to Make Cleanup Easy at a Barbecue
The premise “hot meat requires a cold condiment exemplifies a pitfall in logic based on binary thinking. A burger without ketchup is still a burger. And yet, eat ketchup for itself and you invite censure. It is the difference between difference and differ’ance. Whence the term “hot dog”? Observe the long pink meat, its phallocentrism. Do you subscribe to the hoary patriarchal and masculinist view of this staple of the American barbecue? Do you have your hot dog with ketchup? Ketchup and mustard? How do you live with yourself? Your psyche may remain stranded on a barren island surrounded by a sea of metalinguistic implications, but to make cleanup easy, use a muffin tin to serve condiments.

How to Tie a Tie to Strangle Your Wife and Get Away with It
Wait till your wife is drunk or asleep. Get that first tie she bought for your birthday, the year your marriage was revealed as merely a pretense, an empty void beneath a blank facade. You know the tie we mean. Place it around her neck, the wide end 12 inches lower than the narrow end. Cross the wide end over the front of the narrow end. Wrap each end around your fists. Pull and tighten until the woman you once claimed to love, though that love was a house of cards built on a foundation of unfeasibility, ceases respiration. Establish a good alibi. Or feign madness. Which shouldn’t be hard. After all, you’re a literary deconstructionist. Aren’t you?

How to Talk About Art

The ability to create art is the primary thing that separates us from animals, not counting elephants who learn to paint. But conversations about art can sometimes be intimidating. How does one discuss art intelligently?

First, ask yourself, “What is art?” Answer: “Pictures of stuff.”

Second, place the artwork in a context. What period does it belong to? There have been numerous movements throughout art history, such as the Renaissance, Cubism, and the one where everything is dots. What was that one called again? You studied it in your ninth grade art class. You had that teacher who let you call her Nat, and she had everyone do dot paintings of gnomes from this dream she had.

Identify the subject matter. Are you looking at a still life? A landscape? A portrait? Is it the kind of art where everyone is naked but unfortunately not attractive by today’s standards? Or the kind that unlocks a centuries-old secret, leading you on a fast-paced thrill ride as you try to stay one step ahead of both the authorities and a sinister religious cabal? Or is it nothing but squares or squiggly lines? The squiggly line kind is called nonobjective art. Resist the urge to say, “My kid could do that.” We’ve all met Bryson, and he’s much more likely to draw a demon with a chainsaw penis or a drifter stabbing a baby in the eye. Please do something about that kid. He keeps saying creepy stuff about how soon everyone will know his name. What does he mean by that?

To understand the meaning of the piece, determine the artist’s attitude towards the subject matter. In Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series, for instance, how do you think Van Gogh comes down on flowers — are they cool or stupid? Remember, when we ask what a work of art is about, there isn’t merely one correct interpretation. Therefore, all interpretations are equally valid. Insist upon the rightness of your own opinions loudly and often.

When analyzing the formal aspects of a work, start by considering the elements and principles of design. These are line, texture, color, and three or four other ones. You learned those in Nat’s class, too, that time she passed out candy and had you make collages with the wrappers while she went into the supply closet for twenty minutes, and when she came back out she couldn’t stop laughing and eating candy. Nat was so chill. She said you had talent. You heard she’s living at the beach now and has a stand on the boardwalk where she writes people’s names on grains of rice. You wonder if she’d remember you. She was only, what, twenty-one? Twenty-two? Back when you were fifteen — that’s not a big age difference now. What if you ran into her again? Maybe the two of you would hit it off. Maybe if Bryson had a mother figure he’d mellow out and stop cutting up worms.

Note the negative space — this refers to what isn’t in the picture. For example, things that are not in Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People include trees, napkins, throwing stars, a cat wearing sunglasses, a young Alan Alda, etc.

Once you’ve mastered these concepts, you’re ready to show off your art savvy. Take a group of friends or colleagues to wherever some art is — a museum, a gallery, a rich person’s house that you broke into, etc. Point at a painting and go, “Check out the sfumato on that odalisque, amirite?” If the actual artist is present, be sure to mention how you used to do a little sketching but realized you needed to find a real job. This lets them know you could totally do what they do if not for your superior decision-making skills, and they will applaud you.

In conclusion, knowing how to interpret art will enhance your enjoyment and make a positive impression on others. By following these steps, soon you’ll be known as a real art expert, and not just as that guy whose kid did something to that dog.