Last week, my wife and I received a staggering Visa bill. Actually, make that another staggering Visa bill, one that was more nauseating than sobering, really, but sobering all the same. We visited with a financial advisor after this particular kick to the throat, who told us we needed to cut back on expenses. One of the “tools” we could use to help achieve this goal, she told us, was to keep an open journal, addressed to one another, in which all financial decisions were documented, thus opening up a “conversation” about what we really did and didn’t need to be buying. This was my journal.

I recently, as a 47-year-old man, took MDMA for the first time. After a life in which my substance use was largely limited to pot and the occasional Ativan, the experience opened up a new channel in my brain through which a river of glowing empathy streamed, one that prompted me to sit down and write letters to an array of influences that have passed through my life.

There was a time when Groupon was to be the dawn of a beautiful consumer revolution—a glorious system through which we would all purchase goods and services at rock-bottom prices, provided a guaranteed number of sales had been met. If, for example, 100 people signed up to buy, say, a disco ball, that ball would be sold to each person for the can’t-go-wrong price of $9.99! However, like Tamagotchis or disco itself, Groupon was a brief cultural phenomenon that burned brightly in our midst and then fizzled out, leaving feelings of shame and self-loathing to all who participated.

My wife Rachelle and I visited a naturopath about a month ago and it was an interesting and kind of weird experience, like visiting the past for a medical diagnosis. The naturopath quickly determined my GI tract was in some sort of distress and said I would have to eliminate gluten, wheat and dairy from my diet, as well as cut down my alcohol consumption by about 7,000%. He then suggested I keep a journal describing my daily “moodscape” as I journeyed along this new path. He also said I should colour-code my state of mind for each day, adding, “Eventually, you want all your days to be sky blue.”

Winning the New Yorker cartoon caption contest was pretty easy for me, but then again, I’m something of a genius. Maybe not an “IQ genius,” like some other thinner, bookish people, but all the same, I have my own sparkle. My mother assured me that, ever since that bee stung me in Niagara Falls on my 24th birthday, I’ve had a special quality about me, something almost luminous. “There was a touch of the divine in that bee poison, “ she said, “you’ll always be a ‘petit cerveau’ to me.”

You probably want to know an awful lot more about me, about my journey from bee sting to crafting the perfect cartoon quip, but I don’t want to bore you with the details of how I struggled academically, professionally, athletically and romantically before rising to the top in one electric flash, when I, Michael Murray, won the New Yorker cartoon caption contest.

The other day I got an e-mail from some old school friends inviting my wife and me, as well as some others from that era, over for a little dinner party. This is the invitation and the e-mails that followed.

The Syrian Electronic Army has really been making a name for itself lately. This pro-Assad collective of propagandists have hacked into the Twitter accounts of NPR, CBS, AP and the BBC, among others. Their most recent victory was breaking into the account of satirical magazine The Onion, where they tweeted such gems as “UN retracts report of Syrian chemical weapon use: Lab tests confirm it is Jihadi body odor.” It’s almost as if they had Jay Leno writing the jokes himself!

Regardless, hacking Twitter accounts has become the choice technique—a kind of modern graffiti—for anyone looking to make a mark by spreading propaganda, disinformation and a general sense of insecurity throughout the electronic community. The most recent of these attacks took place just a few days ago, when a Cuban organization known as the HB (for Habana Radio) seized control of the NHL Twitter account for nearly six hours. This is remarkable for a number of reasons, the primary one being that the Internet is a rare, unpredictable and still emergent technology in Cuba.

What follows are their tweets, which have since been deleted:

Although the story of the Black Guerilla Family ringleader Tavon White impregnating four different prison guards and fathering five children with them, all while he was incarcerated in a Maryland jail is just now reaching the public, I’ve known about it for several months. A relative of mine has been confined in the same prison as White and was able to facilitate a correspondence between us.

 

For many, Major League Baseball’s opening day is a breath of fresh air, a relaxing time of hope and optimism, but for others it can be stressful. As the year’s first full weekend of games approaches, here is a selection of anxiety nightmares as told by some players, major or otherwise:

Roger Clemens
Seven-time Cy Young Award winner
“I never cheated. Everything I accomplished in baseball I achieved through hard work and God-given talent, so that’s what makes this dream so frigging weird. I’m just about to run out onto the field for the opening pitch when a bunch of nerd guys in lab coats surround me and start chattering like little mice. They’re accusing me of steroids, which is crazy, and as I start punching them and bulling through them Texas-style, they just keep multiplying and it’s like they’re nerd quicksand and I’m sinking in them.”

Last year, Justin Bieber made 55 million dollars. His Twitter account has 35 million followers it and is growing at a rate close to one person per second. Famous mostly for his haircuts, this critically despised androgyne has been expanding faster than the universe. Not surprisingly, having just turned 19, the teen pop sensation has been acting out lately, fake-attacking a member of the paparazzi from behind his hulking bodyguards, getting messed-up, and then almost getting kicked out of a Paris hotel for his newly discovered rock-star ways. Although Bieber is a Christian with a good working relationship with Jesus, many wonder if there’s another relationship that’s guiding him. 

Lindsay:

Way to go on getting off with your plea-bargain thing! That was awesome! You make a cool mockery of the justice system!! I have to tell you that you look CRAZY hot in your mug shot! You really know how to work the camera! How old are you?

Peace out,

Biebs

Most of us probably think of St. Patrick’s Day as a festival of amateur drunks and green vomit. With that in mind, I asked some people what the day meant to them. Here is a sampling of the results.

Arthur Paglia, 38 years old
My parents got divorced when I was very young so I didn’t get to see too much of my father, but every St. Patrick’s Day we’d get together. I looked forward to that day more than any other, more than Christmas. Dad would always take me to McDonald’s before the parade and we’d each have a Shamrock Shake and sit there telling one another knock-knock jokes.

Knock-knock.
Who’s there?
Shamrock.
Shamrock who?
Shamrock shakes.

And then he’d start twitching and shaking and I just could not stop laughing.

Make money and serve the people!

Do you like to surf the Internet? If so, you might be exactly what the Chinese government is looking for!! Earn up to $500 a week from the comfort of your own home, just by surfing Internet or hacking mainframe security in the United States of America! Do not pass up this once in a lifetime lucky day!

Even though I was a little bit skeptical, I really didn’t think I could afford to pass up this opportunity when I saw it appear in my Hotmail account.

Immediately following the resignation of Benedict XVI as Pope, God dropped a bomb by manifesting and then announcing at a press conference that he was stepping down as Supreme Ruler of the Universe. It is perhaps the...

Only a few people know this, but over the last six weeks I’ve been undergoing a very intensive job interview process with the New Yorker Magazine. It was for the position of Fiction Editor and over the course of this time I’ve had a total of six different interviews. Each one was scary, funny, overwhelming, thrilling and surreal. The very last one took place on Tuesday, the same day that Rachelle and our dog Heidi, both had surgery. I was incredibly stressed-out and exhausted, and completely thrown by the format, which was a kind of a showdown with myself and the other final candidate sitting before a panel of four senior staff members. The woman I was up against, Cressida Leyshon, has served as the magazine’s Deputy Fiction Editor for the last five years and seemed to know everybody on the panel really well.

The Lord God Almighty declares that there shall be a press conference and that it shall be good!

Please have your seats.

Such is my grandeur and magnificence that if I were to appear to you in all my numinous glory, your mortal eyes would be stricken and blindness would be my gift to you, and so, with that in mind I manifest before you as a burning bush.

If you sit down and think about it, the holidays that we celebrate in North America are really weird. They’re primarily relics, vestiges of a dubious, largely mythic past that are completely out of synch with contemporary sensibilities and realities. I mean, Groundhog Day? Okay, technically  that’s not a holiday. Family Day? Come on. That’s just an embarrassment.

A radical reassessment is needed. We need to create a new hierarchy, one in which fresh, modern holidays that more appropriately reflect our living culture supplant the old, superstitious ones. Here are some suggestions.

Last week, while Canada was in a deep freeze, my wife Rachelle and I went for a very well timed vacation in Barbados. These are the postcards that I mailed out to friends.

Dear Chris,
Last I remember you were working really hard for a really, really horrible client. How’s that going? Rachelle and I are in Barbados, an imperishable island paradise. It turns out that Sex on the Beach is more than just a delicious cocktail! Hahaha!! Anyway, I hope that this time the client pays you and that your professional reputation doesn’t get damaged any further!

Gun Appreciation Day was created in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s urging for more gun control in the aftermath of the Sandy Hooks shootings. On 19 January, this new holiday was celebrated for the first time and it just glittered with promise. As I absolutely adore holidays, I was pretty excited. This was going to be the coolest day in the history of forever! We would be granted a holy time, some space to pause and consider all the positive and playful ways that guns have influenced our lives and those of our surviving loved ones. And then after a festive meal, we’d get to let loose and party! I imagined something big and loud, a variation on the Gay Pride parade, only with guns and games. Unfortunately it turned out to be more a series of angry gun shows where people accidentally or on purpose, shot off pieces of themselves.

This was a personal disappointment to me. But since I’m a free thinker I chose to commemorate the day in my own way, which was to write notes to all the people who have in some way, had an impact on my life due to the way they’ve shared gun culture with me.

If he were a body spray, I would spray him all over myself. I have loved Lance Armstrong from the beginning and I will love him to the end. All he’s ever done is win, win, win and then win some more. It doesn’t matter if he has a mean, rat face, he is my man and I would be in his drum circle in a second. I own 17 Live Strong bracelets. Two of them were even custom made, with one serving as a “power choker” and the other acting as a kind of belt/floatation device that I like to wear when I’m in the water. That’s how committed I am to the man and his ideas.

At any rate, Lance has taught me that you have to do whatever it takes to win, all the while accumulating as much money and as many sex partners as possible, and if that means cheating and lying and lying and really, really committing to the lie, then that’s what it takes.

My wife Rachelle is incredibly strong. I don’t mean in terms of lifting canoes over her head, I’m talking about her constitution. She might not even notice a bullet wound, and if she did, it wouldn’t even occur to her to cancel dinner plans. And of course, she never gets sick, her will is simply too strong. On the other hand, I’m constantly in some state of illness or discomfort. I’m a little tornado of allergies, hysterias and wounds, a little tornado that has an almost supernatural to suck all manner of disease and infirmity into it. It is for this reason that I always get my flu shot. I would get seven of them if I could. I would collect them like hockey cards.

Rachelle has never bothered with a flu shot. Her immune system is comprised entirely of assassins. They kill everything with silent, professional dispatch. However, this year they were unable to neutralize the flu and for one week, as if dying, Rachelle lay in bed while I, with an unaccustomed surge of health, chugged brightly along.

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