GOP Talking Points For President Trump’s Fifth Avenue Massacre

I’ve lost count of the number of times I read an article on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and thought, “that’s amazing, I wish I’d written that!” Dare to dream. Friends and gentlefolk, I HAVE A BYLINE IN McSWEENEY’S!

“GOP Talking Points For President Trump’s Fifth Avenue Massacre” comes on the heels of the leaked GOP talking points on President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky. There’s certainly a pattern to this Administration’s response to accusation of corruption and crime. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s satire or prophecy.

Time will tell.

The Evolution of the Content Engine (Case Study: Cat Pictures)

  1. Cat pictures” returns a list of popular web pages featuring the words “cat” and “pictures.
  2. Cat pictures” returns a list of cat pictures from websites like the ones you frequent.
  3. Cat pictures” returns pictures auto-curated to your taste in cats, including ones you’ve taken.
  4. Cat pictures” generates pictures of customized cats based on others you’ve clicked in the past.
  5. Cat pictures” generates interactive cat simulations tailored to your tastes.
  6. Cat pictures” 3-D prints photorealistic models of your favorite simulated cats.
  7. Cat pictures” 3-D prints interactive models of simulated cats to suit your detected mood.
  8. Cat pictures” 3-D prints biological cats to your specifications, with tutorials for their care.
  9. Cat pictures” grants 3 wishes for cats, excluding wishes for more cat wishes.
  10. Cat pictures” grants unlimited wishes for cats.

The Trump Plaza Massacre

Chicago witches, along with witches across the nation, are gathering to cast a “binding spell” on the Trump Administration. This is true. But what happened after the first ceremony is a darker tale, one that is officially being called FAKE NEWS.


The President realized immediately that he was being constrained. His Executive Order-signing pens kept running out of ink, and he found himself unable to utter complete sentences — which in itself was not unusual, but now, his staff could not decipher his commands. “Steve,” he called out. “I need you.” The shadow the President cast on the Oval Office wall detached itself, slithered along the floor, and wrapped itself like a snake around the Leader of the Free World. Its head stretched over the President’s left shoulder, and pressed a phantom ear to his lips. “I’m being attacked,” the President whispered. The shadow flowed away and snaked its way into the greater shadows at the far side of the room, where it vanished.

In his sanctum at the top of Trump Tower, Steve Bannon chuckled without mirth as a tendril of shadow entered his nostril. For a moment, his eyes clouded with darkness, and he nodded. “Witches and hedge magicians, thinking they know power…” He went to the window, and opened it with a gesture. Outside, the sun shone in a cloudless sky. He frowned. Something passed in front of the sun, rippling as it ate the light. Rising from the far horizon, black vapors streaked up into the sky. As the darkness grew, so did Bannon’s power. The shadows cocooned him, and he transformed. A huge, shapeless, pale thing rose into the darkening sky like a misshapen balloon, and then sped westward.

The Chicago witches swayed in their circle in Trump Plaza. There was a stench on the wind from the east, and waves of nausea hit them. The witch Kloë looked up at the darkening sky, and said to her Sister, “Is… is that us?”

“No,” Breeannaugh said. “There’s someone… else…” She cast her mind skyward, and braving the ethereal miasma that tainted the air, she quested for the source of the disturbance. Her mind met something formless, terrifying, and radiating hideous power. Her body burst like rotten fruit dropped from a height. The witches’ hex snapped and recoiled, hitting the coven with a backlash of magic. With a single voice, they screamed.

A mass of pale flesh slopped onto the ground in the witches’ broken circle. It rose on tendon and sinew from its amorphous roiling. Steve Bannon’s face emerged from a sheath of quivering skin. It grinned. Qaitlynn vomited noisily.

“Hello Snowflakes,” said the thing with Bannon’s face. I still have plans for the President. You will not meddle in matters so far beyond you.”

Elyyzah’s fingers closed on her knife hilt and she whispered a curse, the strongest she knew. Then she leaped at the Alt-Right horror. Her blade sunk to the hilt in Steve Bannon’s gelatin-soft forehead. He smiled. “Nevertheless you persist?” he whispered. She herd mockery in the thing’s voice. And… admiration? She recoiled from the thought of being admired by this thing.

“FLY YOU FOOLS!” Elyyzah screamed to her coven as Bannon slithered over her and began to feed.

Far to the east, from his golden toilet, the President tweeted that the Left, still unable to get over his landslide victory, had resorted to witchcraft to defy the will of the people. Sad!

Hours later, a furious Sean Spicer condemned the dishonest media for its lies about the Administration’s dealings with dark forces, and about the very existence of the Massacre at Trump Plaza.


From 1984 to 2017

(An excerpt from the novel 2017, by Steve Bannon.)

Behind his screwed-up eyelids a forest of people seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and out of the National Mall, disappearing behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying to count them, he could not remember why. He knew only that it was impossible to count them, and that this was somehow due to the mysterious identity between 1.5 million and 250 thousand. The pain died down again. When he opened his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing the same thing. Innumerable crowds, like moving trees, were still streaming past in either direction, crossing and recrossing. He shut his eyes again.

“How many people attended the inauguration, Winston?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know. You will kill me if you do that again. 1.5 million, 250 thousand, 7 billion — in all honesty I don’t know.”

“Better,” said Sean Spicer.


The Lost Wine Varietals Of Atlantis

Only tasting notes remain of the legendary wines of lost Atlantis, sunk beneath the restless waves. Atlantean wines were almost always blends, as the varietals in their pure form often carried alarming consequences.

Varietals of the Mnemosyne Valley

The Mnemosyne River Valley in southeast Atlantis is unique in that its north bank is always bathed in the rosy light of dawn while the south bank is in a perpetual star-strewn twilight. Where these microclimates meet and overlap, vintners grow varietals with potent cognitive and emotional qualities, prized as blending grapes to evoke richly complex tasting experiences.

Petit Mort

Musky, peppery aroma, punctuated with floral top notes. Mouth-drying tannins. Sharp on the attack, with alternating waves of languor and ratcheting tension in the midpalate, building to a crescendo and climactic finish that lasts longer with age. Can be cellared for decades, but don’t wait too long — drink lots while young.

Pinot Bleu

Blending grape used to invoke nostalgia around its consumption, proportional to its ratio in the blend. Finish can be sudden and brief, long lasting, or periodically recurring, triggered by a scent or a snatch of melody caught amidst the clamor. Potency increases with age. Bitterly toxic if unblended.

Zelig Blanc

Versatile white, expresses terroir of wherever it’s consumed, under whatever circumstances. No two sips taste exactly alike (as the imbiber is subtly changed by the preceding slip), nor will any two consumers agree on the qualia. Explodes in contact with Pinot Bleu.

Varietals of Ambrosia Mountain

Ambrosia Mountain in northern Atlantis boasts grapes used in the most primordial and mythic of Atlantean wines. The dizzying heights, unforgiving stony soil, and unfiltered light of the sun produces grapes that form the seeds of legends.

Cabernet Achilles

Muscular, aggressively tannic red. Does not pair with food, obliterates any other sensory impressions. Vain and self-centered yet inspiring of admiration and allegiance. Men want to be it; women want to be with it. Laughs at own jokes, bullies white, sparkling, and dessert wines. Respects whisky.


The most versatile of food wine. Alters body, acidity, residual sugar, alcohol, and flavor profile to complement last bite consumed. Colorless, flavorless, and weightless when sipped alone. Speculated to actually be an oenological Platonic Form, to which all other wine is but a shadow on the cave wall.

Cognet Seipsum

Commonly known as the Fruit of Knowledge, often used with a second fermentation. Forbidden top notes. Complex, balanced, shame-inducing mid-palate, with a long, bitter finish that lingers unto the seventh generation.

Vin Immortus

Massive, deeply colored red with unbreakable tannic structure. Flavors of dark fruit preserves and the dust of eons. Unending finish. May be cellared for millennia or more. Heals wounds, cures illness, reduces urgency. Unblended, confers immortality.

Varietals of the Underworld

The Bleed in southwest Atlantis, where the realms of the dead intersect with those of the living, contains microclimates not to be found on any single plane of existence. Master winemakers use the grapes grown here in small quantities to add a soupçon of suffering, horror, or oblivion, to craft wines of unmatched complexity and nuance.

Cabernet Sothoth

Colors range from cthonic to tenebrous, with a cyclopean, non-Euclidean tannic structure. Mouthfeel is generally loathsome on the attack, with a nameless midpalate and a foreboding, blasphemous finish that resonates beyond the stars. A favorite in the court of the King In Yellow.

Oubliet Noir

Vines grow like noxious weeds along the banks of the Styx. Unctuous, with constrained minerality and a slow, languorous midpalate that drains away both hope and regret. Top notes of pomegranate. A finish that echoes through the Void and recalls… something… it’s gone now. Maybe it didn’t matter.

Petit Enfer

PAIN. Waves and waves of unending pain, eclipsing all other sensation but the top notes of citrus and jasmine.



J’En Connais La Fin

This song always reminds me of my first last time in Paris. You can have more than one “last time” if you come back changed. This one was in 1995, at that cusp of an age when I was old enough to know what was coming, but young enough not to flinch. We danced our last dance to this song. Nothing as obviously referential as a tango, which is theater masquerading as intimacy, but a slow, circular shuffling, an excuse in public to put my arms around her, to commit her to memory. I had an early morning flight, but we didn’t go back to her flat. Not that night. She understood better than me how these things worked. By increments, she’d begun pulling away. Preparing us.

She taught me that romance relies on a predetermined end to cast a shadow on its beginning. The pang of impending loss is the spice that intensifies the flavor. It keeps the focus on the now. L’amour, c’est comment on comprend la mort she said, between puffs of her Gauloise Blonde. Love is how we understand death. And I believed her because she was French, and could make anything sound profound and sexy. Standing with my bag outside the Métro station, brave and miserable, I knew better than to ask if I could call, or write, or if I’d ever see her again. But I asked anyway, the words flinging themselves at her despite my efforts to hold them back. Her smile hid pity. “Write that novel,” she told me. “I will read every word.”

The novel, like so many things of youth, fell by the wayside. I think of her only rarely now. Les Feuilles Mortes. The smell of tobacco. The raspberry-jam taste of Beaujolais. Small reminders. Hers was a story with an end, the only possible end, because of course she wasn’t much of a character to begin with. Just a collection of fantasies and stereotypes, a milepost along an imagined road. The depressive pixie dream-girl,  projected onto a canvas of loneliness and yearning, unable to survive beyond its borders. I didn’t even give her a name.

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Once, on a layover, the airline forced me to share a hotel room with the prima ballerina from the Kiev Ballet. She spoke no English, and it was awkward when we found ourselves reaching for the same door. She argued with me, but I couldn’t understand a word, and I had no better luck explaining when we went back downstairs and the reception clerk told us — in English — that we had to double up on the room. I stood there hand-gesturing for five minutes before she gave me an unreadable look, then took my arm as though I were escorting her to a ball. We walked back to the elevator.

In the room, which had only one bed, I made a show of taking a pillow out of the closet and putting it on the floor near my bag. She silently watched, sitting on the bed cross-legged and straight-backed, in that sculptural manner that dancers have. It was early, only 9pm, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do than get ready to sleep. I wished she would turn on the TV, or do something other than watch me. Even with my back turned, I could feel her eyes between my shoulder blades.

Finally, she opened her suitcase and pulled out two shot glasses and a bottle of vodka, something with a label I didn’t recognize. The bottle made a “thud” when she put it on the night stand. She held out one of the glasses, and for the first time, she smiled. “Come,” she said. It was the only English word she said all night.

I woke up the next morning, as deep down I knew I would, in the bath tub, covered with ice, a freshly stitched incision over my right kidney. My head was pounding. And of course, I had missed my flight. But the strange thing? Every time the Kiev Ballet performs in the United States, I receive a comped ticket in the mail.

I haven’t missed a single performance.

I Kicked an Acorn

Yesterday, I kicked an acorn into the middle of the road. Today, I saw a dead squirrel there, tire treads impressed on its ruined back.

Now come the scavengers, the carrion-eaters, the things that thrive on death. They gorge themselves, growing fat and slow on the carnage, until they too fall to the unheeding tires of texting drivers and they themselves are eaten in an ever-spinning Circle of Death.

Causality settles on my shoulders like a slackened noose. The acorn that began it? Smashed on the pavement. All its potential broken and ground, unnourished, into the concrete.

The sins of Monday manifest even through Tuesday, like ripples in a fetid pond throwing up stink long after the stone has sunk to the bottom.

While On a Sinking Ship

The deck lurched, with the promise of more lurching, and my sailor’s legs told me I was on a sinking ship. Not today, and maybe not even this year, but she felt low in the water, a little lower each month. And by the time the waves began lapping up over the sides, it would be a perilously late escape.

Some might blame the captain, or the crew, or the changeable nature of the sea and sky, and many did exactly that — debating and pontificating by the lantern light below deck. I stayed away from such talk; blame solved nothing. But the problem remained: I was on a sinking ship.

I was a strong swimmer, and there were other ships, surely, nearby. But the ship I was on was comfortable. The captain didn’t work the crew too hard, there was good rum every Friday, and the wage was decent for the effort. I had even earned a measure of respect from the officers during my time in service. To toss those things aside and to plunge head-first into the cold, deep waters, to swim for my life as if I were a young man, and to haul myself up onto a new deck, learning the ropes all over again… It was daunting compared to the thought of biding my time, waiting until the risk of staying got worse than the risk of jumping overboard.

What to do, I wondered, staring into the foam-capped waves.

Take Your Kid To Work Day


The train was full today, parents and their children on their way to work. The children were laughing and talking to each other. They haven’t yet learned that the morning commute is a time to be quiet, to keep your eyes down — on your phone or on your shoes, and that this isn’t a time for laughter. Today is to help them learn.


The line was crazy at Starbucks. That’s the problem when you allow children to order coffee — they have half a dozen qualifiers. “Soy, with whip, add hazelnut, extra hot, 3-shot…” Madness. But today is to provide the kids with the experience of an adult work day, so I wait patiently to order my venti, non-fat, 3 Splenda, Blonde roast Misto. And a spinach-feta wrap.


On this “Take Your Kid To Work Day,” the noise of the whining, complaining, and crying is becoming overwhelming. And that’s just the adults, wondering what value there is for toddlers to be running around the office.


This 5-year-old just broke our code build. Sigh. Can’t any of these parents supervise their children? You CAN’T reference a new library without adding it to the build file! Actually… never mind. That was my mistake. Good catch, 5-year old.


A little boy was crying in the cubicle row near the engineering room. His mother was trying to console him, but between sobs, the boy said “He was so MEAN!” “What did he do, sweetie?” his mother asked. “He… he… told me to send the revisions straight to Finance, and I did, but then he yelled and me and said he wanted to approve them first!” HIs mother stroked his hair and said to him, “Did you send him an email to verify that you were supposed to send them straight to Finance? You’re going to have to learn how to manage up, sweetie. And keep a paper trail.


Is our ability to keep quiet and sit still during an hour-long meeting a sign of our maturity, or our acceptance of our own defeat?


“They really make you see your routine with fresh eyes, don’t they?” I said to my co-worker, gesturing to his 5-year old. He stared at me for a moment, and then burst into tears. He sat down on the floor, started rocking back and forth, and kept muttering “The examined life is not worth living…”