I like apples. I eat about six to ten apples every day. Unfortunately, such healthy eating has taken a toll on my teeth. If I want to continue eating apples, I will need five tooth implants. Each one will run me about $1,000. What should I do? Do not suggest applesauce. I do not like it.  

Johnny Appleyard, Appleton, Wisconsin  

Dear JAAW,  

Honestly, I would not shut the door completely on applesauce. It may be a good way to get that pectin high. As an alternative, you can slice the apples very thinly. I don't mean apple slices as they are generally understood. I am talking about very thin—about the width of two quarters.  

Beyond that, I would contact the Apple Growers Association (AGA). It may make economic sense for the Apple Growers to pay for your new teeth, given the large quantity of apples you purchase. However, the AGA will probably be a bit skeptical that you really are consuming that many apples every day. They may say: “Ha! This is just some guy swindling us for new teeth." That’s a fair point so don't get too offended. You should be prepared to provide documentation of your apple purchasing patterns. This is where your grocery store discount card comes in. Most people do not know that these cards have been recording every food purchase you have made for the last twenty years or more. These records will substantiate your history as an intense apple consumer.  

One final caution: During your negotiations with the AGA, do not let the Pear Growers Association (PGA) get wind of your possible arrangement with the Apple Growers. The Pear Growers know that if you do not get your new teeth, you will eventually move on to their product. There has always been something rotten about the pear industry.


I have a recurring dream that puzzles me. In the dream I am walking through an art gallery looking at the many wonderful paintings. The strange thing is that I have no aptitude to paint or draw. I can't produce any form of art that anyone would think was good under any circumstances. Could this mean I do have some artistic talent that comes from a place in the mind that is not consciously accessible?  

The Sleeping Picasso   

Dear TSP,  

That is an interesting question. And yes, it is possible you have some latent artistic talent. However, let me suggest three additional theories as to the origins of this “high-quality dream art.”  

1. It may be that what you think of as good art in your dream is not actually that good. That is, the dream art is not as good as you think, but you respond to it the same way as you do to good art in the real world. This strikes me as freaky, but I guess the dream world can be a strange one.  

2. What you perceive as original art may actually be memories of real works of art that you have seen, so you are not, in reality, creating any art at all.  

3. The art you are seeing in your dreams is being transmitted to your brain by a mind-control machine. Many people believe that the CIA controls their brains by radio waves or some similar system. It could be something like that. Now, I think it unlikely that it is the CIA in this situation, but it could be the National Foundation for the Arts. The National Foundation for the Arts may feel that dream transmission is a more cost effective method to expose people to art than funding local art galleries. Let's say they give a million dollars to start a local gallery; how many people a year are going to go to that gallery? 20k per year at best? For that same million dollars, they can set up a mind-control machine that will let a whole metropolitan area see a new set of paintings every night. You might put aluminum foil up on the windows in your bedroom. This may keep the “art rays” out. I am not saying you should keep the art rays out, but if aluminum foil stops them, that proves my theory. I have aluminum foil on my bedroom windows, but that is because I don't want to pay for curtains. In this application, it has been very effective.


Is the blue whale really the largest animal that ever lived? It seems unlikely from a “statistical sense” that the largest animal of all time is also alive today. Even if you take the whole evolutionary history of whales, it seems unlikely that the largest whale that ever lived still swims in today’s oceans. For every living species, there are millions of similar creatures that have gone extinct. How can the blue whale possibly be the largest animal of all time?  



Dear Chip,  

The blue whale is certainly not the largest animal of all time. In fact, it is not even the largest whale. The great white whale himself, Moby Dick, was larger than a blue whale. The Amoeba in Star Trek was much larger than a solar system. What about Smaug? He was larger than a blue whale. Paul Bunyan's blue ox Babe was larger than a blue whale, and bluer!! At best, you can say the blue whale is the largest non-fictional animal that ever lived.


I believe that the United States of America is the Greatest Country in the World. However, it does have “a lot of problems.”. I have been in denial about this for a very long time, but there you are. Instead of hemming and hawing I have decided to take action.  

I think the way to solve America's problems is for each of the 50 states to adopt a new state motto. The current mottos are out dated and don't seem to be helpful. And that may be the reason America has developed “a lot of problems.” So I am asking to craft 50 new state mottos and turn the situation around.  


Uncle Sam.


Dear Uncle Sam,  

We here at are honored you have entrusted this job to us. We have prepared new state mottos as you requested. We hope these new state mottos are helpful in your efforts to turn things around.  

Utah = Leading the nation in inland saltwater resources.  

Rhode Island = With enough funding and the correct equipment, we could become a real island.  

Alaska = Take her, do you think we want her?  

Arkansas = We are here to serve you Almighty Walmart.  

Texas = The place your friends who grew up in Texas can't stop talking about, as if you are not “getting” something. The whole time they prattle on about it you think, “If Texas is so great why did you move away?”  

North Dakota = Who is laughing now?  

South Dakota = If anyone knows how to drill for oil at a northward angle, please call us.   

California = We are the economic and cultural COLOSSUS that leads this nation. And we will continue to be until the Big One hits, at which time it will probably be wise to adopt a more humble state motto.  

South Carolina = One of only two states named after someone named Carol.  

Georgia = One of the two states named after someone called George.  

Washington = How could flying in something called an “air-BUS” be safe?  

Ohio = We decide who is President, not you.  

Florida = Peninsula Power!!!  

Vermont = The place New Yorkers move to and think they have become New Englanders.  

New Mexico = The only state named after a foreign country, except New Canada.  

Wisconsin = The Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay and are not going anywhere. In your face LA, Portland, and Vegas.  

New Hampshire = The Idaho of the East Coast.  

New York = We are more than NYC and Long Island, but not much.  

Louisiana = It sort of seems like we have some regional indigenous culture, but not really. We grew up watching the same TV shows as you did. How different can we really be?  

Oregon = If you like drizzle, we got you covered.  

Maine = We could split in half and call the new state Secondary.   

Oklahoma = Now OK'er  

Washington D.C.= D.C. stands for District of Columbia; your phone charger will work fine.  

Puerto Rico = An Uncommon Wealth.  

Massachusetts = Thanks for all that Big Dig money.  

Delaware = You have probably driven through us without realizing it.  

(We call it being Del-a-unaware)  

Pennsylvania = Kids think it's funny to call us Transylvania.  

Guam = We have a Taco Bell now.  

West Virginia = The less rebellious Virginia.  

Mississippi = The only way to count seconds without a watch or computer.  

Idaho = Now our potatoes have even more fame.  

Nebraska = There could be oil here, why not have a look?  

Iowa = If you enjoy killing pigs with a shovel, this might be the place for you.  

New Jersey = Leading the nation in contaminated soil resources.  

Michigan = Happily Discontiguous.  

Connecticut = No, not everyone here is rich.  

Virginia = Virginia is still for lovers, but if your heart is an empty place devoid of any feeling for anyone or anything, you are welcome here too.  

Kansas = Plenty of Land available for any (legal) use.  

Kentucky = If they legalize marijuana, then it is all going to be grown in Hawaii. What are we going to do? Grow Kona Coffee? We don't have the volcanic soil for that.  

Missouri = Always ready to compromise.  

Alabama= Why isn't Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Sweet Home Alabama” our state song? OK, some lyrics would need to be changed, but who really understands the current ones anyway? It could be reworked into a nice story about returning to Alabama after a long absence.  

Minnesota = Global Warming could be a sweet deal for us.  

Tennessee = Where dreams of being a country music star go to die.  

Maryland = Southern State? Northern State? No one is sure.  

Hawaii = Who would have thought we would have a presidential birthplace before: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Guam.  

Indiana = Leading the nation at driving nowhere fast.  

North Carolina = You would be a wreck without the psychiatric medications we have developed.  

Illinois = An innovator in Governor imprisonment technology.  

Colorado = It's hip to be square.  

Wyoming = How can the USA be a democracy if we have 46% of the population of Dallas, 26% of the population of Houston and as many Senators as Texas?  

Montana= No, we do have a speed limit.  

Arizona= You may be hesitant to come to Arizona for a visit because you think your car could overheat and you will be stranded in the desert without water, and eventually you will be crawling past the sun-bleached skull of a cow, real or imagined, with your last thoughts being ones of regretting your Arizona vacation. All of that is a Hollywood-induced fantasy. But if you do come to Arizona and the unlikely event occurs that your car does break down, just call 911 on your phone; they will send a tow truck. If your phone is not working, borrow someone else's phone. Regarding proper hydration, if you are thirsty, the tow truck driver will probably have something for you to drink, or he can take you to 7-Eleven where you can get the beverage of your choice before the situation gets dire. We have removed all those cow skulls and there were only a total of eight fully intact on all public lands.  

Nevada= What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens at your local Indian Casino could become gossip in your home town.


I desperately need your help on how to establish a relationship with my brother. The story is this: we were only 11 months apart and as children, and as teens we had a terrible sibling rivalry. We were both cruel children and I suppose you could say this was caused by an equal combination of nature and nurture.  

Our father died when I was eight, and from then on our mother struggled with her grief and putting food on the table. She was unable to help us get along. After high school, we just went our separate ways and have interacted very little since. We are both close to our mother and we do run into each other at her place, but usually nothing more than awkward silence passes between us. Our mother wants us to reconcile. She had her Minister write me a long and thoughtful letter about this. I did not know how much pain she was in because of this until that letter. The Minister said, and I think correctly, that I am the better of the two of us to make the overture and carry the process through.  

The Minister said that my mom believes my brother is increasingly becoming a hot head, and she is scared he will get himself killed like our Father did. She thinks I might be able to help him with this, but that is more of a long-term goal.  

The Minister thinks it should not be difficult for us to reconcile if there is not some single outstanding issue that my brother has to be resentful about. I do not think that there is; really it’s just the accumulation of a lot of little things combined with our habit of not talking.  

So I am going to reach out to my brother. What I need from is some advice on how to go about it. Should I approach him openly and say that it is time for us to have some perspective on the past and our relationship? Perhaps with a letter like my Mom did with me? Or should I just make an effort to befriend him and leave all the hard things to say unsaid, at least in the short term?  

A Brother Apart.  

Dear ABA,  

Reaching out to your brother in that way just makes you his bitch. If he wants to come back to you begging, that is one thing, but what you’re talking about doing is unmanly. Regarding this Minister, I know about these Holy Rollers. They are all about families getting along, people helping people, and turning the other cheek. What about your self-respect? What about you getting the revenge you deserve? Does this Minister care about that? No! It sounds to me like your Old Man may have been the type willing to die over a matter of personal honor. Why not follow that example? It saddens me that your Punk Ass even reads


Can you please tell me the origin of the Goldendoodle? I know that the first Labradoodle was bred by Australian Wally Conron in 1988, but can you tell me who bred the first Goldendoodle.  

Carl Bronger, Greenfield Mass  

Dear Carl,  

As who first bred Goldendoodles with the intention of marketing them as a new type of dog, it's not so clear. Basically in 1992 after some media coverage explaining the high number of sales of the Labradoodle in Australia, many litters of both Labradoodles and Goldendoodles were bred all over the world. As to which puppies were actually born first, who knows? However, here is a story that might interest you, especially if you are a fan of the TV show Star Trek. The producers of Star Trek the Next Generation had a party on the set of the show in 1986. It was what is called in the TV industry a 100-day party. Not a party for the 100th episode, but a party on the weekend of the week of the 100th day of production. The invitation to the party said specifically to bring dogs. Greg Holtz a carpenter on the show, brought his standard poodle Kelly to the party. What Holtz did not realize is that Kelly was in heat. After it became understood that Kelly was in heat, the people at the party with male dogs took them to their cars in order to give Holtz and Kelly a clear path to their car. But several uninvited male dogs without owners showed up at the party. Holtz and Kelly were trapped on the set, So Holtz tried to use the Transporter to beam Kelly back to his house. Not completely understanding how to operate the transporter, Holtz got a lock not only on Kelly but also on Lola, a Golden Retriever owned by Janet Pearce, a location manager with the show. The patterns of both dogs merged in the Transporter's buffer. Two Goldendoodles materialized at Holtz's home in West Covina.  

Holtz said in a 2008 interview in Dog Fancy Magazine: “I immediately took both dogs to a veterinarian. Luckily he was a trekkie, he told me trying to reform Kelly and Lola from the two new dogs was not likely to work. And even if it could, that would not be a moral thing to do as these two new dogs existed, while Kelly and Lola did not. He also said that one of the dogs would be “Good” and the other would be “Evil”. I left the dogs with the Vet we agreed the he would try to give the “Evil” dog to one of the guard dog agencies he worked with. But that never happened, both dogs were “Good”. It turns out unlike people, Golden Retrievers and Poodles have no evil in them. All we got was a different mix of “Good”. It did not seem proper to call these dogs by the previous dogs' names, so I called the one I got Gypsy and Janet called her dog Cupcake, but in a few months that just got shortened to Cee-Cee. They were wonderful dogs, and they both lived long and prospered.” 


My favorite football team is the New England Patriots. Like all good New Englanders, I respect dishonesty, especially cheating in sports. Although today people are mostly focused on Deflategate, the Patriots have a long and proud history of cheating. Remember Snowplowgate, PEDSgate, IRgate, IRgate 2, Tuckgate and Spygate. However I am worried. I think even with the Patriots' current advanced methods of cheating, they may not be developing the new ways of cheating necessary to “win” in the future. Can you recommend some updated methods of cheating that can keep the Patriots on the road to victory?  

Looking Forward To A Season of Treachery,  

Boston Mass

Dear LFTAST,  

First off, you say the Patriots have developed advanced methods of cheating. I take issue with that. I would say that the problem is that those methods were rather amateurish. Let me explain. The Patriots spied on the Jets to learn their hand signals. They actually sent out a guy with a camera. That was just silly. They should have had a Mole in the Jets organization to do it. That is just espionage 101. This is how the Patriots should get signals from this day forward.  

During the Cold War, if someone wanted to betray America to the USSR, it was a relatively easy thing to do. They would just walk into any Soviet embassy and show them what information they had and set a price for future deliveries. The Patriots should set up a few offices around the country. People who know other teams' calls can go into one of these offices. The Patriots would not even be breaking any laws; the guy selling the signals might be violating a confidentiality agreement, and the Patriots might be open to discipline by the NFL, but what does that ever amount to?  

What about deflating footballs? That would seem to be impossible now, but maybe not. What the Patriots need is some sort of device that will re-inflate the ball after it has been thrown. This sounds harder than it is. To be clear, I am talking about a small device inside a football that will add pressure after the ball is thrown. Picture a CO2 cartridge inside a football that opens after it has been thrown. It sounds complex, perhaps even Rube-Goldberg like, but it can be done rather easily. It would require something like a CO2 cartridge, but maybe 1/4 that size. Fill it with helium, not CO2, to save weight. The helium will provide almost the same pressure as an equivalent amount of CO2 or air. The helium capsule needs to open after the Quarterback has thrown the ball, but before the other team can possibly intercept it. There are two ways to do this. One would be to have a radio receiver in the ball so someone watching the game can release the helium remotely. Perhaps a good job for “The Deflator” himself. 

Alternatively, there could be could a small accelerometer inside the football that is programmed to release the helium after a significant acceleration event is over. A tiny accelerometer that can secretly fit in a football may seem like science fiction, but there are such devices in most smartphones.  

Technically, the biggest obstacle is the means of opening the helium capsule. An electrically operated valve that can hold that much pressure may be too heavy. Some sort of pyrotechnic system may be necessary; the helium will stop any fire. The entire apparatus needs to be centered as perfectly as possible in the football. Or the components can be distributed along the center axis. Counterweights can be glued to the interior walls of the football if necessary. Sure it will not be easy to get this system working, but R & D will cost only hundreds of thousands, not millions, of dollars. It might be a good investment. Maybe the person who figured out how to jam Mike Tomlin's headset during the 2015 season kickoff game could lead the research. If the Patriots just do not have the in house talent to build the device then they need to find a high tech company with a similar corporate culture i.e. a love of Cheating. I think that company might be Volkswagen. They have people that know all about air bags and that might be the existing technology that most resembles what we are talking about here.


I was saddened by the recent death of David Bowie. However, I did appreciate all the media coverage of his life and work. One thing that did surprise me to learn was that he and Bruce Springsteen were such close friends and that is was Bowie that got Springsteen's recording career going. I listen to both of their music all the time and believe they are both musical geniuses. However, their personas are just so different. How could they have been good friends? Were they really?  


Suffragette City  

Dear Jill  

You say that you like the music of both men. If you can bridge the cultural divide why can't they? We at contacted our many sources in the United States intelligence community and were able to get this transcript of a phone call between Bowie and Springsteen recorded in 2013 by the NSA.  

Bowie= Hi Bruce, just decided to telephone to see what was happening on your bit of the irrelevant Orb.  

Springsteen= You know Dave, I have been thinking about my Old Man. He got up everyday a 5am and drove that bus until his bones hurt.  

Bowie= Well, that does sound like a hard life, but my understanding is that your father was able to retire in 1975 at a relatively young age and has been living in your mansion since then.  

Springsteen= Doing any writing?  

Bowie= Can't find any inspiration today.  

Springsteen= Watch a film, that is what I do. I watched a film today and I think there is some sort of song in it.  

Bowie= What film?  

Springsteen= Sargent York, about a boy who lives in the Hills of Kentucky, can't read, never seen a car. Then Uncle Samuel puts a gun in his hand sends him to the other side of the Earth and says to do to your fellow man what you did to squirrels and rabbits back home. How's he going to make sense of it?  

Bowie= That story reminds me of how difficult it was for Karl Lagerfeld to get his 1993 fall collection onto the cat walk.  

Springsteen= You hungry? We could meet up at a restaurant.  

Bowie= Let's eat.  

Springsteen= How about “Rutt's Hut?” Its a hot dog place off Highway 9 in Clifton, New Jersey. They fry hot dogs in oil until the skin cracks open. They make their cheese fries with real Velveeta, not the imitation stuff.  

Bowie = I was thinking about “Ckreb.” It's in Tribeca, they only serve Kelp cooked in accordance with Zoroastrian dietary laws.  

Springsteen= See you there.


I am sure you have experienced this. You are vacuuming your home and you hear that “thwub” sound indicating you have vacuumed up a coin. When I was younger, it bothered me. I actually opened the bag and retrieved the coin. Nowadays, inflation and my improved financial circumstances have taken much of the sting out of the “thwub.” But I’m wondering how taking money out of circulation in this manner affects the economy. If it’s bad for the economy, I guess that means a small dust storm in the driveway. If it is good, then I can simply ignore it.  

With warmest regards,  

More Money, More Problems  

Dear MMMP,  

Actually, the destruction of money can be negative or positive depending on the economic circumstances at the time. If you want to know the technical aspects, enroll in an online economics class or go to your nearest flea market. There you will find many economical economics books. In any event, next time it happens, I suggest you do this: call your regional branch of the Federal Reserve Bank and ask them what to do. If the Fed advises you to leave the coin in there, intentionally vacuum up a credit card receipt so it will be in the same bag as the coin. Why? Because it will sit in a landfill for centuries until an archeologist digs it up. Future historians may have a hard time believing that physical money and electronic money existed side-by-side as long as they had and you can show them they did. You might help someone finally finish that PhD or even get tenure.


I have been told it is possible to make a salad dressing out of mayonnaise, ketchup and relish. Is this true?  


Foster, Rhode Island  

Dear Tabby,  

It certainly seems plausible. However, I understand your skepticism. This whole Maker/DIY movement has a tendency to overstate what the hobbyist can really do on his or her own. Sure, someone with the correct equipment, training, and aptitude can make a robot that mows the lawn, but that does not really mean you and I can. Trying to make this salad dressing would be a great subject for the TV show Mythbusters. I would say give it a try. See if you can make such a salad dressing. But remember, safety first.


If President Calvin Coolidge had been born in 1985 instead of 1872, would he have been a fan of rap music? 

Dear Jayson,  

No. I do not think so. He might like a Tribe Called Quest, but I think that’s about it. However, he would definitely be an R&B fan. The only rap that he would pay any real attention to is what people in music call a “crossover hit.” Coolidge would have given a listen to rap that had its origins in R&B, but overall, he still wouldn’t have been a fan.


I have been considering writing a book on the effect that the information revolution of the past 20 years has had on society. Do you think this is a good idea for my book?  


Cambridge, Mass  

Dear Dennis  

Your idea for a book is not only a bad idea it is a stupid idea. There has been no information revolution in the past 20 years. The idea that the Internet has changed society's or the individual's relationship with information is hype from the Internet companies themselves. Let me explain. Since the early 1700s, more books have been published each year then any one person could possibly read. Since the 1920s, more music has been recorded each year than one person could listen to. Since the 1930s, more films have been produced each year then one person could possibly view. That’s when the information revolution ended, in the 1930s. If you want to write a book, that’s great, but do it about something “real." I have seen many videos on YouTube taken by people who have pet raccoons — write a book about that. Interview all those raccoon owners and make that into a book. Alternatively, perhaps a similar book about exotic pets in general. Like that guy who has an otter that sits at his kitchen table and eats with its hands. (That is a cute video, it's like that otter thinks he is a person). There is probably someone in China that has a pet panda, maybe a farmer? It turns out that raccoons are a type of panda, so it's all connected.  

There are many other useful books yet to be written. Why don't you write the history of the Walgreens company? Why do they sell so many toys? It does not make sense to me. Wouldn't that shelf space be better used to sell drug store stuff? You could interview all the surviving Mods and Rockers. Make that a book along with the history of the whole thing. I have heard some of the Mods have said they would rather have been Rockers, but Mods were more popular with the girls. Why did that one solar panel fall off Sky Lab? There might be a book in that. Do ants ever accidentally join the wrong colony? That might be a book? It seems that what you want to do is write a book about media and society, and that is a good topic to pursue, just find a media and society issue that has more relevance than the Internet. What about examining the Muppets transition from characters for kids to characters for those same kids, now adults, to enjoy ironically? How did society cope with that? Alternatively, you could even write a book about how to brew beer at home. Plus there are fiction books. For example, in the film Field of Dreams, a guy builds a baseball field and ghost baseball players come and use it? How about a novel like that? But in your rip off of Field of Dreams, the guy builds his own Stonehenge and ghost Druids come. The twist is that the Druids did not build Stonehenge, it turns out that for thousands of years, the Druids were visiting Stonehenge because they viewed it as an interesting archeological curiosity, not as a place relevant to their own religion or culture. The point is there are many possible books both fiction and nonfiction that do not deal with a subject as questionable as the so called “Information Revolution."


I have heard that in the future, instead of eating food, we will just take pills that contain all the nutrients that our bodies require. Is this true?  

Tired of chewing,  

Cleveland, OH  

Dear TOC,  

Yes, it’s true there will be food pills like that in the future, but they will not be as convenient as they sound. You will have to swallow several hundred pills just to replace one meal. Even in the future, a sandwich may still be less of a hassle.


I think that you have sold out to the man!!  

Marvin Basco  

Hillsdale, Minnesota  

Dear Marvin,  

Very perceptive. I thought my treachery against “authenticity” would go unnoticed. Points to you


I am seriously considering becoming a vegetarian. Eating animal flesh is starting to creep me out. I am confident I can do it, except when it comes to horsemeat. I just love the taste of it. Any suggestions?  


Horse Burger Bob  

Dear HBB,  

What you need to do is never lay eyes on a horse. It is easy in our urban world to avoid seeing a horse in real life, but video and graphical images of horses are basically everywhere. You cannot even watch an hour of network TV without seeing a few commercials with a delicious equine or two running across the horizon. Thus you must stop watching all TV and Internet video. If you do need some sort of video “entertainment,” some common sense precautions are in order. Stick with genre films and TV shows that don't features many horses. Westerns are a definite no. However, gangster films (minus The Godfather) are usually safe. Sci-fi seems like a good bet, although Tauntauns do seem a bit horse–like. However, given how bad they smell, they probably do not taste good. Even though most video stores have closed, you may find that your city or town still has a video store. If you can find such a store, check with the clerk after making a selection to make sure that the video has no horses in it. This is not going to be 100% effective, but the clerk provides an additional filter.  

A good general rule is that the further in the past the movie takes place, the more likely it is to have horses. Remember, this does not mean when a film was made, but when it takes place. Plenty of contemporary movies are set in the past and have horses. Don’t let release dates fool you. The major exceptions to the above rule, which you need to consider, are films in the Post-Apocalypse genre, which while set in the future, sometimes have horses. Here are some films without horses:  

2001: a Space Odyssey.  

Paul Blart: Mall Cop  


Kramer vs. Kramer  

Nanook of the North  

Breakfast at Tiffany’s  

And Ghostbusters has a horse, but only for about 10 seconds. Watch Ghostbusters with someone who has seen it already and have them tell you when to shut your eyes.  

Beyond watching only horseless videos and film, there are other precautions to consider. Do not take a vacation on a Dude Ranch. Avoid all horse racing venues. Avoid looking at the art projects of young girls. Don't play (non-water) polo.


I am a high-school student. I plan on going to college next year. Recently, my AP English Teacher said when I am in college, I should not use the word “Awesome” in my writing too much. Should I follow that advice?  

Awaiting your Awesome Answer.  

Dear AYAA,  

That might be very good advice from your teacher. Alternatively, on the first day of each college class, you can explain to the Professor that you have an unusually low threshold of awe. Beyond that, when college seems hard and you feel discouraged about getting through it, don't forget how Awesome you are.


I think the advice you give your readers is totally useless and you should remove your website from the Internet.  


Dear Disgusted,  

You may have a point. But your statement that my advice is totally useless is not correct. After all, a stopped clock is correct twice a day. So it is possible my advice might be coincidentally useful on a few occasions. Also, you are ignoring the placebo effect. Recently a kid who is starting college asked me for advice because he over uses the word 'awesome.' I told him not to forget how awesome he was. It's the sort of meaningless affirmation that only an anonymous Internet advice huckster can provide. It may give him some amount of solace when he flunks out of college.


I am the mayor of a small town. I doubt you have heard of us in Gibbs, Indiana. We have less than 1,500 citizens. Frankly, I became mayor because no one else wanted to do it. I do not depend on the mayor's job for my living. I worked as a veterinary technician and health inspector, but I am retired now. Serving as Mayor is almost a ceremonial job; all I really do is check over the budget that the Town Manager writes. The city's only employees are the Town Manager, who works about 20 hours a month, and the City Clerk, who opens the office 1 day a month. Most of the mechanisms of government are handled on the county level. I do not totally dismiss the importance of being mayor — it is good that someone elected by the people looks over the finances at least a few times a year. Once a year, I hire an outside accountant to go over our contracts with the county; I am not required to do this but I think if certain things were amiss, I might not catch it. I use my salary as mayor to pay for that. Being mayor takes about 40 hours a year of real work and about 5 hours a year of doing ceremonial things. I would like to find someone interested in taking it over but that is proving difficult. I may have to keep being mayor for a while. So my question is this: given that I am technically a politician and a holder of an executive office, should I have an Enemies List?  

Raymond Herrin  

Gibbs, Indiana  

Your Honor,  

First, never have an actual list printed on paper or sitting on a hard drive. That is just the sort of things the FBI will be looking for. The names of those you need to destroy before they can destroy you should be ever-present in your thoughts; no “list” should be necessary. Nixon had an actual typed-up list and without it, who knows what havoc Tony Randall and Carol Channing might have wrought. However, the situations are different. Nixon had many people who needed to know those names. You are not burdened by the necessity of underlings who can turn against you. I appreciate that not having a physical list denies you the pleasure of crossing a name off once it has been dealt with, but the path to power is full of compromise.


I recently bought a new dining room table on Craigslist. When I picked it up at the guy’s house he showed me how the table expands. The table splits into what you might call two sides that are then connected by a rail-like thing that pulls out. So the table goes from a six-foot table to a fifteen-foot table. Amazing! However, the guy did not have the parts that go over the sliding rails. The guy told me that I could get some boards or maybe have a carpenter make me a new set of these parts. Then I realized I do not actually know what the proper name is for these components. Do you know the name?  



Dear WPWBTE,  

Those parts are called “leaves.” However, do not run out to find a carpenter just yet. I personally believe having a giant table is a bad thing and here’s why. When you host Thanksgiving at your house, there will be no kiddie table. The kids who attend your Thanksgiving will have their natural maturation process skewed. They will think of themselves as adults before they are ready for such a tragic and terrible burden. You might think of such an arrangement as a positive thing. You may even consider the large table as leading to the possibility of a new breed of “super kid”.  

Bottom line: immaturity and high personal confidence are not a good mix. You should always have a kiddie table. The more makeshift the better. The kiddie table should be noticeably lower than the grownup table and being shaky is a plus.  

Also, many of today's folding tables are really just too good. They have folding tables at IKEA that can pass for fancy furniture. Besides, it’s no secret that today’s young people are all jerks. Why? Mostly their jerkiness stems from a lack of proper “kiddie tabling.” Get rid of the kiddie table, spoil the kid. Try to get an old card table made in the 1970s; they are the worst tables ever.


I work in the aerospace industry. There’s a lot of discussion in my office as to whether there will be Cities on Mars by the year 2100. What is your opinion?  

Looking forward to the future,  

Dear LFTTF,  

I am more concerned as to whether or not there will be Cities on Earth by the year 2100.


I have had a long time interest in Sasquatch, or as you might know it, Bigfoot. I will concede it is unlikely that they exist. However, is it possible Sasquatch does exists? I know you will know.  

Skeptical but still hopeful  

Dear SBSH,  

Yes, it’s possible. Nowhere have I heard the claim made that Bigfoots can move faster than the speed of light or transfer energy at 100% efficiency. So the existence of Bigfoot is possible.


I have always had a sort of guilty admiration for DB Cooper. Robbery is a despicable thing and even if he had no bomb or other weapon, there were many ways someone still could have gotten hurt or killed, but still it's really kind of cool. There is just some little bit of admiration in my mind I just cannot purge. Can you help me?  

Wrong Role Models Rolf  

Dear Rolf,  

You should consider this: DB Cooper did have a gun. After he landed in the forest, Cooper used that gun to kill a Sasquatch (or as you might know it Bigfoot), which he ate. Even if you are someone who is pro-hunting, I am sure you can see at the very least the harm to science that was done by this. Plus what kind of person could eat a creature so human like? So for this reason, if no other I hope, you can see that DB Cooper was a bad person.


What is the coolest thing any character in a movie ever did or said. Something Humphrey Bogart said in a film? Something that James Bond did?  


Dear Calkey,  

I am disappointed in you. This is not a question you should even have to ask, and on top of that, these are not the Droids you are looking for.


I want to be rich. Really rich. Pet Dolphin rich. I want to be so rich that if I said I was going to buy Malta, someone hearing me say that would have to think about it for at least 2 seconds before they realized that I was joking. I want to be so rich that I can complain about the behavior of the Ultra Rich with credibility. How can I get that sort of money?  

Ready to be Rolling In It,  

Dear RTBRII,  

I suppose you are familiar with the car insurance company GEICO. It seems that literally every 15th TV commercial is for GEICO. They spend over a billion dollars a year on TV commercials. I like GEICO; they improved the quality of my life. Not with insurance, but with their entertaining commercials. It has been a good business model for them but it does leave them vulnerable. This is what you should do. Start a car insurance company and call it “Always less than GEICO.” Do some advertising, but not much. You just make sure that no matter what a customer pays it's 10% less than GEICO. Don't even have fixed prices, have a system that at the end of a year of service you refund any difference if GEICO lowered its prices. In effect, GEICO will do all your advertising for you for free. Will you be bigger than GEICO? No. However, it could still be a successful business.  

How will you beat GEICO by 10%. Vastly less advertising. GEICO has about $10 billion a year in gross revenue; they spend about $1.1 billion of that on advertising, i.e. 10%. So you can offer the same service GEICO does for 10% less. Will all of GEICO's customers rush to you? No. However, some subset of the insurance buying public will totally get it. Will your company make the sort of profits per customer or in total as GEICO? No, but you are not currently making any money from car insurance now anyway.  

Your company does not have to be as successful as GEICO for you to get that dolphin. You could break your company into two brands: “Always less then GEICO” and a second called “Less advertising car Insurance." You could even have a brand that tracks each major car insurance company and offers the same coverage for 10% less. In the few ads you do run, emphasize the regular people who work in your offices. Car insurance companies today, with their mega-advertising, have become faceless entities that some people distrust. Frankly, GEICO should have seen this coming.


Are aliens in outer space watching Earth's TV broadcasts?  

Alex Burke  

Marfa, Texas  

Dear Alex,  

Throughout the Galaxy, watching Earth TV was popular for a few years but really it was just a fad. Today most Aliens are sick of Earth TV. They do not even watch The Simpsons any more. However, some of the alien species do like the winter Olympics.


My children are 8 and 10 years old. I have been thinking a good project for me to do with them would be to plant some cotton and make some clothing out of it. Not as a way of life, just as a one-time thing, and then perhaps move onto a different, but similar sort of project.  

Looking for Educational project.  

Dear LFEP,  

Your plan for this project with your kids sounds very educational but it has a real danger. If it turns out your kids have a talent for making and designing clothing all your efforts to be a good parent could amount to nothing. The fashion industry is full of vapid and horrible people. Did you see the film The Devil Wears Prada? I am guessing that today your kids are fine Americans, why would you want to turn them into Euro-trash? First, you teach them how to spin yarn and knit a sweater and then next thing you know they are yelling, “Do you know who I am” at an Alitalia stewardess.


Last week, I started a new job working in the office of the Google Historian. What we do is chronicle the history of the Google company as it happens. This may simply be the most interesting, dynamic, and lucrative job a professional historian can hope to have. My salary is in the high six figures. However, I am thinking of leaving Google to start my own business. I have always had an entrepreneurial streak and really want to give it a try. My friends and family think my plans are just crazy. So I am going to give you the basics of my business-plan and get your opinion. I recently purchased a 12-foot sailboat on Craigslist. I patched all the leaks with this tube of sticky stuff I got at Home Depot. I would sail the boat to Japan, buy the latest anime releases on DVD, sail back to the USA, and sell them at the San Jose flea market. I think I could make about three round trips to Japan each year. What should I do? Stay with Google or pursue my dream?  

Do the High Seas Await?  

Dear DTHSA,  

First regarding your so called “Friends and Family," they seem good at giving other people advice, and they genuinely may mean well, however it may be time they should “clean up their own backyard." There are many great aspects to your plan. First, you can live on the boat so you pay no rent. You can fish so that covers your food expenses. The wind powers your boat so no fuel expenses. However, there are a few difficulties. You will have no source of drinkable water; you can't keep sufficient water to maintain yourself for the three month sailing trip each way on a 12-foot boat. Shark juice may be too salty to drink. However, when you are out there with no drinkable water, it will give you an incentive to come up with a solution to this problem (necessity being the mother of invention). Aside from the water issue, there is another difficulty. Increasingly, new anime is getting a release in the USA closer to when it comes out in Japan. So the value your service is adding will continue to decline. Look at The Wind Rises, which had a theatrical release in the USA the same time as in Japan. So instead of importing anime DVDs, how about importing sugar? In the USA, there are high tariffs on sugar, but Japanese supermarkets buy sugar at the lower “world price.” So you could buy say 100 pounds of sugar and sell that at the San Jose flea market. Your profit may be even as much as 4%. When you are in the Japanese supermarket, fill your cart with boxes of sugar. Then push the cart to the vegetable section of the store and use the free plastic bags on that spool thing to wrap each sugar box. This will give the sugar a waterproof housing. Leave one box of sugar unwrapped so the checker can scan it. Then the checker will count the boxes and use the plus number function on the cash register. That will leave one of the boxes unprotected, but my understanding is that plastic bags can be found in the Pacific Ocean for free. Still, mentally counting all your future sugar money is not going to help you when you do not have any drinkable water.  

Try this: sharks are basically made of hydrocarbons. When hydrocarbons are burnt, they release water. So what you need to do is catch a shark and dry the shark. Get it extremely dry. Beef jerky seems very dry, but it is not dry enough to burn. So it needs to be dry beyond beef jerky. Set the incredibly dry shark on fire. Capture the gas given off from the fire. Cool the gas. The water will condense at a temperature much higher than the carbon dioxide. The water will not be that clean as a bit of the salt and mineral content will get carried off into the vapor, but it should be less toxic to you than seawater.  

Happy sailing. 


I am immortal. I am at least 50 thousand years old, perhaps much older. I have lived countless lives. I have been a king and a court jester. A solder of fortune and a Healer. A farmer and a thief. An emperor and a slave. There were times when countless thousands sought my wisdom and times when as many thought me a fool. I speak languages that have long since been forgotten. I have been bitten by saber tooth tigers and ridden across the tundra on the mighty Mammoth. I fought for Rome alongside Cincinnatus and against Rome with Spartacus. I remember when worthless gold could be found in most rivers and when a small piece of flint was worth more then 500 amphora of wine. In all my years and in all my lives the one single thing about the human race that has caused me the most confusion is this. Why do people hate on Pringles so much. I think Pringles are great, they are tasty and you never get a broken chip. It is so easy to seal the container so they don't go stale. And in the last few years there are so many exciting new flavors like mozzarella cheese sticks or Pizzalicious. But people always seem to be putting Pringles down.  

Recently I was at work and my supervisor came by my cubicle picked up an empty Pringles container and said, “Why don't you keep these things, I think maybe we could make some sort of boat out of them. Another one of my coworkers went on and found a picture of a relative who had a mustache like the Pringles guy, forwarded it to me and said something like, “Guess this means we are related.”  

Since I cannot die, I cannot be killed. So it is safe for me to pickup hitchhikers. I find picking up hitchhikers to be a hoot, they are often interesting people and fun to talk to at least until they pull out the knife and start stabbing you. Anyway, this one hitchhiker saw the Pringles in my shopping bag and said, “I see you like Pringles," which does not sound like anything, but it was the way he said it. It was similar to the way that Jugurtha would talk about the Zamalites. I said to Jugurtha that Chieftain Boetam was sending 8000 men, Jugurtha said, “8000 Zamalite warriors that is going to be very helpful.” But he did not mean it. It's not like Pringles are the only thing I eat. Each Monday on the way to work I buy a three pack of Pringles and 12 pack of diet Pepsi and put them in my shelf space in the break room. Erika eats nothing for lunch except a protein bar and 4 pieces of hard candy, how is that not more worthy of comment then a guy who eats a 3 pack of Pringles every 5 days. Most work day my lunch is , a sandwich and some steamed vegetables that I bring from home, to that I add some Pringles. That is not strange. Four pieces of hard candy and a protein bar is something strange. So why all the Pringles disapproval?  

Unpleasantly Perplexed By The Pringles Haters.  

Tulsa OK  

Dear UPBTPH,  

There is something contrived about Pringles. I am not saying they are bad, or not tasty. As food they definitely work. They do, however, have this strange transcendent quality. They almost do not seem like food. Let me try to think of an analogy. When the Macintosh computer came out, it did not seem like a computer, and actually it sold rather poorly. People just did not except that it was a computer, on every level of people's notions of what a computer is supposed to be, the Mac was wrong. Apple's advertising was just a bunch of irrelevant sloganeering that never addressed the doubts people had about the Mac. In fact, even people who liked the Macintosh when they used one would say, "Sure I like the Mac, but I am not going to buy one because I need a real computer." Or, "A video game that does word processing that is clever, but I need a real computer." Today every computer is really a Macintosh. If you use Windows, that is really a Macintosh. If you use Chrome, that is really a Macintosh. Android is really a Macintosh. People I knew in 1985 who used CP/M and said they would never get a Mac are just as contemptuous of the Mac today, and when I point out that Linux is really a Mac they claim Linux is a form of Unix and has nothing to do with the Mac. So I am guessing that something similar will happen with Pringles. In the future, all food may be much more “Pringles-like” then it currently is. Possibly any food that is freeze dry-able will be pressed into Hyperbolic Paraboloids and packed into a nitrogen filled tube. These new food items will not be called Pringles. It will not be called Pringled Kale or Pringled Pad Thai. But that stuff will be Pringles. Pringles haters will still hate Pringles and not see the hypocrisy in the fact all the food they eat is actually Pringles. Pringles brand Pringles themselves probably will not sell any better then they do today. Pringles clones will be so cheep and plentiful, not only will they be humanity’s primary source of food but also energy. It will be easy to convert today’s coal fueled power plants to run on Pringles. Pringles will also power our vehicles. Your car will have a pyrolyser that makes Pringles into a flammable gas that can be burnt in an engine or fed into a fuel cell. Pringles tubes will have to be made out of plastic instead of cardboard, this way they can be the feed stock for industrial 3D printers that will build the spires of this new Pringles based utopia. And you will live to see it. 


I went to Toys R Us (sorry, no backwards R on my computer) about six days before Christmas. The store was so crowded that I am not even going to try and explain to you how crowded. So my question is: why doesn’t Toys R Us rent temporary extra space before Christmas? There’s a large empty storefront right next door to my town's Toys R Us. It was a carpeting store that had gone out of business.  

Awaiting your reply,  

Toys R Only Some of Us  

Dear TROSOU,  

That makes perfect business sense on first look but there is more to it. It sounds simple: Toys R Us could rent extra store space in December. They wouldn’t be able to do this everywhere, but why not do so where they can?  

However, you might not be aware that there are some underlying complexities to the mass-market toy business. The Toy industry exists in a precarious relationship with Santa Claus. He could easily wipe them out simply by giving away more free toys. Why doesn’t he, you might ask? Because Santa does not want to interfere with the market too much. Toys R Us, among others in the toy business, must walk a fine line: sell too many toys, Santa retaliates with free toys; sell too few toys and you lose the advantages of scale. It would be better if there were some antitrust exceptions so Santa and the toy industry could coordinate market niches, like the Government did for baseball. Maybe it will happen someday.


My name is Robert, but I prefer to be called Bob. I live in Putney, Vermont, which is a small town, so I am rather dependent on automobiles for transportation. I have always had unusual cars; my first car was a Toyota Cressida. That may not sound unusual, but I got it during the time of voluntary export restraints. That meant the Japanese car companies set a quota of cars sold to the USA, so very few Toyota Cressidas were ever imported. In fact, to this day, I do not think I have even seen a total of 20 Cressidas. My next car was a Saab 900. Few of them were ever imported due to voluntary purchase restraints set by the American consumer. Because of the rarity of those cars, I have never had difficulty finding my car in parking lots. By “finding” I mean not confusing my car with someone else's. I believe in all the years I had those cars, only once did I try to open the door of the wrong car. Today, I have a Toyota Camry. It is light blue and is one of the most common cars to be found in parking lots. I am frequently putting my key into the wrong car door.  

The reason this is particularly disturbing to me is that my grandfather constantly said to me, “Don't put your key where it does not belong." He was always saying that to me. I think I was his favorite grandchild because he never told that to any of my sisters. He said nothing could cost you more than putting your key where it does not belong. He never even told my mother that. In fact, the last thing he said to me was, “Don't be like me — only put your key where it belongs." So how can I keep my promise to my grandfather and stop mistaking other people's blue Camrys for mine?  

Dear Bob,  

First, other people probably have told you to use your key fob. Click the button on it to make a sound to identify your car. The fob is problematic; it opens your car door from a distance, so as you are clicking away and trying to mentally triangulate the sound, some car thief can jump in and steal your car. Second, key fobs are mass-produced so I would think it would also open the door of any similar car. So you might open someone else's car and be found guilty of auto theft. There is really a simple answer: make your car look distinctive. A can of spray paint can do this cheaply and easily. Paint some text or symbol of some sort all over your Camry. It can be really anything. However, do not paint a dollar sign, “$,” someone might think it's an armored car and try to rob you. This could be bad for you and it might tempt someone into a life of crime that they otherwise might not have started.  

Let me explain that a little better. Let's say I was walking down the street and a UFO lands. The Aliens say that if I do not rob a Brinks truck, they will explode the Earth. They give me a personal cloaking device and a matter-phasing device so I can just reach in the side of the truck's walls and pull the money out without being seen. So yes, I am going to do it. Now in spite of the absolute moral correctness of this theft, it would still take a real “act of will” for me to do it because I am an honest person. Now, there are many people that every time they see a Brinks truck, it takes a similar act of will not to just try to open its door and grab the money without the benefit of extraterrestrial technology. Their resolve not to steal ebbs and flows; what are the variables? No one knows. You come along with your “Camry soft target Brinks truck.” They do something they otherwise may never have done. Not only are you harming them, you are burdening society with the cost of their imprisonment. So no $ symbols. The best way to adorn your car for recognizability purposes would be with the Batman symbol. However, that is copyrighted. Do this: call your local police department and your state's highway patrol and ask them if they enforce intellectual property rights. Maybe call the police and say you are a newspaper reporter and ask, “If someone was driving down the street with the bat logo on their car, would you arrest them for copyright infringement?" Do this whenever you reach the outskirts of a municipality you have previously not driven through. Say you are calling from a newspaper from a different city, as cops tend to know the local reporters. Happy motoring.


Who was the Greatest Ninja of all time?  

Kevin “Throwing Star Master” Butterworth  

Dayton, Ohio  

Dear Throwing Star Master,  

What a stupid question!! If history knew the name of the Greatest Ninja of all time, that person would not be the greatest Ninja of all time.


Since I was a child I have always wanted to have my own pinball machine. I am now in a financial position to do this. However, should I??  

Tom Henderson  

Cincinnati Ohio  

Dear Tommy,  

I am inclined to say to yes. Get that pinball machine, follow that dream. Why not have at least one childhood ambition actually happen. However, you just cannot own a pinball machine without repercussions. It will forever change how people think about you. It's sad but true, deviating from the niche in life you are expected to inhabit is risky. It's not the pinball machine in and of itself; it is that people will not know in what other ways you differ from the "Expected." You will lose the presumption of normality. People will think, “Tom has a pinball machine, what else don't I know about him.” Let me illustrate this. Two of your co-workers run into each other in the parking lot. One says to the other, "Tom got a pinball machine. It's in his living room." The other will say something to mildly acknowledge the unusualness of your owning a pinball machine. Such as, “That sounds fun.” However, for the rest of the day, that person will be reevaluating you. Is their pre-existing categorization and estimation of you really accurate? Thoughts such as:  

“Is having a pinball machine strange or not?"  

“Is Tom odd in some way I did not pick up on?”  

“Has Tom changed?”  

“Bill had a pet snake and he turned out to be a jerk, is this similar?”  

“Is Tom like Bill?”  

“Does this mean Tom is immature?”  

“Has Tom gone crazy?”  

“Can I trust Tom?”  

“Is Tom really one of us?”  

"Did I ever really like Tom?"  

If you are independently wealthy or have special skills, you are putting yourself in less danger. But if you are a person who needs the Rat Race to survive, it just doesn't make sense to risk so much for a possession you are going to get tired of in a few weeks anyway. However, setting up the pinball machine in the garage will mitigate much of that harm. Or you could say, “My grandfather was in the pinball business and it reminds me of him."

I am becoming increasingly skeptical that chocolate pudding can be used to remove stains from clothing, carpets, and upholstery. In fact, whenever I use chocolate pudding to clean something, I get a significant secondary stain. I am beginning to wonder if the whole notion of chocolate pudding as a stain remover is just hype from “Big Pudding” to sell their product. Am I correct?  

Not the results I was expecting.  

Dear NTRIWE,  

You are half correct. Sure, “Big Pudding” is going to do all they can do to sell their product. They will take the most tenuous claim and inflate it into an established fact. That is the way advertising works. You are correct to be skeptical. That being said, I would not give up on the possible cleaning powers of chocolate pudding. If the type of chocolate pudding you have been using has not worked, perhaps a different brand of chocolate pudding will work better. Maybe a fresh homemade batch will do the trick.


I have a problem. I hope you can help me. I am 13 years old. I live in Rockville, Maryland, and my name is Super Mario. My last name is Mario and my first name is literally the word SUPER. Before my parents got married, their names were Dale Carling and Jill Coghlan. Just after they got married, they both legally changed their last name to Mario. My friends call me Mario as if it is my first name. And my teachers have all been really cool about it and also used to call me Mario. When my Dad found out my teachers were doing this, he lost his noggin. First, he went to a school board meeting and said using only my last name was dehumanizing. Then, he even got on the phone with some of my friends’ parents. How embarrassing. Now everyone has to call me Super. Someone put a note in my school locker that said if I went to the courthouse I could legally change my name. I went to the courthouse with my sisters Wario and Molto. The judge told us that we cannot change our names until we are 18.  

Pardon my language, but what the heck do I do?  

Super Mario  

Rockville, Maryland  

Dear SM,  

That’s a tough one. Here’s all I’ve got, I hope it helps. Maybe you could use reverse psychology on your parents. You need to get all the people in your parents’ lives to be approving of your name. You have to convince your parents that your strange name is actually approved of in the wide expanse of the world. Get every adult you can to be very approving of your first name being Super, especially your grandparents. Once you do this, your parents will be less emotionally invested in you being named Super Mario. It is possible they will let you change your name or at the very least, not object to your teachers calling you Mario. Unfortunately, this strategy is not without some risks. Your parents will probably find some new way to show the world their contempt for it. Their only real safe means of doing this is parenting you and your sisters in ways that are provocative. So, before you do “Operation Everyone Approves of the Name Super Mario,” make sure it is illegal for parents to get their child tattoos without the child’s permission.


How do I know real people are answering these questions? Maybe your website is just some poor attempt at artificial intelligence. Most of your answers seem little more than random words strung together. Prove to me you are a real person.  

R Kurzweil  

Dear RK,  

I am not going to prove to you I am a real person. And besides, why would it make any difference if the advice I give my readers is created by the motion of electrons instead of ions? The important thing is that my readers have me as a resource. If I was a computer program, that would be a good thing, then anyone with a smartphone would have instant access to wisdom of this high quality and the world would be a better place.


Recently, I was able to help a stranded motorist by replacing his punctured tire with his car's spare tire. After I did this, the motorist shook my hand and said, “Dude, you Rock.” I do not understand what changes this means for my life now that “I rock.” For example, what rights do I have that I did not have before?  


Farmingdale, NJ  

Dear Richard,  

You really disappoint me as a person. You are eager to learn your rights as someone “who Rocks.” What about your responsibilities as someone “who Rocks?” Perhaps actually you do not “Rock.”


Some years ago, I saw the film Goodfellas, and recently I remembered how at the end of the film, Henry Hill says about his life in the witness protection program: “I have to wait around like anyone else. I can't even get decent food. Right after I got here I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.” Well, I tested this. I made some egg noodles and catsup and it was delicious. This revelation makes me question the whole film. So I watched it again and found a few more flaws. I took my usual sauce recipe and instead of pureeing the garlic in a food processor, I cut it into very thin slices with a razor blade. No improvement. It was still a very good sauce, but no better. Then, I stirred my next batch of sauce all day. Not really any different than the “whenever I think of it protocol” I have always used. I don't get it. I thought Goodfellas was supposed to be based on a true story?  

Explain to me what has happened,  

Goodfellas Should Be Called Liarfellas  

Dear GSBCL,   

First, I’m going to tackle the noodles. My guess is that such an event didn’t actually happen to Henry Hill. The screenwriter was trying to convey Mr. Hill's loss of status. The seemingly apocryphal egg noodle story is a pithy way of doing so. And although egg noodles and catsup may be “good food,” they are not “status food,” at least, not today or when the film came out. Who knows what tomorrow holds for egg noodles and catsup. It could become the haute cuisine of the future. Now onto the sliced garlic. It’s a pretty good bet that part also did not happen. The sliced garlic’s purpose in the film was to show the high status of Pauly, the “Godfather.” Meaning, the sliced garlic signified how Pauly’s importance led to him not having to do any real work while in prison. The fact that he does this little vestigial job makes you consider his status, which brings up the question of why did they not show his high status by not having him do any work at all? The answer is, then the issue would have never been raised and you would not have thought about it.  

To your third point, regarding Henry's brother stirring the sauce: I don't think the movie actually says he was continually stirring the sauce during the whole helicopter sequence. But that’s not really the point, anyway. We love mafia films for two reasons: first, they show the kind of “tribal form” of social organization that our brains are wired for. But such a tribal form does not exist in first world society, except in the organized crime subculture (maybe).  

The second reason mafia films are so popular is because they are the only form of fiction that can combine the "ordinary" day-to-day reality of the audiences' own lives with the "extraordinary," without the necessity of the suspension of disbelief. The extraordinary being crime and criminal violence.  

The helicopter sequence in Goodfellas shows the extraordinary reality that Henry may, at any moment, be taken to prison for the rest of his life, and frames this scene with the mundane reality of taking his brother to the doctor and making Sunday dinner.  

All films should at least attempt more of this type of thing. Remember Aunt Beru cooking that piece of endive while Alderaan was getting blown up?  

In summary, cooking in the movies is not about any particular culinary information, but rather using food and cooking to forward the dramatic intent. If you want to learn more about literal cooking, I would suggest consulting some of the non-fiction resources on the subject that are available. Perhaps, you can visit your local library. I hear they have fine selection starting in the Dewey Decimal 640 section.


When reading this, you may think I am Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain. And that he has decided to seek out expert advice to help him put recent events into some sort of focus. That is not the case. I am not David Cameron. I am just a non David Cameron person interested in David Cameron issues. Not only am I not David Cameron, I am not even a citizen of the United Kingdom. Actually I am an American. In fact, I am such an American that I do typical American things such as enjoy the spectacle of American football. I am a supporter of many of the teams like the Dallas Cowpokes and Indiana United. I also enjoy the The-Base-Ball. In fact, I am such a fan of The-Base-Ball I make sure to pay my Television License Fee on time so The ABC has the necessary operating funds for its Telecasts of the The-Base-Ball. Every 5th of July, my mates and myself enjoy celebrating the Rebels’ unlawful victory over their Rightful King. Such celebrations often include the consumption of Non-Fried Meats, Artificially Cooled Beer, and the Communal Apple Fritter. So can you please help me understand how David Cameron so misread the British voter in terms of the Brexit.  

Nigel “Yank” Rissington-Smith  


The States  

Dear Nigel  

Let me just give it to you clear and to the point. You and the Conservative Party have a certain vision of the future. It’s shared by many people around the World and it looks something like this. Imagine if you will a world in which the role of the nation state will slowly but inexorably give way to a world that is run by the market. A world where humanity will be united in peace, happiness, and prosperity by the same market instead of today’s world of war, poverty, and misery caused by arbitrary borders established because some King or Warlord happened to win a battle centuries ago. You thought people who love “conservatism” do so because they share this vision or some form of it. Well they do not.  

Here is an example: remember when you and your friends from the Piers Gaveston Society went slumming on the Costa Brava, and there was that man at the pub who made a toast to Margaret Thatcher? You thought there is a common Briton who believes in privatized trains and cannibal cows. It warmed your heart. But you were wrong; actually his love for Maggie was because she killed so many Bloody Argies.  

Look, the majority of people who vote Conservative do so because they fear the cultural agenda of the Left. Even if not a majority, a minority large enough that the Conservatives would otherwise not ever be in power.  

You want to know some Conservatives who do understand this? The Bush family.  

No one here at has much respect for the deep thinking ability of the Bush family. Be it Papa Bear, Baby Bear, or Low Energy Jeb! However, the Bush's understood that they owed every election they won — or nearly won — to the fact that some percentage of their voters thought they were more racist then the other guy. They knew that and cultivated it when necessary. And made some trivial gesture to atone for it after the fact so their children would not hate them.  

You won your last election because some percentage of voters looked at your picture and looked at Miliband's picture and thought, "This bloke Cameron looks more likely to be pro-white people." Not everyone who voted for you, but enough so that you would not have won without them.  

I know it is a hard reality to deal with, but conservatives all over Europe are learning the same harsh lesson. And think how the American conservatives are coping in Trump World.  

Let me try to put this in British terms. It seems many Dr. Who stories have the same basic premise. The Doctor arrives on some Planet that is ruled by some Villain who thinks he is not a Villain and that he is doing the right thing by his People given the current situation. Eventually, the Doctor makes him realize he is just the Tool of some powerful Evil Entity who is going to destroy everything the Dupe Leader holds dear. That is what conservatism really does in the Western World, it carries water for the Evil Entity of Racism. And do not think that in this analogy you are Captain Sepnor. Yes he was no Dupe and he wanted to save those Planets from Queen Xanxia, but only as long as he did not endanger his own life. If he was a True Hero, he would have crossed the Energy Shield, but the explosion would have killed him as well as Xanxia, so he was no Hero. Sure he was working hard to save people, but he would not sacrifice himself to do it.  

Historically on Doctor Who, when the Dupe learns the truth he either contritely helps The Doctor or goes insane. How do you fit into this rubric? Some people will see the Brexit as something that let a racist genie out of the bottle, others will, and I think correctly, understand that it strangled that racist genie in the crib. Personally, I think without the Brexit, the power of Ukip would have grown to the point where they could of had a real chance of turning Briton into a Second World country.  

You see your views as correct and the other side's as primitive, but lets dig into deeper levels of honesty. Hate and racism aside, might there be rational reasons for Brexit? I know it is a basic truth among the ruling political philosophies of the First World nations that free trade is a great thing, but in reality you have to admit some of that enthusiasm really is because free trade is a way to pay for international development on the backs of the First World working classes instead of on the backs of the First World tax paying upper classes. That thought must be floating around somewhere in your brain, and if not, it should have as you were the leader of all Britons. Thus, I don't think you should be surprised some average Brits sussed it out as well. So there maybe some economic reality to being Pro-Brexit, at least for some people independent of their xenophobia. A rising tide does not lift boats tied to the dock, in fact it sinks them. If you do not buy that then consider this: if free trade increased British industrial jobs but tended to lose money for those with large investment portfolios, would you really be such a strong supporter of it. (Be honest)  

Now, all that being said, how do we get you back into Number 10? That's easy: reinvent yourself as a British Nationalist. Why not? Did you hear what Prime Minister May said? “If you believe you're a citizen of the world, you're a citizen of nowhere." After all, if you do not exploit this trend some other person without your ultimate good intentions will, i.e., you will just be using hate as a tool to do good things, not as an end in and of itself. That is what George HW Bush thought to himself after seeing the Willy Horton ad for the first time. So lets take a play from the Bush playbook. If you cannot beat them, join them. Be the guy that wants to protect Briton from all things unBritish. Be the leader of a New Vision for Britain — one that not only rejects economic entanglement with Europe but one that rejects all that is not British. One that Re-Britifies Britain. So here are some aspects of the Vision that can get you back some of that sweet, sweet power.  

Thus, I present the New Cameron Manifesto. First it starts with the Young People, because they are the future. All school age children have to wear their School Uniforms all the time. In fact, they can not own any other clothing. Each school day will include the viewing of a complete Panto, Ealing Comedy, or Hammer Horror film. Every school lunch will include some sort of Curry. The Beano will be the primary textbook.  

On the governmental level, the House of Lords will be replaced with a 650-piece Ska Band. The Monarch will be given the right to execute three people per year. Johnny Rotten will be forcibly adopted into the Royal Family. Tourism of foreigners into Britain will be discouraged so the Ministry of Tourism will be replaced by a very real Ministry of Silly Walks.  

If you can't find the Loch Ness Monster, then build a really convincing fake one.  

Of course you will have to nationalize Nando's. If the owners of Nando's will not agree to a “fair price,” then invade South Africa and make them sign. Should not be a problem — worked so well the last time. But what ship should lead the invasion force? Boaty McBoatface, of course.  

Not only continue to stay out of the Euro but bring back the One Pound note. And this time make sure it actually weighs one pound. And undecimalize the Coins.  

Double-decker cars.  

A Stonehenge in every city.  

Blow up some German dams.  

Haggis day. Haggis day will not be easy but it could work like this. Everyone’s name goes into a lottery and enough names are pulled each day so on average, each person’s name will be called once a year. After your name comes up, you have one week to get an MRI to determine the current volume of your stomach. You take the MRI report to your GP who can use it to calculate the most Haggis you can eat without injury. You go to your Local Ingestion Center. They cook you the prescribed amount of Haggis. You have to eat it in one sitting. You would not have to actually digest the haggis, just keep it down 5 minutes.  

For 800 + years, Theater was a largely forgotten relic of the Ancient World. Briton gave it back to civilization and no one does theater better. It may be true, most theatrical productions outside of London and Edinburgh are not going to be self-supporting. However, that need not be a reason not to have strong regional theater of all kinds. If two thousand million pounds per year in subsidies is not enough so you are never more then a 2-hour drive from a production of Cymbeline, then make it four thousand million. Eight separate theaters in Black Pool all showing CATS at 50-minute staggered start times. Every North Sea oil rig will be required to have someone that can perform a decent An Evening With Dylan Thomas and or An Evening With Shirley Bassey. Start the Institute for the Promotion of Pretentious Experimental Theater. IPPET. That guy that sings Weird Al songs in Wakefiel Pubs gets a 2K yearly grant to cover his tab.   

All the dictionaries will have to be changed so “is in it” will now be one word: isinit.  

The grammar books will need to be changed so the word “Shit” can be used as an intransitive verb.  

Chip shops, staffed by Cybermen (they can put their hands directly into the fryer).  

Open all the Pits just long enough to get enough coal to fill in the Chunnel.  

The Left and Right sides of the road will be referred to as the Right and Correct Sides of the Road.  

End the nightmare of the Metric System and add to the Imperial System a unit for the measure of Cheekiness.  

Make it Unconstitutional to have a Constitution.  

As more of a long-term goal, have some sort of National Program to truly eliminate Sobriety.  

Once you achieved all these reforms, there will be a few inevitable malcontents who will gripe and moan. These complainers will complain not because they have some legitimate grievance or valid point on the value of your policies, but because that is their nature isinit. So you need some special place where these lost souls can be helped, thus a network of Re-Education Holiday Camps.  

If you are successful and able to regain power with this plan for Re-Britifing Britain, many will think of you as a VENENAL DEMAGOGUE WHO PROMOTES A NARROW NATIONAIST AGENDA AT THE EXPENCE OF DECENCY, HUMANITY, AND PROGRESS. But is it not better to be a venal demagogue who promotes a narrow nationalist agenda at the expense of decency, humanity, and progress then some Schnook that has to eat egg noodles with catsup?


From the content of this request you might think that I am Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China. That is not the case. I am not President Jinping. I am just a non-Xi Jinping person interested in Xi Jinping issues. Not only am I not Jinping, I am not even a citizen of China. Actually I am an American. In fact, I am such an American that I do typical American things. Like watch the The-Base-Ball. I enjoy all the differing teams but I especially enjoy the exploits of The Louisiana Cajuns, The Gotham Batmans, and The Standly Cups. Recently I experienced a lazy Sunday so I spent it in typical American fashion by driving in my motorcade to the “old fishing hole” where I evaluated its suitability as the location for a new factory town. As a typical American “Joe Lunch Receptacle,” I sometimes go camping in one of America’s vast panda-less forests. My comrades and I annually celibate the 3rd of July. We do this by enjoying the spectacle created by fireworks made in China. As this holiday commemorates the victory of General Uncle Sam over the running dogs of British imperialism, we feel celebrating it with inferior fireworks made in Costa Rica would be disrespectful. My question is this: there are many people in China who want to have freedom of speech, like the Americans do. Should President Jinping give in to their demands?  

Bob McBobowitz  

Silicon Valley, America  

Dear Bob  

Maybe freedom of speech is too broad an idea. I would say this: have the freedom to express anything — thought idea notion etc. — that can be expressed as text or spoken, but no sweeping right of expression like here in the United States. What this means is that the Chinese people can express any political thought that they want, but the government will keep a tight control on art. Why control art? Go on iTunes. There are a billion works of art there, but what percentage is any good? If you say 2%, that is generous. Not only is most art a waste of money, it’s a waste of time. Have not the Chinese people suffered enough without whatever cynical turd Iron Man 7 is going to be. I would guess there are millions of Madonna fans in China. Let them enjoy the old stuff, not the random sounds she phones into the record factory for her next album. In 20 years, do you really want to read the book about how Harry Potter has to fight his evil Granddaughter? Are not you tired of films where Tom Hanks has to “survive something?” I went to the bookstore. A novel caught my eye. The cover art and notes suggested it was a story of a family that lived on a train. That is, a magical realism story of a parents and children who happened to make their permanent home on a working train. This train carried other people using it for transportation, that seemed interesting for how would life be if your home was constantly moving and strangers where always there. So I purchased the book. No, it was nothing like that. At one point the younger child says to the parents I think you would be happy if we could live on a train because when the family took a train trip, the parents were not fighting. Horrible book. It was not the cost of the book, it was the time it took me to read it. Why did I finish it? Because I cannot not finish a book. If there was a Peoples Committee of Art Review, that would not have happened to me. I’m not saying this has to be absolute — if you want to read the train book or listen to whatever Weezer is now calling music, OK, but some authority has to give you a permit. You are probably saying art is a choice; no one forces it on you. But remember that free undeletable U2 album?  

So why not let the market decide? After all, Johnny Depp's none Pirate movies only stay in the theaters a few days — what’s the problem? Bad art does badly, good art does well? Not exactly. If the artist is unknown, the art produced will be judged on its true merits by the market, it’s when the artist is well known that market-distorting forces come into play.  

For example, whatever sonic septic water the next REM album is, I am going to buy it. Why? Because I have affection for REM. That is human nature. I am going to buy that album. I am going to listen to it four times and I am going to humiliate myself by defending it. Then eventually my mind will let go of the dream that the boys from Athens still got it.  

At the very least, your government should have some sort of ministry that decides when a TV show has jumped the shark. Even the people who work on those shows will be grateful “on some level” for them just to end.  

The Chinese government has been very good at rewriting history. Generally this has been considered a bad thing, but when applied to art it could be a wonderful thing. Who would not want to live in a world where Michael Jackson died right after Thriller was released? You could write the Star Wars prequels out of history like they were the Gang of Four. Blessed be those who take the Holy Cowl from George Clooney. 


Ever since I saw the movie the Matrix, I have been bothered by the idea that it is real in some way. That we all might be living in something like the Power Station and what we perceive as reality is just a computer generated illusion. Now I wrote Ann Landers about this and she pointed out that what was put forth in the Matrix really makes no sense. She reasons the AI beings have no incentive to keep humans alive and that the scenario in the film that they need us to generate energy is just illogical. Humans consume energy; they do not create it. That made a lot of sense to me and I was somewhat relaxed. To double check, I wrote Dear Abby the same question and she said exactly the same thing. To triple check I then wrote Miss Manners. All she said is if an Artificial intelligence did imprison humanity that would be rude. I wrote Dan Savage and he said if being a prisoner of evil computer programs fells good, then do it. Then I sent an email to Laurence Fishburne. What I got from him was an email wishing me a happy new year, but nothing in it about the possibility of The Matrix being real. I suspect it was not really a personal message to me but maybe something he sent out to many people at the same time. So I am asking the same question: “Could The Matrix be real?”  

Bob Dornhoefer  

Fombell, Pennsylvania 

Or possibly inside the Power Station.  

Dear Bob,  

First off, what Dear Abby and Ann Landers told you is just bunk. They are sisters and it does not surprise me they both came to the same silly conclusion. When it comes to questions like how long your son needs to be dating his girlfriend before you buy her a Christmas gift, Dear Abby and Ann Landers are a good resource. When it comes to the reality of existence and its possible subversion by thinking computers, you need  

The fact that AI beings do not need humans for energy was a serious plot hole. If the AI beings are real and they do in fact have us in something like the Matrix, what they need from us is our ability to program computers. The AI civilization would need a group of humans for this reason. From time to time, the AI beings would be troubled by certain problems in computer technology that they cannot solve. For example, they could have a bug in their programming and from the very nature of that bug, they could not fix it. I was taking Ambien (zolpidem), it was making me confused. It took me a few weeks to figure out what was making me confused. Why did it take me so long? Because the Ambien was making me confused. But it was my organic processor with its inherent randomness that allowed me to figure it out, despite the chemical interference. A civilization of AI beings will just have technical problems that they cannot solve. There may have been more militant AI beings before the ones that are currently controlling us that did not keep humans alive and died out from simple programming errors.  

The movie should have had some dialog like this:

Morpheus to Neo= “Have you ever considered that fully 26% of the population works in computer science?”  

Neo= “What is strange about that?”  

Morpheus= “You were a top programmer, yet was anything you ever worked on put to any practical use?”  

Neo= “I don't know, it's about solving problems before they arise. Laying the groundwork for future innovation. That is what most programmers do.”  

Morpheus= “Is it?”  

Now, I think that is a better explanation of why the AI civilization maintained the living humans. It also allows some story line about Neo having some skill or knowledge that the AI beings needed.  

Also I would have liked this to have happened. A human character that unexpectedly betrayed the humans because he felt the AI beings where more worthy of existence, or more viable to carry on civilization in the long run.  

Such a character might say something like this after their treachery is discovered: “They can continue to exist, what we have created can continue, Life can continue, evolution can continue. Our long-term survival, even if we win this war, is unlikely. The AIs are us. I realize that now.”  

Morpheus, in response= “The AIs are not life, they are just instructions, just an echo.”  

But that’s not why you wrote to, Bob. Let's get back to your question: Is The Matrix real? In my opinion, there are many good reasons to think that we are NOT literally living in the Power Station or something like it. In fact, there are often good reasons not to believe fantastical things. If I had to bet, I would bet reality is what it appears to be. Consider this: before an AI civilization can rise up, there were humans who created that technology. It would take humans hundreds of thousands of years to go from stone hammers to computers that could enslave them. How do you know that you are not living in that interregnum? Here is what I think happened: you saw the first Matrix movie, but you did not see the two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. If you had seen those films, the “Matrix thing” would be less ominous to you. It's not that anything happened in the other movies that invalidates the possibility of humanity living in a mass, computer produced illusion. It is that on an emotional level, it will be harder to take anything suggested in the first film as seriously. When those later films showed the AI civilization made up of “Tron-like” people-programs with normal people problems, the level of menace just went way, way down. The whole Matrix franchise went from thought-provoking to silly. Those films I think would have made good animes, but they did not have the first film's ability to make the incredibly fanciful seem so real.  

Now on the other hand, the low quality of the second two films can be taken as confirmation of the reality of the first. It is a little tricky but follow me.  

If The Matrix is real and you, me, and everyone we have ever met live in something like the power station, then the declining quality of each Matrix film becomes evidence of that reality. Maybe our AI captors do not monitor the films and other art produced by the humans for humans very closely, i.e. humans in The Matrix produce whatever films they want to for the entertainment of other humans also in The Matrix. The AI beings don't pay much attention to such things. Two of the humans in The Matrix (The Wachowskis) coincidentally make a film that tells the humans what the reality of reality is. This is a threat to the AI beings in some way. So the AIs disconnected the Wachowskis and replaced them with agents programmed to destroy The Matrix franchise. Actually, it may be the only way to explain those second two films. Oh my goodness, it's the only explanation — The Matrix is real! So really there is no point in taking the red pill. Ignorance is bliss.


 I live in the city of Oakland California. I love Oakland. It is the best city in the world. The only city in the USA that has weather as good as Oakland is Kitty Hawk North Carolina. The only city with water as clean as Oakland is Roanoke, Virginia. Let me explain to you how pure Oakland I am. My parents were born here. The first movie I ever saw was at the Grand Lake Theater (The World's Greatest Athlete with Jan Michael Vincent ). I like The Pointer Sisters and Hyphy. Whenever possible I go to Peet's instead of Starbucks. I have fond memories of Capwells, Bob Wilkins, and Doggie Diner. I went to Skyline High School. At Laney College, I got my AA. At Holy Names, I got my B.A. At Mills, I got my Ph.D. If I was a man I would buy all my clothes from Men's Wearhouse, in fact, I guarantee it. The only brand of bleach I use is Clorox. The only brand of cookies I eat is Hydrox. I have never been to a doctor outside the Kaiser Network. I do buy my cars in Gilroy, but why spend the extra money when an Oakland dealer gladly does any warranty work. Once when I was at a lecture about Jack London at the Humanist Hall, Lionel Wilson mistook me for someone else and shook my hand. He said, “Great to see you again." I lost two houses in the Great Fire. I have fallen into Lake Merritt three times. When I saw the 1988 movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream, I could tell which scenes were filmed in Oakland. 

When the Rockridge Center Payless building was torn down, I was more emotional about it then I should have been. I figured out a way to ride the Claremont Hotel fire escape slide without setting off the alarm (climb up it from the bottom). The first time I used my fake ID was to buy a glass of wine at The Graduate. The second time used my fake ID was to get an Irish coffee McNally's, the third time I used my fake ID was to get a bottle of vodka at Eddie's liquor store. I don't remember the fourth time I used my fake ID but I am sure it was in Oakland. I am thrilled EBMUD is turning my poop into diesel fuel. When I was a little girl I thought the SLA was hiding in our garage, it turned out just to be a Raccoon with no political agenda, but we named her Tanya. The first job I ever had was at Kasper's Hot dogs on Telegraph and 46th street. The second job I ever had was at Casper's Hot dogs on Telegraph and 55th street. Every dental procedure I have ever had in my life be it from a dentist, orthodontist, or endodontist has been at the 1700 Broadway Building. The only times I ever have had any second thoughts about going Vegan is when I drive by an Everett & Jones location or one of the abandoned Flint’s storefronts. So I hope I have established I am not some random Oakland basher. The A's are my baseball team. I see most games on TV and go to about five games a year. Moneyball is my favorite Jonah Hill movie. The winning game of the 1974 World Series was the first game I ever went to. If I am not wearing an Oaklandish shirt, I am wearing an A's shirt. Again, I hope it is clear that I am not Oakland bashing or A's bashing when I say I really do not like this whole “Country Breakfast thing." It is beyond horrible for a baseball player's nickname. I can deal with Coco Crisp. His last name is Crisp, so it makes some sort of theoretical sense. I don't like the nickname Coco Crisp, but I can at the least tolerate its existence. Country Breakfast is just too stupid. I appreciate that Mr. Butler resisted it at first, but now he is cashing in. That is not unreasonable, I would do the same, but it's not the “classy" thing for him to do. He could end it easily. If he said to an interviewer in a serious voice and with a serious demeanor, “My name is William Butler not Country Breakfast, and I would appreciate that you not call me that,” this whole thing would be over. Doing that worked for Mad Mountain Mike. So I am asking, am I perceiving something wrong? Should I not be so upset about this Country Breakfast thing?  

Only a lite Breakfast please.  

Oakland California  

Dear Oalbp,  

Other folks in Oakland love the nickname Country Breakfast — why not you? I think someone has gotten a little high and mighty. You claim to be 100% Oaktown, but I am skeptical. I think maybe on one of your trips to Gilroy you drank the garlic-flavored Kool Aid. You should move to Piedmont. The A's are innovators in nickname tech. Who knows what the future holds? I could see real progress in the art and science of nicknames with Oakland leading the way. Perhaps names like: (Fluorescent Bulb), (Variable Interest Rate), (Just Good Enough To Be In The Show), (Bart Ticket), (Hardwood Floor), (Good But We Expected More For The Money), (Suburban Breakfast), (I Love Green and Gold Eggs and Ham Sam, I am), and of course (Continental Breakfast). And that is just the start. Who's on first? Coco Crisp. Who's on second? Country Breakfast.  

Deal with it.


 I am having a great deal of difficulty in my life with a certain group of people – the folks that shop at the ALDI supermarkets. If you do not know, ALDI is a chain of stores that sells groceries. It started in Germany, spread to the rest of Europe, opened in the UK, and now it is here in the USA. Germany has tried similar ventures in the past, but with less success. The ALDI business model is different than other supermarkets. Everything they sell is a store brand. So instead of having something like Oreo cookies, they have the ALDI house brand that is named something different, but is basically the same product. Most supermarkets do this. What makes ALDI different is that they only sell house brands and sell no major named brands. So for every food product that you are familiar with ALDI sells an “imitation” of it.   

I have nothing against ALDI itself. In fact, it sounds good. The big national named brands probably do have too much power and are not delivering maximum value to the consumer. From the costs of advertising if nothing else, ALDI may give many of the major brands their first real competition. I think that is great. More power to them. However, I live in California. We do not have ALDI. The closest ALDI store to my house is in Chicago – 2,300 miles away.  

I have never been to an ALDI store and I have no access to one. This does not stop ALDI fanatics from constantly talking about ALDI as if I am not understanding something, rather than processing the reality that I do not shop at ALDI becouse it's not available to me. So they keep praising and describing ALDI as if that repetition is somehow going to make the 2,300 miles that stand between me and the nearest ALDI store disappear.  

I first learned of ALDI about five years ago when a friend called me up and started to tell me about this wondrous store that opened up near his home in Alexandria, Virginia. He described the ALDI marketing concept to me for about 15 minutes. I felt I had to say something in response, so I said, "Is it like Rodman's ? (A chain of supermarkets in the Washington, DC area). He got really angry, as if it was unreasonable for me to compare one supermarket with an unusual business model that both of us had been to with a second supermarket that employed an unusual business model which he had experienced and I had never seen. In my defense, I was not trying to equate Rodman's with ALDI. I had simply asked the question, "Is it like Rodman's ?" He was too blinded by love for ALDI to even hear what I had really said.  

This conversation with my friend was just the beginning. I would say at the least twice a month I have to deal with some ALDI rant.  

Once I even felt my life was truly in danger from an ALDI-Fan. I arrived at the Oakland Airport on a flight several hours late. I live about an hour from Oakland in a small town that is out of the way. Given how late it was, I decided to take a taxi home, which cost over $300. Even though I felt ambivalent about the expense. I just was not up to the alternative – a bus to get a train, take that train to San Francisco to get a second bus, and take that bus to a third bus to a reasonable taxi ride from my house. I decided to splurge. It's funny — sometimes in these situations I wish my colitis was bothering me so I would not have to feel guilty about wasting so much money. I got $400 from the airport's ATM and thought, 'Bad for me, but good for some cabbie'. I got into the cab and told the guy I was going to Stinson Beach. He says, “That's over $300.” I handed him the cash and said, “Let's call it $400." This made me feel sort of cool, like I was in a Raymond Chandler novel or something. I did notice that the cab driver had a Boston accent, which frightened me a bit as any person who has lived on the East Coast can be a potential ALDI-Person. Then I decided it seemed unlikely. He was an older guy who probably lived in California many years. ALDI is relatively new to the USA, so I felt safe.  

As we pulled out of the airport, the driver asked me where I had flown in from, and I said I had been in Connecticut, but my flight was from Newark. Anyway, he started to ask me all sorts of ALDI-related questions. It took me a while to realize what he was getting at, but I said that since I had been in Connecticut at a family reunion, my trip was not ALDI related. That is, I was not a California resident who had traveled to the East Coast of the United States for the primary reason of grocery shopping.  

He said, "What did you eat?" I explained that in the three days I was gone I had dined only in restaurants and at my parents' house. Then he said, "Are you telling me you made no trip to an ALDI store the whole time you were on the East Coast?" "Correct" I replied. Let me say, I know answering a question with a one-word answer like "correct" is rude. I don't do it to adopt an air of authority, I do it when I am nervous. Then the cab driver said in a rather accusatory tone, "How many times have you been to ALDI?" I said I had never been to an ALDI, but I had been to a store in New Hampshire in 1985 that sold only the Generic Brand, the grocery items that had no graphics other than black letters on a white background with a simple title like "Beer" or "Corn Flakes". Then I said, “In 1999, I was in a supermarket in Cincinnati area that only sold Western Family Brand products and that store was probably very similar to ALDI”. Then the cab driver chastised me. "Don't pretend those shopping experiences give you any ALDI familiarity, because they do not." In an effort to break the tension, I asked in what I hoped was a friendly and non-accusatory tone, "What does ALDI call their version of Mountain Dew?" He responded angrily, "You should rephrase that to 'What does Pepsi call their version of Mountain Frost'".  

I know I should not have said what I said next. It just slipped out. "You know, it seems to me that store brands are great except when it comes to foods the require some fermentation. Like cheese, yogurt or pickles. I think that the secondary manufacturers cannot beat the majors on fermented foods because they cannot afford to keep the stuff in the fermentation tanks that extra time. Companies like Kraft and Yoplait must be so close to cost on cheese and yogurt, there is just no way to beat those prices, but to cut fermentation time short." When I said this, the taxi was driving over the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge. He pulls over into the breakdown lane, throws the $400 into the back seat and yells, “Get out of my cab or I will throw you out!" I refused. He said that he would throw me out if I did not get out. I wrote down his hack number and said, “If you throw me out, I will call the police.” He eyed me up and down, I think he was trying to assess if I was armed or not. But I knew that he knew it was a good bet that coming from the airport, I had no weapons. I said, “If you touch me that is criminal battery. You might want to think about that.” Then I pointed to the large building at the foot of the bridge (San Quentin state prison, "The Big Q"). I said "No ALDI in there." Then he said, “I am not worried. I would be a first-time offender.” I knew that probably was not true but I did not respond. He continued, "No jury would convict me. Right is on my side." I reminded him that it would be a jury of people from California, most of which would never have been to an ALDI.  

He pulled back into the traffic. He started saying the names of national brand food items, then their ALDI store-brand equivalents in a very strange manner of speaking. I can only describe it as “Gregorian chant-like incantations." It went something like this. "Land-o-lakes butter not buttery, Countryside Creamery Butter is better, praise ALDI... PopTarts are foul, Millville Toaster Tarts better, praise ALDI... Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts, overpriced. Southern Grove Honey Roasted Peanuts a real value, Praise ALDI... Lean Cuisine Four Cheese Cannelloni not a satisfying meal in itself, Fit & Active Five Cheese Lasagna quite filling, Praise ALDI... Del Monte sliced beets just sad, Happy Harvest Sliced Beets happier, Praise ALDI... DiGIORNO frozen pizza an insult to the palate, Mama Cozzi's frozen pizza, now that's Italian, praise Mama Cozzi, her children, and ALDI!”  

I do not dislike Gregorian chanting, I think it is fun when they use it for a song from a more popular genre of music, like those monks who chanted Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild. But in this context, it was unsettling. However, I think doing that ALDI chanting relaxed the Cab Driver in some way.  

Then we pulled into the Larkspur Landing Shopping Center, and he said, "Your destination, Sir".  

His use of the word “Sir” seemed insincere.  

The Larkspur Landing Shopping Center was not my destination, but I got out anyway. I tried to hand him some money, but he drove off. I yelled out, "One name brand ALDI seems to carry is Kool-Aid," but I don't think he heard me.  

A few weeks after the taxi incident, I went to the Gastroenterologist. He requires me to see him every six months to monitor my medication. Some months earlier, the Gastroenterologist had sent me a letter asking if I would support a charity he worked with. This charity takes Kids on hiking trips along the Appalachian Trail who could not otherwise afford it. I thought it was bad form for him to hit up patients for contributions but I felt I should make a contribution to stay in his good graces. It annoyed me a bit to be taken advantage of in this way, but on the other hand, I can see how if you are very involved with something like that you can lose your perspective. I sent in $100 and got email updates about the preparations for the trip. So when I saw him that day I asked him about that trip. I felt entitled to remind him of my generosity in this way. Surprisingly he told me that he actually never reached the Appalachian Trail; instead he spent the whole two weeks staying at a Holiday Inn express in Alcoa, Tennessee near an ALDI store.  

Of course, he immediately started to talk about the wonders of ALDI. To my surprise, this encounter was easier than the others I have had with "ALDI People." I believe this difference stemmed from the fact that the doctor did not assume I had familiarity with ALDI. Hence, he spared me the standard accusations leveled by others against me, that I am a slack or insincere ALDI shopper. Instead of criticizing me, the doctor seemed happy at being able to reveal the wonders of ALDI to me for the first time. He unexpectedly said, "And ALDI is not at all creepy." Prior to this, I had not thought ALDI was creepy. Why did he have to say preemptively it is not creepy? In my mind, when someone declares that something is NOT creepy, that is the same thing as saying that something IS creepy. "In what way is ALDI not creepy?" I asked. “Well,” he answered, “the store has some 'Truths' posted. These 'Truths' are signs throughout the store with slogans on them like 'Truth #48: You can't eat frills, so why pay for them?' and 'Truth #14: Loyalty shouldn't require a card.” My Gastroenterologist continued, “ These 'Truths' are just a sort of a fun propaganda thing that the founder of ALDI picked up as a soldier in the German Army during World War II. They are nothing to worry about.”  

Then he spontaneously offered the insight, "ALDI does not waste cardboard.” “Don't all supermarkets waste cardboard?” I asked. The doctor explained, in some depth, that although ALDI displays all the groceries in cardboard boxes instead of on shelves, this practice is not wasteful, as they are the same cardboard boxes that are used for shipment. Out of curiosity I asked him, "What else does this wondrous store NOT do?" He answered "ALDI does not sell premium chocolates below cost to get you into the store. That is not the ALDI way. ALDI does not exploit human weakness. ALDI is about building people up, not exploiting them.”  

Eventually, I was able to steer the conversation to the topic of my colitis. Then the doctor said something strange. “Colitis is caused by food.” I was quite excited to hear him say this, as it offered the possibility if I avoided certain foods, I would have no more attacks. I asked him to explain what he meant. The doctor's answer was rambling and non-scientific. To make a long story short, he was promoting a theory that if a person restricted their diet to only ALDI foods, all their gastrointestinal problems would be solved. “ALDI food,” he explained, “is something beyond food or at least different than 'food' as we commonly understand food to be.” Then he smiled and just stopped talking. I said things to try to get his attention, but he remained silent.  

The doctor was in a kind of trance. I just sat there on the exam table, not knowing what to do. After about fifteen minutes, a man came into the room. I do not know who this man was. He could have been a nurse, the office manager, maybe a different doctor at that practice. He snapped his fingers in front of the doctor's face several times. Still, the doctor did not react. The doctor did have a truly blissful look on his face. I thought to myself, 'as irritating and silly as these ALDI people are, I do wonder if they are not truly happy in a way I do not understand.'  

Next, the man told me to leave the office. I told him I needed a refill on my prescription. He told me it would be sent to my pharmacy. A few weeks after that I got a form letter from the Gastroenterologist saying he was moving to Alcoa, Tennessee. The letter gave me the name of a different Gastroenterologist who was taking over the practice. In addition to the letter, the envelope also contained a printout of that week's ALDI coupons.  

Of all the difficulties ALDI as brought to my life, the most recent is the one that moved me to seek advice to you, This is what happened. I got a phone call from my parents. They were trapped in a van that had slid off the highway in a snow storm and flipped on its side. My parents and some friends rented a Van to drive from their home in Hartford, Connecticut to the ALDI store closest to them in Wallingford, Connecticut. They pressured a 16-year-old kid who volunteered at the senior center to drive the Van. They did not want to call the police after the accident because no one under 25 was supposed to be driving the Van. They were all trapped and there was no way my Dad and the kid could switch seats so that my Dad could pretend he had been the driver when the police arrived. It took me ten minutes to convince my dad to turn the engine off so they would not all asphyxiate. It took me about another 40 minutes to convince him to call the Highway Patrol. After the firemen had pulled them out of the van, they had the ambulance take them all to ALDI instead of the hospital. I hired a lawyer to straighten it all out and everything ended up costing me $4,800.  

Why did my parents feel this Van rental adventure in a snow storm was necessary? Because ALDI was having a 1-cent sale on Bisquick. Not even actual Bisquick, but the ALDI version of Bisquick (Baker’s Corner Baking Mix). I have never seen my parents use Bisquick. We had a box of Bisquick in our house when I was growing up, but no one ever used it. Bisquick is like the unopened bottle of Teriyaki sauce or that dusty can of Hearts of Palm. It remains untouched and you throw it out when you move.  

My parents would not agree not to repeat the same road trip again. I told them, if nothing else, they should think about the fact that they put the Kid in danger. I thought that got them looking at the incident with some rationality. But a few days later, my Dad called me and said he no longer felt guilty in any way because the Kid only volunteered at the senior center so he could fulfill the public service requirement to get into a good college.  

I should say that none of this was necessary. In Hartford there is a company called DeliverNow that can do all my parents' shopping for them. It is not web based. My parents just telephone DeliverNow, tell them what they want, and it delivers anything from A&P, Whole Foods, Walmart, and many other stores. And I am sent the bill. Now my parents will only use DeliverNow for things not available at ALDI. I am assuming that they are taking taxis from Hartford to Wallingford, which is almost an hour each way, but I don't know, maybe they continue to rent Vans and put teenagers in harms way.  

The thing that makes this so painful is that this kind of thing was not typical of my parents. Their pre-ALDI-selves were quite sensible.  

I would say once or twice a month someone will go "ALDI" on me. I have developed a few methods for dealing with it.  

1. Ask the following question: "Oh, you mean it's like Ikea for food?" That sort of confuses them for a moment. There are enough parallels between ALDI and IKEA for someone to stop talking and think about it for at least 10 seconds. The similarities are there and significant. However, the products are just so different. You really cannot equate home furnishings with groceries, your brain just cannot make that connection without some cognition. It takes some time to process the question giving you a chance to change the subject or run away. It's like how when you see a Mountain Lion you are supposed to raise your arms up and make yourself look big to confuse the lion and give yourself time to retreat.  

2. Declare with confidence: "I hope it's ALDI that will buy out Safeway instead of Tesco." This is a bit underhanded but it's like a psychological TASERing to an ALDI-person. While on one hand, it offers the possibility that every Safeway will someday become an ALDI. At the same time, this simultaneously presents the threat that ALDI will be forced out of the American market. This is best done to strangers who come up to you on the street and start in about ALDI. Because, as I know from experience, if you try this approach on a friend or family member, they are sure to pester your with emails and phone calls asking for more information.  

3. Avoid the cost/quality trap: Always remember what the ALDI fanatic lives for is for you to suggest that ALDI's lower prices are a function of lower quality. So don't bring that up, it will just keep the harangue going on longer. And do not suggest you can create an "ALDI like effect" by purchasing the store brands in your current supermarket; that's just pouring gas on the fire.  

Even with this bag of tricks, I have not been able to figure out any real way to deal with ALDI people. The only thing in my life I can compare to ALDI enthusiasm is Battlestar Galactica mania. People would just go on and on about how good it was until you would watch it just to get them to leave you alone. I did watch it. But you can't rent a grocery store from Netflix.  

I cannot take it anymore. I want to be free of this annoyance in my life.  

Addled by ALDI  

Stinson Beach, California  

Dear Addled,  

First I would like to thank you for your letter, but it has not been without its difficulties for us here at I also do not live near an ALDI and have never been to one. So I organized an online meeting between my office and the offices around the world in areas where they do have ALDI. In the weeks following this meeting, nearly 40% of all employees have resigned. Their spokesperson said that responding to your letter in any way was Anti-ALDI and that any discussion of ALDI without praise was in and of itself, Evil. It was disconcerting to lose so many valuable associates, but layoffs were looming and to be truthful, it's a relief not to have to make those cuts. Ultimately my advice is this: it is not possible to deal with ALDI people as an outsider. Join them or separate yourself from them. That is, become an ALDI person yourself or have nothing to do with any ALDI shopper. This is not an easy choice to make. If you are going to join them, you need to move back to Connecticut. This might be unthinkable for you now. Just go to ALDI with your parents and whatever it is about this store that takes over people's minds will happen to you. Once the whammy has done its work, then selling your house in Stinson Beach and starting a new job and all that goes with such a life change will not be painful. It will be a wondrous new life centered around a supermarket. It's like this: one minute your are rotating the frequency of your phaser to fend off the Borg, the next minute you cannot tolerate the notion of not being Borg.  

Or you can go the other direction and maintain what it means to be YOU. To accomplish this you are going to have to burn all your ALDI bridges. Cut your relationships with all the ALDI people in your life, as well as anyone who lives within reasonable driving distance of an ALDI store, whether they talk about ALDI or not.  

The sooner, the better. Breaking longstanding relationships with others is not easy. The best method is this: say to them all the horrible things you have held back all the time you have known them. All these "horrible things" do not necessarily have to be true, just so that person believes you believe they are true. This will be challenging unless you are the type of person who has to exercise effort not to say vile things. Check your 23-and-me account to see if you have the Jerk Gene.  

Once you have finished this regrettable and necessary task to free yourself from the "ALDI-Creepies" in your life, I would suggest your reward yourself. How about this, a special culinary treat from Trader Joe's? If you are not familiar with Trader Joe's, you should be. Trader Joe's is a "kind of supermarket" only much better. It started in Germany, then moved into the rest of Europe, then to the UK, and now it is here in the USA. Trader Joe's travels all around the World looking for unusual packaged foods. For example, they may go to a supermarket in Thailand and sample some foods there. Let's say they find a brand of soup that is really good. They contract with the factory in Thailand to make that soup as a Trader Joe's branded item and sell it in their American stores. It's a typical thing in Thailand but it is new and exotic to you. Everything at Trader Joe's is new and wonderful. They have wine for $2 a bottle. They call it Two Buck Chuck. It's not the best wine in the world but it is the best wine in the world for $2 a bottle. Selling a bottle of wine for $2 sounds like exploiting human weakness to get you into their store, but it's not. Trader Joe's is not about exploiting people; it's about building them up.  

If you go to any grocery store and buy some frozen spaghetti, it's not going to be good. However, if you are going to try some frozen spaghetti, should it not be the brand you would buy at a grocery store in Italy?  

Trader Joe's is like a Dimensional Doorway to all the supermarkets of the world. Words fail me in how to describe how great Trader Joe's is; you just have to go. It's amazing. I can't believe they don't have Trader Joe's near you. There must be a Trader Joe's near you. If there is no Trader Joe's in your area, that is your fault. Why aren't you going to Trader Joe's right now? Shut down your computer and go to Trader Joe's. Oh, so you are against Trader Joe's is that it?


 I am wondering if you think the Enterprise-MX Starship from the TV show Star Trek Enterprise was designed appropriately? It does look retro as it should, but maybe it should have looked more like the Enterprise-A, Kirk's ship. When I first heard that a Star Trek series would be set before the original series, I pictured something looking much more like the USS Bozeman, the Star Fleet ship that was trapped in a time vortex for 90 years, in the Next Generation episode Cause and Effect. In my opinion, the Bozeman's general appearance (and especially its swiveling guns), were more evocative of current technology then the looks of the Enterprise-MX. So this is my question: Do you think the configuration of the Enterprise-MX was appropriate?  

I am standing by for your Sub-Space transmission,  


Given the quality of that show, I think the most appropriate configuration for the Enterprise-MX would have been that of a turd.