Bob Dylan Xmas 2013

Posted December 17th, 2013

For an increasing number of people, The Holiday Season isn’t really officially under way until we all spend a moment of quiet contemplation with Bob Dylan’s Christmas decorations.  I have been doing this annually since 2009, making this my fifth year as curator of this semi-sacred event. Sometimes it seems to me that the rest of the weeks of the year are merely antipasto plates and hors d’oevres, leading up to this final special entree.

Okay, it doesn’t really seem like that to me. I’m just trying to be festive.

I apologize. I will try to be more honest in 2014.

And now we begin.

To get into the proper frame of mind, click the following video and one of Bob’s Christmas songs will play as a background to our guided tour. Go ahead. Click. I’ll wait

Okay:  here we go. Odd that it took me until last year to finally realize that the main string of lights are up all year round. My guess is that they’re too difficult to get out of that hedge without wire cutters. Of course, they only are turned on during the weeks before the holidays and it is one of the lesser known holiday miracles,  almost like a modern day story of Chanukah, that they continue to work year after year without maintenance. They should have burned out by now, yet they remain lit; an electronic tribute to his long career. And this year, as we look at them once again, we see the now familiar classic annual strategy ; A simple string of uneven lights, with a familiar double loop toward the lower right. As time goes on, and the color wears off the bulbs, it begins to look as tho they are trying to spell something.















It almost looks like an M. At first I thought it might be the beginning of the word Merry.  Or perhaps  an homage to me and the scholarly work I do here. But then I cracked the code and realized the lights present a graph upon which we see a broad annual assessment of his year.

There is one last area of lights, further back, behind the main gates. It is a winter wonderland of sorts. Here we see a display of candy canes and reindeer and a few other things I can not make out. All I can say about this one is that it is a work in progress; much more elaborate this year than ever before. So KUDOS!

And with that  The Holiday Season is now OFFICIALLY open. I bid you all a Merry Everything.


PS: If you’d like to take a stroll down memory lane, here are the links for a look at this display thru history. By which I mean, over the last four years.

A Dylan Christmas 2009

A Dylan Christmas 2010

A Dylan Christmas 2011

A Dylan Christmas 2012


UPDATE: December 22,2013

A Christmas miracle has occurred. A SECOND string of lights has been added to the display. I don’t know why the last minute upgrade. Maybe I am making everyone punchy. Whatever the reason: Merry Christmas, everyone. Merry Christmas one and all.Miracle Dylan


Puppyboy in Put a Ring On It

Posted September 26th, 2013

My dog Puppyboy is now 17. He’s kind of blind and very deaf and not especially spry, although for his age he still gets around pretty well.  But I was going through some old footage yesterday, looking at Puppyboy in his prime. And lo and behold, I realized that he had pre-dated Beyonce and her big hit by many years. He was trying to tell me about it. He did all he could to tell me. But I was too blind. Oh well. Shoulda listened more closely.

I hosted the WGA 101 Best Written Shows thing

Posted August 8th, 2013

In the beginning of June I hosted/moderated an event at The Writers Guild theater called “101 Best Written Shows.” The afore mentioned list was compiled by Guild membership voting.  I was amazed and thrilled that they asked me, and also fairly terrified since the duties involved interviewing a lot of my TV writer heroes as well as trying to amuse them. It was a pretty intimidating thought.

Bottom line: I was so grateful to The Writers Guild for their health insurance which paid for my surgery in February that I said yes. And ended up having the best time I’ve had so far in 2013. Now its up on You Tube. So Voila.

In Ep.#1 there are speakers welcoming the group. I’m the third one in. I make a short hopefully humorous speech and introduce the first panel members, Carl Reiner and Norman Lear. They were amazing and hilarious and they are the content for Ep#2.


#3 Now joining the panel are writer legends James L. Brooks, Steven Bochco and Gail Parent.

#4 And if that wasn’t enough…NOW Vince Gilligan, Matthew Weiner, Ronald Moore and Wiinnie Holzman join the group. If these names don’t make you dizzy, you better google them. They wrote shows you LOVE. And I say that knowing nothing at all about you.

#5 Time for Steve Levitan, creator of Modern Family. What a stellar bunch. And what a cool night for me.


Puppyboy at 17

Posted July 2nd, 2013

Puppyboy is the first dog I have owned who made it to seventeen. That’s pretty rarified territory for a large dog. Naturally there are age related problems. That said, I didn’t realize that as an older dog, he would become so much more refined. Yes, its true that in his senescence, he now occasionally poops in the house. But I was unprepared for the fact that he was going to prefer to eat all his meals with a fork.

Here is Puppyboy doing what he did best in his youth.

How not being able to walk taught me how to write.

Posted April 24th, 2013

This is a shortened version of a piece I read at a Skirball Center/Beth Lapides/Say The Word event that was called THE NEW ME.  I decided to put this part of it up here because what I learned might be useful to someone else.

It all started when I woke up one day last fall and couldn’t walk.

To cut to the chase: after 30 some odd years of eating health food and taking a million vitamins and doing the best possible exercise 6 days a week (yoga, pilates, the gym, swimming), it still turned out that I didn’t have any cartilage left in my hips. It didn’t seem possible.  I owned and used a goddam juicer!  I took glucosamine/chondroitin and MSM and calcium supplements every day. In fact I had so many vitamin bottles that there was almost no room on my kitchen counter for cooking.  I didn’t eat sugar. I was a vegetarian. I went to yoga and did “hip openers”. I meditated. Why  did I eat all those horrible health food candy bars if not to keep stuff like this from happening?

I felt a little bit like a Buddhist monk who had gotten sick from chanting OM.

Turned out I had to get hip implants.

So, the way this played out in real life was that I spent most of January and February not moving much. On the bright side…well, there really wasn’t a bright side to not being able to walk except maybe that sitting around in bed was no longer connected to an accusation of being lazy. Here is an entry I made in my diary from that period.

But then something weird and kind of magical happened. While I was waiting to have my new robot parts installed, I had a big revelation about writing.

Writing is what I have done for a living for the last 35 years. And when I say that the process was not the least bit enjoyable, it is only because I would struggle to find words strong enough to describe how agonizing it had become and how much I had learned to hate it.

Just to give you a tiny bit of my history: Original Recipe Merrill started out with a degree in art. I was a painter. But then,  I reinvented myself in my twenties as Merrill2.0. I switched from painting to writing because it was a better source of income. 

Still I used to get a real buzz from the act of painting that I never got from the act of writing. And I now believe it has to do with basic brain function.

While I was bed ridden I started reading a lot about the 2 hemispheres of the brain. If you’re not familiar with this stuff: the left brain is the hemisphere that handles all of life’s homework: the organizing, the structuring of patterns, the math. Its not much fun over there but its what we use to pay bills and make to-do lists .  We get things done in an organized fashion because of the way our left brain works. And of all the creative arts, the only one that is centered in the left brain is writing.

The right brain is where all the fun stuff like music and painting takes place. The right brain is intuitive and provides us with a kind of global interactive awareness of our surroundings.  Its where the floaty dreamy drifty enjoyable nirvana stuff lives. When I used to paint, I would marvel at how I could sit down to paint, then get up and not know where the last 5 hours went.

When I wrote,  however, I would marvel at how I sat down, wrote one painful sentence, then wasted 40 minutes on some stupid slide show I didn’t even want to look at on Huffingtonpost about 8 surprising diet foods that won’t help you lose weight. Then 5 hours of baby animal videos later, in order to get myself to start writing again I’d have to envision myself wrestling me back in to a chair, then punching myself repeatedly in the face until I gave in and wrote at least one more sentence.  After which I’d declare myself victorious! “A job well done!” I’d cheer, patting myself on the back as I would pour myself a drink and time permitting, another one. And then, if all went well, I’d be too drunk to write. So off to bed!

But back to my big visionary discovery about how to write:

In January, while I waited for my February 21 surgery date, my immobility caused all my daily rituals  to change. I used to get up at 6 AM and go out to the driveway and get the NY Times. (Yes,yes…I know I am the last person alive who still gets the paper delivered. And I know it’s a ridiculous  waste of money. But I’m pretty sure  that I alone am what is keeping the NY Times from bankrupcy.  And I  can’t really handle bearing the sole responsibility for the collapse the NYTimes.) 

Anyway, the point is that I could no longer walk to my driveway.  It felt like 5 miles away. But because I was still waking up at 6AM I needed some way to fill my morning.  So one day, out of desperation, I decided to try and write.

I had an idea for a play but whenever I sat down to write it during the afternoon, the Nazi voices of my left brain wouldn’t let me. They berated me, explaining at length that the premise I’d picked was too problematic and that I didn’t know my characters well enough. Obviously I needed to do more research, then rethink the whole thing from top to bottom.  Even my imaginary ritual of punching myself in the face to make myself start writing couldn’t get the ball rolling.

But on this particular morning, my inability to walk caused me to try to write before I was even awake.  And to my complete surprise, I effortlessly wrote 15 pages. The same thing happened when I tried it the next day. And the day after that.. And the day after that. 

And so it came to pass that in the six weeks before my surgery, I wrote a rough first draft of my play.

That is how I learned something amazing that I never knew before: first thing in the morning, when I have that sleepy brain that I used to think was useless… while my head still feels like it is full of ground fog and wrapped in flannel and gauze…before the hive of sleep bees buzzing around me has dispersed… THAT is the best brain to use for writing!

Writing is somehow much more easily accessible to me when I am still half asleep because the Gestapo members in my left brain are not able to begin dominating til later in the day.This discovery so amazed me that I thought I should share it, in case it helps anyone else with this problem. I also think its important to hand write the first draft, with a pen or pencil.  I think the act of writing by hand seems to connect you to right brain activity. (Re-writing on a computer might left brain…I say as tho I know what I am talking about.) And while we’re on the topic: stay off the computer until you’ve decided you’re done writing. It completely wrecks everything if you start communicating with other people or checking a lot of sites. It just does.

On February 21st I had both hips replaced.  By March 21st I was walking AND writing painlessly every day. I was so thrilled to welcome back two things I really feared I might never enjoy again that I see this as the beginning of the All New Merrill4G.

All New Merrill 4G sees Merrill 2.0 as a girl who had a stick up her butt. I still eat healthy, but Merrill 4G has cut way back on the vitamins. I’ve also decided that cake, cookies and candy are an  acceptable part of a smart health food regime. One day when I was in the hospital, I had chocolate cake for dinner.  Well, what was I supposed to have? More of that green juice that put me in there?

But most magical of all, Merrill 4G actually likes getting up in the morning and writing with ease for 3 or 4 hours every day. This new method always works… as long as my head is still half asleep. Merrill 4G understands that the clear-minded over-caffeinated head is better used for paying bills and running errands or working out at the gym. Plus, by getting my writing done in the  morning, if there’s any time left over in the evening  and I want to get back into my right brain, I can paint.

So far the NEW new me is having a lot more fun than all the versions of the old me combined. That breathtaking magic tricks like walking and writing came out of being bedridden is an act of the supernatural that truly blows me away.

Walking, writing and cookies: the cornerstones of Merrill 4G.

PS: Dr. Eric Johnson at UCLA is a great orthopedic surgeon. If you have to get hip surgery, may I humbly recommend you look in to the type called ‘anterior.’

PS: For those who are interested, I am now on Twitter.  @Merrillmarkoe





Dylan Christmas 2012

Posted December 13th, 2012

  The holidays mean many things to many people. One thing it always means to me is another chance to soak up the style and artistry of Bob Dylan’s Christmas decorations.

Masterful as always, this year’s display forms an understated but singularly festive curvilinear line on the recently trimmed hedge that he uses as his holiday canvas :modern yet classic, like the man himself. For 2012 Mr. Dylan is offering us a more pointed arc than in previous years, at a slightly higher pitch and elevation, the better to showcase the unique way he is able to combine the abstract and the traditional. But once again, after a few lilting uplifting loops of color, we see the double downward dip of lights that some call”Dylan’s noose”.a curious and unsettling divertissement that is open to interpretation like so much of his work.

Not as visible this year is the delightful ‘winter wonderland’ section. Below we revisit a taste of this work from 2011. Note how he has given us a tableau that is somehow playful while at the same time a study of the stark realities of Christmas.

Piece I wrote for WSJ on coping with post election stress!

Posted November 12th, 2012
  • Wall Street Journal
  • November 10, 2012, 10:00 AM ET

Surviving Post-Election Blues

(Or Reds, Depending)

Aren’t we all a little sick of being a country that operates like a big dysfunctional family, so perennially disgusted by each other that we dread holiday gatherings? Isn’t everyone fed up with living in our Two-Conspiracy-Theory System, wherein the minority party spends four years trying to prove how the majority party is dismantling the Constitution? Isn’t there some way for us to live in harmony with those whom we accuse of hastening the apocalypse?

I’m talking to you, senators and congressmen who govern by tantrum…as well as to assorted friends, Romans, countrymen and teenagers who are too busy texting. It’s important to remember that most of the time, we’re all in this together (though I can easily be talked into excluding those who refuse to look up from their smartphones).

In the name of finding more civil, adult ways to communicate, allow me to offer some of my time-tested methods for defusing touchy postelection situations.

First, before any potentially explosive get-together, be sure to do lots of physical exercise. Studies have found that “tired” looks almost exactly like “loving serenity.”

Obviously, it also makes sense to call a moratorium on all partisan gloating. Toward this end, remember that silence can be just as infuriating as name-calling. So no more rocking back and forth while whistling and making that face with the raised eyebrows and the faint smile that says, “Don’t look at me. I didn’t say a damn thing!”

At the same time, be sure not to take explosions of political rage personally. Instead try to identify which childhood trauma may be at the root of these outbursts. Then hug that person gently and whisper, “I hear that you are angry. I hope you know that I’m here for you if you want to cry.” Then, as you dry their tears, take out your cellphone and share a few of your favorite animal videos. Don’t forget the one with the cat that is a door stopper enthusiast. Hey! Where has all that seething hatred disappeared to now?

Or here’s an idea that always works: Have a pity party. Everyone is always saying, “Don’t have a pity party,” but that’s because most people don’t know how to throw a good one. The key is to invite a large number of vain people who are upset about thinning hair, gaining weight or developing nasolabial folds. No matter what their political inclinations, anyone exposed to this crowd for just a few minutes will be unable to focus on anything but an escape plan.

If none of the above works, remember that the best counterattack is an unexpected response. When your uncle says, “People don’t want a democracy. They want a baby sitter!” pause for a minute, then say, “I can’t figure out who you remind me of. Who’s that blond actor in his 30s who was in that cop-buddy movie? Or was it a reluctant superhero? Ryan someone? Or Brendan?” This will launch you into a soothing whirlpool of undifferentiated celebrities and their interchangeable movies, which can last as long as necessary.

In the end, the key to getting along is finding the things on which everyone can agree, thereby redirecting free-floating anger toward a common enemy. So begin to collect the names of obnoxious drunks, conspiracy theorists and deluded people hoping to break into show business. If they aren’t available to attend your gathering, the same result can be achieved by serving chicken nuggets and tuning a prominently placed television to some grotesque reality show…maybe the one where cretins ruin the lives of perfectly nice catfish. A rousing discussion of worthless pop-culture egomaniacs and pink slime is just the thing to show political antagonists how much common ground they share.

Which is why I would like to propose that in 2016 we do things a little differently. Clearly, we now live in an era where our elections, like our winter holidays, go on for about a year. So how about if next cycle we soften things up by adding Election Trees, red, white and blue lights, and gift giving? This would not only stimulate the economy but also create new, more traditional avenues for releasing partisan anger. After all, there’s nothing like a holiday celebration for bringing Americans together while also offering an outlet for their pent-up rage.

Ms. Markoe is an Emmy Award-winning television writer. Her latest book is “Cool, Calm and Contentious.”

Women on a Panel: The musical montage

Posted September 16th, 2012

Speaking as someone who has perhaps too frequently been on panels herself, I offer this musical montage.

A potpourri: Three short recent things by me.

Posted September 1st, 2012

1. This is a piece I wrote about Facebook reunions for The Wall Street Journal.

2. This is more or less what it looks like inside of my head when I am between projects and wondering what to do now.

3.And this is my take on a new discovery in nantoechnology that has produced a fabric so thin that soon we are all going to wear our computers.

RIP Dr. Glenn Markoe: archaeologist/curator/author/researcher/my little brother

Posted July 29th, 2012
Tags: , , , ,

My brother died some time during the week of July 18. His health had not been great for a while because he had MS. But it was all complicated by the fact that he had been in a number of very bad accidents over the past decade that left him with assorted physical limitations.  One year he broke his shoulder, the next year he broke his hip. About a year and a half later he broke his neck in a bad car accident. Still, he worked out every day on a tread mill in his office and his death was unexpected. I kind of thought he’d eventually tell me that he had simply willed his health problems into a minor inconvenience. He was 61.

Academically speaking, my brother was an expert in a lot of arcane subject matter I could barely comprehend. He used to joke that he knew nine languages, 3 of which had not been spoken in 2000 years.  When someone asked him if he was fluent in Greek, his answer would be the question “Modern or Ancient?” He knew both.

After he received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in Ancient Art and Archaeology, he was granted a  Fulbright Research Fellowship in Cyprus. He loved Cyprus and the people he met there who, he told me, pronounced his name Glown. We found that so amusing that for the entire rest of his life when we left each other messages, we both referred to him as Brother Glown.

As a young man he worked on a fair amount of on-site archaeology digs. He also visited and traveled with his friend Thor Heyerdahl who granted permission for Glenn to use one of his photographs of The Kon TIki for the cover of my brother’s  definitive book about ‘The Phoenicians’, the civilization that gave us our alphabet.  ‘The Phoenicians’ was originally co-published by the British Museum Press and the University of California Press. But  recently  The Folio Society in London issued the book in a leather bound edition.  My brother was very excited about that. He was a leather-bound kind of guy in a digital world. He had no problem understanding Sanskrit but repeatedly told me he was having trouble with G-mail.

For the latter part of his career, he ended up curating museum shows and writing academic research papers with titles like The Funerary Iconography of the Lotus Flower.  Here is a catalog from a show he directed on women in ancient Egypt at The Cincinnati Art Museum, where he worked as  Senior Curator of Classical and Near Eastern Art and Art of Africa and the Americas for 23 years.

Probably the crowning glory of his career was a huge show he put together with his colleague Craig Morris from The Museum of Natural History in NYC entitled ‘The Lost City of Petra.’  Once referred to in a poem as “a rose-red city half as old as time,” the city of Petra is famous for its elaborate temples carved in sheer rock walls. You may remember it best as the haunting backdrop for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Here is a link to the book my brother wrote about the show. My brother spent ten years working on this project, traveling back and forth across the war torn middle east, visiting the site itself and getting permissions from the Royal Family of Jordan and the Jordanian government to ship various antiquities to this country. Here is a picture of my brother and Craig Morris with Queen Rania of Jordan.  My brother is the bearded white haired guy on the left.  Here’s a page about him from a website that went up about the exhibit.  That period of time stands out most for me as a time when I was worried about him constantly because he was not a guy who ever seemed to sense danger. In my mind, he was walking around with a ‘Take Me Hostage’ sign on his back. Ever since he was a little kid he had always appeared to be preoccupied by a private inner landscape of details from some other century. My parents referred to him as “an absent minded professor.” He was simply very trusting and good natured as he concentrated on his work and went about  collecting data for his exhibit,unconcerned that he was  not that far from where we had just invaded Iraq. “Merrill,” he used to shout at me when I issued cautionary edicts, “Where I am, it’s perfectly safe.” Still, when I went to bed at night, I had  visions of newspaper headlines describing how Al Qaeda had dropped a butterfly net over him and taken him prisoner.

Fortunately there was no kidnapping. Instead a great exhibit was the result.  Here’s a page about him from a website that was created for ‘Petra Lost City of Stone’.  I had never even heard of the culture of the ancient civilization of spice traders called the Nabateans, builders of the city of Petra, until my brother told me about them. During that period he sometimes called me from his research sites in Jordan.  Those were the Bush years. I assumed this meant that I was probably having my phone tapped by the U.S. government.

It was always fun to attend any exhibit of ancient relics with him because he specialized in knowing about vanished worlds that are invisible to most of us. One time, while showing Andy and me around an exhibit, he took us over to a very official looking piece of inscribed rock sitting in a case on a pedestal. “That was a shopping list from the first century.” he told us.

Anyway, he’s gone now. He was a very sweet, funny, smart man and a great father to his two sons, Carey and Noah. And he was my goofy but brilliant brother. It seems surreal that he has suddenly vanished. But as we all learn, such is the weird reality lurking right underneath the one in which we all live.

We sent an obituary in to the Cincinnati Enquirer but so far they haven’t published it. I couldn’t wait any longer. So I wrote this. Here he is when he was twenty, on a dig with others from UC Berkeley.

Goodbye dear Glenn.










Road Kitty

Posted June 6th, 2012

I was driving home from the gym at about 10 the other night. I go there late because  there are fewer people. Also driving home is nice.  Its very dark and quiet, although sometimes I hear a coyote or a peacock (or the over-amplified bass booming out of a party.) On this night, as I got to the bottom of the hill, something shiny hit my headlights. Staring in to the road directly ahead of me, I saw a shape and more glare. Because I read the news too carefully, my first thought was not “animal in the middle of the road”, but “camouflaged bomb placed at intersection by Al Qaeda.” It was kind of flapping like  a paper bag or an already crunched cardboard box. I stopped the car before I ran in to it and as I carefully drove around it I thought it seemed to be kind of the shape of an animal,  tho clearly not an actual animal.  I decided it was probably another manifestation of my habit of finding faces on inanimate objects when I stare at them.

The next day I walked the dogs back to that same spot. By then I had completely forgotten about the entire incident. But once  I found this thing, lying on a nearby curb, I suddenly comprehended the rest of the scenario.

Bet the artists, who no doubt performed an exagerrated recounting of my every reaction, would be surprised that I liked their work so much, I took it home and put it on display.

What to say to the 3 people who come to hear you read at a bookstore.

Posted March 10th, 2012
Tags: , , ,

Whenever I have a book come out, friends ask me if I will be appearing at any bookstores. I shrug and smile. This is what I am too embarrassed to tell them:

There are many perks to being an author. I bet J.K.Rowling would tell you that the only down side to a bookstore appearance is achy cheeks from smiling at so many well wishers. Steven King is probably tired of the hand cramps from signing so many books. But for a lesser luminary…oh, who can I use?  For the sake of a handy example, let’s just say me… things are rather different. And when I use the word ‘rather’ I mean it in the sense of the word “vastly.”

The truth is that ever since I first made an appearance at a book store where very few people showed up, even book stores where I have never been asked to appear seem to hold nerve wracking future memories. I am talking about the kind of commonly scheduled event for a newly published book in which an optimistic store manager has gone to the trouble of making an enormous sign bearing the author’s name. The sign I’m thinking of may have been big enough to have been visible from the surface of the moon.

Of course everything about being asked to speak anywhere is an honor. After all, during the writing process, every author hopes for some kind of acknowledgment and validation eventually. He or she is probably imagining groups of the kind of interesting people they would be honored to have as friends.  They are certainly not  hoping to one day drive in to a completely empty parking lot, then gingerly tip-toe thru the tumbleweed in a completely empty store,  the haunting sounds of a lone harmonica echoing in the distance, as they find their way to a carefully arranged unoccupied seating area just in front of the afore mentioned enormous personalized sign .

Now the self recriminations begin as I realize that if I had acted more aggressively, weeks before, this moment might have been averted. My other author friends all have the right combination of smarts and ego that pushes them to send out high pressure invitations to relatives and acquaintances, insisting they attend .But I am always too uncomfortable with the idea of inconveniencing busy friends in the middle of dinner so I am relying on maybe some actual fans? Good luck to me!

Usually I begin the process of adjusting to the unnerving scenario that awaits me by taking cover behind a bookcase, where I can have some privacy while I calculate the right moment to ask if its okay if I cancel. While I am trying to figure out how to make a facial expression that looks relaxed and at the same time preoccupied by more important things,  I am drowning in waves of terrible memories from junior high school about being forced to attend an after school social event, only to find myself trapped and standing around all dressed up, never getting asked to dance. The paralyzing unpleasantness that this feeling awakens is  so intense I can hardly breath as I  carefully weigh which are my best  options for an excuse that will get me sympathy: a sudden onset of the flu, a sudden death in the family, or  a sudden onset of the flu due to a death in the family (from the flu.)

But sometimes, before I can make this move and exit the premises, two middle aged women, dressed in down parkas and wearing knit caps, carrying a million paper bags, sit down in the front row.  By start time, they have been joined by a balding man in a too tight plaid shirt who looks pleased to be sitting anywhere at all, period. Is it possible they are here to see me? I suppose they could be three fans. But if that’s the case, why is no one smiling or saying hi or even looking up from their I phones when I walk in to the room?

“Have some perspective.” I start to remind myself, “Nothing awful has happened. Its not like you’re trapped under a collapsed building in an earthquake in Turkey or have been kidnapped by The Taliban in Iraq.” Though even as I’m thinking this, it is also occurring to me that both of those things would have generated a lot of great publicity for my book.

Now a story told to me by the novelist Elinor Lipman comes flooding back: about a friend of hers who, facing a 2 person audience, rose to the occasion. She bravely delivered her best reading ever , size of the audience be damned, until mid-way in  when a policeman led the whole two person audience away in hand cuffs. For a few minutes, they’d assumed they’d found the perfect place to hide out from a chase.

So I take a deep cleansing breath, knowing that others before me have survived this, and say hello to the cheery store manager who tells me how honored she is to meet me and apologizes for the small turn out. This of course makes me feel even worse. If only she had just said something like “This time of year, even Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t draw a crowd.” But no, she simply shows me to a small podium on which is mounted a microphone so large I think I recognize it from the famous photograph of Pres. Roosevelt declaring War on Japan in his day of infamy speech. “Thank you,” I say to her,  realizing that before I have even tried to speak in to it, the mic is creating noisy feedback.  So now I must deal with stadium miking in order to speak to three people who are 14 inches away.

Anyway, obviously a new outlook for this situation seems to be called for. I will probably have to appear at a bookstore again. But next time I will be prepared with a whole new approach.

 My New Speech for the three people who come to see me at a bookstore.

“Hello! Hello! Hello!!” Yes! That’s right! A very special personal hello to each of you! You know, you’re probably going to think I’m exagerating but I swear to you: This very morning,  I said a prayer that only a hand full of special people would attend tonight. So you three are actually a literal dream come true for me!

In fact I have to confess, I am instantly so comfortable with you that I’m going to take you in to my confidence; Its really not my nature to gossip about people behind their backs. But from what I have heard, quite a few of the people who didn’t show up here tonight are dicks. I heard from a reliable source that one of them is just finishing book four of the Twilight saga. I mean, come on! Anyone who made it through 2,000 pages of that crap couldn’t keep up with people like us.

So let’s begin! Just as soon as that guy hovering by that book shelf in the back either commits to sitting down or gives up and leaves the store. I can tell he’s trying to decide if he knows who I am. Sir! Do you need me to tell you who am I? You have an I phone…go on my website and  read my resume! We’ll wait! Uh oh. You’re leaving us? There he goes! Never trust a man wearing a radio station free giveaway shirt.

Listen, before I start over again: How about if the three of us make a pact? Next person who sneaks in late, when I clear my throat, can we please all turn in unison, then break into a big hollow smile and, all at the same time say,“Welcome! We’ve been waiting for you!”. After that we’ll just  keep smiling and staring and smiling and staring for like two or three more minutes! Come on! How great would that be? I’ll videotape it and we’ll put it on You Tube! It’ll get a ton of hits. I’ll title it “Creeeeeeepy!!!”

Actually since its  just us three…does anyone mind if I  skip the reading  and…lets have a show of hands! How many of you have been hypnotized? I haven’t had any hypnosis training but the fact that you’re here on a Wednesday night at dinner time in the dead of winter tells me you have a limited choice of destinations. So if you’ll all just play along, and when I snap my fingers, we’ll all count backwards from fifty. Then somewhere around 30 , you can just drop your heads forward and close your eyes. It’ll make me feel really powerful. And then when I tell you that you’re a bantam rooster, get up and strut and make crowing noises for a few seconds.You’ll never see me again. You have my word: I’m never coming back to this city. And after the enormous hit my ego has taken this evening, I really need you to give me this moment. Then immediately afterward, I will take the  three of you out for coffee and pie and you can show me whats in all those bags.

Then I’ll go back to my hotel room and drink.







By they way, my new book is for sale here and lots of other places. Buy one and save me from having to go out and read.



Oh, the giddy hilarity of bras.

Posted February 14th, 2012

Well, its President’s Day and of course the excitement is palpable. So many holidays, so many opportunities to buy chairs or refrigerators. It can be overwhelming.

Obviously we humans love our holidays. In ancient Rome they had 159 publicly funded holidays a year. Three a week!  The ancient Romans were so busy packing and unpacking decorations and lights and preparing special meals for family that they forgot to notice their empire was crumbling. Maybe we like holidays so much because we rely on them for a formal excuse for celebration. As if there weren’t a million reasons to celebrate anyway! And I can think of no better example than this  catalog I got in the mail yesterday;  a perfect reminder not to overlook the simple, mundane things in life that bring us joy. Like bras. Because a woman grows up wearing one every day from about age 11 on,  it becomes so routine, she can forget about all the merriment.

So kudos to the genius who put this catalog together. He or she had the soul and the heart to remind us how nothing is more fun than a bra!  Why, you no sooner put one on then you get so giddy, you just can’t restrain yourself from clowning! Next thing you know, you’ve made yourself a bowl of cereal so enormous, there’s nothing to do but throw it in the air!  Then you eat two popsicles at the same time and follow it up with two cannolis! Why? Because one thing about hanging out in your bra: You don’t feel self conscious at all about your belly fat. Part of the magic of a bra is the way it makes you want to sit down and eat a stack of 17 pancakes (after you examine a fork full you stole from someone else, since as far as I can tell in that photo,she hasn’t touched a single one of her seventeen yet.) Or order a bucket of chicken designed for a family of 12. Then you start spearing fruit! Yep! That’s what a great bra will do for you: energize you so much you practically turn in to a fruit ninja!  Before you know it,  you’ve got a book on your head and you’re using cup cakes for glasses!                                                           So…thank you bras…for all the years of wacky hilarity. Of all the underwear, you’re like the second funniest. After underpants.




PS: Perhaps you would like to buy my new book! Here: Read review.

For sale wherever fine books are sold. And other kinds of books.

My homage to Westminster: The White Working Humans-in-Suits Groups

Posted February 12th, 2012

Westminster is happening this week. By which I mean the big Westminster Kennel Club Show at Madison Square Garden.  Every year I watch that show and have the same thought about how impossible it would be to be a human being leaping around the ring with those pure bred dogs.  Year before last I finally did a piece about just the women participants, after watching it in my head for  the past 15 years.

Last year I did one about just the guys.




I have a new book out. You can read reviews for it under BOOKS on this very website. AND you can buy it here. You should so totally buy it.


RE: The Super Bowl: How I tried to win a million dollars by making a Dorito commercial.

Posted January 30th, 2012
Tags: , , , ,

Okay, I know it is The Superbowl next Sunday. And I know this, even though I don’t watch any sports. There. I said it.  None. Nothing. And I am fortunate enough to now live with a man who shares my lack of interest. (In fact, just last night he said to me “Who is playing this year? Is it the Spiders versus The Coconuts?”)

If there is one thing I do even less than watch sports, it is enter contests. At least not since  I was eight.  Even then, it has seemed like an exercise in exploring  Fran Lebowitz’s comment about entering The Lottery (“I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not.”).  Nevertheless, for some insane reason  in 2009, when I saw that there was a contest that offered  a prize of  a million dollars for making a Dorito commercial that was supposedly going to air on The Superbowl, I had a momentary brain white out and decided to enter.  “No way I can be the worst person entering this contest.” I said to myself, I said, I said, ” And who knows? Maybe I will be one of the best!”

And thus did I throw myself in to this delusional headwind,  and spend one crazed weekend making a theoretical Dorito commercial.   I should add at this point that I didn’t prepare for my task by studying existing Dorito commercials  to make sure that I was playing the correct ball park. No no….None of those creativity restrictions for me. So, that wasn’t smart. I should have done my research. But instead, inspired by my own idea, I just leaped forward.  And I did this despite the fact that I don’t even like Doritos. Where salty snacks are concerned, Doritos have never been in my top twenty.  Looking back, that probably didn’t work in my favor either.

Still, I very much liked the idea of winning a million dollars.  So come with my now to the golden year of 2009 as we look at my hypothetical theoretical Dorito commercial . . CommericalDorito Commerical

Come on…you have to give it up for my Dorito trees!

I carefully waded through many bags of Doritos in order to select just the ones with a big loopy fold so I could organically drape them over my plants.  Proving once again that you can take the girl out of the art school, but you can’t take the art school out of the girl.  In fact, since I’m reviving this whole memory for my own humiliation, I’d like to now  re visit some highlights of my Dorito plants.  Andy (who also supplied the voice over) thinks that we would have won if we had  referred to the raw, still-to-be-picked fruits of the Dorito plant as “DORTS”.

I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think this would have changed anything.

dorito trees


Read reviews here on this very website.

Here’s the cover! Looks great, right?

It IS GREAT. You should definitely buy it.

A Very Dylan Christmas:#3

Posted December 13th, 2011
Tags: ,

If this blog has a yearly tradition it is my ongoing efforts at photographing Bob Dylan’s Christmas Decorations. Not everyone thinks of Bob Dylan as a Christmassy sort of guy. I know I didn’t. But I do now.

It started because I like to inspect the neighborhood Christmas decorations every year and Mr. Dylan has a house in my neighborhood.  I grew up worshipping Mr. Dylan. Not too many artists had more impact on my development than he did. And now I believe the same holds true for his Christmas decorating style. Let us examine his approach. There is much to learn.

Of all the outdoor decorating styles on display in my neighborhood, year after year Mr. Dylan’s is  the most low key. It appears casual to the point of almost seeming unplanned. At first glance it may look thrown together without much forethought. Yet when we examine his efforts in years past,his astonishing consistency reveals the stylings of a very specific Christmas artist at work.

First: a brief trip down memory lane.

Here is Mr. Dylan’s decor in 2009.

Here is Mr. Dylan’s Christmas offering in 2010.

And now behold, The Dylan Christmas of 2011:

This year we see a variation on last year’s theme as he repeats his signature lack of formality. He has again hung the lights in what can now be referred to as a prototypical Dylanesque style.There is resistence to symmetry, the avoidance of an obvious pattern or design.  In the detail below we see the return of a classic Dylan touch: the low hanging loop, which some call ‘Dylan’s Necktie’. Others prefer to call it ‘The Crutch’.

Also this year the lights are higher up on the bushes than  in previous years, perhaps indicating  a more spiritual intention. Then again, they may be providing a comment about  the hopes of the common man in an economic downturn.

As with all of Dylan’s best work, ultimately we are left with more questions than answers.

Yet tears well up and there is a quiet joy. Or something.

Happy Holidays everyone. From me. And from Bob.

PS: No matter what the copy on the page reads, my new book is in stock again now. They just restocked them. Buy one, won’t you?


Barnes and Noble


Some new and hopefully funny stuff re: My New Book.

Posted December 6th, 2011


So this is a little PR wrap up of a few my recent book promotional attempts…at least the ones that I thought went well.  If you have come to this site looking for current data on me, this stuff might be it.

First, here’s the WTF podcast I did with Marc Maron. I f you’re not familiar with WTF, you should google it. Marc does absolutely great interviews with people who work in, around, and near comedy. Marc is a brilliant comedian himself and he is one of a kind.

Then I went on The Daily Show. That was fun.Me on The Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Merrill Markoe
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Then I wrote a post about it on Regretsy.

So…that a lot of stuff! Think I’ll quit while we’re both ahead.
But first let me update you on the book. The Daily Show appearance kicked sales in to a gear that the book company was apparently not prepared for. They sold out of the first printing but they tell me there will be more books next week some time.(Despite the fact that Amazon has a disparaging note that sounds like you will never receive a book in this or any other lifetime.) So if you order it, you will too get it by Christmas! While you are waiting, you can re-enjoy this video I made of my dogs fetching the book out of the pool. One other hilarious bi-product of this whole brouhaha is visible today (Dec.7) on Amazon. Although I am told there might be new books for sale AT REGULAR PRICES there tomorrow, the used book market vultures have already made a desperate attempt. Check out these bargain prices. At least they’re supposed to be in pretty good shape. HAA!

Not just two endings, but two impressive tricks!!

Posted September 24th, 2011

I made myself a book promo. Because I have a book coming out in a month.

I realize that this promo does not offer a lot of information about the book. But it DOES have TWO endings, both involving pretty fancy footwork on the part of my dogs. I am at work on ANOTHER promo that will offer more information. But come on. I had to post this one. TWO pieces of reasonably good dog action, from MY dogs. That’s a lot, considering the cast. You just don’t get that kind of action and excitement and opportunity for choice with the Zombie people.

UPDATE 10/20/11: Here is an advanced review I just got from Book Page.

The Jpegs RollingStone didn’t want.

Posted September 16th, 2011
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

So there is a piece in the new RollingStone about year one of the Letterman show. (If you use the link, check under the area labeled ‘features’  And if the link says something about how you need to be a subscriber, just google Rollingstone,Current issue. And it will appear. Then look for features.). As a lot of you may know, this is not a piece of my past that I revisit much. I have a lot of reasons, among them the fact that whatever  the opposite of nostalgic is, I am that. But when the writer of the piece, David Browne, contacted me, I decided I’d play along. Because…you know… why not?  And in the course of playing along, the art director asked me if I had any photos. As it turned out, I did.  I made jpegs out of a bunch of them but for whatever reason, they never made it in to the magazine.   Which brings us to this blog post. Since I went to the trouble of making the damn jpegs , I thought maybe fans of the early Letterman show might enjoy seeing them.  Lets get ME over with first. Here I am when the show first launched. The important writer shirt was a sarcastic souvenir from my days of being a struggling writer at large, newly moved to Hollywood. Which, at that point, was just a few weeks before this.  I thought it was a very funny thing to have on a shirt that labeled me an important writer. In fact, it was the funniest thing I could think of. That, in a nutshell, was me then.

I’m going in chronological order…This is a picture of the set during a rehearsal of The David Letterman Show, which was Dave’s live MORNING show. It preceded the night show. It was on the air live 90 minutes a day at 10 in the morning on NBC for 19 weeks before it got cancelled.It was a lot like the night show but, if you can imagine it, even weirder. It had “a family”…many of them funny cerebral comedian character writer/performers.(The brilliant hilarious Valri Bromfield, Edie McClurg, Wil Shriner and Rich Hall, to name 4). The guy sitting with Dave is comedian Bob Sarlotte, who was supposed to be a kind of a side kick. He moved his family all the way to NYC, only to have the whole show up-end in just a few months. This was not the way things were supposed to go.  However, when the show was cancelled two good things happened. We won an Emmy. And we got this cool telegram from Martin Scorcese.

Now on to “Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC. This was the next version of the show.  Here is what the host and one of his guests looked like during year one of that first late night show.  By the way, in case it is not obvious to you…that guest is Mr. Leno.

And this is what my assistant Chris Elliot , who was about 13 at the time, looked like. I had to get his mother’s permission to take this picture. No No. I am kidding. But he was about 19. The photo beneathe this one is what he looked like playing a LifeGuard in a ‘fun in the summer’ special.

Now for some writers. This is a scrapbook page I didn’t want to dissemble. Starting top left, the young Steve O’Donnel,(who went on to headwrite the show for many years)  then Jim Downey talking to  “not sure”…who MIGHT be Sandy Frank. (but still not sure.) They are in Tom Gammill’s office, as you can see by the signature Gammill painting on the wall. Tom has a cartoon strip called The Doozies. (Google it, sit back, pour yourself a beverage and make an evening of them.)  Below on the right is my dear pal George Meyer,(more recently of The Simpsons). In this photo he is pretty much right out of college. He is on the site of a science fair that we covered for the show. Unless he was one of the exhibitors. And below on the left is the always funny and fantastic Hal Gurnee, who was our director. Here is the young Tom Gammill on the cover of an in-house news letter he and his partner Max Pross were writing and distributing to the staff.

Next is my old friend Gerry Mulligan, who stayed at the show until a couple of years ago when he retired! But this photo is taken of him when the show first started.And ladies and gentlemen, the hilarious Andy Breckman, who later in life became the creator of MONK.

Here is Paul  Shaffer holding a photograph of Hal Gurnee’s dog Burt. For reasons of his own, Mr. Gurnee was obsessively photographing everyone who came on to the show holding this picture. Somewhere there are HUNDREDS of these. Not sure why I have this one.

And here I am in a segment for the first anniversary show called Stupid Writer’s Tricks. I am doing a scene from a theoretical sit-com I wrote for myself called My Little Merrill. In the scene, my husband has told me that the boss is coming for dinner. But oops. Darn. In my hurry to get everything perfect I dropped a 100 lb. weight on  the dining room table and broke it in half.

This certainly proves I haven’t changed as much as I thought.

Which brings us to Dave and the Grateful Dead. And with that we conclude this portion of the jpeg assortment. But wait…wait…one more thing.


A word from our sponsor. We hope you enjoyed this pointless trip down memory lane. We (and by we I mean ..uh…you know…) are so hopeful that we (I) would like to take this opportunity to (coughing fit. Excuse me.I’m sorry. I can’t stop coughing. Oh. Where was I again? Ah yes.) Ahem. I have a new book coming out November first. It’s a book of funny personal essays. Its called Cool Calm and Contentious and if there is any chance you can be talked in to pre-ordering one, you can do it HERE (amazon) or HERE (Barnes and Noble.) Thank you. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Not that there is any.











































































Fall 2011: Peasants make Great Accessories

Posted September 3rd, 2011
Tags: , ,

Yes, we all know that we are in the throes of a world wide global economic crisis. But sometimes it takes something dire and international to help us to really SEE.   Today my new Anthropologie catalog arrived with exactly that kind of very special fashion reminder.  FALL 2011 has a message for us. And it is this. Nothing shows off a great new outfit like PEASANTS!

Maybe its the simplicity of their life styles or their primitive old-world mismatched clothing choices. Maybe its the way they’re so cooperative even if you only have a few dollars budgeted to pay them. Whatever it is, peasants are a memo from another time and place where money still means a lot. (Though I doubt they need as much of it as we do because look at how they live and all!)

The important thing to remember is that peasants make the rest of us look elegant yet sensible this fall! And they’re so much shorter and heavier than we are, which helps show us off to our best advantage.Plus they have scarves and chickens and buckets and weird hats, which are all like totally amazing! So when you think it about it, what better accessories for confusing times like these (when big salaries and gigantic bonuses are not fashionable) than PEASANTS? PS:


























I…um…(clearing throat)have a new book coming out in November. You can pre-order it at(coughing) Amazon or Barnes and Noble or maybe somewhere else that you like better but I didn’t think of. Thank you. Plus I will send you a handwritten thank you card.You never get that kind of thing from the vampire people.

Analyzing the facial expressions of the candidates

Posted August 20th, 2011
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I’m having trouble deciding whose facial expression is more frightening: Michele Bachmann’s Precious:





or Rick Perry’s Anton Chigurh.




Luckily we have a year to figure it out.


P.S.Sorry to be a pest but um, uh…on an unrelated topic…I realize Its not til November but if you’re the kind of person who pre-orders books…(spasmodic coughing) Also Barnes and Noble



Mensans in the Hot Tub

Posted August 10th, 2011


A few years ago I was asked to appear in “The Aristocrats,” perhaps the raunchiest non-pornographic independent film ever made. The idea was that many comedians would tell the same famously dirty joke in their own particular style, out-doing each other with vivid graphic detail. But as someone who has never been comfortable telling off-color jokes, I knew I couldn’t compete with George Carlin, or Gilbert Gottfried in a prurience contest.  So for my version, I rewrote the material 180 degrees in the other direction. I made my contribution erudite. I set it in the world of performance art and dressed it up with references to Joan Miro, The Venice Biennale and Postmodern Neoclassical figurative painting. And I was able to make it so effete, cerebral and esoteric that I got myself cut out of the movie entirely, save for one line.

However, when the DVD came out, my seven minute contribution appeared in its entirety, And thus did it meet its proper audience at last: MENSA called to ask if I would speak at their annual Colloquium.

When I first got their E mail, I thought it was some kind of a mistake, a weird prank being played by one of my smart-ass friends. But when I returned their call and no one I knew answered, I became so utterly intimidated and consumed with the need for grammatical correctness in my speech that I could barely keep track what I was saying, so distracted was I by trying to remember the rules for when to use “Who” vs.  “Whom”.

Turned out that The Mensans had liked my contribution to The Aristocrats because it was the only version of the joke sporting the word ‘entrails.’ In fact, so amused were they by this  choice that they had thought of me when they’d decided that this year’s Colloquium topic was going to be humor.

Sensing instantly that these were people who knew their way around comedy, after I calmed myself down I said yes. I figured I’d tell a few stories, throw in a couple more “entrails” jokes and I’d be home free. But the real reason I agreed was because I wanted to see what Mensans looked like. I’d always been kind of curious. To me they seemed an unknowable, and slightly spooky secret society along the lines of The Bilderberg Group or The Tri-lateral Commission. Like the Yakuza, if its rules for admission were based on SAT scores.

“Tough gig,“ said my boyfriend, when I pondered whether I’d done the right thing by saying yes..“If you bomb, you won’t be able to use your usual excuse: Well, those people were a bunch of fucking idiots.”

As the date approached, I checked the website promoting the event and saw my name posted near a quote from Aristotle, along side a changing slide show of photographs of Freud and Einstein. Both men had been artistically graffitied with a Groucho-nose-and-glasses, a disguise, I might add, that wouldn’t have worked too well for either one.  Other scheduled speakers for the Colloquium included the author of “Humorous Interaction and The Social Construction of Meaning: Making Sense in a Jocular Vein,” and someone whose topic would be“ Exploring the theoretical, and empirical evidence for several psychological functions of humor.”  Suddenly all the personal anecdotes about bad dates and birthday parties I had planned to share with The Mensans seemed ridiculously simple minded.

In a panic, I began to try to upgrade my speech by doing some research. “Humor is arguably too complicated to learn without an assemblage of specific neural pathways or an associated cognitive module.” I read in “The Evolutionary Origins of Humor.” “Bingo!” I said, clapping my hands happily. “There’s my big opening joke!”

After checking in to The Doubletree Inn, where The Colloquium was to be held, I met with The Mensan who was in charge of the speakers downstairs in the hotel restaurant. He was an attractive, nicely dressed man of perhaps forty, who raised orchids, liked to kayak and used to work in bio-medical engineering developing a piece of apparatus that, when attached to a damaged spine, could move a paralyzed arm.

“I think you’ll be fine,” he said , after I outlined my speech for him. Sensing I was jittery, he then set about reassuring me that the Colloquium would be relaxed and feature an atmosphere of fun! To illustrate this, he mentioned the likelihood of  some annual after hours intra- Mensa hot tub hijinx. Though I was grateful he’d made the effort to soothe my fears, I was not reassured. It had never occurred to me until this very minute that Mensa might be a kind of  for people who tested well.

For most of the previous month I had been fretting about the proper wardrobe to bring to this event because the word “Colloquium” sounded so formal, and formidable. Yet multiple shopping forays throughout LA in search of Colloquium-wear had only puzzled slack jawed salespeople. After much fretting, I had selected an outfit that I hoped sat on the intersection of dressy and businesslike. But on the night of my big speech, as I entered the banquet room, I realized I’d worried in vain. My first viewing of Mensans En Masse revealed a largely white, mid-thirties and older group who seemed to favor the Bill Gates-determinedly-casual-aggressively-rumpled- approach to fashion. I needn’t have worried at all. If there were people playing the vanity card, I didn’t see them. One white haired gentleman in his seventies arrived dressed in a running suit and headband.There were also no “I’m with Brilliant” or “Genius on board” tee shirts.

As a whole, they looked like who they probably were; middle-aged versions of kids from the high school Chess or Latin club who also entered and won The Science Fair. The well-known porn star Mensan and the famous actress Mensan were not in attendance. Both would have stuck out like Sumo Wrestlers at a PTA meeting.

And thus did I deliver my speech about viewing your life as comedy to an attentive friendly audience, relieved that no one heckled my grammar or fell asleep. The only dark note was one agitated Mensan man in his mid fifties who, post Q and A, seemed upset in perpetuity about  the childhood pain and bullying he’d suffered as the butt of callous jokes. “Why do people think its funny to be mean?” he fretted tearfully, over and over. “I don’t know.  You should ask the programming guys at…well, everywhere.,” I wanted to say as I looked at this living reminder of the fine line between humor and cruelty. Also I hoped I could get away from him as quickly as possible.

The fine line between humor and funny was on display the next day when I sat on a panel next to a man whose life work it was to wear a rubber clown nose to every event he attended. “Most people cant help but smile when they see it,” he assured the audience, daring them to defy the comedy edict on which he was basing his whole act. Mainly I was reminded  of the way  its not smart to tell people when they should laugh.

Since most of the scheduled events were over in early evening, by 9:30 I found myself back in my room at the Doubletree Inn with a lot of time on my hands, too much adrenaline from having spoken earlier and no idea what to do. I considered watching a performance by a Mensan  Shakespearean Improv group but rejected it after I slipped in to the back of the room  and found it so ponderous and seemingly endless that I couldn’t commit to taking a seat.

As I sat by my hotel window, looking idly down at a half filled parking lot and the small industrial park by a creek that lay just beyond, it suddenly occurred to me that I was ignoring a big entertainment opportunity: I had an unobstructed aerial view of the hot tub on the hotel roof top. Here was a chance to witness that famous playful side of Mensa. And maybe even see some of the Mensans themselves acting  dumb!  But after a couple of hours and one too many seven dollar beers from the Mini-bar fridge , when no Mensans ever showed up, I realized the theoretical and empirical evidence for humor known as a “joke” was on me.

P.S.Ahem. Its not til November but if you’re the kind of person who pre-orders books…(additional coughing) Also Barnes and Noble

Models Reveal Their Diet Secrets!

Posted August 4th, 2011
Tags: , ,

The copy on this ad says “You’ll need a lifetime to experience all the joys of Las Vegas. But if you only had a few incredible days, you’d need a plan to make the most of it.”

And the photo shows us four people who really know how to make a fun plan!

They offer  a lesson to the rest of us in how today’s beautiful people keep off the unwanted pounds! Because of all the things you can do with food, only EATING starts you on the path to gaining weight. So they have learned to see food as a toy! An accessory! A thing to have fun with!

These four have joined together to demonstrate a way to eat out that lets you have a fantastic night on the town and still leave as slim as when you first sat down!  Look how hard they are all laughing! You wouldn’t laugh THAT hard unless you were having the best time ever! And as we can see, they have ordered many many desserts, not for eating but for room decor. They have arranged them in to a picturesque arc around the real attraction: a big group dessert that the whole table can share!  Cotton candy!  I personally have never seen cotton candy listed on a dessert menu at  a restaurant. But that is almost certainly because I do not know the cool places to go, like these four do!

The Cotton Candy for Four dessert is the perfect dessert  because it is both the most fun to play with and the least appealing to actually eat. Look at how the dark haired girl is actually putting it in her hair, which is almost certainly going to cause her to have to leave early when she notices that the spun sugar residue has made the whole top of her head gummy. But that just ADDS to her fun.  By leaving early, she will not have to eat so much as a spoon full of anything at all.

Her date, in the purple shirt, is having just as much fun as she is! He is so convulsed with laughter he had to close his eyes! Even if his dinner companion has to leave early, to keep from attracting ants,  that doesn’t spoil his fun one bit! He has found more entertaining things to do with his silverware than eat! Clearly his date has seen him do this spoon-on-nose trick so many times before that she doesn’t like to encourage him by  looking over at him. And despite this seeming rudeness, when the two of them look back on this special night in Vegas, they will both rate it a success knowing that neither of them consumed a single calorie.

The young man on the far left of the table has made a hilarious mustache out of his cotton candy because he knows that as long as he holds it in place between his lip and nose,  he will not have to make excuses for not eating.

Which brings us to the one girl who appears to have actually taken a bite of the cotton candy. She is a little more subdued than the others because she knows she has made a mistake. But she also realizes that she can quickly spit the whole mouth full back on to that big sloppy plate and no way anyone will even notice! That’s why they serve it all formless in a big messy mound like that!! It is designed to be played with and spit out!

Here in example number 2. three gorgeous gaunt young people have ordered the spaghetti…knowing full well that the risks involved in ordering a dinner full of refined carbs will not apply to them! Not as long as they just HAVE FUN with their food and do not get side tracked by eating. This kind of behavior is so common with models that chefs no longer take it personally when they see beautifully attired people with amazing cheek bones spitting out everything they have ordered.

So the lesson is clear: Models definitely know how to have MORE FUN with their food than you do!

And taking all the drugs they can find  before dinner probably helps quite a bit too.


P.S. Ahem. Its not til November but if you’re the kind of person who pre-orders books…(additional coughing) Also Barnes and Noble

How to Argue Politics

Posted July 28th, 2011

Well, the Halloween yard decorations are for sale at Costco and you know what that means: its almost Christmas. Also the political season is in full swing again.

Yes, I know its almost always  Christmas and Political Season.  They are two of the sado/masochistic traditions that we as a country hold so dear that we celebrate them year round. True, elections lack the galvanizing economy boosting-gift-giving-ritual action of the six months of Christmas. But come on!  They are also the gift that keeps on giving since they include everything else; They’re a team sport,  a reality show,  a contest,  a holiday, a source of constant histrionic bulletins and  cataclysmic updates. They not only contain gossip, passion and petty arguments, but they’re  full of  people who claim to be regularly communicating with Jesus!  Plus they’re far more terrifying than Halloween.

Unfortunately arguing politically has always been a problem for me. I’m just not very good at it.  I usually know how I feel about the issues but rarely have I done enough exacting research in to the various historical details and precedents in each case to annihilate the arguments of my opponents. Or at least that is what I always thought was wrong with my approach.  But lately, as I watch things play out in Washington, as well as abroad, I have become convinced that all of my old assumptions are now obsolete. As usual I was being kept from a winning hand by trying for too much over-achieving. That is why I have assembled the following tips on how a political argument is won.  I believe my pointers are useful to all, regardless of political leanings.

How to Argue Politics:

1.Begin by choosing an unshakable stance to which you are going to hold fast like you would to the steering wheel of a runaway vehicle with bad brakes.  Even when you sense you may be lurching wildly, or the steering wheel is unresponsive, just hang on tightly, no matter what you see or hear. As long as you are going a million miles an hour, there’s no need to continue looking at the road ahead. Rather your extreme devotion to keeping your foot on the gas pedal, despite your lack of ability to see what is in front of you, will be your rudder, your anchor. (Think: Boehner in the budget ceiling debates.Or Sarah Palin when confronted on any empty headed counter-intuitive thing she says.)

If you are not sure what side of the issues you are on,(perhaps because the candidates you find cutest seem to keep changing their minds) pick your position by making some kind of simple minded emotional connection to something tangential. How about music? Country music is often played by Republicans. Indie music is almost definitely Democrats. Unknown bands hoping to become famous by making a viral video during the election: Tea party.

2.Having done that, now go online, find a chat board that supports your new point of view, and select the bullet points of your argument FROM THE SENTENCES THAT CONTAIN THE MOST WORDS ALL IN CAPS!!!!

3.Never allow lack of information to keep you from the passion you have for your side of the argument. Nothing needs to be solved. Your argument should  exist in an unencumbered vacuum where it should be allowed to circle back to the point at which it started. There is no way you are wrong. Remember that. So take comfort in the fact that no matter what side you are on, there are some excellent ways to wipe out whatever your opponent is telling you.

If you are conservative and the other guy begins making some good liberal point involving basic ethics and human rights,stay your original course by having, at the ready, an ambiguous Biblical quote that can be interpreted as supportive of anything. For example “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you’d rather not invoke religion,then another good argument-ender is :“If clean air and the environment means so much to you, how come I don’t see you giving up your comfy home and your gas guzzling car?” Be sure to use as many complex metaphors as you can that reference Dwight D. Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan. Most people today can not remember who these men are, they just know they are impressive. So throw in a lot of statistics that they will be helpless to refute. Don’t worry if they’re not true. As long as you are speaking louder and faster than they do, they will give up so that they can get back to checking their messages.

If you are liberal and faced with a piece of a conservative’s  fiscal argument that seems too solid to dispute, it is always wise to invoke the people and customs of one European country or other to prove your point.  ” The people of Switzerland don’t carry guns and they have like one homicide a year.”The people of Sweden permit public nudity and drinking at every meal for the whole family and they have no rapes, ever.”The people of Belgium have socialized medicine and prescriptions cost a penny.”” The people of Denmark have legalized drugs and drug related crime is non existent. Plus the rate of addiction is half of what ours is.”  And if you are taken to task with the only real topper: “Well if the people of Europe all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” you can simply answer “Yes. Because the people of Europe take better care of their infra structure than we do and their bridges are among the safest for jumping in the world.”

If the people of Europe  do not appeal to you, the old “How can we waste millions on ( war, supporting flailing dictators, tax cuts for the wealthy etc ) when there are children starving in our own back yard?” is a time honored all purpose stall. (And this despite the truth that no matter how much  spending  is eventually curbed, or redirected and no matter which party has the majority in the Senate, the extra money is never going to be used to feed hungry kids (unless they somehow can band together and become The Church of the Hungry Youngsters, thus making them eligible for grants or tax exemptions.) As a liberal, your ace in the hole will be any parallels you might care to make to Truman, FDR or JFK, three Democratic presidents whose policies are largely forgotten. So totally fabricate your details  since almost no one you are arguing with will have the smallest grasp of what the truth is. Chances are they will be too eager to to get back to staring at their phones to give it much thought.

4.Now as you begin your argument, remember that no matter what position you take, you’ll need to open with the following: “I may not agree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.” Say this with conviction, despite your own lingering doubts and suspicions that were you actually called upon in this capacity, there is no telling what you could be counted upon to do.

5.Finally, remember that every single thing that the other guy says is definitely  wrong. There is no such thing as believing that someone is making a few good points on the other side of the argument. Taking in new information and changing your point of view in any way, ever, is considered weak. So once  you have decided what you believe, that is it. No room for more thinking.

6.No matter which position you have taken ,whenever you feel yourself starting to get confused or losing ground, feel free to stop for a minute, take a deep breath  and kill some time with a round of  blaming the media for distortions and bias. Both sides have equal rights to this.

7.Now get arguing! And take a hint from someone who used to work on talk shows: As much as possible tune out what your opponent is saying. Just Nod. Smile. Focus on the rolodex in your head and the snacks you are going to eat right afterwards. Then make your points, say you have a plane to catch and get the hell out of there.,




P.S. Ahem. Its not til November but if you’re the kind of person who pre-orders books…(additional coughing) Also Barnes and Noble

Yep. I’m on twitter.

Posted July 24th, 2011
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I resisted for a long time. I resisted it all. (As I previously noted a few blog entries ago…I’m also on Facebook.)

To be honest, life was fine without either of these things.  But I have a new book book coming out in November. (Pre-order it, won’t you? Amazon or Barnes and Noble.)

I’m not sure why having a new book coming out equates to being on Twitter or Facebook. Especially since I am obviously going to be too embarrassed to do too much pimping or self promotion on either one. That little bit of misfortune was built in to my personality at a young age and no amount of de-programming seems to have much effect on it.(Although, here I am doing it right now.)

So far the only thing that being Twitter has brought to my life is the sudden need to write one liners every day, for free. Why THAT is a good thing is anyone’s guess.

All that aside, there you have it. I’m on Twitter. (I should point out that  I’m not the only one! Yes. Its true. There are a lot of people on Twitter.) But…if you feel like it you can suddenly find me there. Uh, I mean follow me.

Now let us return to our regularly scheduled programming. And I will go back to trying to write a legitimate blog entry.

The parking lot search for non-violent people over 21

Posted July 18th, 2011

A couple of days ago,  I was unloading the packages from my shopping cart in to the back of my car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot when a short haired young man in board shorts, a teeshirt and sun glasses came up to me.

“Excuse me m’am,” he said, “ But I’m taking a communications class and we’ve been asked to interview non violent people over 21. Just a couple of questions. Would that be okay?”

I shrugged.

“Are you non violent?” he asked.

“Well, for purposes of this discussion, I’ll just say yes,” I said.  Meanwhile, I was wondering, “He said ‘A communications class.’ Is he practicing being a news man? Or is this some kind of an anti-war thing? Does he want me to sign a petition?”

“Here. Let me show you my I.D.” he said, taking out a big bill fold that looked oddly familiar, though I wasn’t sure where I’d seen it before. From other sales pitches? Kids selling magazine subscriptions?

“If you’re about to try to sell me something, don’t bother,” I said, “I’d be disqualified. I become violent when strangers tell me how to spend my money..”

“No no…” he said, “I’m just looking for sponsors in order to…”

“Forget it” I said, interrupting, “I don’t want mints. I don’t want magazine subscriptions. I don’t want to make any donations right now.”

“How about if I come to your house and offer my services for 24 hours.” He said, “ You can ask me to clean or order me around. I’m 18. I’m in my prime.”

“It’s a lovely offer,” I said, now getting really confused because it was a kind of creepy thing to say since I didn’t know him and so I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or what. (I mean, its summer. Its hard for students to make money in the summer and….Naw. He was kidding. But still.)“But there’s absolutely nothing you could be offering that I would be interested in buying…”

Eventually he shrugged, then he waved and walked off. As I turned away to complete unpacking my groceries (while trying not to further contemplate what would have happened if I had taken that guy up on his offer to come to my house and clean)  a second young man in the big long shorts approached. “I’m representing my communications class,” he said,”…and I need to talk to non violent people who..”

“Forget it,” I said, now ready to get in my car,  “I was just non violent for him.”

“…are cver 21” he continued, “and who would ..”

“No no no, I don’t qualify.” I said,” I’m definitely over 21 but I’m violent now.”

“No you’re not.” He said, chuckling.

“Yes I am too.” I argued.

“No you’re not.” He said again, grinning.

“Yes I am so.” I said.

“Oh, you are not,” he said a third time and as he began to continue his pitch, a list of moves I learned when I took a street fighting class some years ago began to flip through my mind. I could do “heel palm”. I could do “knee.” I felt I needed to do something to make my point. So I  reached over and punched him.

Okay. I didn’t really. I just got in the car and closed the door.

But Goddamn it… I should have. Just because of how much better if would have made the end of this story.



I have a new book coming out in November. If you are a non violent person over 21 and for some reason you could be talked in to pre-ordering it, you could do it here:

My Personal Battle with Terrorist Supplies

Posted June 23rd, 2011

I am a worrier. And don’t think I  don’t worry about that.  In fact, I just started a meditation course  to try and morph myself from a hand wringing anxiety sponge to  a beaming wellspring  of calm. While I am awaiting that transformation,  I continue to  fret about many things. One of them is not being able to keep my  emergency kit stocked with food.

There are two main reasons that I have this kit: 1.My lifelong bad habit of reading the newspaper  every  morning means that  I open each and every bright new day with some time that is specially devoted  to  empathizing with people I don’t know who are dealing with devastating floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and military disasters. And 2. I live in California, a state that is  obsessed with reminding its residents that a horrifying earthquake is not just inevitable but long over due. While we are eagerly awaiting  it,  there are also fires,  mudslides and an intermittently bankrupt state government to keep us occupied. Fortunately for me, despite an unbalanced budget, they were able to find enough money to recently  put up some cheery signs on Pacific Coast Highway warning of the possibility of a tsunami,should conditions be agreeable.In fact, LA is so in love with its own disasters that  newescasts station reporters at the scene of any former disaster every time rain is predicted, just to remind everyone that even the faint memory of a mudslide or a fire is still a good reason to be tense.

Its hard for me to imagine my box of emergency supplies being very useful in an earthquake, tsunami or  fire since all three of them would require me to flee the premises. But I guess I read the grasshopper and the ants one time too many when I was a kid.  I plunged ahead and bought a big container in which to stash  food, water, a first aid kit and the roll of duct tape I still had from when  Atty. General John Ashcroft, of the Bush administration, insisted that we needed to be ready to seal all our windows with plastic sheeting.  Ah, what golden days those were for the duct tape business.  It must have seemed  like the arrival of a special better-than-Christmas TAPE holiday .  Imagine the corporate meetings they  had, trying to figure out what they could do to to keep the giant national duct tape celebration going.

Anyway, I persist  because  I somewhere deep in my soul I am preparing for a scenario in which my loved ones and I have survived that shift in tectonic plates or that dirty bomb terrorist attack and there we will be,  cut off from civilization for some finite period of time, wandering around in our sports jackets , looking too formal for our new  Mad Max landscape. After a few hours of that, it will just be a matter of time until the man and four dogs with whom I share my life will  begin staring at me and wondering what is for dinner. Definitely none of them will have put away any boxes of supplies. That much I know.  Nope, everyone will be looking at me like “So? Now what?”.  Obviously it will have behooved me to have figured some of these things  out in advance.

The first time I shopped for this disaster food, I did my menu planning around the fact that in horrible circumstances, we would  all be pretty depressed.  Thus I bought things to eat that not only had a long shelf life but that might lift our spirits a little when we opened the box: Nuts, dried bananas, three kinds of jerky, high end canned soups. I got enormous flats from Costco of canned tuna or chicken, canned spaghetti, chocolate protein bars, malted milk balls. I bought so many of the  kind of tasty snacks  I try to stay away from because they’re fattening that I began secretly to look forward to at least a small disaster so I could have a big hand full of bridge mix without feeling guilty.  And this impulse, of course,  lead me directly to an entirely different problem: It soon became impossible to keep my disaster supply box full of food .

It didn’t take long for the raids to begin. Whenever I got hungry in the middle of the night or had been drinking sake , I would make a bee line for the terrorist supplies.   The nuts and dried bananas were the first to go.  Right after that I thought I’d have just one protein bar. But of course after the carton was opened,  all of them disappeared pretty quickly.   Canned beans? Sure, why not. One glass of cabernet and I’d be overcome with a romantic feeling about eating beans from a can that I’ve been harboring since I was in grade school watching old movies full of cowboys eating around a campfire. Mind you, I did’t eat all my terrorist supplies in one bingey night. It  took me  a couple of weeks. But before I knew it, I had also consumed every can of the minestrone and the canned ravioli. By then, the only food left was a few cans of beets or  carrots. Those foods were safe because I never wanted to buy them in the first place.  I hate the taste of canned vegetables. (I also hate canned raviolis but they take on a certain gross reverse-appeal after a few glasses of wine.)

Eventually it occurred to me that my behavior left me with only one reasonable course of action.  I had  to force myself to fill my emergency preparedness box entirely with  cans of food I hate.  It was that or continue to have an empty emergency box that needed to be refilled, therefore rendering it useless as a disaster preparedness kit. This lead to a trip to Costco where I walked up and down the aisles answering the question “What else would I not eat if I were a little tipsy?”

True, an  emergency kit full of canned carrots and canned wax beans and canned beets is an emergency kit that will never be raided in the middle of the night. But its not going to do much to lift our depression after we’re heading in to a second night without power or water, wondering when some helicopter is going to spot us gesturing wildly on the ground.   I can already hear the disparaging remarks from my neighbors who might need to rely on me and who are now faced with nothing but water logged beets and peas.   On the bright side I suppose by the time our lives resume in a normal fashion, we will all be slimmed down and full of vitamins .

Still, my dogs will fare okay. And that counts for something. I bought huge sacks of their usual diet.  Don’t want to let down the dogs.  And  there’s no danger of me eating their food in the middle of the night. At least I hope there isn’t. I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe its not all that bad. There are nice looking drawings of fresh salmon and vegetables on the sack. And a rushing stream. Peas still in the pod. Fresh tomatoes.  All in all, just one more reason why I better  hurry up and get further in to my new meditation class. A more relaxed and transcendent me isn’t going to want anything to do with canned ravioli in the middle of the night. Maybe. Though I’m not so sure about the dog food.

A conversation in the parking lot at the market.

Posted June 23rd, 2011

Yesterday as I left the supermarket, a  middle aged woman in a floral print blouse and nondescript black pants  blocked me on my way to my car. She looked a little beat up but, speaking as a person who often looks a little beat up herself ,  I didn’t want to judge her.  At the same time, I thought it was pretty annoying the way she stepped right in front of me  and stopped my progress. Up until that point, I had been clipping right along, making very good time leaving that market. I hate that market. I couldn’t wait  to get out of there.

But before I could begin to offer her any of the surly snarly attitude  for which I am internationally beloved,  she got my attention. “Do you know what pellagra is?” she asked me.


Now there was a word I hadn’t heard in casual conversation in a while.  Instantly I was impressed and interested. Apparently, I thought to myself, she is raising money to fight pellagra, a disease that has kind of fallen in to the  reliquary with scurvy and rickets. Good for her, I was now thinking, wondering when she was going  to lead me over to a card table. If I’m going to be corralled in to making a donation, I had concluded at this point, I’m glad its to fight pellagra. I mean, why should  all my funds only be going to more contemporary and fashionable diseases like cancer, AIDS and MS when pellagra goes over looked and unaddressed.  It  deserves my attention.

So I answered her. “Yes, I’ve heard of it.” I said, ” Isn’t it a disease caused by a vitamin deficiency? Actually, I think maybe my uncle had it.”

I threw that uncle thing in  to make the conversation a little more personally relevant . That way when she hit me up for funds, I’d have a better reason to be generous.

““No,” she said, ” It causes people to disappear. And then the birds get bigger.”

“Oh. Right. Right.” I said, now understanding why she wasn’t carrying a clipboard or a cannister or offering me any pamphets”  I guess that isn’t what my uncle had after all. Okay. Well, good. Thank you.” Then I pushed past her and made a beeline  to my car.

And as I drove away, and revisited all the details of our exchange,  the thing that  I couldn’t get over is that I THANKED HER.

When did everyone decide they’re all so HOT?

Posted June 10th, 2011
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I know for a fact that there are no nude pictures of me circulating anywhere . For one thing, I never had any taken. I’m just not the type to do that. I also felt that it would somehow take away from my work . By which I mean; how could I hope to make a living pointing out other peoples imperfections if mine were glaringly on display?  Which brings me to this: When did everyone everywhere decide they were so goddamn hot that they needed as many strangers as possible to see them naked? I mean, there has always been a group of people whose job definitions included naked posing. But  it didn’t used to be most of us.

Just a few years ago, when people thought about fulfilling their potential, they didn’t necessarily mean that they hoped they could one day rise to enough social prominence and popularity  to be permitted to pose for pictures with their butts sticking out . Back then,  a guy who looked like Anthony Weiner would have woken up in the morning, looked at himself in the mirror and thought “Well, I’m not the best looking guy but, know what?  I look pretty good. For me. I mean, for an average looking human who  looks a great deal like a ferret , thumbs up.  I’m doing okay.”

But then it somehow  came to pass that Paris Hilton and her pals had so much  influence on the culture at large that being “hot” became part of every job definition.  And its left me feeling nostalgic for the time when there was still a nice range of different ways to display embarrassing egomania in a public persona. There were dignified loud mouths (see: Prince Phillip).  There were substance abusing show offs (see: Rose, Axel) even in the political arena (Kennedy,Ted).  You could present yourself as a brilliant scientist or an interesting smart ass and not  also feel the need to pose unclothed holding only  a towel. Really. Its true!  I swear I’m not making this up.  In those days, politicians with bad judgment used to date strippers and put them on the payroll.(See: Mills, Wilbur.) But now they’ve fallen under the influence of  that old feminist saying:”We have become the men we wanted to marry.” Today’s politicians have finally become the strippers they wanted to put on the payroll.

I’ve heard people say that the naked picture thing is now such a common  by product of internet social networking that it’s not even worth a raised eyebrow. Yet the  problem with a sexting elected official continues to reside in the notion that where human behavior and character is concerned, the whole is the sum of its parts. Because the only reason to even have an election is to pick out a special member of the group who can best represent that group’s unified interests. On the other hand, if sending out pictures of your dick is now so ho-hum that it can no longer  even be classified as bad judgment, I guess those of us who still have it filed that way may need to  download some cultural software updates. Or move to Great Britain.

And having said that, I have to confess that I kind of count on not seeing naked lusty butt shots  of the people I most admire. I hope there are no naked pictures kicking around  of  Jane Goodall or Mark Twain or Robert Benchley or Kurt Vonnegut Jr. or Lynda Barry . I would be heartbroken to learn that David Attenborough had taken pictures of himself without his pants and sent them out to everyone who said they liked his BBC documentaries about shrews, terns and horseshoe crabs.  (And this despite the fact that I have noticed that every one of his docs includes footage of him sitting inches away from a pair of some bird, mammal or reptile who are smack  in the midst of coitus.)

So I guess I am calling for a return to a wide variety of colorful, interesting and individually chosen paths to ego-maniacal career destruction. It seems like a good idea to me to leave the naked dick and boob shot approach to those winners of the genetic crap shoot  in desperate need of some updates on their IMDB profiles.

(PS:I have a new book coming out in November. Its a book of funny essays. And its definitely my most personal set of essays ever. Years of writing novels have opened some kind of trap door that is now impossible to close. I hope its stuff that the people who like my other books will want to read.

If there’s a theme to the book, its the never ending task of coping with the crazy people who surround us all. ( I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who is surrounded by crazy people. Am I? I’m not, am I?)  I have been trying to learn something, anything, from these experiences, since, as I understand it, that seems to be kind of the point. And for the sake of the book,  I’m going to go ahead and assume there is a point.

For example, the book contains  a piece about my problematic relationship with my extremely critical seemingly un-pleasable mother and the odd, thoroughly irritable travel diaries that I saw for the first time after she died.  I quote from them ver batim, which made me pretty nervous. But having gotten laughs  the few times I got up the nerve to read from them on stage, I was encouraged to turn them in to an essay that tries to add up the pieces and draw some conclusions , now that its over.

There’s  an exhaustively thorough piece I began writing as a present to some of my  girl friends, as I sit back watching them  running headlong in to the endless variations of the miseries that dating has to offer.  Its based on a lifetime of  note taking as I lived through my own version of same. Its called “How to Spot an Asshole.” and I’m pretty sure  I didn’t leave anything out.

There’s also a piece called ‘Never Again’ about the nerve wracking experience of falling in love again after swearing off love entirely. And the difference between having this experience  in the first half of life, and  in the second half.

Of course there are also a few pieces about dogs, because they are the craziest people of all.   I analyze why I love them with so much unswerving devotion, considering that they require me to tolerate behavior I will no longer tolerate from people.

I guess I’ll say more about this whole thing as it gets closer to November.

I hope its a good book . You can pre-order it already, I’m told. Its for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Borders Books . The publisher is, once again, Randomhouse.


Sign of the end times: I’m in the Wall St. Journal

Posted May 21st, 2011

Here is the piece they published.

But in case any one is interested, below is the piece before it was cut down by editors. It contains a few extra theoretical jokes. And if you were wondering how a piece like this is born in the first place: the topic was assigned

A Renaissance in Rudeness by Merrill Markoe

Perhaps you read about Lakeysha Beard , the 39 year old woman who was charged with disorderly conduct for talking loudly on her cell phone in the designated Quiet Car of an Amtrak train, as she traveled from Oakland California to Portland Oregon. According to the Oregon State Troopers who finally escorted her off, she had talked non- stop for 16 hours, despite repeated complaints and warnings.

At first I viewed this story as a perfect parable of modern-rudeness. I began to make a Gilbertian list in my head of other people I’d like to see similarly restrained.

I wished for the arrest of people who refused to maintain eye contact during a conversation because they were texting; giddy at the thought of cell-phoners in theatre audiences, restaurants and long lines being taken away in hand cuffs. But my joy was cut short when it occurred to me that even bothering to have a negative opinion about the above was casting myself as a relic from another age. I might as well be quoting quaint pieces of advice by Emily Post about ill mannered people who crinkle the cellophane on their candies during a matinee.

Add up the numbers and it becomes clear that everything we  knew about the working of manners has shifted. Lakeysha Beard is the brave herald of an emerging renaissance of rudeness.

In the old rudeness, rules were made to keep people from intruding on your privacy. In the new civility, the idea that you would have the nerve to claim any place that gets satellite signals as your private space is what is rude, because you are interfering with someone else’s individual rights of expression. By entering any public or private space, even if you hold the mortgage, you are signing a generic release form, agreeing to be an extra, if not a principal player, in the blogs, feeds, videos, webcasts, podcasts and status updates of whoever else happens to be around.

Even in the Rest Room, you are with the multitudes. And everyone you see is in touch with everyone they know. The person in the stall beside you is talking to people in their dorm, who are skyping. The one on the other side is posting a picture of your shoes on their Tumblr.

In this updated model we are 7 billion people, each preoccupied with our own individual broadcast. If for some reason, someone is bothering you by talking too loudly on their cell phone, …. well, what’s stopping you from calling someone yourself, Mr. Selfish Solitude?  And if the person you call is only half listening because they are playing Modern Warfare 3…well, so? By trying to put restrictions on the behavior of others, aren’t you the one who is being rude?  What kind of an egomaniac are you to assume you are so fascinating that everyone should just drop everything else they are doing whenever you show up? Why should your story about what happened to you at work take precedence over the 439 people on Facebook who have been waiting for an hour to get a ROFLMAO?

In the new civility, it is you who is being inconsiderate, demanding the right to sit there quietly while everyone else is busily connecting. Who do you think you are, withholding LOLS and LIKES from those who have LOLed and LIKEd you? Don’t you care enough about everyone you’ve known since grade school and the friends of your friends to at least post a picture of your dinner?

So we see that LaKeysha is not a bad example. She is the  harbinger of what is to come. In her details there is much to learn. For example: after the Amtrak authorities determined that Quiet Car rules had been violated,  LaKeysha was still permitted to talk for sixteen hours before she was escorted off. That train rolled through eleven more stations before the police made her feel “disrespected” By then, she was only one hour away from her home.

Here we see that within the new civility, there are indeed limits to be imposed on public cell phoners. Sixteen consecutive hours now defines the moment where acceptable phone calling disintegrates in to nuisance.

But these limitations are temporary. One day when we all have receivers implanted in our skulls, and no one ever sits quietly, not even during brain surgery, perhaps LeKeysha will be praised in text books as the woman who liberated the skies from remaining cell phone restrictions… finally freeing men, women and children to talk non-stop on flights all the way to Australia and beyond.

And… I gotta run . Sorry to be rude but Drew Friedman just posted a new picture of Shemp on Facebook. I want to be the first to give him an LOL.