Exhibit 22.10

Rejected Halloween Costume Ideas

I actually don't really like the costume aspect of Halloween all that much, but I feel like I have to at least try. This year's rejected possibilities:

* Zombie Updike - I really just wanted to carry around a book that said Brains, Rabbit Brains. Too soon.

* Carcetti - Man, I would be such an awesome Carcetti, but informal polling suggests no one knows who Carcetti is which, frankly, is just sad. The only one of my students who'd heard of The Wire said, You watch BET? and then everyone laughed.

* Snoop - Man, I would be such a terrible Snoop. Still, I would love nothing more than to try to replicate this conversation. It might get a little awkward when children come to the door and I ask them about nail guns.

* Lego Guy - I'm pretty sure this has been my dream costume since I was 8. Unfortunately, I lack several of the necessary elements to make it happen. A red sweatshirt for one.

* One of the Jonas Brothers - This is what my students suggested for me. At the time I thought they just figured all white people looked the same but now it seems clear that I probably could pull off 2.5 out of the 3 which upsets me quite a bit. I don't even really know who the Jonas Brothers are. I watch BET, damnit.

* The businessman from the cover of Aerobiz - Because at first no one would get it then they'd see me holding a phone and yell, Like the businessman from the cover of Aerobiz! Okay, that would never happen.


Exhibit 22.9

Postcard to Houston

Dearest Houston,

I think gnats are trying to eat my face.
What do you think?



Exhibit 22.8

New Cupboard

A Brief Encyclopedia
of Modern Magic
with tricks you can do at home!

by Michael Stewart

Now Available‏
1 tape-bound volume
Designed by Brett Yasko
$15/year subscription, $5/individual

The Cupboard is pleased to announce A Brief Encyclopedia of Modern Magic by Michael Stewart which will immediately become the most important compendium of magical knowledge you own.


Every illusion carries a price and no one is more aware of that than the wondrous, tragic magicians detailed here. They know darkness that leaves scars. They know failure that gives birth to terrible life. They know their journey is one of haunting, their competition one that doesn't end with this world. Did it never occur to us they keep their tricks a secret to protect us?

Plus tricks you can do at home!

(You should never do these tricks at home.)

Read excerpts here.


Michael Stewart is a writer and professor living in Providence, R.I. He teaches creative nonfiction at Brown University where he graduated with an MFA in 2007. His work has appeared in a variety of journals including Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, and elimae among others. Recently, he has been anthologized in both Thirty Under Thirty and Best of the Web. More of his work can be found at strangesympathies.com.


The best way to enjoy The Cupboard is to subscribe. The Cupboard publishes four great volumes per year and this, our fifth volume, begins our second year. Now is the time. One year=$15. Subscribe here.

Past volumes from Louis Streittmatter, Mathias Svalina, and Caia Hagel are also available individually for $5.

Note: If you've been a subscriber since the birth of The Cupboard, your subscription is now up. We hope you will renew it. Thank you so much for your support.


Exhibit 22.7


Yesterday it rained for what seemed to be 18 consecutive hours. According to the Chronicle 2.43 inches fell which is more than most (all?) Nebraska counties see in the entire month of October.

(Somehow I'm still only reading the Chronicle for blog research which leads to awkward conversations like when an older couple asked if I worried about the arsonist who has been terrorizing my neighborhood. But you have to understand, from my perspective, I can either worry about arsonists and Yao Ming's foot or I can live a blissful life where arsonists and Yao Ming's foot only exist if they're mentioned in Ulysses or Brett chews on one).

Other than a slightly terrifying drive on a very wet, very busy freeway, this rainfall was mostly notable for explaining why everyone here carries umbrellas. My students laughed at me when I arrived drenched to class and rightfully wondered why I didn't have one myself. I guess I could have explained to them that in elementary school the most popular kid told everyone umbrellas were gay, but I'm not sure they would have bought this unless I could actually get Josh on the phone to explain it to them. And, honestly, what are the odds he'd even answer my call from the space station mansion where he lives with Kelly Kapowski?

So I guess I need to get one, but now it's not raining and I've already given up. There are just too many choices.

Animal Shaped

Too Plaid

Movie Tie-in

Only Duck Head

The Full Duck

Probably British

Arsonist Proof

I mean, I know I should just go with arsonist proof and be done with it, but I think I'm going to need to get the okay from Josh first.


Exhibit 22.6

Titles, Mostly Pun-Based, One Might Use for a Paper on Ulysses

1. Oxen of the Fun - Joyce and the playful metanarrative

2. Blaze a Trail - Boylan's battle through Dublin as Iliad to Bloom's Odyssey

3. What is a house without potted (m/s/t/n/p/b/f/h)eat? - Joycean advertising and the linguistic subversion of consumption

4. Youlysses? Melysses. - James Joyce and the Compulsorily Subjective

5. Hello, Molly! - The collapse of operatic structure and the invention of the modern musical

6. Bloom-ing Onion - Outback Steakhouse's signature appetizer as high-modernist death adventure

7. Wondering Tocks - The broken chronograph as anti-modernist signifier and the violence of temporality

8. Dub(ious)lin- Irish nationalism, the death of Parnell, and the dissolution of colonial consensus

9. Wilde Girls - Gerty MacDowell and Millie Bloom as vanguards of a feminization of Wildean conceptions of sexuality

10. I said yes I will No - Affirmations of resistance and the turn toward the post-sexual


Exhibit 22.5

Tattoo Ideas for Someone Else Sorted by Decreasing Likelihood

Neighborhood Watch Sign

Rotary Phone Dial

Lee Marvin's Tombstone

Frasier Logo

Television Showing Second Quarter of Michigan vs. Michigan State Game

Paul Revere's Engraving of the Boston Massacre

Particularly Riveting Page of Classified Ads


Exhibit 22.4


* This is just crazy. Unless you previously thought you were god and distinctly remember having created the world last Thursday. In which case, no, it is not at all crazy. Regardless, it is fairly awesome.
* Carlin has his sports blog, The Realness Hurts, up and running again. It's possible I might relegate any sports thoughts to that venue. And by possible I mean almost a certainty. I think I have a Royals season review in me and then about 7,900 words I want to write about Tim Tebow and concussions that will probably end up over there. The possibilities are endless for that site.
* Speaking of sports, there was a really nice Times article on a school Ted Ginn Sr. runs for at-risk youth in Cleveland. I bet all of those Dolphins fans feel bad for booing when Cam Cameron announced the selection of the Ted Ginn family. Turns out the Ted Ginn family is fairly awesome.

* No, seriously, everyone bought Naca and Zach's books, right?

* I guess they printed more of these. I'm sorry. You should follow the lead of whomever bought that awesome sounding book on Poe and Lacan and choose wisely.


Exhibit 22.3

Bird Eating Bird

Today's post leans toward the poetry side of this blog's stock photography/dog pictures/gross food/sports/poetry theme. I have plenty more to say about street signs, but that will all have to come later. Naca's book is simply one that you shouldn't wait to read.

A National Poetry Series winner, these poems lend themselves to a variety of readings but for me it's a book of distance. The poems here span the globe and cross languages and what makes it such a touching experience to read is that in all the traveling there never seems to be a home here, something that becomes clear long before the book's center section "House" which agency to the object itself (the house, naturally, chooses to wander). Instead it's a book of vagabond poems, poems that speak in different tongues and argue with each other, poems that seem anxious when forced to settle for even a moment. From "One Foot":

Each footstep, I mill bones to chalk.
Then, sink in soot wherever I stand.
I dream I give up my cane and walk.

But it's not a sad book, not exactly. The disconnection that gives the book a sense of longing gets used just as often for humor. A grandmother struggling with the 'h' in English cries, "My art, my art!" A girl receives junk mail offering her a 'chance' to become Miss USA. The house argues its own pronunciation. These same failings of language, half understandings and tortured vocalizations, can be as universal as they are isolating when with a guide and a funny poem like "Grocery Shopping with My Girlfriend Who Is Not Asian" sees itself undone by a poem like "Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh" which loses any Virgils. It ends:

And then, if I choose to speak like this
who will listen?

The book travels to answer this question from Pittsburgh to Mexico City, from the present to the past, from English to Spanish and back again. It's an impressive journey across great distances done with a remarkable amount of care.

Get here


Exhibit 22.2

Postcard to Houston

Hello, Houston,

Yesterday the electric sign on the freeway that normally tells me about traffic told me a little boy had been kidnapped. I felt awful. I didn't know what to do about the boy or how long it would take me to get to the 59. Today the signs did not mention the boy.

You are like this,


Exhibit 22.1

Things I Would Name This Dog If This Dog Were a Novel and I Were Still Me Struggling to Name a Novel-Dog Something Pretentious/Ominous

* A Congress of Sad Jingles
* Morning in the White Horrible
* Bad Dogs, Good Falls
* Outside The Window They're Coming, They're Coming
* Darkness Befalls the Pug


Exhibit 21.27


* The siblings of our blackjack dealer from Thursday: Jim, Carol, Stacy, Tom, Ed, Phil

* Our dealer's name: Thaddeus

* Things I would say if I were a mid-90s comedian - Something about how in a set of silverware no one uses the big spoons or the small forks unless all of the normal-sized utensils are dirty

* Things seen in Nebraska that I will never see again: Snow, Justin Hickman

* Today's temperature in Houston: 85

* CD that has been in my car for days:

* Unanswered questions from Thursday: So did anyone get fired?

* Things implied by an email I just received about an upcoming reading: the elderly author is going to be dead soon.

* Things I would say if I were a mid-90s Canadian - So you guys want to go see The Tragically Hip or should we stay home and watch Life With Mikey?

* Eating scorecard: 1/2


Exhibit 21.26

Postcard to Houston

Dear Houston,

When I come back, I will take you more seriously. You'll know by my short sleeve shirts.



Exhibit 21.25

Gross Things I'm Going to Eat in Nebraska This Week

And by this week I mean every day this week. And by gross I mean gross. One of the underrated parts of living in Nebraska is that the state was neglected by franchisers for long enough that it has a couple of robust regional fast food restaurants. The Amigos "Cheesy" is such an institution that everyone has forgotten it's just a tortilla with cheese and the faintest hint of refried beans, as if it the tortilla came into contact with a dirty table (which it probably did). Somehow this works and Amigos knows it which explains why during my lifetime the price of this particular item has nearly tripled (this leads to a lot of people, friends, parents trying to make cheesi themselves which is a complicated process involving 1) a tortilla and 2) shredded cheddar and 3) an over zealous microwave).

Now they're taking it to the next level which means throwing bacon and ranch dressing into the mix. As horrible as that sounds, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't feel betrayed when I found out about this one week after I moved.

Other things I hope to do in Nebraska: watch my friend Ryan try to recreate one of these in his kitchen using only ingredients at hand. I'm not joking. Before this week is over I will watch Ryan bite into a misshapen tortilla and claim that his Hot Dog Dorothy Lynch Cheesy is just as good as anything at Amigos.

And then there's this monstrosity from KFC which you might have read about. This is the result of another strange Nebraska dynamic--rampant product tests--which results from the state's largest cities being fairly representative demographically.

This is a sandwich with chicken instead of bread, something that is only being test marketed in Omaha and Providence at the moment. I don't even think I like KFC. I certainly don't like whatever impulse led to the creation of this fried blasphemy. But, I mean, I have to try it. Just like I had to try the McDonald's 3-and-1 one during its brief existence as an upscale alternative to, um, McDonald's. Basically, I've edited my internal monologue as such: But they serve their fries in a basket and have club sandwiches made something impossibly terrible.

I don't know why I'm posting this other than to explain to Dave N. why instead of making it to his wedding I'll be either dead or full, probably both. God help me if Runza has some kind of new mushroom and ham Runza in the works.

Actually, the best part of all of this will be me talking about it all weekend, going to a KFC, having two bites, and then spending the rest of the day talking about how I feel sick and am going to become a vegetarian when I get home.


Exhibit 21.24

Scary, No Scary

Zachary Schomburg's new book begins with a choice between scary and no scary. Wisely, it advises you to choose no scary, but it's an empty question. There is only scary here--scary jaguars, scary wolves, scary spiders, scary wolf spiders, scary black holes. And so it's easy to say this is a book about fear, about a darkness in the world we recognize in our youth and, most of us, forget as we grow. Take the poem, "The Old Man Who Watches Me Sleep," which ends:

If you have a soul
it may have been put in there backward.

There's something so innocent in that "there." After expressing uncertainty about the existence of the soul, the narrator accepts it as something physical with an intended space and, as a result, something malleable, something corruptible, something to be inserted, possibly incorrectly. Just like the old man who has wings coming from his chest rather than his back ("a mistake"), the easy readings here are warped by wonder. The old man is not an angel, he's something else entirely, something terrifying not only because of his presence but because of what his flaws mean about the uncertainty in the world he shares with the narrator. This, then, is a fear that rises from imperfect comprehension and incomplete metaphors, the world as a cipher, its symbols dark.

Outside of a poem titled "This Is What You Need to Know about the World, Pretend Son," the book pushes furthest in this direction during a section titled "The Histories," an escalating series of short poems which sever understanding. Here's "The Floor Age":

The chandelier crashes.
There is no chandelier.

There is, of course, also something child-like in this sort of a game which seems to push into those dark places of the world to see how close one will allow themselves to get (like a child keeping a flashlight off for the rush of fear until they just can't take the darkness). But the poems here create a beautiful, haunting world out of this fear and, ultimately, build toward a final long poem, "The Pond," where the world is all the more scary seen through mature eyes. Our comprehension has never been made perfect nor our metaphors complete. We may not be afraid of darkness, but that does not mean we are not afraid of what we've become:

I haven't done everything I've wanted.
I haven't made one of those Viking ships
with a dragon the bow.
I haven't raided Europe.

It's a very different sort of fear, but, I think, equally capable of creating the horrors of the world here as ultimately these gaps in language and meaning are what give rise to imagination. And good lord is there imagination here. It's a funny, brilliant book about how we can't choose no scary. Ever.

From Black Ocean


Exhibit 21.23

On Editing A Novel #16/17


First, you're going to need a copy of Rust in Peace or at least a track listing (Note: this step does not apply to you if you have ever been in Megadeth and/or have ever seen Dave Mustaine in person). Also, substituting Megadeth's other pun-titled album Youthanasia is possible but not recommended. Using a different band or album is prohibited unless you want your religion/novel to be all wussy (Bon Iver).

Next, it's important that you own a Megadeth t-shirt from their Clash of the Titans world tour. People at your church camps/book signings are going to need to be able to recognize you. If you're having trouble locating a shirt, maybe see if you can find someone from Slayer who has an extra sitting around (one-time drummer Paul Bostaph?).

You're also going to need gothic cover art that makes a vague statement about nuclear annihilation, worldwide political conspiracy, and environmental destruction. Also, this cover art is going to have to have a skeleton guy but not one of those happy dancing skeleton guys like wussier bands use (Okkervil River). A menacing skeleton guy but, you know, one with a bit of a sense of humor about it. This is the most important step of editing your novel.

Your chapters should then be named after song titles from the album and the prose replaced with guitar tablature (Note: it is not important for you to be able to play the songs yourself [further note: as long as you are wearing a 7-string Ibanez shaped like a lightning bolt over your Clash of the Titans t-shirt). Once that is done, you will need to register your novel/songbook/primary religious text and apply for non-profit status with the government. This will be the most bureaucratic step of editing your novel (LCD Soundsystem).

Then you wait until someone asks you what your book says about getting a divorce or if it has any techno-thriller elements. Make them listen to "Hangar 18" until they know the answer.