Read a book!

July 18, 1997

Recently the major television broadcasters got together and decided to add new ratings to the system already in use (which uses, for example, ratings such as TV-Y, meaning Y Are You Watching This?). Since these new ratings are confusing and often rely on double meanings, I’ve taken it upon myself to define many of the more complex ratings which are already in use:

  • "Inspired by real events." There really is a town named Minville in Wisconsin.

  • "Based on a true story." A woman named Mary Carter with two daughters and one son actually lives in Minville, Wisconsin.

  • "Family Programming" Guaranteed to offend the largest possible segment of the population.

  • "A Made for TV movie" A group of actors couldn’t find work.

  • "A Made for TV movie inspired by real events" A group of actors who couldn’t find work were bribed into making a shallow social statement.

Since commercials are also going to be subjected to a ratings system, here are a few definitions of terms already in use:

  • "For a limited time only" We’re not sure people will buy it.

  • "Try an old favorite" We’ve fired our New Product Development team

  • "Better than the bargain brand" Does the same job, but comes in a really nifty container

Before I send you on into this week’s offering, a couple of historical events deserve a brief mention:

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts have officially become part of the Smithsonian Museum’s collection. Forming part of the exhibit is the first ever Krispy Kreme doughnut. More importantly, the Freethinker Family has expanded. Sydney Renee Wagner, my neice, was born at 2:03 AM today. As happy as I am about this, I hope this doesn’t mean she’s a morning person.


In prison you spend the majority of your time in an 8×10 cell.
At work, you spend most of your time in a 6×8 cubicle.

In prison you get three meals a day.
At work, you only get a break for one meal and you have to pay for that one.

In prison you get time off for good behavior.
At work, you get rewarded for good behavior with more work.

In prison a guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
At work, you must carry around a security card and unlock and open all the
doors yourself.

In prison you can watch TV and play games.
At work, you get fired for watching TV and playing games.

In prison they ball-and-chain you when you go somewhere.
At work you are just ball-and-chained.

In prison you get your own toilet.
At work you have to share.

In prison they allow your family and friends to visit.
At work, you cannot even speak to your family and friends.

In prison all expenses are paid by taxpayers, with no work required.
At work, you get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct
taxes from your salary to pay for the prisoners.

In prison you spend most of your life looking through bars from the inside
wanting to get out.
At work, you spend most of your time wanting to get out and inside bars.

In prison you can join many programs which you can leave at any time.
At work, there are some programs you can never get out of.

In prison there are wardens who are often sadistic.
At work, we have managers.

This is an actual essay written by a college applicant to NYU.

The author was accepted and is now attending NYU.


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.

Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400.

My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations with the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a Mouli and a toaster oven.

I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.


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