Man, what a strange weekend.

I went to a University of Iowa alumni meeting at a local bar, because the beer was free, and I know a few UI grads in town. I figured it’d be a pretty good time to just hang out, even if I only hung out with my friends the whole time and didn’t really do any networking or anything.

When I got there, none of my friends were there yet, so I just sort of hung out at the bar and stared at the televisions, periodically looking around for people I knew. A whole bunch of strangers, but down at the other end of the bar, nursing a beer and looking lonely, was Ryan Gosling, just hanging out by himself. I was baffled. What was he doing there? Why wasn’t he being mobbed by people?

Well, I was a couple free beers in, so I wandered down to the other end of the bar and sat down next to him. “Hey, man,” I said. “University of Iowa? Class of ’02.”

“’14,” he said. “Ph.D. in Otiotics.”

“No shit,” I said. “I only went there for undergrad.”

None of my asshole friends were showing up, so we just kept chatting. I’d had no idea he was a UI Alum, but apparently he did his time in earnest, even wrote a whole dissertation. And because he’s Ryan Gosling, some commercial publishers were asking him to rewrite it in non-academic language to publish as a mainstream book. Fascinating, right?

“Man, you’re actually interested in my dry-ass academic writing? It’s pretty niche.”

“Hell yeah, I am. It sounds super weird.”

“Well hold up, I’ve got a copy in my car.” He left and then came back, handing me a weird book with vellum pages and leather binding– like, actual leather. I guess Ryan Gosling can afford to have his books printed and bound in a pretty fancy way, and not just slapdash jobs at the local University bookstore. I flipped through it, and each page had something completely strange on it– spot-varnish embossed Hebrew characters, or lacquered characters in Arabic, only visible at certain angles.

“What’s with the weird spot-varnish foreign language stuff?” I asked.

“Oh man, no one’s noticed that before,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.” He seemed kind of upset, so I didn’t follow up.

I kept reading, though. The first third of the dissertation was a collection of lab experiments, but they were all written in a variety of different styles. Some were a lot more literary than they were strictly academic / scientific. I was totally digging it.

The title of the dissertation was “Geographical Origination Identification Via Borborygmatic Emission Descriptors,” which meant nothing to me. When I asked him to summarize, he kind of smirked. “It’s all about how I can tell where someone’s from based exclusively on the way they describe the sound of a fart.”

“You’re crazy, Ryan Gosling,” I said.

Anyway, a few beers later, we headed down to the Salt Lick for some delicious barbecue. When we got there, the place was closed for a private event, but I guess being with Ryan Gosling has some benefits, because they let us in anyway. We stood out horrendously, because everyone else was wearing black dress clothes– it turns out that the private event was a wake. In the middle of the courtyard, there was a huge temporary-construction aboveground pool, and floating in the pool was an open old-timey wooden casket with a dead woman inside.

The barbecue was incredible.


Once upon a time, back in the days when a sense of entitlement had value, a baby boy was born. Because his parents were of a certain class, and were a certain color, and had a certain amount of money, the world was wide open to this boy, and he did not need to work very hard or become very smart in order to attain his goals.

After high school, the boy decided that he wanted to become a doctor, so he went to college, where he performed acceptably, and to medical school, where he was in the bottom ten percent of his class, but graduated. And because he attendeds one of the few medical schools with a Department of Anesthesiology, he became an anesthetic specialist; and because of his name, his class, and his face, he became the Head of Anesthesiology at a large hospital on the West coast.

At that hospital, he was a bad anesthesiologist. This was back in the days when the science was still new: patients were given ether and sodium pentothal; good anesthesiologists killed about one of of every thousand patients with anesthesia alone, and this was an acceptable risk. It was in this field, against these numbers, that this doctor looked bad.

“You don’t understand,” he would say, each time, after the review board had rendered a decision, and then he would explain. “The surgeon nicked an artery, and the patient lost a lot of blood, so of course the ratio of sodium pentothal was too high!”

Or, “They didn’t tell me the patient was missing a leg, so it is understandable that I gave him too much!”

Or, “There is no way that woman only weighed ninety-five pounds! Look at her huge corpse!”

Or, “It was all Joseph’s fault!” Joseph was the pharmaceutical purchasing representative for the hospital. “Joseph kept buying the wrong things, and then those things killed the patients!”

But no one gave credence to his outlandish claims.

After several years, when he had killed enough people, he was let go from the hospital. Because it was known in the medical community that he was not very good at his job, he was unable to find any work at any other hospitals.

So the boy became an anesthesiologist at a large veterinary clinic, where animals were the only things he could accidentally murder at an inordinately high rate.

One day the King of Foxes came calling at the veterinary clinic. He lay his scepter across the front desk, and adjusted his crown. “I seem to have fallen and broken my leg rather badly,” said the Fox King. “It hurts like the very dickens, and I have been assured that you provide the best care. Fix my leg, and everyone here shall be rewarded beyond their wildest dreams. Fail to fix my leg, and my skulk of foxes shall tear you to pieces.”

“Okay,” said the receptionist, and then she called in the doctors, and made the Fox King repeat himself.

All of the doctors kept looking at the anesthesiologist. As everyone knows, a wild animal with a broken leg must be put under general anesthesia in order to undergo surgery.

“For God’s sake, don’t fuck this up,” said the Head Surgeon to the anesthesiologist.

Oh, how the anesthesiologist did sweat. As the doctors took x-rays, he ran into his office and read all about the unique biology of Vulpes Vulpes, the red fox. As the nurses shaved the Fox King’s leg, he carefully noted the Fox King’s weight to the ounce, and began running complicated equations to determine the precise dosage of the anesthesia. As the Fox King spoke with his loved ones, he carefully measured the animal’s mouth and sternum.

The doctors all scrubbed in, and the anesthesiologist put the Fox King under.

After surgery, the entire operating room waited with bated breath. The surgery had gone well. The leg was pinned and casted. The Fox King was still alive, but there are many things that an anesthesiologist can do horribly wrong that will leave a patient alive. No one wanted the King of Foxes to be a vegetable, or even slightly brain damaged.

At last, the Fox King shook his head, muttered, and opened his eyes. He looked down at his cast, and flexed his foot. The nurses scrambled to help him sit up.

“Thank you,” said the Fox King, when he had regained his faculties.

Everyone in the hospital breathed an enormous sigh of relief.

“Take them apart,” said the healed King of Foxes, and his skulk set upon the surgeons and nurses in a flurry of fangs and claws. They yanked the receptionist’s arm from its socket, and broke her neck. They burrowed into the Head Surgeon’s soft underbelly with sharp little teeth. And then they tore out the anesthesiologist’s throat, silencing a scream and leaving him gurgling to drown in his own blood.

As we all know, all foxes are liars; and the King of Foxes doubly so.

Illustration by the lovely and talented Bill Latham.


When one of my co-workers– Kory, my most skilled foosball opponent– was diagnosed with testicle cancer, he was crushed. In the days leading up to his nut-removal surgery, he moped around the office, sipping Earl Grey in a loud and obsequious manner. I decided that something must be done, and took steps. Upon his safe recovery and return to the office, I challenged him to a game of foosball. After the first few points, he got irritated at the odd movements the ball took. “This can’t be regulation,” he said, and held up the foosball for further inspection. Yep, you guessed it— I had sifted through a dumpster’s worth of biowaste and found his removed testicle. I’d shellacked it, and we’d been playing with it the whole time. When the realization hit his face, he unleashed the first yelp of orgasmic joy I’d heard from him in months.


The best class I ever took in college was a four-credit-hour lab in the political science department entitled “The Perceived Safety of Travel: Building the Perfect Car Bomb.” We covered the history, science, and technology of car bombs, from the primitive ignition-based devices and old-school “tilt fuses” to more current mudguard-or-under-seat magnetic bombs. Three-quarters through the semester, the teacher was arrested for high treason and the class was cancelled. The dean emailed the class list, informing us that there would be no substitute teacher and no credit would be given. When I saw him in his office, he informed me that there was no possible way I could justify the car-bomb course as necessary for my Library Science degree. “I see,” I said. “You’re the white Geo Metro outside, RSX593, right?”


In the course of my time-traveling research into classical sculpture, I discovered that the Venus De Milo originally had flailing leather tentacles instead of carved marble arms.  An intricate mechanism housed in her torso made the leather tentacles whip about and lash all those in her immediate vicinity, usually criminals suffering punishment for their crimes; far from being an artistic piece, her original raison d’etre was purely punitive.  However, when I broke into the Louvre and reattached a modern-day tentacle equivalency, I was arrested and sentenced to prison for so-called “vandalism.”  In a perfect world, I’d have been whipped relentlessly by the Venus de Milo herself instead of spending 30 days in lockup.  Where’s the justice in that?