What's Your Problem?


My 10-month-old son likes to eat your magazine. Can you tell me which parts are certified organic?

E.A., Katy, Texas

Dear E.A.,

According to John Kefferstan, The Atlantic’s production chief, the magazine uses mainly soy-based ink, paper pulp, and rhino horn to make the printed product your child is eating. As the magazine moves through the final stages of the production process, it is coated with marijuana, along with an invisible solution designed to make its readers 15 percent smarter than they already are. Finally, each magazine is hand-dipped in hummus, for taste. Good eating! Might I suggest your son try the articles written by James Fallows? They’ll help him get into Harvard.

I cannot get my 14-year-old son to stop speaking in sports clichés. He’s beginning to sound like an ESPN announcer, even when we’re not watching sports: “no lead is safe,” “they’re really lighting up the scoreboard,” “this is a real pressure cooker.” We were watching The King’s Speech the other night, and my son said, of the Geoffrey Rush character, “He’s really putting on a clinic.” What can I do about this?

J.T., Manchester, N.H.

Dear J.T.,

You have a few options. You can get him a job at ESPN (I understand that it is an agreeable place for males to work). Or you can expand his observational range by buying him a book of late-19th-century British witticisms, ideally one with an aristocratic bent. I recommend Douglas Jerrold’s Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures, which puts the young people I know in stitches. Regardless, consider yourself lucky—not only do most teenagers not speak English, they rarely speak at all. You, by contrast, have a son who can construct, or at least regurgitate, sentences. He should be fine, as long as he gives 110 percent in school.

I don’t have a problem for you to solve—I have a solution to all your problems! The answer to your problems, and those of your blessed readers, is the Goddess, the Divine Mother, the creatrix who represents higher human consciousness and the essential femaleness of the beloved Earth Mother. Will you tell your readers that faith in the Goddess will end disharmony and that the intoxicating love of God in the Feminine has the power to stop wars, hatred, and pollution? Will you? You cannot join our movement, because you are wombless, but you can be an ally!

R.C., Albuquerque, N.M.

Dear R.C.,

This columnist, by custom, leans toward pluralism, and therefore seeks the good in all religions, except the ones he doesn’t like. Moreover, he has always suspected that he is not, in fact, wombless. Nonetheless, he will not endorse a neo-pagan movement that demands of its adherents repeated visits to a “menstrual hut.” (You can look it up on the Internet.) On the other hand, if goddess worship were to be conducted in a “prostate cave” or “sports bar,” he might be enticed to reconsider.

My wife has difficulty falling asleep, so she is trying a new “ambient-sound machine,” which creates allegedly soft sounds, such as breezes, waves lapping the shore, whale calls, and the like. The problem is that I find ocean sounds and whale songs (or whatever they’re called) very discordant. Is there something wrong with me? I’m an environmentalist, so I should like whale and ocean sounds.

P.N., Berkeley, Calif.

Dear P.N.,

Numerous scientific studies have shown that while you can tune a piano, you can’t tuna fish.

Editors’ Note

The Atlantic Media Company apologizes for the previous joke. The writer of this column has been trying to see it into print since at least the presidency of George H. W. Bush.

Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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