Sunday, December 31, 2006

Dear Jeni,

How can I break the cycle of dry skin?

Tired of Scratching


Dear Tired,

You have all sorts of great options:

1. Move to the equator where there is no winter.
2. Invest in some sessions with a shrink to discover the root of your compulsively neglectful skincare behavior.
3. Add two drops of water (available on tap) into a bath of sweet almond oil ($22.95 for 6 oz.) and soak for two hours daily.
4. Shave off your skin.

Feel free to try them all to find the method that works best for you.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

What is the worst idea anyone ever had?


Dear Anonymous,

The worst idea ever, my lovely reader, is yours! It is horrible to assume that there is such a narrow variety of ridiculous ideas that they all fit on the same scale. To cure you, I refer you to the entertaining book entitled Forgotten Fads and Fabulous Flops: An Amazing Collection of Goofy Stuff That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. Some of the terrible ideas contained therein include smokeless cigarettes and chewable toothpaste. The author, Paul Kirchner, has made a bit of a career of writing about particularly bad ideas as well as those that somehow went horribly awry. And if you need further reading, you can check out Oops: Twenty Life Lessons from the Fiascoes That Shaped America, which includes a miscellaneous chapter that details one of the worst ice cream flavors of all time: equine sushi.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dear Jeni,

Why are you a Jeni and not a Jenny? Don't try to tell me that Jenny is a characteristic of a fake Jeni because I've known several real Jenis who are Jennys. Or should that be Jennies?



Dear jenifan,

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a young girl named Jennifer who longed to escape the confines of her given name and the equally burdensome yoke of the quotidian. Said girl began to thwart the name lavished upon her by doting parents and would shorten her name to Jeni, Jenny, Jen, Jenn, Jenni, Jeny, and other absurd variations. Eventually, she grew tired of such whimsical experiments and settled upon a single spelling using all of her infinite wisdom. A name ending in "i," you see, is a very prized possession among young females. It bestows cuteness upon its owner, allowing her the distinct privilege of adorning the vowel with a bubble rather than a dot. Later, whilst in college, our heroine abandoned her girlish habit of using bubbles and spelling her name in all lowercase letters and grew into the more sophisticated Jeni that you know today.


P.S. The plural of "Jenny" is, of course, "Jennies," suggesting the latent importance of the "i" in all variations of the name.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dear Jeni,

In your opinion, what are the 5 best Christmas movies EVER?


Dear Laura,

What a fine question! Holiday-themed movies are always of the highest quality. Let me introduce you to the best ones for Christmas:

Powerpuff Girls: Twas the Fight Before Christmas (2003). In this masterpiece of cinema, the quirky Powerpuff Girls fight to rescue Christmas from the diabolical plans of---Princess? And quite a frightening threat she must pose too.

Bloody Christmas (2003). A short French film chronicling the adventures of a murderous Christmas tree. A good choice to view following the previous title.

Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979). If Christmas movies in December aren’t enough for you, you can view this film that features Christmas and the Fourth of July in one huge, holiday spectacular. Also features “Frosty’s family magic amulets.” Oh, yeah! By the way, in case you are inclined to think this was some obscure attempt to pander to children, let me note that it had a theatrical release and features the voices of Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman, and Shelley Winters.

One Hell of a Christmas (2002). After serving two years of hard time, a recently released convict becomes “entangled in a web of sex, drugs, and Christmas carols.” A heartwarming story for the entire family.

A Cosmic Christmas (1977). “Three aliens come to Earth to discover the true meaning of Christmas.” Sometimes a teaser tells you all you need to know.

So log on to Netflix, make some popcorn, cuddle up with your loved ones, and let the holiday magic begin.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dear Jeni,

I have noticed recently that the fonts on your blog have been changing from letter to letter. Is this a coincidence, or a clever marketing ploy? Also, may I please have your autograph? Thanks.

A Fan
Dear Mr. or Ms. Fan,

A clever Jeni reveals neither blunders nor marketing secrets. Below is my autograph.

Yours truly,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dear Jeni,

Would you say that George W. Bush is a great president, or the greatest president?



Dear SC,

Greatness lies in inspiration, so Bush is not the greatest president. After all, what has he inspired, other than dogged devotion, venomous hatred, and (of course) a Michael Moore propaganda extravaganza? What sort of paltry accomplishments are these? The greatest president of all time is the little known Turnips for Tots founder and president J. Edgar Hunger. Though his own charitable endeavors floundered for reasons that have yet to be fully articulated and analyzed, he inspired a much more successful charity for children with a similar name.

But perhaps you were referring to the greatest U.S. President. The greatest U.S. President was James Garfield, who indirectly inspired the world's most lovable and tricksy feline, Garfield. Garfield the cat was named after James Garfield Davis (grandfather of the cartoonist Jim Davis), who was named after President Garfield. Garfield the cat unites people of every race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and citizenship in their devoted fan-dom. What better legacy could a person hope for?


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dear Jeni

What is the best way to cure the holiday blues (that does not
invove cats)? I have tried wassailing, hewing a yule log for
the servants, and hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree. I
have even purchased a fat goose and given it to an
urchin, yet I cannot shake the urge to sigh and recline on the
fainting couch. Do rush, as I must bear up the strength to
make figgy pudding soon.

Yours Most Humbly,
Mrs. Astor


My dear Mrs. A---,

By all means, do take yourself unto a better world forthwith!
And be sure to leave your earthly possessions to some urchin
more worthy of them than yourself. The preparing of figgy
pudding is not intended as punishment, and to view it as such
suggests a severe and permanent impediment of the spirit of

a most festive Jeni

Saturday, December 16, 2006


It's cold out! I'm wondering what's the best hot chocolate recipe of all times? Thanks!

C. Moore-Hershey


Dear Hershey,

For the best hot chocolate ever, follow the steps below:

1) Put on snow boots and mittens.
2) Take thee to a local Starbucks.
3) Order a hot chocolate.
4) Enjoy!

To find a Starbucks near you, visit this website.

(For an inferior hot chocolate that you must make yourself, warm some whole milk in a pot over low heat. Add a high-quality dark chocolate bar broken into small pieces. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate is melted. Note: this recipe was not tested by an actual human being.)


Friday, December 15, 2006

Dear Jeni,

Is there a Santa Claus?

An Elf in a Quandry

Dear Elf,

There is not "a" Santa Claus. Instead, there are many Santa Clauses--roughly one per mall.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dear Jeni,

Have you ever read Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad? Why were people back then so easily entertained?

A Postbellum Postulant


Dear Post,

Yes, I have read Twain's fine book about American tourists.

People back then were easily entertained because they had not yet witnessed the monumental comic genius of Adam Sandler and Pee-wee Herman. If they had, they would never have appreciated such ridiculously diminutive, long-winded observations such as the one below.

"We were troubled a little at dinner to-day, by the conduct of an American, who talked very loudly and coarsely, and laughed boisterously where all others were so quiet and well-behaved. He ordered wine with a royal flourish, and said: 'I never dine without wine, sir,' (which was a pitiful falsehood,) and looked around upon the company to bask in the admiration he expected to find in their faces. All these airs in a land where they would as soon expect to leave the soup out of the bill of fare as the wine!--in a land where wine is nearly as common among all ranks as water! This fellow said: 'I am a free-born sovereign, sir, an American, sir, and I want everybody to know it!' He did not mention that he was a lineal descendant of Balaam's ass; but every body knew that without his telling it."

an innocent Jeni

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I see this question on applications, but I never know how to answer it. Do you have any suggestions?
This is the question: "Are you now or have you ever been?"
Uncertain as to reply


Dear Uncertain,

You are quite right to seek advice. It is best to answer all such questions with the utmost of care. Who knows but that the application was devised by Descartes's evil demon and that your answer may not indeed determine your ontological status for all time? And so, I would advise you to answer thus: "I'm uncertain whether I have ever been in the past, I suspect that I may be now, and I most definitely will be in the future."

a Jeni who is and may continue to be

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dear Ms. Jeni,

What is "The Cult of Topaz"?



Dear J,

Topaz is the trusty feline companion of a certain beloved and theatrical English professor, Dr. Joseph Kestner. The Cult of Topaz is a mysterious, anonymous group of students devoted to the true source of Dr. Kestner's inspiration. You may support the cult's activities by purchasing a t-shirt here.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Dear Jeni,
This past year I have made many friends at a particular website. I think one friend has a serious alcohol problem. He says things that hurt other mutual friends, then tries to undue the damage. I suspect he does this while drunk and doesn't remember what he has done. He then says he doesn't understand why certain people are mad at him. He plays the part of the victim. I am a little familiar with situations like this. I had a brother-in-law who was an alcoholic from his early teen years. When he was sober, he was an OK guy. When he was drunk, he was married to two women who didn't know about each other and neither did his family. He did some really bizarre things. When I was a child, I had a neighbor who was alcoholic. He and his family kept it under wraps for many years. I think I was 20 before I realized what was going on. I saw him walking down the road, stumbling and falling several times before he reached his door. Mom told me why!
I guess what I need to know is: What can I say to convince my friends to accept the apologies of the offender and give him another chance? He has sent them some bizarre emails asking for forgiveness. I know it's the alcohol talking. How can I get them to separate the alcohol from the man and understand which is which speaking to them?
Stuck in the middle


Dear Stuck,

I may best answer your question with but a single line: I, an official Jeni, do hereby absolve you of responsibility. The situation is sad, and your concern is certainly understandable. But you are not truly stuck in the middle; you have placed yourself there, and you need to leave at once. You are responsible only for your own actions and words, not for those of others. If your friends ask you about the man, there is certainly nothing wrong with telling them your thoughts and your approach to him. But your friends must choose for themselves whether to respond to this man with forgiveness or with censure. And just as you offer understanding and support to your alcoholic friend, you should extend that same compassion and empathy to your other friends and the difficult choices that they may have to make in regard to this man. Best of luck to you all.