by Tim Chorney
Conference Call Transcript, July 31, 2012
Michael Wright: Alright. I’d like to get this meeting going. As you all know, I’m Michael Wright, President of Programming and I called this meeting to discuss the problems with the production of Bachelor Wars. The conference call is being recorded and transcribed, so please everyone give your name before speaking. I’m going to hand things over to Howie now. Howie.
Howard Schwartz: Thanks Mike. We have experienced some. . .
Michael Wright: Say your goddamned name for Christ sakes. I just told you that.
Howard Schwartz: Sorry, Howie Schwartz, VP of Production here. As I was saying, we have a big problem with the Bachelor Wars production. Our insurance company has cancelled our policy pending a review of the mental state of our performers. As of now, we’ve been forced to shut down the entire production. We simply can’t risk continuing without being insured.
Caitlin Wright: For fuck sakes!
Michael Wright: Name hon.
Caitlin Wright: Sorry dad. It’s . . .
Michael Wright: Don’t call me dad on a conference call.
Caitlin Wright: Okay, Mike. It’s Caitlin Wright, VP of Marketing. Where was I? Oh yeah. For fuck sakes! Why have they cancelled our insurance? Is this because of that incident on the Teacher Wars set over at Fox Studios?
Howard Schwartz: Yes. They’re reviewing all of their policies relating to reality television because of it. All the insurance companies are doing the same to the other networks.
Caitlin Wright: So one contestant shoots another contestant on the set of a reality show and now we’re shut down? It’s a fucking outrage.
Howard Schwartz: Actually, it was seven people who got shot.
Caitlin Wright: I’m aware it was seven. I read the goddamned papers. So it was seven. We’re talking about reality show contestants. Who gives a shit about these flakes? That nut over at Fox probably did humanity a favor by weeding them out of the gene pool.
Howard Schwartz: These flakes are the backbone of our industry right now. So unless you want to pay for real performers, we need them.
Caitlin Wright: Look, it’s too bad they’re dead, but there’s lots more where they came from. They’re as plentiful as Kentucky meth labs. I just can’t believe our insurance company is making such a big deal out of this. What’s this shutdown going to cost?
Tom Blitz: Tom Blitz, VP of Finance. I can answer that. It’ll cost us $1 million a week, give or take.
Michael Wright: Are you kidding me? A million? It’s a son-of-a-bitching reality show, not the winter Olympics! I feel like I’m having my ass reamed out with a pointy stick. Can’t we just lay everyone off until we can get back into gear?
Tom Blitz: By contract, we can get rid of the contestants anytime we want. We can turf them. We can lay them off. We could probably stuff them in a canon and fire them into the Pacific Ocean. It’s all legal. The problem is the technical staff and the writers. The writers are particularly problematic. They cost us a fortune and by contract, we have to keep paying them during the shutdown.
Michael Wright: You’ve got to be kidding. Which of our lawyers drew up this contract? I’d like to fire those fuckers into the Pacific Ocean. Tom, can I fire them into the Pacific Ocean?
Tom Blitz: Legally, I don’t believe so.
Michael Wright: Goddamn writers – all with their hands out. It’s like having a school of lobsters lined up to pinch your dick. I have a simple question. Why are we paying so much to writers on a reality show? I thought the whole point of this goddamned genre was that you didn’t have to pay for writers.
Howard Schwartz: I have to interject. Things have changed, Mike. No offense, but that thinking is so 1992. We need writers and plenty of them – even on a reality show – maybe especially on a reality show. You take the writers out of reality television and do you know what you have? This Old House from PBS. Is that the type of project you want to be associated with? I’d rather be on a sex offender registry.
Michael Wright: Relax, Howie. I’m not going fuck my own ass. There’ll be no This Old House on my watch. You can keep your mother-fucking writers.
Phil Tanner: Hey, Howie. Phil Tanner, VP of Development here. You never told us what we had to do to get our insurance reinstated.
Howard Schwartz: We have to get all of our contestants tested for traits of psychopathy.
Michael Wright: What the fuck are you talking about? What, like to see if they’re psychopaths? I thought we did a full criminal record check on these freaks.
Howard Schwartz: Oh, we did, but just because they don’t have criminal records, that doesn’t mean they aren’t technically psychopaths.
Michael Wright: I’m not following.
Howard Schwartz: Psychopaths wreak havoc on those they come into contact with, but the majority live and work amongst us without ever getting arrested for anything. They function right on the edge of the legal system. And we’re talking about millions of them. The world’s top authority on the subject, Dr. Robert Hare, estimates that one percent of the population would qualify as psychopaths according to the test he devised.
Michael Wright: Wow! I didn’t know your autoerotic activities allowed for so much reading, Howie. Impressive.
Howard Schwartz: What’s really interesting about these sub-criminal psychopaths is how successful they often are. They’re natural-born risk takers who often rise to the top of their chosen fields. And the fact that they lack a conscious seems to be a big advantage for them in the business world. One expert calls psychopathy the madness that makes the world go round.
Michael Wright: And that fucker over at Fox was one of those freaks?
Howard Schwartz: Yup. The insurance company’s psychologist tested him after the shooting and he scored 35 out of 40 on Dr. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. Any score over 30 means you’re a psychopath. So here we are.
Michael Wright: Fuck me. What does this test involve?
Howard Schwartz: First, trained clinicians objectively sort through the person’s entire history and follow this up with a series of interviews. Then they rate the subject for psychopathic traits like callousness, superficial charm, impulsivity, poor behaviour controls . . .
Michael Wright: Oh, shut the fuck up, Howie! I’m going to puke up my hundred dollar lunch if I have to hear another word of this shit.
Tom Blitz: Mike, we should probably hear this.
Michael Wright: Alright. Alright. I don’t care anymore. I’m bending over right now, Howie. Keep giving it to me.
Howard Schwartz: Psychopaths are pathological liars and manipulators who have an inflated sense of their own worth and abilities. They tend to be overbearing braggarts. They often . . .
Michael Wright: Look, I can fix this entire problem. I’ll make a call to the president of our insurance company and this will all go away. Just watch me. Is Karen Redd still in charge over there? I’ll take her out to dinner. She’ll be putty in this stud’s hands. Howie, I guarantee that we’ll be up and running within a few days. If I have to, I’ll just tell her that we’ve already had our monkeys tested. She’ll buy it. I can be a pretty convincing bull-shitter.
Tom Blitz: I hope you’re right. We can’t afford for this production to be shut down for any length of time.
Michael Wright: Okay, I’m going to adjourn this meeting until I can talk to Karen Redd and get our insurance reinstated. None of you girls worry your pretty little heads. I guarantee we won’t have a problem with Karen Redd. We’ll reconvene this call in a few days.
Conference Call Transcript, August 3, 2012
Michael Wright: Michael Wright here. Yeah, we’ve got a big problem with Karen Redd. She’s not budging on the insurance issue.
Tom Blitz: Mike, it’s Tom Blitz. I thought you were going to use your charms to convince her to reconsider. This shutdown is going to kill us.
Michael Wright: I tried. Three hundred bones on dinner and I got nowhere with her. I flirted my ass off. I had charm pouring out of every goddamned orifice. Nothing. When I finally asked her to reinstate us, she acted like I had just dipped my wang in the clam sauce. I don’t know what her problem is. Howie, she’s not going to take her heel off our balls until we get the contestants tested by a qualified psychologist. There’s no way around it.
Howard Schwartz: I’m way ahead of you. I’ve already started the process. We’ll be all done in about two weeks.
Michael Wright: Motherfucker. You didn’t even wait for me to get back to you? I’ll remember your lack of confidence. Okay, I guess we can’t do anything until we get the results back. We’ll eat the cost until then. Hopefully, they’ll all pass and that will be it. I’ll talk to you shitheads then.
Conference Call Transcript, August 19, 2012
Michael Wright: Okay Howie. Short and sweet. Let’s hear the results.
Howard Schwartz: They all failed.
Michael Wright: What! Motherfucker! All of them?
Howard Schwartz: Every one.
Michael Wright: That’s impossible! You said only one out of a hundred people are psychopaths. What are the odds that all 12 could test positive?
Tom Blitz: It’s a number too big to comprehend.
Michael Wright: Christ. It almost seems like our contestants are predisposed towards being psychopaths.
Tom Blitz: Gee, do you think?
Michael Wright: Tom, you’re pissing me off. VPs are almost as common as reality show contestants, so you better watch your goddamned step.
Howard Schwartz: We’re not the only ones crawling with psychopaths. I’ve heard from the other networks and almost all of their reality contestants failed their psychopathy tests too. Ninety-six percent to be exact.
Michael Wright: Holy fuck! This is unbelievable. It’s like the whole reality TV business is filled with wackos.
Tom Blitz: And this is surprising how?
Michael Wright: Fuck off, Tom. Caitlin, what do you think?
Caitlin Wright: Caitlin Wright here. . .
Michael Wright: We know who the fuck you are! Caitlin, what do you think?
Caitlin Wright: Sorry. I’ve got a crazy idea. I’ve been doing some research online and psychopaths are hot right now.
Michael Wright: Hot?
Caitlin Wright: White hot. Novels, TV, movies. Psychopathy as a subject matter is everywhere in the news. You know what Cosmo’s cover story is this month? Psychopaths: Why Are They So Damn Sexy? It’s incredible. So I say we run with the psychopathy theme and do a reality show that features real-life psychopaths. We can cancel Bachelor Wars right now. We won’t even need new contestants. We have 12 proven psychopaths under contract.
Michael Wright: This is brilliant! I love the psychopath theme. It kills!
Caitlin Wright: Psychopaths are notorious for their inability to bond or work together so I suggest we do a show where we have two teams, give them competitive tasks and watch the fireworks! While they’re busy slitting each other’s throats, we’ll be bringing in ratings gold.
Tom Blitz: You’ve just described every reality show that’s out there now.
Michael Wright: The difference is that our psychopaths are clinically-tested psychopaths. Not only that, but we’ll search out better psychopaths than any other show. What’s the typical psychopath score, 30 out of 40? We’ll go for 35 plus. There won’t be any run-of-the-mill psychopaths for us – only top quality. They’ll have psychopath credentials out the yin-yang and we’ll market them as such. Reality TV may be full of psychopaths, but we’re going to make it the centerpiece of our show. People will tune in to see them tear each other to bits.
Caitlin Wright: And the cross-marketing opportunities will be substantial. Just think – psychopath trading cards, psychopath apparel, psychopath board games. There’ll be no end to it. The product spin-offs will make us a goddamned fortune.
Tom Blitz: Don’t we still have an insurance issue?
Michael Wright: You know, I’ve been thinking about that. I’m a bit of a gambler. Fuck the insurance. We’ll forgo it. Work without a net – like a fucking flying Wallenda. I’ve always dug those guys.
Tom Blitz: A lot of those bastards eventually went splat.
Michael Wright: We won’t.
Tom Blitz: I would strongly counsel against going without insurance. You’re going to turn this network into a fucking squished Wallenda. Pardon my language Mike, but I think you’re being a bit of a cunt on this.
Michael Wright: Maybe I am a cunt. But this network is a cuntocracy, and I’m making this call alone. We’re going to roll the dice. We’ll cancel Bachelor Wars and start anew. No insurance. Let’s go with Psycho Wars as a title. It’s catchy and on point.
Caitlin Wright: Definitely on point.
Michael Wright: Being that it’s a new production, I assume that we can wiggle out of our contract with the writers. Can we do that? Can we get rid of those parasites once and for all?
Tom Blitz: If it’s a new production with a new name, I think we can.
Howard Schwartz: So my fucking writers are gone now?
Michael Wright: Haven’t you been listening, dickweed? Your whole fucking show is gone. You can produce the new psychopath show if you want. It’ll be the opportunity of a lifetime for a hack like you. Sorry Howie, but Bachelor Wars was a fucking dog anyway.
Howard Schwartz: And the writers?
Michael Wright: There are no fucking writers! Jesus Christ, you’re thick. With our super-psychopaths we won’t need any writers to create drama. It’ll spring from the situations. We’re going to be true to the genre. We’re going to put the reality back into reality television.
Caitlin Wright: I can’t fucking wait. Our kick-ass psychos will make the other network’s psychos look like boy scouts.
Phil Tanner: We’re definitely bringing a gun to knife-fight.
Tom Blitz: Maybe literally.
Michael Wright: Hey Tom. You know what? You’re fired. I’m sick of your attempts to undermine this psychopath project. I want you out of here now!
Phil Tanner: I’ve got an idea. Since we’re rolling the dice anyway, let’s push this motherfucker to its logical conclusion. I say we bring in the contestants who failed the criminal background check in the first place. I’ll bet their psychopathy scores are off the charts.
Caitlin Wright: Fucking awesome! Wait. How about we talk to some prison psychologists and round up a bunch of parolees from the prison system? They’ve already been tested so we won’t have to pay for that expense.
Phil Tanner: We could also incorporate the use of tasers into the competition.
Caitlin Wright: How concerned should we be about the morality of all this?
(A pause then laughter)
Michael Wright: Oh, Christ! Good one, Caitlin. You actually had me going for a second. Well, this is all fucking brilliant! We’re going to push reality TV where it’s never been before. It’ll be psychopathy as high art. We’ll need a budget. Tom, you still there?
Tom Blitz: (Sighs) Yeah, I’m still here.
Michael Wright: Great. You’re hired back. You and Howie draw up a budget for this cocksucker and let’s get going. Make this happen, guys!
Conference Call Transcript, September 29, 2012
Michael Wright: Okay, let’s get started. Howie, what the fuck happened over there?
Howard Schwartz: It’s still early, but it seems like one of our psychos, Dylan McMichaels, shot all of the other contestants right on the set. He showed up this morning with an AK-47 and let everyone have it. The police are questioning him, but there’s apparently no motive as of yet.
Michael Wright: Jesus Christ. How many dead?
Howard Schwartz: It appears all them – except McMichaels of course.
Caitlin Wright: Holy fuck! This is a disaster. Where in the fuck are we going to find 12 new psychos on such short notice?
Howard Schwartz: I don’t know. We have plenty of borderline psychopaths who didn’t make the cut the first time round, but they’re definitely of lower quality.
Phil Tanner: Fuck! We’ll never be able to replace those psychos. They were fucking prime. I think the lowest score was 36. We can’t use borderline, candy-assed psychopaths. We’ll be no different than any other reality show. Christ, The Amazing Race will have higher grade psychos than us. This is an unmitigated disaster.
Michael Wright: Don’t panic! Don’t panic! We’ll get some more psychos. If I have to drive a tank through the walls of San Quentin to get some quality psychos, that’s what I’ll do. I can fix this.
Caitlin Wright: I have an idea. Howie, do we have footage of the shootings as they occurred?
Howard Schwartz: Yeah, we rolled on everything. The footage is incredible – in a sad sort of way.
Caitlin Wright: Great! Here’s a new angle. A reality show about reality show producers. It will be all about us and our work. Can you imagine kicking things off with this incident on the set of Psycho Wars? The buzz would be so hot.
Michael Wright: Fucking brilliant! Caitlin honey, you’re a genius. A fucking genius. How come the rest of you drones don’t come up with shit like my baby? It must be in the genes. Howie, you’re going to produce. It’ll be an opportunity of a fucking lifetime.
Howard Schwartz: Can I have writers?
Michael Wright: No fucking writers! I can pull better shit out of my ass than anything your writers can come up with. I forget, is Tom on the call or did I fire that motherfucker?
Tom Blitz: I still work here.
Michael Wright: Good. You and Howie come up with a budget. No fucking writers. You know what to do. We need a title. Any ideas?
Phil Tanner: How about Producer Wars?
Caitlin Wright: Fucking awesome! So on point.
Howard Schwartz: I like it! It’s way on point.
Michael Wright: Great title, Phil. Let’s go with it. Fuck, I’m excited! Let me check something. Yup, I’ve got a fucking boner. Okay, we’ll reconvene the conference call after we draw up a budget. This is going to be huge. We’re all going to be big stars and I’m going to be the next George fucking Clooney. I’m glad the focus is going to be on us. I really didn’t like the idea of cavorting with those sleazy, reality show psychopaths in the first place. Yes. Yes. I don’t know about you fuckers, but I’m definitely ready for my close-up.
“My Attachment to Staples”
by Tim Bass
Without staples, our papers misbehave. One sheet hides under a book. Another floats around the room on the winds of the ceiling fan. Still another tumbleweeds toward the utility room, where it will rest forever in the one-inch opening beneath the washing machine. The staple brooks no such foolishness. It gets our pages in line and keeps them there. With just one quick punch, the staple bonds with those unconfederated misfits, and in an instant they become one—functioning as a unit, militarily efficient and orderly, marshaled by a single, U-shaped strand of no-nonsense metal.
With the staple on duty, virtually nothing can separate our papers. A staple-remover might do it, but mine has been lost in the clutter of my desk since the day I bought it. We could try prying off the staple, but it will fight back by sinking its silver fangs into the tender skin under our fingernails. Likewise, I do not recommend snatching up the pages and ripping them apart. This savage act has always left me shamed and unfulfilled, each hand clutching shreds of paper—with the staple still in place.
Staples stay put.
The paper clip is a different creature all together. Instead of uniting with my pages, the paper clip keeps an impersonal distance—it merely slips over the top and bottom sheets in an uncertain effort to hug everything in place. Too touchy-feely. The paper clip’s heart is not in the work. It relies on hope, and we all know hope is just not good enough in the paper-fastening business.
Sure, the paper clip pleases the eye. Its slender body, curvy construction, and glossy finish cut an elegant figure among all those plastic, angular utensils in our work space. However, this high-fashion front forms a twisted misimpression, for the paper clip suffers from a crooked character and a fear of commitment. It clings to the chance that another, better batch of papers will come along any minute, and then off it will go—leaving me unfulfilled and in disarray. The promiscuous paper clip will hook up with anything. We simply cannot tolerate infidelity in a desktop tool.
Even when it goes to work, the paper clip merely masquerades as a metal mate for my papers. It loops over the pages and holds its breath against the worry that everything will fly apart in even the slightest breeze. The staple, on the other hand, huffs once and breathes easily, resting assured that no ill wind—not even a gale—can undo its handiwork. The loopy paper clip suggests that my pages stay together. The earnest staple demands it. Under stress, the paper clip gets bent out of shape. The staple has a nerve of steel.
And the staple is versatile. When pressed into service, it proves its mettle not only with sheets of paper, but also with bags, boxes, laundry, and anything else that needs to be shut, stuck, clamped, or clutched. The staple holds handbills to utility poles, prevents school lunches from spilling, and pins carpet padding to wooden floors. Doctors use staples to sew patients back together. Imagine trying to close a sword wound or mend a ripped lung with a paper clip.
We can count on staples as our mighty, unsung ally. Staples mean business. Staples get the job done.