The pretty lady and the good guy on the bus, by Mike Birbiglia


How the Greek bail-out works

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough. Everybody is in debt. Everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village. He stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna. The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit. The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town. No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how the bailout package works!
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20,000 feet under the sea – Obituary: John Piña Craven

Swallowing submarines whole

The best story of all concerned what the Soviets mislaid. In 1968 a submarine, K129, disappeared in the Pacific. Dr Craven was ordered to find it, mostly because it might be rogue and about to attack the United States. Halibut detected it, three miles down and wrecked by an explosion, and took 22,000 photos; the CIA then went wild, and in 1974 sent a specially built ship, the Glomar Explorer, to try to raise the submarine. On the pretext of mining manganese nodules, a giant claw would scrape it up; then the underbelly of the ship would open, swallowing the submarine whole.

“I don’t need to be president. It turns out that being Barack Obama is a pretty good gig in and of itself”

Though Mr Axelrod is at pains to relate how his former boss is more human and anguished by tales of woe and suffering than many suppose, he does concede that Mr Obama is astonishingly self-assured, and self-aware.

“I don’t need to be president. It turns out that being Barack Obama is a pretty good gig in and of itself,” he is quoted telling Mr Axelrod, shortly before announcing his candidacy.