Category Archives: Journalist

A Postmodern Giraffe By Writer and Editor Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer (web; twitter) is a humanist/atheist/nontheist/skeptic thinker best known for his seventeen books on psychology, biology, history, and … cycling, the former of which includes the popular Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (2002) and his most recent The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths (2011). In addition, Shermer is the editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine and also writes a monthly column for Scientific American. So, as you can probably infer, if you give this guy a pen, he will probably return it completely drained – along with an essay.

Approaching him at a convention in Fargo, ND, Shermer was happy to contribute though with the proviso that he have full artistic license to do as he wished. Having no problem with this, I let him do as he wished. After a matter of minutes he returned my notebook with what I can only call a classic. Unlike his giraffe-drawing contemporaries, Shermer saw this as an intellectual challenge; instead of just creating a reflection of the social construction we call a “giraffe” he broke it down to its barest essence. And while I am by no standard (but my own) an art critic, I do believe Shermer to be a noble successor to Duchamp and contemporary of Damien Hirst.

This is the future of art.

… And what a sad future it is.

A Giraffe Drawn By Writer and Editor Ben Greenman

Ben Greeman (web; wiki) is a staff journalist whose writings have appeared in Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and The New Yorker (the last of which he actually serves on the staff of). Besides publishing several books of his own fiction he is the ghostwriter of both Gene Simmons and Simon Cowell’s memoirs. Lastly, he really really really wanted his giraffe posted and was willing to tolerate my general procrastination.

On May 9, 2011, during the great Golden Age of GDBPWSNBDG I received a pleasant surprise in my inbox shortly after I invited him to contribute via Twitter (because, like many reasonable people, he was confused by the blog’s thesis). He wrote,

Hi. I found your site and am now submitting a giraffe. I was going to
use pencil and paper, or chalk and chalkboard, or pen and ink and
paper, but instead i used a cheap program I have on my iPhone called
SimpleDraw. Let me know if it doesn’t pass muster or if there’s
something else you need me to do with it. Once I was in Africa,
because my brother used to work there, and I saw a real giraffe. It
was pretty impressive and bizarre. They probably look at us and think
the same thing, that we have impossibly short necks and completely
un-alien ears and eyes.

He’s an artist, I thought, aware of the Conceptual Art Registry he invented to license out conceptual art pieces to young artists, and he’s breaking the mold! Revolutionary!

And then I saw it.


Of course I know very little about art and, without judging, move forward with every intent to post it. Tomorrow.

Next thing I know it’s August 29, 2011, and as I sift through my email I realize something must have slipped my mind.

HI — just wanted to see if you ever posted this giraffe…

It’s really the ellipses that cause the guilt to flow over me. Feeling terribly rude, I try my best to make amends:

Hey Ben,

I would like to begin by apologizing for the four month delay in posting your giraffe. Though in my defense, like a fine wine such work knows only how to age with the utmost grace and beauty – why settle for a $3 bottle of Tisdale when one can have something that I, being an impoverished college student, cannot even name? Upon reviewing your piece again I can see that the experts do not lie: magnificent!
Being in charge of this blog I kind of feel like it’s expected of me even if the humor is stale, stilted and just generally lame. But I try not to be too self-conscious of it and accept it for what it is – it’s just the opener: the beginning foreplay to a great consummation of comedy, if you will.
But in all seriousness: my bad. Most of the summer saw me whisked away and lately I’ve found myself busy with both school and working with a group to plan a conference around Richard Dawkins, which will be taking place in a small, white Lutheran town and thus will likely inflame the region. (Throwing shit at the fan actually requires a fair amount of planning, oddly enough). Unfortunately, this means I’ve had to slow down a bit with the website. Regardless, I’ll make sure your giraffe gets up very soon.
See? I’m not that big of a procrastinator; I have an excuse.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your contribution? Right now I expect I’ll just be writing up a brief blurb about who you are, what you do and include parts of this brief email exchange for humorous effect (hopefully; if that’s all right with you). I should also inform you that this is published in our campus newspaper and if The New Yorker wants to get in on this now is the time.
Another joke! Ha! A real knee slapper. Clearly I’m forcing myself to be silly since I’ve already explained that I’ll include our email exchange as part of the article and since it’s a humor site surely he’s going to say something equally silly and zany. Jest, Ben, jest with me! Together let us dance like monkeys for the masses!
here’s what I have to say about my contribution:I have a friend who recently had a baby. I want this crappy giraffe I draw to take over the world so that he and ever other baby thinks this is what giraffes really look like. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Today is September 23, 2011, and Ben writes:
did the giraffe ever run?

Dan Rather Can’t Draw A Giraffe

For the last few weeks an old friend of mine has been eerily hinting to me he had discovered the Holy Grail and that I should expect to see it soon. Whether it was giraffe related or if he had actually followed the Kensington, MN, Runestone to the Holy Grail in my own regional backyard, he did not say. So in suspense I waited. And waited.

And finally it came.

Groggy, my eyes glazed over and my emotions boiling because of my coffee maker’s inability to do so, I was able to find solace in the form of an email. Opening it, I was blown away:


American Journalist Dan Rather

Journalist Dan Rather

Enclosed is a giraffe drawn by world-renowned journalist Dan Rather, the first man to report on JFK’s assassination and who brought America through every other major event int he 20th century.

He came to St. Olaf College to give a little speech about his life’s work, full of adorable old-man anecdotes and wry smiles. Afterward, my friend Thomas Hegland asked him to draw a giraffe on my behalf. The room went silent, as if everyone was saying “Awww shit. We’re going to be remembered by Dan Rather as ‘that giraffe school.'” However, Dan was more than genial about drawing this pointy creation, but warned my friend Thomas that “If this giraffe ever reaches the public domain, I will deny having anything to do with it, and will place the blame on the world’s greatest Dan Rather impersonator.” The room became less tense, and this giraffe became history.

I’d say Dan should definitely stick to his day-job.


Jordan Montgomery

Upon further prying it was clarified that – unlike every other giraffe obtained so far – this was not something done before a limited crowd. In fact, “the giraffe was drawn in a room full of the leaders of the [St. Olaf’s] Political Awareness Committee and school administrators (about 40 people), definitely a tough crowd.”

Thomas, you’re one brave motherfucker; I tip my hat to you.

For those who may not know who he is, Dan Rather is best known for his 43 years of work for CBS News (24 of these as the anchor of the CBS Evening News). Over the course of these 43 years Rather was the first network television journalist to report the assassination of President Kennedy, went head-to-head with Presidents Nixon, Reagan and even Saddam Hussein. Along the way he picked up some Emmys, seven Peabody Awards and for good measure guaranteed historical immortality by coining the phrase: “This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O.”

He also once said, which could double as commentary on where GDBPWSNBDG is going, “This one’s a crotch-grabber, folks, and I’ll bet a handful of nuts it won’t be over any time soon.