Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

The Morning After

My transition from senior to citizen

Smithsonian magazine, April 2008

By Ben Conniff

At Yale’s commencement, graduates traditionally smoke clay pipes and then trample them to suggest that the pleasures of college life are ended. I participated in this tradition not long ago, but the symbolism didn’t hit me with full force until the next morning. At 7 a.m., I punched a time clock and entered the working world. While my peers were off to grand pursuits—backpacking trips through Europe, banking in New York City—I was beginning a two-week stint as a Yale custodian. Thus it came to pass that I was paid to haul out the pleasures of my college life with the trash.

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We’re Number…Huh?

The sidebar to the Playboy Interview with Fareed Zakaria in the May 2008 issue.

All For a Few Perfect Waves

The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora

a book review for Playboy Magazine, May 2008

Miki Dora hated the spotlight. But the sotry of the iconic surfer and scam artist who ruled Malibu in the 1950s and 1960s and spent the 1970s on the lam is too good not to be told. Playboy Contributing Editor David Rensin weaves quotes from more than 300 interviews with Dora’s friends (and enemies) into a candid portrait of a rebel who cruised the world’s best beaches on bad checks and forged credit cards. This book isn’t just about surfing; it’s about risking it all for complete personal freedom.                                  –Ben Conniff


Playbill, May 2008

from the contributor page of Playboy Magazine, May 2008

This month’s Playboy Interview with Fareed Zakaria began at a New York restaurant. But long after that first meeting, Contributing Editor and author of Beautiful Boy David Sheff just couldn’t stop telephoning the razor-sharp Newsweek columnist and foreign-relations expert. “Zakaria makes really complicated issues understandable without dumbing them down,” says Sheff. “So much happens in the world every day that I could have kept calling him for updates until the day the interview went to press. In fact, I’d love to call him right now.”

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When to Hold ‘Em

from the afterhours section of Playboy Magazine, April 2008

How to Count Cards

It Isn’t Rocket Science, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy

Dustin Hoffman counted cards to win at blackjack in Rain Man. Kevin Spacey and a gang of MIT whizzes will count cards in 21, a film based on Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House. But how exactly do you do it? Here’s an explanation from Semyon Dukach, who was president of one of the MIT blackjack teams that won millions from casinos in the 1990s and who today runs Blackjack Science seminars:

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Playbill, April 2008

From the contributor page of Playboy Magazine, April, 2008.

“This is my principal objection to life, I think: It is too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes,” wrote the late Kurt Vonnegut. In Wailing Shall Be in All Streets, he condemns one such mistake, the Allied firebombing of Dresden that killed tens of thousands of civilians in one night. The previously unpublished essay (from his forthcoming Armageddon in Retrospect, from G.P. Putnam’s Sons) was the basis for Slaughterhouse Five. Both works are timely warnings about our war in Iraq, which Vonnegut railed against until his death. “I, myself, feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and  body snatchers,” he said. Despite his dark humor, Vonnegut never gave up on the future: “Why write books? You catch people before they become generals and presidents and you poison their minds with humanity.”

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Potpourri, April 2008

Here are a few of the product write-ups I wrote for the April Issue of Playboy Magazine.


Few things are more depressing than watching your paycheck tick away at the fuel pump. Make the switch to a Vectrix electric scooter ($11,000, and you can bypass gas stations permanently. Though designed more for getting around town than going cross-country, this is no sewing machine with wheels. It boasts a top speed of 62 mph, and its tight handling lets you weave through traffic jams. It goes 35 to 55 miles on one charge, and if you run out of juice, just plug the on-board charger into any electrical outlet and you’re golden. Plus, the scooter’s simple construction (250 parts compared with 2,500) for a gas scooter makes it a low-maintenance proposition. No gas, no oil, no problem.

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