Renée Welcome to Yossel's Toessels!
Toessels give the best head around.

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Q: What makes this person so captivating? .
. A: It's gotta be the toessel.


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"I can't take all the responsibility" confides famous European pop star "Amanda", re-telling for the hundredth time how she almost singlehandedly brought down the Berlin wall. As if 17 hit singles, nine gold albums, and millions of fans worldwide weren't enough, Amanda is now working on her most recent memoir, "Communism: You Just Can't Dance to It". "To be honest, this homey toessel had more than a little to do with the collapse of worldwide Socialism."

It was just me and Mikhail, late 1990. I was up front with him. I said, "Look, Mikey, let's be honest with each other here. You want to end Soviet Communism, and I want to sell some records. If my fans have no money, they're not going to be able to afford to dress like me, go to my concerts, or buy my breakfast cereal. I know people are worried about where they're going to work after the decline of the Soviet State, but I say that the Fall of Communism is the Spring of Euro-Pop, and there's plenty of work for these Russians in my musical empire." Let's say that he saw my reasoning, and today he is making a very nice living for himself answering my fan mail out of a small office on the lower east side.

"Sure, it was hard to turn down all the glamour, but the planet needed me" recalls "Amy", International Environmental Anti-Terrorist and former runway model. Since turning down cover deals from Elle, Vogue, and Mirabella, Amy has been hopping the globe, from toxic dumping grounds in Guatemala to strip mining sites in Siberia, always brandishing an uzi and her trademark rosy cheeks. "Sometimes, the eco-terrorists I bust think that I'm there for a photo shoot. But when they see the toessel thong, they know I mean business."

Sure, the girls still call me to do photo shoots, but I just can't relate to it anymore. Pose for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition? No, I've got three nuclear waste sites to clean up before Friday. Jet over to Paris for an interview and Fashion Benefit? No, I've got to plan a raid on the Arco Alaskan oil fields for the weekend. Basically it comes down to this: if I'm going to save the planet from international global meltdown, there's just no way that I'm going to be able to keep my nails in good shape at the same time.

"There's nothing at all weird about it, really," defends bestselling New Age Guru, "Andrew", when asked about his most recent chart-topper, "Hydro-Nasal Rebirthing Therapy: There's Nothing At All Weird About It, Really". While some call him a "freak", "weirdo", or even "potato-head", Andrew insists there is nothing unusual about his beliefs. "Just like this toessel thong, sometimes truth comes in strange packages." Whatever the heck that means.

"How can I eat bugs if I used to be one?"

To what do I owe my health? Bugs. It's just part of being a fully actualized individual. If you can't eat a bug, it stands to reason that you're uncomfortable with yourself, and probably, more than a little uncomfortable with what you were in a past life. Maybe you were a bug. That's fine, we've all got issues in our past. Take me for instance. I was seven kinds of beetle in South America alone before I even made it up to being a pig. I know what you're going to say: how can I eat bugs if I used to be one? Well, let me tell you: before I was a bug, I spent an uneventful nine years as a rutabaga bush in Brazil. And trust me, half the time, I was just waiting for someone to take a bite out of me.

"When you rescue the ladies from dangerous situations, they want to be sure you're sensitive" "Ashton" assures us. He should know. Five years as the only male rescue skiier at "Lady Bunny's All-Female Skiland Getaway" and he's seen it all. "The honey babies are a little bit nervous when they first see me, but the Papa Bear Toessel really loosens 'em up."

It was during one of the Victoria's Secret catalog shoots. Usually we only let the girls up here a couple of times a season, but as a personal favor to Tyra and Heidi, I let them do this bikini snowboard thing, Bad idea. The girls were strictly amateurs, and always getting themselves stuck in one mess or another. All day, "Ashton, we've got four girls in silk teddies stuck in the lift by Devil's Creek", or "Ashton, Cynthia's bedroom slippers are stuck in boot bindings", or "Ashton, Heidi got her velvet bathrobe caught in the tree by the lodge". Work, work, work. But seeing the expression on those girls' faces when I show up in my Papa Bear makes it all worthwhile. One of them even wrote me a poem:
Big burly man becomes teddy bear with the Papa Bear Toessel superbly situated on large loaf. The key to any babelicious heart, is indeed through the Papa Bear Toessel. Let Ashton be the what can that boy be hiding?
I have no idea what it means.

"It's very important to bring board games when you destroy a nation" advises "Camilo", famed dictator of much of South America and a burgeoning protectorate in North Africa. He finds that the games keep the men from "inappropriate" pillaging and looting and that "besides, if I don't give the vanquished people something to play with, they all just want my wonderful conqueror toessel."

"It was the cold ears that killed Gengis Khan." I would sooner eat my own entrails then let it happen to me. I have spent decades planning my winter campaign across Eastern Siberia. Years preparing a fighting force of men who are up to the task. Months just preparing rations. Do you think that I will risk this whole campaign on some second-rate cap? You are a fool! These ears are on the side of my head! This is the head that leads the army that will take Russia like a young virgin bride. I can only trust that head to a conqueror toessel. To think anything else, you would be, I tell you again, a fool!

I have two words for you: cro-chet. I long mocked the practice of crochet as retrograde. While it, just as knitting, works with loops and yarn, it uses only one needle (or hook), while knitting uses two. obviously, knitting is the superior of the two. At least that's what the old ladies in the yarn shops taught me.

It took a young Rastafarian on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to teach me the error of my ways. This man, Roosevelt by name, had a new deal of his own: he could sell hand-crafted hats for only ten dollars - because he could make one in only a half hour. Watching his skilled hand work faster than I could think, I was intrigued. I bugged him enough that he allowed me to hang out with him for a couple of hours, at the end of which I had absolutely nothing but a bunch of torn yarn and tendonitis.

So then I went home and picked up some crochet books from my dear Mum. Excited by the very prospect of mastering this new science, I opened one up - to a section on the triple half crochet double loop. Made no bloody sense at all. I cast it to the floor in a fit of fury and disgust, picked my hook back up, and just went with what Roosevelt had shown me.

"Being the sole provider of content on the internet can be a bit trying" sighs "Ceej", generally credited as the only person on the Web creating original work. While this fact has gone largely unnoticed for the last several years, the explosive growth of the Internet has strained even the fecund mind of this fountainhead. "I was keeping up for a while there, but the sheer number of porn sites was becoming overwhelming. There's only so many ways to say "breast", you know."

"I never intended to be the only one creating original content for the web, it just sort of turned out that way. I was already on the 'net in 94, so when the web came about, I had the very first site. The second site that was created, by Tim Berners-Lee, just had a link to mine. The third site was just a list of links that consisted of my sites and Tim's. Things didn't really start taking off until I began keeping an online journal. Once people realized they could cut and paste my content onto their pages, the internet really exploded. I had to write for five, then ten, then fifteen hours every day just to keep up with the rate at which I was being plagiarized. As for this toessel, it was a little joke that Yossel played on me. When I told him how hard it was for me to keep up with the growth of the internet, he said he'd come up with a toessel that would help me "keep it up". And then was born the viagra toessel.

"I'm not really the savior of the sport, just a very devoted fan", confesses "Charlie", waiving off autograph-seekers in order to grant an interview. "Pug-racing" has successfully taken off in most of America's major cities, with Pittsburgh and Cleveland having just signed lucrative franchise deals. "Racing runs through my blood. Compared to horses, miniature British dogs are the next best thing to see at the track."

"It's all a question of scale. Horses need a big stadium, perhaps a mile in length. This means that horse racing tracks can only be located in the country, making it solely a sport of the wealthy. Why should they have all the pleasure?! That's when I realized you could scale the whole thing down, to maybe one tenth the size, and bring the excitement of animal racing to the middle of America's largest racing-starved urban centers. Los Angeles, New York, Detroit; people didn't crave jobs, they craved racing! And when I realized that you could fit ten Pug dogs on a miniature track, I knew I had something big. Now, five years later, with pug racing being considered for the Olympics, I feel vindicated."

"Wooly hat save office worker from trouble" declares "Cindy", an example of one of the latest measures in office security. The firm that employs her, "Visible Visigoths", believes that a conspicuous presence is the best way to deter thieves and other employee malfeasance. As Cindy so adroitly describes her new surroundings, "Me hunt mammoth at home for food; now me hunt offices for laptop theft!"

Office thieves crafty! Some steal laptops, some take pens and pads of paper. All bad, all equal! Look, I carry flint knife. I see you with paper clips not belong to you, slash slash! Hey! Is that your stapler? Slash slash. Safe workplace make happy workers, nobody take your stuff. Hey, I see you before. No personal call on company phone! Where is hammer? Where is hammer!?

"Inside all of us skinny people is a fat woman screaming to get out", advises controversial author and distinguished chef "Dana", host of the popular 'Fat Lady Cooks The Classics" series on PBS. Dana, who is not herself yet fat, says she aspires to corpulence to lend even more credibility to her ripening food empire. "In my business, fat means credibility. I figured the Muffin Toessel was a good place to start".

"I've got a lot of broccoli and Diet Pepsi to atone for. On 'Fat Lady Cooks the Classics', they shoot me mostly from the neck up, so I can pretend to be fat, but I think the audience is wisening up. Once they realize I'm far short of 200 pounds, yet claim to make a fine Lobster and Mayonnaise, my ratings are going to plunge. It's hard to compete with those two Brits on the Food Network.

It's not just for credibility, either, that I need to gain the weight. I think I'll be happier, quite honestly. All the time I was growing up, all the boys just passed me by; I simply wasn't plump enough. All the cool girls were around 210, 220, no matter how many bon-bons I pounded down, I couldn't get my darn frame over 125!

That's really the impetus behind 'Fat Lady'. I don't want little girls to suffer like I did. Instead of having to hunt down high-fat Hershey's bars and hamburgers, today's regretful waif need only tune in for my "Tri-Tip Fondue, Cheese-Injected Sausage Casserole, or Nine-Cheese Ten-Egg Lasagna". It's a step in the right direction.

"The trick is to always stay one step ahead of them," confides "Deborah", one of our country's finest Eastern European operatives. Her near-eastern near-death exploits have been documented in a popular film series, Kiss Me Before You Die I, II, and III as well as serialized in graphical novel format under the running title High Heels, High Noon. "Sometimes it bothers me that I'm always on the run - but then again, I've got my own action figure. That kind of makes it all okay".

I remember the day I threw out half of my shoes. It was during a really practical period. My boyfriend at the time, Jurgen, who did unfortunately turn out to be a Polish assassin and was forced to greet cold death under point of insistence by my 14" hunting blade, was a very practical man. I remember even, as his deceitful, traitorous face squirmed in contortions of pain upon my kitchen floor, he asked me not to hunt down his wife and kids. Very practical, Jurgen.

Well, he did make this great point about shoes. He pointed out that if I spent all my life either running or fighting, I only needed to wear running shoes and steel-toed combat boots. That was the night that Jurgen breathed his treacherous last on my cold linoleum floor; I remember this, because the lady at the Salvation Army couldn't figure out how those suede pumps came to be covered in blood.

Jurgen really had a big effect on me. Swear to God, look in my closet right now and all you're going to find are running shoes and combat boots. That, and this fine tube toessel. Now, a steel-tipped combat toessel, that would be something. If Yossel weren't such a wuss, I'd have him make one.

"Today's my day off, and Smiles the Clown doesn't smile on his day off", cautions "Derek", renowned as the world's only one man circus. "People simply don't appreciate how much work it is to take tickets, do a clown routine, and get yourself into the Human Cannonball costume in under five minutes. And that's not even taking into account making the popcorn."

Every night is a new set of challenges. Take last night for example. We had 75 people at Derek's Circus of Value, and I was putting on a pretty good show. It was during the lion training bit, and I had my head in this beast's mouth. Out of nowhere, this little girl came up to me and wanted a balloon animal! She wanted a poodle, and everyone knows those are the most difficult to do. So there I am, head covered in lion saliva, holding the whip with my foot, gun in one hand, making a balloon poodle in the other. To make a long story short, the balloon popped, spooking Simba, who mauled the girl and almost took my head off in the process. The good news is that after a five-minute break, I was able to come back for the Strongest Man in the World and Bearded Lady segments. The crowd loves those, and darnit, I do love the crowd.

Having rocked the world of Wild West historians "Diane" is now dealing with the aftershocks. Larry King, Dan Rather, Barbara Walters, these are not just names, but conversation partners. "My felted toessel always lets 'em know that I'm keeping it real," Diane comments. And keep it real she does. Her latest historical blockbuster, "It Didn't Happen That Way" revealed a shocking statistic covered up by mainstream historians: "Cowboys? 87% female. It's right there in the book if you don't believe me."

"Socrates said that an unexamined life was not worth living. I think that we must apply that standard to history. That's what I tried to do in my recent, and bestselling works, 'Lincoln: Anatomy of a Scam', and 'The Ageless Question Answered: Let's Dig Up Grant's Tomb'. Sure there's resistance. There always is. Do you think Moses had an easy time educating the masses? Mohammed? Jesus? So no, I don't think that it will be easy to arrive at an accurate re-telling of history, but at least my felted toessel allows me to fend off the brunt of the attacks. Oh, and one last thing. Moses, Mohammed, Jesus? All women. Read the original texts and you'll see.

"You ever try to fit a raccoon into a sequined body suit?" challenges "Emily", a wild animal trainer and fixture on the late-night talk show circuit. Internationally known for her "Monkey Merry-Go-Round", the bi-annual "Weasel Festival", and the "Orangutan Olympics", Emily has much to say about the similarities between humans and animals: "Virtually identical. Except, of course, that they could never wear a beautiful bowler toessel like this one. But that's about it."

Gorillas have a lot to say. Boo-Boo and I had been working for years together, developing our own sign language of simian-human interaction. Late one night, once all the other trainers had gone home, Boo-Boo and I were going over noun forms and verb declension. It was pouring out, and we were huddled under one of the palm trees in her area. She was clearly agitated, and struggling with her thick fingers to form a clean sentence. Finally, it came. "Me want. Me want gorilla toessel." At first I was shocked. I couldn't understand why Boo-Boo would want a toessel made from a gorilla. Cotton, wool, a nice acrylic blend, sure, but a gorilla? That's just sick. Well, we talked about it a little longer, and I understood that Boo-Boo just wanted a toessel worn by gorillas, not made of them. A little harder sure, but I bet Yossel can do it."

"When you hunt men for profit, versatility becomes crucial." This is why "Eric", a professional bounty hunter, opted for a custom flop toessel when it came time to evaluate his headwear needs. Allowing him to pose as anything from a Chinese railroad laborer to a French aristrocat, Eric is thrilled with how his hat can make him blend into crowds. "Stare at this picture long enough," taunts Eric, "and I'll disappear."

I had never sweated so much in my life. I was staking out this one guy in Chicago. The police, the NSA, Interpol, they had tried for months to track down a gangster who went by the name of Jimmy "Boom-Boom" Mancini. Couldn't do it. They were against a brick wall. That's when I got the call. A couple phone conversations, a c-note here and there, and I was hot on his tail. Unfortunately, there was just no way that I could hide out to keep tabs on him. He was wise to all the tricks in the book. Could've smelled me coming down the block. Thankfully, Yossel owed me a favor from way back. He was able to produce this flop toessel in less than a day. That was just what I needed. One week later, Jimmy was being led away in chains, I can tell you he was sure of one thing: that was no six foot tall mushroom that had been tailing him for the last four days; that was me.

"I wonder sometimes, about a career change," writes international investigative reporter, "Gwen". The world of investigative journalism hopes not. Her exposes on cattle mutilation, sewer children, and long-lasting batteries have consistently impressed an ever-growing readership base. "I look for the hook", mentions Gwen. "If there's an angle, I can be on the plane tomorrow. But never, never, without my french beret toessel."

Hands down the hardest decision I've ever made. Time magazine, for whom I hadn't worked in years, wanted me to do a piece on the exploitation of third world seamstresses, producing mass quantities of a popular American line of clothing. I was on it in a heartbeat. When I arrived in Tufango (the capital city), the squalor was incredible. Some women had been literally chained to their sewing machines, and others to looms, all to produce these goods by the thousands, every day. I may be crazy, but I think I even remember a whip and a pool of crocodiles. Wondering how best to lead off my piece, I decided that I do an ironic twist on whatever grotesque commercial slogan was employed by the capitalist bastards who put these women through this. I finally screwed up enough courage to approach one of the workers and ask. The answer? "It's like sex ... on your head!". Realizing that I was in the global epicenter of toessel production, I quickly backed away, drove back to the airport, flew home, and tore my story up into hundreds of tiny pieces. It was terrible what those women had to go through, but publish something against the toessel? Please. Do you have any idea how comfy this thing is?

"I like to think of myself as a traditional manager", relates "Heather", who hastens to point out that none of her employees have yet died as a result of her management regimen. "Well, there's Kenneth, sure, but he'll pull through. Doctors said he'll be almost as good as new, just so long as he doesn't need that right hand."

People say you've got to understand your employees. I say you've got to understand my fist! We coddle too much in this country. In our classrooms, in our households, in our governments, too much coddling. At their base, people want to be ruled with an iron fist, and beat with it occasionally, if the situation warrants. I attribute my success to getting results out of my employees, and if I have to get a little physical to do it, what's the difference? Oh yeah, and Yossel gave me this bowler toessel. It's nice. Doesn't mean he's getting out of his weekly beating, if that was what he was hoping for.

"I told Yossel I bang my head against the wall a lot, and he came up with the phat, jokes "Hilari", freelance spinmaster. Employed by politicians, celebrities, and businesses, Hilari is famous for being able to cast even the most negative story in a positive light. "I can't mention his name, but you'll remember a story in the papers a couple of months ago about a famous actor who rescued a woman in distress in the wrong part of town. My job is to make sure that you never found out he was in the bad part of town looking to score some crack cocaine and buy illegal weapons. Hey, it's a living."

"I say I bang my head a lot mostly because of the stupidity of my clients. You know the saying about successful politicians that 'they'll be fine as long as they're not caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy?' Well, this one congressman I represent managed to do both about a week ago, in the home of a known drug dealer, no less.

So he came right to me and told me that I've got to spin it to the press. Now, I can't give away trade secrets, but let's just say that, by the time I was done, the congressman had not only been cleared of all charges, he was actually awarded the Presidential Medal of Valor and was cutting a pilot for a children's television show two days later. It can be a tough job, but it helps to know that I'm making a difference.

"It's lonely being the Pope" warns local holy man "Jay". Since the start of his campaign last summer to create a second schism among the followers of the Catholic faith, Jay has led a busy life. No one said being God's lone apostle on earth (or, as Jay concedes, one of his lone apostles on earth) is easy, "but this bowler toessel sure makes it comfy!"

"You have to meet people where they are if you want their souls. That was my mistake in my last major religious upsurgence. Three years ago, I realized, after a particularly heavy brekfast of oat muffins, that I was the true Dalai Lama. Boy, was that a failure. The 'Free Tibet' bumper stickers I made up were a big hit, but when they caught me on tape saying 'What sort of fool would ever shave his head?', I think that was kind of the end. That's actually what drew me to Yossel's creations in the first place. Thinking about hair, and head coverings, I awoke one morning to realize that I was really meant to assume to role of Pope . I had been told in a dream that John Paul II had led the people astray with his use of ostentatious headgear. Giddy wanted me to bring the world's Catholics back into the fold with a simpler hat, one of which we could all partake. A hat, I may add, not unlike one that Jesus may have worn. I feel good this time. I think I'm really going to connect with people now."

"It's the simple things that make the difference," says "Jon", a popular figure in his local community. Having scooped ice cream in his own store for over 30 years, Jon feels that it might be time for a change. "I'm thinking of going into frozen yogurt." His finely textured homey toessel keeps Jon warm while bending over those freezers.

The deconvolution of a helix can be a tricky thing. But not as tricky as fitting three scoops into a waffle cone. What appeals to me about the ice cream business is the variety. Say, a little kid comes in. Well, I like to give him a little more on the top of the cone, if you know what I mean. And say a woman, perhaps watching her weight? I skim a little bit off for her. Don't even mention it. Keeping all that straight can be difficult. That's why I've set aside at least 15 minutes a day for some recreational thinking in my custom toessel. In fact, it was after a tough day scooping rocky road and triple sherbet that I came up with a theory of how to do away with two-dimensional mathematics. It's nothing, really, but it gives me something to work on when I'm all out of the double vanilla swirl with minature fudge fish.

"I'm quite fond of most opportunities to drop a positive rhyme," claims crossover hip-hop artist "Jos-E-Jos". His latest breakthrough album "You Would be Better Off If You Prepared Yourself, Because I Have Something I Wish To Express" flew off store shelves almost overnight. Why such rapid movement from a new artist? "My boss at RecordLand told me that if I didn't take the album off the shelves, I'd be fired. He didn't think much of the papa bear toessel either.
With this level of fame, it's tough to go outside. Hammer, Ice, LaToya, they've all said it. When you achieve atmospheric popularity, you trade in a certain amount of your privacy. Not unlike yesterday, when I was at the grocery, purchasing an apple, I thanked the man behind the counter. As soon as he heard my voice, he produced a bat, and looked as if he was going to pummel me with it. "So you're the one! I'm going to kill you!" he started screaming. I think he was referring to my latest promotion. Customers who would come into RecordLand, to obtain some musical selections, I would slip my own CD into the case. They wouldn't know until they got home. A pleasant surprise really: instead of hearing the latest from the Wu-Tang Clan, they had a chance to sample some real talent. I think these "switches" accounted for most ... wait ... all of my actual sales. And other than this rather unfortunate incident with the merchant, I think that it's been quite good for all involved. Wearing a ridiculous hat with ears keeps it all from going to my head. Peace out.

"Josh", still reeling from the international success of his most recent erotic thriller, "Beauty Never Sleeps", splits time between a sleepy Vermont Bungalow and his agent's couch in LA. "My toessel tube centers me", Josh claims. "Without it, I'd let fame go to my head. You know, the two Oscars, the Golden Globe and that ... what was it? Oh yeah, my Emmy."

"First, it was all about chicks. I mean, the ladies were wild about this toessel tube from the get-go. So it was purely a physical thing at first. But then I noticed my agent, Jason, taking a keen look at it. Then, producers. Pretty soon, everyone's talking about this toessel. It's like it's just funnelling all this positive karma down onto my head. That's why it flares out at the top, you see? It's got to catch all that good stuff that's coming my way. I look at these other people who actually ask for a hat with a point on top. A point! Isn't that the most ludicrous thing you've ever heard? It's like they want to get a roof for their karma, so that it doesn't stain them or something. This toessel isn't about that. It's all about 'Come here, karma, I've got plenty of room!'. Sometimes I think that Yossel should only make these wide topped hats, but then I feel it's kind of cool how he makes everyone happy, and, well, you've got to walk that line."

"It's uncomfortable telling people that you're a beauty queen" admits "Kim", Miss Mona Lisa 1998. The Mona Lisa contest, one of several that have emerged to claim the dwindling audiences of the bland "Beauty" contests such as Miss Universe, etc, judges women solely by their ability to cast a quixotic stare. "People may think that what I do is easy. Well, no easier than rubbing vaseline on your teeth and walking onstage in a bathing suit and heels, that's for sure".

"I can be naughty, but I'd rather be nice. Seriously, I take the job of "Miss Mona Lisa 1998" very seriously. 200 women, most of them Italian, entered this contest, originally held in Branson, Missouri. We all knew from the start that only one of us would win, that only one of us would know the pride of being "Miss Mona Lisa". But I have to honest. Even from the start, I knew it would be me. There was no way I could lose. Like, look. Am I about to smile? About to laugh? About to kick yer butt? You can't tell, can you?

Who wouldn't want to wake up to my voice in the morning? coos "Kimathea", a renowned performer in the burgeoning "home cabaret" industry. As a surging economy has produced ever more millionaires, many Americans feel a certain emptiness in their lives. "That's what home cabaret it all about" answers Kimathea. "When I wake you up with 'I've Got the World on a String' and put you to sleep with 'Thanks For the Memories', you'll really feel the difference."

Our biggest problem right now is solicitation. I can't emphasize this point enough - I may put you to sleep at night, wake you up in the morning, and entertain your friends when they come over for football, but all we do is sing. That's it. It's really sad, when after singing 'Let's Fall in Love', or 'I've Got a Crush On You', that some clients get the wrong idea.

I remember one fellow I worked for; he had just come out of the shower, and I was singing 'How Little We Know' for him. He got the wrong impression, and moved in to kiss me. I quickly switched to 'I'm a Fool to Want You', but that just seemed to encourage him more. Thankfully I was able to belt out 'Get Back on the Bus' before things got too out of control. Don't get me wrong - I love my job; it just helps to have a deep repertoire. And no, I don't mean it like that.

"Regrets? I regret not bashing more heads", intones "Leona", now in her fifth year of service as a peace officer to the citizens of the notorious Third Ward. From the scalding heat of gang turf battles to the freezing bureaucracy of the city's police department, "my homey toessel keeps my head just where it should be: on taking care of business."

"When you see a punk, you just gotta take him down. My first big mistake on the force was giving any of this trash the benefit of the doubt. You know what they deserve the benefit of? My boot! On the streets, you need serious creds. You walk around in a baseball cap or something, the punks will rip you apart. That's why I stick with my homey toessel. Purple and white. Simple and direct. White, don't make me fight. Purple, I'd hate to drop you like a burple. The punks don't mess. They know."

"Everybody loves Gunther, and that's really the point of all of it", remarks German-born animator "Matthias", whose Emmy award-winning animated television series for children, The Sauerkraut Rascals is now in its fifth year. "I'm trying to build a bridge of understanding between this country and its German-American immigrants, and what better way than by relating the foibles and misadventures of five lovable, plump, sauerkraut-eating scamps?"

They call me the "Bill Cosby of German-Americans", and I take the compliment graciously. Cosby's Fat Albert series broke new ground of understanding between the races here in America, as well as between your more slender and porcine inhabitants.

That's what it's all about, understanding. When little Gunther accidentally breaks his mother's cookie jar, viewers learn that German-Americans, like all Americans, can make mistakes. Or when Solveig's lemonade stand ends disastrously, we see that German-Americans, like the rest of us, are indeed fragile. Or even when lovable Kleinhuf, the schnauzer, gets swept up by the Animal Control people, we learn that German-Americans can suffer from discrimination as well. Yes, Gunther, Solveig, Freida, Heinrich, Bernard, Lotte, Wilhelm and Kleinhuf have made me rich in dollars, but I hope that they have also made this fine nation rich in understanding, understanding of what it is to be different.

"Time travel isn't all about Michael J. Fox and Jean Claude Van Damme, you know," says "Michael", head of Toessel International's Alternative Stylings Department. Michael just returned from a trip to the Mayan Penninsula, 800 A.D. "That Yossel, it's not enough that he rips his ideas off from his contemporaries, he's got to send me back in time to steal them from our ancestors!"

Yossel had just promoted me from my job in the mailroom. We were out drinking, and he was like, "Hey, Michael, we've found 200 different ways to wear the homey toessel, but I need one more. I just need it. Where are we going to get the inspiration?" And so I'm like, "Hey, they've got one of those new time travel machines down at the Kinko's in the mall, why don't we go and like rip off some ideas from the Mayans?"

Now Yossel is all about exploiting our rich cultural heritage for private gain, so he was like "Totally! Rip off those short potato growers!" Then I was like, "But, hey, the potato comes from Peru!" but Yossel wasn't listening. He was already on the phone to Kinko's arranging my trip. Two weeks later, I'm back, my Homey Toessel styled in a totally unique way, inspired by the Mayans one millennium back. Yossel bought me a beer. It was pretty cool.

"No one understands how much poets have to drink" starts "Mike", his troubled soul warmed by his turquoise homey toessel. No matter what sacrifices were necessary, Mike has crawled to the top of the national poetry circuit, having appeared in Crown Books nationwide, as well as several Piggly-Wigglies and even an In-N-Out Burger. Of that appearance, Mike says, "It was really short stuff I was dropping on them as they drove through. Mostly haiku."

There can be a lot of pressure on me when I perform. Let's say I'm doing a recital in the middle of a clearance sale, or perhaps trying to bust out some crazy metaphor over some guy just trying to finish an order of fries. My environments, my stages, my worlds, they can be really hectic and noisy. Even though I say words, I communicate with my whole body, know what I'm saying? From the first line out of my lips, if I want someone to put down that double cheeseburger, or look up from their coupon book, I've got to grab them. It's not enough to just be linguistically compelling, you've got to be visually arresting, you know? When I wear this toessel, people see that I've got some serious things to work through. It gets me in the door. The rest is up to me.

"The term 'baby broker' really isn't fair; I prefer the appellation "child relocation specialist", reveals "Paul", a major player in the new business of "parental satisfaction guarantee" offered by some of the more exclusive medical insurance companies. "Just as I'm content with my stovepipe toessel, why shouldn't parents be happy with their child? Or, more appropriately, why can't they be just as happy with somebody else's?"
It's all about introducing market efficiencies. Woman in Cleveland gives birth to a baby with a dimpled chin. She hates the dimpled chin. Woman halfway across the country gives birth to a baby with a flat chin; she wants a dimpled one. Ten, five, even three years ago, there would be nothing that these women could do to help each other. Now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and firms such as mine, these women can be brought together to negotiate a trade.

That's right, negotiate. You rarely see a straight baby-for-baby swap anymore, and why should you? Some babies really are better, and their parents should be justly compensated. I remember a trade last week. Little Sally in San Diego for little Francisca in Fremont. Both cute as little buttons. Well, that's not true really. Sally had this real tiny head and stubby legs, so her father were ready to unload her quick. Francisca's parents already had five kids, and they didn't really need anymore.

This is where my skills really come into play. Harnessing the power of the Web, I was able to put together a deal for Sally, a Pioneer car stereo, and a very handsome love seat sofa in exchange for Francisca. Since it was all being done online, it was wrapped up in a matter of minutes, and just in time for the mothers to come out of sedation. It's moments like that that make it all worthwhile.

"Hillary had it almost right, but the title of her book should have been: It Takes a Village to Exploit a Child, observes "Rachel", the leader of America's latest Youth Revolution. Ever since her purchase of the popular children's television shows "Sesame Street" and "Teletubbies", children across America have been steeped in her revolutionary lexicon. "Viewership of "The Bloodhound Gang" on "3-2-1 Contact" has nearly doubled since we've had the kids sniffing out counter-revolutionaries instead of just solving mysteries."

"You see a young girl playing with her dolls, I see a potential bricklayer. For too long, we've sat idly by as multinational corporations have exploited our youth and given them nothing in return. Why have our children play with Barbies when they could be learning how to lay mortar? Why have them play with trucks when they could be driving them? When our glorious revolution finally overturns this Imperialist Culture of Greed, children will assume their rightful place in society - in factories."

"To catch the chicken, you must think like the chicken" advises Renée, outback survivalist and reclusive Web billionaire. Her world famous Internet Investing Book, "Buy At 3, Sell at 300, Look Like a Fool When The Stock Splits and Doubles The Next Day" made her a hit on the lecture circuit where she was famous for chiding her audiences on the irrelevance of profit, business plans, and experience. "The world I helped create will crash next year. If it wasn't for my angry teapot toessel, I'd never live through it.

The Y2K/Internet Stock Shakeout is coming, and canned food ain't going to get you anywhere. Embedded computer chips with faulty Y2K logic are everywhere. Every can opener made after 1973. Every corkscrew and piece of flatware made since 1981. What are you going to do, open your cans with a toothpick? Not if it was made after 1986, you're not. Try feeding yourself on January Second, 2000. That's phase One.

The utter failure of household appliances will cause many people to really evaluate their lives, and of course, their stock holdings. People will slowly realize that eBay really isn't more valuable that the entire economy of Portugal, and Amazon doesn't actually have more earning power than France. Internet stocks will crumble, and bring the American information economy with them. That's phase Two.

That's when I spring into action. Having honed my chicken-hunting skills in the wild outback of Silicon Valley, I'll be living high on the hog while David Filo and Bill Gates are trying to figure out how to put on their Y2K-Non-Compliant undies.

"People think Nabokov is deep, they've just never really read Seuss,"comments "Sairam", author of an in-depth literary analysis or Dr. Seuss's works, Green Eggs and Righteous Anger. Instead of reading Seuss in America's kindergardens, Sairam thinks it should be saved for post-graduate institutions. "You've got to go below the verses, below the rhyme. People think the Lorax is just a Lorax, but they're missing the whole point of Seuss's work; there's so much more there. I mean, the man was a doctor!"

Will you see me in a tree?
Will you see me by the sea?
I'll go where I'll need to be
To find the toessel that's right for me.

Will I go and drive a bus?
That's what I'll do, if I must
Just be sure not to make a fuss
like some old Blunderfussletuss.

Will I look upon my knees?
And then fall back when I sneeze?
Please do not be a tease
If you find the toessel that's right for me.

It will have bold colors of green and red
And be just as comfy as I have read
Where is that toessel to which I'm led,
Sitting there, right on my head!

"He should have called it the 'Alien Deflector' Toessel corrects "Shelly", obviously enamored with her new find. One of the nation's primary "ufologists", Shelly thinks that her cadillac toessel could be the key to surviving the next 'harvest'. "You betcha. When the little greenies come down, they're going to make those crucial alien/human distinctions based primarily on the shape of our heads. And what could look more alien than this?"

Why should I call them dreams when I know they're true? At night, when I sleep, the images of our impending harvest are clearer. The aliens come in huge, shimmering ships, like two industrial cooking woks slapped together. These ships come upon us in the thousands. Buildings will be destroyed, families will be torn apart, humans will be categorized according to how they appear to taste. I recommend wearing baggy clothes when the aliens land; it will confuse them severely.

I almost forgot! The headwear! Even though they are green, withered, and have three legs, the most notable difference between aliens and us are the ridges on their heads. It stands to reason that aliens won't be harvesting any of their own kind, which is why I wear this cadillac toessel. The third leg I'll have to figure out when the time comes.

"Why not improve nature? Eyes - good; contact lenses - better! Breast - good; breast implant - better! Full head of hair - good; bald head with Rogaine toessel - better! Why accept what God has given on us when we can relentlessly improve upon it? Just because God did not clad our feet in rubber does not mean he didn't intend for us to wear sneakers; just because God did not bless us with variegated dredlocks surely cannot mean that he wouldn't want us to enjoy their colorful goodness!"

Listen and ye shall learn. A Natural man, an Improved man, and a sack of dirt walk on a path to a distant village. It begins to rain. The sack of dirt is not waterproof, it grows wet and heavy and is unable to continue with the journey. The Natural man is waterproof, but because he does not want to get wet runs under a tree and cannot continue the journey. The Improved man opens his umbrella and continues walking.

Several days later, when the three have once again joined paths, the sun begins to shine hotter and brighter until soon it is as hot and bright as any of them have ever seen. The sack of dirt soon begins to dry out; the canvas sack becomes stiff and brittle; it cannot continue the journey. The Natural man squints and sweats, but his eyes tire because of the hot sun, and he cannot continue the journey either. It is only the Improved man, with his mirrored sunglasses, who walks into the sun without fear.

On the last day of their journey, the three travelers meet up at a discotheque just outside the town. The bouncers are very concerned with the appearance and hairstyle of their patrons. The sack of dirt, because he has no hair at all, is not allowed passage. The Natural man has a full head of hair, but it is the wrong style. Only the Improved man, with his Rogaine Toessel was ensured to be in the right style. And he, my friends, with the foresight to realize that it's what's on the outside that counts, was allowed into the disco.

"People like to joke about rocket scientists," laments "Syd", proud owner of a Toessel skullcap. Between consulting at NASA and putting the finishing touches on a five year multi-million dollar book deal, Syd barely has time for her 19 adopted children. "I've got to get into another apartment. These kids are really starting to clutter my office. Little Billy; I didn't find out that he was responsible for the Mars Voyager until, like, two weeks afterward."

Everyone knows about the space program disasters, but nowhere do you see a mention of the space missions rescued by a prudent use of knitted outerwear. There were the landing pads Neil Armstrong worked up on straight needles for the Apollo mission, then of course the heat-resistant shields NASA patched together with chunky yarn for the shuttle missions, then finally, the miracle of the Mir space station. Think of it, the first space station knitted entirely from recycled fiber. A success for both toessels and the environment!

"The first step in turning horses into humans is to treat them like humans", claims "Tess", the author of the controversial genetic work, Act and Evolve. Her theories on the mutability of DNA have proven quite explosive in some quarters; may accuse her of fraud. "Narrow minds, narrow genes", chides Tess. "With attitudes like that, I'll have gills and a third eye long before my detractors.

Only your own mind is holding you back from growing extra appendages. We are more than what we eat; we are what we believe! This is why I've chosen to do my initial experiments on horses. I contend that with the proper diet and enough positive reinforcement, these horses can become anything they wish, including humans, or even something better!

The first step, of course, is to get them to look human. There was some initial resistance when I first started dressing them in specially made pants and mu-mus, but I think the stable's been warming up to the idea. Custom-made sneakers are the next step.

But such improvements are only superficial; to really affect change, we must make behavioral improvements. This is why I have begun to hold weekly tea parties and always insist that the horses walk upright, on their hind legs.

You can say I'm crazy, but I know I'm having an effect. Why, just last week, Nattie the mare, resplendent in her pink taffeta horse-mu-mu, actually complimented me on my bowler toessel. So considerate, those thoroughbreds!

"The pursuit of your passion begins here." It was these seven words, so innocuous on the sterile screen of a computer, that truly did ignite a worldwide passion. "Timo", author of nineteen Silicon Valley romance novels, including "Purged Caches, Broken Dreams", "A Cookie to Snack On" and "Samantha's Initial Public Offering" wrote those words on the first page of his very first novel, "Hard-Coded For Love". "The papa bear toessel keeps me from intimidating the ladies," coos Timo. "Don't you want to rub my tummy?"

"People underestimate the freewheeling passion found amongst high-tech workers. Burning underneath every cool, pasty white exterior is a moist kettle of passion, ready to burst forth in unexpected and alluring ways. This is the sense that I attempt to capture in all my novels, especially the "Random Access Mammary" series. It's rang true with my millions of readers, obviously, for whom the "passionate programmer" is not just a character in a book, but rather a character in their lives. It wasn't creative writing that made me bigger than "Sweet Valley High"; it was the courage to tell the truth, like I did in "What Goes On Behind the Cubicle Wall."


Knitting: Slavery or Freedom?

My first round (75 stitches) of knitting took me something like an hour. It was both time-consuming and all-too-brief; sickeningly repulsive and refreshingly captivating. It was the best of times, it was ... you know the rest.

On that first round, I became a boy in a bubble. I didn't want to talk to anyone, I didn't even want to look at anyone. Knit, purl, knit, purl. Clock ticking, just over an hour. But once I had finished, another round beckoned. Maybe I could get that one done in 55 minutes. Who knew? I lost weight. Friends stopped calling. I started writing letters to guests on "Jerry Springer". (For a moment there, I thought I had something with the 1200 pound woman.)

What had made me so drawn to knitting that I had withdrawn from polite society and lost all my ambition to pursue friendships and my career? Having been educated at a liberal arts college, I already had a suspicion about who was to blame: the White Man. Probably a Republican.

The "Knitting as slavery" theory persisted all the way through my first work (currently a large black potholder in the bottom of a drawer somewhere).

It wasn't until my second or third toessel that I came to realize that knitting was not enslaving me, it was, Orwellian-like, actually liberating me. By focusing my left brain on a simple, menial task, my right brain was unshackled to fly with the eagles. Like a Hare Krishna entranced by dancing, chanting, and long ponytails, my mind wrapped itself around issues impossible without chemical assistance. For a few minutes, while knitting a pink french beret toessel, I actually became a sparrow.

"*&^@%$#@@ Reindeer!"

Image Knitting: The bane of a healthy society

As covered in rant one, knitting, if done correctly, can lead to many great inventions and non-chemical hallucinations. There is, however, an insidious attempt from within to undermine this. Pick up any knitting book and you will find patterns to knit images of letters, animals, or even (shudder) complete sentences into your sweaters or hats.

What is the problem, you ask? First, consider what it takes to make an image on a hat. You must consult a book for every single line of the work. You must carefully switch colors when instructed to do so. You must carefully focus on how many stitches you have done, being sure not to talk to those around you, as they are mere distractions. You are no longer freeing your mind; you are no longer entering the transcendental plane; you are just working on getting a DAMN REINDEER ONTO THE SIDE OF A SWEATER!

And for what benefit? So that, years later, gawkers can approach you and ask: "Nice sweater. Is that a cockroach?". That "cockroach" took hours. It robbed your knitting of any spiritual essence. It denuded and profaned the whole act of picking up the needles in the first place. And for what? So your girlfriend can pick up her sweater, on which you toiled for months, only to say "Oh look. Little igloos."

"Like all men, I secretly want breasts."

How The Terminator Taught Me to Knit

Like all men, I secretly want breasts. Due to societal norms, I refer to them as pectoral muscles, and have spent no small amount of time in the gym in the search for an ever-more impressive pair.

Just over two years ago, it occurred to me that my existing methods for pectoral enhancement were, quite possibly, not as efficient as they could be. Spending anything more than thirty minutes a week in the gym is embarrassing enough, but to do it for no benefit at all was indeed a sobering thought.

After asking around my steroid-addled early morning lifting companions, I learned two things:

  1. It's almost impossible to strike up a conversation with anyone at the gym without having it appear that you are hitting on them;
  2. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding holds only mythical status among weight-room junkies the world over.
That very weekend I visited a book sale. Rummaging under a rather impressive pile, I found the very book I searched for: The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Modern being somewhere in the late 1970's, mind you, but I'm sure it's been an uneventful two decades since. I grabbed the book and quickly headed for the door. That I was stopped on the way by no fewer than two people who wanted to know where I had gotten it led me to believe that this was a good score indeed.

But then lingering doubt settled in. What if, after reading this book, my physical development were to become so perfect, and my dimensions so enormous, that I would be reduced to nothing more than a testosterone fueled rage monkey? What if the sheer power of my masculinity alone would drive away those I held dear? Holding the 10 pounds of Arnold's wisdom made this feel like a very real possibility.

It became clear that I would need balance. Thankfully, the "crafts" section was nearby, and the "Woman's Day Complete Guide to Knitting" gleefully jumped into my hands. I took both volumes to the checkout, and as I gossiped with the gray-haired ladies about good yarn stores in the area, I knew that I'd feel much better about doing my squat thrusts the next day.

"I am Joe Eszterhas."

"Showgirls" For the Knitting World

No, I'm not responsible for "Showgirls", or "Jade", or even "Basic Instinct", but it has occurred to me that I do have an alarming similarity to the man writes "as if he was throwing crap at the wall and hoping some of it would turn into Laura Ashley wallpaper".

Joe Eszterhas, of course, is the obscenely paid Hollywood screenwriter responsible for such gems as this snippet of dialogue between two women career women:

Crystal Conners: You've got nice boobs. I like nice boobs.
Nomi Malone: I like having nice boobs.
All right, so the actual word in the movie wasn't "boobs", but I have a rather rarified reading audience, and I'd hate to be the internet's only "R" rated knitting site.

It seems that Joe, bless his little heart, has mastered the art of low-concept, high-budget soft-core porn. There are few in Hollywood, with the possible exception of Roland Emmerich, who have done more with less. Joe is the Dr. Seuss of Hollywood: give him 25 words and he'll write a million-dollar screenplay, given that 10 of those words are synonyms for "breast".

It is then, with a combination of shame and perverted delight that I have realized that I am the Joe Eszterhas of the knitting world. Two years ago, a friend taught me how to knit and purl with circular needles, and 50-odd hats later, I don't think I've really done anything new. That didn't stop me, mind you, from trumpeting what little I can do into a very extensive web site, but my lack of skills didn't become apparent until I received a package yesterday.

One of my new favorite people, let's call her "Elizabeth", just sent me a hat in the mail. "You'll love it!" she claimed. "You can make it into a toessel!". I believed that initially, until I really looked at the piece that she had sent me. It had stitches going up, down, to the left, backwards, inside out; it was quite an endeavor.

At that exact moment, softly weeping as the Hat-Of-All-Trades sat atop my troubled head, I realized I was truly a hack, a man of considerably few talents, who excels solely in self-promotion.

Of course, Basic Instinct grossed 352 million dollars worldwide.

I guess I'll have to raise the price of these things.

"Creamy Unsalted Natural. Now, that's complex."

No, Really, It's Not That Tough.

One of the rotating slogans of this site, "Knitting is complex and dangerous", couldn't be further from the truth. Deaths related to knitting have dropped dramatically in recent years, and nothing really could be simpler than knitting a hat. Trouble is, no one seems to believe me.

Recently, while conversing with a woman who has been crocheting longer than I've been alive, she confided that she's scared to knit because it's "all counting and reading patterns".

Friends, a little piece of me died just then. In terms of complexity, I would say that knitting ranks right above tying your shoes and right below making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Figure 1 - Comparison of knitting and making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  Knitting PB&J Easiest?
Elements 4 - Needles, Yarn, Scissors, Tape Measure 4 - Bread, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Knife Tie.
Difficulty in Building? 2 - Knit, Purl 3 - Peanut butter on bread, jelly on bread, combine. Knitting
Knowledge of elements? 3 - Yarn can be wool, acrylic, or a blend. Unlimited - Peanut butter could be creamy, chunky, salted, unsalted, with sugar, without sugar, organic, national brand, etc. Jelly could come from a hundred different berries, not including marmalade. Knitting

Knit, purl, knit, purl. Really, that's all there is to it. Does Joe Eszterhas worry about arcane knitting techniques like S1, M1 SSP2, *SLP5*? Of course not! And neither should you.

So what's the secret to knitting?

  • Buy some needles.
  • Buy some yarn.
  • Find a hot little honey with grandchildren to show you the rest.
Just as long as she doesn't ask you to make a PB&J as a little snack, you should be fine. Trust me.

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Jos Memories from Jessica and Harriet to Diane

Jos Memories from Jessica and Harriet B=e=r=m=a=n to Diane


My mother taught me to knit. I spent nearly every summer from age 10 to 20 at a Quaker summer camp in Vermont where we lived without electricity or plumbing, left to our own creativity and ability to use one another's resources for eight weeks of the summer. This was the sort of place that tended to attract the children of hippies, or people who wished they were the children of hippies. So, as a staff member for the girls' camp, you can imagine the scene at staff meetings. Lots of women in overalls and tie-dyed shirts, Indian print skirts and tank tops, knitting. I endured my first summer on staff exceedingly bored at these meetings-I did not know how to knit. As I planned to return on staff the following summer, I knew I needed to sit down with Mom, a verified ex-hippie who had always taken her knitting bag with her to staff meetings at the counseling centers where she worked during my early childhood and learn how to make balls of yarn into wearable articles of clothing.

Mom taught me how to knit that winter, my winter vacation of 1995-1996. She also taught my friend Sharda, who had come to visit overnight and was subsequently stranded at our house by an early-winter snowstorm that shut down Greyhound for 48 hours. I learned one stitch, which I could accomplish only on round needles, only to make hats. I was very proud. I completed my first hat, white, maroon, and green striped with a roll-up bottom, before vacation was over.


I learned to knit from my mother who was always proud of her "European" technique, which was fast and efficient. It always frustrates me to watch people knitting "American" style, which involves too many extra movements and slows the process down unnecessarily.


About a month after I arrived in Washington, DC (19 months after I first learned to knit) I began to work on my second knitted endeavor: a hat for my boyfriend, to give to him as a going away present when he left to study in Spain in January. Jos was instantly intrigued with my knitting. "Table" (the massage table) was not yet entirely complete, which is why I say Jos was intrigued, and not obsessed. There was always a fine line between intrigue and obsession for Jos, and once he crossed it, he rarely turned back .

Jos crossed this line one lazy Saturday soon after, on a day when he was feeling confident that even though Table weighed just less than a ton and did not fold, as originally planned, it could be dismantled in less that 30 minutes and squeezed into a folding grocery cart. This way, it was, theoretically, portable, as he had hoped--the wheels on the cart eased Table's weight, and with a few tools in his bag, Jos could set-up shop wherever an amateur masseuse like him was called for. As good as finished, he figured. On this day, with no hobby to pursue, Jos sat down beside me on Couch (Jano surely must have been at work that day, for otherwise Jos surely could have convinced Jano to spend the daylight hours on his computer, battling one another in game upon game of Warcraft II). I knew that my task for the day would be to teach Jos to knit.

I tried my best. He quickly picked-up the basic stitch that I knew, or so we thought. I am left-handed. Jos was not. This caused more than a few dropped stitches, knots, and mishaps which I, in my limited skill, could not determine how to fix. Jos was insatiable, and I could barely help. Luckily, my mother came to town for a four-day visit. We held out for her arrival, and she heroically stepped up to the plate.


As far as I can remember, Jos had taken up knitting as part of his new life in Washington, D.C. where he moved to do a semester in Public Policy studies. He was sharing an apartment with Jessica and Jano near DuPont Circle. Not content with the intensity of the program and his internship, he was learning to knit and building a massage table in his spare time.

When I visited Jess one weekend, we spent a lot of time laughing and getting to know one another. Jos was struggling with his knitting technique and Jessica, my left-handed daughter was finding it difficult to help him. I sat with Jos and helped him learn to speed up his knitting. We knit on the couch, in the middle of the "living room" of the apartment, while I was inducted into the X-Files cult, for which I will always feel indebted to Jos. Little did I know that the speed Jos developed as he perfected his technique during those hours would eventually contribute to the success of his toessel industry.


As soon as Mom left, Jos became a knitting machine. He couldn't get enough of it. Everyday, when I arrived home, Jos would belt out "B=e=r=m=a=n !" from his seat on couch, knitting needles in hand, eventually wearing a hat he had created, and well into finishing a second, third, or fourth. The simple stitch Mom and I taught him was not enough, either. He soon needed to know more. He began searching the District for knitting stores, befriending the women who worked there, learning new stitches, new patterns. Of course, I got to know all of these women through the Jos' enthusiastic stories of what they had told him, what he had bought, and his glee at finding others who shared his passion upon his return from these trips.

When we returned to Claremont, Jos became intent on forming a knitting circle. He really wanted me there, but I quickly became wrapped up in other things and, to be honest, while I enjoyed knitting, I never shared Jos' passion. Jos did make the knitting circle happen, knitting with those who knew, introducing those who didn't to his avenue of the artistic world. Jos' prolific hat creation continued.

Last spring (1999), while surfing the net one day, I found a collection of Jos items on the WebTV site, and sent him an email. It had been over a year since we'd spoken, although I had been privy to many updates through Jano, and knew a little about Jos' career at WebTV. I told him about the fellowship I was doing, about my love for Los Angeles, and about my pride in the fact that my second knitting student, my roommate Tabby, was about to finish knitting her first full-length coat (I still can only knit and purl, on round needles, making hats). Jos wrote back, rambling about his adventures, and told me to visit the Toessel site.

But let's get back to you. Have you been to the toessel site yet? (SITE DISCONNECTED) As the WOMAN WHO TAUGHT ME TO KNIT, I think you're certainly entitled to a free lid. Pick one and let me know. I have quite a few already in stock if you'll settle for something less than custom made. Hope all is well, and you're preparing to lead the world into a BOLD NEW FUTURE. -Jossel
Hmm. I checked it out. My favorite part was the order form, in which Jos asked questions about the weather where consumers lived, and gave a list of services that they could render in exchange for Toessels. I ordered a pHat, and told Jos I trusted him to pick the colors (those who knew Jos knew that it was a great leap of faith to trust him with something like color selection, as his creativity far exceeded the bounds of most human beings). I told him I could not render any services, but I hoped that teaching him to knit was enough. An immediate response.
Jessica -
I can't even believe I didn't make this explicit in my e-mail. You immediately get a pHat, no questions asked. You've already paid it off a thousandfold. And, once you send me a picture of you wearing it, you get not only your own place among the models, but also a special homage as the woman who got me on the way.

I have two pHats currently in stock. They're pretty incredible, I think you'll agree. There is the the one pictured, then one that is more of a pink and purple. They are both, without question, pHat. I will even, should you desire, and this is just because of the special place you occupy in my heart and needles, make you a a whole new pHat according to your custom colors.

BTW - Two mice [I edited the next word out for younger readers, and also because I can't remember what it is in reference to] in a wool sock is the term, I believe.


My pHat arrived shortly thereafter. I love it. The fruit of the labor of love to which Jos was so committed.

Return to the life of Jos Claerbout

Exit page for the toessel site with many relative addresses. --- terrible news ---

Yossel has died.

Yossel, age 25, died suddenly and unexpectedly on August 20, 1999.

Johannes Claerbout was the creator of Yossel's Toessels. (He invented the word "toessel".)
Johannes is pronounced Yohannes, rhyming with Yossel's toessels.
In everyday life, he called himself   Jos Claerbout.

He appears on the entrance page of WEB SITE DISCONNECTED and as the model Jos-E-Jos. In early days of Yossel's Toessels he used this self portrait which is derived from this photo.

Please visit a site celebrating the amazing life of Jos Claerbout at

Respects to Yossel's family.

Yossel's family and friends.

Yossel's family and toessel friends.

Yossel's mother, affectionately known as Mumsie or Mumalum, appears on the toessel site as the model Diane. His father, affectionately known as Popster or Popalop, appears on the toessel site as the model Jon. Brother Andrew ("oops, we need to clean up a little here") and sister-in-law Amy also appears, as does cousin Tess and uncle Jonathan. The rest of the models on the toessel site were his friends. We cry and cry.

If you have a Toessel from Yossel, his family would be happy to hear from you and/or have a picture of you wearing it. Send email to claerbout @ . If you want to join a group of toessel knitters, send email to dsclaer @ .


Some good cheer and hope for the future is Jos holding his baby niece Hanna. May the spirit of Jos live on through us, the living.

Why did Jos take up knitting? and who taught him? He tells us himself what led him to it. Jessica B=e=r=m=a=n B:e:r:m:a:n recalls "As soon as mom left, Jos became a knitting machine. He couldn't get enough of it."

to Jos home

Johannes "Jos" Claerbout   1974-1999