literary corner

The essential elements of a ghost story are Time and Place. Time, because a haunting represents two points upon that continuum (the past and the present) colliding; Place, because the perceptory functions of the human mind are limited by its particular imprisoning body (until the moment of that vessel’s expiration), which necessarily occupies a single location, a point among infinite points in space. The values of these variables, for purposes of this story, are as follows: Time, the 1980s. Place, Sheumakkee Creek.

Bernice Zelewski, a nursing student, crossed Sheumakkee Creek most days of the week by means of a wooden footbridge, erected some decades earlier. Exiting her apartment on the northeast side of town, she crossed the Sheumakkee Creek footbridge, continued some five or six blocks across town, and arrived at the nursing school building, where she studied and socialized for much of the day before walking back through town to the footbridge, which she crossed before continuing to her apartment building. This pattern was interrupted infrequently by holidays, illnesses, and various other occurrences as prosaic and quotidian as the pattern itself, of walking back and forth across a bridge that spanned only fifteen or twenty
feet — an unremarkable interval that served to separate one unremarkable day from the next.

 

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The Victorians are all too often written off as being an uptight bunch of moral nutjobs who lived in an age to which we must never, ever return. That is basically true. There is a whole lot of stuff that was common in the years between 1837 and 1901 that we would be better off without, forever. A whole lot of stuff. But there is one thing that should make a bold return, and that is “Victorian Parlor Games.”

watch urself

Even though most of the population of the Victorian Age was impoverished and working eighteen hours a day, the middle class formed and luxurious free time started to become available to people outside of the wealthy idle elite. Back then, there weren’t televisions, video games, and apps to waste all of your time with of course, so they had to devise games to play in gentle social settings. They were still joyless and genteel, so they couldn’t just gather and get blasted on booze or the devil weed. Let’s just say that they did their best.

You can do your own research (I love it when you do your own research), or I guess you can just follow this single link I am willing to supply for you, to see for yourself just how they used to do it. Most games seemed to center around getting light-headed or not-laughing. Sometimes those two things would be combined, if they were feeling really full of jolly-beans!

Some day, you may find yourself without electricity. It seems to be a more and more common scenario, as natural disasters are ramping up in devastation, and our infrastructure steadily disintegrates. In some places, even a moderate rainfall could leave you without television channels and with an internet that is so slow that it is worse than not having a connection at all! So, I advise you to print out this article for reference on such times, because you won’t want to use your precious battery all up.

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know the future based on anything at all

For millennia, human beings have desperately wanted to be able to see into the future. Originally, they needed to predict which way the herds would roam, or when the chieftain would die. Eventually, the focus turned to the weather. Droughts could destroy communities. Floods and storms could wreck lives or sink cargo vessels. Blizzards could kill whole herds of meat animals. Livelihoods really depended on which way the wind blew.

Nowadays, the climate and environment obviously doesn’t matter anymore. Natural disasters? Pfff. Merely an inconvenience to some, a surreal topic of conversation to others, and ratings boosts to still others. Most of us will be caught wholly unprepared for a rainstorm on any given day, and we don’t care because if we catch a cold it won’t turn into a fatal consumptive disease. At least, not yet.

It is time to update the folksy folklore to reflect the interests of now. It is time for little rhymes to guide your actions, to remind you of the things that are true. Or could be true. Or are true enough. Just act like they’re true. In this instance, it’s not going to hurt you if you do.

 

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The humble kazoo often goes unrecognized by many. We’ve all heard of guitars and drums, flutes and trumpets, harps and pianos. But the kazoo is the best American instrument out there. So here’s a patriotic tribute to the kazoo.

There a quite a few instruments attributed to the good ol’ USA. But, do you really consider the electric guitar totally separate from the guitar? Probably only if you play one. And although the banjo was popularized in America, its origins lie in Africa. A jug is also listed, but come on. Sometimes I use my pots and pans as instruments but I am not going to list them on Wikipedia please.

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Presented by Ringmasters Dollissa and Amandoll

Welcome!

The Sneer Carnival

Thrilling Rides:

House of Broken Mirrors and Dreams

Bouncy House of Cellulite and Shame

Mini Train Ride around Sneerland (Sassy Commentary included)

Swarm of Bees Ferris Wheel

 

Challenging Game Booths:

Chicken Ring Toss

Ball Throw & Daisy Bowl

Spin the Wheel of Insults

Test Your Inner Strength

 

Surprising Prizes:

Win a chicken! Press it to your mouth

Win a daisy! Press it to your mouth, too

Win a caricature! Hide it under your bed

 

Unique Performances:

Ventriloquist Demandoll with Dummy Canadian Chris

“No, YOU’re the dummy, and your dress is so 2001!”

Steven the Talking Horse

“I’m an anarchist.”

Smirk de Soleil: The Circus of Sneer

Sneer Clowns Leap, Tumble, and Swing Around the Big Top

Sometimes, while listening to old, obscure music, you happen upon some fine gems. Just because a tune wasn’t on the Top 40 station within the past five years doesn’t mean it’s unlistenable, whippersnappers!

However, as with all journeys, one risks running into perils involving distasteful subjects, awkward moments, or even human emotions. On the day that I discovered Baby, How Can It Be? I was not expecting to also discover a piece of recording history that would change my mood. I had gone from cheerful to unsettled in the time that it took to simply read the track titles. My good friend, Billy Holiday, was there to comfort me in my hour of confusion and slight need.

Then I drew this comic of our conversation.

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Recently, I was speaking with my friend about books we enjoyed as children. She spoke well of a book she had read so many years ago that was about a mighty, wild stallion who was captured by humans. They tried to break his fierce spirit every way they knew how, but he endured and managed to live the rest of his days carefree on the range once again, a symbol of spiritual freedom.

I realized while I was listening to her that I had read a similar book, although not that specific one. Not only that, but I had read quite a few books with that general plot! There was one set in the Pioneer Times about a Moonstone Stallion who rescued some little prairie girl who had gotten herself lost from the wagon train. And another story I dimly recall about another white stallion who pranced around, inspiring these children while vexing the austere and practical adults. Of course Walter Farley wrote a whole horrible series of books about the Black Stallion and his Island Stallion counterpart, Flame. Those were just a few I had read as a small child. But obviously, there have been others, possibly a thousand others!

Horse Fiction

Equine literature aimed at children is a very strange genre of fiction. Mostly meant to entertain “horse crazy” little girls. Some of the books were about young girls just like the reader who enjoy being around horses and learning about them, riding, laughing with each other, and friendship. Or they were about wild horses that resist taming, display perfect carriage and conformation, and are far above the intelligence of wily and sinister men who cruelly break horses for a living. These stallions (almost always stallions) refuse to be broken by all! Well, except for the little girl, or occasionally little boy, who manages to tame the horse just by being kind or particularly helpless.

When I was eight years old, I didn’t think twice about the improbability of these plots. For those of you who do not know anything about horses beyond being able to identify one in a photo of various creatures, I will explain a little about how silly these books actually are. You see, the story generally revolves around a wild stallion. A stallion is a guy horse that has not been neutered, or “gelded” as it is called in equine glossaries. They are not really friendly animals, typically. Usually concerned with procreation, protecting a “herd” from other guy horses, and eating grass when he has the time, a stallion has no interest in a little human girl who has twisted her ankle while hiking alone. He certainly wouldn’t express any maternal tenderness.

Horse Reality

Also, wild horses are not beautiful and perfect awe-inspiring specimens. Their manes and tales are full of brambles, they have scars from horse bites and horse kicks, they are often scrawny looking, and their hooves are cracked from not wearing shoes on the hard rock surroundings. It is true that mustang horses that have been made into pets are often pretty, but they have been brushed and fed well. Not even those tamed mustangs are quite what the stories try to describe. Fictional horses have silky manes blowing in the wind, glowing coats kept sleek and groomed by rain I guess, are tall and imposing, perfect in every conceivable way, able to later win shows and races, if the plot decides to go in that direction.

The most outrageous part is how the same book has been written and published probably as many as sixteen times every year. Stupid little girls read this same story many, many times, not even realizing it until one grey afternoon twenty-five years later. I am shocked. I am even a little angry. I could write a story that trite, ridiculous, and horrible! I WILL write it! I know horse-related words! I can occasionally write in an engaging manner! By God, I am going to write the most ordinary story and it is going to be a HIT. And what’s better, I can actually illustrate it.

Readers, read on:

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