Flat Stanley’s Grown-up Adventure

Remember Flat Stanley? I’m sure many of you reading this are experiencing a burst of nostalgia. “Ah, yes!” you might think, “I remember sending Flat Stanley to my family in Michigan and receiving a cool postcard!”

Alternately, I may have accidentally rekindled anger toward lazy relatives who made up excuses for putting minimal effort into the project: “Oh, Stanley? He was . . . er . . . he was the one taking the photo! That’s why he’s nowhere to be seen . . . ”

Well, you know you’ve grown up when—rather than sending your two-dimensional pal to friends in far-off places—you become the one who gets to document his incredible journey. (Seriously, as soon as you receive a ballot, a bank statement, and a Flat Stanley in your mailbox, you know you have officially become an adult.)

A few weeks ago, I had the fun of being asked to show a preschooler’s Flat Stanley around Scotland, where I was studying. Unfortunately, the sudden spread of the current pandemic sent me packing long before I’d planned, but looking back on the photos I took with Stanley during my last few weeks abroad helped restore my good humor. (Or, as we say in the UK, humour.) I’ll have to sort out which of the following photos are preschool-friendly, but I’ll share them all here since those of you also in quarantine may enjoy the imaginative escape.

 

Flat Stanley’s Scottish Adventure

Flat Stanley arrived on a normal Scottish day. It was cold, windy, and rainy. He immediately regretted his choice of business casual attire for, although he looked classy, he was thoroughly chilled.

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Ryanne, Stanley’s hostess, was kind enough to draw him a kilt and he found it both a functional and freeing fashion choice. Now properly attired, he was ready to live his best Scottish life.

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Since it was too stormy to go outside, Stanley had fun building a fort out of Ryanne’s library books.

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Stanley discovered that Bailey’s Irish cream makes hot cocoa much more delicious. Ryanne was careful to cut him off before this became a problem.

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When the sun finally came out, Stanley explored the ruins of St. Andrew’s cathedral but when the wind nearly blew him away, he had to return to the safety of Ryanne’s backpack. He seemed woefully ignorant of the cathedral’s historical significance anyway.

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Hanging on tight so as not to fly across the sea to continental Europe, Stanley enjoyed watching the waves at the beach.

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To Stanley’s dismay, however, he learned the old lesson of “It’s all fun and games until someone gets kilt” when some rival clansmen ran his kilt up the flagpole.

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Having recovered from his shock, Stanley joined Ryanne and a friend on a day trip to Cupar, a nearby town. He took a selfie but tried to delete it when he noticed that he had a smudge on his “good side.”

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Both Ryanne and her friend settled into a café to work on their term papers and Stanley kindly offered his editorial assistance.

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Unfortunately, Stanley began to take his duties too seriously, giving Ryanne the worst grade of her life and smiling heartlessly all the while.

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Stanley did not stop there, however, but—with a maniacal laugh—relentlessly marked-up Ryanne’s entire paper.

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Suddenly, though, Stanley stopped. Still smiling emptily, he realized something horrific.

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He had been red-penning Ryanne’s paper and yet, he himself was made of paper!

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Shocked at the monstrosity of ruthlessly editing pages upon pages of his own Flat Stanley flesh, he screamed.

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As his outburst echoed throughout the café and faded once more into silence, Stanley sighed. “After all,” he realized, “‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is a lesson we all must learn.”

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And yet, despite his regained composure, Stanley wondered how many Flat friends might have been made from the paper Ryanne wasted on her rough draft. He decided, though, that this is a tricky ethical question far beyond his elementary education.

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Instead of continuing to wrestle with ethics, Stanley decided to enjoy some local art. He especially liked this picture of a highland cow, also called a “hairy coo.” He wanted to bring one home as a pet, but Ryanne explained patiently that the US customs agents would not be supportive of this idea.

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World Book Day happened to take place during Stanley’s visit. Being in Scotland, he decided to dress up as Harry Potter.

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Sadly, both Stanley and Ryanne had to return to the United States unexpectedly due to travel bans in response to the spread of a pandemic. Stanley, fortunately, cannot catch anything, but he is spending two weeks in quarantine with his hostess as an act of solidarity. Jet-lagged and tired, Stanley is now enjoying a bit of rest and working on his reading list which, ironically, includes Fahrenheit 451.

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ABC Introduces Groundbreaking Polygamist Season of The Bachelor

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20 February 2020
Los Angeles, California 

In wake of the Utah senate’s recent move to decriminalize polygamy, production staff for ABC’s hit reality dating show, The Bachelor, are struggling to keep up with Utah’s surprisingly-woke agenda. Reality show blogger, entertainment correspondent, and part-time stalker, Kale McBirkenstock, has confirmed that fans can expect big changes for the show’s upcoming season.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be one heck of a season,” reported Ms. McBirkenstock. “Imagine all of the drama of The Bachelor, but—like—multiplied by a gluten-free baker’s dozen. There will be more roses and more girls than ever; just peering through the window of the mansion during filming made my allergies flare up and my estrogen levels reach a dangerous high.”

It’s certainly an exciting prospect. ABC’s The Bachelor and its companion shows, The Bachelor-But-Like-a-Girl-This-Time and Drunk-Decision Island, are considered by many cultural critics to be the great unifier of the American people.

“Well you know,” said long-time viewer Fanny Applauson, “Monday nights are very special, especially here in Utah.”

Indeed, every Monday, American viewers of all walks of life set aside their differences and gather their friends and loved ones to tune into approximately two hours of what has never once been hailed as “high-stakes competition” and “profound dialogue.”

What else can we expect from this new reality TV experiment? Our readers will surely want to know. When asked, McBirkenstock hastened to assure us that this season will not disappoint: “It’s sure to be yet another ‘most dramatic season in Bachelor history.'”

“Of course, there will be some differences,” McBirkenstock continued to explain. “The wardrobe, for instance, will be as colorful as ever, but with a significant increase in cap-sleeves and cardigans.”

When can we expect to see the premiere of this show? Rumor has it that the first episode of the polygamist Bachelor—officially titled Sister Brides—will air sometime in September, taking the place of Dancing with the Stars because, honestly, who still watches that?

“It’s really an experimental move for ABC,” explained McBirkenstock. “A polygamist dating show is risky since the alpha male could immediately propose to every contestant on the first night and end the season after only one episode. So make sure you’re watching, #BachelorNation!”

 

 

Medium Cappuccino with an Extra Shot of Awkward Please

My roommate once described me as “Stephen King trapped inside a Disney princess” and I think that sums up my personality nicely, though I would prefer to substitute Bradbury for King as I am not quite that dark… I am, however, a strange combination of intensity and flowery joy. I enjoy spending dark nights practicing pipe organ in a church and sunshiney days playing my ukulele. I am equally at home in concert black and colorful sweaters.

Now, if you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I have a deep, undying affection for coffee shops. You also probably know that I love making small talk with baristas, mostly to be friendly but also in the secret hopes that I can charm my way to an extra shot of espresso or double whipped cream. My Disney princess side comes out in full force the minute I enter a coffee shop. Enormous eyes and friendly smile? Check. Voice slightly higher than normal? Check. Kindly questions and well-rehearsed coffee jokes? Double-check.

Well, a few weeks ago, my Stephen-King-Ray-Bradbury side took over. I crossed the threshold of my beloved Costa Coffee and, as I re-imagine the scene, I am pretty sure that lightning flashed behind me.

Still, I ordered my usual and prepared to banter.

“Chocolate on top of your cappuccino?” asked the barista.

“Of course!” I reply cheerily. “Does anyone ever say no?”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Huh,” I said. And at this point, I think my King-Bradbury side smothered my Disney side and held her at knifepoint. I said nothing for a moment as the two natures battled it out.

King-Bradbury won.

“You know,” I said as the barista reached for the chocolate sprinkles. “In prison…”

(Internally, my Disney side was begging my dark half to stop: “NEVER START SMALL TALK WITH PRISON WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” she sang, accompanied by a chorus of horrified woodland creatures.)

“In prison,” I continued. “That’s how they determine who is and is not a psychopath.”

(King-Bradbury chuckled as the Disney princess gave up and covered her sidekicks’ ears to keep them from hearing what came next.)

“And if they say no,” I went on. “If they don’t want chocolate on top of their coffees, well…it’s the chair.”

Silence.

Two shocked baristas gaped at me for a moment.

Stephen King and Ray Bradbury enjoyed a hearty chuckle and high-fived each other.

Finally, one of the baristas laughed nervously.

I took my coffee and left.

And, logically, I know that the baristas thought nothing of it after I was gone. I mean, I can’t be the only person to mention the electric chair while ordering a coffee, can I? But every time I step into that café, a little tiny nagging voice chants and mocks me as I order my cappuccino and my Disney side tries with all her overly-chatty might to compensate for the slip.

Breaking: Choir Director’s Eyebrows Ascend into Heaven as Choir Goes out of Tune

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13 October 2019

Los Angeles, California- A local church choir has been thrust into the spotlight as reports are circulating that the choir director’s eyebrows have been, prematurely, raptured.

“It was truly a miracle,” said long-time congregation member and greeter Jim Dennison. “I was sitting in the pews listening to the choir and suddenly I saw what I thought was a dove descending over the conductor—”

“—but it wasn’t,” added his wife, Donna Dennison, “It was the poor dear’s eyebrows. They lifted right off her face and up to heaven.”

Reporters followed the rumors from the local Claim Jumper (where many congregation members lunch on Sunday afternoons) to First Episcopal Church, where they were permitted an interview with Mrs. Laura Bell, music director and eyebrow escape victim. However, while the ascension of her eyebrows took her by surprise, Mrs. Bell explained that she supposed she had had it coming for years.

“You see,” said Mrs. Bell, “When the choir begins to go flat, I always raise my eyebrows to remind them to keep their pitch up.”

When asked what went wrong this time, she sighed and confessed that the choir simply had not been watching. Instead, their pitch just continued to sink and her eyebrows continued to rise. She lifted them so high, it seems, that the Lord decided to put them out of their misery and simply call them home before their time.

“It was remarkable,” said First Episcopal’s Rev. Seymore Orwell. “Truly a sign from above. It reminds me of Psalm 121, which I believe is, all things considered, perhaps more rightfully translated, ‘I will lift up mine eyebrows.'”

When asked what she plans to do next, Mrs. Bell shrugged. “It’s alright,” she said. “The choir had a grand time and, besides, I’ve always wanted to try bangs.”

 

Nation’s Organists Rally to Fight Stereotypes as Halloween Draws Near

9 October 2019 Los Angeles, California

Nearing the middle of October, spooky season is in full swing and Halloween celebrants across the nation are gathering their pumpkins, brooms, and ominous soundtracks in preparation for their night of revelry. Halloween has long been a time of community, of neighbors sharing chili on the front porch, children meeting for trick-or-treating, schools pausing their lessons for costume parades and apple bobbing. In fact, it seems that perhaps even more than Thanksgiving, Halloween has become a means of bringing people together despite their prejudices.

One demographic, however, continues to feel misunderstood and intends to use this Halloween season to make new strides toward social awareness: organists. As Halloween hosts cue up their perfect party playlist, organ music annually finds renewed appreciation. Toccata and Fugue in D minor, “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the Haunted Mansion theme are among the most popular organ pieces sure to make comebacks this Halloween. While some organists are amused by the use of their music for creepy ambiance, others are speaking out against the stereotypes that it represents.

“Organists across the nation have suffered in silence long enough,” says Frank Steinbeck, chapter president of the National Association of Organists. Steinbeck has long been a contender for organist appreciation and intends to utilize the pipe organ’s Halloween spotlight as a platform to speak out.

“Organ stereotypes have hurt too many,” he said in an interview with The Daily Weak, “Just last week, my buddy Paul Stopford was turned down on a date because he was an organist.”

“It’s true,” added Stopford in a follow-up interview. “She said she couldn’t date me because I play the organ— said I was too creepy for her taste.”

When asked if his rejection might have also had to anything to do with the mask and cloak he was wearing (completely veiling his face and person in foreboding mystery) he declined to comment and instead vanished into thin air.

“Too many have suffered,” claims Steinbeck. “And this ends now.” At this, the opening lines of Bach’s Toccata played apparently from nowhere, though Steinbeck did not seem to notice.

Along with his local chapter, Steinbeck is calling organists to speak out against stereotypes and has even gone so far as to organize an awareness march outside of a local costume shop. Footage from the march shows a small mass of organists holding signs bearing slogans such as “Organists are not only swell, they’re great!”

While the march was, unfortunately, shut down by the police due to rowdiness, it did — accidentally — succeed in increasing the number of registered organ donors in the town.  Not discouraged, the participants expressed a desire for the press and public to know that they represent a diverse range of backgrounds and are united by their desire to eradicate prejudice against organists.

“Just because lightning flashes with every chord I play doesn’t mean I’m evil,” said long-time church organist and amateur murder mystery writer Rodger Turnpage. “It’s probably just an electrical issue.”

Other organists have added to the conversation, claiming October as “Organist Awareness Month” and sharing their stereotype stories online and on church bulletin boards via the hashtag #organfailure. Tweets such as “We are more than Toccata and Fugue in D minor” are circulating the Twitter world or, at least, they would be if any organists knew about Twitter.

“We just hope that as people listen to our music shuffled in with ‘Monster Mash’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ they will realize that we organists are not monsters; we just want our music to be heard,” concluded Steinbeck.

And with that final, powerful plea, Frank Steinbeck, chapter president and social justice warrior, limped off among the tombstones and into the foggy night, never to be seen again.

*Watch this promotional video by an anonymous local organist and share to help end organist stereotyping! #organfailurenolonger

 

Writing: Expectations vs. Reality

  1. Expectation: Showing off your stellar vocabulary. Reality: Spending ten minutes trying to remember how to spell “potpourri” because you’re too proud to look it up.
  2. Expectation: Writing elegant rhymes to express your emotion. Reality: Sounding like an angsty Dr. Seuss.
  3. Expectation: Writing free verse poetry that seems authentic and avant garde. Reality: Sounding like an angsty and, now, drugged Dr. Seuss.
  4. Expectation: Scribbling thoughts on random scraps of paper because inspiration strikes at unexpected moments. Reality: Looking like a conspiracy theorist at best or a serial killer at worst as you frantically try to assemble your notes.
  5. Expectation: Making keen, discrete observations of your surroundings for later use. Reality: Looking like a creep when you make eye contact with a potential character and being mistaken for a critic as you analyze your favorite cafe.
  6. Expectation: Having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels. Reality: Writing silly blog posts late at night. (Unless you are J.K. Rowling, in which case the reality is still “having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels.”)
  7. Expectation: Carefully crafting characters that perfectly follow the planned plot. Reality: Controlling your characters is like herding winged cats. Not only are they cats, but now they can fly.
  8. Expectation: Planning a time to write and doing so in an orderly fashion. Reality: “THE VOICES IN MY HEAD SAID I MUST WRITE NOW!” (usually “now” is in the middle of another project, late at night, or somewhere without any form of writing material whatsoever)
  9. Expectation: People reading your silly blog posts all the way through and gaining an internet following. Reality: Your fan club continuing to consist mainly of your grandma, your best friend, and the fake cat lady blog your mom made to spam you.
  10. Expectation: Having many writing woes to blog about. Reality: Only being able to come up with nine and realizing that is also a problem you can add to the list.

I had fun jotting this down and think this might turn into another #WriterProblem series! Do you have any writing expectations vs. realities? Share them in the comments!

____________ Publishers Release New “Mad Lib” Editions Just in time for Holidays

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An excerpt from Gone with the ________, one of the classics scheduled for rerelease in Mad Lib Edition by _________ Publishers.

NEW YORK, NY- Prominent journal and book publishing company formerly known as Weakly Publishers has changed its title to “________ Publishers” in light of their new initiative, the ‘Mad Lib Editions.’

Books and journals formerly published by this company will be reprinted in new, special edition ‘Mad Lib’ format during this holiday season. Or, should we say, this __________ season.

“‘Mad Lib’ format is a new style we are very excited about,” said chief editor Richard Washy. “Basically, the reader is able to make the book or article into whatever they want!”

Mr. Washy went on to explain that this new format is simple in design but sure to thrill readers of all tastes because it has the capability of appealing to all by saying absolutely nothing definite. Any adjective, pronoun, or even name that is potentially off-putting to readers is replaced with a ___________ in which the reader may insert whatever word they would  prefer. This allows for a comfortable reading experience, which is perfectly in line with _________ Publisher’s mission statement of “Making the World a __________ Place, One _________ at a Time,” as well as their belief that reading is intended to be, as intern Kale McBirkenstock describes it, “a sort of silent Netflix, but with less thinking.”

Marketing specialists at ____________ Publishers predict that bestsellers of these new releases will include titles such as:

  •  Make America _______ Again
  • To ________ a Mockingbird
  • The Origin of ________
  • Moby _______
  • and, of course, the highly anticipated second edition of __________

The publishing agency declined to release more titles, but promises that upwards of 50 books will be reprinted as official ‘Mad Lib Titles.’

“I’m really excited about this initiative,” commented a popular paranormal romance author who preferred to remain anonymous. “It could really help the sales of my books to cut some of the actual writing.”

Focus group results are positive as well, with feedback such as:

“Wow! I never knew reading could be so much fun!”

“Wait, it says to insert a noun. What’s a noun?”

“I had no idea that all of the hobbits in the Fellowship of the Ring were female socialists! Wonderful plot twist!”

And, to the delight of Mr. Washy and the board of executives, “I’ve never before felt so comforted by a novel! Who knew that Where the ____ Fern Grows had such an uplifting ending!”

“It is wonderful to hear that already ‘Mad Lib’ books are making reading a pleasant, affirming experience for people of all preferences,” stated Mr. Washy at the close of his interview.

In the spirit of Mad Lib books, it does indeed seem that there is a bright, if indefinite, future for the _____________ of literature at _____________ Publishing.