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!”

 

 

Progressive Peasant Comes out as “Royal We”

 

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Norwich, England
Bleak Midwinter, 1275

Breaking news as progressive peasant, Eustace of Norwich, has bravely come out as the “Royal We.” Eustace is long since deceased, but crews from the BBC just arrived on the scene because they got caught up trying to say “progressive peasant” five times fast. Fortunately, they were able to secure an interview with one of Eustace’s living descendants.

When asked to explain her ancestor’s choice to identify by the pluralis maiestatis rather than traditional commoner pronouns such as “him” or “her,” Tynnifer of Norwich explained, “We did not wish to reduce Ourselves to one gender or one singular person. We felt that ‘We’ better-communicated Our nobility. ”

When informed that her ancestor was a single male peasant, Tynnifer rolled her eyes and replied, “No, We were not. We were royals.”

Historians from the BBC were able to unearth genealogies proving Eustace of Norwich’s short life as one of drudgery and homespun wool (the typical life of a peasant) but Tynnifer of Norwich shook her head in disappointment and remarked, “How very old-fashioned. No, that’s not true at all. We were born a peasant, but We were brave enough to identify as Royal in the face of repression.”

“We always felt that We were more,” she added.

Or rather, We added? They added? Her Majesty added? The reporter, trying very hard to recall the proper grammar, began to quake nervously and asked Tynnifer if she was talking about her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent Eustace or herself or whether, perhaps, there might be anyone else with her.

“We are not amused,” said Tynnifer seriously. “We are talking about Us. We are alone. We do not see how that is confusing at all. We think that you need to be more open-minded.”

To avoid accusations of discrimination, the BBC reporter hastily thanked Tynnifer for the interview and hurried home to breathe into a paper bag and recite the rules of grammar over a nonjudgemental cup of tea.

Taylor Swift Fan, 23, Continues to Identify as 22

14 November 2019
Los Angeles, California

A local young woman’s birthday party took a shocking turn as she announced, in reply to well-wishers’ shouts of “Surprise!” that she was not turning 23 at all, but would rather continue to live her best life as a 22-year-old.

“I just couldn’t see myself as a 23-year-old,” said local artist and birthday-revolutionary Kale McBirkenstock. “You see, I just don’t think I accomplished everything I was meant to do this past year and think maybe continuing on as a 22-year-old is best.”

When asked what exactly she meant to accomplish, Kale replied, “Well, I obviously did a lot of the things on my list… I dressed up like a hipster almost every day and made fun of my ex once or twice, but never once did I have breakfast at midnight or fall in love with a stranger! I mean, what was I doing with all my time?”

Kale later admitted that she’d spent a good deal of summer 2019 binging “Stranger Things” on Netflix and that art school has been taking up most of her time this semester. Still, she was apparently shocked that she had not made the time to also “ditch the whole scene” and “end up dreaming instead of sleeping.”

“It’s just so sad,” said Kale’s best friend, Tynnifer. “She’s such a determined person and still didn’t manage to achieve all her goals…but I think it’ll be alright if she keeps on dancing like she’s 22.”

Another party attendee was not nearly so affirming, stating somberly, “It looks like bad news…” The attendee refused further comment.

When asked whether she was maybe taking her Taylor Swift obsession too far in trying to actually live the lyrics to hit song, “22,” Kale replied seriously, “Who’s Taylor Swift anyway?” and returned to her party of cool kids.

 

New Year, New Journal…But how to choose?

One of the great recurring dilemmas of my life is how to pick the perfect journal. Honestly, when it comes time to shop for a new journal, it feels like going on first dates: there are some options that look good but are boring, some that are perfectly nice but no spark, and some that just are a total affront to the purpose of a journal. (Trust me on this one: I once used a journal that looked like neon seahorse had been brutally poached to make its cover…it may be filled with great memories, but I am filled with regret that I endured that notebook for so many months.)

However, having been an avid writer for as long as I can remember, I have narrowed picking a new journal down to a near science.

There are the obvious factors such as:

  1. Size: Large enough to read, small enough to squeeze into a purse, medium enough for an artsy Instagram photo to prove that you do indeed write in it.
  2. Lines: Do you want lines? Bullets? Or— I’m lookin’ at you T-Swift —  blank space?
  3. Binding: Spiral? Flat? Antiquarian? Composition book? HELP.
  4. Covers: Hard, soft, over-easy, scrambled…wait no, that’s not right.
  5. Adornments: Bible verses each page? Inspirational thoughts? The full text of Pride and Prejudice in itty bitty type along each line?

But wait! There’s MORE!

  1. Stage of life: An “end-of-an-era” journal ought to look different than a “filled-with-high-hopes” journal and an autumn diary is likely to be quite different than a spring diary.
  2. Current goals: Tracking your fitness? Planning your homework? Composing poetry? Plotting your next campaign? The proper tool is key!
  3. Personal Style: As much as I might admire that hipster look, my life is lived in bright floral and, while I admire that skull diary, it would not quite match my pink pajamas.

I am about to enter not only a new year, but my final semester as an undergraduate; as such, there are exciting things happening every moment and this amped up the pressure to find the perfect journal. Unfortunately, it seems I have used every decent model sold at my go-to stores (aside from a too-expensive Monet-print leather model which I drooled over for a bit).

Anyway, after  failing, even at Target (*shakes fist at security cameras*), I resorted to online shopping which, at least for books, is not the same. Of course I use it for convenience, but it just isn’t as satisfying as strolling through aisles of shelves, picking out a new notebook or novel, smelling that fresh papery scent and feeling the smooth inky pages… I spent HOURS of non-book-scented time scrolling through Amazon, putting way too many options in my cart. Honestly, it felt like literary online dating and finally I had to just swipe what looked promising and hope it will up to its profile in real life.

I suppose I’ll find out on Thursday.

Dear Mr. Dickens: An Open Letter

My dear Mr. Dickens,

I hope you are well and not at all rolling over in your grave. (It is, after all, nearing Christmas and renditions of your famous holiday tale are promenading before audiences who are mostly wondering whether they actually turned off the oven or whether the turkey they pretend to like is burnt positively to a crisp.)

I digress. I hope that you are enjoying some heavenly library and continuing to dream up wonderfully real characters, quirks and all. (Though sadly characters with fewer flaws if you are in some higher home…)

Now that the well wishes are done, I must humbly beg your pardon; I insulted you years ago, though perhaps we can lay the true blame on my mother, who insulted you first. But whether or not insults are hereditary failings, I must ask you to forgive me. I called you “long-winded” and “gold-digging,” for I heard that you were paid per word and perpetuated your propensity for prolific phrases to procure profit. (How’s that for alliteration?)

I was wrong to mock you for a trait that I share (love of words and liking of being paid for them). I also concede that I was incorrect in my accusations. You were not, as it turns out, paid per word, but rather per installment. This is most sensible, as you wrote novels in monthly installments and it seems a shame to only be paid upon the completion when readers were already enjoying your creations. I freely confess that I made these claims without reading anything aside from the aforementioned Christmas tale and even this is dubious as I my only memory of it is from the Muppets’ version. And so, I apologize most sincerely for my unbased bias.

My readers might pause here, thinking that the length of some of your works does lend some credibility to my prejudice. But here is where we must become more thoughtful. Are your books —David Copperfield for instance— actually pedantic in prose and sprawling in size? Or, are our attention spans as readers poorly lacking? Are we even reading these narratives correctly?

Life is so rapid these days and we demand constant simulation. Not only does my phone weigh much less than Copperfield, it promises more laughs and terrors per post.  Modern literary material is the same; young adult novels especially demonstrate this, focusing more often on the fantastic elevating the ordinary instead of finding what is naturally noteworthy  in this ordinary.

It is so easy to be absorbed by rapid-fire adventures and super human characters, but have we lost something? Have we lost an enchantment with our own humanity? Even just a few chapters into David Copperfield, I am rediscovering a love for the quirks of the human race. I am disgusted by characters that are as flawed as I am and cheer for those that cherish the same silly little hopes that I do. I am enraptured once more with the thought that in all my eating or drinking or whatever I do, I am somehow doing something marvelous because I am, as much as and more than any character, a unique human being set within the context of my culture and, above all, creation’s narrative.

But I am getting carried away and I will tell you now, Mr. Dickens, that I intend to write many more blog posts as I live alongside young Copperfield. For that is what it is, after all: living. There is to be no skimming, no rushing through this book; the very length and style do not allow for it! And where once I might have cursed you for this, now I bless you, sir. I am grateful that your writing, at once elegant and snappy, makes me slow down, return to a fascination with the ordinary, and truly live in community with your characters as they develop alongside my own life.

I once more offer my humblest apologies and my deepest thanks.

Your abashed and admiring reader,

Ryanne J. McLaren

 

Poll: Best Part of Movies are Concessions

 

PHOENIX, ARIZONA- Polling of consumers leaving a current blockbuster film reveal that the best part of the movies are, indeed, the concessions.

“But we don’t just mean popcorn and jumbo sodas!” said customer relations director Jack Hughs. “It turns out that the concessions made by viewers are what allow them to enjoy almost any movie that the market produces.”

When asked what kinds of concessions, Mr. Hughs replied, “Oh, there are a wide variety, much like our candy selection.”

These include:

  • ignoring obvious plot holes
  • Junior Mints
  • allowing for archetypal characters with little to no development
  • excusing poor pacing
  • never expecting singers to actually sing
  • Mike and Ikes
  • being dazzled by painful CGI animation
  • extra-butter popcorn
  • excusing the cliche and predictable as “heartwarming”
  • extra medium diet fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan soda water
  • ignoring lazy filming mistakes
  • enjoying soundtracks that sound roughly like pop radio
  • nachos
  • excusing cultural or historical inaccuracy for the sake of a good story

“We are thinking of expanding our menu to incorporate all of these,” said Mr. Hughs.

95% of those polled, including Local Millennial Kale McBirkenstock, are in favor of this.

“People come to the movies to be entertained, plain and simple,” Miss McBirkenstock said when interviewed. “I mean, I just want to watch something that makes me- like- not even.”

Her boyfriend, Lux Filterton, added, “Yeah, after all, the point of art is to just give you all the feels. Oh, and the more gratuitous violence, sex, and language, the (expletive) better…those are powerful literary techniques, right?”

This poll reveals potentially good news for the film industry, though; the less thought consumers want to put into their viewing experience, the less thought producers need to put into their cinema. As a result, nearly 200 new movies are expected to premiere between January and February alone and, while critics are lamenting the decline of well-crafted storytelling, crowds are applauding what has been described as “spectacle…without all that nasty substance.”