Not Non-Fiction

Stories.

The Domain of 2022.

Picture taken from the short story “The Good-natured Bear” by Richard Henry Horne, published 1878, digitized by Google, and pretty much forgotten since then.

It’s really exciting to me that, among other works, the original Winnie The Pooh has entered the public domain as of January 1st, 2022. So has Bambi, another work that a certain megalithic corporation has claimed, but I feel kind of a personal collection to the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood since my mother got the idea to name me from Milne’s works, and at the time “Christopher” seemed like an unusual name, which is probably why a lot of other mothers got the same idea at about the same time. That’s why a high school friend of mine, also named Chris, once said to me, “Yelling ‘Hey Chris!’ in the hall is like going to a Cure concert and yelling ‘Hey, you in the black!'” but that’s another story.

While I get the need to protect an artist’s work for a while–Mozart might not have died poor if he’d been able to collect royalties on the wildly successful run of Don Giovanni in Prague–works entering the public domain always prompts a new burst of creative reinterpretation, especially since writers have been borrowing, adapting, and outright copying since, well, probably before there was even written communication, and at least as long as there’s been recorded history. The writer Spider Robinson summed up the trouble with permanent ownership in his short story Melancholy Elephants.

I’m just saying it’s fine for artists to make money from their works but once they’re gone there’s a time to, you know, let it go. And it seemed like it was that simple until I received this:

From: The Walt Disney Corporation
To: Christopher Allen Waldrop
Subject: Winnie The Pooh
Dear Mr. Waldrop,
Regarding recent reports of Winnie The Pooh and associated characters (excluding Tigger) now being in the public domain I would like to inform you that Winnie The Pooh(tm) and all associated characters, as well as all motion pictures, including but not limited to theatrical releases, television shows, and direct-to-video productions, as well as all toys, board games, or other products and merchandise bearing the names or likenesses of Winnie The Pooh(tm) and all associated characters, and all written materials about Winnie The Pooh(tm) and all associated characters are the sole property of The Walt Disney Corporation. Any use of or reference to Winnie The Pooh(tm) and all associated characters and settings, including but not limited to the childhood home of Christopher “Robin” Milne, son of A.A. Milne, and The Hundred Acre Wood(r) is forbidden without the express permission of The Walt Disney Corporation. This includes any and all quotations as well as parodies, which are not covered by the statute of Fair Use, as determined by summary legal judgment (cf. Disney v. Keaton, Disney v. Ellison, Disney v. Fleischer, Disney v. Thames Television, etc.).
I am aware that you may attempt to reply to this notice by citing, paraphrasing, or plagiarizing a letter from Julius “Groucho” Marx to the Warner Brothers Film Studio, sent when said film studio objected to the Marx Brothers’ use of the name “Casablanca” in the title of their film “A Night In Casablanca”. I realize that Mr. Marx’s reply included, among other things, an implied threat of a countersuit because the Marxes had been brothers before the Warners. I know you are familiar with this letter because you checked out the book Life With Groucho by Arthur Marx from a local academic library on August 25th, 1996, at 12:24PM CDT. You subsequently returned said book on September 17th, 1996, at 6:48AM CDT. At both times you declined to pay $0.40 in fines which you owed for a previous book (The Bedbug & Selected Poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky) which you had checked out but did not read. I am also aware that you have described Mr. Marx’s correspondence with Warner Brothers in reference to stories of allegedly ludicrous or egregious copyright infringement suits on blogs where you comment under the pseudonym “Spunky The Wonder Squid”.
It is my duty to inform you that The Walt Disney Corporation has acquired The Marx Brothers, including, but not limited to, all motion pictures, television appearances, and written materials, as well as assorted paraphernalia or any likeness of said Brothers (cf. Disney v. Menkmann Bros., producers of a “fake schnozz” with mustache and glasses). I must therefore ask that you cease and desist quoting from or paraphrasing Mr. Marx’s letter, as well as any other quotes, actual or attributed, or making any references to The Marx Brothers(c) herewith without the express permission of The Walt Disney Corporation.
Regarding your use of the name “Spunky The Wonder Squid” I must also inform you that The Walt Disney Corporation has acquired the entire television series Night Flight, which ran on the USA Network as well as in syndication from 1981 to 1988. This acquisition included the eight-episode parody series “Dynaman”, later repackaged, with additional or replacement sequences, but with all humor and music by the B-52’s removed, as “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”, subsequently “Power Rangers”. I must therefore ask that you cease all use of the name “Spunky The Wonder Squid” without the express permission of The Walt Disney Corporation.
In addition I must further inform you that The Walt Disney Corporation has acquired or has always had ownership of the following: The Muppets, Star Wars, Looney Tunes, the complete works of Jules Verne, Star Trek, Dangermouse, the complete works of Theodore Geisel (AKA “Dr. Seuss”), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Twilight Zone (TV series), The Twilight Zone (song, acquired with the complete catalog of Golden Earring), The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as its sequel and all related materials including but not limited to the stage production, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and all subsequent sequels and remakes, Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), the complete works of Kurt Vonnegut, the complete works of Eleanor Cameron, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and all productions of Python (Monty), Ltd., Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Body Snatchers (1993), The Invasion (2007), the complete works of Arthur C. Clarke, the entire country of Sri Lanka, the following TV series not previously listed: The Kids In The Hall, You Can’t Do That On Television, M*A*S*H*, Cheers, Jeopardy!, Doctor Who, the complete filmography of Stanley Kubrick, the complete filmography of Peter Lorre, the complete filmography of Mel Brooks, the complete works of Virginia Woolf, the complete works of Amadeus Mozart, and “Freckles”, the neighborhood Springer Spaniel whom you played with from ages four through thirteen, and who was the sire of your dog “Friskie” (patent pending). Since there is a chance, albeit small, that you will respond to this letter with Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down”, I must warn you that several years ago Mr. Petty signed a contract giving ownership of his soul to Hell, Ltd., in exchange for becoming a “triple threat” (singer/musician/animated character). As a result of a 1995 merger The Walt Disney Corporation acquired all property and individuals owned at the time by Hell, Ltd., as well as several relevant personnel. (Mr. Beelzebub, a former CEO of Hell, Ltd., is now The Walt Disney Corporation’s Vice President in charge of Human Resources.) Quoting from Mr. Petty’s song, including use of the phrase “I won’t back down” is not allowed without the express permission of The Walt Disney Corporation.
The Walt Disney Corporation is now also the sole owner and licensor of the following: the epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian Book of The Dead, the Illiad and Odyssey by “Homer”, the complete works of William Shakespeare, Samuel Clemens, Emily Dickinson, Jules Verne, Publius Ovidius Naso, and other materials previously considered to have been available as part of the public domain. This acquisition occurred as part of recent legislation passed as an addendum as provided by a codicil in the 1998 Copyright Extension Act, section 42, subsection L, which specifically provided The Walt Disney Corporation authority to extend all copyrights past, present, and future to infinity and beyond. These items are owned in toto, as is the dog Toto, as part of The Walt Disney Corporation’s acquisition of all print and motion picture versions of The Wizard of Oz, as well as all related materials, sequels, remakes, etc. The Walt Disney Corporation also owns the band Toto. However as your inability to sing in any key renders the song “Africa” unrecognizable to anyone but yourself we do not feel it is necessary at this time to request that you cease and desist singing it in the shower.
Finally, due to what our legal department has deemed “an uncanny resemblance” to the character “Gepetto” as drawn by Walt Disney himself the Walt Disney Corporation has acquired sole rights to the brother of your paternal grandfather Mr. Allen Jackson Waldrop, AKA “Uncle Jack”.
I must therefore ask that you cease and desist quoting from, paraphrasing, or referring to any material licensed and owned by The Walt Disney Corporation without prior express permission granted in writing. Failure to do so will result in a minimum fine of $25,000.00 per infringement as well as imprisonment in an undisclosed location (known forthwith as “the unhappiest place on Earth”) for no less than five years. As The Walt Disney Corporation has just acquired the complete works of Franz Kafka our legal department has determined that such requests may, in themselves, be determined to constitute infringement if they mention by name any character, personage, or item owned by The Walt Disney Corporation.
Respectfully,
Smedley Force, The Walt Disney Corporation
Department of Legal Affairs, Copyright Infringement
Division of Written Materials (spec. Talking Animals)

How D’You Like Them Apples?

It’s October and time to finally put to rest one of the most vexing seasonal questions of all: what is the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

Apple juice: Non-alcoholic.

Apple cider: May be non-alcoholic or alcoholic. Traditionally alcoholic in Europe the term “cider” referred to raw apple juice in the US for a long time in spite of its derivation from a Hebrew word meaning “strong drink” before the rising popularity of alcoholic cider.

 

Apple juice: Filtered, clear.

Apple cider: Generally unfiltered; may be clear or cloudy.

 

Apple juice: Pasteurized.

Apple cider: Generally also pasteurized but at a lower temperature or shorter period, giving it a shorter shelf life. Left alone will either turn into apple cider vinegar or applesauce.

 

Apple juice: Consumed year-round, mostly by children.

Apple cider: The alcoholic variety is consumed year-round, mostly by adults, while the non-alcoholic variety is consumed in the fall at church picnics by people who think it sounds kind of seasonal and also it’s cheaper.

 

Apple juice: Squeezed from the fruit using modern equipment, processed, and bottled within twenty-four hours.

Apple cider: Fruit and pulp are pressed in ancient stone building. The juice is then left to ferment for months or years while druids perform strange rituals over the barrels.

 

Apple juice: Usually served cold but can also be served hot and flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.

Apple cider: Always cold because of its aura of menace. Sucks the life force from cinnamon sticks like Billy Zane in The Mummy.

 

Apple juice: Made from a variety of red delicious apples specifically bred for juice.

Apple cider: Made from cursed apples that grow in orchards planted in forgotten graveyards.

 

Apple juice: Apples are harvested by industrial means in large quantities.

Apple cider: Apples are harvested by hand by tough withered Steinbeck characters with names like Nick, Skipjack, and Hortense.

 

Apple juice: Found on grocery store shelves next to the powdered drink mixes.

Apple cider: Found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store next to the beer, but may also be sold to you in the alley behind the store by a tough withered Steinbeck character with a three-day beard, an eyepatch, wearing a tattered trenchcoat, and carrying an axe. Answers to “Hortense”.

 

Apple juice: May be made from concentrate.

Apple cider: You know it’s thinking something.

 

Apple juice: Family friendly; often sold in bottles adorned with cartoon characters.

Apple cider: “We only fly the flag of the Jolly Roger,” says Hortense, glaring at you.

 

Apple juice: Goes great with a child’s afternoon snack of graham crackers or ginger snaps.

Apple cider: Lurks in the darkness waiting for the proper incantations that will release the demons trapped in its depths.

 

Apple juice: May have added sugar.

Apple cider: “I’d be more concerned with what it takes,” says Hortense, wiping something from her axe.

 

Apple juice: Makes adults nostalgic for carefree summer days of running barefoot through the tall grass with friends.

Apple cider: Wants you to pour it out over a blood sacrifice performed under a full moon, thus opening a portal to the netherworld where dark and mysterious creatures still reign.

 

Apple juice: Has a diuretic effect.

Apple cider: The only thing known to dislodge that bubblegum you swallowed in third grade.

Source: Wondermark


Source: Wondermark

The Makeover.

Source: Fromoldbooks.org

It’s been several thousand years and I finally decided it was time for a makeover. The look I’ve always used has worked well but, you know, sometimes it kind of gets me down how people react when they see me, so I thought it might be nice to lighten up a little bit. The black robe was really a matter of convenience, anyway. I’m always really busy and rarely get a chance to sit down and put my feet up before there’s another call, so having something that was easy to put on in a hurry just made sense, and the black is always good for sort of blending in, especially when I needed to sneak up on people. I don’t like doing that but, you know, it’s unavoidable that some people will try to get away when they see me coming.

Black is always in fashion too. You know, they had a saying back in the mid-1300s: black is the new black.

So I wanted to keep it simple, you know? Something that would still be easy to put on when I have to rush to work or when I just have to walk the dog. Oh yeah, my dog doesn’t leave me much downtime either. With three heads and one butt he’s constantly on the go if you know what I mean.

Sometimes I also ride a horse, which is great for covering a lot of territory, especially when I get called to a battlefield or some place like that. It’s just not convenient when I have to get into small places and you can’t take a horse everywhere. Sometimes I switch it up with the motorcycle just for more speed but sometimes it’s better to just wing it.

Not wanting to get too dressed up didn’t leave me with a lot of options so I thought the best thing to do might be a pattern. Believe it or not I thought about trying a camo look. I figured it would be good for blending in, especially on those battlefields, but it just didn’t feel right for me. I don’t always enjoy what I do but I still feel like it’s important and I don’t want to hide it. I thought maybe some stripes or a paisley pattern could be a good way to mix it up, but that’s not really my style either. Finally I decided to trade in the black for a nice lavender, in taffeta so it would have a nice sheen. I also got the same thing in magenta or, if I’m feeling really kicky, aqua, and got the wings to match. Sometimes I’d also trade in the hood for a raspberry beret. Got the idea from Zevon–we always had this mutual admiration–and again when Prince came over.

I decided to put on a few pounds too. You know, they had a saying back in the 1980’s: you can’t be too rich or too thin. I guess I’ve always been both, and neither one’s done me much good. Anyway I wanted to give people a friendly smile, which is hard when you don’t have lips.

The scythe really didn’t fit with any of that, and, well, it’s always been just a prop anyway. It’s not like I’m actually out there reaping, so I traded that in for a small pointer kind of stick.

I didn’t think about running any of this past HR—I’m pretty much my own boss—but then I got this memo from another department:

Dear Mr. Death,
We formally request that you cease and desist from using our look as this can result in confusion among our clients. It is also disparaging to our brand.
Sincerely,
Fairy Godmothers, LLC

Okay, fine. It was just something I thought I’d try. I guess I can let them have their clients. They all come to me in the end anyway.

Source: Expresso Beans Forum

As You Sow So Shall You Reap.

Source: Twitter user Lesego Semenya (@LesDaChef)

In the beginning there was wild mustard and it was good. It was pretty tasty and the seeds were good for spicing up food, especially sausage which had just been invented. It was nutritious and everyone was fine with this plant as it was.

Then it was cultivated and the cultivation led to collard greens. And this was okay too. Collard greens were also nutritious and while some didn’t like them most people were just fine with them.

Then more cultivation led to cabbage. Some people didn’t like cabbage but most did. Cabbage was useful. You could boil it or wrap other foods up in the leaves. Cabbage rolls and coffee got a lot of people going in the morning. Or the afternoon. Or whenever. It was good for making cole slaw. It was also good for serving with corned beef, which was called that even though it had no corn in it. Corn hadn’t been invented yet.

Then came brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts were basically tiny cabbages that grew on a stem. No one could explain why this was necessary, but the prevailing belief was that it was because Belgium was annoyed with the Netherlands for also being called Holland and for having people known as the Dutch, which is too many names for such a small country. Brussels sprouts were divisive. People either really hated them or were moderately okay with them. They were pretty good roasted and were deemed acceptable when drenched with cheddar cheese, which had just been invented.

Somewhere in here kohlrabi came along. No one was sure what to do with kohlrabi or how to eat it or if it should be cooked or served raw. Finally everyone just decided that the best thing was to give it a weird name and move on.

Then came broccoli. People were okay with broccoli. It was like eating tiny trees, and everyone got a kick out of that. It didn’t have a lot of flavor in spite of being a descendant of wild mustard but people could at least claim they were having something healthy at office parties by eating broccoli smothered in ranch dressing, which had just been invented.

Shortly after broccoli cauliflower came along. No one was sure why and half the people wanted to call it a flower and half the people wanted to call it an amniotic membrane. No one was sure what to do with cauliflower but since it was related to broccoli it was put on the vegetable trays with ranch dressing. Cauliflower could also be boiled and mashed into a paste so that people would think they were getting a nice big serving of potatoes until they ate it and it just tasted like wet cardboard.

And then there was kale. No one was sure where kale came from but everyone agreed that it should go back. In spite of efforts to make it palatable by turning it into chips or mixing it with bacon, which some falsely tried to claim had been invented for just that purpose, no one liked kale. Cheese ran in terror from it.

Kale would have been the black sheep of the brassica family but not even sheep would eat it. Regardless of when it had been invented it was the dead end of a once proud lineage, a cultivar that only existed because some cabbage grower somewhere hadn’t stopped when they were a head.

 

Inter-office Memos: National Poetry Month Edition.

Because I could not stop for work—

They sent it to my room—

No one could tell I had no pants—

Because we met in Zoom—

–E. Dickinson & Associates, Amherst

From: elsa.hildegard@ passaicgen.com

To: All Staff

Subject: Plums!!!

I left a bag of plums in the break room refrigerator. Someone ate them even though the bag was clearly marked with my name on it. They were there for after my morning run. THIS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. Show some respect, people. I don’t want to place blame unfairly but I think whoever did it left their red wheelbarrow out next to the chickens.

From: bill.c.williams@ passaicgen.com

To: elsa.hildegard@ passaicgen.com

Subject: RE: Plums!!!

This is just to say

I’m sorry. I have eaten the plums

That you were probably saving for breakfast.

Forgive me. They were delicious,

And I thought they were like the Girl Scout cookies

You brought last week.

From: elsa.hildegard@ passaicgen.com

To: elsa.hildegard@ passaicgen.com

Subject: RE: Plums!!!

Okay, Bill, I forgive you, but seriously learn to indent.

 

From D. Thomas, in the cubicle next to yours:

A Refusal To Mourn Your Departure From The Office

 

Do not go gentle into retirement,

It’s still too soon for your 401(k).

Now, now, go tell the boss he should get bent.

 

Your final e-mail has been typed and sent,

You’ve had a cake, and it’s the end of day.

Do not go gentle into retirement,

Now, now, go tell the boss he should get bent.

Coming Up:

Charles Dodgson, L.C., offers advice on wooing celebrity investors in “The Hunting Of The Shark”

Elizabeth Bishop’s instructions on dealing with corporate bankruptcy with “The Art Of Losing”

Walt Whitman contains multitudes, because he’s offering sweet deals on office space.

Pie In The Sky.

“Pizza Is a Healthier Breakfast Than Cereal, According to a Nutritionist”–Health.com

Welcome to another episode of Mouth Of America! This week we’ll be enjoying some of the different styles of cereal around the country. First we’ll head to New York, best known for its thin style of serving up Raisin Bran, usually on plates instead of bowls. Paper plates are great and can conveniently be folded in half for easy carrying when you’re strolling around the five boroughs, although they don’t hold milk too well.

Next we’re off to Chicago for their famous deep bowl cereal style, often served up with heavy cream and requiring an extra large spoon. Few things go better with a Bears game than a big bowl of shredded wheat topped with a hot, gooey layer of melted sugar.

As long as we’re in the Midwest let’s also stop to take in Detroit style cereal. The legacy of John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of corn flakes, still reigns here with his traditional cereal  served up in square or rectangular bowls, and for some reason they also put butter on it.

Right next door of course is Wisconsin, America’s dairyland, which explains why corn flakes are also popular here and also why instead of milk they use cottage cheese. That’s…interesting. Let’s move on.

Down South cereals lean more toward the dried fruit and whole nut end of the aisle with puffed rice also a popular choice. South Carolina style cereal is especially well known for its vinegar and mustard based toppings and seriously what is wrong with people?

Now we head back to the middle of the country for some of the famous St. Louis cereal and molasses I can understand but why for the love of all that is holy are they putting tomato sauce on it.

Just a little to the north is Iowa where the most popular cereal is corn. Just corn. Raw corn on the cob. In a bowl.

Let’s move on. You don’t have to jet across the Pacific to enjoy Hawaiian style cereal which has become popular across the country. Adding pineapple to your cereal doesn’t sound so bad. Oh, please tell me you didn’t just put ham in a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. I think I’m going to be sick.

Finally it’s off to California for, oh, no, wait, we’re going to the Pacific Northwest for Seattle-style and, yep, I was afraid of that, they’re putting fish on it.

Well, that’s all for our tour of the cereal styles of America, and I’m only going to say because I’m contractually obligated to read the script that cereal is good food no matter how you slice it.

And All The Devils Are Here.

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