In Defense of the Bell Witch

Brief History: In 1817, a Tennessee family started to report poltergeist activity on their farm. The idea of the disturbances being witchcraft came from the father’s initial theory that their neighbor, Kate Batts, was the cause. The Batts and the Bells were in the midst of a land dispute when the strange occurrences began and when asked, the ghost said its name was “Kate”. Besides the usual poltergeist activity (no television wasn’t invented yet, Carol Ann), ghostly dogs and hares were seen on the property. However, the worst part of the tale is how the “witch” treated the Bell’s teenage daughter, Betsy. She would be beaten in her sleep, pinched and thrown across the room. The entity forbade Betsy from marrying her boyfriend, Joshua Gardner, for unknown reasons. The “witch” was kind to Mrs. Bell, but hated John Bell so much that upon the night he died, she laughed and sang jauntily. The claim by the community was that the ghost herself poisoned John Bell and some officials agreed. After that, the ghost supposedly returned seven years later, but Betsy was married (to her school teacher - gross) and, as the ghost had no stomach for tutoring the rest of the family, didn’t stay long.

Analysis: It is certain that the Bell family existed. No one denies that. However, the existence and reasoning behind the witch is debated. Setting aside the idea that the whole tale is simply homespun folklore, the reasoning behind the haunting range from John Bell’s original Kate Batts cursed them theory to the whole thing was a fake phenomena set up by the local school teacher (you know, the one who later married Betsy - cause gross). Other books wondering if Betsy was the cause, through trickery of a young woman seeking attention or through an attraction of a supernatural entity for a young woman. Either way, it’s become one of the most popular ghost stories in the U.S. (besides any story that begins with teenagers making out in the vicinity of hook-handed killer). There’s even a heavy metal song about the Bell Witch.

Blame it on the Victorians: The Bell Witch stories were mostly word-of-mouth local legend until the mid-to late 1800s when America craved “true” ghost stories. We wanted to live up to the tales we’d left behind in the old world. Therefore, books and newspapers started to dredge up the tale of Betsy, John and the witch. The remains of their farm became a tourist attraction which you can still visit to this day.

Blame it on Andrew Jackson: He actually has no blame in this story. I just hate President Andrew Jackson. Supposedly he once was messed with by the Bell Witch. Good job, Bell Witch! Couldn’t she have stopped him from passing the Indian Removal Act?

Final Thoughts: Don’t watch an American Haunting. It’s a gross theory that I really hope is nowhere near the truth.

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In Defense of... Wait, what the hell is this?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a WTF moment. Three weeks ago a comment showed up on my Women of Science Fiction entry which (like a diligent writer) I finally checked tonight. What I found was the following:

My dream finally comes through i never believe this will happen to me, i am here to share my testimony how dr Oseiboh help me to cast death spell on my uncle who killed my parents because of his company, and the matter was taking to court and was not giving justice because i was not having any prove not until i came across this great spell caster online and i explain everything that happened to me and he promise to help me cast the spell within 48hours that i should send my uncle full name and his picture that is going to confess before he die which i did as he commanded.within 2days my uncle started confessing and finally die. am grateful for what dr Oseiboh did for me and with that i promise to share this testimony to all the viewers around the globe,If you are having similar issues please do contact him,you can contact dr Oseiboh for any death spell, such as to kill your superior in the office and take his or her place,love spell,lottery,pregnancy spell,divorce spell,stop court case and win any court problems,business spell, death spell to kill your father and inherit his wealth ,death spell to kill anyone who have scammed you in the past ,spell for increase in salaries, spell for promotion at the office, spell to get your ex lover back,money spell,if things is not working well in your life then you need to contact him now

Spelling errors aside, does this person realize he just made himself an accomplice to a crime of some kind? He’s advertising death spells using a blog comments bot and apparently does not care that he’s clearly a sloppy killer (or employer of killers)? This Dr. Oseiboh better have some moral aspect to his career not being advertised. He needs to hire new marketers if that’s the case, because this guy is makes him sound rather shady. Plus, they are advertising him in all of the wrong spots. A quick Google search revealed another of these ads on The Economist’ s article about the Ebola crisis. Can Dr. Oseiboh cure Ebola? If so, I feel that the ad should lead with that.

Does Dr. Oseiboh do minor inconvenience spells or only the extremes and, if so, is there a price difference? Would he accept livestock as payment like in the good ole’ days? How many roosters would it cost me to have the woman who cuts me off on the freeway to get a bad case of acid re-flux? Does he have a jingle involving the words “Walla Walla Bing Bang”? Is his familiar an ostrich or some other outlandish creature? Does he do house calls or only work through online sources? If so, can he also cast computer virus spells? Does he accept my insurance? Are his services tax deductible? When he places the love spell, lottery, pregnancy, and divorce spell, does it always happen in that order? What is his refund policy? Can he bring someone back to life if you are not satisfied with the death spell cast? What if I only wanted a simple maiming and he caused disembowelment?

And lastly, if I were to use this Dr.’s spooky services, would I then too be cursed to place random comments in unrelated blogs and articles advertising how his changed my life? If I am pulled into this powerful pyramid scheme, do I get a cut? Will I too, receive a number of roosters?

The mind. It boggles.

In Defense of the Wolf Girl of Texas

Brief History: Okay, 90s children - name that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark title. A woman named Mollie Dent gave birth in the scrubs of Texas and soon died (as did her husband, because what’s a good urban legend without an orphan). As a neighbor went to help the already doomed family ,he discovered the baby had vanished. As this was 1835, he assumed the baby had been eaten by wolves and went back to his life. Ten years go by and, you guessed, a pack of wolves have been spotted with a naked girl running among them. Locals decide to cry catching “Mollie’s girl” for her own good, but this goes creepily awry. The feral girl was locked in a ranch room where she began to howl. The wolf pack attacks the corral of the ranch and Mollie’s girl escapes with them. The last time she was spotted alive she would have been seventeen. Still, stories of human-wolf hybrids roaming the river valley began to surface. In the twentieth century people claimed to see her ghost running on all fours and hear the eerie howls of a girl.

Analysis: There’ s little evidence to support if this story is true or based on truth as there was no newspaper established in this area of Texas yet. Still, I find it interesting that it has more details than the normal local folktale. The parents have backstories, dad being a former fur trapper who killed his partner and mom being the Georgian peach who fell for him. There are specific years of each major event: Lobo Girl is born in May 1835 in Del Rio, 1845 when the locals attempted to capture her at risk of their own safety, and 1852 when she’s last seen alive with a pair of wolf cubs. Still, human-wolf hybrids. . . gross. Also the idea of capturing her and not being prepared to handle her biting, scratching, or howling seems strange to me. I feel like if you are going to go after a feral kid, be prepared. All those thoughts aside, feral children is not unheard of. There have been well-documented and even recent cases of children raised by dogs, wolves, monkeys, and even sheep. Is anyone else singing the Lambert the Sheepish Lion song now?

Blame It on the Victorians: The 1850s up through the early 1900s loved tales of feral children. Everyone knows about Mowgli and Tarzan and those were bestselling books. Therefore, why wouldn’t a story of a girl being raised by wolves in the prairies of Texas not stick around for another century and a half? This probably had something to do with the restricting rules of the time versus the freedoms living like an animal. Or maybe people just liked telling stories of kids covered in hair. Who knows?

Last Thoughts: Children of the 90s, are you envisioning that drawing where the Lobo girl looks like her hair is more of a tangled shrub and she’s she staring out at you with one tired eye? Of course you are. You. Are. Welcome.

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In Defense of Resurrection Mary

Brief History: Chicago urban legend declares that in the late 1930s a man was driving down a dark road. He picks up a young woman, a pretty hitchhiker in a white dress, and as soon as they near Resurrection Cemetery, she disappears. The story has been slightly altered over the decades. Sometimes she’s found at a dance hall since the story is that she was leaving such an establishment when she was kill by a hit-and-run driver. Sometimes she is walking outside of the cemetery gates until a driver, worried that they nearly struck her, stops. Then, she vanishes again. Three theories have come to light of who this poor ghost girl may be: Mary Bregovy who died in a car crash in 1934 or Ona Anna "Marija" Norkus killed in a different car crash in 1927 OR Mary Miskowski who was hit while crossing a road in 1930.

Analysis: Some of the versions of sightings make “Mary” a flirt. She dances and kisses the man who will escort her home. I, personally, find this part of the story less believable than simply driving a ghost home. This feels to me like some kind of pseudo-romaticism machismo where it’s not enough to have seen a ghost, but they had to make out with her as well. Another interesting piece of analysis is when her story has been used in cheesy horror movies. Instead of simply being the girl looking for a ride to her resting place, she’ s vengeful spirit. The story is already a sad one without making her embittered.

Blame it on the Great Depression: Hitchhiker ghosts have been a common staple of industrialized countries since the 1920s, ever since cars went fast enough to cause deaths. The story of dancing all night to forget the sorrows of the bank failures and lack of jobs was another common theme of the time. Dance halls were cheap entertainment for the young who were still trying to hold onto the last of the flapper days. Ghost stories are another cheap entertainment. Could this have been another story starting because the people needed a distraction? Or was the depression of the era enough to keep a woman’s spirit pinned to her last night out?

Last Thoughts: Stop picking up hitchhikers, people! Alive or not, that’s just not smart.

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In Defense of the Flying Dutchman

Brief History: There are a few different versions of this legend, but I’m going with the most popular. Sometime in the 1700s, a Dutch ship on its way home was nearing the Cape of Good Hope when a storm broke out. Captain Hendrick Van der Decken (supposedly based on real Dutch East India Captain Bernard Fokke) refused to turn the ship around and murdered the members of his crew who attempted to mutiny. In some tales, an angel or the devil appear, but the end game is always the same - the captain dooms the ship to sail forever around the world between this world and the next. Ooooo spooky. Then the ghost stories started. From the late 1700s to the 1930s people (mostly Europeans) claimed to see the old ship drifting through the night. Then, usually accompanied by some eerie lights, vanishes once again.

Analysis: Is the fading ship the result of an optical illusion? Drunk sailors? Scooby Doo villains? No matter what, it has taken place of sea monsters as the maritime harbinger of doom. It’s very unlikely that the ghost story is 100% true since there is no record of any Captain Hendrick Van der Decken. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ghost ships. . . just not necessarily the Flying Dutchman. Of course, I could star analyzing the Pirate of the Caribbean version of the Flying Dutchman, but let’s just not fall down that rabbit hole.

Blame It on the Victorians: As the sightings of the ship became a more common legend, the ghost happy Victorians added the ethereal touches most versions continue today. The 19th Century added an eerie light around There were plays, books, short stories, and music all based on the Flying Dutchman. The best thing to come out of the legend was a painting by illustrator Howard Pyle in which the captain stands aboard the tilted deck of the ship bathed in yellow. In the foreground is a group of tortured souls, wasting away in the storm.

Final Thoughts: James Mason and Ava Gardner did a movie called Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. . . which really had nothing to do with the ship or original ghost story. But there’s car races on an Italian beach.

The Flying Dutchman by Howard Pyle

The Flying Dutchman by Howard Pyle

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In Defense of Lady Godiva

Brief History: The legend says that Lady Godiva of Coventry rode upon her horse through the streets with only her hair to cover her naked form. The deal was that her husband would lower the taxes upon the people. The common folk respected her so that they agreed not to look, expect peeping Tom. The truth is that this story came about several hundred years after Lady Godiva died in 1066. No one knows if her husband was a harsh tax collector or if she ever rode naked through the streets. What is known is that both her and her husband gave a crap-ton to local monasteries and churches. 

Analysis:  Some see this as a legend of rebirth and fertility. Some see it as an act of purity and a form of religious right of passage. I prefer the socio-economic analysis. Godiva is creating a bridge between the rich and the poor. She represents the compassion the impoverished wanted and her husband represented the oppressive upper class. And Peeping Tom represented that creepy guy we all know who is watching you in the bar...

Blame it on the Victorians: After Tennyson wrote a version of the legend as a poem, the 1800s became full of paintings and statues depicting the lady with her hair covering key parts of her body. Her head is hanging with some kind of mix of shame and determination on her face. I could say these artists were attempting to show a version of the world where they believed some medieval landowners were kind, but honestly, I think they just wanted to paint and sculpt naked women.

Final Thoughts:  I like the versions where Peeping Tom is blinded for his disrespect. 

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In Defense of Morguase and Morgan le Fay

Brief History and Analysis (putting these together since this isn’t really a story): Arthurian legend can be hard as it’s essentially a form of mythology all of its own. The stories change based upon the region, the century, and whether the person telling the story was more supportive old British religions or Christianity. Still, I’ll try to make this explanation of this character as brief as possible. To begin with, she had different names early on like Anna and Belisent, but over time the stories gave her names closer to that of her sister, Morgan le Fay. Wait? What (those of you who didn’t watch Merlin or read Mists of Avalon are probably saying). Yep, King Arthur had two half-sisters and over time their stories were combined and re-written to try and make the legends less confusing. Morgan was usually the sorceress, the one who followed Merlin’s teachings and was constantly capturing the knights she had crushes on. She was really about destroying Camelot or her half-brother. She was just a powerful and selfish woman. Morguase was the power hungry, revenge seeking, mother of Mordred. She also learned from Merlin in some stories, but she is always the manipulative one and Morgan is the naive one. Mordred isn’t always Arthur’s son. In some stories he’s simply Morguage’s son that she raised to try for the thrown. Morgan le Fay practices black magic in many stories, but it’s this is about her personal gain and having the medieval equivalent of “sorry not sorry”.

Blame it on the Victorians:  Victorian and 19th Century Arthurian stories and novels were the start of writing out Morguase and focusing on Morgan le Fay. The trouble was that no one could decide whether she should be evil or good. Tennyson made her helpful. Twain made her wicked. She was simplified over centuries into a side character or the villain of all villains.

Final Thoughts: Okay, I have a confession. I never finished watching Merlin. I just knew Morguase was a character on the show. 

 

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In Defense of Maid Marion

 Brief History: Maid Marion (or Marian) of Robin Hood legend was a character added later in the stories (about 200 years later someone decided the story needed both a female and religious character so she and Friar Tuck were added). Even in the earliest oral tales of the merry men, Marion got a few of her own stories as all of the characters did. Originally, she was a commoner, usually a shepherdess, but as the ballads became more about fooling the aristocracy, Marion also became a noblewoman. My personal favorite early story of her is one where she dresses as a page boy in order to run away. Her mission is to warn Robin of some latest plot to kill him (or in some versions she’s escaping marriage to Sir Guy of Gisborne). When trying to pass through Sherwood Forest, a man she doesn’t recognize attempts to rob her. Maid Marion beats his ass and the man is so impressed he takes off his disguise. Turns out it’s Robin and he wants this mysterious page boy to join his band. Marion takes off her own disguise, apologizes for cutting his face, and joins the Merry Men anyway. This version of events was written down by... honestly, I’m not sure. That’s the hard part of English ballads. They were told, retold, and written down all around the same time. Most people who did the writing and collecting didn’t get credit. Marion first started appearing around the 15th century, but she got really popular during the 16th and 17th centuries as more people turned Robin Hood into plays and puppet shows.

Analysis: For being a maid, Marion was never a damsel in the early stories. She was compassionate, smart, and brave. She acted as a spy and could defend herself.  She was meant to represent Robin Hood’s equal, not a burden to be rescued. She was his partner and friend, as well as his sweetheart. This was fairly common of medieval noble women. When husbands were away on Crusades, the women defended the home. They had to know how to use and oversee the building of weapons. They needed to be aware of siege tactics and taxes and farming. They ran things. Damsels can’t do that.

Blame it on the Victorians (and Hollywood): By the late 1800/early 1900s Marion ended up kidnapped more often in stories and plays. Victorians loved the romance of a medieval damsels who needed saving by her one true love. By the time of the first long Robin Hood film in 1922 (written, produced, and staring Douglas Fairbanks) Marian retains the role of spy, but she’s more a pawn to be used against Robin than his badass girlfriend. This would be repeated in several Robin Hood movies including the Errol Flynn classic, Robin Hood Price of Thieves, and even Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

Final Thoughts: No, I did not see the new Robin Hood with that Elton John kid. Don’t bother asking.

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My Editing Process

I know that the editing process has been discussed on this website before but I thought I’d weave the tale of my own editing struggles. Please note: this will leave out the number of times I stopped editing to do some other crucial task like laundry or video games. Or cat bonding time. I mean, look at them:

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Step One: Start initial read through

This is painful. This where one mostly checks content and mourns self-confidence as the realization that one is not a Bronte. Many like to dive into a bottle of liquor as they begin the editing process. My chosen libation is actually water. I don’t want to feel gross on top of the mental gross I already feel. Water also gives me an excuse to take breaks and ponder my own words...which is really what the toilet was meant for. 

Step Two: Find a huge piece of information which needs to be re-reseached

I can’t not research. There are certain things that I just can’t allow my imagination to fill in. The tiny historian in my brain needs to double check information and spend time double checking online sources against book sources. Just let me research, damn it!

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Step Three: Go back to content editing and try to stop doing secondary research

I don’t have a problem! I can quit research anytime I want. Shut up! Let me work!

Step Four: Spelling Grammar

I generally do my spelling and grammar checks during content, but when it’s all done, I still run that spell check for good measure. Within a novel this can take... a while. I usually do this while eating something.

Step Five: Send edited first draft to trusted friends for second and third edits...

Then secret be bitter at friends for helping me because artistry also involve emotional idiocy.

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Step Five: Edit again using new information from other editors

This involves so picking and choosing and, most importantly, some parts that have to be completely re-written (which means that those scenes then have to be re-edited).

Step Six: Professional Editor

Spend money, get professional results and clean up the last of the grammar/spelling errors.

Step Seven: Decide after all that if you still want to publish the beast.

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In Defense of Columbia

Brief History: This isn’t really a story, just a character. Before Uncle Sam, the United States (and originally the Americas) was personified by a goddess-like woman called Columbia. The first time she appeared was in a poem by Phillis Wheatley in which Columbia is guiding George Washington into victory. Washington loved the poem so much he bought multiple copies. In the 19th century, paintings and political cartoons depicted Columbia in her flowing gown and stars in her hair leading pioneers across the plains or protecting Southern African Americans from Confederates. In the 20th century, Columbia stood with Uncle Sam in favor of imperialism and World War I. By World War II, Uncle Sam had taken center stage and Rosie the Riveter was the representation of women doing their part. Now, the only place you really see Columbia is the Columbia Pictures Logo and Uncle Sam rules as champion of the U.S. personification. 

Analysis: Phillis Wheatley’s use of Columbia as a woman/goddess instead of just another name for America shouldn’t really be a surprise. Wheatley was an enslaved woman who had been taught Greek and Roman classics before the owners  set her free (that’s right, they highly educated her then set her free which was illegal in some colonies). Wheatley used her intelligence to be a best selling writer. So why not represent the new country as a strong woman?

Blame it on the Imperialists: When the U.S. started to join European countries in the controlling of smaller countries, Columbia and Uncle Sam were the mom and dad who had adopted countries like Puerto Rico and Samoa. These children countries were usually drawn in the most racist ways possible with crooked teeth and wild stares. Meanwhile, Columbia is the loving mother. That was her primary role. She was the guardian and care giver. If you did was America wanted of you then America would take care of you. WWI used her as a symbol of what you were protecting if you went to war, but by WWII they needed everyone to be as active as they could be. It was decided that a motherly goddess could not accomplish that. 

Final Thoughts: Anyone else think the Columbia Pictures logo look like Annette Benning?

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In Defense of Vasilisa the Beautiful (Part 2)

Where we left off last week was the tale of Vailisa who used her magic doll and her own savvy to trick the famed Russian witch Baba Yaga.

Blame It on the Victorians: Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev who famously recorded these tales in the mid-1800s liked to mix some social commentary in with the traditional tales. One of his books which focused on Christian-based folktales was banned for contradicting the official word of the church. He was a part of the academic circles in Russia who studied “liberalism” and philosophers who wished to keep Russian heritage seperate from ‘western” culture, while still keep rulers from being dictators. Okay, so I think I made that sound more complicated than it is. Just think of it as yay to Russian history and culture, boo to oppression of the common people. This could be why his collection included so many of these tales of clever young women like Vasilisa. Mostly, he saw stories like Vasilisa the Beautiful as metaphors for light triumphing darkness (darkness interestingly being the step-family not Baba Yaga). Still, as stated in another blog, his collections were not the best sellers that the later Grimm and Lang collections were.

Enter Edith Hodgetts. In 1890, Russian born, but English bred Hodgetts wrote her own collection of Russian folktales called Tales and Legends from the Land of the Tzar. Many of the stories are the same ones Afanasyev wrote down, but her claim was that nannies and servants told her these tales. This is probably true as her book was not a direct translation of his work, being much shorter. Still, her book sold. Where no one in England ever bothered to fully translate his work into English as they’d done with the Grimm Brothers, her work was already in English. So, this was the country’s introduction to Vasilisa and Baba Yaga.

Last Thoughts: Come on. Baba Yaga’s house has to be the coolest in fairy tale land. You know, I know it, the Russian people know it.

In Defense of Vasilisa the Beautiful (part 1)

This fairy tale is really long so I’m going to split the blog into 2 parts.

Brief History: Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev also collected this story, which starts off in a way similiar to so many western fairy tales. Vasilisa’s mother dies and leaves her a wooden doll which if she feeds and gives drinks to will help her. I’m not sure if the doll feeding was a like a Betsy-Wetsy situation or like a Golem or more like when a little kid holds food up to a toy’s closed mouth. Either way, the doll is clearly magic. . . creepy, creepy magic. This, of course, comes in handy when dad remarries and allows the new wife and step-daughters to treat Vasilisa terribly. In true Cinderella fashion, step-mommy dearest gives Vasilisa impossible tasks which the doll helps her with. Years pass like this and Vasilisa can’t get a date because no one wants to marry her step-sister, so she is also trapped in that life (remember, can’t leave home unless married in this time period).

One day, her step-sister breaks a rule and extinguishes all fire in the house. She sends Vasilisa out to get a light before the parents come home (they don’t have matches, I guess?) and this leads our hero to a hut on chicken feet surrounded by a fence of human bones. The door has hinges made of human hands. The locks were made of human jaw bones. This witch doesn’t waste any part of her kills. You have to give her credit for that.

In case you haven’t guess - it’s Baba Yaga in her flying mortar time! Vasilia tries to hide but Baba Yaga sniffs her out and asks if she was sent. When the young woman explains that her step-sister sent her, Baba Yaga ominously replies, “I know her and she’ll know me.” The witch keeps Vasilisa as a slave, telling her she will give her fire if she completes all o the impossible tasks. Once again, the doll helps her. Not every good decision she makes is based upon her imaginary friend. Vasilisa has her own subtle smarts to keep herself alive. She tries to escape every chance she gets, using the same spells as Baba Yaga. Another example, the witch dares her to ask questions. She chooses to ask about the red, white, and black riders she sees going by the chicken feet hut at various times of day over asking about anything personal related to Baba Yaga (like why does she have animated disembodied hands or need poppy seeds).

When day pass and the exhausted Vasilisa completes every disgusting and difficult task she’s given, a frustrated Baba Yaga asks how she’s managed to do this. In true Baba Yaga fashion, she was looking forward to killing the young woman when she failed. Vasilisa doesn’t lie, but also doesn’t say outright that she has an enchanted doll in her pocket. Her response is “with my mother’s blessing”. This answer grossed out Baba Yaga, who thinks sentiment and blessings are icky, so she cast Vasilisa from her house and gave her the fire she’d come for. This fire was placed within a skull turned lantern (admit it, sounds like a boss Halloween decoration).

Vasilisa finally goes back home where her step-mother and step-sister have been cursed with darkness (no candles could be lit and fires would instantly extinguish). Imagine their happiness when Vasilisa brings home the skull lantern. . . which then burns them both to ashes. Witch fire. What are you going to do, right? Handle with care. After burying the skull, Vasilisa runs away, becomes a weavers apprentice, and weave a cloth so beautiful she marries the Tsar.

Analysis: Vasilisa the Beautiful has also been titled the Brave and the Wise because of her calm, leveled head. In some versions, she doesn’t marry the Tsar, instead living happily with her father and looking forward to a brighter future. Get it? Brighter? Because she brought home fire? Okay fine. To start, the fire thing is a pretty big theme in Russian folklore. It’s like it’s freezing cold there or something. Being saved by the blessing of her mother is where old Slavic folklore and the contemporary Russian Christianity meet. A witch of the ancient world would not being able to stomach prayers from the monotheoist religion. This theme is pretty common in Eastern European stories.

The name Vasilisa and her titles of wise and fair and brave accompany other stories as well. One where she tricks a Tsar into believing she’s a brave soldier. One where she outsmarts a sea king. One where she enlists the help of a prince to end her curse of being turned into a frog in daylight hours (in that one Baba Yaga is helpful). The point is that name goes hand-in-hand with tales of women who are trying to save themselves or ask for help needed.

By the way, it turns out the riders are the personification of day, sunshine, and night. This is never really made important to story other than showing the measure of time and the suggestion that Baba Yaga somehow controls the day and night, but illustrators love the imagery and the riders are usually in every picture book version of the story.

To be continued next week.

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Reflections of Con

Now that my brain has rested, I feel that it’s safe to  assess another convention year survived. Let’s mixed together the negative and the positive in one big soup. One. Big. Con. Funk. Soup. You know it’s an acquired smell, but it’s something you are totally used to. So here’s my reflections list:

 1. No fire alarm was pulled this year! As much as I enjoy leaving my table to stand in the heat alongside one of those Phoenix guides in the bright orange windbreakers, I was thrilled not to lose an hour of my life to walking outside, then back inside of the convention center. Still, fire alarm is always better than a dude with assault weapons (see https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix-breaking/2017/05/26/suspect-phoenix-comicon-identified-police/348697001/). I know people complain about security, but all is better than the horrific alternative.

2. The good news was the lack of fire alarm, however there was a decade of minutes full of eardrum destroying music. This was probably the result of some bored child who found buttons to press... or aliens. Although this is understandable, the question stands as to where the person was to keep this from happening and to stop it as soon as it started. Thank you to the officer who killed the bloody pop. I really did not enjoy yelling at customers for 10 minutes.

3. The truth of crowd mentality is not that the crowd as a whole is a jerk. People as a whole are actually careful in a large group, especially those who wish to be careful of their own personal space. Everyone thinks it’s like cattle in a stockyard pushing and shoving until we all trample each other. Really, it’s only a few people who are in a rush so urgent that they step on toes, cut through families, and swear about the movement of other people. If you don’t believe me, here’s another link explaining the truth of crowd mentality (https://youtu.be/U8YdQy4yr8Y). My point is, good on you Phoenicians for being better walkers than you are drivers. :-P

4. The sheer, simple pleasure that is going home to utilize toilet paper that is not 1 ply and made of burlap. You probably read this, were momentarily grossed out, then realized that you thought the same thing. 

5. Root beer. All the root beer. I am still coming down from a glorious sugar high.

6. The social experiment of being ignored as a vendor is always interesting. Although there is a number of people who say hello and hold polite conversation, this year was full of people who chose to avoid eye contact. This included people I knew personally who were so busy not looking at me or addressing me, that they didn’t realize they’d ignored a co-worker or acquaintance.

7. On the other hand, there was a plus side to the observable human interaction. Most weren’t on their phones. Large groups conversed and pointed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was like living in 2001 again.

8. I have to complain about the side curtains in artist alley. It was an annoying hazard and I don’t know how the fire marshal didn’t complain too.

9. The best part of con is watching people light up. They see something they love or someone they admire and the gushing and stumbling begin. I, myself, turned into an excited child at seeing Walter Keoing in a restaurant. It’s nice to see people like that.

10. There is no number 10. I just hate lists that end at odd numbers. Leave me alone! My brain is still is not fully rested!