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When ol' Jacob Truetree posted bills for his First Annual Raree and Exhibition of Fistic Science, most folks didn't expect the old codger himself to headline the card. It was a snappish autumn eve just after harvest when the menfolk gathered in the as-yet-unfinished Truetree manse, erected from the surrounding swamp as if by conjuring, a notion even the sophisticated, traveling folks who lived at the hotel didn't rule out, considering the unseasoned condition of the Truetree niggers who served as Israelites to the old man's Cheops; who knew what truck they held with the darker forces?
They were a wild pack of salvages with mud in their nappy hair and murder in their eyes, captured by Truetree in some godforsaken West African jungle, smuggled by Truetree past customs, threatened and cajoled by Truetree into constructing the massive edifice through which we each passed with not a little trepidation.
"Now this is right peculiar," the Major remarked as we crossed the threshold, reaching as he said so for my jug of shine.
"Easy now, old timer," said I.
In the middle of what would be his parlor when he got round to furnishing it (a full decade later, after the War of Secession, when Truetree traded in his field marshall's uniform for respectability in the form of Minister Delacroix's youngest daughter's hand), he had set ablaze a massive bonfire, serving as hub for the area of combat, its borders roughly defined by the spectators, already a right rowdy and randy gaggle of menfolk, drinking as we'd been the whole ten miles out to the Truetree Plantation.
"Now, this here's the most powerful peculiar sight I seen since the Beaver Rebellion," the Old Prospector remarked, reaching for my jug of shine as he said so.
"Steady there, Old Prospector," I murmurred.
The undercards were humdingers to a one. The first exhibition pitted Ezekiel, Truetree's half-nigger bastard child, against his own mother. The boy couldn't have been more than 8, and well, let's just say he put up a noble resistance before the savage Hottentot suffocated him between her pendulous dugs.
The subsequent tribal dance and cannibal feast served as sort of intermission before the next competition: two of Truetree's healthiest young bucks, tied together at the ankles, in an all-out, frenzied pugilistic jamboree. The winner of this match gained not only his freedman's papers, but a chance to rapaciously maul the one female Truetree had supplied for the occasion, a Bessarabian whore from New Orleans.
"Where Truetree?" Old Chief Winterbrow remarked, reaching for my jug of shine.
"Now, let's not take to speculatin', chiefy," I said, watching the buck nigger's monstrous dude split the Gypsy strumpet up her center.
But Winterbrow's misgivings proved out, for the crowd parted at the staircase landing, and there was old Truetree, resplendent in his striped navy swimsuit, the crotch of which the demented old geezer had jaggedly cut away, his scrotum blossoming forth like a rotten peach. He raised his old hickory cane above his head and charged through the crush, bellowing like a Scotsman. That young buck didn't know what hit him: as he thrust with finality between the lifeless Slav's antipodally-oriented thighs, his glistening black log plunging out from her battered orifice a jet of stringy milt, old Truetree had gained the center of the ring.
"Buharkala," he hissed in some godless dialect known only to him and his slaves. The buck turned his head and was met with hardened end of the old man's stick.
Now, I had maneuvered myself by then to the rear of the action, so to speak, for, as an amateur student of Francis Galton's writings on racial characteristics, I had a certain anthropological interest in viewing the confluence of two such mismatched reproductive organs, but folks on the other side of the ring swear that that nigger's right eye popped plum out of his head and into the fire, where it boiled and burst just like a chuggermugger.
The lesson wasn't lost on Truetree's remaining labor force; they knew who was master.
"Y'all best clear out," Truetree remarked to the crowd at large, reaching as he did so for my jug of shine.
Well, it was a pleasant enough walk home under the canopy of stars that night, and I got to thinking, had we participated unwittingly in yet another calculated play for influence by ol' Truetree? Had we been had? It seemed we all felt something along those lines, for none of us to a man could quite muster the gumption to look one another square in the eye for a passel of weeks to come.
Date Written: November 19, 2004
Average Vote: 4.8
"A painted people there below we found,
Who went about with footsteps very slow,
Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.
They had on mantles with the hoods low down
Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
That in Cologne they for the monks are made.
Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
That Frederick used to put them on of straw."
11/30/2004 qualcomm: i can only conclude from this exchange, danko, that you are not a serious person.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: that your only contribution to acme comments are dumb jokes, lies and anything else useful for diluting serious discussion of craft.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: that you are, in short sir, a disruptive albatross around acme's neck.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: I think you mean Kraft.
11/30/2004 Jon Matza: Snow made that joke awhile back. Did he get it from you?
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: Damn, i thought I was the first. I was so proud of myself.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: should have said Crofts.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: or Crufts
11/30/2004 scoop: Dear Slocum: In lieu of the holidays and my dogged pursuit of the truth (and having to deal with all the promotion crap that comes along with starring in a documentary (don't get me started!)) I have not had the opportunity to repsond to your queries regarding me, this short and my feelings. I don't want you to think I waws dodging you. I really don't want you to think that. Please don't think that. The truth is I actually was dodging you. I just lied. For the record never thought this was a sweat act, just long.
11/30/2004 scoop: But seriously folks I think it's time an author with some Horatio Alger street cred to weigh in on this controversy. Qualcomm: I need to take issue with your comment directed at Danko. You say, "only a hitler (sic) or a stalin (sic) would pretend it was meant seriously to win some minor point. what a dick." It should be obvious to men of substance that, along with Hitler and Stalin and Danko, Harriet Tubman would also pretend it was meant seriously. That Tubman is a real fucking cunt.
12/1/2004 Jon Matza: Hey assholes--
As I see it, you mortals have unwittingly dramatized a philosophical dilemma in the below argument. Namely, should one strive to judge a short's merit on intellectual considerations or on one’s gut reaction? If both, which takes precedence? (Scoop, what would Kierkegaard say? What of the scoundrel Hume?) It’d be a lustre-producing, food for thought exercise to discuss (perhaps elsewhere) what criteria people should (or actually do) weigh, and to what extent, when assigning value to shorts...literary merit and economy/competency of execution? Originality of premise, situation and/or language? Amount & intensity of comic/aesthetic pleasure obtained? Benevolence of authorial intention? Tone? Cleverness? Likability of author/narrator persona? Lack of irritating moments, incompetencies, unfunny lines, filler, etc? One’s personal taste and mood at time of reading short? Eh? Eh?
For instance, I acknowledge & admire this short's ingenuity, technical virtuosity, originality, language, depth of erudition, and the fact that no one else could have written it but qualcomm—and given this, I'd have trouble giving it anything but a five. However, I only got what I’d consider about four stars worth of overall pleasure out of it. Why? As a short consumer I, 'za, probably to my own discredit, often prefer—or at least get more straightforward, visceral pleasure out of—the comforts of simpler fare (such as the recent ‘kittens’ short) than I do from scathingly, woundingly intelligent compositions of the Truetree/baby-condom variety. In this case, my sense is that the author’s primary purpose here is to display his genius and/or offend delicate sensibilities, rather than an urge first and foremost to provide pleasure to the audience, (which I, ‘za--right or wrong--consider “fundo”). Anyone care to weigh in? Author?
12/1/2004 Jon Matza: That's right...take your time to contemplate these important issues, and sculpt your responses accordingly.
12/1/2004 Ewan Snow: Matza, I don't see how this compares to the gross-out short in any way. That one I actually disliked because it was too gross. Something I'm not sure I've ever done. This one, however, was great on many levels. The Faulkner shtick was done perfectly, which is not to say it was a precise imitation, but rather a well balanced caricature. It was jam packed with jokes. I mean, there are probably fifty good jokes in this short, if by jokes you count funny word choices, funny images, etc., as I think we should. I mean, nearly every sentence of this thing was funny or interesting in some way. The first sentence is great, and then the whole first paragraph is great. What was it about this short that you didn’t feel was quite autoclave?
12/1/2004 qualcomm: all's i have to say to your scandalous, unfounded accusation, matza, is that the night before this was published, i only had the first sentence written. i sat down at 12 AM, after a trying car ride from manhattan to connecticut, to write this shitter. all i knew was the first sentence and where it was generally going. when i wrote it, in a matter of about an hour the night before it was published, the only thing i wanted was to show you, the acme audience, something beautiful. i wasn't trying to show my erudition or scary intelligence, neither of which i would have assumed to be of particularly impressive to you. i'm sorry if you're so impressed and scared by this short that you think said impression could have been my only possible motive for writing it. no, i'm really, really sorry. as brilliant and fucking well written as it is, to me it was just a tossed-off little one-hour knick knack. no, i know that it would have taken you weeks of writing and refining to produce something of similar caliber (which would account for your relatively meager output), but for me, this was only a trifle. oh, you didn't like it very much? that's cool, i'll just spend 10 minutes more on my next short to blow you away properly.
12/1/2004 Jon Matza: So what was your motive then? And why haven't you confident fellows addressed the voting criteria questions I raised?
12/2/2004 qualcomm: i don't know if i had a motive. just had an idea to write this absalom, absalom short.
12/2/2004 THE FYORNCH: And I was just keepin' the faith.
12/2/2004 Mr. Pony: And I was just keepin' the faith!
12/2/2004 qualcomm: is it the "n-word" you're referring to when you say i was trying to "offend delicate sensibilities," matza? apologies, by the way, for the poorly constructed long comment from last night. i had too much to drink.
12/2/2004 qualcomm: or perhaps such barbarous deeds as the suffocation of ezekiel in his mother's breasts? yes, i can see how you might surmise that my main intention here was to shock. but it wasn't. it certainly played a part. i do enjoy a genuine shock (and so do you, matza, as anyone who's read mrs. peggins' adventures could attest). but i used the word "niggers" simply to make the narrator properly faulknerian, and said niggers' barbarous acts were mainly intended to show the barbarism of the cheering, white audience, as well as the possible unreliability of the narrator (another faulknerism). you know, slaveholding degrades the slave to the state of an animal, but even more so, the master. that's why i have always been an abolitionist.
12/2/2004 Ewan Snow: Matza, I didn't answer the voting criteria questions because there were too many and I was too lazy. But, in short, I think just about all of the reasons you enumerated are valid reasons on which to base a vote. I gave this a five because it was a) funny and surprising b) well written c)different from any short I've read d) an interesting parody of Absalom, Absalom!, and e) for the sheer number and quality of the jokes, not necessarily in that order. I really don't understand, and I'm saying this honestly and without intent to argue or whatever, how anybody could not see this as a 5, unless they have a very strong prejudice against anything over 500 words, in which case a punitive 4 might be in order. I mean the thing is near perfect, I said, reaching as I said so for your jug of shine.
12/2/2004 Jon Matza (5): OK, I thank you (the Fyornch in particular) for your attention to these matters. Never read Faulkner. Still think the voting question bears more general discussion...
12/2/2004 Mr. Pony: Matza, I don't know how, but the accursed FYORNCH managed to mimic my admittedly careless comment before I actually made it. However, now that I am in a more "sober" frame of mind, I will re-read and answer the issues you have raised once I have had time to think on them a while.
12/3/2004 THE FYORNCH: Matza, I see now that your questions did not refer to my portion of the conversation below, as I was simply restating my often-stated point about how lesser minds often fool themselves into thinking they can apply objective judgment (and subsequent demands) to materials whose very nature is subjective. I mean, that's just not something persons of substance waste their time on! As for your question, if I understand you right, you may be making a needless distinction. Is not your "gut" reaction informed by your intellectual response? When you look at something, can you not immediately tell if it is "of quality", well before you can name the names of the techniques used? Are you two dudes? No! You are one dude. Or have I misunderstood your question? Were you implying that you realized at some point that you were not the intended audience for this short?
12/3/2004 Mr. Pony: Matza, I see now that your questions did not refer to my portion of the conversation below, as I was simply restating my often-stated point about how lesser minds often fool themselves into thinking they can apply objective judgment (and subsequent demands) to materials whose very nature is subjective. I mean, that's just not something persons of substance waste their time on! As for your question, if I understand you right, you may be making a needless distinction. Is not your "gut" reaction informed by your intellectual response? When you look at something, can you not immediately tell if it is "of quality", well before you can name the names of the techniques used? Are you two dudes? No! You are one dude. Or have I misunderstood your question? Were you implying that you realized at some point that you were not the intended audience for this short?
12/3/2004 Mr. Pony: Goddammit!
12/3/2004 scoop: Matza, the way I see it shorts are like women. Some of them have red hair. Some don't. Still others wear skirts. Some ocassionally don pants, and such.
12/3/2004 scoop (5): Arguably the best first line, i.e. lede, on the site.
12/3/2004 Jon Matza: Scoop, I agree...so how ought one vote? As QC pointed out during a Slocum short discussion, "sometimes you just want a big fruit forward american instead of some subtle iberian crap, just as sometimes you just want mcdonald's instead of union square cafe, and sometimes you just want to powerfuck a trashy lewinski instead of making love to lisa bonet circa angel heart." This point brings the 'gut vs brain' voting dilemma into relief. So in this regard I'd say THE FYORNCH's query ("can you not tell if something's of quality before you can name the names of the techniques used?") is moot...my point is, given that sometimes I enjoy an Elios (lesser) quality short more than its Stouffers (ultra high class) counterpart, how do I vote? Instant gratification or posterity value?
12/3/2004 Jon Matza: maybe this discussion isn't as interesting as I thought it'd be.
12/4/2004 Mr. Pony: It does help us to see how you divide up the world, Matza, and that's as valuable as anything.