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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
Author: qualcomm
Average Vote: 4.8

11/25/2004 scoop: Alright. I'm about a third of the way through this short and I've got a message for the author. HURRY.
11/25/2004 scoop: Now I'm on the last graf. This better be good you ass hole, whomeever you are...
11/25/2004 TREE: huh
11/25/2004 anonymous: Steady now, ol' Scooper.
11/25/2004 TheBuyer: this reminds me of 'in the heart of darkness', huge and deep.
11/25/2004 Litcube: Hrm.
11/25/2004 TheBuyer: some solid chrome on this thing. chuggermugger
11/25/2004 Dylan Danko: Yeah, you better watch yourself, Scoop. Hey, happy tg, guy.
11/25/2004 scoop: Jesus H. Christ this last paragraph is taking me forever to finish.
11/26/2004 John Slocum: Finished yet, scoop?
11/27/2004 John Slocum (5): this is excellent for many reasons, among them such gems as 'his scrotum blossoming forth like a rotten peach'. Also '"Buharkala," he hissed in some godless dialect known only to him and his slaves'. Also seems remarkably consistent from beginning to end. Wasn't as much of a sweat job as Scoop indicated. Scoop, are you finished yet?
11/27/2004 Ewan Snow (5): you asshole
11/28/2004 Dylan Danko: HA! HA! Not enough votes!
11/28/2004 Jimson S. Sorghum (5):
11/28/2004 John Slocum: Scoop? Are you done yet? C'mon buddy, get stuck in.
11/29/2004 John Slocum: Scoop?
11/29/2004 Benny Maniacs (4): This was really well written, in a way, but I did think the ole' codger Qualcomm beat hisself a little black and blue here. Ole Q himself would be offended at the lack of concision, most noteably illustrated by the damnatory run-on sentences. I found it not all pleasant to read, but also, not unpleasant neither.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: yeah, this short''s about tied with the one above you fucking, fucking asshole.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: I'm having the hardest time parsing qualcomm's last comment. Also, Slocum's comment about getting "stuck in". I'm a feelin' a-downright aphasic.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: i was referring to benny's vote of four for disney's last offering, pony.
11/30/2004 Ewan Snow: You guys are all retards. This is fucking great. I'd be, like, Qualcomm, Qualcomm!. Get it? Get it, guys? Qualcomm, Qualcomm! Ha!
11/30/2004 qualcomm: and by the way, maniacs, there's not a single run-on sentence in here.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: that is, by the dictionary definition, not your misinformed one of "a really long sentence"
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: Oh, that old gag. You know there are only five choices as far as stars go, right?
11/30/2004 qualcomm: yeah, pony, i know your whacky baggage on this issue. but the fact remains, if you give two different author shorts the same rating, you are in some way saying, "if i were stranded on a desert isle and had only one thing to read, i don't know which of these i'd choose."
11/30/2004 Ewan Snow: Qualcomm, Qualcomm!
11/30/2004 Just Some Guy: Hey, Ewan Snow, why do you keep writing "Qualcomm, Qualcomm!"?
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: While that is an interesting scenario, I'm not sure I'd agree with that assessment. Would you say that a person giving two shorts the same rating is implicitly stating that both shorts are exactly equal? To put it another way, are all the shorts you've ever given fours to of exactly equal quality to one another? And wouldn't you say that my "baggage" is packed full of logic and reason? Kuh-Peeeyow!
11/30/2004 Ewan Snow: The point is that this is a five star short hands down. It's got dozens of little gems and is very well executed. It's the short that has it all: parody, style, gags... what else do you want?
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: That is a reasonable and defendable point, but I think it's from a different discussion.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: no, pony, i don't think that a fella who gives two shorts the same rating is implying that they're exactly equal. i do think such a voter is implying that, despite the vast differences in style and substance between the two pieces, he likes them about the same. they both provide roughly the same amount of pleasure. and that is the basis on which i attack benny.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: let me amend that, actually.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: Are there really only five degrees of happiness?
11/30/2004 qualcomm: the dick who gives two shorts the same rating might also be saying that the two pieces are about equally successful as executions of their respective ideas.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: You are all douchebags.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: Please, amend away.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: i did
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: I see. Only five degrees of success, then? I agree with what you're saying, in theory. But in a system with only five possible outcomes, your assessment collapses into absurdity, no? No?
11/30/2004 qualcomm: yes, pony, there are more than five degrees of happiness/success. however, i think there are certainly cases where you can draw a line here on acme. for example, a reasonable individual with a good head on his shoulders would balk at giving airea's poem and brad evans' delightful slopcloth the same rating. i believe that such a line is, to a lesser degree, rather apparent (to any reasonable person with a good head on his shoulders and who knows his fucking history) between truetree and disney's last flaccid effort.
11/30/2004 Ewan Snow: I think you can give two shorts the same rating and like one more than the other, but one would think that you'd like them both about the same. Disney's short was definitely a lesser effort, more in the three range, whereas this was a solid five. So the issue isn't so much that they got the same vote, as one got a gift and the other screwed, I'd say...
11/30/2004 Ewan Snow: Also, I really don't understand why this hasn't had more votes. What's going on? To my eyes, it's one of the most interesting shorts on this site in a long time. Do people disagree?
11/30/2004 Just Some Guy: Hey, Ewan Snow, why do you keep writing "Qualcomm, Qualcomm!"?
11/30/2004 TheBuyer (5):
11/30/2004 Ewan Snow: Cuz Absalom, Absalom!.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: Coming from one who suggests that it's important to "know [one's] fucking history", your ignorance of why I gave "I lay inside myself at the bottom of my stomach..." five stars is puzzling. That's beside the point, though, I think. Best not to dwell. Anyway, I'd sooner agree with Ewan's assessment, (that one was gifted, and the other, screwed), than agree with the suggestion that every short must (or even can) be judged in close and linear context with every other. I'm not sure why, but I get the sense that you only follow this ridiculous line of reasoning when you want to make yourself angrier. That's okay, buddy. Let it out.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: i didn't know you gave the airea poem five stars, pony. i wasn't trying to make some obnoxious point (if i were, i would have cited women's basketball). airea's poem was simply the first thing that popped into my head when i tried to think of the worst short on the site. anyway, i think you often court these willfully relativistic arguments to make the obvious point that a scale of one to five doesn't leave a voter a lot of room for nuanced grading. yes, we all know that. but the fact of the matter is, that, in general, when i give one short a three and one short a four, it means i like the latter better than the former. when i give two shorts the same rating, it usually means that i like them about the same, or think that they're about equally successful for what they're each trying to do. i'm willing to bet most people, maybe even you, are about the same.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: I'm wondering when QC's gonna stop whinging. This is embarrassing.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: i'm not whinging, you limey fuck, i'm explaining to pony why i attacked benny's rating. if you want to call that initial attack a whinge, go ahead, but your characterization of my posts today as whinging smacks of you just wanting to use the word whinging. which, whether you know it or not, makes you an asshole.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: I agree with you, qualcomm, and I especially agree with all those awesome qualifiers you just used. Which is why I was confused by your initial attempt to "get all up in" Benny's face.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: I defend qualcomm's right to whinge.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: I've always been an asshole and you, whether you like it or not, are a first class whinger. If you think I'm somehow being arch in my use of the word you're welcome to substitute baby because your argument boils down to thinking your short is better than Will's and being mad at Benny because of his vote. Now wipe the snot from your face, take a few deep breaths to stop the stammering and get back to powerpoint.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony: I also defend Danko's right to be arch.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: If you've made a poopoo doodoo go ask Pony to clean you up. He's gonna need the practice.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: oy, guvna, i'm not done yet, cheers? i haven't even got crackin' on the discrepancy between benny's ratin' for this short and the five he gave your last one, which was real shite, cheers? please sir, can i have some more? cheers, guvna?
11/30/2004 qualcomm: twee. knackered. whinge.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: What's your name? MacFuck? You need workin' on, boy.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: if you have a problem with my argument, fella, explain where i'm wrong. your whinging about my whinging is completely useless and beside the point. if people just shut up and accepted others' comments and ratings, we'd never have any controversies, now would we? i'm here to talk about craft. asshole.
11/30/2004 Will Disney (4): good stuff!
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: I just got busted by my boss who asked me what acmeshorts was and why i seemed to be on there a lot. I'll add more later but for now, QC, you should be ashamed of your hypocrisy but I know you're not.
11/30/2004 Mr. Pony (5): disney you ass
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko (5): By the way, this a 5 star short. I was tempted to knock it down to 3 because of the blubbering but I just couldn't.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: my hypocrisy? explain.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: "Your whinging about my whinging" is a rhetorical ploy you've unfairly accused me of in the past. No time to link.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: using an argument i genuinely believe more than once is hypocrisy?
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: Are you daft, m'boy??
11/30/2004 qualcomm: rhetorical ploys (not that i'm admitting it is one) are hypocritical? is anything that annoys you hypocritical?
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: No, lovey. You've accused me in the past of simply hurling your accusations against me back at you much like you accusing me of whinging after I accused you of it.
11/30/2004 qualcomm: you really believe that i used the phrase "whinging about my whinging" without realizing that it was a "hypocritical" construction? you have no rhetorical ethics, danko. the way you force me to answer these idiotic, baseless charges is scandalous.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: Then why didn't you understand what I was talking about, dear?
11/30/2004 qualcomm: i really didn't think you'd make such an obviously false accusation. "whinging about my whinging" is so clearly a jokey sentence construction, only a hitler or a stalin would pretend it was meant seriously to win some minor point. what a dick.
11/30/2004 Dylan Danko: You are a liar!

"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.