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Abraham Lincoln Elementary First Grade Play Disappoints by Leonardo van Schmuten, by Anthony Coro

On Monday afternoon, 80 first graders at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School took the stage to present "Go Fish!" The one-act play, directed by music teacher Lisa Rennell, boasted five songs and an audience participation element, but its true accomplishment may be that it was the single worst performance I have had the misfortune of sitting through in my 34 years as Arts Critic for The Jonesborough Dispatch.

There were plenty of ominous indications before the play even began that this would be a catastrophe. I was willing to look past the cheap set made out of construction paper, and even the lazy t-shirt and shorts costumes that were totally inappropriate for a show that supposedly took place underwater. But when audience members eagerly took their seats and began waving to various performers, the actors broke a cardinal rule of theater by doing the same. Unsurprisingly, this extreme lack of professionalism extended to the entire program. (I even noticed many in the audience brazenly recording bootleg videos of the show—good luck trying to sell it.)

Though there were about a dozen speaking roles, the show primarily focused on Gracie the Goldfish (played by the unintelligible Sarah Sanderson—or should I say, "Tharah Thanderthon") and Stanley the Shark (Max Wendell, who delivered his lines in a dull monotone—on the rare occasions that he actually remembered them, that is). The story was even less inspired than their performances, with predictable motifs about the importance of friendship and inclusion, delivered with all the subtlety of being torn apart by a piranha. As Gracie and her friends of all different species of fish enjoy a play date, Stanley intrudes in the hopes of obtaining an invitation. The group quite understandably refuses. READ MORE

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Minor Corrections to Our Wedding Invitation, by Sam Weiner

Attention Friends and Loved Ones,

Caitlyn and I have been so wrapped up in pre-matrimony madness that, unfortunately, some small typos crept into our recent wedding invitations. We requested the honor of your presence on Friday, August 2nd, but as some eagle-eyed invitees have pointed out, Friday is actually the 3rd! Please re-mark your calendars!

Another small change, Caitlyn broke up with me so the event is no longer a wedding. Nor will Caitlyn be attending. But it is still happening!

You know how these things go. The printer rushes your invitations out the door before you have the chance to proofread every detail or decide as a couple if just a little bit of cheating counts as cheating. And now, because Caitlyn will never get to hear my heartfelt, handwritten vows, I can finally admit that I intended to plagiarize most of them from a POD lyrics website. READ MORE

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It's All Been Downhill Since That 'Murphy Brown' Walk-On, by Colin Fisher

To say I was, am, and always will be a Murphy Brown fan is an understatement. I prefer "devotee" at least, if not "acolyte." I mean, does someone who's simply a "fan" identify heart and soul with every facet of every character of a show?  Does a "fan" meticulously construct charts on his bedroom wall of the characters' backstories, family trees, and wardrobe tones? Does a "fan" dedicate all of Halloween week to his favorite fictional telejournalist? Sure, the blazer and skirt might be a little tighter, and the scalp under the wig might be a little more bare, but that hasn't slowed me down. No siree.

I still remember the day I got the call from Easy Cheese-brand canned cheese product, telling me I'd won their Murphy Brown walk-on contest. I won't lie friends — ol' Dave's feet had been touching the bottom of the barrel. I'd just flunked out of college, where I was studying journalism and poli sci (sound like anyone familiar?). My girlfriend quit writing to me. And Murphy Brown was on hiatus.

I thought the big day would never come. Naturally, I had to handle my own airfare out to Los Angeles (thanks again, mom!), but production put me up in a little hotel out in Ventura. I have to say, I was hoping to be closer to the action, but I understood. I didn't want to take a cent away from Ms. Bergen and the gang. They earned all of it. I could barely sleep the night before. I was told I wouldn't have any lines, and that I'd just be a patron at Phil's bar, but I didn't want to get caught unprepared. I recreated the set as best I could in my room, and walked through different scenarios I thought might come up. I even got out the stack of Murphy Brown scripts I carry around with me and practiced some old scenes in Phil's, just to get my head in the same space as the cast and crew — though really, it seemed like they were already in MY head! READ MORE

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Raised By Wolves, by Lauren Dowling

“You know, I’m cursed with morals. I was raised a certain way. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was raised by wolves.”
— Carson Daly to Elle magazine

Dear Editor:

It is with the utmost reticence that I write to you today; however, as the leader of the wolf community, your recent issue has left me no recourse. Throughout history, the canis lupus community has shrouded its behavior in utmost secrecy, but I simply cannot allow Mr. Daly’s comments – or your careless publication of such slander – to go uncontested. Mr. Daly would have done well to be raised by wolves.

I wonder, did it ever occur to Mr. Daly – or to you, dear Editor – that Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were raised by wolves? And they are but the beginning of our long list of storied alumni! I know this may come as a shock, but please allow me to elucidate. READ MORE

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Crossing the River Styx with Your Host Ryan Seacrest, by Robert Hershorn

Welcome back! Okay guys, the final hour of coverage underway, comin’ to you live from within the brackish mire! We’ve been getting the scoop from the swarms of cast-off souls assuming their quest to the great unseen, and we are here now with Angelos Constantinou, Angelos, you succumbed to acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but I have to say, you are positively glowing, what is the secret?

…okay, he’s a little dazed, but hey, that’s all right! You know, this is his first trip to the realm of Hades and a lot of times with these rookies on the big night, they get a little nervous, but we’ll let him slide this time!

Okay, now, the music you can probably hear behind me, is, you guessed it, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Polymorphia, and it’s being piped in…well, we’re not really sure where it’s coming from at this point, since we’re surrounded on all sides by jagged cliffs, tendrils of ragged grass and reeds, and waters blacker than any howling abyss certainly than I’ve ever seen, but, I can tell you, the crews at these events are real pros, so, a safe bet that they worked a little magic to bring us the tunes tonight! READ MORE

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Landscaping, by Ryan Krebs

Alright, is everyone here? We're missing Bobby.

Hey, there he is. Sorry B, Didn't see you there. Hop on up in your dinner chair.

Ok, so I want to thank everyone for taking a few minutes out of your schedules for this promptly called family
meeting. It won't take long, I promise.

First off, I just want to say how great you kids have been for the last month. Really great work around the
house with your chores. I haven't had to spot-clean Scooter's messes in weeks. Samantha, you've been right on
that, and I thank you. It's a real weight off my shoulders. You kids wanted a dog and you are proving you can
handle it. Great job. Let me be clear on this, each of your hard work has been appreciated and noted for future
reference — especially around the Holidays, right?! Haha…

Anywhooo. All that having been said, I do have a minor gripe I wanted to pass along to you kids. I was out
in the backyard last night firing up the grill for Burger Night, and out of the corner of my eye what do I see
popping out of the ground next to the lilacs? Your grandmother's hand. READ MORE

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Decoding Your Preteen's Facebook Acronyms: What You Need to Know, by Charlie Nadler

Attention parents of preteens: your child may be on Facebook!

While the popular social networking site’s official policy prohibits children under the age of 13 from registering, studies show that preteens are nevertheless finding clever ways to cheat the system and create illicit profiles. As a parent, it is your duty to carefully monitor your preteen’s Facebook activity until they have reached the age of 13. (Once they have turned 13, your child will possess the maturity and wisdom needed to use the site safely and independently, and the matter will no longer be of your concern.)

Here’s what you need to know: preteens on Facebook use a lot of acronyms. Once you learn the acronyms, you’ll know exactly what kind of debauchery your child is getting into, and you can take appropriate action. Find a strategic vantage point from where you can see your young one’s computer screen—preferably hiding under the bed in an old Halloween costume or using a complex system of mirrors from the crawl space—and keep your eyes peeled for these usual suspects: READ MORE

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Poland Springs: It’s Poison!, by Daniel McGillivray

Dear Valued Customer,

I’m Chet Ricker, senior marketing director for the Poland Springs Bottling Company. Almost 200 years ago my ancestors took a simple idea – Maine’s most delicious water – and turned it into a local business. Boy, we sure have grown since then. We’re now a proud member of the Nestle Waters North America family (a division of Graypool Industrial ChemCorp), but I still think about those early days every time I pick up another bottle of Poland Springs.

Our Heritage is the reason I was so concerned last month when I heard that every single one of our aquifers began producing streams of deadly, deadly poison. READ MORE

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Archimedes The Sicilian, by Jacob Sager Weinstein

Archimedes? Sure. Nice kid when he was little. Then he accepted an assortment of internally consistent but morally problematic logical postulates, and the next thing you know, he was running numbers for the local mob. At first it was just the lower primes — 3, 5, sometimes a 7 or an 11 — but pretty soon it was the big ones. You wanted to know if 2^32582657-1 was divisible by anything other than itself and one, Archimedes was the man to see.

And not just rational numbers, either. One time, I remember, the cops wanted to know the last digit of pi, but Archimedes wouldn’t squeal. As far as the local boys were concerned, that proved Archimedes had what they called “philosopher’s stones.” READ MORE

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A Welcome Bulletin, by Luke Gordon Field

ATTENTION NEW GLADIATORS!

It is our pleasure to greet you and introduce you to life here at the Coliseum. We know you're all excited to start running around killing literally everything that moves, but before you do we here at the welcoming committee wanted to take a few moments to say hi (hello!) and tell you about how things work here. We promise it won't be TOO boring.

Small detail to get out of the way: for those of you who were brought here as slaves, prisoners of war ripped away from your families to serve as fresh meat for a bloodthirsty Roman Empire whose soul died long ago, and are wondering if there is any chance of eventual freedom and return to your homeland, quit your worrying now. There is absolutely no chance of you ever being freed, and your families and friends are all most likely dead!

Now, as for sleeping arrangements. There will be four to a room. Each room has two sets of bunk beds, and won't that be fun! But seriously guys, no fighting over the top bunk. Save that energy for the arena because if you kill a guy with a top bunk, the unofficial rule is that you have just won his bed. Also, if you like, you can eat his heart. READ MORE

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We Have Your Wife and Are Willing to Have a Reasonable Negotiation for Her Return, by Pat Feehan

Dear Sir:

We have kidnapped your wife and are willing to return her safely for a reasonable price. You can believe us when we say we have her because we included a lock of her hair. We are not the type of kidnappers to cut off one of her toes or fingers to prove we have her. Just believe us when we say we have kidnapped her and take it as a sign of our sensibility that we only included hair as proof, and not a lot of hair for that matter.

Our opening offer for the return of your wife is thirty thousand dollars, which we feel is an acceptable price. We understand that you are not wealthy by any means but we have cased out your home and know that you lead a comfortable life, you even have an in-ground pool (btw, we love the addition you put on the side, it really ups the square footage without ruining the curb appeal). We also know that you have a really nice job at a big name accounting firm in the city, good for you. READ MORE

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An Invitation to My Theoretical Future Son's Bar Mitzvah on the Moon, by Dan Nosowitz

Please Join Us as We Celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Our Son Jacob or Benjamin or Whatever Nosowitz

The Twelfth of June, Two Thousand and Thirty-Two at Nine O’Clock in the Morning, Lunar Standard Time

Services will be held at Temple Beth Israel in the Imbrium Crater, just north of the Carpatus Mountains. Transportation will be provided from New Westchester. Beth Israel provides its own holo-yarmulkes, though of course you are welcome to bring your own if you’d like. The reception will be held immediately following the service at the Imbrium Hilton’s ballroom. The Hilton offers plenty of parking for local rovers as well as a direct magno-rail line from the Light Side Station for those taking the Gingrich Express from Earth. The food choices will be chicken, vegetarian, and genetically-modified salmon legs.

For our non-Jewish friends: We will ask that you turn off your augmented-reality non-corrective contact lens communicators (“phones”) in accordance with the rules of Shabbat. Gifts are not required, but the number 18 (“chai”) is considered a spiritually lucky number in the Jewish culture, and 180 spaceyuan is a customary gift. We’re sure he’d also love a Judaica ebook. READ MORE

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Wine List, by Gillian Weeks

ROBERT-DENOGENT, Macon-Solutre, Chardonnay, '08 - 12/51.00
Approachable, fruit-forward, an instant favorite. Notes of peach and honeysuckle suggest easy drinking but ultimately blindside you with a vicious shot to the ego. Available by the glass.

DOMAINE ROLLIN, Cote d'or, Pinot Noir, '07 - 13/58.00
A very popular bottle that apparently every guy in flannel and a beard has already enjoyed. Though it expresses some beguiling tannins, you’ll like it less when you find out it’s served all over Park Slope and a lot of Astoria. Available by the hour, I mean, glass.

DOMAINE LE BRISEAU "PATAPON," Coteaux de Loir, Pineau D'aunis - 60.00
Complex and contradictory flavors. Dry and fruity. Sweet and acidic all at once. This bottle doesn’t like to “make choices” or “get your hopes up,” although it’s totally fine to bring you to its cousin’s wedding all the way up in the Berkshires and introduce you to people as its “manfriend,” whatever the fuck that means. READ MORE

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Why I Am Leaving the Human Centipede by Lindsay, by Rob Kutner

TODAY is my last day in the Human Centipede. After almost 12 hours in the project, first in the front, then in the middle – I believe I have helped form it long enough to understand the trajectory of its poop. And I can honestly say that that poop is as toxic and disgusting as, well, poop.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the nutritional interests of the Centipede’s members continue to be sidelined in the interest of sustaining the maniacal Dr. Josef Heiter’s erection. The Human Centipede is one of the world’s largest and onliest experiments in homo-entomology, and is too integral to science to continue to act this way. The Centipede has veered so far from the place I was joined to right after being drugged and tied up that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify what it stands for — much less where my mouth ends and the Japanese man’s anus begins. READ MORE