On Ghost Stories

I’ve been thinking a lot about ghost stories recently. Part of that is due to the fact that we’re completely in the throes of October. Part of it is being prompted by the incredible story flowing out of @moby_dickhead’s Twitter feed. Part of it is being carried forward by still bouncing elements of the new version of It around in my head. And part of it is simply caused by the fact that I have a love of horror, even in it’s most basic elements.

But why ghost stories? Why do they stick with me, and why are they lingering? I think it’s ultimately really very basic, and I’m going to try and pick about what I think makes them work, and why they linger. At the core, a ghost story has three basic elements, and everything else is garnish and individualization added. Those three elements are a narrator, an audience, and a familiar, if slightly “off” scene. Let’s start with the first, and work our way through.

The Narrator

Obviously, every story needs a narrator. Someone needs to be telling the story. In many ghost stories, that narrator ends up being cast in the first-person, but that isn’t a requirement by any means. After all, a story like Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box is a ghost story presented in the third person, and it’s an effective one. The narrator’s job is incredibly important, as they are the one to control every aspect of the story itself.

The one key thing that a good narrator needs, especially in a ghost story, is that they need to be believable. If the story doesn’t fit into the internal logic of the setting, it is going to fail, and a narrator that cannot be trusted is one that isn’t going to get any sort of result. Looking back at the Twitter thread I mentioned above, he has positioned himself as a sympathetic character. This isn’t to say whether the story is a real set of occurrences or just a carefully crafted tale delivered with a good sense of timing. With regards to the tale, you want to believe HIM. The narrator hasn’t given you reason to suspect his personal motives. Yes, there is often a “gotcha” moment contained in a ghost story, but the narrator controls that every step of the way. In fact, the most effective ghost stories don’t ever have a “gotcha”, but instead leave things somewhat open-ended, with a sense of foreboding carrying through. Think back to stories you may have heard around a campfire. Someone telling the story and peppering it with “boo” scares lessened the impact, and made the journey back to the sleeping bag an easy one. A trustworthy narrator not only pushed the sense of dread, but left the story in such a way that even assurances that it was “just a story” made the desire to hide under the pillow continue until morning’s light.

If the narrator of a ghost story cannot prove trustworthy, and connect to the audience, they’ve already lost at their intended goal. There are plenty of examples of narrators carrying their audience along for the ride, and even more where the narrative was poked full of so many holes, there was no way it was going to hold water, even for the most willing of audiences.

The Audience

The narrator’s role, aside from telling the tale, is to get the audience to trust them. The audience also has an important job for any ghost story, and that is to be willing to set aside their disbelief. The audience has to be willing to go along for the ride. It’s an almost sacred contract between the two roles; the audience gives themselves over to the storyteller, who, in turn, promises not to betray that trust.

Again, think back to campfire stories. Even the most effective storyteller can have their narrative destroyed by an overly skeptical or questioning audience. This isn’t to say that the audience isn’t allowed to question things. Pieces of the tale that break through the illusion SHOULD be questioned, as they stick out too much to make sense. But, by accepting their role as audience, especially for a ghost story, the audience fully agrees to go along with what is presented, as long as it is presented with care.

Not every story will work for every audience. And they shouldn’t. That’s attempting to cast a net too broadly, and only serves to lessen the impact along the way. It is also not the audience’s job to make a story work for them. Speaking personally, I can watch the Saw movies because of the way I accept the narrative, both contained within the individual installments, and the overarching story that expands with each tale. The Hostel movies, in a similar vein, are not movies I can buy in to. I am not the audience for those films, and I can’t try to be. Does it mean that they aren’t effective for others? No. But they don’t work for me, and that highlights the role that the audience has to play. It isn’t even a situation where the narrator for one is more trustworthy or deceitful than the other; the audience just isn’t right for it.

The Scene

As important as the narrator and the audience are, perhaps the most important aspect of a ghost story is the scene. The scene for a good ghost story needs to be something familiar; something that resonates with the audience, and provides hooks for the narrator. It also needs to be just “off” enough to provide a sense of discomfort. There should be a tickling at the “fight or flight” impulse, but not too much, as the narrator doesn’t want the audience to abandon the tale part-way through.

Thinking on It, part of the reason that the story resonates, at least for me (again, I’m the right audience for it) is that the setting is so familiar, which makes the elements that are set askew that much sharper. The Losers’ Club is something that hits close to home for a lot of people, because, while their roles as somewhat of social outcasts is important, their connection as friends going through the awkward teenage transition carries more weight. We’ve all been there. The updated version of the film brings the action into the late 80s, which provides a giant pile of cultural touchstones for people around my age. Trying to navigate through that part of life, while dealing with all of the fears (visceral or not) is something that so many of us can understand. Yes, the story makes those fears much more dangerous, providing that aspect of “off” that is needed to really bring the “ghost” into a ghost story, but the roots of it all are familiar.

The setting of a ghost story really works best when it’s rooted in a slightly darker version of our own reality, but a darker version that has clear rules, with a definite path to victory. The Upside Down of Stranger Things, the world presented by Edgar Allen Poe, and even your campfire stories, all of them are rooted in reality with a twist. When the twist gets too big, too out of control, the audience starts to step out, and the narrator has to grasp at straws to maintain the story. In skilled hands, it can shift a ghost story into a larger, broader horror narrative. In less-skilled hands, the threads all fall apart, and the end result is just a sloppy mess.

The Big Picture

Ghost stories are, at their root, more personal than other aspects of horror. They aren’t about creating a world full of evil; they are about presenting a lurking dread that may or may not be just around the corner, hiding in the shadows. Because of this personal nature, all three aspects listed above really have to be in cohesion with each other. The narrator and the audience can be on the same page, but if the setting is too unfamiliar, the story suffers for it. If the audience recognizes the setting but doesn’t trust the narrator, there’s nothing to be done to keep the story from being something that will be mocked. And if the narrator and the setting cannot get the audience on board, then there’s no point in spilling the words.

Part of the reason that ghost stories survive, and thrive, is because of that sense of the personal. When there is a personal investment, even subconsciously, it breathes a new life into a creation. It’s a sort of Frankentstein-esque scenario, where the story is given legs simply by connecting with it on that very personal level. The pacing and delivery of the tale, all in hands of the narrator, help give the story the means to try and find that personal connection, but, without it, it won’t survive. It will be chased out by the villagers, and burned away, never to be spoken of again.

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Fear It!: Season 2 Finale – Wrath and North

Whew. We made it, everybody. We completed another full season of Fear the Walking Dead. To be honest, I wasn’t sure we’d cross this particular finish line. It does feel a little telling that this week was hyped up as a big “2 hour season finale”, even though it was just taking two normal episodes and cramming them together. But, hey, one of the calling cards of this show is moving through plot points far too quickly, with no real resonance, so this particular set-up to end the second season just fits the mold.

One thing that the original Walking Dead is able to do is raise the stakes for the survivors who are left. And it is important to mention “who are left”, because the finales often change the game so much that there are inevitably fewer left to move forward. Fear doesn’t seem quite as adept at handling that, and possibly because everything just jumps too quickly. This is also a show that has problems fulfilling promises made by the people behind the scenes. After what Daniel did in the mid-season finale, we were told we could expect to see him again in the back half. Unless they were trying to reference the fact that somehow Ofelia became an incredibly tough survivor in her own right, this never came to pass. Much like we were told we’d see the outbreak from the very beginning, only to almost immediately be thrust forward into the military quarantine zones. Needless to say, this is a show that has often seemingly gone out of its way to bring certain levels of Wrath down upon it, and that’s without contriving a reason to point us North.

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Via AMC.

So let’s look at Wrath, first. There’s plenty of stupidity scattered throughout the first episode showed this week. We’re not even talking about the glaring way that the show has turned Ofelia into an amazing badass, despite her seeming willingness to give up mere days before. So let’s dive into the list.

5. Ofelia

Apparently all Ofelia needed to do was just convince herself that there was no reason to keep trying to survive, because she’s proven herself to be pretty great at it ever since that moment. Zombies are nothing to her, and she’s shown a remarkable ability to adapt on the fly. Of course, when the truck she’s driving overheats, she doesn’t take the time to scope out the area, but instead just pops the head and finds herself in an ambush. True, she survives, because she’s become just that awesome, but it also allows her to later bring a knife to a gun fight. Good thing for her this particular militia man was more interested in welcoming her to America than leaving her a dehydrated corpse.

4. Nick

Nick is going to make a deal with Marco. Everyone knew that wasn’t going to go well, which is why Alejandro didn’t want him to do it. Nick knows that Marco knows where the colonia is, but he thinks that a few drugs will help out (drugs that, we should recall, Nick was forced to cut to extend the supply of, just to help the colonia’s residents). When he realizes that there was no good deal to be made, Nick returns, is there to help bail out the people as one of the patients goes bad, and then tries to get Luciana to abandon everything she currently cares about, while packing books. Books! Because you want something heavy weighing you down, that’s also terribly ineffective as weaponry.

3. Brandon and Derek

Okay, guys. You have realized that you’ve ended up in the same place as Travis. You’re the only ones who know what happened to his son. True, you didn’t really have time to work up a convincing story in advance, but couldn’t you at least have paid attention to what the other was saying, while it was being said? Oh, right, we wanted to see Travis fly off the handle, especially with the “previously on” reminding us of Madison’s decree about violence.

2. Alejandro

You know what happens to people who pass away, without suffering the appropriate head wound to stifle the virus. You’ve been running an impromptu hospital, but apparently aren’t bothering to keep track of how close people are to dying, since there was absolutely no attempt to sequester anyone. Now you’ve got two more people sent out beyond the fence, and your story about being immune is full of holes. Good thing Nick was there with his thumbs of steel, or it could have been so much worse.

1. Madison

Madison makes one of the most misguided decisions possible in the first hour (don’t worry, she gets to make another one in the second hour). After meeting with Brandon and Derek, she realizes that they’re the same guys Travis had mentioned as being involved with him and Chris. She proceeds to decide to escort them out of the parking garage, in order to kick them out the hotel, but doesn’t tip her hand to anyone else, which understandably makes everyone else staying in the garage believe that there’s special treatment given to fellow Americans. Oh, and when Travis sees them, there’s no attempt to keep Travis away; instead, he’s given a pass to talk directly to these two. It’s almost like Madison wanted to see Travis snap, but it leads to two more immediate bodies, and one severely injured ally.

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Via AMC.

But that wasn’t all, folks. There was an entire second hour to wade through, and the actions of the first hour had to be dealt with. In North, we saw our family pushed out of their safe zones, which were varying levels of safe, because we need to try and merge the storylines back together, and letting them stay in any area might mean we have to lose some of the less-interesting pieces of our story. How did North fare? Follow along with me.

5. Luciana

First, Luciana is so dedicated to the idea of keep the colonia’s faith intact, she won’t let Alejandro admit that the bite he suffered is going to kill him. Despite knowing that Marco and his gang were coming for them, she’s intent to continue staying behind, because, hey guys, Mexico be poor and stuff, and nobody there ever had a home before, right? Yeah, terrible bit of writing, and then when finally convinced to leave with Nick and the rest of the people, she proceeds to show how comforting and heart-warming this moment is supposed to be by carrying a young girl. And then kissing said young girl on the cheek. Yes, sure, that is a nice moment, except that the girl, like everyone else in the colonia, was smeared with zombie blood so that they could escape through the mass of walkers around. Good thing that apparently there’s no way to spread the more immediate infection through getting blood in your mouth, right?

4. Strand

Strand actually makes a good point to Madison when she’s struggling over what is going to happen to Travis. She’s making it clear that she needs to go along with, and Strand points out that he already abandoned her once. Of course, he doesn’t push the issue too hard, but there’s a moment where he could actually end up keeping Madison and Alicia inside the secure hotel, instead of once again scrambling for shelter with a man who is clearly a little unhinged, even if it is understandably so. However, at the end of the episode, when there’s suddenly a cabal of people trying to get rid of Travis the old fashioned way (why was Hector suddenly best buds with the people who wanted to kill him just a couple episodes ago?) Strand helps get the family out to a van. And then he stays behind. If this is just a way to write Strand off of the show, it’s a fairly weak way to do so. Staying at the hotel is pretty much a death sentence for Strand, especially now that the gates have been destroyed. I’m going to hold out hope that he somehow knows Daniel survived at Celia’s compound, and the two are going to join forces and be badass all across Mexico on a show that we’ll never get to see.

3. Alicia

Alicia has had a strong dedication to her mother, but she has a moment where she can stand strong and be on her own two feet. Especially given how she’s already seen Madison throw caution to the wind, Alicia very well could, and maybe should, have decided that Travis broke the rules (whether he knew them or not was debatable), and she wasn’t going to abandon safety just to stay with him. But no, she’s going, and she punctuates that decision by stabbing Andreas. This whole turn of events, one that could have been mitigated through conversation or at least with just the one guilty party being punished, forced the family to leave in the middle of the night, which is clearly the safest time to be traversing unknown territory.

2. Marco

First off, Marco somehow never really knew where the colonia was, despite the fact that Luciana and the runners always approached from the same direction, and had to return pushing overloaded grocery carts. Secondly, apparently he needed to interrogate Francisco, but never thought to check his wallet for a home address (let’s just ignore that the home address would not have been this random shanty town built quickly as a cobbled-together home for survivors, since the show certainly did), only eventually getting the urge to send his own troops out to scout after Nick upset him. And finally, for a guy who is supposedly smart enough to amass a group under his command, he doesn’t notice an obvious trap when he walks into it? Sure, he wanted to believe that the people of the colonia simply abandoned the place, but even if they had, why would he assume that the empty area would be completely safe. Marco walked his squad in, and is directly responsible for the death that followed, because he got too confident and way too cocky.

1. Madison

Ultimately, the biggest driving force behind everything Madison does, and by extension everything that those clinging to Madison do, is all for Nick. It’s been the case every since before the apocalypse hit, as Madison was willing to sacrifice all on the hope that her drug-addicted son would come back to her whole. In just the last few episodes, we’ve seen Madison ignore that Nick turned his back on her completely, and she jeopardized the hotel by flicking the lights on, off of a passing description she heard that could have been him. Alicia called her out on it, but that moment doesn’t matter any more, because hey, now that they’ve been kicked out, Madison is going back on her wild Nick chase. First, El Pelicano, where she finds Marco and his gang gone (because they took everyone and everything, instead of sending a smaller crew to confirm, right?) but Francisco’s wallet with home address still intact. Then she pushes the group to the colonia, only to discover that they’re too late there, and almost get themselves caught in the same trap that took down Marco. Of course, had she actually stuck by her own rules originally, things wouldn’t have gotten to the situation they did, since Travis clearly broke them. But hey, we’re stuck with this family being the central forces of the show, and heaven forbid we actually spend a little time with them spending any time whatsoever rebuilding their strength, enjoying safety. Good thing everyone reunited at the end of the episode… Oh, wait.

That does it for the second full season of Fear the Walking Dead. We’ve got a few weeks to rest and relax, because The Walking Dead doesn’t come back until October 23. Enjoy this time away, and get ready to say goodbye to one of our favorites, because Lucille has come calling.

 

Fear It!: Season 2, Episode 13 – Date of Death

Good news, everyone! Turns out that we don’t have two more weeks of Fear the Walking Dead to get through before a short palate-cleansing break and the return of the main show. It’s only one more week! Admittedly, that one week includes two episodes crammed together into a 2-hour season finale, but hey, if we can survive the political debates, we can make it through two hours of these characters.

More good news! Travis is back in the fold! The one who has been the most adamant on refusing to understand just how the world has changed has returned to the larger group, so that he can proceed to mess things up for everyone else. Because of this week’s episode featuring so much of Travis, we were given a break from Nick, and got a lot of moralizing. In the long run, it’s okay, though. We need to ramp up our moralizing before we’re confronted with Negan and Lucille in a couple of weeks. Besides, this was all about the Date of Death, and we’re once again given plenty of stupidity to scatter throughout the list, even if it is predominantly skewed towards one character.

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Via AMC

5. Travis

One of the simplest mistakes that Travis made is honestly one of the most understandable, especially for a parent. When Chris comes to him expressing remorse and claiming to understand what Travis was trying to teach him, Travis actually falls for it hook, line, and sinker, and goes in for the hug that allows him to be subdued. As a parent, you honestly want to always assume the best about your children. I’d like to think, however, that once my kid became a clear sociopath playing along the “chaotic greedy” scale, there might be a moment of hesitation. Travis saw Chris shoot a man in cold blood, and still thought that there was a chance for redemption, and that’s just dumb, even if it does come from an emotionally logical place.

4. Brandon and Crew

Hey, guys. You’ve got this sprawling piece of land, which certainly looks secure from the infected. It’s on high ground, and there aren’t any other people immediately around, thanks to Chris. Plus, there were a bunch of chickens in the farm, which means that, with a little bit of planning and gardening, you’ve got a pretty self-sustainable source of food. Just as long as you don’t, oh, eat the chickens straight up. When even Travis is scolding you about the choices you made for meals, you should know you’ve done something wrong. Sure, maybe have a chicken or two right away, as a treat, but you’re going to run out of protein fast if you just go for wings every meal.

3. Travis

When Travis finally leaves the farm, he does so on foot. Fine. He can travel overland this way, and he doesn’t necessarily have to worry about people coming along to try and steal the vehicle or gas from him. But what else does he do? He walks off seemingly unarmed. Maybe he’s got a knife or something, but he was just at a farm, with plenty of tools and farming implements. At least a few of those would be good to use as melee weapons in a pinch. In fact, a lot of them have a pretty decent reach, which also helps keep the infected at more than an arm’s reach. It’s almost like he was kind of hoping to die on his journey.

2. Madison

We are starting to see what happens when Madison decides to sacrifice everything on the merest thought that Nick might be alive. Sure, it brought her back Travis, but there’s also now a seemingly steady stream of people trying to make it to the hotel, looking for refuge (hey, Brandon!), and Madison certainly can’t have helped the situation by getting the gate opened up just enough for Travis to come inside. Oh, and lets not forget that she’s got one of her children with her, and that one child is probably the only person who wouldn’t think of throwing her mother to the wolves. That is, all until Madison admits that she was lying about the death of Nick and Alicia’s father. Sure, this could be a great moment that causes the two to bond together stronger than ever. Or it could be the tipping point that makes Alicia decide to cut ties, and try to protect the hotel by removing the most volatile element within. There were better moments for Madison to drop this truth bomb, and they pretty much all vanished when the family had to escape the military encampments.

1. Travis

Oh, Travis. Oh, oh, Travis. You don’t carry weapons to protect yourself. You believe that Chris can be redeemed. But what’s the biggest thing you did wrong? How about not leaving when you saw things go sideways at the very start? Sometimes you have to strike out on your own, and just hope for the best for others. As soon as Chris killed Elias, that would’ve been a good time. Instead, you lingered long enough trying to help save Baby James that now Brandon and his crew could honestly see you as a liability. Sure, you aren’t with them now, but that’s because they abandoned you, not the other way around. Again, this is just Travis refusing to actually accept the new reality of his world, but something has to get through to him at some point, right?

That leaves us with only one more week of Fear left before we take our breather. Two episodes, entitled Wrath and North respectively, will round out the second season. At this point, all we’re waiting for is the return of Daniel somehow, and whether or not Madison actually owns up at all for her mistakes that created the crush of people outside of the hotel gates. Guess we’ll all find out when the 2-hour finale airs.

Fear It!: Season 2, Episode 8 – Grotesque

Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends, never actually delivers what it originally promised, and is slowly but surely turning into a pale reflection of the original show it spun off from. That’s right, Fear the Walking Dead returned to our television screens, and decided to do so with an episode that literally could have been pulled from the parent show, with a quick palette swap of characters to make it fit.

One thing that FTWD has definitely had going for it is that it has included a much more diverse cast than the original program. It would be nice if that more diverse cast could lead to more diverse storylines. Sure, we’ve seen people who feel that the dead are the “next step” in evolution, but that isn’t that terribly far of a step from the people who decided to keep the dead around, either for sport or because of a belief that there would be a cure created. And when some of the shots are direct lifts from the original show, it just makes what’s happening in the second story look that much more like a shadow of something we’re more familiar with.

So how did Fear kick off the second part of the second season? If you remember correctly, we last left our crew as they were doing exactly what every D&D GM hates, and they were splitting the party. It’s a storyline that’s been done before, and now we’re guaranteed to see fractured pieces of what’s happening, until the family, through some convoluted means, ends up reuniting. In the belief that the real breakout star of the show is Nick, the addict who’s clean because there are no easily found drugs in the apocalypse, we get to follow our favorite (?) zombie camouflage artist as he wanders towards Tijuana. There were definitely moments in the episode that were fairly Grotesque, so let’s dive into this week’s list.

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Via AMC.

5. Nick

Right at the beginning of the episode, Nick is shown hiding out in a home, and there’s clearly other people there, as well. In fact, it even seems like these people share part of Nick’s new mentality towards the walkers. Clearly, to pool resources and skills, Nick travels with them, even riding in their car instead of hiking through an unknown land. Oh, wait, I mean he does the exact opposite of that, because Nick is a rebel. He’s a loner.

4. Nick

Further along his solo voyage, Nick finds shelter. He lights a fire, in a fairly open air space, which serves to keep him warm in the desert night, but also acts as a beacon for anyone else who may come by. This leads to him getting ambushed by a woman with a baseball bat (because we have to remember about baseball bats for the main show, right?), and costs him his backpack. What was Nick’s biggest sin in this exchange? Taking his eyes off of the person attacking him for even a moment. While he may not have wanted to try to overpower her, he should have been able to keep an eye on her while slowly maneuvering to get his possessions. Good thing he’s got all of that cactus around him.

3. Outlaws

After failing to take out Nick the first time they ran across him, these gun-toting men driving through the open wild had a second opportunity, running across the horde that Nick was hiding in. Not seeing Nick at first, they decided that they would take a few potshots, looking to thin out the dead wandering around. All of their shots are headshots, so they’ve learned a little something. What at least one of them hasn’t learned, however? Don’t carry only a six-shot revolver, stand closer than the rest of your crew, and refuse to back up at all when needing to reload. Yeah, maybe the sight of Nick spooked him a little, but there’s no reason he should have been close enough to the walkers at that point for it to even make a difference.

2. Nick

Before the outlaws got their second chance at Nick, he could have made good on another escape. He narrowly got away from them the first time, so while wandering within the horde (and having some wonderful hallucinations about them leading him home), the sound of an engine, followed by a car horn was heard. At that point, there was enough distance that Nick could have probably shambled away, despite his injuries, and laid low until the outlaws had departed. Instead, he chose to keep moving with the walkers, not even straying from his course as bodies were dropping all around him. The fact that he made it to meet Luciana and Francisco was a miracle of luck, or just convoluted story telling.

1. Nick

What was Nick’s biggest mistake throughout the entire episode? Well, after getting away from the outlaws the first time, he made his exhausted way through the desert, finding a deserted, broken-down van. The van was clearly in a severe state of disrepair, and the idea of hiding inside of it was pretty much a non-starter, but there was certainly a place Nick could, and probably should, have gone to give himself a little more safety. The top of the van, where he eventually retreated to after acting as a chew toy for a couple of dogs, would have provided a good refuge, just in case. It would have kept him safe from walkers, and random animals roaming past. Always take the high ground, Nick. Just not high like in all of your flashbacks.

Yes, this week featured an awful lot of bad choices by Nick, but that’s kind of hard to avoid when he’s really the only person we know for the bulk of the episode. He’s introducing us to an entirely new group, however, and they’ve so far shown to have a little more intelligence, by at least being willing to wait and see what Nick was trying to do before even moving in to help. After all, in the apocalypse, you can’t just go about wasting resources simply because some dude has a bloody shirt and walks with a limp. At least this episode taught us what happened to Nick’s dad, although there’s probably more to that story, as well. There always is.

So You Survived a Polar Vortex

First off, congratulations. You’ve made it through this winter’s buzzword for terrible weather. It really looked like it was going to go all downhill after we had all of the Snowmageddons and the Snowpocalypses (or is that Snowpocalypsii?), but you’ve done it. And you did it with a fancy vortex, too. Give yourself a big thumbs-up and a pat on the back. Just not too hard, because, statistically speaking, you’ve got frostbite somewhere.

Okay, now that we’ve got the congratulations over, did anyone else hear the term “Polar Vortex”, and then imagine a terrible SyFy movie? Like, Sharknado terrible, except staring the kid from Small Wonder taking on tornadoes comprised of nothing but polar bears? Because that would have been pretty amazing in retrospect. Certainly more amazing than seeing your 1000000th video of people taking boiling water and turning it into steam (although, to be honest, that is a pretty cool trick). It would be less dangerous than urinating steam, to prove a point (because, hey, at least if the polar bears bite your member off, that pain is probably pretty quick). And it would be more fun than hiding inside of your home, hoping that you can just get by with what you’ve already built up, because the mere thought of stepping outside makes all of your extremities shriek in terror.

Of course, if you live in Minnesota (or, really, any Northern area that prides itself a little too much on how it handles cold weather), chances are that you not only embraced the polar vortex, but you spat right into it’s eye (metaphorically speaking, as spit probably ALSO turned to steam in those temperatures). For every 50 people who talked about how cold it was, and how they were hunkering down inside, there was at least 1 person who decided that they would venture outside, performing the types of activity that are normally saved for the months where green is visible in more than just your nostrils. If you were one of those people, congratulations on finding pants big enough to hide your enormous manhood, although the recent temperatures probably made that bit a little easier. Also, stop it. You’re part of the reason other states make fun of yours for living there. When even the Mars Rover is flaunting having warmer temperatures, it’s time to rethink that water-skiing trip to Lake Superior.

But, alas and alack, the temperatures are currently inching upwards. By the end of the week, at least for the Upper Midwest, there will be the ability to step outside without doing your best A Christmas Story impression. So, how can you possibly cope with suddenly warmer surroundings?

1. Take an ice bath.

Pro athletes do it all the time, and look at how much they get paid!

2. Empty out your freezer, and then see if you can fit inside it for a couple of minutes.

Truth be told, it’ll probably be warmer than it was over the past few days, so you should be able to get a good slalom going on.

3. 20 degrees above zero? Turn on the AC!

After all, you certainly wouldn’t want the neighbors to start thinking that you’re too comfortable. As an added bonus, if you turn the AC up high enough, you can actually make it feel legitimately warm outside.

4. Learn how to skin animals, turning their pelts into furs to wear around the house.

This sort of weather pattern is sure to repeat itself, so don’t let your guard down for an instant.

5. Take a moment to enjoy air that doesn’t immediately freeze your lungs, and maybe go for a nice little walk or something.

Clearly, this isn’t really scientific or medical advice (which you shouldn’t be taking too seriously from a blog anyway), so you may have a better plan for how to spend your warming days.

So there you have it. Just a couple of ideas about how to make it through the warming that is bound to follow the most recent polar vortex. May you keep all of your fingers!

Welcome!

It’s a new dawn. A new day. The start of something new in this big wide world we’ve created for ourselves.

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Look. Sunrise. Because it’s thematic.

Yes, it’s the day a new blog is launching.

I know what you’re probably thinking. A new blog? Haven’t we completely tapped out the possibilities of such a medium? Doesn’t everyone on the planet already have at least three different blogs? Do we really need yet another person throwing their thoughts into the ether?

And, honestly, you’re probably right. But I didn’t have a blog prior to this. Or I did, but I let it slip by the wayside and fade away. Either way, this is a new start. A chance to get these new thoughts churned out in a format that might get some interaction. A long form status update, if you will.

What exactly will this blog contain? That’s still being determined. Attempts at being funny? Quite possibly. Reviews of media after it’s far too late for those reviews to be helpful? Almost definitely. Stories about my experiences in the new world of fatherhood? But of course. You can expect all of those things, and whatever else happens to grab my fancy. After all, the title is “Rhetoric for Breakfast”, and a good healthy appreciation of words and their usage is one of the most important parts of any day.

So thanks for reading, and I hope that you’ll find tidbits along the journey that you enjoy. And if I get too lost in the wilderness, throw down some bread crumbs. After all, without a path back home, this whole thing could get terrifying really quick.

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Or was this the sunrise? They look so similar…