Readers of the Blog,
It is both a privilege and a duty (the latter far less present to my mind than the former, of course) to take over this magnificent means of communication from my erstwhile, stalwart, and winsome co-worker, the one known to most simply as "Lydia", and to a few as "Lydia, supreme leader and benevolent bestower of order and organization."
I hope I don't screw it up.
See, while Lydia may appear to be kind, big-hearted, magnanimous, even-tempered and level-headed, it is a fact that she will not let mistakes go. Recently, she built an extremely minor error of mine into the very fabric of our store. My irresponsibility, immortalized. I quote from the updated edition of our employee manual (censored for security purposes): “The camera is kept in a ____ beside the ____ _____, along with its manual and installation CD (note – manual and installation CD were mislaid by Alan, possibly at home – keep reminding him to keep an eye out for them; but remember that you don’t actually need to have the camera program installed to retrieve the photos – the computer can take them off the camera automatically).”
Mislaid by Alan??!! What if they are found? Do I have permission to exonerate myself by altering the instructions? Should I still be stamped with the proverbial scarlet letter, for my malfeasance? What if they aren’t found? Am I doomed to receive phone calls from the mystified employees of O’Gara and Wilson fifty years hence, when CD’s don’t even exist, and the only discernable information in that sentence will relate to the fact that I committed an indiscretion? Why does it matter, since the manual and CD are, by the author’s very own admission, unnecessary?!!
Forgive me, I got carried away. It won’t happen again, I promise. As Lydia pointed out in her previous blog, the tone of my writing will be less Victorian, more thematic. Less chatty, more down to business. I shall have no truck with wordy digressions, lengthy meditations, and spurious fabrications. "Gentle readers?" she used to call you? Hah! You better toughen up, blog-reading softies, fed too long on the soft soup of Lydia's molly-coddling. More like "hardened readers," by the time I'm through with you. Nothing but straight-shooting information about the most ridiculous things that crop up in this store. No punches pulled, no absurdities omitted. Feverishly strange and morally objectionable objects will be our standard fare. Lydia will have no more mistakes to criticize, nothing to seize upon and commit to the computer’s ever-pulsing memory circuits.
Let's see what we've got this week. My lord! It's a story detailing what could happen to me or those miserable blog readers who can't hack it, here in the real world of ruff n' tuff blogging. Lemony Snicket cover your head in shame! Job, count your blessings. Ladies, gentleman, and all people stout of heart, this week's Collector's Item is: "The True and Affecting History of Henrietta Bellgrave, A Woman Born Only for Calamities, Being an Unhappy Daughter, Wrteched Wife, and Unfortunate Mother: Containing a Series of the Most Uncommon Adventures that ever Befel one Person by Sea and Land, Giving an Account of her Shipwreck; her falling into the Power of a Brutal Villian; and her Being Providentially Relieved by a Party of Indians; with her further Sufferings to the Time of her Death."
Indeed. For $600 you can own this unfortunate saga, bound in leather together with no less than 5 other similar chapbooks, each preceded by a hand-colored engraving. These are followed by a comedy in five acts, from the pen of Shakespearean opera-writer Frederick Reynolds, entitled "The Dramatist; or Stop Him Who Can." All date from the early 1800's and were published in London. There is nothing remotely like this volume available online. Don't pass it up, lest you feel like Henrietta some years down the line for having missed such a unique opportunity.
Ah yes... some of you may be calloused from watching television and playing violent video games. Perhaps poor Henrietta's travails do not curl your toes or stand your hair on end (while the price does more than its share of both). Well, I promised morally objectionable, and morally objectionable you’ll get. Maybe with the aid of this week's Affordable and Interesting item you'll be able to afford the chapbooks listed above. See, with only a little willingness to overlook ethical strictures, this book will pay for itself. Published in 1913, "How to Collect Money by Mail" is a mint condition copy of 327 Tested Plans, Petters and Schemes that Make the Mail Bring Money Due.
A mere $12.50 buys you the means to make millions upon millions. Well, not exactly. What this book will allow you to do, however, is act as an effective collection agent. If you have some vagabond friend who constantly fails to pay you back, or in the unlikely event you are actually an old-time collection agent who still operates by writing persuasive personal letters, chapters on "Rousing the Will to Pay" and "Handling Collections Through an Attorney" will certainly be useful, if not somewhat dated. We have all read it here at the store, so if anyone is tempted to pay with a bad check, think again. We'll get our money by hook or by crook (usually by crook, since our hook is rather large and unwieldy).
Whew. At this point you might be feeling tired, sapped, drained, winded, wearied, listless. So much reading, so much activity, it's all too much, just like it is at the end of your work-day. Most people nowadays can't handle high intensity exertion, physical or mental. No matter, that's nothing I wasn't able to solve for myself, with the aid of Bernarr MacFadden, author of this week's Favorite. In 1904 he did everyone the incredible favor of publishing his classic "Building of Vital Power." As he asks so eloquently in his Preface: "My friends, do you realize the meaning of VITAL POWER? Have you ever experienced that super-abundance of health which breeds an intense satisfaction with life and all living things? Have you ever felt the supreme joy of mere existence? The satisfaction of that makes you exclaim: 'There is indeed zest in life!' "
Chapters cover everything from "Vast Importance of Water" to "Erroneous Methods of Breathing," including a section on the "quiet breathing used by weaklings." Take note. Purity of essence and precious bodily fluids are all safe once you've internalized MacFadden's philosophy. All you need to do is externalize $15 in the presence of one our clerks, and the opportunity is yours.
Short and to the point, just like I said. It has been a pleasure, and I hope you will join us again here next week. Wonders and mysteries await. From O'Gara and Wilson, this is Alan, over and out. And everyone: three cheers for Lydia. She will be missed.
Oh dear! I was just trying to be helpful with the manual note. That'll teach me.
You go ahead and harden our readers, Alan! They'll thank you for it when they go out into the field.
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