Tag Archives: satire

The Stress You Need, When You Need it

“There is a major problem in education,” the superintendent said. The teachers all leaned forward in anticipation. If there was anyone who knew about how to fix education, it was upper management. The superintendent had just come back from a month-long convention about how technology could solve all problems. Since it was so long, it was called Long-Con.

“The problem,” the superintendent repeated, “is that the students with the most stress are the ones that don’t need it. These are the Peter Gowickis, the Emma Randolfs, the Amir Khans.” He flicked through a slideshow of student profiles and grades, breaking dozens of privacy laws simultaneously.

“These are the students who will work until 4:00 am to raise their grade from a 98% to a 99%. They are the ones who drive you nuts by doing every extra credit assignment five times. They are the ones who couldn’t fail a class if they robbed an F factory.”

The teachers all nodded. This was true. One geography teacher in the back wondered why anyone would make an F factory.

“Then we have the other group: the students who clearly need to stress about their work, but don’t; the ones who could easily pass if they just cared enough to do the work.”

He had their attention now. The sea of nodding heads was like slow-motion headbanging at the world’s most boring rock concert. “This is where Long-Con has come through for us again,” the superintendent said.

“There are two types of stress,” he continued, “eustress and distress. Eustress is the good stuff, the stuff that makes us get off our butts and do what we need to. It’s the crunch-time, bottom-of-the-9th stress makes us do our best. Distress is the bad stuff, the stuff that leaves us crying in the corner of the cafeteria because if we lose another chess game to Brian-freakin’-Grosnick, our dads are going to tan our hides.” He stopped. “As an example.”

He pointed to the screen behind him in a dramatic gesture. “Behold, the De-Re-Stressinator. What this does is take the distress from the good students, converts it to eustress, and gives it to the under-performing students. The high-performing ones are relaxed and happy, and the slackers are doing what they should. Win-win.”

He paused as the room erupted into a standing ovation. The superintendent had done it again. Was there anything the district office didn’t know?

The first trial was held with the Nick Riviera High School’s AP Honors Aeronautical Neurosurgery class and the Remedial Spelling class. The two classes were put in adjacent classrooms, with the De-Re-Stressinator in a broom closet between them. The teachers wore special goggles to keep from being either de- or re-stressed. They told the students they had recently had eye surgery.

“Who’s that having the panic attack in the front row?” the superintendent asked, pointing the AP class. He was watching the progress on hidden cameras from the principal’s office.

“That’s Arthur Dempsey,” the principal said. “He has a 5.5/4 GPA. He gets like that if he comes within 48 hours of a deadline without passing an assignment in.”

The superintendent looked into the other room. The students were either sleeping or throwing large foam letters around. Someone had just gotten a lower-case L in the eye.

“Turn it on,” he said. The principal pushed a button and turned a knob. The result was immediate. Arthur Dempsey relaxed and smiled. The ambient blood pressure in the room (measured by another gadget from Long-Con) went down 10 points (6 diastolic). In the other room, the foam letters stopped flying. Someone spontaneously formed a diphthong on their desk. The Ambition-meter ticked up a notch. A girl in the front row thought about starting her own business after graduation.

“This is great!” the superintendent said. “Let’s get lunch.”

They returned to the school to find the English teacher in tears in the hallway. “They just won’t stop,” she cried.


“The Remedial Spelling class. They’re in there, spelling every word they know. Jessica Brenner is reading the dictionary and trying to use every big word she sees. But the context is all wrong!”

“How about the AP Aeronautical Neurosurgery class?”

The teacher sniffed. “Last I heard, they were smoking weed behind the gym.” The superintendent sighed. “You know, I never thought Long-Con would steer me wrong. Live and learn, I guess. Well, get rid of the De-Re-Stressinator. We’ll just go back to controlling everyone with medication, like normal.”

The Legend of Arthur King

The Legend of Arthur King

“Good evening, and welcome to the BBC News at Six. He calls himself the reincarnation of the legendary king of the Britons, but his passport says Arthur King. Mr. King is on a quest to rid the country of what he calls ‘invaders and filthy foreigners.’ He was recently arrested after threatening to ‘blow up Essex’. Our history correspondent Alastair Forbington interviewed him today.”

The picture shifts to an inmate in Belmarsh Prison.

“It’s disgusting, you know, the way these foreigners are taking over everything. When I was king, Briton was ruled by the true British. Not like now. Now, the Anglo-Saxon horde has so completely overrun our fair island that you can’t throw a stone without hitting one of them. They’ve even gotten into our place names. Essex? That’s just ‘East Saxon’. England? That means ‘Angle-land’. And the sad thing is, we just let it happen, little by little. Starting right now, I’m calling for a crusade against these foreign devils. All true Britons come meet me in Gwynedd and slowly, we will take back our country.”

“I see. So you are declaring war on every last man, woman, and child on Great Britain, including yourself?”

“If that’s what it takes. One more thing, we need to stop using this barbarous ‘Angle-ish’ language. From now on, it’s Brittonic or nothing.”

Green-Walled Tower News: March Edition

I’m restructuring things a little here at the Green-Walled Tower. Not much, but a little. I’m cleaning out the attic and moving things around so they fit better. For one thing, I’m going to go back to concentrating on original fiction. I have tried various other projects here to mix things up but they never did as well as my fiction and I didn’t enjoy them quite as much. Also, I will be concentrating mostly on light, humorous stories. I do anyway, of course, and I will still be writing a variety of stories, including dark ones on occasion.

However, for those who don’t want to read scary, dark, or horror stories, I will put up a rating at the beginning to let you know, using my little mascot Belfry.

Belfry Rating - Dark

I won’t put up ratings for others just yet, except one, which is satire. I realize that I can write a pretty convincing satire at times, so if you read something of mine that seems a little too weird to be true (I will always say at the beginning of the post if it’s true, as well), check the end for the rating. It will always be at the end: I don’t want to spoil the show.

Belfry Rating - Satire

As well, I will be coming out with a way to buy some pretty cool Green-Walled Tower merchandise. The official announcement will probably be next week, with a contest to win some neat stuff. Stay tuned.

GWT logo - cropped

5 Mind-blowing Facts about English that Historians Don’t Want You to Know

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It’s easy to take our language for granted and not think about where it came from or what it looked like only a short time ago. However, the English language has had a twisted and bizarre past, and historians have tried to cover up some of the most startling facts. Here are five facts about the English language that they don’t want you to know, which will literally blow your mind.

5. Shakespeare created the future tense.

This is hard to imagine but before William Shakespeare, there was no future tense. Time in that period of history was divided in two: past and present. This was the case not only for English but every other language up until that point.

The main reason for this was that in ages past, life was very hard. Hopes for the future were slim or non-existent and people did not dwell on it. A popular proverb in Old Germanic translates as, “Let it be so: we shall all die today anyway.” Today, in this case, meant either the present or the future.

We still have a vestige of this in today’s grammar, in the expression “to be going to” as in “I am going to eat a bucket of gerbil heads.” Even though we know this means the future, it is still technically the present.

Shakespeare, however, was the first person in history to have both hope and a way to express it: i.e. through his writings. He created the future tense and then, when trying to think of a word to use for it, decided to use his own name. At first, people were confused at this new word will, but Shakespeare cleverly always used it with a future time phrase and soon people accepted the new word and the idea of the future. Eventually, many other languages noticed this and formed their own future tenses.

4. Spaces Between Words Were Created During WWI.

This one may surprise you, but take a look at any book written before 1914 and chances are, there will be no spaces between the words (later editions of these books have since put in the spaces for the benefit of the modern reader). The reason for this was that paper was extremely expensive and so publishers would push all the words together to save space. Authors were allowed to have one blank line between chapters, although they were charged 1 cent per line by the publisher (this is where the term “publisher’s penny” comes from, when referring to line breaks.)

Actually, spaces between words used to be a hot issue, with many authors in the 19th century fighting for their use. Other authors, however, were against them. Jane Austen once famously said, “I want my words huddled together so as not to catch cold, when read upon a cold winter’s night.” To give you an idea of what this looked like, here are the first few sentences of Pride and Prejudice, as they would have looked when first published:

jane austen no spaces

Jules Verne, another supporter of no spaces, declared that reading novels with no spaces “caused the reader to strive mightily and through great toil, to attain the true meaning of the text.”

Kind of like this, but with words (copyright Universal Pictures)

Kind of like this, but with words (copyright Universal Pictures)

World War One, however, changed all that. Suddenly, troops at the front were having to read dispatches quickly and accurately. They began to put spaces between words to make them easier to read in the trenches. After the war, authors who had been soldiers adopted this practice and within a few years, it had become standard, to the point that now it seems inconceivable to have text with no spaces in it.

3. The Semicolon was Created in a Bar Bet

semicolon cat


In 1871, two writers, Lewis Carroll and Benjamin Disraeli, were drinking together in a tavern in Oxford. Carroll argued that there were no more innovations to be made in literature and that the art form was more or less dead. Disraeli declared that he could create an entirely new punctuation mark and have it accepted within 5 years. They wagered a Nebuchadnezzar of fine Bordeaux wine on the attempt. Disraeli drew a period and a comma on a napkin and although he meant to draw them side by side, his hand was shaking and he accidentally drew the period above the comma. He liked the effect and this is how it has remained.

Its usage was somewhat in debate at first. Disraeli first declared that it was designated for “full stops that have not yet a full-committal” or as Punctuation Daily editor Mark Groobinsky put it, “when you think you want to stop, but you’re not sure.” It would take fifty years or more before the modern usage of the semicolon came into standard practice.

Over the next few years, Disraeli included this new mark in all his writings and even gave talks on it. Initially, he called it the ‘perio-comma’ but it was later renamed ‘semicolon’ since it “partially resembles that particular body part.

The semicolon was slow in catching on and Disraeli eventually lost his bet. However, by the turn of the twentieth century, the semicolon was an accepted punctuation mark.

2. The US Almost Adopted its Own Alphabet

Although the US has never had an official language, back in 1795, it almost had its own alphabet. Right after the Revolutionary War, there was a great deal of anti-British sentiment in the United States. It was generally agreed that changing the language would be too hard, but some senators proposed changing the alphabet to make it purely American.

It was known as the Stockton-Bloodworth Plan, named after the two senators who proposed it. The idea was to replace the standard letters with American symbols that started with those letters. Thus, “T” was replaced by a sketch of a turkey and “G” was replaced by an upright gun. Today, there are only a few examples of this type of writing in existence, all of which are stored in the Library of Congress archives.

The current American alphabet [*]

The current American alphabet [*]


Critics of the plan pointed out that many of the symbols were not uniquely American (the letter “H” was a horse); some were very hard to draw (the letter “F” was an American flag, complete with all fifteen stars and fifteen stripes); and others simply did not make sense (the letter “X” was represented by a picture of a man kicking a puppy.) Ultimately, the proposal was defeated in Congress with a vote of 18-14.

1. For a Period of 300 Years, All English Words Were Palindromes

Henry II was crowned king of England in 1133 AD. He always had trouble reading and in 1135, his court doctor declared that he “had a right-moving globe of Apollo”, as opposed to most people, whose globe of Apollo apparently moved left. This meant, according to the doctor, that the king could best read words from right to left. To facilitate both types of reading, the king declared that all words be made into palindromes, so that they could be read from either direction. The court scholars worked for two years to perfect this system (some of these words, such as “level” and “refer” still persist in English today).

The king trumpeted the achievement as a great step forward for both right- and left-moving globes of Apollo, despite the fact that he was the only person to have ever been found in the former category (historians now believe this was actually a form of dyslexia.)

Here is a sample of this type of text from the Old English version of Orosius’ The Amazons, converted to palindromes:

Old English Palindromes

Spaces added later for modern readability

This type of writing became established and persisted long after Henry II’s reign. It was finally abolished in 1443 by Henry VI when a major ink shortage caused the king to look for ways of shortening the language. Still, whenever you talk to an “Anna” or do anything “civic”, think of Henry II and his right-moving globe of Apollo.



The preceding article has been rated “S” for satire.

Strangely, Not True

Strangely Not TrueCoincidences.

They bind us all together. They divide us. They are unlikely, yet they happen every day. They are a mystery, waiting to be unlocked by an enigma in the shape of a key.

On this episode of Strangely, Not True, we look at the case of two brothers; originally the best of friends, but ultimately struck down by Coincidence.

These two brothers were twins named John and James Smith, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, in order to protect their identity, we shall refer to them as Rufus and Halibut.

Rufus and Halibut were the best of friends. They were so close that they rarely spoke to their parents. They only grunted at their teachers. They had no other friends. If anyone tried to talk to them, the brothers would turn on them and beat them until the unfortunate person ran away, sobbing.

That was just how close they were.

All of this changed one day when they had a sudden falling out…

…of an airplane.

The fight started innocently enough. The two brothers were going sky-diving. The door opened and the light turned green.

“After you,” Rufus shouted over the noise of the wind.

“No, after you,” Halibut shouted back.

“I insist,” Rufus bellowed.

“So do I,” Halibut screamed.

This quickly degenerated into a full, knock-down fight and a minute later, the two boys were spinning through the air, falling to earth and exchanging punches. Luckily, their parachutes opened automatically. They gently floated to the ground, still whaling on each other, and from that day forward, they never spoke another word to each other.

Rufus moved to Spain and became a bullfighter. He married an Italian stockbroker and had five children.

Halibut moved the outback of Australia and became a world-famous didgeridoo maker. He did not marry but was an object of attraction for all of the Aborigine women in the area.

Still, the two brother did not forget each other. At times, Rufus would be in the bullfighting ring and he would suddenly see his brother’s face in the crowd. At other times, he would be eating paella and suddenly think of joke that Halibut had told and he would laugh so hard that paella would spray across the room.

Halibut was no different. One evening he heard a kookaburra laugh in a tree nearby and thought, “That is just how Rufus would laugh when I tickled his nose. And he loved eating cute and cuddly things, like that wallaby over there.”

Rufus tried to contact Halibut but it was impossible. Halibut was not on Facebook. Halibut’s efforts to contact Rufus were likewise in vain: Rufus did not have a Twitter account. It was hopeless.

Finally, one June day, Rufus returned to go sky-diving alone where he and Halibut had gone. Halibut went hiking alone to the place where they had landed and seen each other last. As Rufus was falling through the air, the parachute did not open. He realized he did not know how to open it. Last time it had opened by itself while he had been fighting. He tried punching himself in the face a few times, but it did no good

Halibut stood at the site where the two of them had seen each other last. “Oh, Rufus!” he cried. “If only I could see you again, just for a moment.”

He looked up just as Rufus landed on him. Both were killed instantly.

Take this tale of two brothers as a cautionary tale. Be sure to correct anyone who says that the fate of these unfortunate men was due to mere chance. It was not chance: it was Coincidence. Be on guard, lest coincidence strike you too, when you least expect it.

Until next time, this has been Strangely, Not True.

Dynamite: The Noisy Killer

Dynamite has become such a fixture in today’s society that it is easy to forget that it is still quite dangerous. In today’s world, where dynamite is easily available at every corner store, education is the key to stopping many easily-preventable tragedies from occurring.

dynamite 2

Imagine, if you will, a Christmas morning. A toddler opens her first present excitedly. It’s a stick of dynamite! The family all laughs and claps as the child waves it around in glee.


Do you see the problem? It may be hard to spot. Many parents consider dynamite to be a safe alternative to nitroglycerine for small children. While it is true that dynamite is much safer, it is still too dangerous for a toddler. You may be surprised to learn that the surgeon general recommends keeping all explosives away from children under five. This may seem restrictive, but it is always best to be on the safe side.


Our next scene is in a kitchen. A handyman is tackling his blocked-up sink. It’s a bad clog. He cuts a stick of dynamite in half and puts it down the sink, before standing back and lighting it.


This one might be easier to see. Although the power of dynamite is very useful around the house, it is very easy to overdo it. Half a stick of dynamite is slightly more than necessary to unblock a sink. It would almost assuredly destroy the whole kitchen.

Cake with dynamite

Our final scenario is at a birthday party. It is a young man’s birthday. The man’s friends have, unknown to him, switched the candles with sticks of dynamite.


This classic prank seems like fun. However, lit sticks of dynamite cannot be blown out like candles. As well, when they explode, the dynamite will, without doubt, kill everyone at the party and destroy the entire house.

It’s time that we get serious about the dangers of dynamite. Treat dynamite with respect and make sure that YOU don’t go out with a bang.

(This has been a paid advertisement by BOA: Buzzkills Of America.)

Rejected Apple Devices

Last week, an email was leaked to the public that included some rejected ideas for new Apple projects. Here are a few of them:

apple logo

iRate: an app that lets users search rates for everything from insurance to plane tickets, all in one easy place.

Reason for rejection: severe customer dissatisfaction.


iScream: A glasses/earbud combination that turns daily life into a horror movie, complete with lighting and soundtrack.

Reason for rejection: test users still won’t go down into their basements.


iHop: an exercise regime app that centers around hopping through daily activities in order to burn more calories.

Reason for rejection: users always end up making pancakes.


iAye: a device for the military that turns recruits into trained killers in record time.

Reason for rejection: the military runs strictly on Windows.


iLand: a device that cuts users off from the world, keeping them isolated from meaningful relationships and distracts them with mind-numbing substitutes.

Reason for rejection: made redundant by most existing technology.


iCon: a $2000 device made of molded plastic and aluminum that sits on your shelf and plugs into a 110V connection

Reason for rejection: no perceivable purpose


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