Archive for the 'The Arts' Category

Stories from the Heyday of the Circus Sideshow

As fascinating as these stories are, one must wonder how these legendary performers were treated when they were off-stage…

 

Ringling Bros. “Congress of Freaks” circa 1924. Wikimedia Commons

 

From all-that-interesting.com,

 

The Sad Stories Of The Ringling Brothers’ “Freak Show” Acts
By Erin Kelly

From “The Four-Legged Girl” to “The Dog-Faced Boy,” here are some of the strangest behind-the-scenes “freak show” tales.

 

“On May 19, 1884, the Ringling Bros.’ Circus officially opened for business, capitalizing on the extreme and bizarre to earn profit. It worked: For many years, the most popular component of the circus was the “Freak Show.”

 

Though often thought of as exploitative, degrading, and cruel, most reports paint a picture of headlining “freaks” being both accepted and well-paid by the circus staff. In many cases, the performers not only out-earned everyone in the audience, but also their own promoters. Any mistreatment generally came from the public who did not look at the performers as people.

 

Sideshow acts were not always born different; sometimes they were “manufactured” to bring in money from the crowds.

 

Clyde Ingalls, manager of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey sideshow in the 1930s once said, “Aside from such unusual attractions as the famous three-legged man, and the Siamese twin combinations, freaks are what you make them. Take any peculiar looking person, whose familiarity to those around him makes for acceptance, play up that peculiarity and add a good spiel and you have a great attraction.”

 

As medicine began to explain the unexplainable, circus freak shows fell out of fashion. But while they thrived, countless legendary performers moved through their ranks. Here are some of their stories:…”

 

For the stories, click here.

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Your Life’s Plot Points: What’s your narrative?

As we embark on the new year, here’s a little piece on the narratives of our lives…

 

 

“So when people drop the cheesy pick-up line “What’s your story?” at a bar, like a man who nicks his carotid artery while shaving, they’ve accidentally hit upon something vital.”

 

From The Atlantic,

 

Life’s Stories
How you arrange the plot points of your life into a narrative can shape who you are—and is a fundamental part of being human.

by Julie Beck

 

“In Paul Murray’s novel Skippy Dies, there’s a point where the main character, Howard, has an existential crisis.“‘It’s just not how I expected my life would be,'” he says.

 

“‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.

 

“Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.’”

 

But it’s not stupid at all. Though perhaps the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, wouldn’t much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way people choose to tell the stories of their lives, to others and—crucially—to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you’re on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.

 

“Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality, or more accurately, they are important parts of personality, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals, and values,” writes Dan McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, along with Erika Manczak, in a chapter for the APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology.

 

In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning. This narrative becomes a form of identity, in which the things someone chooses to include in the story, and the way she tells it, can both reflect and shape who she is.  A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next…”

 

For the rest, click here.

 

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Resurrecting the Christmas Ghost Story Tradition

Why should Halloween get all the fun?

 

 

From The Smithsonian,

 

A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories
Though the practice is now more associated with Halloween, spooking out your family is well within the Christmas spirit

By Colin Dickey

 

“For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.

 

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

 

Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night…”

 

Read the rest here.
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