Deep Throat

I think the ballot box has somewhat less security than this.  (Photo credit: Tanakawho)

Deep Throat comes in various forms.  (Photo credit: Tanakawho)

Major events have a way of incorporating references from unusual places and, in return, the linguistic remnants of these historical moments find their way to even stranger contexts.

For example, think of Deep Throat.  Perhaps most commonly known as the pseudonym for the man whose revelations would lead to Richard Nixon’s downfall, the name “Deep Throat” originated as the title of a pornographic movie.  Of course, its politically tinged use has kept that phrase recognizable in English vocabulary even when the two words are used together unintentionally.

This week, you’re going to allow a phrase to travel from obscurity to fame, or vice versa.  (Fame is a relative term.)  Choose one of the following options:

1- Choose an obscure name and apply it to something more prominent in today’s political culture.  That “something” should be significant enough to end up in a history book one day.  There should be no obvious connection between the origin and the new context you choose.

2- Choose a phrase that is already prominent in today’s political culture and apply it to something unexpected and less historically significant.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

Forge Your Own Chain

This week’s challenge has two parts.  You will start by creating the constraints you’ll have to work with later.  To achieve this, you will forge a chain.

Chains may not be liberating but they can make things more interesting.  (Image is in the public domain.)

Chains may not be liberating but they can make things more interesting. (Image is in the public domain.)

Your chain will consist of ten questions and ten answers.  Start the chain with a question of your choice and the second link will answer it.  (Tip: complete sentences will be easier to handle.)  The third link will be a new question that would generate the answer that appeared above it and the fourth link will be a new answer for the question immediately above it.  Keep going until you have ten questions and ten answers.

For example:

Why do birds fly south for the winter?

It’s warmer in the south.

Why is it better to live in Florida than Michigan?

The senior dating scene is much more lively.

What is something that Justin Bieber has never said in his life?

I just finished reading a book.

Why do you look so happy?

My sister is getting married.

Why are your parents angry?

I got an F on my chemistry test last week.

Did that night of drinking have any consequences?

My liver will never be the same.

Do you like the new cookbook I bought you?

It looks beautiful on my bookshelf.

Where did you put your soccer trophy?

It’s in the garage with the rest of the fake plastic stuff.

Where did you park your Kia?

I found a very expensive parking lot.

Did you see anything memorable while you were downtown?

The homeless people are really depressing.

Once you’ve finished that, you’ll write the main portion of your post.  The first question in your chain will be the post title.  The fifth answer will be the first sentence you write.  The tenth answer will be the last sentence in your post.  You may write as much or as little as you like but the post must be coherent.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

 

Mephistopheles and the Road to Heaven

The eternal spirit of negation.  (The image, drawn by Julius Nisle, is in the public domain.)

The eternal spirit of negation. (The image, drawn by Julius Nisle, is in the public domain.)

“I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”

—Mephistopheles (In Faust I by Joann Wolfgang von Goethe)

We all know the cliche that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  For some reason, no one ever seems to consider the inverse proposition.  Perhaps people prefer to focus on positive results when such are presented instead of fishing for less-than-admirable motives.

Then again, no one ever exclaims “but I meant badly!” when praised.

Today, you are being challenged to consider a situation in which detestable motives lead to ethically admirable results.   However, your post should transcend mere description; you should also cast some sort of judgment on the person or actions.  Your exposition may also need to consider the nature of “good” and “bad” within the context of your example; conversely, you may choose to defend the concept of objectively correct ethical stances against relativist positions.

No matter how deeply philosophical you choose to become, be sure to select an example for which there is no obvious answer.  Also, don’t lapse into an emotionally charged sympathy for the devil.

The Dewey Decimal System

Libraries can be inspirational.  (Photo is in the public domain.)

Who doesn’t love an old library?  (Photo is in the public domain.)

This week’s challenge starts with a game.

First, select four numbers between zero and nine.  If you like, you may choose two of a single number within this group of four.

Next, create three 3-digit numbers using your selections from the first step.

Next, visit this Dewey Decimal System website and find the subjects that match your three digit numbers.  If one of your results turns up “not assigned or no longer used,” you may create a new 3-digit number to replace it from the original four you selected.

Some results will be broad categories (diseases) and some will be more specific (Bible).  For any broad category you turn up, choose something specific within that category.  Specific topics can be kept as-is.

This will leave you with three things that must be incorporated into your post this week.  However, this should not be an exercise in one-mention-and-done.  Elevate your three results to the level of setting, character, theme, or other major component in your post.

 

Culturally and Linguistically Authentic Haiku

This week’s prompt will not ask you to rehash your old elementary school writing assignments.  Instead, you will be composing works that strive towards an authentic form and sound.

Let’s start with form because this will be the easy part.  An authentic haiku does not necessarily conform to the old “5 in the first line, seven in the second, and 5 in the third” syllable count.  A haiku can have fewer than 3 lines or more than 3 lines.  Also, the total syllable count need not equal seventeen.   (For more information, check here.)  Poetry is not math, so don’t treat it that way.

Next, you should try to conform to an authentic syllable structure because English tends to be bulkier than Japanese.  In Japanese, syllables usually have only two sounds: a consonant followed by a vowel.  If you want an increased challenge, restrict yourself to the consonants used in Japanese: k, w, n, t, h, m, y, r, and s as well as /sh/, /ch/, /ts/ and the KY in “Kyoto.”

Last but not least, your subject matter should conform to traditional haiku.  You’ll be writing about nature, not about shampoo or Vladimir Putin.

How can this not be inspirational?  (Photo credit: josstyk)

How can this not be inspirational? (Photo credit: josstyk)

However, haiku isn’t simply about nature.  Here’s a succinct explanation of what you’re trying to accomplish:

So one thing that I think makes a real haiku is when the changes in nature reflect deep transformations in oneself.

Steve McCarty

May your poetry be as deep as the forest.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

Bonus instructions: When you’re done, go back and check out some of the older challenges.  New responses to those challenges still come in on occasion and it would be a shame if everyone missed them.

Divergent Meanings

For this week’s challenge, please examine the following image:

This is a Hindu temple in India.  (Photo credit: Victor Radziun)

This is a Hindu temple in India. (Photo credit: Victor Radziun)

Many of you surely noticed the swastika first and reacted more strongly to it than anything else in the image.  You already know the reason: it served as Nazism’s most prominent symbol and, as such, it represents hatred, war, and Fascism in many Western countries.

However, this picture comes from a distant cultural tradition in which the symbol has a more admirable history:

It was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.” The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.

Quoted from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website

If you’re familiar with the symbol’s longstanding role in Hindu culture, you were surely more appalled to see the graffiti on this Hindu temple than you were to discover swastikas on prominent display.

For this week’s challenge, think of another object or event that projects radically different meanings depending on the viewer or participant.  Then, write a true or fictional story (or even a poem) that incorporates the differing perceptions people have of your chosen topic.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

A Box of Chocolates

Valentine’s Day arrives this week and many of your waistlines will be encountering a delectable box of chocolates.  For this week’s challenge, you will be reimagining the box of chocolates as a writing form.

To help you along, here’s a picture:

They may look similar but they're all different.  (Photo credit: ProjectManhattan)

They may look similar but they’re all different. (Photo credit: ProjectManhattan)

A collection of unique and separate chocolates forms a greater whole.  One rarely finds a single small piece of chocolate that ascends to the heights that the variety provides.

With that in mind, you will be writing a dozen mini-pieces in a single post.  Each mini-piece should be 25-35 words and be self-contained.  In other words, they should not form a dialogue, advance a plot, or otherwise interact with one another.  However, they should be unique.  You might vary the style in each one, offer viewpoints from 12 different perspectives, or devise 12 different formatting techniques.  Whatever strategy you choose, the twelve pieces should look like a coherent whole when they’re juxtaposed in your post.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

The Character of Music

For this week’s challenge, you’ll be listening to music.  Before I provide the tune, you ought to know what you’ll be doing with it.

You may remember cartoons, movies, and other media and artistic forms in which a song either represents or accompanies a character.  You see the same thing with some sports in which music accompanies athletes as they enter the arena, stadium, or other venue.

With that in mind, feel the music. What characteristics does it have?  What kind of thoughts and emotions does it inspire?  What ideas and personality might have gone into the creation of the music?  What kind of person might use it as their theme music, so to speak?  How might those details translate into a flesh-and-blood (or maybe not so flesh-and-blood) character?  Might it remind you of a real person instead?

After reflecting on these questions, you have two options for your post:

First option: write a post describing the character.

Second option: write a story featuring the character.  If you choose this option, you need not provide an explicit explanation of the character you extracted from the music.  You can if you like, though.

And now for the music.  Please be aware that the lyrics don’t translate into English or any other language, so you’ll be wasting your time if you try to find that kind of information.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

Magnification

There’s much in nature that the naked eye can’t perceive without assistance.  For example, look at this:

This is the eye of a fly.  It's looking at you; can it read your mind?  (Photo is in the public domain.)

This is the eye of a fly. It’s looking at you; can it read your mind? (Photo is in the public domain.)

Without seeing the magnified image, one probably would have expected a fly’s eye to resemble what we see everyday among people, dogs, cats, fish, and seemingly every other animal we encounter.  However, the compound eye we discover here reveals the excellent vision we could only presume every time one of these pesky creatures dodges a fly swatter.

This week, you will use words to accomplish similar revelations through magnification.  Begin by describing an object or event using broad brushstrokes; then, choose an element to look at more closely.  That element should add insight to the original description.  Then, take a closer look at some aspect of that magnified image and inform your readers what the new details reveal.

You may zoom in as often as you want but each magnification should continue to provide an ever closer look.  For example, don’t magnify the fly’s eye and then switch to the wings.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.

Deliberate Misquotation

This week’s prompt requires you to revise the past.  Many of you will recognize the following as the butchering of a quote by John F. Kennedy:

Slide1

The original quote reversed the two ideas: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  Needless to say, the revised version casts a strikingly different tone and would have been received as such.  We can’t precisely know how history would have been different if Kennedy had used the misquotation instead, but we can always speculate.

Speculation is the name of this week’s game.

Take an important quote and modify it.  Then, do one of the following:

1- Describe the possible historical implications of that quote being different.

2- If you choose a literary quote, you could rewrite the poem or create a new plot for the novel or play that would fit the modified quote.

3- If you choose an important quote from your own life (such as a marriage proposal or a medical diagnosis), discuss how your life would be different or rewrite the moment in which the original statement took place.  If you go this route, please inform us of what the original statement was.

4- If the quote has no context that lends itself to one of the preceding options, use your modified version as the title of a post on a topic of your choice.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.