challenges

Deep Within the Castle Walls

This would be a dream come true, but I'm not holding my breath.  (Photo credit: Mary Harrsch)

This would be a dream come true… but I’m not holding my breath. (Photo credit: Mary Harrsch)

Travel is usually a pleasure.  The change in scenery soothes weary eyes while the sights often lift the spirits.  Of course, the fortunate traveler also discovers excellent restaurants that deliver local recipes.

And then we have the eating establishments that are located inside the tourist attractions.  They’re kind of like school cafeterias except the cooks know you’re not coming back… so there’s little reason for them to make the food edible.  Some of these so-called restaurants are merely “not good” in the sense of airplane food but some look like they’d redefine the entire concept of food poisoning.

With that in mind, this week’s challenge offers several possibilities:

1- Recount an experience of eating at a tourist attraction.  What made you decide to eat there and how did the food compare to the surroundings?

2- Think of a tourist destination that you would not expect to have good food.  What is it about the location that would lead you away from culinary delights on the premises?

3- If you’ve had good food at a tourist destination, tell us about the meal.  Also provide the location so that readers can benefit.

4- Propose the establishment of a restaurant at a tourist attraction of your choice.  Include a basic business strategy and discuss why such a restaurant would be appropriate or profitable at the location you choose.

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.

Death, Taxes, and Quotations

He could kill and tax people, I'm sure.  (Image is in the public domain.)

He could kill and tax people, I’m sure. (Image is in the public domain.)

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, or so the old saying goes.  Another popular quote: “Always look on the bright side of life.”  Perhaps someone might also say, “Always look on the bright side of death and taxes.”

This week, you will not be writing an ode to how much you adore death or taxes, or even on how death and taxes might serve a useful purpose.  Those topics are already overdone.  Instead, pick another famous quotation and transform it into a line about death, taxes, or death and taxes.

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.

Dick Cheney’s Sex Appeal

Happiness is a beautiful thing.  (Photo came from this site by way of a Google Images search.)

Happiness is a beautiful thing. (Photo came from this site by way of a Google Images search.)

Are you laughing?  If so, existing research can offer a reason for that.  Humor is often structured as the juxtaposition or integration of two things that don’t go together.  It might be that “Dick Cheney” and “sex appeal” are incongruent, that “sex appeal” and that scowl in the picture don’t go together, or that a post containing the words “sex appeal” doesn’t seem to fit on this blog.  Whatever the reason, this post’s title surely got your attention.

By the same token, you might be surprised to see that this post is written in a serious tone without the undercurrents of humor or innuendo you found in the title.  If anything, the outrageous title proved to be  sober explanation of what you found when you read further.

For this week’s challenge, your title should create humor by bringing together two things that one does not normally see together.  The two things might both appear in your title or you might create a clash between your title and the picture everyone will see immediately.  Alternately, you could choose a title that will grab your regular readers’ attention for being far outside the scope of your normal tone and focus.  Whatever you choose, make sure that your post is serious yet still relevant to the title you used for your starting point.

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.

Reincarnation

The many lives of a soul.  (Image credit: Himalayan Academy Publications)

The many lives of a soul. (Image credit: Himalayan Academy Publications)

This week, you can write about yourself, someone else, or a fictional character.  Whomever you choose, that person is going to die twice in your post for this week’s challenge.

Imagine that someone is going through successive lives and that those lives (or individual events from those successive lives) come together to develop a person’s spirit.  With this in mind, write three stories; each story should come from a different reincarnation of that person but that person must be a different entity in each story.  The result should (at least somewhat) resemble the character development you normally find in a novel but without keeping that character in the same body.  You could also use this challenge to show how your selected person or character became the way they are or to speculate about what they’ll be like in their future lives.

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.

 

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.