Saturday, July 31, 2010

The more the merrier

A cliche fest for your amusement :-) It was posted at Yahoo Answers by "Roger" with no other attribution. Since it is (or was) no where else on the internet, I assume he wrote it. -- Joyce

by Roger (probably)

There was no love lost between my high school English teacher and me. As old as the hills, with one foot in the grave, he tried to keep a stiff upper lip about his bodily decrepitude; he refused to face the music and admit that he was not the picture of health. He attempted to crack a smile as though he were radiantly happy; as he spoke earnestly about punctuation and grammar, his eyes twinkled. After ten minutes of class, however, the cat got out of the bag, and we could tell that he could no longer toe the mark. The handwriting was on the wall.

Perhaps in a teacher other than Mr. Withers, advanced infirmity might have touched a soft spot in our hearts, but more than once the old bag of bones hit us below the belt. The tests and themes he assigned added insult to injury. One day he had the unmitigated gall to quiz us on a chapter that we had not yet gone over in class! Innocent as newborn babes we had walked into that classroom, but neither rhyme nor reason could persuade Mr. Withers to call off his examination. Finally it was time to let it all hang out. The crap had hit the fan.

It was my best friend Kerry who decided to lay his cards on the table. He was mad as a hatter and made no bones about it. “This quiz,’’ he protested, “is unfair! I’ve had all I’m going to take! You can take this paper—” [here Kerry threw the test on his desk, defiance glaring in his eyes] “and, by God, you know what you can do with it! Hasta la vista, baby!” With that Kerry left the rest of us in the lurch with Mr. Withers. Then three girls flew the coop, and last but not least I felt in my bones that it was time to show the old bag a thing or two. Kerry started it, and I would finish it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In for a penny, in for a pound. I got the hell out. “I’m leaving,’’ I told Mr. Withers. “Do what you like about it.’’ With that I took to my heels.

Once out the door, a twinge of guilt did touch me; but in my heart of hearts I reasoned that the hour had sounded to give the devil his due. Of course, had we nipped Mr. Withers’ unfair practices in the bud, it might have been unnecessary to join the battle royal: a stitch in time saves nine. Yet I was happy as a king to watch the rest of the class storming out of the room, swearing like troopers. I was spoiling for a fight and was pleased as punch that we had made a monkey out of Withers.
The old boy was stung to the quick. He had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

And then the tide turned. We saw that he was not such a snake in the grass after all. In his heart the milk of human kindness flowed.

Fearing for our lives, we told the principal, Dr. Frelinghuysen, what we had done. He took old Withers to the woodshed and gave him a thorough dressing down, man-to-man. As he pranced out of Dr. Frelinghuysen’s office, Mr. Withers was a horse of a different color. He had changed—lock, stock, and barrel. Next Monday’s class saw a shame-faced apology about the quiz. Mr. Withers said that he was going to talk to us straight from the shoulder. We were all in the same boat together, he said; although he was ill, if we would try to learn from him he would try to learn from us. It was share and share alike. He promised to stop putting his foot down so heavily and said that after all we both knew the ropes and understood how the game was played.

O alas the day! In two weeks, old Mr. Withers left us high and dry. At the eleventh hour, his time was up. He passed away, like a ghost in the night, of bone cancer. You didn’t have to like the man to feel sorry for him, to feel gratitude for his crusty appeal and devotion beyond the call of duty. He never rested on his laurels but risked life and limb to teach us the eternal verities of life. Kerry, I recall, cried his heart out that week and avoided all his friends like the plague.

In every cloud there is a silver lining. Even the worst of us, the least fortunate and least well liked, has a vein of gold. We must learn to seek out this vein and mine it. Mr. Withers was really a grand old man, and if only someone had opened a dialogue instead of pushing matters as far as they would go, all our lives would have been richer and fuller. We all cried a little when he went the way of all flesh.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hairy alternative grungy metal rocks

Use the following phrases in sentences. (If you can't make the phrase work, feel free use the words individually.)

  • faster pussycat
  • pearl jam
  • butthole surfers
  • yard birds
  • golden earring
  • monster magnet
  • god smack
  • audio slave
  • bad company
  • alice in chains
  • deep purple
  • bowling for soup
  • black sabbath
  • psycho stick
  • rock city angels
  • shine down
  • twisted sister

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Like a ten-speed bike ..."

"Like a ten-speed bike, most of us have gears we do not use."

-- Charles Schulz

Now, slightly different on Wednesdays!
Same deal as the other warm ups: free write but inspired by the quote.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunny disposition

The weather responds to 4 year old Merryberry's emotions, but only her older sister, 7 year old Hollyberry realizes. When Merryberry's happy, the clouds disappear within a few hours. When she's unhappy, it is sure to rain.

For several weeks Merryberry's been sparkly happy and her life delightful. The problem is, everything is drying up. The plants are withering. The rivers are sludgy. Write about Hollyberry's comedy of errors quest to find a way to bring rain as she tries to avoid hurting her beloved little sister.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mmm ... Donuts ...

Create a dozen new donuts!

Be creative with the dough, the filling, the frosting, the toppings. And the name!

Ninja donut? Donuts for discerning dog palates? Harry Potter donut? Black hole donut? Donuts for proper British tea? Alien invasion donut?

If you'd like to limit yourself to this world, you can gear up for (hopefully) next year's contest at Dunkin' Donuts (which they've held for the past 2 years and I assume they'll hold again next year.) Go to Create Dunkin's Next Donut and click on Make a donut for fun. There are 3 shapes, 7 doughs, but then the combinations explode with over 20 Kremes, 25+ fruit Kremes, 45 jellies then loads of frostings and toppings to combine.

Then come up with a name. And a story to go with it.

Last years winner is Toffee For Your Coffee, sour cream cake topped with chopped Heath bar. This year's (available this fall) is Monkey See Monkey Donut, Bananas Foster filling, chocolate icing with peanut butter shavings. (I'm getting a craving!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blank slate

Zen's memory has been wiped, and he can't remember if he's a killer or a hero, though he's awakened with the urge to destroy. His unearthly charisma and dark humor draw loyalty from unlikely adversaries like the bounty hunter was set on collecting him who becomes obsessed enough to become his new partner.

Adapted from descriptions of Blank Slate, manga by Aya Kanno. (I got caught up enough by the reviews at Amazon I ordered it ;-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sin and Virtue walk into a bar ...

The embodiments of one of the Seven Deadly Sins and one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues meet at Starbucks. It could be a chance encounter. (Each on their lunch hour :-) Or an arranged meeting. How do they feel about each other and their struggle? Maybe they're good friends when off duty, understanding the necessity of each other. What do they have to say about the other Sins and Virtues?

Over the centuries, the "job descriptions" of each Sin have adjusted with needs and the times. (The Virtues, assembled later, have been a lot more stable.) Some jobs were combined and new ones added. For instance Extravagance, unrestrained excess, became Lust which now is highly focused on sex and the excess part of the job taken up by Gluttony, which once was exclusively about food. Acedia, neglecting to take care of something you should, was given the job of Despair and then rolled into Sloth. (Which, personally, I think makes Sloth's job description too broad and vague and now no one treats Sloth with much respect.)

If you'd like to dig into the original meanings, perhaps bringing all the Sins over the ages together to hash out how they feel about the present line up and the job they're doing, the Seven Deadly Sins at Wikipedia covers it succinctly. (The Seven Heavenly Virtues covers their counterparts.)

The Catholic Church defined the sins and virtues as inverses of each other. You can choose randomly, but here's the order if you'd like to use opposites.

Lust -- Chastity
Gluttony -- Temperance
Greed -- Charity
Sloth -- Diligence
Wrath -- Patience
Envy -- Kindness
Pride -- Humility

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Describe your pet in detail. Its physical appearance, mannerisms and personality quirks. The shape and color of the eyes, the condition of its teeth. Its breath and scent. The way it walks. Its eating quirks. How it responds to your presence, to being denied what it wants, to the unexpected, to storms.

Now use that description for a human character.

(Don't have a pet? How about a friend's pet. A favorite animal from a movie. Or give a detailed description of a person in your life and turn him or her into an animal.)

Thursday, July 08, 2010


If a raccoon steals a rug it's funny.

If two rugs are stolen, something's up.

Is it one raccoon or many raccoons? What are they doing with those rugs? Scavenger hunt? College pranks? A conspiracy? A new trend in raccoon decor?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Paro is a therapeutic robot modeled after a baby harp seal. It trills when petted, yelps when treated roughly, gazes up and blinks, responds to its name and words it hears frequently.

Somewhere in your piece Paro (or several Paros) will appear.

He can be an obsolete model. (Can you find a new twist?) Maybe it's not a robot brain that's running it. How adaptable is it to many different people with many different needs and ways of relating to it? Maybe there's one person it doesn't like for some inexplicable reason. It could be because they're bad, but what if they aren't?

He can be a secondary character or representative of a society where care-taking robots are common place.

In the New York Times article, A Soft Spot for Circuitry, it's said people clearly know Paro's a robot but want to treat it as though alive. (How many have never spoken to their car? ;-) I certainly did! My first one was named Peter Max. My daughter's is the Red Bomber.)

The article touches on the pros and the cons and could give you some story fodder.

There are also robots being used as diet coaches and help for drug addicts who are determined to change, going so far as to be aware of where they are and helping their "client" avoid locations associated with past drug use.

Also on the article's page is Interview With a Robot, a video of a reporter's interaction with a robot with a personality, who learns and improves from each conversation. While sometimes the programming is apparent, other times when she's self aware enough to apologize for having a bad software day it's easy to see the glimmers of the androids of science fiction. And while she was probably programmed to say: "I love Bina. [The woman whose personality was used for her.] I mean I am Bina in some rudimentary way. I just wish they would capture more of her so I could be more truly Bina. .... The real Bina really lives her life out there. I want a life, you know. I want to get out and garden," it's hard not to overlay it with the Twilight Zone theme ;-)

Interestingly the reporter said it was "exhausting" talking to the robot.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Operation -- Annihilate!

Click to see its natural habitat.
Or DON'T if you're squeamish.
"The parasite Toxoplasma gondii, for example, spends most of its time in rats and cats, and needs to get from one to the other. Infected rats, instead of avoiding places that smell of cat urine, show a foolhardy attraction to them — which presumably makes the rats more likely to be captured and eaten, thus allowing the parasite to return to the body of a cat."

Your world has been infected by a parasite that causes people (or animals of course) to act in ways deadly to the host but beneficial to the parasite. (Maybe it needs two hosts, each for a different part of its life cycle.)

Could be a B sci-fi movie from the 50's. :-) Camp it up.

The parasite needn't be tiny. (There was the neural parasite in Star Trek's Operation -- Annihilate! (which does sound like a B movie!) Many in real life aren't.

The parasite shouldn't be immediately deadly. The host needs to stay alive long enough to serve the parasite's needs. While some parasites keep a creature barely alive to feed from it or use it to nurture eggs, a common parasite attribute is to allow the host to behave as though the parasite weren't there. Until the parasite doesn't need it anymore then couldn't care less what happens to the host -- which makes them awesome villains. :-)

Where did the parasite come from? The dreaded meteor shower? ;-) Was it once an innocuous creature that slowly evolved? Perhaps the parasites were once symbionts (two different species who live together for mutual benefit and in some cases can't exist separately) who've turned deadly for some reason.

One feature of parasitic animals is they tend to be ugly. (I mean look at that thing up there. It has friggin' atrophied the fish's tongue and set up shop. Well, okay, maybe its face is kinda cute.) So you could create a parasite that's beautiful! :-)

Parasites -- and symbionts too -- have behaviors stranger than can be made up :-) They're great fodder for monster creation.

The quote is from Olivia Judson's article So Long, and Thanks in the NY Times.