The English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest since 1982. It is a literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence for the worst possible novel. The following submissions are the ones I liked best from the years 2017-2020. Be sure to go to their website to read all the other excellent entries!
After almost twenty years of baldness, Harry finally decided to splurge on an expensive, human-hair wig – after all, four hundred dollars to look twenty years younger was a small price toupée.
– Julian Calvin, Bellbrook, OH –
Although the public’s initial concerns about artificial intelligence and the “internet of things” had been troubling, its eventual ability to embrace those advances only underscored the greatness of America, mused Hoover Upright LXI as he took the oath of office to become the first cordless vacuum cleaner elected to Congress.
– G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA –
Call me Ishmael, for my tale is that of the only survivor of the attack by a great white whale on the “Pequod,” our Nantucket whaling vessel, and though the story is so fantastic you may be tempted to question my veracity, I need only remind you that writers write and readers read, and you really should stay in your own lane.
– John Hardi, Falls Church, VA –
Deep within the Great Pyramid, Pharaoh Khufu gazed at the walls of what would eventually be his burial chamber, asking himself what he had been thinking in entrusting its adornment to the teenaged Prince and Princess, but comforting himself with the certainty that the younger generation would soon tire of these annoying “emoticons” and return to the rich thirty-character Egyptian alphabet.
– G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA –
Dropping his now-empty Remington .30-06 and tearing across the tundra after two weeks of hunting in the Alaskan wilderness in the company of none other than three-time Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt—the rustic outing being the spoils of his winning bid at the Sun Valley Country Day School live-auction fundraiser—Bart Michaelman realized with dismay that, in this particular instance, he did in fact have to outrun the bear.
– Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA –
For rookie detective Lara Stinson, the hardest aspect of her most recent case was not discovering that the adolescent victim had been thrown from the tenth story of the apartment building by his own grandmother, but rather trying to spell “defenestration by octogenarian” in her subsequent report.
– Thomas Purdy, Roseville, CA –
Gasping for breath as she lay in the dew-laden lakeside grass, Rifka Lieberman’s chest heaved with rising passion as Saul Cohen approached with the inhaler she had left behind at the assisted living facility.
– Leo Gordon, Los Angeles, CA –
Gregory was falling in love with the doe-eyed Nora, not knowing that she could be an infuriating, complicated woman at times, like one of those self-service checkout machines at the grocery store where you can never figure out where to insert the money or get your change, plus the scanner never recognizes your jar of Vlasic sweet pickles so you have to call the attendant.
– Steve Lynch, Tucson, AZ –
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders” overheard Preston the Praying Mantis of his fiancée chatting with her mother, though he may not have understood the full implications thereof.
– Peter Bjorkman, Rocklin, CA –
In preparation for visits by African dignitaries, we had redecorated the West Wing of the White House in an African motif with numerous artificial plants and animals, but the President asked that we remove the papier-mache wildebeests, saying he was “tired of fake gnus.”
– Wm. “Buddy” Ocheltree, Snellville, GA –
It seemed a cruel irony to Nigel when he realized, only in hindsight, how mistaken he had been to abandon his youthful ambition to become a technical writer and bend to his parents’ wishes that he go into proctology.
– Scott Wilson, Corvallis, OR –
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – though any decent statistician might net those two factors together and conclude that things were fairly average all round.
– David Meech, Auckland, New Zealand –
Knowing well the hand signals of his platoon leader, Private James Dawson silently dropped to the dirt, concealed and motionless for what seemed an eternity, a move that he had learned, coincidentally, from his parents whenever the Watchtower ladies would ring the doorbell.
– Peter S. Bjorkman, Rocklin, CA –
“Master Wlfindermx sauntered across the Plains of Teflandous towards the city of Gjorgturc carrying the mythical Blade of Vulbertrian, once owned by Lord Leszsoriog,” wrote the author, who wanted to make the life of the audiobook narrator a living hell.
– Robert Greer, Queen Creek, AZ –
Phoebe, age 15, very much regretted not having a little sister or brother, but reflecting on the embarrassing moment of earlier that morning when she had walked into her parent’s bedroom at a most inopportune time, she thought Ben Franklin’s list woefully incomplete, for there most certainly were things, besides laws and sausages, that you might like, but you definitely did not want to see being made.
– Herbert Krimmel, Los Angeles, CA –
She sauntered into his smoke-filled office with legs that, although they didn’t go quite all the way to heaven, definitely went high enough for him to see that she was a giraffe.
– Jarrett Dement, Eau Claire, WI –
Once in a great while a story is so magnificent, so grand, so great that it begs to be told and while this is not one of those stories, it’s nice to know that they’re out there.
– Douglas A. Bass, Farmington, NY –
Terellian Shapeshifters often blew their cover by taking subtly inappropriate forms — a squirrel that swims perhaps, or a chair with five legs — but Officer Max Throckmorton spotted this one immediately; every Human knows that bidets are NOT purple, and they usually aren’t installed next to a McDonald’s drink dispenser.
– Mark Watson, Chapel Hill, NC –
The fun had seemed innocent at first—simple handstands and easy dismounts, but as the hours passed the routines became more intricate and aggressive with cartwheels and round-offs, competitive and risky with back walkovers and flipping twists, until the twins’ mother ordered them to stop the nonsense and return Grandpa’s walker so he finally could get to the dinner table.
– Scott G. Witmer, Allentown, PA –
The gentle, rhythmic sound of water lapping at the metal hull of the boat transported Phillip back to a simpler time of marshmallow campfires and magical summers at the lake until, upon waking, he came to realize it was only the sound of the Roomba vacuuming robot which had short-circuited and was running repeatedly into the baseboard heat register.
– Tony Buccella, Allegany, NY –
Walking home, picking crushed bouquet bits from his hair and lapel, it occurred to Stan that perhaps “spotless” was the wrong compliment for Evelyn’s home so soon after the incident between the Mazda and her beloved Dalmatian.
– Steve Lauducci, Bethlehem, PA –
Whether I shall emerge from this tale as the hero of my own life, or whether that station be the lot of another, these pages must show, and the path for you, dear reader, will be, as it was for me, long and tortuous, though pages 247-252 will clear up a lot.
– John Hardi, Falls Church, VA –
I was going to do a blog post called ‘Circle Quotations’‘ but funny or interesting quotes about a mathematical concept are few and far between. Then I found this one-
Why is a polar bear never lost in the Arctic Circle?
Because it uses Polar Coordinates.
I think you have to be a math person to appreciate the wit, and that isn’t normally me, except I know that the ‘Digital Marbles’ I make in my photo program use a polar coordinate filter to turn square photos into circles.
I don’t know how the polar coordinate filter works, but I like the result. The circles remind me of the marbles I played with as a child.
Are you old enough to remember when marbles and jacks were popular games? How about skipping and hop scotch; tag, hide and seek, leap frog, and yo-yos? Hula hoops! In the winter, fox and hounds, red rover (skating version), crack the whip, snowball fights and tobogganing!
I made the following two ‘marbles’ from photos of Desert Chicory.
How many degrees does a circle have?
Depends on how long it’s been in school.
-Author Unknown –
These is the original photo. Desert Chicory is a wild flower growing in Arizona.
Here are some of the other ‘marbles’ I’ve made:
Canadian author WD Fyfe has written material for radio, newspapers and magazines. He has also published three books which can be found on Amazon: The Woman In The Window, Dogsh*t Without Tears, and Songs of Sylvia. His blog is WD Fyfe. The following quotations are from his blog – either his own musings or occasionally borrowed from the brilliant philosopher Anon.
After enduring nearly a year of a planetary plague, I can now fully understand why all the women in Renaissance paintings are a little overweight and braless.
A written test before anyone is allowed to vote. Even multiple choice (guess?) would be better than nothing. (Stuff we need)
Deny it or not, in the 21st century, we’re wading in the shallow end of the intellectual swimming pool. Most people don’t know enough history to fill a mouse’s ear.
Don’t ask me what’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done: I haven’t peaked yet.
Finally realizing that the reason you clean the house before people come over is you don’t want them to think you actually live this way.
I don’t care what wonders the newest wonder drug does, the “side effects” litany scares the hell out of me. Honestly, “may cause dry mouth, tremors, depression, heart attack, vomiting, internal bleeding, external bleeding, massive bleeding and your tongue’s going fall out” leaves me a little reluctant to try taking it for “occasional arthritis pain.”
If, at some point, you just lose it and confront the clothes dryer, demanding the return of all the socks it’s stolen over the years, you need to take a step back. (Advice to avoid Covid Burn-out)
I hate being the parent because I always have to say no to all the same things I loved doing as a kid.
I’ll betcha right about now, Joe Biden’s thinking, “Hey, people! I’ve got mittens, too!” (Random thoughts January 2021)
It’s never a good sign when your fitness watch starts flashing stress warnings and you haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.
Personally, I think nudity in films is never necessary. Every movie I’ve ever seen would be just as good (or bad) without it – except porn, of course, where nudity is, in fact, “integral to the storyline.”
Realizing you’re excited about Valentine’s Day because you know chocolate’s going to go on sale the morning of the 15th.
Single people don’t know there’s a wrong way to load the dishwasher.
The best thing about working from home is you don’t have to fight through all the lunch purses in the company refrigerator — and, sometimes, a pigeon sits on the balcony.
The only thing in the universe that’s worse than a Man Cold is being married to someone who has a Man Cold.
The other day I thought it would be cool if someone invented a hot veggie smoothie; then I remembered — it’s called soup.
Transparent toasters. So we can at least see what that maniac machine is doing to our bread! (Stuff we need)
When I was young, I fell off my bike and fractured my ankle. I rode my bike home. Last week, I stubbed my toe– and I haven’t left the sofa since.
When I was young, I thought I’d have a great career, a wild social life, a cool apartment and a retirement plan. I ended up with mismatched wineglasses and a toilet that won’t quit flushing unless you jiggle the handle.
When a two-year-old offers anybody a toy telephone, even the biggest badass in history will answer it.
When I was a kid, it was “normal” to write letters to your friends — with a pen — on paper. Since then, we’ve been through at least three “new normals,” and — like it or don’t — there are a bunch more to come.
With all the crap that’s going on in the world, these days I watch The Shining to relax.
Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Imagine how different the next generation of young people might be if they were exposed to and educated about the ideas Dr. Sowell discusses…
As long as human beings are imperfect, there will always be arguments for extending the power of government to deal with these imperfections. The only logical stopping place is totalitarianism — unless we realize that tolerating imperfections is the price of freedom.
Considering how often throughout history even intelligent people have been proved to be wrong, it is amazing that there are still people who are convinced that the only reason anyone could possibly say something different from what they believe is stupidity or dishonesty.
Dave Rubin: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Dr. Sowell: It’s a super highway.
Equality of rights does not mean equality of results. I can have all the equal treatment in the world on a golf course and I will not finish within shouting distance of Tiger Woods.
If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.
If we start operating on the principle that people alive today are responsible for what their ancestors did in centuries past, we will be adopting a principle that can tear any society apart.
If you cannot achieve equality of performance among people born to the same parents and raised under the same roof, how realistic is it to expect to achieve it across broader and deeper social divisions?
I have never understood why it is “greed” to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.
In short, killing the goose that lays the golden egg is a viable political strategy, so long as the goose does not die before the next election and no one traces the politicians’ fingerprints on the murder weapon.
Intellect is not wisdom.
It is amazing how many people think that the government’s role is to give them what they want by overriding what other people want.
It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.
It would be hard to think of a more ridiculous way to make decisions than to transfer those decisions to third parties who pay no price for being wrong. Yet that is what at least half of the bright ideas of the political left amount to.
Many of the words and phrases used in the media and among academics suggest that things simply happen to people, rather than being caused by their own choices or behavior.
Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.
No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems – of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.
One of the many disservices done to young people by our schools and colleges is giving them the puffed up notion that they are in a position to pass sweeping judgments on a world that they have barely begun to experience.
One of the scariest things about our times is how easy it is to scare people and start a political stampede. There are people who could be upset if they were told that half of all Americans earn less than the median income—though of course that is the way median income is defined.
People can’t be knowledgeable about everything but they can be knowledgeable about the extent of their own ignorance.
Racism is not dead, but it is on life support — kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as “racists.”
Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export.
Some people seem to think that the answer to all of life’s imperfections is to create a government agency to correct them. If that is your approach, then go straight to totalitarianism. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect $200.
The biggest myth about labor unions is that unions are for the workers. Unions are for unions, just as corporations are for corporations and politicians are for politicians.
The fundamental difference between equal treatment and equal performance is repeatedly confused. In performance terms, virtually no one is equal to anyone. The same individual is not even equal to himself on different days.
The left’s obsession with the high incomes of corporate executives never seems to extend to equally high – or higher – incomes of professional athletes, entertainers, or best-selling authors like Danielle Steel.
The income tax has spawned an intrusive bureaucracy, creating so much complexity and red tape that millions of ordinary citizens have to go get some accountant to fill out the forms for them – and then sign under penalty of perjury that it was done right. If you knew how to do it right, you wouldn’t have to go to somebody else to have it done, would you?
The minimum wage law is very cleverly misnamed. The real minimum wage is zero—and that is what many inexperienced and low-skilled people receive as a result of legislation that makes it illegal to pay them what they are currently worth to an employer.
There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.
Those who disdain wealth as a worthy goal for an individual or a society seem not to realize that wealth is the only thing that can prevent poverty.
The problem with trying to equalize is that you can usually only equalize downward. Most activities do not exist for the sake of equality. They exist to serve their own purposes — and those purposes are undermined, sometimes fatally, when equality becomes the goal.
The strongest argument for socialism is that it sounds good. The strongest argument against socialism is that it doesn’t work. But those who live by words will always have a soft spot in their hearts for socialism because it sounds so good.
Those who cry out that the government should ‘do something’ never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing.
What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.
What can we be certain of from history? That human beings have been wrong innumerable times, by vast amounts, and with catastrophic results. Yet today there are still people who think that anyone who disagrees with them must be either bad or not know what he is talking about.
When I was growing up, we were taught the stories of people whose inventions and scientific discoveries had expanded the lives of millions of other people. Today, students are being taught to admire those who complain, denounce and demand.
You can see the agenda behind the rhetoric when profits are called “unconscionable” but taxes never are, even when taxes take more than half of what someone has earned, or add much more to the prices we have to pay than profits do.
Links to more about Thomas Sowell
Dave Rubin: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Dr. Sowell: It’s a super highway.
An excellent interview! Common sense in these uncommon times.
More reading: Thomas Sowell – Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy
Logged onto my WordPress Account this morning and the Dashboard (the place where you manage everything to do with your blog) was different. Familiar enough to know where everything was, but presented in a different manner.
I explained to The Car Guy that it was like getting into an old Dodge and finding the familiar dashboard was now something that belonged in a new Chev. I would be able to use it, but it would take a bit of time to figure out how everything worked… though there was a problem because I couldn’t figure out how to start it.
In WordPress, the ‘start’ button is the post editor. I’m used to the ‘Classic Editor’. WordPress is pushing us to use the new and improved and very confusing ‘Block Editor’. This morning, I couldn’t find the button to start the ‘Classic Editor’.
I contacted support and was told that the dashboard changes (which removed the Classic Editor ‘start’ button) are slowly being rolled out, which is why there was no announcement.
After a bit of back and forth, the WordPress Happiness Engineer eventually found me a link to get me back into the old Dashboard. If you are a blogger and you want to get back to the dashboard that lets you use the Classic Editor, then here is the link. Just replace ‘yourblog’ with the part of the url that is specific to your blog:
Source: Wallingford Sign, Seattle Washington
Most people never get to see a moose in the wild. In contrast, in our neighbourhood it seems like just about everyone is talking about ‘their moose’ – the sightings are that frequent!
I recently watched a video from the CBC’s series The Nature of Things called The Incredible Things I’ve Seen while Following a Moose and her Calf for a Year.
A field naturalist, Hugo Kitching, spent 13 months tracking two mother/calf moose pairs in Jasper National Park (Alberta) so he could document the dangers to moose calves in their first year of life. These mountain moose are in decline – death rates for baby moose are high. A year tracking moose in Jasper National Park is a short story of Hugo’s experience. It gives a further glimpse into the challenges Hugo faced in finding and following these majestic mountain dwelling animals (and avoiding the animals that make a baby moose’s life so dangerous.)
As I watched the video, I kept thinking how much easier it would be to do a similar study of Alberta foothills/prairie dwelling moose. Tracking the moose in our neighbourhood, for example, would sometimes be nothing more than walking out the front door. Other days the search for the moose might take longer, but it would be on mostly flat terrain that is never more than a mile from a road… it is easy to see why The Nature of Things never did a video called “Watching Alberta Prairie Moose is like Watching Paint Dry”.
Moose (Alces alces) colonized the Parkland Region of Alberta during the 1980s and early 1990s, and later colonized the Grassland Region by the early 2000s. They are not a declining species here because there are few areas with the major predators – wolves (Canis lupus), black bears (Ursus americanus), and grizzly bears (U. arctos). Cougars (Felix con-color) are also at very low density, although the abundant coyotes are a small but possible threat. Between 2001 and 2014, the provincial moose population increased ~25% from 92,000 to 115,000. (Status and Management of Moose in the Parkland and Grasslands of Alberta .)
One thing that I learned from the video: our mama moose will drive her calf away later this spring in preparation for giving birth to her next calf! Hard to say how far the calf will go, though, since there are already two other moose loosely associated with the mother moose – possibly her calves from the previous few years… but I’m just guessing.
Here are all the moose photos I’ve posted so far.
There are about 700,000 moose in Canada. That means there is one moose for every 54 Canadians ! Mostly moose choose to live where people don’t live, however…