Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #7 (2001)

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 2001.

As he saw her step lightly down from the stagecoach, Deputy Slim Pickens reckoned that Luella Mae Bumtugger, the new schoolmarm, was ’bout as fine as frog hair; tapered legs smooth as a salamander and skinny as a newborn colt; brown eyes dark and deep as a barn owl in the shadows of midnight; and a bosom that heaved up through the low cut blouse like two hairless prairie dogs trying to back out of the same hole.
– Randy Groom, Visalia, CA –

A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona’s ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea.
– Sera Kirk, Vancouver, British Columbia –

Dr. Doolittle’s visage darkened as he dissected the diseased duodenum of the deceased male sheep, declaring that the malady was critically contagious and that it was our patriotic duty to guard the severed specimens from possible biological terrorists, so all through the night o’er the ram parts we watched.
– Glenn Wasson, San Andreas, CA –

It’s hard to believe that Lucy and I are actually getting married, considering the fact that her multi-millionaire father owns the local NFL franchise, and I’m just a lowly, underpaid member of the grounds crew, relegated to painting the team logo on the field, which is actually a fairly difficult job, what with all the little flairs, curlicues and swooshes I have to deal with, not to mention the texture of the turf itself, relative humidity and all the foot traffic that it gets . . . but I dye grass.
– Wm. W. “Buddy” Ocheltree, Lilburn, GA –

It was a dark and stormy night when Leviathan-sized waves pitched Malcom overboard from the small schooner and he found himself clinging to a cider barrel in the tempest-tossed sea, to be borne thereon to a barren atoll leagues off the main shipping lanes, a sandy dot in the ocean whose only life was a leafy shrub with a pulpy substance inside its stems, which, with the contents of the life-saving barrel, long since gone sour, provided Malcom’s sustenance for the next months until a search party discovered him, not emaciated and sere as one would expect but literally full of pith and vinegar.
– Jack Eilar, Ionia, MI –

It was a dark and stormy night as Jacque the baker slogged through the black cheerless alleyways of Avignon, the cold Provencal rain soaking him to the bone, increasing his fury at having chosen the life of a breadmaker, for the early hours truly went against his grain and it chaffed him that he trudged to work in wee hours of the morning while the rest of the world loafed in bed; what more proof did he need of his misery, why did he bother, surely it was not for the dough, exasperating as the rise and fall of the boulangerie’s business might be, and suddenly he knew with conviction that he was, after all, just a gluten for punishment.
– James Bardsley, Skillman, NJ –

Kirk’s mind raced as he quickly assessed his situation: the shields were down, the warp drive and impulse engines were dead, life support was failing fast, and the Enterprise was plummeting out of control toward the surface of Epsilon VI and, as Scotty and Spock searched frantically through the manuals trying to find a way to save them all, Kirk vowed, as he stared at the solid blue image filling the main view screen, that never again would he allow a Microsoft operating system to control his ship.
– Mike Rottmann, Reno, Nevada –

Staring precociously at the white foam that surrounded his bulbous white flesh, Norman could not help but wonder why he had let himself be cajoled into this discerning nightly ritual but of course bath night was something that the three-year-old could not avoid.
– Marcos Marcou, Larnaca, Cyprus –

The graphic crime-scene photo that stared up at Homicide Inspector Chuck Venturi from the center of his desk was not a pretty picture, though it could have been, Chuck mused, had it only been shot in soft focus with a shutter speed of 1/125 second at f 5.6 or so.
– Ms. Rephah Berg, Oakland, CA –

When the mightily-hewn warrior-hero Glark One-Ear, fed up with paying the tribute demanded by the despotic wizard Jormed-the-Doubly-Soulless, set out to single-handedly unite the warring barbarian tribes of Verfot and lead them in bloodily overthrowing the evil mage’s tyranny, he envisioned a progressive tax system based upon income brackets, yet allowing deductions for business expenses, dependents, and charitable donations.
– Nicolas Juzda, Toronto, Ontario –

While they listened to the dulcet strains of Wayne Newton, quaffed champagne, cuddled in the hot tub as bubbles nibbled at their shoulders like a peckish Pomeranian, Tiffany and Shane grew lethargic and groggy; and as Shane drew a final, sweet drag from his cigarette, an errant breeze hijacked an ember-only to release it into the slumbering Tiffany’s mane; but Shane, besotted and inherently doltish, could muster no plan of rescue until he heard Wayne Newton intone, “Dunk her, Shane.”
– Susan Blevins, Port Angeles, WA –

With echoes of “fee, fi, fo, fum” still hurtling about the cavernous dining chamber, the giant, breath reeking of l’orange, narrowed his crimson-rimmed eyes till they appeared as slits carved haphazardly into his beefy, liver spot-sprinkled visage; set his prey back upon the floor; drummed his bulging, sausage-like fingers against his substantial belt; and signaled to the small boy that he was free to leave, at which point Jack, scurrying toward the towering open door before them, realized he’d learned the lesson of a lifetime: sometimes there were advantages to being Canadian.
– Julie Stangeland, Seal Beach, CA –

Previous Bulwer-Lytton First Sentences

I’m looking forward to seeing the opening sentence of your worst possible novel!

Orb Weaver Spiders – My Chubby Neighours

The architects of the classic circular sticky webs (that I run into some mornings when they span some part of the door out of the house) are the Orb Weaver Spiders. The webs are easy to disengage from, but if the chubby builders themselves are on the web – well, they are a bit intimidating. Their bodies are  5.5 to 20 mm; .2 to .8 inches wide! Fortunately, they really are very benign arachnids.

Araneus gemmoides
Araneus trifolium

In the spring I sometimes see Cross Orb Weaver Spiderlings  (Areneus diadematus). I found these on my lawn chair. They had recently hatched from eggs that were laid the previous fall.

They started the morning off in a cluster, perhaps newly hatched or perhaps just bunched together to keep warm.
Gradually they dispersed.

Later in the day they were all gone – hopefully most found a ‘safe space’ before a hungry bird found them.

Bug Bits
Name:  Orbweaver Spiders
Genus:  Areneus
Native to:  Found in many countries
Date Seen:  June to October 2022
Location:  North of Calgary, Alberta
Notes: All orb weavers have eight legs attached to a segmented body. Many  are relatively large and can be brightly colored. Some eat their webs every day and build new ones shortly afterwards.

The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web.
– Edwin Way Teale –

Are you Afraid of Spiders? I’m not, but cautious all the same… especially around tarantulas…

Spiders so large they appear to be wearing the pelts of small mammals.
– Dave Barry –


Whoever said ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ never had a spider disappear in the bedroom.

Some People Can Sleep Anywhere

In February 2004 we went to Jordan with the Qatar Natural History Group. Late on Day 5 of our adventure, we arrived at Camp Jabal Rum which is near Wadi Rum, the most famous valley in this area of desert lowland and craggy peaks.

‘5 Star Accommodation’

We were told we would be staying at a 5 star accommodation, so were surprised when our tour bus pulled into a walled-off area of  refugee style tents. We filed off the bus in disbelief. Near us was a building with a large ‘W.C.’ chalked on it, a Bedouin style tent made of goat hair, and a small shack which said “Bar Coffee.”

The Beer and Coffee Bar

Tentatively we explored our home for a night. The good news was that there were flush toilets and beer. The bad news was there was no hot water or towels and the toilet paper stock wasn’t going to last long.

The cold of the evening drove us into a Bedouin tent where a wood stove was producing little heat but much smoke because of a poorly fitted metal chimney. As we waited for food, some decided this was as good a time as any to find some cheer in way too much beer.

By the time the belly dancer came out to provide the after dinner entertainment, many were quite jovial – though not jovial enough to listen to  very loud Arab music for long. We headed off to our tents for a 10 PM bed time. We rationalized that the sooner we got to sleep, the sooner it would be morning and we could visit the desert.

It was a beautiful, if cold night. The hill behind the compound was lit with pinpricks of light from small lamps. The stars were awesome. When The Car Guy and I got into our tent, we noticed more spots of light – coming in through the holes in the tent ceiling. We hoped it wouldn’t rain!

We decided to sleep with our clothes on (we hadn’t been told we would need cold weather camping attire). Each of our single canvas cots had a narrow heavy quilt that was covered in some sort of really slippery material. We crawled into bed and hoped for the best. Soon a snoring chorus assailed me from both sides – The Car Guy to my right and whoever was sleeping in the tent to my left, which was about 6 feet away.

As the temperature continued to drop, I got increasingly cold. I pulled up the hood of my jacket, then hauled my cot closer to the snoring Car Guy’s cot, hoping to catch some of his body heat. The slippery quilt slid off me every time I moved. After sleeping fitfully for some period of time, nature called… just about everyone. As we stood in line waiting our turn to use the W.C. the topic of discussion was “got any extra kleenex”? The toilet paper was long gone.

Morning came none too quickly. We mustered to any patches of sunshine we could find, then tucked into a breakfast of coffee, hard boiled eggs and cold pita bread.

Of course this is safe – inshallah…

Then, old open jeep-type vehicles appeared in the compound. We piled into these for our tour of the natural splendors of Wadi Rum. The landscape was dramatic and pristine. We stopped often to take pictures – jagged mountains, rounded hills, rock carvings, and an oasis. Oh, and a chance to take a short ride on a camel.

The Red Rock Wilderness of Wadi Rum

All in all, it was the worst camping experience ever, but one of the best adventures ever.

How about you – have you had a worst/best adventure too?

The Squeaky Wheel

Update on WordPress Makes Copyright Infringement Easy.

I explained my displeasure (with the Reblog tool) to several WordPress Happiness Engineers. I wanted them to understand how easy WordPress had made it for my copyright photo to be used without my permission.

Eventually one of the Happiness Engineers suggested several other work arounds:
1. Since the photo in the reblogged post was linked to my Media Library (rather than being a photo that was copied and pasted into their post) I could remove the photo from my media library, then upload the photo again with a new name and insert it into my post. That would break the link to the original photo. I did this, and also tried their other suggestion:
2. I could Report the site – use this link to learn how: https://wordpress.com/support/report-blogs/

I reported the site and flagged it as spam rather than copyright violation. I don’t know whether the first option worked because the second option was acted upon quite quickly. The site was taken down AND the programmers have been informed that there is a glitch or a bug that allows reblogging even though the reblog tool has been disabled.

So, sometimes The Squeaky Wheel gets the Grease!

I hate to be a kicker,
I always long for peace,
But the wheel that squeaks the loudest,
Is the one that gets the grease.
– Josh Billings, The Kicker, 1870 –

I couldn’t find engine oil for my car so I used Omega 3 to stop it squeaking. The improvement was only super fish oil.
– Author Unknown –

On the other hand

Big Thanks
I’d like to thank the WordPress Happiness Engineers who listened to my concern and were able to resolve the issue.