Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Joe heard the phlegmy cough from the stair below and he knew that his grandmother was back from Wisconsin where she’d gone to buy cheese curds, which

she swore tastes just like regular cheese, but if that’s the case, then why not just buy cheese, Joe always asked.

I know that sentence doesn't make any sense. That's the point.

Emma over at Fueled by Coffee blogged recently about a very short story. That post reminded me to blog about one of my favorite contests, the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, named after the author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. No doubt many of you have heard of both the author and the contest. For those of you haven’t, I know that you have heard of some of his work—The Last Days of Pompeii, for example. Or at least you’ve heard of fragments of his work: it was Bulwer-Lytton, apparently, who coined the well-used expressions "the pen is mightier than the sword," "the great unwashed," and "the almighty dollar." But most famous of all, perhaps, was the opening clause of the opening sentence of his book Paul Clifford (1830)—the book begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The sentence, in its entirety, goes thusly:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Inspired by such a sentence—which, let’s face it, is a doozy—every year, Professor Scott Rice and the English department at San Jose State University, conduct the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in which “entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.”

This contest appeals to me on oh, so many levels. The fun that can be had with the English language is one of my favorite types of fun. And when the fun is purposefully bad writing, well, it’s a case of too wrong makes a right. It’s splendiffic. Fabulous, ladies and gentlemen, just fabulous.

If you have so far resisted temptation to click on any links and read some entries for yourself, I give you my favorite of the 2006 winners. I realize I’ve posted a lot of them, but if you go to the website and read all of the winning entries, you’ll see how hard it was to choose. Read on. If at least one of these beauties doesn’t make you laugh out loud, then I feel sorry for you, you sad, sad creature.

2006 Winner
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.
--Jim Guigli, Carmichael, CA

Winner: Adventure
Christy, lounging in the gondola which slipped smoothly through the enveloping mist had her first inkling that something was afoot as she heard pattering hooves below (for our story is not in Venice but Switzerland with its Provolone and Toblerone) and craning her not unlovely neck she narrowed her eyes at the dozen tiny reindeer, pelting madly down the goat trail.
--Irene Buttuls, Lytton, B.C

Winner: Detective Fiction [I won’t commit myself entirely but this may be my favorite]
It was a dreary Monday in September when Constable Lightspeed came across the rotting corpse that resembled one of those zombies from Michael Jackson's "Thriller," except that it was lying down and not performing the electric slide.
--Derek Fisher, Ottawa, ON

Winner: Purple Prose
A single sparkling tear fell from Little Mary's cheek onto the sidewalk, then slid into the storm drain, there to join in its course the mighty waters of the Los Angeles River and, eventually, Long Beach Harbor, with its state-of-the-art container-freight processing facilities.
--Bill Mac Iver, Berkeley, CA

Winner: Romance
Despite the vast differences it their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.
--Dennis Barry, Dothan, AL

Winner: Vile Puns [I had to post this one because I do so love puns]
As Johann looked out across the verdant Iowa River valley, and beyond to the low hills capped by the massive refrigerator manufacturing plant, he reminisced on the history of the great enterprise from its early days, when he and three other young men, all of differing backgrounds, had only their dream of bringing refrigeration to America's heartland to sustain them, to the present day, where they had become the Midwest's foremost group of refrigerator magnates.
--Dick Davis, Circle Pines, MN

From the category of Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions
The goose waddled slowly, heavily, across the road, exactly the way my mother-in-law would if she were a goose.
--Mary Montiel, Wichita, KS

A Lodgepole Pine grew straight and tall in front of his cabin, sort of like a lodgepole, only with branches.
--Stephen E. Moore, Edmonds, WA

"Please, Jeffrey, don't tell him this time" a beautiful woman, with eyes like cobalt fire, implored of me as she staggered obviously a bit tipsy, if not completely obliterated, out of the Wagon Wheel Tavern and onto West Fourth Street and blinking twice from the afternoon sun managed to slink past me and into the arms of a fellow who I'm guessing was Jeffrey.
--Robert Salsbury, Spokane Valley, WA

The day was like any other, except that this was a Wednesday so it was really only like 1/7th of the other days.
--Randy Wilson, New Albany, IN

If you liked those entries, click here to see a list of past winners. I love them all, but I’m posting just my absolute favorites:

The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably--the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career.
--Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, Connecticut (1985 Winner)

[This is one of my favorites and is rr’s absolute favorite]

The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn't heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn't reacting yet to let you know.
--Patricia E. Presutti, Lewiston, New York (1986 Winner)

"Ace, watch your head!" hissed Wanda urgently, yet somehow provocatively, through red, full, sensuous lips, but he couldn't you know, since nobody can actually watch more than part of his nose or a little cheek or lips if he really tries, but he appreciated her warning.
--Janice Estey, Aspen, Colorado (1996 Winner)

On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.
--Rephah Berg, Oakland CA (2002 Winner)

[This is another one of my favorites and is rr’s second favorite]

They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white . . . Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently.
--Mariann Simms, Wetumpka, AL (2003 Winner)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shiver MeTimbers, It's Almost That Time Again

It’s now 21 days until Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yea! To launch our countdown until the day, rr and I went online and found a number of Pirate Name Generators. According to them, my pirate name is

First Mate Catherine of the Barbary Coast


Musket Max


Lackey Maria Lindsey

or (and I think this is my favorite, only because it involved a quiz)

My pirate name is:

Iron Jenny Rackham

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you’re a tough person. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

(Actually, I took it twice, and just by changing one answer, I got upgraded to Captain

My pirate name is:

Captain Jenny Rackham

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

This one has the added bonus of almost being my initials, except my initials are JLR, not IJR or CJR. But I do have a "J" and an "R," so that's close.
[RR’s note: mine was Captain Ethel Kidd. But you can call me Captain.]

So if you are reading this--consider yourself tagged. Go find your pirate name! You can either post it today or wait until Talk Like a Pirate Day and let the world know then.

Friday, August 25, 2006

And they shall know us by the trail of crumbs . . .

Ok, so, the move. Let me tell you about The Move. The Move did not go as well as I had hoped it would. It began with rr deciding that we should use the movers that they’d used at work once, movers who had done a good job. We picked said moving company. Dugan’s, it is called. I do not recommend them. That’s ok, though, because Brad Dugan doesn’t want my business or need me to recommend him to anyone. He told me so himself, right after he yelled at me. But I get ahead of myself.

So, rr calls the movers and arranges a time for moving. Mr. Dugan asks how many bedrooms we have, but doesn’t ask square footage, doesn’t ask for a list of our furniture, nothing like that. We think nothing of it at first, because he’s supposed to be the professional, right? So if he needs a list of our furniture or needs to know how much stuff we have, he’d ask, right? Well, just to be sure, rr called him back that same night and told him that, among other things, we have four large bookshelves and several smaller ones full of books. He said, “but they’ll be in boxes, right?” RR said yes, they would be. He assured us it would be no problem.

So we just go on our merry packing-up-our-belongings way. The night before we move—or maybe it’s two nights before—rr calls him again and has to leave a message. In the message she confirms our time for the move and reminds him that we have a lot of stuff. The next morning he calls back to confirm the move, so he must have received her message. The day of the move his crew is running behind, so we call him to tell him we’re going to run an errand, and at that point rr reminds him we have a lot of stuff, and she says we have in the neighborhood of 200 boxes. It turns out we didn’t have near that many boxes, but we wanted to make sure he knew we had a lot of boxes. And also, of the boxes we did have, many, many of them were very small—one book shipped from size or smaller. So while there may have been a good number of them, they didn’t take up too much space.

So finally the mover guys (finally) show up. The trailer they are towing is clearly not big enough, and in the bed of the pickup that’s hauling it is a tall chest of drawers, so not much can fit back there with it. The mover guys come in, take a look at our stuff, and confirm our suspicions that the trailer won’t hold all our stuff. First the crew chief tells us that they’ll have to make two trips (convenient, since they get paid by the hour), and then tells us no less that three times how many more moves that still have to do that day, basically implying that they cannot make two trips for us. We become very upset, because now we have to hire someone else to finish the job or get a U-haul and do it ourselves, neither of which is in the moving budget.

So the guys eat the lunches we had bought for them and began loading up our stuff. One of the guys tells me that they’ve had a number of complaints about using trailers that are too small to move people. And sure enough, all our stuff will not fit on the trailer. On the way to our place, I call Mr. Dugan to complain, very upset. I tell him that I’m upset that he’d send a trailer that was too small, and that I would tell all my friends not to use his company. And he responds, very professionally, by yelling at me. He tells me that it’s our fault because we didn’t tell him how much stuff we had. It’s true that we didn’t provide a detailed list, but that’s because he didn’t ask for one, and since he was the professional, we figured if he needed one, he’d ask. He says that the amount of stuff we had was way out of line for a two-bedroom apartment. Well, since he wasn’t there, he doesn’t have any idea how much stuff we actually had, but I told him that two-bedrooms can range in size from 800 square feet to 1200 square feet, and as it happens we had a large two-bedroom apartment. Of course, we didn’t even have a sofa, and we both have twin beds, so it’s not like our furniture was taking up too much space. Our kitchen was tiny, and we’d warned him about how many books we had, so I’m not sure why it was our fault. But he yelled at me that it was, and then he yelled at me for threatening him and for being abusive. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about, I didn’t threaten to not pay him, or to report him to the Better Business Bureau, or to sue him, so I’m not sure how I was being threatening or abusive, but man, he just would not let up. He just kept yelling and yelling at me until I finally hung up on him. What made me the angriest was that he’d had a giant fish symbol on the side of his trailer. Very Christian-like behavior, I don’t think.

Then we finally get to our new home. The movers unload fairly quickly, but the crew chief guy, though nice (all the guys doing the actual moving were nice), did that thing they seem to do—reveal too much personal information to someone he’d just met. I know how much he pays in child support to how many different women, for instance. He also told me the trials of being in the moving business. Once, he said, a man cussed him out after he’d finished moving the guy, so to get even he said he grabbed several pieces of the guy’s furniture and put it back on his truck and dared the guy to keep talking like that. So apparently he doesn’t take too well to complaints, either.

When all our stuff had (apparently) been unloaded, he had us go out and look in the trailer to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything, and although they had all their moving gear in the trailer, I didn’t see any furniture, so we signed their little form. It was only after they had left that we noticed that they’d left without unloading my bedrails. So my mattress is just on the floor. I have propped my headboard up against the wall to sort of make it look like the bed is set up, but it isn’t. We didn’t bother to contact the guy to ask about the rails because I didn’t feel like being yelled at again, and I had a feeling it wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

Also, they damaged some of our furniture. So I do not recommend using their services.

That, of course, was just the beginning. That was on a Thursday. That night, we didn’t get much sleep at all, because one of our cats (not the one who had her leg amputated) was nervous about the new surroundings and did not stop meowing the entire night. I mean, the entire night. The only time he’d be quiet was if you were petting him.

Then on that Sunday, rr and I rented a U-haul van. We got the cargo van instead of a larger truck because we weren’t sure we’d be able to drive anything larger. My poor parents and my brother helped us on the first trip, in 104 degree heat, which was excruciating. We made a second trip ourselves. Then we had to go back on two separate occasions to get the rest of our stuff. We just finished this past Saturday. Then the unpacking fun began. Unfortunately, our new place is quite smaller than our old one, so we have done nothing but unpack and buy more storage stuff and unpack since then. It has involved me (and rr, too) being very sweaty for the greater part of the month of August, and you can imagine how I’ve felt about that.

I feel really bad for rr, who was supposed to have several weeks of vacation before she started school, but who only gets this weekend off, and even that will be spent unpacking some of the time, and the only reason she’s getting any time off at all is because she’s finally resigned herself to the fact that she just can’t get everything done before school starts.

Then on top of that we are so broke because moving turned out to cost way more than we’d budgeted for, and we’d budgeted a good deal, so that was kind of depressing. We thought we’d have the time and money to at least go visit our friend in Austin who just had a baby, but no such luck.

So moving was not fun, we are not settled in, and everything is not all comfy cozy. But the worst part is over, we hope, and if we can just resign ourselves to getting rid of a lot more of our stuff, everything will be fine. We are both very nervous about the next month or so (her, school; me, new job), but we bought a nice big bottle of Mylanta just for that. (We've both been feeling nothing but nauseated lately, and we spend much of our time eating crackers. Cracker crumbs, everywhere.) So, eventually, things should be ok. We just have to hang in there until then.

Also, our grocery store is 2 miles away. *Sniff*. I miss the city. We went to Central Market yesterday because several people had assured us that it was not far at all, just up the road, but we’d forgotten that in Texas suburb talk, “not far” is anything within a 30-minute drive, because if you live in the ‘burbs, particularly the D/FW metroplex area, everything is far away, but almost nothing is more than an hour away, so people just get used to driving and to being able to get whatever they need if they are willing to drive for it. So, yeah, CM, not so close.

On the plus side, I had lunch this week with my new boss, and I had forgotten how much I love downtown Fort Worth. So I’m really looking forward to getting to be there everyday—terrified about my new job, but excited about the locale.

And that’s all the news for now. I’m sure that both rr and I will have lots of fun stuff to talk about in the next month or so, but for right now we’re both kind of burnt out and a little down. But at the same time, we have a lot of optimism about the future.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

And knitting, and knitting, and knitting, and knitting . . .

It really does seem like no matter how much stuff we pack, we don't have any less left to pack. We just keep packing and packing and packing. Just one day (not counting today) until the move (thank God!).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hick Hits Worsen Whirs*


Well, it’s done. I’ve taken the bar exam. Don’t ask me how it went, because I don’t know. I was so exhausted afterwards, and for some reason, my legs were tired, like I’d been running.

The first day was short answer, and it was awful, I mean awful. It's super frustrating to have spent all this time preparing and then be presented with a bunch of questions you can't answer. I just didn’t know the answers. It’s the part of the test where they ask you procedure questions, and it’s just a question and then five lines where you write in the answer, with no room for guessing your way through it. If they ask you what motion you should file to object to a subpoena of a corporation and what should it assert, you just have to know the answer. And I didn’t so much know the answers; my mind just went totally blank on about half the questions. It didn’t help that the night before we had wound up in a smoking room at the hotel and it reeked. Fortunately we were able to change rooms the next night.

The second day was multiple choice, so I don’t have any clue how I did, but I will say the morning part seemed ok, and the afternoon part was much more difficult. I kept thinking, “ok, the next question, I’ll know the answer. Ok, the next question, I’ll know the answer.” My friend Mere said on the morning part, question 85 was the first one she knew the answer to. That’s how I felt in the afternoon. They ask you a question, and you look at it, and you think you know the answer, but the answer you pick just isn’t one of the choices.

The third day was essay day. The morning went alright, but in the afternoon, I just had to make stuff up. So we’ll see. Keep praying for me. I don’t find out if I passed until November.

I also felt bad for RR, because she was trying to take care of me, and our cats, and our parents’ dog at the same time. She was run pretty ragged for those three days.

In other news, RR told me last Wednesday night that the vet had called her and informed her that one of our cats has bone cancer, and they have to amputate her leg. We took her in the day after the bar exam to have it done. It may not seem like a big deal to non-pet people out there, but it is very difficult for us. We love with all our hearts these sweet little critters who give us so much. The vet, who’s really, really sweet, assured us that it’s much harder on the humans than it is on their pets. He also told us that cats have a much higher rate of survival with bone cancer than do humans, and while he can’t make any guarantees, her prognosis is good. But we’re still having a hard time with it, and to make it worse, ever since we brought her home, she won’t come out from underneath rr’s bed except at night when we’re asleep.

And, finally, we are now frantically trying to pack up all our stuff so that we can move in about a week. Pray for us on that as well, because moving is just so expensive. I really hate moving. We’ve been packing, but it seems like no matter how much we pack, the amount of stuff that’s unpacked doesn’t go down, so there’s just STUFF.EVERYWHERE.

In the meantime, I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t shake that “I’m feeling guilty about looking at this magazine because really I should be doing something” feeling. I don’t know when this is going to go away. I ran into two of my classmates at Target today, and they were experiencing similar emotions. They are about to leave for Scotland and Ireland, though, whereas rr and I get to spend our vacation money on the move. Not quite the same. But at least we have some place to move to, and for awhile there we were worried about finding a place. So we’re just trying to stay positive.

On a happier note, we at least will soon have some free time to sit around and watch movies or read all day, and not feel guilty about it. We’re looking forward to that. And who knows, maybe we’ll actually have more time for blogging!

*the title for this post comes from the game Mad Gabs--if you don't know what it says, try saying it several times out loud.