A Writer’s Challenge

August 28, 2017 – Ever heard of the term lipogram?

For someone who has written most of my life, and who has worked in the communications field for the last 20 plus years, it was a new one on me. However, this week I learned that a lipogram was a composition from which a writer systematically omits a certain letter or letters of the alphabet…on purpose…as a challenge.

An example of a successful lipogram is the novel “Gadsby”, a 1939 novel from Ernest Vincent Wright. The novel contains more than 50,000 words, but none of them include the letter “e”. That’s quite a challenge considering the “e” is a common letter.

Another type of challenge is writing extreme short fiction, known as flash fiction. Typically, flash fiction tells a complete story in less than 1,000 words, but many authors have challenged further. Legend has it, for example, that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Those words tell a complete and tragic tale. Author Margaret Atwood joined in the fun and penned: “Longed for him. Got him. Shit.” That six-word novel tells a different kind of tragic story.

As a writer, I enjoy challenging myself, but I’m not ready to tackle a full-blown lipogram, unless I choose to omit the letter “x” or perhaps “z” or “q”. Any other letter would be too mind boggling. I do, however, tackle flash fiction from time to time, but haven’t yet captured the passion or drama of Hemingway or Atwood. Although I did accept a WordPress challenge a few years back to write a complete story with no more or no less than 50 words:

“The raincoat did little to keep her dry. She hadn’t bothered with an umbrella; rain hit from all sides rendering it useless. Perhaps the storm would wash away the fear that clung to her like ivy wrapping around an old tree. Giving in, she let the rain wash over her.”

The story isn’t as vividly clear as the six-word novels above, but I will forge on. Mark Twain was right when he once apologized for writing a long letter to a friend, explaining that he didn’t have time to write a shorter one. Brevity takes time.

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The Test of Time

August 21, 2107 – This week marks the 77th anniversary of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

As a classic movie fan, it’s one of my favorites, and I love finding opportunities to watch it on the big screen. Unlike some older movies, it is as relevant and popular today as it was back then; perhaps even more so, since it wasn’t a box office hit when it was released. However, after 77 years, families still gather to watch the story of Dorothy and her three friends finding their hearts’ desire.

It has me wondering what other entertainment icons can stand the test of time?

For movies, “Casablanca” springs to mind, along with “Citizen Kane”, although the latter is not one of my favorites. I have to give honorable mention to anything by Alfred Hitchcock, and to the wonderful family movies made in the 1960s and 1970s such “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins” and “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.

When it comes to music, you have to include Frank Sinatra on the list, or anyone in the Rat Pack for that matter. They are still wildly popular today. You could also include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan in the mix because their music still has a strong audience, even though many of the songs are 50 years old. How many people do you think will still listen to Katie Perry or Justin Bieber 50 years from now?

As for literature, you can always include “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Bell Jar”. Classics will always be pushed on students, although they probably won’t appreciate them until they are adults. For popular literature, the first book that comes to mind is “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret”. Young girls will surely continue to read that wonderful story in future, and as shown above, only the cover will modernize. In addition, something tells me the Harry Potter books will stick around for a long time, too.

What else do you think will continue to be popular years from now?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shiny

August 18, 2017 — This week’s photo challenge is shiny (diversions, distractions and delightful detours).

There are so many things that distract me, it would be hard to pinpoint one thing. About a year ago, however, I was at a convention in center city Philadelphia, and while trying to get some work done in my hotel room, I made the mistake of opening the curtains and was distracted by night in the city. I didn’t get much work done after that.

The photos were taken with my iPhone so they are a bit grainy.

Here’s another interesting view. I caught parts of my room (bed, desk and lamp) in the reflection of the window while taking another photo.

Comfort Food Favorites

August 14, 2017 – Who doesn’t love a bowl of their favorite cereal?

As a kid, I thought breakfast was the best meal of the day because of cereal. Of course, I grew up when Corn Pops were called Sugar Pops and that was a beautiful thing.

Cereal not only filled your tummy back then, but it also entertained you. Remember reading the cereal box while eating? My sister and brother liked to do the same, so we had to take turns with the Frankenberry and Count Chocula boxes, and getting the prize inside the cereal box.

For many adults like me, cereal remains a favorite comfort food, and it’s still a special treat to sit down with a bowl of Lucky Charms or Coco Krispies. It just makes you feel like a kid again. I like healthier cereals, too and a nice bowl of Crispex with a sliced banana usually does the trick. And I’ve recently discovered the wonderful flavors of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Bethlehem Inn Granola.

So what are the top breakfast cereals of all time? Here’s a list from Buzzfeed ranking them from worst to first. Of course, there are a few I’d add and take off the list, but reading it will make you run for your bowl and spoon!

Ten Things Don’t Like…in No Particular Order!

August 7, 2017 — 1. Political campaigns. Once upon a time, I found politics interesting and almost enjoyable. But after the ugliness of this last presidential campaign and the horror that continues each, I am disgusted by most politicians and most of the media. I used to enjoy a good political debate now and then, but they even turn my stomach now. We’ve accepted negative campaigning as the norm these days, the constant bickering of both political parties, who have all of the power, making them something I don’t like at all.

2. Alarm clocks. How wonderful would it be if we all woke up naturally every morning, without the annoying sounds of an alarm to jump-start our day? After years of waking up for work, I’ve gotten to the point where I usually wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off anyway, but the idea of alarm clocks still bother me.

3. Bad umpires. I’m talking about those nasty men at the major league level with enough ego and attitude to ruin a great ball game or even an entire season with a bad call. Those bad calls seem to come more frequently these days (does anyone know where the strike zone is anymore?) and yet they are never accountable for their botched calls. Note to all major league baseball umpires: People pay to see the players, not you. So, don’t try to steal the show with your crazy theatrics.

4. Bullying. My heart goes out to anyone who struggles with physical or mental abuse from the cowards who bully them. It’s nice to see bullying laws and policies changing for the better across the country, but it won’t be enough until we all wake up and realize we should support each other instead of knocking each other down.

5. Littering. Why would anyone think it is acceptable throw their trash out of a car window or anywhere outside? I realize we are a disposable society, and we have far too much trash, but the least we can do is get rid of it properly. Maybe TV executives should rerun those commercials from the 1970s that showed the Native American running through the woods with a tear rolling down his cheek when he comes across all of the trash on the ground. If that image isn’t enough to make you stop throwing your garbage in the great outdoors, you don’t have a soul.

6. Math. Math actually scares me more than annoys me, but I put it on this list because either way I look at it, I don’t like it. I’m not talking about basic math – I can add, subtract, multiply and divide with the best of them – but anything beyond that is not comprehensible to me. It’s difficult for me to believe that without math we wouldn’t have music…or art…or… I like to think of math as logical and music and the arts as creative, and in my world they remain opposites.

7. Arrogant people. I don’t want to spend time around people who are pretentious or overbearing, who show a complete disregard for others, or who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves. And there’s nothing else to say about the matter.

8. Heat waves. It’s been a long hot summer, and I’m ready for a change in temperature. I actually don’t care for the extremes of hot or cold, but I’d take the winter over the summer any day. Like politics, weather perfection is found in the middle. Give me spring and fall year round and I’m happy.

9. Waiting. We all know them. Those people who are never on time for anything; the type who show up at 10:30 when you were supposed to meet at 10 and think nothing of it. I’m a punctual person, and I believe it’s considerate of people’s time to show up when I say I will. Occasional trip ups are acceptable; we can’t control everything in life, such as traffic jams or anything else that can slow us down now and then. But the perpetually late people who keep me waiting is different. I may like or even love you, but I don’t like it when you keep me waiting.

10. The day after. I’ve never cared for the day after a big event, especially one that you’ve planned and looked forward to for a long time, such as a wedding, a reunion, Christmas, or any big social event. The day after is always a letdown, and often leaves you feeling blah, and like you don’t have anything else to look forward to. Fortunately, that feeling leaves as quickly as it arrives when life moves on and you have no choice but to go along with it.