Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Power of the Pen: The Best of the Rest

In seventh and eighth grade, I participated in the regional Power of the Pen competition. Meets consisted of three rounds of 45 minutes wherein you were expected to come up with a complete story or essay. I wasn't always overly inspired by the prompts, but I usually found myself writing at least one silly, subversive sentence that made me giggle. I could only imagine how the judges would react to my unusual sense of humor.
Out of context, these sentences are even funnier:

From Amazed:
"The voice!" Alvin shouted. "The voice comes out of nowhere! Why do we obey it?"
Shuddering, my eyes widened in recollection. "The giant rats will hunt us down. We must go forward to survive!"
From Mission Algebra:
I tossed and turned in bed that night. Dodos filled my dreams. I whimpered in fear.
From Alien Intervention:
"I'm afraid I'll have to correct you," he shouted, and turned into blue smoke. The blue smoke went up Sam's nose.
From The Clown*:
Reflecting back on that fateful humid day, I cursed myself for not being stronger, for wasting all my money on the Twirl-A-Whirl, but most of all for agreeing with that fat, evil harlequin.
From There Used to be Three:
This can't be good, I thought, and blacked out as a cold, strange hand touched the back of my neck.
So a Human Walks into a Bar (uploaded in full) includes probably my favorite line I ever wrote:
Mr. Bubbles chortled.

*The Clown includes other gems such as 
"I saw the whole town pointing and laughing at me, and the satanic man pelting me with water balloons, cackling, 'You want some water, huh? Huh?!'"
"Being a clown had transformed me into a cold, hard human being."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Family Reunion Buffet

I wrote the following short story in the Eighth Grade for the regional Power of the Pen competition. We had 45 minutes and this was the prompt: Describe a custom (real or imaginary) that seems strange or uncivilized.


What's more uncivilized than eating human beings? Why, eating your family members, of course! That's right, I'm talking about a cannibal's family reunion.
You may think that they'd be able to resist the temptation, but let me make an analogy. It's like when you're told not to eat, say, chocolate cake before dinnertime. Unfortunately, you're very hungry, and the treat looks very delicious. So you pop it into your mouth when nobody's looking.
Of course, there's another factor to take into account. Family reunions can often be boring. Some relatives do not know when to stop talking. Cannibals have a way, albeit a very disgusting way, to shut people them.
Any social gathering of cannibals is bound to be disastrous. Most of the time, only one-third of the original party-goers will come back. These few will look slightly larger around the waistline, and a little more content. The Surgeon General strongly advises you not to attend parties thrown by cannibals. Anyone who values their life, and/or considers themselves to be a respectable citizen, should do as he says.
Also, not only are cannibals uncivilized, savage, and undeniably strange people, they have no manners. They are known to fool around with their humans before they eat them. Of course, everyone knows you should never play with your food.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Did the Lion Sleep Tonight?

I wrote the following story in the Eighth Grade for the regional Power of the Pen contest. We had 45 minutes and this was the prompt: You awaken from a dream remembering vividly a place you've never been before. Describe it.


"Wow!" I shouted. "That was a close one!"
When my brother looked over at me from his bed I realized how stupid I must have sounded. But still, everything had been so real in the dream. I realized now it was only a dream, but then it had felt as if I was actually in the African veldt. As I explained this to my brother, he looked at me like I was crazy.
"I ran with the graceful gazelle! I ate with an enormous elephant!" I enthused. "I raced with a wrinkled rhinoceros!"
"Don't practice your alliteration on me," my brother grumbled. "It's too early in the morning."
"Sorry, but I've never felt so alive! I ran in the tall, brown grass, felt the sun beating down on me. The sun was like a golden stone in a fiery sky during sunset. The grass seemed to be alive in the cool, morning breeze!"
"I hope you fell in the mud," moaned my brother and pulled his pillow over his head.
I laughed. "Oh, I did! I wallowed in the mud with three friendly warthogs. I was at a watering hole and was joined by a herd of wildebeests! I was alone with nature!"
"Blehhh," said my brother.
"I looked up in the sky and saw colorful bids swooping in formation. They looked like kites, like moving brushes of paint on blue canvas," I murmured.
I smiled, remembering the quick, regal leopard, and the mangy hyena who thought life was one big joke. All the animals had been so beautiful and the scenery was breathtaking. Everything was perfect.
"I almost got eaten by a lion," I recalled with a shudder. That was why I had called out "That was a close one" upon waking up.
It had been terrifying. I was watching a group of playful primates when a bone-chilling roar echoed through the land. Suddenly, a lion leapt out of nowhere and bounded towards me, its mane flying.
I ran faster and faster, but alas! I felt claws in my flesh, and I fell to the ground.
Then I woke up.
My brother chuckled. "I had a dream, too," he admitted confidentially. "I was in the African veldt. Guess what I was?"
He licked his lips. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
"I was a lion!" he said. Then he pounced.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

So a Human Walks into a Bar

I wrote the following story in the Eighth Grade for the regional Power of the Pen contest. We had 45 minutes and this was the prompt: Bees sting, roses have thorns; show what real---or imagined---defense system humans possess.


"So a human walks into a bar," I said, leaning across the table to get a better view of my extraterrestrial companions.
"That is not funny," said Alien #1, whose name roughly translated to "Three Stalk Bison.
"I wasn't finished," I said testily. "Anyway, he walks into a bar...and falls unconscious. Why?" I looked at them expectantly.
"I have no idea," gurgled the gelatinous mass of bubbles, Alien # 2.
"Because---" I started, "he walked into a bar!"
No reaction.
"Into a bar, " I explained, and frowned. I was losing my audience. "You know, like that?" I made a rough gesture to hammer in my point.
"Don't humans have a defense system to prevent such...unfortunate accidents?" asked Mr. Bubbles.
I hung my head. "First of all, it's just a joke. You guys have no sense of humor."
Before Three Stalk could come back with a retort, I raised my voice to cut him off. "And secondly," I said, "humans do have a defense system. It's called embarrassment."
I received a quizzical expression from Three Stalk. "Embarrassment? Explain," he said, as if he was daring me.
"Well, see that guy over there with the four arms? Let's say he wants to ask that purple girl on a date," I hypothesized. "But he knows that if she turns him down, this will mean major embarrassment for him."
"But they are not humans," Mr. Bubbles pointed out.
I gave him a tight smile. "I'm just using them as examples, seeing as how I'm the only earthling in the bar."
Three Stalk wagged his finger at me. "But what about in a life or death struggle?" he asked.
"That too!" I exclaimed. "If you know you can't win a fight, you won't get into one. Because if you did, you'd be very embarrassed when you lost."
Mr. Bubbles chortled. "You'd be killed! That's what one would be afraid of!"
I shook my head. "If you're killed, that's a good thing! Then you won't be ashamed for the rest of your life!" I leaned back in my chair. "Having people snicker at you, that's what humans fear!"
"Your argument is confusing to us," Three Stalks said, although it was obvious he knew I had won.
"Confusing? It's easy!" I shouted. "As easy as why the chicken crossed the road!"
"Why?" asked Mr. Bubbles.
"To get to the other side!" I finished with a flourish.
No reaction.
"Aliens," I scoffed. "No sense of humor!"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Broken promises

Broken promises.
If potential exists only in the imagination, can it be lost?
Broken compromises.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Literacy Program Application

Literacy programs are always in need of volunteers, but not all applicants should be accepted. Consider the following letter, written in crayon on construction paper and left at a local public library:

deer liturasee programm

i am riting too tell yu that i want too bee eksepted intoo yur verree impourtant programm. i grajuated frum a collige werr I lurned too rite and reed well. i am a verree responsibul udult hoo lyks werking with cheldrenn. it is veree impourtant to lurn how too reed and sow that is wi yu shuld let me into yur programm.

benji miller

p.s. pleez mayl me the munny yu sed i wood get beecuz i am ann udult

Benji Miller has been preemptively signed up for the Literacy Program---as a student.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heidi Klum and Seal


Female announcer: We're here live on the red carpet, and there are some very famous couples here tonight. We've got Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. And oh look, it's Heidi Klum and Seal!

Cut to Heidi Klum smiling and waving. Waddling alongside her is a seal.

Seal: Ork, ork, ork!

Textual Studies


Professor: Let's all take a look at today's text.

The page is blank except for a text message printed in large capital letters: WHERE R U?

Professor: There's so much to unpack here. In this deceptively simple statement, we have some of humanity's grandest themes. Who wants to start?
Student #1: It's a classic existentialist plea, a, a strangled voice crying out from the bottommost depths of the abyss.
Student #2: An open wound made fresh as an act of desperation.
Professor: Very good. Who else?
Student #3: But the use of the "U" implies familiarity. Despite the loneliness, despite the terrible rupture caused by the breakdown of authentic communication, there is still a connection felt.
Student #4: I suppose it's even possible these two people have never met.
Professor: Ah. You're assuming they're people, are you?
Class: Oooo...
Professor: Might this query be a prayer directed at an absent deity? A pained expression of spiritual doubt, cast upwards towards the heavens?
Student #1: Oh, and that would make perfect sense given yesterday's text, "OMG."
Class: Oooo...
Professor: Very good. Now I want you all to personally tackle this question. Think about it in the context of your own life journeys. Where are you? What is your state of being, what is your existential location, as it were, in relation to your hopes, your dreams, your fears? The assignment is due tomorrow by 5:00. As always, all responses must be 140 characters or less.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


87% Introverted, 13% Extroverted
60% Intuitive, 40% Sensing
53% Feeling, 47% Thinking
80% Judging, 20% Perceiving

And that's me.* (*a la Rinse & repeat.
(Am I sliding?)

Can I see the four s's for the three z's?
The part for the wh0le? 

Conceptualizing complexity.
Abstracting edges.
Imagining over reasoning.

Organize it. Decisive.
Organ Isaac. Dive.
I am big, you, itty-bitty.

I tell myself I'm objective
Though I remain ruled by whims

Inuit Intuition
The Ice-olated Eskimo
In an Introverted Igloo
Bipolar bear?
A fish in sea...

Roll dice for incantation.

I'm personal, not impersonal
I impersonate me
I am a person
I person me
I person I
I personify
I person, if I
I person, if I am
I appear I am a person
I am a person, therefore I am

Can't see? Therefore it's for the trees. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

self-consistency and incompleteness in axiomatic theorem systems

I. Somebody New Just Died in Your Dreams Tonight
A door slams, and somebody dies
in your dreams
I was above, upstairs, in a rickety bed in the attic
Or at least in a small room on the top floor
Of an old house
Sheltered from the caprice of your acoustics
Shots fired---interpretation of evidence in the face of blindness
A clap of closing, and somebody fell

your father,
in fact,

A crime of coincidence, passionless
Shattering heart against stone-cold catacombs
Leaving you kneeling by his patricide
Entombed by the flickering of your eyes

II. The Flying Butter Effect
Our greatest piece is our dialogue
Cause and effect
A butter flies, and somebody dies

The flying butter effect is when something melts in your mind, 
creating a new substance---when two or more associations---the 
butter, the heat, the butterfly effect---
work upon each other in friction

It's cooking
Now you're cooking
Butter makes everything better 
Sleeplessness and sleep do the same things---they melt the cavernous walls of the corridors of the mind
the butter of time
Lathering it all to mix together like in a cranium bowl
A sweet-associative molasses of confection-connections

III. Metaphormorphosis
When the pillars of caterpillars
Burst into butterflies
Demolishing the ancient architecture,
(abandoned marble and grassland)
for the laneless skyways
The flutter of wings' flap
(the shutter-speed of an eyelash)
Dream sequence
(capture photographs of mental maps)
& everything changes

IV. Post-Donation Instructions
Today, "on wheat" sounded like "ennui"
when I approached the deli counter
Dizzy from blood loss
No inspiration forthcoming
But then
(Chaos theory)
And my mind is mine again

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Fever dream: I'm
cutting through salmon-streams of piranha-people
scoops of sardines squeezed between whale baleen
shot out of blowholes, cut up by coral
strangled by tendrils, cackling deafening electrical crackles
just a small fish in a gargantuan pond
drowning in an ocean of omnipresent stimulation