Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bulwer-Lytton Awards 2016

I can't believe I neglected to post the Bulwer-Lytton Awards. They're always such fun, especially for readers. Following: The Overall Winner and the winners and runners-up in the Crime/Detective Category.

Conceived to honor the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton and to encourage unpublished authors who do not have the time to actually write entire books, the contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Bulwer was selected as patron of the competition because he opened his novel "Paul Clifford" (1830) with the immortal words, "It was a dark and stormy night." Lytton’s sentence actually parodied the line and went on to make a real sentence of it, but he did originate the line "The pen is mightier than the sword," and the expression "the great unwashed." His best known work, one on the book shelves of many of our great-grandparents, is The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), an historical novel that has been adapted for film multiple times.

"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."
 --Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)


Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.

--William "Barry" Brockett, Tallahassee, FL

Brockett is a 55-year-old building contractor who has specialized in additions, home makeovers, and bathroom/kitchen remodels for about twenty years. His particular enjoyment is reading, with true crime and the "hardboiled" genre being his favorites, hence his winning entry. 

Winner, Crime/Detective:
  • #She walked toward me with her high heels clacking like an out-of-balance ceiling fan set on low, smiling as though about to spit pus from a dental abscess, and I knew right away that she was going to leave me feeling like I had used a wood rasp to cure my hemorrhoids. — Charles Caldwell, Leesville, LA
Dishonorable Mentions, Crime/Detective:
  • “We got a stiff on the sidewalk all bled out; a stiff on a tugboat tied up with enough cement to build the Hoover Dam; Louie Miller empties out his bank account and falls off the face of the planet; Jenny Diver, Sukey Tawdry, Lotte Lenya, and Lucy Brown all get death threats . . . I got no goddamned proof, but five’ll get ya ten that Macky’s back in town.”  — William Lattanzio, Boyertown, PA
  • Detective Hammer Logan III woke with a start, images of the bizarre bayou murder still fresh in his mind’s eye—a dame in trouble, body covered with bloody toothprints and saliva—but as sleep lifted, the grizzled detective remembered that he was a dog and the dame a coyote, so he spun on the bed three times and slept the rest of the day. — Jacob Smith, Dallas, TX
  • As he gazed at Ming's lifeless body draped over the sushi bar, chopsticks protruding from his back, Det. Herc Lue Perrot came to the sobering realization that tonight, there had been a murder at the Orient Express. — Andrew Caruso, Akron, OH

Cartoon of the Day: Hello Again Kitty

Happy Halloween!

When Tomatoes Were Blamed for Witchcraft and Werewolves

From Atlas Obscura comes this fascinating article: When Tomatoes Were Blamed for Witchcraft and Werewoves. Perfect for Halloween!

No other vegetable has been as maligned as the tomato (and it is a vegetable, by order of the United States Supreme Court). We call tomatoes killers. We call them rotten. We call them ugly. We call them sad. To find the reason why, you have to go back to the 1500s, when the humble fruit first reached European shores (and it is a fruit, by scientific consensus). Through no fault of its own, the tomato stepped into the middle of a continent-wide witchcraft panic, and a scientific community in tumult.

Between 1300 and 1650, thousands of Europeans (mostly women) were executed for practicing witchcraft, in a church-and-government-sanctioned mass hysteria academics call the "witch craze." Women were burned, drowned, hanged, and crushed after trials in both secular and religious courts; and lynched by vigilante mobs. By the most conservative estimate, Dr. Ronald Hutton's count of execution records, between 35,184 and 63,850 witches were killed through official channels—at least 17,000 in Germany alone. Sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda estimates the combined death toll could have been as high as 500,000. It was a massive, concerted, prolonged crusade.