Barefoot Zen?

Barefoot Zen?
Namaste, Y'all...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Better Living Through Writing Bad(ly)

This story was on CNN.com this AM and I always get a kick out of the annual entries for the "Worst Writing Contest". I wouldn't mind winning this, as long as my entry was intentional, and someone didn't just submit a line from one of my actual books on my behalf! (Don't even think about it, Coulter!)

Read on for a laugh or two...

SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- A grotesque comparison of a steamy love affair to a New York City street has won a Washington man this year's grand prize in an annual contest of bad writing.

Garrison Spik, a 41-year-old communications director and writer, took top honors in San Jose State University's 26th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with this opening sentence to a nonexistent novel:

"Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped 'Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."'

The contest is named after Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" famously begins "It was a dark and stormy night."
Don't Miss

* Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Entrants are asked to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Awards are given for many categories, including awards for "purple prose" and "vile puns." The top winner receives a $250 prize.

Other noteworthy submissions:

"'Toads of glory, slugs of joy,' sang Groin the dwarf as he trotted jovially down the path before a great dragon ate him because the author knew that this story was a train wreck after he typed the first few words."

-- Alex Hall, Greeley, Colorado

"Like a mechanic who forgets to wipe his hands on a shop rag and then goes home, hugs his wife, and gets a grease stain on her favorite sweater -- love touches you, and marks you forever."

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Four Agreements, and then some...


So, I was sitting in a meeting at church Sunday AM, letting my mind wander because...I mean, come on, it's church. I was thinking about this piece of paper that hangs over the desk in my office, and how it's started to blend in with the scenery. You know how you stop noticing a magnificent painting or photo after a while because you've gotten used to its presence? Well, this piece of paper features "The Four Agreements", and I put it right over my head at my desk to remind me how I want to live each day, so taking it for granted sort of flies in the face of my goal.

For those not acquainted with the Four Agreements, they are from the Toltec religion, and were captured in a best selling book by Don Miquel Ruiz. The belief is that, by following these four guideposts, you'll lead a richer, more fulfilling life. Sounds like a plan, huh?

So, here they are:

1) Be Impeccable with your Word
2) Don't Take Anything Personally
3) Don't Make Assumptions
4) Always Do Your Best

There are detailed explanations for each, but that's the gist of it. And if you think it sounds easy, try it. If I ever go an hour without breaking Agreements 2 or 3, I think I should get an Eskimo Pie for my efforts, because I will have made major spiritual headway.

Anyway, as my mind wandered, I thought I needed a few more "Agreements" for my life (like these four aren't unattainable enough!) I quickly came up with four more proverbs to add to my own personal list.

1) Speak Less, Say More - I tend to give the encyclopedic answer when the Cliff's Notes version would do. And I explain myself more than a defendant on "Boston Legal". Brevity and a tad of stoicism would serve me well.

2) Be Ever, Ever, Ever Present - Ram Dass said "Be Here Now", but I like my buddy Matt Stanton's phraseology better -- "ever ever ever present" really hits home. Be where you are, completely. No where else. That I was breaking this fiat while I was coming up with this list is sorta ironic, no?

3) Leap, Don't Duck - Problems tend to come at us pretty hard and fast. You can either advance on them or retreat. Leaping toward them gives you courage and the momentum to tackle them. Ducking puts you in an awfully vulnerable position. "Yeah, life is hard," quipped Denis Leary, "get a helmet!"

4) Live Everything - the veneer we place between ourselves and our experiences gets thicker each day it seems. We numb ourselves to anything that is unpleasant. The internet, TV, food, alcohol - name your distractive weapon of denial. Alas, the only way to live is to live everything. Unbridled.

So, I've come up with what I think are four pretty challenging and rewarding additions to the Four Agreements. Add that to the Eightfold Path, the Ten Commandments, the Law of Attraction, and Martha Stewart's Rules for Living and I've got my work cut out for me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Super Size Me: Back for Seconds


I could watch Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me" every week - and doing so would probably be the best weight loss program I could put myself on. At moments, it's as much a horror film as it is a comedic documentary.

But, I think there's officially enough material out there for Morgan to release a sequel. Reports boast that the obesity epidemic in America has 'plateaued', but with the economy making fresh produce and organic food even pricier, and fast food still more readily available than Amy Winehouse's bottle opener, I don't think we're going to see a tidal shift any time soon.

So, if fast food is flourishing as the cornerstone of the American food pyramid, what happens next? Well, I hate to sound like Neal Boortz, but apparently, the government steps in. Southern L.A. has just put a ban on the addition of any new fast food chains to their neighborhoods for at least one year. This is an effort to try and lure healthier restaurants and eateries to the area, while keeping the White Castles and golden arches at bay.

Claiming a dearth of quality food in the area, they say that young people, in particular, have little choice but to turn to Jack in the Box for three squares. Of course, the fast food industry is crying foul, saying "We serve many healthy options."

Now, I trust 'Big Food' about as much as I do 'Big Oil'. Thinking our best nutritional interests take priority over shareholders' profits is like thinking The Eagles still go on tour because they 'owe it to their fans'.

However, I'm not sure federal regulation is the slippery slope we should be climbing to rectify the situation. While I'm all for the government stepping in to curb public schools (or as the right calls them, 'government schools') from serving nothing but colas, french fries, and pizza slices to kids, the fact is, the fast food places are on the free market, and if the fat-ass public wants 'em, it's our funeral.

Of course, when fresh produce is outrageously priced, but you can get a Hardee's Triple Stack Arterial Death Burger for $1.49, most folks are gonna go for the meal/cardiac on a bun rather than get out the debit card to piece together something nutritious.

We saw this in Puerto Rico. Fresh veggies and fruit are scarce there, save the few items they grow locally (bananas and mangoes are plentiful), but in San Juan, it resembles Times Square, with fast food at every juncture. Of course, in Vieques you could buy a freshly cooked chicken right on the sidewalk, but I always got the suspicion they were just selling the loser of the previous night's cock fight, and really, who wants to eat the Apollo Creed of poultry?

In a perfect world, every neighborhood would have a Farmer's Market, or at least a bodega, but that's economically unfeasible, so instead, we have to resort to things like limiting the big burger establishments from overtaking neighborhoods.

This quandary continues to intrigue me, so I hope Mr. Spurlock is listening. Apparently, "Super Size Me" had such an influence on the industry that McDonalds actually did away with "Super Size" meals as a result of his film. A sequel might just stir the soup a bit more.

Soup...now, there's a good idea!