Sunday, May 31, 2009

Session Thirteen: Topic for 6/1-6/7

We here at Using Our Words post our posts at a very distinct time of the week: the last two days. Whether this is through extensive revisions, editing, procrastination, business, or whatever, the fact remains that we almost always have five or six empty days of posting, leaving only the product of our writings shared at the end and no idea of each-others processes or timelines.
Therefore I propose that most entertaining of high-school writing assignments: a story chain.

The basic idea is for you, the writer, to read the story thus far this week, spend ten to twenty minutes composing the next paragraph/transition/section/sequence/whatever and post it. Make sure to continue on the part of the story posted just before you, and do whatever you would like. Embrace the story, add elements, kill off characters, turn a romance moment into a gunfight intro, have characters wake-up suddenly, realizing everything so far has been a dream, add a narrator, or whatever. Go with your gut instinct and get your thoughts down quickly—you don't want to spend an hour writing the next section only to find that someone else has written and posted while you were on your third revision—if you want to tighten a section, post it and edit to let others get the substance of the post so they can start composing the next. Finally, feel free to post as many times as you would like, the more the better. You can even add onto your own if you want.

Now, I'm not sure how well this format will work in the blog, but we will see. To keep things organized, start off your post with a number, denoting which post you are in the sequence of the story. Also, put both Session Thirteen and Story Chain in the tags so everyone can find everything as they like.

Since I am choosing the topic, who ever gets to it first gets to set the scene. Begin!

Useful Little Item

Uses for a towel:
1. parachute
2. nutritional supplement (suck on infused part)
3. medicine (suck on infused part)
4. dry off
5. save hands from hot things from oven
6. save self and/or others saved from a fiery explosion
7. blanket
8. scarf
9. snap at weaker people in the locker room or shower
10. hat and sun neck-guard
11. toga
12. turban (disguise)
13. flag - jolly roger, surrender
14. choking a person
15. smothering a person
16. use as the cloak in a cloak/dagger weapon pair
17. strips torn off as business cards
18. wet to complete a circuit, trigger a door trip, electrocute someone
19. sharp bits as a file / cheese grater
20. sound dampener
21. protecting a smoke detector from detecting smoke
22. silly science fiction reference
23. paint brush
24. glue brush
25. makeup brush
26. strainer
27. to hold water as if a water skin
28. blindfold
29. blindfold for a horse or camel to steal it
30. lead for a molotov cocktail
31. muzzle for a dog
32. conceal one self while hiding from the boyfriend or husband
33. an excuse to go to the laundromat to goggle at crush
34. tent
35. pillow
36. keep bread fresh
37. ghost costume
38. keeping formalwear clean as a bib
39. warmed to create a feeling of fanciness on a flight
40. monogrammed to make a recipient feel important
41. continually cleaning a dirty glass as a barkeep
42. folding into towel origami

for official uses, see

The story (or at least, the very beginnings of one):

42 Uses for a Towel (eventually), with Arthur Dent starring as James Bond.
Falling from the airplane, James Bond plummeted to his apparent doom. His martini glass emptied its remaining contents into the atmosphere, leaving nothing but Bond's last words in it. The man had pulled a knife and opened the hatch, indicating it was time for Bond to make his exit. Bond said only "I'd say this glass is half empty" as the man roughly kicked him out.
Bond had just been ejected from an investigation of some weight. The flight was on the private jet of Ivanna Faulk II, a human trafficker with grander visions. She had been visiting her Middle Eastern operations and flying back with emissaries of highly regarded businessmen about their needs of her "human services." Bond had been posing as an interested party under a disguise as a british sikh working for the owners of a series of sweat shops in India.
"Thank you, Q." Bond removed his turban from his head, his turban which was actually a micro-fibered, silicon, kinetically formable super-towel. He took hold of the four corners and let it fill with air above his head, slowing his descent to a livable fall just as he reached the sand dunes below in an explosive cloud of sand.

After ten minutes of rest and recovery, Bond began to trek across the desert towards a nearby oasis, drinking water soaked into his towel for hydration, draping it over his head and neck to shield the blinding sun. To his delight and relief, the oasis had not only water to re-soak his towel, but also camels, which would certainly provide better transportation than his own legs. "It's not an Aston Martin, but then again he will need a name."

And as my theme goes, time runs out on me. Starting next week I will have more though. So stay tuned!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Upon opening the refrigerator for the 3rd time this evening, I finally decided on a treat. The juiciest, sweetest, reddest, largest thing in there, Watermelon! The biggest dilemma surrounding the summertime fruit was extracting its contents. A knife large enough to cut half-way through it would be a bit of a beast to find but also intensely rewarding. Watermelon on the red cutting board, serrated knife in my hand, I began with a stab to the center. The corresponding noise in my head was a sort of squeal with glee. Around the axis, I cut. Slowly. The end fell off, rocked a few times, then stalled with an inviting glisten. Flip. Slice. Remove succulent fruit. Transfer to bowl. Devour. But what was that wetness streaming off my chin or dripping from my fingers or sloshing in the bowl? The consequence of juicy fruit is messiness, a small price. How, now, do I remedy this issue? Licking my fingers only helps so much. The pants are pinstripe and to wear out, not to be used as a napkin. The paper in front of me was lacking in absorbency. Ah ha! I ran to the bathroom and washed my hands. Brilliant! They were dripping still but not sticky. Shake. Turn. Dry. Oh, yellow hand towel in a bathroom sea of many colors, how I adore you. I think I actually sang that one aloud. Then everything was right again. Perhaps next time I'll share...

Thursday, May 28, 2009


It may not be entirely true to the topic but it's about a towel. That counts doesn't it?

A bit of a fuss to dry us
After a hot

Blue in its hue,
Comforting shade of Cotton
No wonder Arthur took you to the stars.

Everywhere and no where,
Intimately close,
Wipe the sweat off my brow,
You're the only one to see me now.


Can you whisk me away to Mars?

*Edit* Blogger doesn't seem to let me format the text how I want it. So let it be known that this doesn't match my original creative intent. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Discrimination Issue

I'm actually going to ignore my topic for the week and share this with you instead. It's something I wrote on my personal blog about the California High Court's decision to uphold Prop 8.


"love is love is love," acrylic stenciled on my guitar, retouched using Corel.


**In light of some helpful commentary, I have edited slightly for clarification. I maintain that while the High Court did what it was supposed to do, and while we must now do our part and mobilize voters for the next ballot that holds the measure, I'm not any less disappointed by the continual slogging, on an emotional level. I know this is how it works, I'm just (like many of my friends) eager to be done with it already. Exasperation is allowed, folks, though more so for my friends than for me. They're they ones who just want to get married already. Also, if anyone can provide me with a copy of the official court document that ISN'T read as corrupted by my computer and all of it's programs, I would love to have it.


For those not in the know (seriously kids?), yesterday the California High Court ruled to uphold Proposition 8, but also ruled that the 18,000 marriages that took place before Prop 8 passed still stand. While the latter decision is certainly a victory for the gay rights movement and for those lucky couples, the former continues to be a source of irritation. Let's start with the opinion of the court, courtesy of the NY Times article I linked above:

The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.”

I will start by saying that I am not aiming to critique the court's decision here--maybe I will after I've read the primary document, but right now that is not my intention. Right now what I want to focus on is why I think that the sole option of the civil union is not enough. A civil union in California does provide the benefits (excepting those reserved at the federal level) of a California marriage to the couple who chooses the one over the other. Clearly, however, the two differ inasmuch as a heterosexual couple in California will choose one over the other, for whatever reasons they may have.

Let's do a twin study with a horrifying sample size of two people, but instead of twins, we'll use two of me. LA1 and LA2 are identical in every way with the exception sexuality. LA1 is Straight Me and LA2 is Gay Me. All other variables are controlled--same morals, same opinions, childhoods, educations, experiences, but LA1's experiences are with men, and LA2's are with women. Inexplicably, we both fall in love, and our partners propose. LA2 accepts, and in California, she can only have a civil union. LA1 accepts, and not only can she have benefits at a federally-recognized level, but she also have the choice of either a marriage or a civil union. The preference is hers.

The difference may not seem huge, but it is. Because I happened to be born with an attraction to the opposite sex, I have the right to choose how I unite with my partner. We are denying gay couples the right to a choice that I have been given by default for being straight. All other things being equal, we have created an inequality, and though one may wish to argue that we're only concerning ourselves with labels, we have to face the fact that the matter is not "just semantics" if it is encouraging and propagating inequality. Gay couples may have access to the state-based benefits of a California marriage, but they have been denied a choice that is unfairly reserved for heterosexuals.

Homosexuality is not a disorder. It is not a fetish. It is not a kink. Most importantly, it is not a choice. You can choose your faith; you cannot choose your sexuality (though you can choose whether or not to express your preference--closet cases around the world unite!). You cannot compare the relationship between two same-sex individuals to pedophilia, to bestiality, or to fetishism (which isn't even a problem if no one gets hurt, but I'm not here to talk about fetishism, so that's another story for another day), or anything else the paranoid may pull from their slippery slopes. There is nothing to fear here. Why are we practicing discrimination against these consenting human adults? Because you know, the only thing keeping up from granting them their basic human right (not just the right to marriage, but a right to choose) is their sexuality, and I'm pretty sure that is a discriminatory practice.

Religious readers, don't email me. I don't want to hear it. This is a secular issue, and as I've made very clear before, I am extremely dedicated to keeping church and state separate. If your religion says a gay couple cannot be married in your church/temple/whatever, then those are the rules, and you can deny marriage within the religion to as many couples as you want. It may not gel with what I believe, but I have no right to impose my beliefs over your beliefs. Conversely, you have no right to impose your beliefs over mine, or anyone else's. (I don't mean to target religious people in such a callous way, but I want to be clear that this is not an invitation for you to write to me about what you've been taught God thinks about homosexuals.)

Now, Prop 8 doesn't just facilitate the denial of rights to a minority group, identifying them as second-class citizens. It has also allowed the citizens of California to set a precedent: now the majority vote of a population has been used to strip a minority group of a basic right. I'm not referring specifically to the right to marry, but to the right to choose between a marriage and a civil union, the right to be on equal footing with heterosexual couples. This is not just a disappointing case of legal discrimination, but it's also a wake-up call to the fact that we need to reform the way we run our state government (I'm leaving this statement in, but it's pending my full reading of the court document; at the moment though, with what I know, it is legitimately something I am concerned about). If one group can be stripped of its rights simply because the majority has some sort of bias against them, we have no reason to believe that other minority groups (or even the same minority group) won't be targeted. As fervently as I've been discussing the Right to Choose, the thing that really worries me the most is this dangerous precedent. This should not have been allowed.

At the same time, I do want the people of California to be the ones tossing out Prop 8 and reinstating gay marriage. When the issue goes back on the ballot, I want the people, properly informed, to choose tolerance and civil rights, to show that this is not a fluke vote, but a public mandate. I'm disappointed, but I know this is far from over.

This time around we need better mobilization and more effective means of educating the public. If you are able to do so, I strongly encourage making a donation to Equality California, or to the Courage Campaign, or whatever else you may know of that will help. Donate your money, donate your time, donate both if you can. 18,000 isn't nearly enough.

And for what it's worth, I agree with my anonymous commenter: the courts aren't the problem. The proponents and their funds and their misdirection and their methods, these are the things to focus on conquering.

But I'm still impatiently waiting for the good day to come.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Session #12 (+30): Topic for 05/25-05/31

Today is Towel Day, a day that honors Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book series. Through him, we remember that an everyday item as ordinary as a towel is really all you need, short of cunning, imagination, knowledge, and above all the eternal reminder that no matter what, DON'T PANIC!

Write a piece wherein a towel plays some part of the story at hand. This can be a real-life anecdote; the towel can be important or it can be an important MacGuffin. It can contain a story, it can receive frequent mentions. Whatever you like.

Let's go!

Classic Scenario

I tucked my dreams away
because I had to go on living,
but promised that someday
there would be freedom from the box.
I always had tomorrow after every today
though every today seemed to put off every tomorrow,
until I've worked my life away
and have no time for living,
no time left but to end some day
tucked tightly in a box.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Tick tock.
Tick tock.
Tick tock.
Tick tock.
Tick tock.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Posted on time?

Sleep. Wake up. Shower. Eat. Huffington Post/Associated Press. Rachel Maddow. The Daily Show. Random television episode and/or movie of the day. Warcraft 3. Random book. Exercise. Run. Rinse. Repeat.

I want to do it all (and more) but can't. I usually try to maintain a small routine but even that is subject to change as I may sleep in or go for an early run. Choosing what we do with our time can be a huge issue and would be made much easier if we lived on a planet with...56 hours of daylight. Maybe 60. I figure that'd be enough time to do all we want.

Of course, if we're looking to determine what makes us individually decide what we spend our time on I'm sure it boils down to tastes and moods. Sometimes I'm in the mood for enlightenment; so I'll watch a preachy episode of South Park to get the gears going. Other times I want to argue with someone so I'll yell at my computer while listening to the sheer lunacy that is Glenn Beck. I can't really put into words how or why I choose to do the things I do; I suppose it just comes to me whenever it does.

Of course, life is like that. It's just a matter of the choices we make that determine how the small time we have in this universe is played out. While I have a world of goals I aim to achieve (like learning to kick ass on the Harmonica), that can all change on a whim.

Kind of like how I just stopped typing for about half an hour to read a book on my bed.

Time is what you make of it. Just like Fate. Do with it what you will.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Hero's Journey

There was once an ordinary boy with extraordinary potential.

He was not exceptionally good at any one thing or another, though if Fate had taken his life by the reigns he could have been made to do great things.

He missed the hour of need one hundred and sixty eight times a week.

Adventure misdialed.

Chance didn't give him another, or any.

His days were mediocre and meted with obscurity, and when they ended, history forgot him.

Session Eleven: Topic for 05/18/09 - 05/24/09

Hello world! This is Orvis, your brand-spanking new Mod #3!

Last week's topic, the idea of the story with a single-character focus, is right up my alley. I'm a story-teller and that is what I love to do. I was so excited to be able to really sink my teeth into the topic. However, as is evident by my lack of a post, time got away from me. Little things got in the way in my massive, ridiculous schedule (still in classes, studying abroad in Australia), pushing back when I was going to write, further and further away from plausibility. In the end, I completely ran out of time and I did not finish what I really wanted to do, instead favoring that which I didn't really have the same passion for in what time I had.

Why did I do this? Is something wrong with me or is this the human condition?

Time is finite yet always replenishing. Each day one makes choices in how to spend it. This choice is the theme. How do you choose? What happens to corrupt your choices? Why do you want to do something specific in your time on earth?

By the way, I punched this in a bit early because I'm 14 hours ahead of the east coast. Finish up what you've got or just keep working on last week's topic or just make up something. Remember, these topics are meant as helpful suggestions.

Now get writing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a spring poem

Shoes in grass
In the tall tall order of all things unsaid, unsung

A yellowness in a purple tongue,
Licking the blades of green, green, green

As a pitcher pouring years of hydrating pickles into the mouths of spring-red robins
On the tails of mid-morning foxes
Smiles guile the snails along their salty paths

When in the event of a pollen explosion
(a new feat for dandelion war generals)
Pollinating pistols dive into the stream
With any luck the tadpoles will find out

A guilty rabbit
Chopping carrots in the back of his Peter trailer
With the daily farmer report playing tunes of his bunnyhood
In a haze of lettuce leaves and sugar beets,
His reason knocks his feet off edge and into a pool of yogurt
The green bugs of envy avalanche their vision

A true buzzing picker of noses can’t laugh without a pitcher of red nectar at her feet
See the beach gulls
Trying out their new sunglasses
On the waves

A crab in the sand
A scuttle towards a beer bottle
When a throttle thrust overtopples the crab’s peace

A freedom in the art of believing
Freedom to believe in the soul of wanting
Along a mudskipper’s spine
Endeared by my kitchen shears
All for a new patch of sorrel and mint

Children gather
A truck of mindless tasty things barricades the entrance to the park
Leading in no direction but down the esophageal path

Somewhere I have never travelled
A coquille st-jacques awaits in shallots and butter
The whiteness
A table
Champagne bubbles singing their aria in ¾ time
Fluttering by, the waiter brings seconds

Slow sights
Pretty pictures
A backyard fight
Tossed t-shirts of Tuesday night

What a face
Linking noses
Sprouting arguments in prose
Climaxing in ripped pantyhose

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Session #10: 05/12/09 - 05/17/09

Okay, Mod 1 (that's me) dropped the ball in terms of planning, so this week's optional topic is a little late. We all write last-minute though, so that's hardly a problem!

I, like many of you, have been lucky enough to see JJ Abrams' take on the Star Trek franchise. (For the unlucky, don't worry, I'm not mentioning any spoilers on the blog. However, the NEXT LINK I am providing DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS, so don't click it if you don't want me to ruin Star Trek for you.) Eric Burns recently posted a wonderful essay detailing the manner in which Star Trek successfully constitutes the classic storytelling structure of the Hero's Journey. His essay, which SPOILS THE ENTIRE MOVIE, is over at his blog, Websnark. Don't click if you don't want the magic ruined.

That was just my intro. Reading Burns' essay got me thinking about the monomyth (its common implementation in storytelling, ESPECIALLY in movies). Structurally, it's true that while billions of stories have been told and made, the vast majority of these will tend to follow traditional storytelling patterns, structurally or thematically or all of the above. Even so, that doesn't make the stories any less enjoyable, as long as they vary enough in the details to keep the audience from losing interest.

I know I'm writing a lot right here, and we're all short on time, but try your best: this week, post a piece that includes a Hero's Journey (I will link you to the basic structure). It doesn't have to be long and drawn out--a condensed Hero's Journey might be an entertaining read. Portions of the monomyth structure are also allowed, if you want to write something longer but lack the time/energy for a full-on HJ. (No gutterminds.) Just be sure to let us know which arc-areas your piece covers.

Here is your structure, Thank you Wikipedia.

Good luck, kids. Live long and prosper!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Late, whoops!

Been in the desert without a phone or internet connection since yesterday morning, sorry about the late post. Here is my parody! Since Orvis did his BNL parody, I'm sharing a slightly-edited version of a BNL One Week parody I wrote in the 6th grade, called "Six Months."

It's been six months since the start of school
Class is starting to bug, I'm gonna drool
Three weeks til the SATs
I think I'm gonna faint with all the pressure on me
Five nights since I last had sleep
The homework never ends, I always wanna weep since
Yesterday teacher yelled at me
But it'll still be three months til I can say 'bite me'

Please let me go out to recess
I'm failing my test
I gotta go to the bathroom
The lunch is turd with rubber bird and pizza made of hard cardboard
I think that from now on I'm bringing food from home
Like Micheal Jordan with the ball at recess
Teacher likes me best
Because I really really work hard
My god I really hate gym class, what crawled up coach's ass
Besides a flabby sack of pig lard

I'm gonna scream I'm gonna shout if school refuses to let out
In time for Darkwing Duck and Eerie Indiana
Hey 3:00 it's after school, let's hurry home, forget the rule
That says no junk food, I want chips not a banana

How can I help it if I'm acting like a child
I'm underage I should be immature and wild
I'm the kinda girl who does all her homework
But that doesn't mean I won't act like a jerk, no
I have a tendency to wear my skorts to PE
I have a history test but I forgot to study

It's been six months since the start of school
Class is starting to bug, I'm gonna drool
Three weeks til the SATs
I think I'm gonna faint with all the pressure on me
Five nights since I last had sleep
The homework never ends, I always wanna weep since
Yesterday teacher yelled at me
But it'll still be three months til I can say 'bite me'

Dickety Dinah the cafeteria lady
She's been here a while, has to be at least 80
Watching sex ed is confusing
I'll stick to snoozing, and doodling pictures in the notebook
That I keep here in my lisa frank binder, with the reminder
That there's a field trip set for friday
If I don't get sick on the bus when, we're on the trip then
My field trip buddy's gonna love me

I'll get to buy a souvenir from the gift shop as long as we're
Allowed to go in groups and take turns one by one
I begged my mom and dad to let me bring a Lunchables, you get
slices of meat and cheese and crackers and Capri Sun!

How can I help it if I'm acting like a child
I'm underage I should be immature and wild
I'm the kinda girl who does all her homework
But that doesn't mean I won't act like a jerk, no
I have a tendency to wear my skorts to PE
I have a history test but I forgot to study

It's been six months since the start of school
Class is starting to bug, I'm gonna drool
Three weeks til the SATs
I think I'm gonna faint with all the pressure on me
Five nights since I last had sleep
The homework never ends, I always wanna weep since
Yesterday teacher yelled at me
But it'll still be three months til I can say 'bite me'
It'll still be three months til I can say 'bite me'
I'm spending my summer break in Hawaii

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coldstone Tip Songs and this is just to say

Two parody songs I wrote as Tip Songs when I worked at Coldstone Creamery:

Fresh Prince of Bel Air (TV Theme Song)
Now this is a song all about how we flipped your taste buds upside-down
So just take a second and stand right there,
You put a tip in our jar so we'll sing then cheer! (yeah!)

One Week (By The Barenaked Ladies)
It's been real great serving you ice cream
Throw a tip in the jar; it makes us want to scream
Thank you for coming in
Saying mix those together so I could begin
Five scoops of gummy bears...
I really like em', but man that makes me kinda scared.
But like I said, "Hey, it's your ice cream"
Just hope it's not a week 'till you come back to see me.

The poem "this is just to say" by William Carlos Williams has become a bit of a phenomenon as something to parody willy-nilly. So here are my attempts:

I have stomped on your foot getting off the tram
and that destroys your chances of ever winning your race
Forgive me. It was a softer landing than the road

I have shot your mother whom you loved
while you were on your way for Mothers day
Forgive me. The spray was beautiful. So red and so wet.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Session Nine: 5/03/09 - 5/10/09

Let's start off with something lighter.

Write a parody piece. Usually this can be done for an existing song, poem, or other work. Writing parodies is not only fun, but it allows you to examine an existing structure and work within/around it. One of the biggest names in parody is Weird Al, so give him a listen if you've somehow managed to live your life without doing so.

Parodies can be about anything you want regardless of original content, so have fun!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Aliiiiiiiive!!!!

We're back from beyond the ends of the internet! It's a beautiful thing.

The next topic will be posted on Sunday May 3rd, and submissions for that week should be in on Sunday May 10th, by the end of the day.

Also, fantastic news! Mods 1 and 2 have always been a bit precarious
with their schedules, and so it is with great joy and total pride that I
introduce all of you to Moderator #3, Orvis! The only Male Mod at the
moment (I know, it's not important, but it's a fun fact, and fairly
representative of the female to male ratio at my alma mater), Orvis is a great storyteller, and a good guy all around, so we're lucky to have him on the UOW team.

See you soon, folks!