From the monthly archives: August 2012

Smile for the Camera

maw: 1. The upper digestive tract (where food enters the body), especially the mouth and jaws of a ravenous creature. 2. Any great, insatiable or perilous opening.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story using the word of the week.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a perilous opening that you’ve gone through.

Art Prompt: Maw

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Use the word of the week in your writing or speech.

Photo Credit: Furryscaly on Flickr

be thankful

Consider the custom, in American society, of constantly saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ To do so is often treated as basic morality: we are constantly chiding children for forgetting to do it, just as the moral guardians of our society – teachers and ministers, for instance – do to everybody else. We often assume that the habit is universal, but… it is not. Like so many of our everyday courtesies, it is a kind of democratization of what was once a habit of feudal deference: the insistence on treating absolutely everyone the way that one used only to have to treat a lord or similar hierarchical superior…

All of this is a relatively recent innovation. The habit of always saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ first began to take hold during the commercial revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – among those very middle classes who were largely responsible for it. It is the language of bureaus, shops, and offices, and over the course of the last five hundred years it has spread across the world along with them. It is also merely one token of a much larger philosophy, a set of assumptions of what humans are and what they owe one another, that have by now become so deeply ingrained that we cannot see them. -David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story set in a society where no one says “please” or “thank you.”

Journaling Prompt: What are you grateful for today? To whom do you need to express your gratitude?

Art Prompt: Please and Thank You

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Discuss courtesy and its role in society.

Photo Credit: rustiqueart on Flickr

chocolate chip cookies

Criminologists and sociologists have long believed that people commit violent crimes when an opportunity arises and they’re low on self-control. “It’s an impulsive kind of thing,” says Thomas F. Denson, a psychologist at the University of New South Wales. He cowrote the new article with C. Nathan DeWall at the University of Kentucky and Eli J. Finkel at Northwestern University. For the last 10 years or so, psychologists have joined this research, using new ways of manipulating self-control in experiments; they have found that, indeed, self-control and aggression are tightly linked.

A psychological scientist can deplete someone’s self-control by telling the subject they’re not allowed to take one of the cookies sitting in front of them. Studies have found that, after people have had to control themselves for a while, they behave more aggressively. In a 2009 study, after someone’s self-control was depleted, they were more likely to respond aggressively to nasty feedback that ostensibly came from their husband or girlfriend. Specifically, they assigned their partner to hold a painful yoga pose for longer. –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story where one person purposely depletes another’s self-control and what happens.

Journaling Prompt: What depletes your self-control and how do you react?

Art Prompt: Self-control

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: What aspects of modern life are depleting our self-control and leading to a generalized increase in aggressiveness?

Photo Credit: seriousbri on Flickr

Halley's Comet

During the night of May 18/19 of 1910, when the Earth passed through the tail of comet Halley, some people took precautions by sealing the chimneys, windows, and doors of their houses. Others confessed to crimes they had committed because they did not expect to survive the night, and a few panic-stricken people actually committed suicide. Enterprising merchants sold comet pills and oxygen bottles, church services were held for overflow crowds, and people in the countryside took to their storm shelters. A strangely frivolous mood caused thousands of people to gather in restaurants, coffee houses, parks, and on the rooftops of apartment buildings to await their doom in the company of fellow humans. –Gunter Faure and Teresa Mensing, Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story set during a time when people believe that they are doomed.

Journaling Prompt: How would you spend tonight if you knew it was the last night of your life?

Art Prompt: Awaiting Doom

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: How do you see the tendency toward doom and despair playing out in today’s world?

Photo Credit: NASAblueshift on Flickr


Words spelled with more letters on the right of the keyboard are associated with more positive emotions than words spelled with more letters on the left, according to new research by cognitive scientists Kyle Jasmin of University College London and Daniel Casasanto of The New School for Social Research, New York. Their work shows, for the first time, that there is a link between the meaning of words and the way they are typed – a relationship they call the QWERTY effect…

Linguists have long believed that the meanings of words are independent of their forms, an idea known as the “arbitrariness of the sign.” But the QWERTY effect suggests the written forms of words can influence their meanings, challenging this traditional view.Should parents stick to the positive side of their keyboards when picking baby names – Molly instead of Sara? Jimmy instead of Fred? According to the authors, “People responsible for naming new products, brands, and companies might do well to consider the potential advantages of consulting their keyboards and choosing the ‘right’ name.” –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story with characters that you’ve name using the QWERTY effect. Pay attention to how you feel about the characters now that you’re aware. Is it affecting your perception?

Journaling Prompt: Analyze your name. What does it say about you if the QWERTY effect is real? If you were going to rename yourself to use the effect to your advantage, what name would you choose?

Art Prompt: QWERTY

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Compare and contrast brand names using the QWERTY effect information. Look for the humor!

Photo Credit: bennylin0724 on Flickr