Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April 11: 101 Day

In a typical non-leap year, April 11th is the 101st day of the year.

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Room 101 was the most feared room in the Ministry of Love. It was room where Winston Smith was taken to be "rehabilitated" by O’Brien.

In the following passage from the novel, Winston learns what form of torture he will be facing:

'You asked me once,' said O'Brien, 'what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. . . .'

'The worst thing in the world,' said O'Brien, 'varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.'

'In your case,' said O'Brien, 'the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.'

The fate of everyone who enters Room 101 is to face his or her worst fear and to believe, in the end, in something that is not true. In Winston’s case, O’Brien makes him believe through torture that 2+2 =5, and that he (Winston) loves Big Brother.

Interestingly enough, at the beginning of the 1999 film The Matrix, Neo lives in Room 101. This is probably not coincidental since later in the film Neo learns that his life and the entire known world inside the Matrix is a lie.

The word of books gave us the dark side of the number 101 from the mind of George Orwell, but it also gives us a much more positive side in the form of book titles.

A quick search on will yield and amazing variety of titles with the number 101. There are two main reasons this number is so prominent.

First, it refers to basic intro material on any topic, as in basic introduction college courses, such as English 101 or Psychology 101.

Second, it refers to the number of options that will be provided on a topic, such as 101 Things to do Before You Die. In this second case, these books offer the reader a bonus; while other books offer 100 options, these books promise an added extra option.

A recent search on yielded 6,396 titles containing the number 101. Here are some examples from the first category - basic intro material:

Missed Fortune 101: A Starter Kit to Becoming a Millionaire

Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know

Triathlon 101: Essentials for Multisport Success

Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System

Anger Busting 101: The New ABCs for Angry Men & the Women Who Love Them

Hollywood 101: The Film Industry

Rick Steve’s Europe 101: History of Art for the Traveler

Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera

Life 101: Real World Skills for Graduating College Seniors

Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family’s History and Heritage

And here are 10 titles from the second category – 101 options:

101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged

101 Things to Do With a Slow Cooker

101 Great American Poems

101 Secrets a Cool Mom Knows

101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu

101 Ways to Bug Your Parents

101 Must-Know Blues Licks

101 Power Thoughts

101 French Idioms

101 Cost-Effective Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Today’s Challenge: 101 on 4/11

Option One: On the 101 day of the year, brainstorm your own 101 options list. Create your own question, such as "What are 101 different ways to say ‘thank you’?" or "What are 101 reasons to procrastinate?"

Option Two: If you were to write a basic intro book on a topic you know well, what would your topic be? Create a title and then list at least ten chapter titles, dividing your topic into ten or more different parts or categories.

Quote of the Day: They who await no gifts from chance have conquered fate. -- Matthew Arnold

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