After 25 years as a copy editor and creator of word puzzles, Rephah Berg of Oakland, Calif., apparently has a nose for stinky prose. She won this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing, and took the detective category last year. The annual contest is sponsored by San Jose State University and named for British author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel, "Paul Clifford," begins, "It was a dark and stormy night...." Berg's winning entry: "On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Ted had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained."
Proving that fun can be good for one's reputation, Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony Corp. took the No. 1 ranking for a third straight year in an annual survey of Americans' "favorite brands" by market-research firm Harris Interactive. Automobiles and comfort foods Kraft (macaroni-and-cheese), Coca-Cola, and Pepsi-Cola also were popular. In addition, the 2,000-plus people polled this year said the reputation of an item's corporate parent often influences their brand preference. The 10 "best brands," according to the Harris poll (with last year's ranking if a brand made the list then in parentheses):
1. Sony Corp. (1)
2. Dell Computer Corp.
3. Ford Motor Co. (2)
4. Kraft Foods Inc. (a subsidiary of Philip Morris)
5. Coca-Cola Co. (6)
6. General Electric Co. (3)
7. Pepsi-Cola Co.
8. Tide (a Procter & Gamble product)
9. Honda Motor Co.
10. General Motors Corp. (5)