1a. Write a 750-word essay on whether boredom is underutilized as a persuasive force, employing either of the features in this week's Stranger, by JEN GRAVES or CIENNA MADRID. Graves has written nearly two thousand words about a canoe trip, and Madrid expects us to be interested in the completion of a mural.

1b. For extra credit, compare and contrast the work of Graves and Madrid: Which essay is more dull? Can two pieces be equally boring in different ways? If you decide to express yourself via a bar graph of boredom, which shade of gray would best exemplify the lack of narrative drive behind each piece? Or would you go with a nice, unassuming beige instead? Why?

2. TRENT MOORMAN writes about Black Sabbath. Using your knowledge of world history, please make a persuasive argument that best demonstrates when the world stopped caring about Black Sabbath. Remember to stay awake until the end of your argument!

3. Write a satire of a book review, employing all of the clichés and conventional wisdom of literary criticism. Now compare your satire to PAUL CONSTANT's review of This Town and Very Recent History, which is laden with a lame this-versus-that structure, references to tired literary figures like Kurt Vonnegut, and other embarrassments that an editor should have caught before publication. Is there any discernable difference between the parody you wrote and Constant's writing? Is your parody a more viable example of a book review?

4. For weeks now, Russian officials have been stoking the flames of homophobia by promising to punish anyone who "promotes" homosexuality during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. How depressing is it that The Stranger has yet to publish any serious thinking on this developing gay-rights crisis? Where is the advocacy journalism The Stranger pretends to practice? There are articles in this issue touching on fetal cats suspended in liquid, art that lights up from within, and an underwhelming restaurant in Ballard, but there is absolutely no information about the humanitarian nightmare being visited upon Russian men and women. Do you think this is an oversight on The Stranger's part? Negligence? Or a clear-cut admission from the staff that if injustice doesn't happen directly to them (i.e., if it isn't Dominic Holden being mistreated by local police), they simply don't care? recommended