Monday, July 30, 2007
The squirrels of course are having none of it and things being what they are we've now set up Squirrel Mews - three boxes, covered in bin bags - to keep out the wet and the doves - under the patio table. Thinking the squirrels were now sorted we were somewhat gobsmacked to see a massive stand off going on. Word has got out that grub's about - not only do we get guineas and a goose, doves and squirrels - but a smaller - and decidedly feistier - rodent has turned up. Although he's not particularly welcome, I can't help but laugh at the sight of a very small rat who puffs himself up to look like huge and dangerous furball as he lashes out at two squirrels at a time. If you ever needed reminding that dynamite comes in small packages, this fellow says it all. Now, of course, I just have to find a way of politely asking him to dine elsewhere - because if the doves are anything to go by then it's going to be a job for the Pied Piper... and I shudder at that thought!
Tell me, is it just me who is overrun by critters or does anyone else have "guests" that drop in for fine dining? Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, tra-la-laa...
Frankly, I blame it all on that damned chicken...
*I'm reminded of the name of a friend of mine's pet duck - look away now if you think you'll be offended... Lovely man, he named his pet Mrs Puddlefucker... Jemima Puddlefucker... Hmm, methinks the pool may be a bit f**d if the goose continues to ablute in it...
Sunday, July 29, 2007
through the air...
ripples of energy
a thousand trees sigh
a flash of light
© 2007 Absolute Vanilla
Saturday, July 28, 2007
See someone did sented this to I. I think they is trys to tell (maybe sell) me somewhat. But I don't know how. So I say no thing. It are the safer weigh...
Cocktail lounge in Norway: "Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar."
At a Budapest zoo: "Please do not feed the animals. Also: If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty."
Doctor's surgery, Rome: "Specialist in women and other diseases."
Hotel, Acapulco: "The manager has personally passed all the water served here."
Information booklet about using a hotel air-conditioner, Japan: "Cooles and heates. If you want condition of warm air in your room, please control yourself."
Car rental brochure, Tokyo: "When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigour."
Sign in men's restroom in Japan: "To stop leak turn cock to the right."
In a Nairobi restaurant: "Customers who find out waitresses rude ought to see the manager."
On the grounds of a private school: "No trespassing without permission."
On an Athi River highway in Kenya: "Take notice: When this sign is under water, this road is impassable."
On a poster at Kencom, Kenya: "Are you an adult that cannot read. If so, we can help."
In a city restaurant: "Open seven days a week and weekends too."
One of the Mathare buildings, Kenya: "Mental health prevention centre."
A sign seen on an automatic restroom hand dryer: "Do not activate with wet hands."
In a Pumwani, Kenya, maternity ward: "No children allowed."
In a cemetery: "Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves."
Sign in Japanese public bath: "Foreign guests are requested not to pull cock in tub."
Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations: "Guests are requested not to smoke or do other disgusting behaviours in bed."
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for."
In a Tokyo bar: "Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts."
In a Bangkok temple: "It is forbidden to enter a woman even if a foreigner is dressed as a man."
Hotel room notice, Chiang-Mai, Thailand: "Please do not bring solicitors into your word."
Hotel brochure, Italy: "This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact, crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude."
Hotel lobby, Bucharest: "The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable."
Hotel lift, Paris: "Please leave your values at the front desk."
Hotel, Yugoslavia: "The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid."
Hotel, Japan: "You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid."
Ba-kaaak! You humans think you're confused - you have no idea how us Novapulsians feel about this language business. Thank the Corncob for the technoauto-translator!
(Images used in this post courtesy of the Engrish site - yes, there really is one!)
Friday, July 27, 2007
Ba-kaaaak! Ba-kaak - ba-kaak!
How on earth do you humans stand living without some form of climate control!?!
Here I am, having dropped in on Vanilla to make sure she's keeping things in order - ha! fat chance of that! - and what do I find, half the planet flooding and the bit where she is positively freezing. Foul, that's what it is, foul! No! Not fowl! Foul!
In Novapulse we long ago learned the wisdom of climate control. We have a marvellous, regulated biosphere that covers the entire planet and keeps things at a nice even temperature - rather, I suspect, like what your ozone layer was supposed to do before you decided that you'd much rather have a protective covering full of holes. Far better that, some bright spark thought, than going without Formula One racing and jet planes... and all those other convenient things that humanity has come to deem so necessary. You know, all those things that make your species lazier and lazier and lardier and lardier... Yes, well... I mean, really, if the Great Corncob that is the Universal Energy thought it was appropriate for you to chase around in circles going at speeds that are quite unnecessary and getting machines to do all your hard work for you, you would have been born with wheels on your feet and a computer in your head - but you weren't - were you. No you weren't - don't start trying to argue differently!
Yes, yes, alright, I can already hear you over there piping up with a "well if the great Corncob had wanted Novapulse to have a well regulated biosphere the planet would have been created with one." Ah, but you see, here's the thing - it was. Trouble was back in the Dark Ages of our history, some distant relative of old Dumphuck McCluck's decided that he wanted... guess what - a really fast means of transport. Wings weren't good enough for the likes of him... And so began our planet's downfall. First it was fast cars, then it was extra heating in winter, then it was cooling in summer, then it was... oh you know how it goes - just the way you're doing it here. Of course, when Novapulsians finally woke up to reality it was to find that the biosphere was all but destroyed and the planet was in the throes of dying. The Draconians, needless to say, were watching from the sidelines having a hearty rasping, hissing cackle. Thank the Corncob that the Andromedans, ever faithful friends, came to our rescue and stopped the madness.
Best you hope they come to your rescue too - though I'm not going to start counting my corncobs before the maize starts sprouting...
I'd like to say, come on humantiy, learn from our mistakes, but I suspect you lot won't wake up until the last tree has been felled and the last animal has popped it's paws and gone to join the heavenly choir - and all that's left to eat is... hmm-mmm... each other!
Now, I'm going to fluff up my feathers, tuck my head under my wing and try to get warm in the normal way.
Vanilla! Pass the beans!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Bonnie over at Bonnie's Books has tagged me for a Blogging Tips meme. Hmmm, memes.... hummmm, memes.... Hmph...
Let me say upfront that I'm not going to tag anyone because too many of the people I know hate being tagged for memes. So, if you want to do this, do it.
See, no pressure! (And I'll keep sitting on Atyllah and muzzling her just in case she has other views.... Ouch!)
It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)
Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.
After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!
Just think - if 10 people start this and the 10 people pass it on to another 10 people, you have 100 links already!
1. Look, read, and learn. **** http://www.neonscent.com
2. Be EXCELLENT to each other. ** http://www.bushmackel.com
3. Don’t let money change ya! ** http://www.therandomforest.info
4. Always reply to your comments. ***** Http://chattiekat.com
5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. * http://chipsquips.com
6. Don’t give up - persistence is fertile. ** http://www.velcro-city.co.uk
7. Give link credit where credit is due. **** http://www.sfsignal.com
8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post. *** http://scifichick.com
9. Visit all the bloggers that leave comments for you - it's nice to know who is reading! * http://stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com
10. Thrown in something humorous occasionally, to keep things fun. * http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com
11. Blog for yourself and your own pleasure, because you want to - if it stops being fun, stop blogging. http://absolutevanilla.blogspot.com
And I'm going to add to more, just because I can!
12. Blogging is a multimedia environment, use the media to enliven your blog - words, images, video, music but...
13 ... stick to good design rules and remember that less is more.
And now I'm going to quiety and unobtrusively try and get away from Atyllah...
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Sometimes I just sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits... and stares at the wall and ponders vaguely... And yep, today I'm just sitting doing some vague pondering... mostly because of a series of late nights, kept up reading the latest Harry Potter.
What a gripping, pacey read the final book in the Harry Potter series proved to be (except for a few sections near the end that left me feeling like someone had hit me with a confundus charm...). And it's good to see that the quality of writing has progressively improved since the first book, that this book has been far better edited than the previous two - and that the amazing imagination has been sustained. But, but...
Franky, I wasn't even sure I was going to buy the last book - I'd just had enough. Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite of the series and what I liked about the first three books, although not particularly well written, was the sense of gentle magic. But as the series has progressed so the books have become darker and this last one, which certainly contains none of the initial gentle magic, succeeded in giving me nightmares. Serves me right for reading until late at night - but it does beg some questions.
JKR started off writing for the 9 - 12 market. But I wouldn't say that this last book was suitable for 9 or 10-year olds - teens, yes, but not the original market. I appreciate what she has done though, taking her original readers with her as Harry grows up. But it poses an interesting question in terms of new readers coming to the books. While the first three books are definitely for the 9 - 12 market, the last three are definitely for the teen - and even adult - market. So, coming to the books today for the first time, a 10-year old reads HP and the Philosopher's Stone, loves it and promptly wants to devour the rest, getting through the books in quick succession. My question is simply this, for those of you who have read the last book - do you think that HP and the Deathly Hallows is suitable reading for a 10-year old?
I was alarmed to read that Childline had called in extra volunteers to help kids traumatised and upset by the numerous deaths in Deathly Hallows. While I think it's great that readers identify so strongly with characters it's concerning the impact those characters (and their deaths) have on readers, particularly children. While books and stories offer a wonderful opportunity for dealing with death, conflict and danger, I wonder where one draws the line. Children's writers have a tremendous responsibility to their reading public - children are like sponges, taking in everything around them and one must wonder about the impact some books have on them - certainly those of the "darker" variety, such as JKR's last one. And yes, it is dark, very dark - I nearly put it down after the first few chapters.
As an aside, I noticed, rather unhappily, that one reviewer described the latest HP movie as the "best horror movie of the year". As much as I've enjoyed Harry Potter, I'm really not a fan of horror movies and feel saddened that HP and the Order of the Phoenix has become "horror material". Was it really necessary, I wonder, for the story to become so grim? One can only wonder what the final movie of the series will look like... *shudder* Think I will have to watch it on DVD on a bright, sunny day!
Right, now I'm going to back to staring at the wall and if my addled brain allows, I will ponder some vampires of my acquaintance who are demanding my attention...
Monday, July 23, 2007
I've recently been sent a couple of invitations to join Facebook, and given that Facebook seems to be coming up an awful lot in conversation recently, I figured I'd join, have a mooch around, see what was going on. So I have. (Of course this was before I discovered I could never delete my Facebook entry... I can stop using it but not delete it - they say, just in case I want to start using it again...and they get to hold whatever data I've put on their servers...) That aside, I have a fundamental problem with Facebook and similar platforms: I don't get it. Honestly, can someone tell me; what's the point? I'm clearly missing it and seem unable to find it.
I suppose it's a bit like the thing about blogging that I raised a little while ago - about why we blog. Well, okay, I can see the point of blogging and I enjoy it. In my case it's an exercise in writing, sharing ideas and networking - and I suppose many would argue that Facebook offers something similar - especially if you connect your blog to it.
But all this raises a few other things and they're about the very nature of Web 2.0. And, while on one hand I find it really exciting, I'm also left deeply concerned.
In the old days, for those of you old enough to remember pre email... (yes, yes, do pass the zimmerframe, dear), we communicated with each other by letter or by phone - or... in person. Each form of communication, especially the in-person variety was rich in semantics. Now, however, we increasingly communicate via email, messaging, blogging or Facebook/MySpace/Bebo etc - and the richness of semantics is almost entirely, if not entirely, lost. We don't see one another, we don't hear inflections of tone, we miss the wink and yes, thank god, are spared any unfortunate body odour. In other words we miss real human contact. It also means that because the semantic content is lost, we end up having to spend more and more time explaining ourselves. And let's not even talk about the amount of miscommunication or misinterpretation that can and does happen. In the process what opportunity do we have to really get to know one another? Only that which each of us chooses to reveal - and even that may not be real... You only "know" who I am because I say this is who I am. I might indeed, for all you know, be a five foot four alien chicken with a damnable attitude. Or I might be psychopath... You don't really know, do you?
Of course, it's cool to make new connections, as so many of us have done through our blogging - but let's also face it, those connections are generally not particularly deep - we can walk away from one another at any time. There may be a sense of camaraderie, but real, meaningful, honest to god friendship...? Fair enough, some may grow from the beginnings of blog or Facebook connections - but then again, how many friends can any one person actually have?
And here's the other thing I don't get. Kids on campus or in school, spend oodles of time messaging one another via the various platforms. Lecturers and tutors are getting to the point where they're banning laptops in classrooms. What I don't get is the need for this constant connection. They're going to see each other in half an hour in the cafeteria or the next class... - in fact, they may even be sitting right next to one another - and let's face it, just how many notes can you pass during class? So, okay, I'm obviously also missing this point entirely, but perhaps someone can explain it to me.
Then there's this aspect of it all: A friend, travelling on business in a far flung land put away his laptop and went dow to the hotel poolbar for a drink and to find someone with whom he could strike up a conversation - you know, a bit of one on one chat, how's yer father and all that - a bit of real human interaction. He arrived at the poolbar and yes, there were lots of people about - but every one of them had their laptops or handhelds out and they were all tapping away furiously doing their communication with whoever via the ether.
Significant Other had a similar experience: travelling with four colleagues, they decided to go for a coffee whilst waiting for their connecting flight. They sat down and no, didn't start a conversation as one might expect. Instead out came the laptops and handhelds... and tap-tap-tap. Just how sociable is that? Is our social networking going to become more and more bound to a machine? Are we going to have less and less real one on one contact with one another? Let's face it, all this online networking takes time - and that's besides wading through daily mail and other administrative stuff - never mind doing the dishes and making the beds. Here's a question - how much time do you spend with your real "live" friends and how much time do you spend online, chatting, messaging, blogging or whatever it is one does? And how healthy is that?
A psychologist friend told me recently how alarmed she felt when one of her patients told her that he as really proud of how he'd been able to work out a problem with friend. They had, he said, a really deep and meaningful conversation - in a chatroom... My pal said she had to wonder how really meaningful said conversation could have been when neither of the participants could hear, smell, feel or see one another... and the opportunity for misinterpretation was so huge.
Of course, I suppose if you want or have to be housebound, if you're a recluse and hate getting out, then online social networking must be a godsend - but I get the distinct impression that most people networking out in the ether are neither housebound nor reclusive and I have to wonder why we do it... and, in some instances leave ourselves open to being data-mined - or - god forbid, cyberstalked.
As alien chicken of my acquaintance said to me, don't be afraid of it, just be very aware, the internet is not a safe place - there are Draconians, in all shapes and sizes, all over the place...
Maybe it's with good reason that I dont' "get" Facebook or MyFace as I indvertantly keep calling it.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
He rubbed his pot belly.
"Getting a bit flabby-saggy, Dave." Trixie's voice drifted over the water.
Dave glowered at the sprite as she blew a raspberry at him from the far side of the mystical lake.
She had a point though. And let's face it, being a god was tough. All that eating, lying around and meddling. But it was a good job. You got to take decisions that had profound impact. Decisions which often caused the humans below no end of bother. Dave chuckled to himself. He liked being important. And he knew he was good at what he did. He went to his tasks with vigour and passion. The more disruption he could cause the happier he was. And it amazed him no end how his current efforts managed to upset humanity. Who would have believed people could be so passionate about plants and landscapes?
He shambled back to his chaise longue and flicked his fingers. A small scene materialised - mid-air - before him.
"Starting work so early?" Alison yawned. She rolled over, plummeted and thumped on to the floor.
Dave sighed. The goddess the council of elders had provided to work alongside him was not exactly co-ordinated - or graceful. But she was remarkably self-righteous which was a strong point in any god.
He didn't bother to ask her if she was alright - of course she was - she was a goddess - immortal and invincible - just like himself. They were impervious to everything.
Alison picked herself up from the floor and padded over to Dave.
"Well, how're we doing this morning?" she asked, extracting a large bogey from her nose and inspecting it.
"We're doing remarkably well. Better than I expected," he said. "See this fellow here?" He pointed to a figure grubbing about under some trees. "I've inspired him!"
"Really? Do do what?"
"To remove all that shade. You know how much humans like shade. Well, it's all going to go!" His voice was triumphant.
"Ooh!" shrilled Alison, "let me inspire him too!"
"No!" snapped Dave. How typical of Alison to try and muscle in on his ideas. "Find your own inspiration."
"Tell you what," said Dave with an unaccustomed burst of generosity, "He's got a wife."
"Oh goodie! I can fill her head with theories which she's going to believe are true. She'll tell him and they'll set out to preach their truth."
"Wonderful," said Dave. "They'll be passionate. I just know it. Complete zealots."
"Exactly," chuckled Alison. "And we know just how much damage a zealot can do."
"Hey!" exclaimed Dave, "let's also inflate their egos."
"Ooh, yes! You really are on form this morning, Dave," said Alison batting her eyelashes at him.
Dave preened - and then farted. Loudly... gaseously. Alison did the same. They watched the image before them. The two small figures down on earth swelled.
The two gods slapped their hands together. "Good work!" they chorused.
"While we're at it," grinned Dave, "why don't we toss in a good dose of myopia - so that no one can influence their thinking."
"Bloody brilliant! And how about we add some arrogance too."
"Marvellous! They'll go around telling other humans that they're stupid and ignorant and that the two of them are the only ones with insight, intelligence and education - and should be listened to - because they know it all."
Alison laughed so hard her belly wobbled and her breasts jiggled - Dave's eyes twinkled.
The two gods turned their backs to the image, bent over and let rip. Each produced a long, loud and noxious stream of internal gas.
They turned around. The image had turned a murky shade of blue, green and yellow.
They waited for it to clear and then peered into the scene, listening intently.
"We'll tell the powers that be that global warming has nothing to do with trees and that it's in the planet's best interests that they're all felled," said his wife, lifting her chainsaw.
"Yes," said the man, tucking in his shirt around his sagging pot-belly, "We'll tell them that scrub is more attractive and important."
"Well it is. Much more important. Who needs shade. Tsk." She shook her head. "We'll also tell them trees cause fires and fall on people causing injury and death."
"We'll remind them we know best and that they're ignorant, stupid and myopic."
"Arrogant too," added the wife. "We'll make it clear we're the experts."
"Yes," said the man, "exactly. They need us. They don't know how lucky they are to have people like us advising them. And then we'll both write books and articles about how smart we are and what we've accomplished."
"Do you think we'll be able to afford a small island in the Caribbean once we're done?" asked the wife. She stepped backwards, tripped over a log, fell - and landed in a cow pat.
The man sighed. His wife was really not the most graceful creature on earth.
In the distance something rumbled.
"Oh bugger," said Dave.
The earth started to shake...
Dave Jackson, botanist inextraordinaire, rolled over and grunted. His wife, her face white, her brow creased, stood peering down at him, her hand on his shoulder, shaking him. "What is it?" he grunted.
"It's a posse of inspectors from the UN, a mob of angry people and the city mayor."
"What do they want?" muttered Dave frowning.
"They want to know what the hell we've been trying to do in forest."
"Oh, for heaven's sake - when will these people ever learn? How many times do we have to tell them? Trees are bad, scrub is good. We know best - and besides, I've an entire research project riding on this."
Dave rolled himself out of bed and shrugged into his dressing gown. He was grumpy, well on the way to being rabid. Why, he thought to himself, were people always so shortsighted? Who needed trees anyway? He'd give them all a piece of his mind - again. He marched down the hall, grumbling beneath his breath. The public were such ignorant fascists - complete xenophobes.
As his neared the front door his face paled. Awaiting him on the doorstep was a lynch mob. "Bugger," thought Dave, as the mob surged towards him, "why can't life be more like dreams...?"
© 2007 Absolute Vanilla
Friday, July 20, 2007
the infinite void
© 2007 Absolute Vanilla
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Jon felt yesterday's post was a tad on the serious side - so today we will be silly. Silly is good sometimes. Actually, sometimes you can't really notice silly amongst all the other silliness that goes on, on the planet... This is at least (I hope) harmless silliness... and was found over at Wanderlust Scarlett's place. (And it can probably all be put down to far too much intense editing, as is going on at present.)
4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth.
• Prune juice - see below
• Baked beans - see below
• Mosquitoes (she said scratching furiously)
• Fast food (which is seldom fast or food)
3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently.
• Farting in elevators
• Queue-jumping (whilst farting)
• Talking to themselves and looking vague whilst shopping (oh! oops! I do that... erm...)
2 things you find yourself moaning about.
• Mould tap dancing on the cheese, again
• The rat in the compost heap playing the bagpipes at midnight (mind you, he may have been at the prune juice - it's hard to tell...)
1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself.
• I've been taking life too seriously, have smoked my socks (and I was wondering why I had so many stray socks...) and am now paying for my sins with a dose of inanity... or is that insanity...
I will attempt to be more serious again tomorrow - or perhaps not.
You've lost it, you have.
And you would know, would you?
As a keen of observer or humanity I would most certainly know.
Well, yes, I suppose you're probably right, after all, here I am having a conversation with a five foot four alien chicken - who probably doesn't exist anywhere else other than in my imagination.
Ba-kaaaak! Take that back!
Make me! (oh oops, shouldn't have said that, should not have said that...)
Oooooooooooowwwwwwwwww! Atyllah, stop it! Ouch! Okay, I take it back, I take it back! Owwweeeeeeeee!
Ba-kaaaak! Ha! Humans can't take them anywhere, can't expect sanity. Mad, all of you, completely clucking mad! Ba-kaaaaaak!
Hmmm, she seems to have disappeared, so I will add one more item to things I find myself moaning about.... talking, interfering chickens!
I heard that!
Ooops! Gotta go! Aiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.....
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
What I find deeply disturbing is how the resentment and intolerance reflected in the clip is immediately reflected in the comments on the video. Just as the producers try to show how appalling the things we do to one another are, so the commenters simply continue to play out the same old fearful myopia. As Atyllah would say, "Humans are just insane." She's probably right. It's time to stop the rot and realise we're far more alike than we are different.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
of floating seals
on rippling waters
waiting for the next
sun bakes down
on silver sand
the air - filled with
the rush and hiss
of a well-travelled
the scattering shriek
on the wing
and on the horizon
of the world
the grey mass
of winter storms
© 2007 Absolute Vanilla
Monday, July 16, 2007
Scratch... clang... I drag myself from the realms of sleep.
I force my eyes open, compel my ears to hearing.
Clatter... scuffle... scrape...
I sit bolt upright... reality sinks in. Heart pounds. Ears are alert. I stare into the night.
The sounds are coming from behind me.
Mind races... The possibilities... A cat... a rat... or... An intruder - setting up a ladder.
The sounds move up the wall...
The neighbours - they had a break in just a few weeks ago... roof tiles were lifted for access...
Thump-thump-thump. My heart is in my throat - constricting my breathing.
Oh my god!
The noises are above me - in the roof. Every fibre of my being is tensed.
I reach for the pepper spray. The rungu is beside me... but that's all the weaponry I have.
I sit, not breathing... utterly still... listening... waiting...
Should I hit the panic button - summon the security company's armed response?
Maybe it's nothing... Let it be nothing. Please - let it be nothing.
I am frozen. Unable to move.
I look up.
To understand the full impact of this story you need to appreciate the nature of the society in which I live. It is riddled with violent crime. No, I don't live in an inner city gangland - there it is even worse. I'm talking about lush, neatly neatly manicured suburbia...
A few weeks ago three of my neighbours were burgled - robberies are always armed. The week before the family down the road was robbed at gunpoint and a woman narrowly avoided rape while out for her morning jog. Another man was less fortunate. Surprised by armed gangsters while watching TV, he was shot - fatally - in front of his family.
And this is just the suburbs.
In shantytowns and impoverished communities where crystal meth and alcohol abuse is rife, it's worse - beyond your comprehension - beyond mine. Children go missing every day. Murder, rape and violence are so common, incidents only get reported if the victim is well known. Theft is the new form of retail therapy. Car hijackings are commonplace - day and night. I haven't driven at night for six years. And no, public transport is not an option - not if you can afford a car - and not unless you particularly want a warrant for robbery, rape... death. Vigilantism is increasing, neighbourhood watches, armed security services are the norm. We live behind high walls with automated gates, security gates, burglar bars, alarms systems. We live in a constant state of stress - I don't think we even begin to imagine the cost to our psyches... And no, this is not paranoia.
You have no idea how relieved I was that my intruders were only rats or mice or some other four-legged critter...
Sunday, July 15, 2007
My life force was ebbing away - ebbing, seeping from me as though something had pulled my plug and I was emptying myself of that which kept me alive.
Fear sprang through the darkness - clutched at me, strangling me with terror.
I wanted to push it away... but I was devoid of strength.
There was no choice... but to accept. I was dying.
And in that moment of acceptance came clarity and peace.
The absolute nothingness of the dark lightened just a little... to a twilight... dim, filtered light, grey, watchful...
I was standing on a giant chess board... rough stone, cracked and worn beneath my feet. To my right, a towering stone wall - a fortress perhaps. To my left, the black silhouettes of spiring firs - marching up an infinite peak. Behind me... I don't know. Life, I suppose.
And ahead of me... A vast door set within another wall of stone.
I stood in the monochromatic gloom, looking, without comprehension... wondering...
Where was I?
I could not go back, could not even turn around to see from whence I'd come. The forest was forbidding, though the trees were strangely observant, almost protective. They seemed to represent some aspect of the life I was leaving behind.
I faced the door and advanced. It was what I was meant to do. Intuitively, I knew that.
The door swung open - just a fraction.
Light spilled out. White-golden luminance... shining so brightly I could hardly bear to look at it. But I wanted it. Oh yes, I wanted that light. I knew what it was. It was home.
The door - the portal between worlds.
The door opened further and I moved closer to it, reaching out with my innermost core to the brilliance that flooded through it.
They talk of the white light when they talk of near death experiences, don't they...? So... this was it... only there was no tunnel, just the chess board... the remnant of the game of life...
The fear left me. I surrendered. I wasn't losing my life. I was returning to it. Returning to the soul pool. Returning to the source of all created things. Oh yes. I wanted to go home. Please. Let me come home. My life force, the very last drops of it, trickled away... Calm descended upon me... total tranquility...
I... was... going... home...
A jolt surged through me. Then another. And another.
The life force pulsed into my being. The doorway began to close. No!
Not yet. Not my time. Not now...
I felt sensation return to my limbs.
I held the light in my heart, in my mind's eye - and slept.
What is death, after all, the beginning or the end? We've made it into something it's not - or have we? Which is the illusion... death? Or life?
(Both images used in this post were duly nicked off the internet and I am grateful that they serve my words so well - to the creators, whoever you are, thank you.)
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Two instances now have left me seriously questioning the images I form in my head of people I've not met in person.
I've never met the Significant Other's (SO) ex-wife - she lives on the other side of the country and besides, does want really want to dabble in one's SO's previous life - I think not. Nonetheless, I'd formed an image of the lady in question in my head... Wavy, shoulder length mid-brown hair, gentle heart-shaped face, pale freckles, petite... Got that wrong. Long, straight, dark-brown hair, sharp features, oval face, no freckles - nothing at all like what I'd envisaged.
Then a couple of days ago I saw some photos of Caroline on her site. I was convinced I must be at the wrong blog. See, I'd pictured Caroline as tall, blonde, willowy. Got that wrong, didn't I?
Mind you, I will say this, I did have an image of Barbara in my head that was pretty spot on. I feel marginally relieved about that. Though I will, shamefacedly confess, that I had her pitched about ten years older. Erm, sorry, Barbara.
Given that I know many have previously envisaged me completely incorrectly, I'm wondering, for a bit of a laugh, how you might see me. And okay, let's get this straight right at the outset. I am not yellow. I do not have feathers. Well, not often, anyway.
I'm the one with yellow feathers and there's nothing wrong with that!
I never said there was. And anyway, they know what you look like. Your picture's in the side bar.
Does this mean I can't play?
No. It's my blog.
Yeah, but I run things around here.
No, you don't!
Oh yes I do! Wanna fight about it?
Erm...er... those talons you're flexing are pretty sharp....
Sigh, the things one has to tolerate with an alien chicken looking over one's shoulder.
I heard that! Ba-kaaaaaaak! So anyway, given that you know what I look like, whaddayathink she looks like? Huh?
Ba-kaaaaak! How did Brad get in there...? Perhaps Vanilla's a boy... I'd better take a closer look... EEEEEEEEK!!!
Hmm, yes, well.... And by the way, which celebrities do you look like?
(Apparently I also look like... Salma Hayek, Keirah Knightley, Karolina Kurkova, Jordana Brewster, Marie Bowes Lyon, Sophie Marceau. God, I must be drop dead gorgeous! Ha, ha, ha)
Ha, ha, ha is right. If anyone around here is drop dead gorgeous it is I, Atyllah the Hen, Chicken with Attitude! Ba-kaaaak!
(And a grateful thank you to the creators of Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy - however else would I have been able to find such tasty images with which to decorate my blog )
Friday, July 13, 2007
THIS MAY BE A STICKY POST... but we likes a bit of controversy, now and then...
Recently some controversy about blogging has sprung up both here and here. Words like sycophantic, egotistic, inbreeding and jeering have all been gaily bandied about. And there's nothing journalists and marketing types like more than a bit of controversy. Why? Because it sells stuff. Want to market your blog or yourself - then get controversial, make it "hot" and watch the punters roll in. Sounds sarcastic perhaps. It's not meant to be. I certainly didn't expect as many comments as rolled up to my post on why bloggers blog.
See, if you want to market yourself or your work, as some do, blogosphere cannot be the only place to do it. Skint rightly pointed out that blogosphere works really well as a marketing tool if you're already a star or have a "hot/sexy/controversial" blog. Which means either the hard work's already been done or you have a shit-hot product that many want a piece of.
Thing is, you can never rely on any one medium to do your work for you. For another thing, in blogging, what exactly are you marketing? What's your USP - in plain English, your Unique Selling Proposition? What makes you or your words stand out, far above anything else, in blogosphere - or anywhere else? Is your product i.e. your writing, even good enough to stand out? What's your brand? Do you even have a brand? How original is it? What's your identifier, your look and feel? Why should anyone read your words over and above someone else's? What are you offering that no one else is (and how are you doing it in a fresh, new way)?
The problem with blogosphere is it's very big and very full (in May 2007 Technorati was tracking more than 71 million blogs). How on earth can you be assured that you will get noticed? You can't - unless you meet the above criteria - already a star, or flogging sex or controversy. And even then, you will draw a particular market or appeal to an already existing market.
Scott Westerfield, the YA writer, used MySpace to great effect to connect with his market. (His blog is now here.) Neil Gaiman's blog also allows him to connect with an existing market. The principle in both cases is called market retention and customer relationship management - both of which of course assume you already have a market and customers... Belle du Jour has used blogosphere to great effect to sell a call girl's story. Her success rests in the fact that sex sells (yep, it does!). But these people are few and far between the masses who blog - mostly, dare I say it, for fun! It also helps, if you want to be noticed, to be well-connected - particularly to people in the media who will promote your blog in the press. (Not what you know but who you know, remember...)
I started blogging because I wanted to explore and experiment with the marketing potential of blogosphere. (I also happened to have a mad chicken living in my head who was determined to get out and cause mayhem...). And I was, to put it simply, curious about the hype and the notion of people-driven websites. What I can tell you is this, unless you want to spend hours and hours surfing blogosphere, connecting with others, commenting all over the place, linking to the world and her husband, building up a humungous network, you are not going to build yourself a market in blogosphere. The investment in building that network is, in any case, likely to prove higher than the returns. So it becomes a no-brainer. Your ROI (return on investment) simply isn't worth it.
So, those who commented on my earlier post and said they blogged for fun or to meet like-minded people, they're the ones who actually get what blogosphere is about. You see, blogosphere is a social networking tool. And yes, sure, you can build markets through networking - all marketers do - but and this is a critical point, blogging is but one tool in what should be an entire arsenal of marketing tools. The reason Facebook and MySpace have been so successful is because they allow people to connect, share ideas, opinions and hobbies. Blogger, Live Journal, Wordpress, do the same - in a less overt manner.
So, you blog for fun. You might happen to be a writer. When your book is published you can tell all your blogging buddies about it. They may buy your book (or not). They may tell their friends about it - who may, or may not buy it. But, and here's the other thing, your blogging network is most likely not that huge (we do, after all, tend to hang out in like-minded social groups in blogosphere - just as we do in real life) - hence if your ultimate goal had been to sell piles and piles of books, you'll most likely be disappointed. You will sell books, you will connect to your market - but it won't be a mass market - in the traditional sense. Blogosphere may let you connect with a niche market but it won't bring you the opportunities for sales and promotion that more conventional marketing tools will bring you. Not unless you are willing to spend hours and hours at it - networking all day, hosting blogs on all the primary blog interfaces and generally giving up your life. The sensible approach says, don't put all your eggs in one basket, spread the risk, maximize your opportunities. Go and build a brand, define your USP, build a website, host a blog on it, advertise, do book signings, get some PR going, talk on the radio, write articles, get invited to speak at conferences, dish out bookmarks promoting your book, make yourself known through as many spheres as possible.
Of course, you could always start a splog - i.e. a blog with the sole purpose of spamming...
And then there's the really crucial factor. Ultimately, whether anyone buys your book, whether through your blogging efforts or any other marketing activity, depends entirely on the quality of the product (as is the case with any product or service) i.e. is it any good and/or does it hold mass appeal? You might think so (and your mother might agree with you), but others need to think so too. So, have you created a boy wizard who's parents were killed by the evil one? Or have you written about an alternate universe that stands on the back of a giant turtle? Or have you dreamed up a funny little Belgian detective with an egg shaped head...?
If not, as my good mate Debi says, accept and enjoy the fact that the kind of blogging we do is primarily about building mutually supportive communities (which can aid us in what we do). For now* that's what blogosphere is about - a social network. And, if anyone thinks that's sycophantic - well, you know what they say, "one person's opinion is just that, an opinion".
Now, I'm off to scratch the chicken's back in the hope that she will scratch mine...
* It's interesting to note that corporates are increasingly using blogs as part of their marketing arsenal - it's a means of talking to and connecting with their existing or new customers - but it's done through the company's website, in keeping with its brand and in conjunction with other marketing tools.
© 2007 Absolute Vanilla
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I am oppressed. By guinea fowl. 25 of 'em this morning. Males charging at one another. Females tearing up the lawn. All hunting for treasure. For the brown-skinned gold. Guinea Fowl Caviar!
Only trouble is, the doves think it's dove caviar. And the squirrels know its really squirrel food.
I give you, of course, the humble peanut.
Who would know it could wreak such mayhem - and destroy my garden? Who knew I would become a peanut farmer courtesy of my furry grey friends?
Mixed corn and seed is not good enough for the likes of those who visit my garden. Oh no. We all demand nuts. Peanuts. Almonds are not good enough, nor are walnuts. No, in the depths of winter when we all want fattening up, it is the peanut to which we turn. Which we fight over, squabble about and go to war.
The funny thing is it's the smallest of the marauders who win. The doves. By sheer force of numbers. Let's hear it for mob justice!
Right, now I'm off to make myself a peanut-butter sarnie... Yeah, catch me if you can oh ye ravening hordes of garden destroyers!
(Hmm, methinks mayhap, a certain chicken of my acquaintance had something to do with this invasion...)
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Given what some folk have said, I have one simple question.
Why do you blog?
For fun?To network?To get noticed?To have an ego massage?To meet new people?To market yourself, your work, your body...? To relax?'Cos you don't have a life?'Cos it's cool?'Cos all your mates do it?To wossname, wossname, wossname... (with apologies to Mr Pratchett's parrot).
You blog because...?
Monday, July 9, 2007
Talking about inspiration...
No, no, let me talk about inspiration - you've done quite enough quasi creative-meaning of life-wittering for the past few days. Shove over. You remember the deal - your blog, but I get a chance to butt in.
Oh, what, like you haven't already done enough butting in?
You got a problem?
Me? Do I dare?
I wouldn't if I were you...
Okay, this is Atyllah posting - so pay attention!
As some of you may well be aware, prior to my departure from Planet Earth I was involved in a campaign to save some trees - very old trees many of them - oaks of various species, eucalypts, pines, poplars, willows... (did I ever mention that some of my bestest friends are trees?) - and not only that, I was trying, though the Corncob alone knows why, to save the shaded recreational space of the Mugger City - the place where my spacepod crash landed - damned thing. Since my actions came to the notice of the Draconians, nasty reptilian aliens who humans refuse to believe have infiltrated Earth, it became necessary for me to adopt a low profile and hand over matters to those in a better position to actually do something about trees and related schtuff. (And the Corncob knows, there is a bundle of related schtuff - enough to give any local politician damp dreams...)
However, talking of inspiration and thinking of trees and the various characters who popped up on the stage, I'm thinking of penning my own little parody... See, you just never know what sort of fodder can be turned into a tale...
At the moment I'm putting together the cast of characters...
The Evil Ones:
Brat Meerkat - an Evil Overseer
The Idiot Bluster Von Hot Aire - an infamous bottomist
Ding Dong Bell - oh yeah, that cat should really be in a well...
The Good Guys - mostly:
The Four Immortals - a group of brave and brilliant minds (and yes, I know in the feng shui folk say there are only three)
YT - aka Yours Truly - Atyllah the Hen, chicken with über-attitude
The Tree Doctor - a passionate human intent on saving the trees come bellowing Hot Aire or Draconians
Raving Rob Treebeard - he means well (I think...) but constantly forgets to take his medication...
The assorted and self appointed egos of several causes:
Wily Coyote - a supposed leader, who wouldn't know a lead if it strangled him
Dumcluck McPhuck - a Novapulsian meddler or the worst kind
The Ugly Phuckling - Dumphuck's brother and self proclaimed legal genius
Dennis le Menace - an old fart who thinks he knows best
Queen Deen - another fart of indeterminate age and with several personal agendas.
I'm thinking of calling it "Stupid is as Stupid Does"; "The Misadventures of Trees" or; "Fuckwittage Flows where anything Grows".
Now all I need to do is work on the plot. Any ideas and further inspiration would be welcome.
(My Corncob! I don't actually believe this, I'm asking humans for assistance! What is the multiverse coming to!?!)
Sunday, July 8, 2007
as sunlight stretches
to kiss the eternal blue.
Moon calls forth
the earth’s embrace
And fingers of dawn
Caress the waves.
Whispers of a new day sparkle in myriad hues.
© 2007 Absolute Vanilla
A couple of years ago I came across the work of a local artist, Tay Dall, and was instantly captivated by her art. Somehow her paintings spoke to me and inspired me. I felt, goofy though it may sound, a soul connection, even though Tay and I have never met - chatted on the phone, yes, shared email, for sure. What I find so interesting is that the person who bubbles over the telephone line, who produces the most prolific quantity of work, who bounds and bounces, seems so unlike the person I'd imagined behind the paintings. Which makes me think... how much of the persona we present to the world, the personality that others see, is really the true person? I wonder how much any of of us reveal ourselves to others or do we save it entirely for our art - or even then, not? Indeed, how many of us even know who we really are?
The other thing I'm inclined to ponder is just how much we inspire each other. Who, for example, inspires you?
Here's another bit of a "pome" inspired by Tay's work.
below the stone slumbers
waits for flight.
and stories unfold.
And whaddayamean, where's that chicken?! Don't know, don't care is the succinct answer.
Damn, see what you've done now. You've woken the beast!
Ouch! All right, all right, you're not a beast. Honest you're not.... you're just a demented chicken.... Ow!!!!!
Saturday, July 7, 2007
"I really don't know what my character's personality should be like. Please help?"
As is often the case with writers - we're a friendly, supportive bunch, see - suggestions flowed in thick and fast and included:
making your characters take the Myers Brigg test,
talking to your characters to find out more about them,
getting into your characters' head (I can't help wondering if one needs a ladder and a crowbar for such an exercise...),
studying psychology (a whole degree seems a bit extreme...) and,
writing about your character in the first person and getting them to answer questions like who am I? (which in my case might leave you in even more of a muddle).
Frankly, I find I tend to have the opposite problem. I have a really hard time getting my characters to stay out of my head, to stop them from taking over and demanding what they want. One character in particular has taken on a life of it's own... And is, I feel, entirely out of control. Now any advice on this, would be most welcome.
Ba-kaaaak! Ya talking 'bout me? Huh?
Who me? Talking about you?
I wouldn't dare! Honest.
Hmmm. Let's just get one thing straight for you and everyone else out there. I am NOT a figment of your imagination. I am real. I come from Novapulse. I'm a secret agent observing the human condition and my granny is a werechicken. Best you be afraid, very afraid!
But what? You got a problem?
No, no, of course not, no problem at all.
Good. Glad we're clear on that.
Whew! See what I mean about characters being out of control?
I heard that!
Tell me, does this sort of thing ever happen to you?
Friday, July 6, 2007
And in my pondering I set to mulling over our human propensity to identify ourselves by what we do, rather than who we are. Why is that, I wonder? Any thoughts?
I was eavesdropping the other day - after all, writers never know where they might find fodder for stories...
"So tell me," said the elegant woman dressed in black, "exactly who are you?"
"I'm Anna Worthington," said the second woman.
"And what do you do, Anna Worthington," asked Ms Black, her eyebrow raised.
"I'm an accountant," retorted Ms Worthington, pocketing her calculator.
See what I mean? Ms Worthington, asked who she is, gives her name. Asked what she does, gives her profession. But this, surely, isn't who Ms Worthington is. Or is it? Have us humans become that shallow that we are no more than a collection of names and jobs? Have our lives become so limited, so intently focussed that we have forgotten the essence of simply being, and of who we really are?
Yep, see, as you may have guessed, I've developed this irritating propensity for deliberately refusing to answer in the normal way - but then let's face it, who'd be normal - whatever that is. Can writers indeed be normal? Can any artist bend themselves to the ordinary and the average? Mind you, that's the topic of a whole other conversation.
So who am I? I am. What do I do - oh all sorts of things - including spending probably too much time contemplating the true nature of life (which, yes, you may call procrastination...) - which is probably why I spend so much time writing stories. It's in creativity, I find, that one really touches the core of the universal energy.
Ouch! What do you want?
My Aunt Aggie would have liked you...
She was into the universal energy in a big way...
Uhuh. For my part, I don't think humans know a good thing when they see it.
If you lot only knew the powers that reside in you and which you've forgotten... Mind you, probably better for the rest of us that it's that way... Much better for all of us if humanity doesn't realise it's true force. Never mind wanting to take over the world, you lot would be after then entire multiverse. What a horrible thought!
Hey! Where are you going!
To save the galaxy! Ba-kaaak!
Damned chicken. Can't take it anywhere, not even back to apologise!
Now where was I. Oh yes, so who am I? I am. Question is, who are you?
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Hmm-mmm, why a blog? Why this blog? I don't know. Terminal insanity perhaps. Your guess is good as mine.
Who am I? Answer: I am. It's as simple as that.
My name? Well, let's call me Vanilla, because I love vanilla. Mmmm-mmm.
What will this blog be about? Who knows. Let's see what happens. Perhaps it will be about writing, painting, the arts, life, the universe and everything. Witterings and warblings would probably be the best description. Well, that at least was my intention... And then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum...
This five foot something chicken materialised next to me, eyed me beadily and muttered, "Ba-kaaaak!" Then she whispered in my ear, which rather tickled with all those feathers and said, "Got a job for you, do whatever you do but make some place for me too."
Huh? I'd have said she had a cheek, but she was a pretty scary kind of chicken. She had attitude, if you know what I mean. And although I'm not chicken, well... yes, okay, let's not go there.
So here I am, starting a blog about this and that and perhaps the writing life - and saving space for some demented alien chicken from some planet called Novapulse - just so she can make the odd, now and again, comment on what she calls the dire state of humanity.
Oh dear, I worry that I may have been hijacked before I've even begun... Oh well, let's just see what happens, shall we...?