Sunday, September 30, 2007
Wilf has passed on some homework for me to do... in the form of yet another meme. Shame on you, Wilf! (I tell you, I'm getting all memed out here.)
Total number of books owned
Erm, too many. They lie around in piles and breed, I'm sure of it. I tried using Library Thing to catalogue them all but ran out of steam. There are children's and Young Adult books, cookery books, gardening books, travelogues, places, esoteric, interior design, dogs, classics, fantasy, crime, literary, poetry, plays, marketing and business, reference. I had to try to do a valuation once for insurance purposes. An awful lot of money has been spent on books. It should stop. But it won't.
Last book bought
I never buy one book at a time. I'm an addict - fortunately it's the only addiction I have. The last books ordered from Amazon UK include The Monkey Wrench Gang, Emmanuel's Book, French Food at Home - they've not arrived yet - which is just as well since I haven't finished wading through the last pile that arrived.
Last book read
Coven of One by a certain Minx
Five books which mean a lot to you
Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge
I was given the book as a 10th birthday present by a classmate and I've read it so many times that the pages have turned to velvet. My mother had kept me supplied with Enid Blyton but this book opened a whole new world to me and gave me the opportunity to dream... to love magic... and respect bees... This was the book that set me on my reading journey.
The Little White Horse also by Elizabeth Goudge
My best friend lent this to me when I was 11. I fell in love. It inspired me and made my heart sing. As the years went by though I forgot the title and the author. But I never forgot the story. I hunted for it constantly, never quite sure what I was looking for but knowing I'd recognise it when I saw it. Then about three years ago, I was browsing the shelves of the children's' section of the bookstore and this little book caught my eye... Could it be... Could it? It was. The name didn't ring much of a bell but the author's name did. After being out of print for years it had finally been reprinted - and why? Because JK Rowling had said it was the book that most inspired her...
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Because after reading it for the first time when I was in my mid-twenties, I finally knew what I wanted to do - I wanted to write - for children.
The Tao Te Ching - because it in I find meaning.
Roget's Thesaurus - because as a writer I'd be lost without it.
Now, I'm tagging Wanderlust Scarlett, Vesper, Bonnie, Colleen and Verilion. I would tag that Minx person too, but I know she hates memes... And Debi's just too busy. Sigh. Besides, I suppose I'd better leave some for the rest of you to tag...
Saturday, September 29, 2007
On 14 September, Patrick at Writing Life created a meme. (Didn't you always want to know just who it was who started these things?) The instructions were as follows:
Make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It's not really bragging, it's an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you'd like to see share their strengths.
The meme, as memes do, spiralled out into blogosphere (though I notice it's mostly writers who've been tagged...). I was tagged first by Bonnie and then by Canterbury Soul. I see that most of the usual suspects have also been tagged.
So, in no particular order, here are five of what I consider to be my strengths as a writer:
A passion for playing with words
This it might be something that was born from an overexposure to Scrabble and word association games at a young age, or it might just be the fact that words offer such wonderful opportunities for play. I particularly like playing with words verbally, which may account for the utter nonsense I am known to utter on some occasions, particularly around full moon time. Which is why I've left off doing this until full moon had waxed lunar and then waned...
A vivid imagination
My mother was known to lament, "I don't know where that child dreams these things up." And, "Who is she talking to this time...? What do you mean, no one?" As an only child I never needed company - I was perfectly capable of creating my own worlds, my own friends - and I still do. Which perhaps explains my preference for working in the fantasy, supernatural, paranormal genres. And certainly goes a long way to explaining a certain alien chicken who goes by the name of Atyllah the Hen...
Determination and a sense of humour
Some might call the former stubborness. But no Taurean ever believes they are stubborn, let alone bull-headed. No, it is all about determination! See, I know how to persevere. I know what I want and what I have to do to get it. Determination is, quite frankly, a prerequisite to being a writer. You have to keep at it - particularly in today's world where publishers like Bloomsbury can receive up to 500 manuscript submissions in a week... Competition out there is stiff, you have to be willing to stick to your guns. And if failure or rejection comes along, it's important to be able to laugh about it. This latter may explain why I am currently collecting rejection slips with a view to being able to wallpaper my entire study with them. When that is done, I may be doing some creative papier-mache work...
Ability to write dialogue
My very first job, which I landed entirely by accident and without intent, was as the scriptwriter (and director and producer) of marketing and training videos for a large corporate. The stuff that been going out was mind-numbingly bland, consisting mostly of talking heads and static slides of graphs and words. This didn't strike me as an optimal use of the video format - let alone an ideal method of training young minds. I decided to get creative - and scripted vignettes pertinent to the subject matter and employed local actors - all in order to bring the very dull business of life assurance to well, er, life. Writing scripts involves lots and lots of dialogue and writing like people actually speak - as any self respecting actor will happily remind you.
Ability to observe the world around me, learn from it and translate it into stories
In Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad, Granny Weatherwax says, "People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around." To that I say "Amen, Granny!" See, stories are all around us - it really just depends on how you decide to look at those stories. I see stories wherever I go - sometimes they even chase me down the street. And let's face it, if we are honest, our entire lives consist of stories, we are our stories. So, I'm one of those deeply irritating people who watch and listen. I love public places - they are composed entirely of characters and plots and ideas - but so are the wide open spaces - the stories and the characters are just different. So be warned, the next time you see me or someone else eyeing you - it's quite possible you will end up in a story...
If they haven't already been hit by this meme, I tag, Onipar, Struggling Writer, Rob at Loose Logic, and Steve at Blog from the Darkside, any artists reading this - and YOU!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Secondly, there are things happening in blogosphere.
Opening Chapter's Blag - a Blag = Bl(og) + (M)ag(azine) - has finally been launched. There are articles in it by some bloggers known to you - including this blogger...
The Blag is an online arts and literature magazine - and they're open to submissions... So...you might also want to become a blagger! Check it out!
Then, the Shameless Lions appear to be regrouping for the creation of a collective story. Should be fun, might get out of control... Go and take a peek...
Finally, given my recent ordeal, I decided to watch the local premier of an excellent documentary by ex-South African and Oscar winner, Jon Blair, last night. Presented by another ex-South African, Sir Anthony Sher, it is called Murder Most Foul and deals with crime in South Africa. (The documentary had its world premier on the True Stories strand on the UK's Channel 4 on 25 September.)
In it Blair describes crime in South Africa as being on an "industrial scale". Archbishop Desmond Tutu says "something has gone horrendously, badly wrong". The Minister of Safety and Security, however, says (of people like me): "They can continue to whinge until they’re blue in the face, they can continue to be as negative as they want to or they can simply leave this country...".
What struck me most forcibly was this: I expected to be harrowed and horrified by the film. I was not. Why? Because I am numb. Because this is what we live with every single day. This crime - it is becoming South Africa. We say "it is not acceptable" and yet we all accept it. I was not shocked or overwhelmed by it as Anthony Sher was, because this is how I know we live - white, black, brown - crime isn't interested in race. We have, unwittingly, become desensitised and, as such, dehumanised. And that is indeed a sad indictment of South Africa and South Africans - and more so that it takes a documentary like Murder Most Foul to make us sit up and take note. (I hope we will sit up and take note and not, instead, start berating the producer and presenter for being "white sensationalist shit-stirrers".)
What I find even more disturbing are the South Africans who seem unwilling to accept this horrific crime is happening. I'm not talking about the government here - we know they are asleep - they, after all, denied there was an AIDS pandemic until the world stepped in and opened their eyes so they could see the thousands dying. No, I'm talking about fellow South Africans who are so determined to focus only on the positive - got to be "positively South African" you know to be a good South African - god forbid you should criticize (but where would we be without criticism?) - but it is they who fail to see the woods for the trees. One South African blogger said: "Quotes like “Violence has always been a way of life in SA” are bullshit and misleading." Hmm, I wonder where he was when all the children were being gunned down in Soweto in 1976... I wonder where he was when families were being torn apart by apartheid, women were being raped by the police and activists and ordinary people lived in fear of their lives and police brutality. Where was he when people were put in detention without trial? Anyone who thinks violence is not part of our heritage and our legacy is floating down a very long river called Denial. I would say beware to them, there be crocodiles...
At the end of the apartheid era many feared a bloodbath - but it didn't happen and the world marvelled at our peaceful transformation to a democracy. But as Sher commented - there is a bloodbath it's just happening slowly and over a very long time. Last year 18 500 South Africans were murdered. In the past year 20 000 have been murdered. This does not include the unreported cases, the rapes, the child rapes, the mutilations, the torture, the robbery, the hijackings, the attempted murders...
If you are interested and get a chance to see Blair's documentary, do. Unreported World - also UK Channel 4 - will also be reporting on current levels of violence in South Africa tomorrow night 28 September.
Funny that it takes outsiders to see our problems while so many of us are hell-bent on playing ostrich and others are intent on screwing their rose-coloured spectacles to their head. Sounds, in fact, rather frighteningly familiar of our not too distant past...
Saturday, September 22, 2007
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Thursday, September 20, 2007
Rwanda... Darfur... Congo... Zimbabwe... South Africa... the city where I live... my neighbourhood...
Insanity prevails. Violence ravages. Respect is a little heard of thing. Life may be taken for one pound or less. I'm sick of pretending. Hoping, wishing that everything will be okay, is okay. It's not. It's broken. Maybe we can blame colonialism. But ultimately, whatever our pasts, it's up to us in the here and now to put things right. And we're not. There are those who are intent on consistently preying upon others. Those who like the terror that threat and violence brings.
Tell me... Have you ever had to think about how to kill someone? Really? Have you ever wondered whether you'd even be able to do it? Probably not. It's not what nice, normal people living in relatively sane societies have to do, is it? Tonight I've had to think about how to kill someone. It makes me feel as though I am tormented by a thousand devils. Makes me hysterical. Only I can't afford to be hysterical. I have to be sane enough, rational enough to protect myself, save my life - and that may mean taking the life of another. Welcome to my Africa.
Six hours ago I was driving home. Minding my own business when I noticed a delivery van had driven up behind me and was edging closer and closer. I took a good look in my rear view mirror. Two guys. Watching me. Okay, I thought, they don't look too friendly. But they probably just want to get past me. I couldn't change lanes - the other lane was backing up with slower traffic. So I accelerated a little. They acclerated. I put my foot down and took off. I've learned to trust my intuition and it was screaming at me. "You're being followed." No. I don't want to be followed. I'm being paranoid. "No, you're not." I know that voice. I made the mistake of not listening to it once before. I zipped in between two trucks in the slow lane, nearing my offramp. The van pulled into the same lane. I pulled onto the offramp. They pulled onto the offramp. I headed right to turn into the arterial road. They headed right. Came up right behind me. Watching. It was the watching you see. It was intense, predatory. Blank masks of faces. Staring. Eyes boring through me. Why me? What had I done? Had I somehow offended them? What did they want? My pulse started to race. You're being paranoid, I told myself again. "No, you're not. They're following you." But why, why would they follow me?
I took a small gap between two oncoming cars and shot across the intersection and bolted up the road. They couldn't make the gap. They had to wait. Then there they were, 500 meters behind me. Two cars between them and me. They veered across the road, back, across into the pedestrian lane. Watching. Keeping an eye on me, making sure they didn't lose me. I didn't dare pull off into my road. Keep going. Drive somewhere public. You'll know then if they're following you. I got caught in traffic at the traffic circle. They moved closer. I sped away. They followed - the quarry well in sight. At the next traffic circle I turned left, pulled into the parking lot of the small local shopping centre. I ducked into an empty parking bay. Watched. There they were. They'd turned into the parking lot too. They were looking. They spotted me. Drove over... slowly - edging closer, stalking the prey. Watching. They drove up behind me, inching forward, paused behind my car, peered into my vehicle - at me, edged on again, creeping forward. The beast waits to pounce. I locked my doors, sat, waited... I couldn't see them, the huge SUV next to me blocked any view. But I knew they were there. I could sense them, feel them... Rank scent on the breeze. The van appeared behind me. Stopped. Waited. I waited, my heart beating in my ears. What did they want? Why me? What was going to happen next? A guy appeared at my window. Round face, wraparound shades. Thickset, stocky.
"I want to talk to you."
"What to you want?" I sounded aggressive, take no shit, take no prisoners. Don't fuck with me.
"I want to buy your car."
"It's not for sale."
He watched me, smiled - a narrow soulless gash across his face. He nodded. Was it knowingly? He moved away. Got back into the van. I couldn't have left if I'd tried. He was blocking my exit. I waited. He edged forward. Nothing for it. I got out of the car. Walked to the supermarket. Lurked behind the flower stand. Watched. They drove level with the supermarket. Stopped. Waited. Watched me. Looked back, watched my car. One took out a mobile phone. The other scribbled something on a piece of paper.
I need to get their registration! The thought flashed into my mind. Determined, I stalked towards them. They saw me coming - took off. Swept out of the parking lot. Gone.
But see, here's the thing. Here you trust no one. Everyone knows a man who knows a man. They might have my registration. They might be able to get my home address. They might come back. I don't know.
I drove home the long way round. I didn't know where they might be waiting, if they might be waiting.
Tears trickled down my cheeks. I was too afraid to be angry. I felt so disempowered. So threatened. I'm tired of the stress. Sick of the fear. This is no way to live. This is rank insanity. This is how we all live. For some it is so much worse. Traumatic stress disorder is a part of our lives. Welcome to my Africa.
This is not my home. This is some strange and violent war zone where terror lurks around every corner, in broad daylight, at night. I am not African.
The burglar alarm is armed. The doors are locked, the security doors bolted, the windows shut, the burglar bars in tact. My can of mace stands ready. My pepperball gun is armed. I know I have to aim at the base of the nose. This will blast the nasal membranes which will shatter and drive up into the brain... Welcome to my Africa.
It is time to say goodbye.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I’ve generally avoided the opportunity to read other bloggers’ books when asked to do so – you know, what happens if you don’t like the book… And then they ask you what you thought of it… I'm not generally known for my tact... You want straight answers, that’s fine, you want me to mince my words and tell you something is wonderful when I think it's rubbish, sorry, just not my style. In fact, a colleague once said I had the tact of a Sherman tank on a 90 degree incline. Now you know…
But all that said, I’ve just read a book by a fellow blogger and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I had a sneaky suspicion I might which is why I was willing to give it a go…
Kate Bousfield’s book Coven of One was published last year by a small independent publisher, and is a delight, what I call "a jolly good romping read". I read so many books and know there are so many badly written books out there that if book doesn’t grab me in the first couple of pages then I leave it, there are too many books in the world that I want to read and not enough time to read them all. Bad reads don't get a second chance.
But Kate’s debut novel grabbed me in the first paragraph – and held me right to the end. Perhaps it was the subject matter – paganism and witchcraft – perhaps it was the story, good vs evil and coming of age – perhaps it was the talking cat, the humour and the colour – perhaps it was the characterization or the bit of romance. Perhaps it was the magic or the vivid descriptions of place. Most likely it was a combination of everything – because Kate has it all in Coven of One.
Coven of One is a light, easy read but there is a gentle message woven through the story too. Dorcas Fleming is a simple hedgewitch – or so she thinks, newly sent out into the world. Only Dorcas’ first posting takes her to the heathen Southern lands where witchcraft is outlawed – and yet, one small village has asked for a witch... Why, Dorcas wonders, do they want her? Little does Dorcas know what awaits her both in terms of winning over the Southerners and growing into her own powers - for Dorcas’ journey is one of personal growth and self realization. Dorcas Fleming may just be more than a simple hedgewitch…
With a vivid cast of colourful characters and imaginative blend of magic and reality, Coven of One provides a unique insight into the world of paganism and witchcraft through a story which contains humour, love and adventure. We all enjoy a bit of escapism and fantasy – and Coven of One offers that in abundance. Moreover, it is a story which will appeal to adults and young adults alike.
If I have any criticism of the book it is that the editing could have been a little tighter and likewise the proof-checking process. But these are minor irritations (to a very fussy reader) and don't detract from the overall reading pleasure. Yes, the story and the characters are that strong that you are simply swept along and held enthralled. Perhaps the magic goes beyond just the pages of the book... So... expect yourself to be bewitched.
Coven of One is Kate’s first book and I have a strong sense that whatever follows, for I believe there is to be sequel, will be even better. I very much look forward to reading it.
So come on, Minx, hurry up and bring it on!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
We are strange creatures who inhabit this planet, not just us humans…
Two days ago an injured guinea fowl flew into our garden. She was terrified, traumatized and the exhaustion oozed from her. Most of her tail feathers were missing and her one claw was crushed and broken. She struggled on one leg, trying to hop to safety. She hovered on the garden wall desperate to find a place to rest. A male guinea fowl flew up along side her. His wing feathers went up and he charged. She flapped off the wall, crash-landed on the grass and hobbled her way across it to the safety of the hibiscus. She has spent the last week slowly regaining her strength, though her poor leg troubles her no end. We can’t catch her and to try would traumatize her further. So I leave food and water out for her – though the ravening hordes of doves are quick to get to it first. I talk to her, letting her get used to my voice, accustomed to my presence. She reamains nervous, frightened, won’t tell me her name - but there is safety for her in the garden – provided I can keep the neighbour’s sodding cat at bay… He and I will have words yet – further words. Mine will be simple: “Swim!” Trouble is he knows my intent and I know he knows. Too smart by half, cats. Still, so far I’ve chased him away with a flea in his ear. I’m one big mother guinea when the going gets tough.
But as my small charge heals and strengthens herself, I am struck by the behaviour of other guinea fowl. One lone male periodically watches over her. Others simply ignore her and a few dominant males terrorise her. In some ways it is as though she has ceased to exist in the guinea fowl world. You can see she craves their company, tries to be among them, sits lonely but accepting when they go (or is that just me anthropomorphizing…). But it’s those who attack her that madden me. She scuttles from them, hides, cowering in the shrubbery, crouching down as a subservient dog would do.
I wish there was more I could do, but I know she holds her own wisdom. She seeks out the sunny spots, takes cover when it rains. She’s started to eat again and to sip at the water. She knows she’s in a safe space though she remains wary of everyone and everything. She knows she has to learn to be in this new one-legged way, and she’s taking her time, resting when she must, eating when she’s hungry, preening her feathers, staying warm when she can. This morning she even spoke to me, and that must be a good sign.
Whether she will ever be accepted into a flock again, who knows. Whether she will always be terrorized by others – I don’t know. Nature has its own ways, the ill and the weak are left to die - yet this bird holds her own strength and Mother Nature seems content with that. Moreover, soon Mother Nature will be getting broody and new guinea fowl will be ready to come into the world. The cycle of guinea life.
And I suppose at least it’s not as bad as the case of the Jacana birds – the female of the species when seeking a new mate, destroys the eggs of his original mate, tossing the hatchlings out to die. It’s her way of initiating a come on... And I thought us humans were a strange and wicked lot...
Sunday, September 16, 2007
In a neighbouring suburb there used to be a coffee shop, a quaint place with huge windows and creaking wooden floors. A friend and I used to meet there occasionally to catch up and share news. Across the road is a jumbly old house filled with memories and ghosts. I recall sitting in the coffee shop waiting for Jane to turn up. I had my notebook out, as writers often do… It was then that I felt a presence. A woman, watching me, assessing me. I tuned in, susceptible as I am to these beings who’ve gone without going. She had a story to tell and as I listened and waited this is what flowed from my pen…
Daffodil yellow window frames, with matching awnings billowing on the wind. A yellow tin roof. Sash windows and potted geraniums and marigolds behind a bleached white picket fence. A house with a story to tell…
Fairy cakes on a refectory table. Autumnal chrysanthemums in a red enamel jug. Scrubbed wooden floor and tall airy windows. Illumination from a gleaming brass chandelier. A coffee shop now. Called Gryphons – with a story to tell…
There’s a ghost, I can feel her presence and her memories, drifting, watching, whispering with the breeze.
Smells of coffee linger on the air.
Empty soda bottles with violet blue statice stuffed in their necks.
I hear a rustle of old lace and a giggle – girlish yet cracked. She is amused, curious, shy and yet… She too has a story to tell.
He lived in the house opposite behind the daffodil yellow window frames. She is a ghost now, he was a ghost then but she loved him, even through his moods when the pots would fly and the shutters bang as he declared his frustration at being no longer fully alive.
The house with the yellow windows – Delfhaven…
The curtain in the upstairs room trembles, now as it did then. I think I see a pale hand, just as she thought she did.
Yes, I hear her whisper through the clatter of teacups.
“I did. I saw him watching me, felt his eyes upon me…”
The floorboard creaks. She knows I am here, am listening, like she listened to him. She edges closer, stepping through the waitress, who unseeing, moves on.
“We were lovers,” she whispers and across the road, I sense him sigh.
I never finished writing the story – never really started it – there were other things that came along, as there always are. But last week I drove past the house and as I waited in the traffic to make the crossing into the side road, I felt them again. Both of them, him and her, still waiting for their story to be told. They know I’m out here, I know they’re in there. The coffee shop has closed but I shall have to find a place sit nearby so I can listen to their story… For it seems to me they want it told to the world. But in the meanwhile the gryphons watch over them.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
And so the story begins…
Ah, yes. At last. I’ve started my new manuscript. It’s a story that’s been composting for a while, while I’ve been doing other stuff. But the thing with stories is they have their own time and when they’re ready to come, then they must come. I was seized the other morning with an “I have to, I can’t delay a moment longer. This story is coming whether I like it or not.”
I’ve learned to heed those calls – stories need honouring. If you don’t honour them they drift away, sneak off in the night when you’re asleep and you wake up one day and wonder what happened to that idea, that absolutely brilliant idea you had.
So, the writing has started and as always, the first few chapters are proving to be a little slow going as I find my way into the story. I’m hoping though, as with my other novels, this one, once past the get-going mark, will take off and live a life of its own, with me feverishly bent over my keyboard, churning out the words.
How long this one will take to write, I’ve no idea, it depends how well the story and I meld, how long we take to come into being as one.
Yes, I know, I write as though the story has a life of its own. It does, all stories do.
And the muse, I see, has reappeared in her diaphanous pink feathery baby-doll nightgown and fluffy pink high-heeled slippers, armed with her nail file. Goodness alone knows why my muse looks like this. I could have understood purple robes and lots of dangly silver jewelry, or an old guy with silver hair and beard down to his middle. But no, I get Diaphanous Daphne. Ouch! No, okay, that’s not really her name and I can’t tell you her name because that will give you power over her and then you might jinx everything.
So, for the next while expect me to be vague and abstract has I disappear into another world.
What? You want to know what it’s about? I haven’t a clue. I never do. That’s all part of the adventure. I write what I must. All I think I can tell you is that I think it’s for young adults and the genre is supernatural – maybe… You’ll just have to watch this space. So will I!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
In 1994 the world sat by as an estimated 800 000 people were killed in Rwanda. The powers that could have intervened to save so many lives did not. Many say the reason they did not is because Africa is of little consequence and the Rwandans had no oil...
Today the world largely sits by again as the genocide in Darfur continues. "Ethnically targeted violence, orchestrated by Khartoum, continues to be chronicled by human rights investigators, though it has certainly diminished since the height of massacres and village destruction from early 2003 through early 2005. Reports of ethnically targeted rape by Khartoum's Janjaweed militia are ongoing. The regime continues its indiscriminate aerial bombardment of African villages." (More here.)
Over a period of four years over 200 000 people have been killed by the Sudanese military dictatorship. What does this say about us, our humanity, our leaders?
The Avaaz organisation recently sent out the following message:
For four years, Sudan's military dictator, General Omar Bashir, has organized brutal militias to murder over 200,000 of his own citizens in the region of Darfur, all because a few of them dared to oppose his rule. After a massive global outcry, the killing has decreased and the UN is deploying peacekeepers - but what peace will they have to keep? Our leaders can seize this chance to press for the fair and lasting peace that the people of Darfur want, or they can appease Bashir, seek peace on the cheap, and abandon millions of Sudanese to the whims of a genocidal regime.The US role in Sudan remains one of irony. The following report from 2005 in the Los Angeles Times states:
The Bush administration has forged a close intelligence partnership with the Islamic regime that once welcomed Osama bin Laden here, even though Sudan continues to come under harsh U.S. and international criticism for human rights violations.The Sudanese government, an unlikely ally in the U.S. fight against terror, remains on the most recent U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. At the same time, however, it has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States. Last week, the CIA sent an executive jet here to ferry the chief of Sudan's intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum's sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration, U.S. government officials confirmed.While the US administration have been vocal in their condemnation of human rights violations,why, when they clearly hold such sway with the Sudanese government is the US unable, or unwilling, to prevent the ongoing genocide? Critics say: "We have not taken adequate measures given the enormity of the crimes because we don't want to directly confront Sudan [on Darfur] when it is cooperating on terrorism." So much for real action on human rights violations... the result of a conflict of interests perhaps...
You can read the rest of the article here.
Recently, Eric Reeves, an American academic and long time expert on Sudan condemned statements made by the US presidential envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios to the Boston Herald in which he said that efforts by Darfur activists such as Save Darfur coalition were “more useful eight to 12 months ago” but are now outdated. Reeves said it was "not the advocates that are making peace more difficult: it’s the attitude of appeasement and accommodation represented by Natsios that is the real obstacle to peace."
Next Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will convene the "Darfur Contact Group" of 17 leaders to help set the agenda for Darfur's peace talks. This is the best hope yet for voices to triumph over violence.
Like Rwanda, the Darfur genocide is a stain on the conscience of the world. How is it that some lives are worth more than others - when surely all life is of equal worth? Or do we really believe that some of us are better than others of us? Isn't that perhaps what we say when we fail to take action when such instances of genocide unravel? Or do we think, it's far away, it's not our problem, we have problems of our own.... can't be bothered to try and make a difference, got to pay for my new SUV... Do we fail to realise and appreciate our interconnectedness, that what we do to one part of ourselves does not harm another part of ourselves...?
If the Darfur genocide bothers you and you feel the need to speak up go to Avaaz.org or Save Darfur - Take Action. If world leaders won't do the necessary or sufficient then let the people take action - or at least try to do so.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Following on Saturday's post (see below) but on a much lighter note (at least my friends who stay trapped in the beast haven't entirely lost their sense of humour, or have they...?)
It is advised that you come to work dressed according to your salary.
- If we see you wearing Gold chain, Nike sneakers and carrying a Gucci bag we assume you are doing well financially and therefore you do not need a raise.
- If you dress poorly, you need to learn to manage your money better, so that you may buy nicer clothes and therefore you do not need a raise.
- If you dress in-between, you are right where you need to be and therefore you do not need a raise.
Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called
Saturday & Sunday.
- Skinny people get 30 minutes for lunch as they need to eat more so that they can look healthy.
- Normal size people get 15 minutes for lunch to get a balanced meal to maintain their average figure.
- Fat people get 5 minutes for lunch, because that's all the time needed to drink a Slim Fast and take a diet pill.
- We will no longer accept a doctor statement as proof of sickness.
- If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.
Entirely too much time is being spent in the restroom. There is now a
strict 3-minute time limit in the stalls.
- At the end of three minutes, an alarm will sound, in the toilet
- Paper roll will retract, the stall door will open and a picture will be taken.
- After your second offense, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin category.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
It seemed safe, lying there dozing, seemingly inanimate – a huge grey mass. You could barely detect it’s breath. You wouldn’t have said it was alive. No one actually believed it was a living beast. But I knew. I watched, I felt its breath. I watched the drones scurrying to and fro within it, feeding it, constantly. Its appetite was insatiable - it could never get enough. It fed off human energy – drawing bodies into its cavernous gut in the morning, spitting out the remnants at the end of the day. At night it slumbered with its eyes wide open - glittering eyes which shone into the night.
They tried to convince me I was imagining its life-force. They laughed at me, said I had an overactive imagination. But I knew. It used to suck me in every morning, kept me scurrying about all day long and in the evening it spat me out, sapped and exhausted - a mere shell.
I used to swear I wouldn’t return. But I did. Day after day, month after month, year after year. I watched those who’d been feeding the beast for years - ten years, twenty years, thirty years... as though they were wed to it, until they finally had nothing left to give, and it sent them away grey-faced, almost lifeless.
You might wonder why we all returned. But it’s an easy answer. As we fed the beast, so the beast fed us. It paid us for our energy - often handsomely. Rewarded us with various sorts of care. It provided for our old age, helped us educate our children. It ensnared us with promises.
The more it fed the stronger it grew, and the more it grew the more it needed to feed. It began to employ devious means to gain energy. It learned how to pit humans one against another so it could feed off their anger, their greed. It seemed to prefer the darker energies. It had no use for happiness or joy or peace or harmony. It sowed discontent and lapped up what flowed forth from that bounty. It learned to turn on its own kind, laying traps to that it might absorb the weaker creatures. It prime objective was to grow, become more powerful.
The beast's energy disturbed me, made me unwell. I knew it was a malevolent creature. Knew it cared only for itself - and nothing else despite how it might try to promote itself. I left eventually. I felt I had a right to my own life - a life that would fulfill me, not some giant monster. I walked away - embraced my freedom, wiser, more aware. From the outside I watched my friends - wondered how they could endure it. I was grateful when I found some of them leaving. They would come to me and say, “You were right to go. We’ve never been happier. It’s like we’ve been set free. Maybe you were right all along when you said it was alive…”
As the giant beast - and others of its kind - has grown, so it has become more cunning, driving its own greed, its own need. When we humans granted the beast legal rights, according it all the rights of people – and far more – we granted it immortality, enormous wealth and power, gave it the power to act and choose with few constraints... But we never gave it a soul – and so instead, it continues to suck on ours, intent on draining our very life-force so it might live and reign supreme.
Beware of the giant beasts that seemingly slumber in our midst, slowly devouring us and our world as their hunger grows and grows and grows…
Friday, September 7, 2007
She stirs, half dreaming
not quite awake
A tremor ripples through the earth
Consciousness rises in gossamer waves
touches her peach blossom cheek
Air sighs - it’s a gentle breath
Eyes flicker open – heaven’s blue
And sunshine drips upon her brow
She yawns, stretches, reaching up
Within the roots sap rises
Lifts herself from her bed
The lands emerges to embrace her
Hands through hair
Smiles, stepping forth
Flowers spring in her wake.
She is woken from her slumber now
Risen from the dreamtime
Spring has come again.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
More tomorrow... maybe...
Monday, September 3, 2007
Every year in spring time the west coast of South Africa bursts into bloom with a riot of colours unimaginable. It doesn't take much to realise spring has arrived. And anyone who ever said you couldn't wear pink with yellow or purple with orange should take a peek into Mother's Nature's wardrobe...
Sunday, September 2, 2007
A week and a half ago I posted about a comedy contest. The brief was to write a short story actively using any two of the following words: banjo, exorcism, mermaid, black box or angry mob. The deadline was 1 September - so I wasn't hugely impressed when I checked the site on the morning of the 1st to find the contest had been closed on 30 August... The deadline has been extended but I've decided not to enter. But for what it's worth, this was to be my offering. Perhaps I should state at the outset, comedy is far easier to write when you're not trying...
Gerald grimaced and rubbed his bulging belly. He burped, wincing as the malodorous gas produced by his gut billowed around his face. It was all very well being a god, even the God of Utterly No Consequence, but being subjected to the food served up in the Canteen of Delectable Delights was, well, beyond the pale. He clutched his stomach and groaned. This godding lark really wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
The ad had been truly misleading.
Are you sick of the mundane? Want a better life – free of debt, stress and nagging? Wanted: Man 45 – 60 with desire for betterment of self and all things. A chance to make a real difference. A heavenly opportunity. Minimal hours. Desirable package and terms. No chancers. Mid-life crisis a definite advantage.The interview too had made promises of great things – so far none of them had come to pass.
He’d expected a bit of frolicking with a nymph or three or four... Some ambrosial delights in the culinary department wouldn’t have gone amiss either. And at the very least a lyre - not the tinny bloody banjo that had been issued along with his flowing white robes! He kicked the offending instrument across the floor and issued a belch that would have put a Ginorma Giant of Gigantism to shame.
Irish stew. For the gods’ sake – bloody Irish sodding stew. And not even like his mum used to make. No, the tasteless fatty lumps of what passed for meat floated in a layer of grease and potatoes were scarce. Even Cora hadn’t made anything this vile – and that was saying something. He paused for a moment and grinned. That was the one good thing about the job. No Cora - the viper who had surely been Satan’s spawn. After twenty-five years of unadulterated hell, it was blissful to be rid of the bitching battle-axe.
Gerald’s gut bubbled and growled as it struggled to digest what had passed for lunch. He was beginning to wonder if the ad and his “job” weren’t all one big joke dreamed up abut the Senior Gods as a means of light entertainment.
Gerald stared around. Heaven, huh? Not what he’d expected at all. Admittedly some of the trappings were there but for him it was all a façade. Oh it was all right for the Senior Gods, they had it made – he’d glimpsed into their private realm. Cavorting maidens, simpering sylphs, tables laden with fruit, candy, cakes, wine… What did he need to do to reach that divine enclave? Perhaps the gods were assessing him. Perhaps he needed to pass some test, prove himself.
Gerald gazed into the middle distance… Life was made you made of it, wasn’t it…? Well, if it was a test - and it probably was – he’d show them. If they weren’t going to take him seriously then he’d have to encourage them to do so. He’d elevate himself a bit, do something dramatic and spectacular so they couldn’t help but pay attention and invite him to join them. Gerald’s beady black eyes glinted. Yes, he’d make something of himself. Of course just how he’d do it eluded him for the moment. But something was bound to turn up. He heaved himself off his red velvet chaise-longue and waddled over across the room.
The black box perched on Gerald’s desk, humming to itself. It had been there for a few days - and until now he’d studiously avoided it. Where it had come from he had no idea – but then things had a habit of materializing from nowhere in Heaven.
He stared at the thing. Unless he was mistaken the box seemed to wear an expression of innocent smugness. He peered at it. The inscription on the gold plate on its lid read: “Open with caution and at own risk.”
Hmm, just the sort of thing the Senior Gods would put on a plain black box…
Ah…but who said it was the Senior Gods that put me here…
The voice was rough at the edges, dusty – and held a hint of laughter in its depths.
Oh he’d grown used to inanimate objects talking and disembodied voices – went with the territory. He glowered at the box, its tone had been jeering – challenging.
Oh go on then, you know you want to…
He eyeballed the box. What was the wretched thing up to? Being the God of Utterly No Consequence Gerald was used to having the piss taken out of him – that seemed to be his primary role – never mind the betterment of self and all things…
He stroked his chin, considering. Could this be part of the godly test – or just a jape? Well, if this was the test, he was up for the challenge. After all, things couldn’t get much worse – and perhaps passing the test – if that’s what it was - might be the making of him. Just maybe the box contained the secret that would lead to his heavenly upliftment. He had nothing to lose.
He stretched out his pudgy paw.
Sure about this, Ger? The voice was taunting.
Stuff it, thought Gerald, a god must make his mark.
He pressed the latch on the black box. A sigh escaped into the ether. A long resigned ‘I told you so’ sigh. Gerald trembled.
The lid rose. A whisper breathed around Gerald as the rush and hiss of the ocean danced in his ears. A hint of sea spray tickled his nostrils.
The lid of the black box crashed to the desk, cracking the shiny glass surface.
“Aaah, thank god for that!” This was a new voice – disconcertingly familiar.
Gerald took a step back.
“Hmmm, mu-uch better…”
Something splashed in the box’s interior. A gentle fishy tang wafted towards Gerald.
He tip-toed forward, peered into the box. His eyes widened.
Sitting on a rock at the edge of an ocean – all contained within the box’s infinite interior – was a mermaid. Golden tresses cascaded down her naked back. Her tail, covered in shimmering turquoise scales flicked the water throwing up droplets which glistened like diamonds… No, wait… they were diamonds!
One tinkled onto the desk. It was the size of a pigeon’s egg.
Gerald licked his lips. He reached out and stroked the glittering gem with one chubby finger. Excitement quivered up his spine. He was made!
He glanced at the mermaid eyeing the plump roundness of her shoulders – a roundness that reminded of another life, another time… He gazed at the curve of her waste, ogled the luscious peachiness of her… He was starting to pant, sweated beaded his brow. His eyes flickered… Mermaid, diamonds, curves, glitter…
The mermaid ran her hands through her hair – a single strand floated away and settled on Gerald’s arm…a thread of pure gold…
Oh praise the Gods! Finally the ad was living up to its claims. This really was heaven. No more gloop canteen food for him anymore. Now he would be able to dine at the Ambrosial Feast – heavenly restaurant par excellence. Wealth, fortune and beauty lay before him. The Middle Gods wouldn’t be able to sneer anymore. Things were finally changing for the God of Utterly No Consequence. He blew a kiss at the Black Box and grinned as the heady fragrance of divine bliss wafted over him.
Gerald glanced into the box. The mermaid was stretching, yawning. Her arms were raised above her head and he glimpsed the pert globes of soft breasts. He nearly swooned
“This is the life…” said the mermaid, running her fingers through her locks, “Gods, what an improvement!”
Gerald’s mouth dropped. He stared. He definitely knew that voice…it wasn’t just familiar…
The mermaid turned around. Her eyes widened, her jaw dropped. She stared at him, a multitude of emotions flickering over her face before it hardened into a mask of outrage and fury.
“You!” she spat. “You lazy good for nothing peabrain! I thought I’d got rid of you forever. The ad said no men trouble, freedom, opportunities for travel… Trust you to find a way of screwing it all up!”
Gerald’s world swam - he staggered backwards his life flashing before him. Years of misery…all caused by…her! The grousing fishwife he’d hoped he’d escaped forever. Even the position of God of Utterly No Consequence had been appealing by comparison - better than a life with her – Cora, hatchling of Hades.
He’d been duped. Well and truly snookered.
Gerald snarled, reached into the desk drawer, grabbed his contract and ripped it to shreds.
“AS IF THAT CHANGES ANYTHING,” a voice boomed. “CONTRACTS MEAN NOTHING HERE – THE ONLY CONTRACT THAT LASTS IS THE ONE THAT SAID ‘FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE – UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART…’ NOW THAT REALLY WAS A DAFT DEAL TO ENTER INTO.”
Gerald and Cora Briggs glowered at one another – trapped in the eternity of heaven – together, forever. Around them the laughter of the gods rocked the heavens. Tears of mirth flowed from their eyes. Far below on Earth, thunder rumbled and the floodgates of heaven sent forth a torrent of rain as the Senior Gods enjoyed one of their best jokes of the month.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I came across this post at Cheryl's blog (aka Mad Baggage). It refers to the netexperiment. What's it about? Allison was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2000 and is trying a 'net experiment to raise $1 million for MS research. This means that if 1 million people give $1, she'll have made her target.
The chances are you may well know someone with MS, so you might just want to help.
If you're interested, you can read Allison's blog here.
And so, you may be wondering, what, aside from doing a good deed is in it for you... Well, here's the answer:
The NetXperiment allows you to donate as little as a dollar and get a link from a PR3 web site. Great deal really, very white hat, and is a win-win for you and for Foundation 5 Million (People with MS raising money for MS, and what my charity site donates too).You can read more about it here.
Those that have the deepest pockets, the most inventive ways to get money in here, and the businesses that are gagging to be part of this internet phenomena, will win. For they will have bigger displays in the Contributor Cloud than those that do not.
The person/group/business who contributes the amount that takes us over the million dollar finish line will also be a winner as they will be included in a vast amount of internet and global publicity.
Of course the beneficiaries of the money will be winners too, but this is not about them, this is about us netizens making it happen.