Monday, 29 July 2013

The girl who danced with a rainbow

Sally was a small child at the time it happened. Maybe 6 or 7 years old. That was the day she saw the rainbow - she had only ever heard about them before, and now she saw it, hanging beautiful and sparkling in the sky above her.

She wanted to see it up close so she ran towards it. As she ran, for the longest time nothing seemed to happen. Then she noticed that the colours were fading and the bands were becoming wider. She kept running, afraid that it might disappear before she reached it.

At one point it did disappear. She sighed in disappointment, but, looking up, she noticed an odd thing in the sky above her. Some geese were flying by and, as they passed over one part of the sky, they changed colour just the tiniest amount. It was like the time her aunt had been painting and washing the brushes in a jar. Sally had stared, fascinated as the colour washed repeatedly off the brush and disappeared into nothingness. When she had said out loud how amazing it was, her aunt had laughed a little and produced a clean jar with perfectly clear water, then washed the brush with purple paint on. Although the water looked clear in the air, when she held a piece of white paper behind it, Sally could see the water had become the faintest purple.

Nothing ever completely disappears, her aunt told her. If something was there it makes a mark on the world around it. It may only be small, but everything is real and everything matters. And it's always worth looking for those places which have been marked.

Looking at the faint wash of colour that the geese passed through, Sally thought that the rainbow was the biggest mark she had ever seen and she was even more determined to see what made it.

She kept moving forwards, conscious that the colours were becoming fainter and more spread apart until, suddenly, there was nothing. Squinting directly in front of her she could just barely see a tiny, tiny trace of blue in everything. Focussed on that one colour, she took one more step forward and the whole world changed.

The first thing she knew was that she was intruding. She felt incredibly rude - she had just barged in without asking permission.

"I'm so sorry," she called out, "I didn't realise there was anyone here. I'll leave." As she tried to turn to walk back out, she felt the lightest possible pressure - like the almost-feeling of being protected while you sleep - guiding her in towards the center of the rainbow and the feeling that she had intruded faded away to be replaced by comfort and music.

The inside of the rainbow was clear and thick. She could move through it, but felt resistance, almost like walking through a swimming pool. She knew there was more resistance behind her than in front, but it didn't feel threatening. The outer bounds were spherical and looked like glass or the smoothest, brightest, most perfect diamond. Beyond the boundaries the whole world fell away and she could see up close every blade of grass and every insect as though they were right beside her and she could also see every part of the world as though she was very high up.

She was stunned by how beautiful and amazing everything was. Beyond the boundaries she could see millions and millions of other rainbows, just like this one. All of them floating together and apart.

She started to turn, to look at everything. Inside she felt happy, joyful and free. Partly in awe of the majesty and wonder of it all, but also being a part of it and having a place in this rainbow.

The music that had been with her since she was welcomed flourished and burst into a glorious crescendo and she began to dance, whirling and spinning and leaping for joy.

At the center of the rainbow was a spark, and it began to build in time with the music and suddenly erupted into glorious radiance. The spark grew and grew and flew around, joining Sally as she danced. Sally knew the rainbow was the happiest it had ever been, and so was she. She smiled at the spark and it felt its happiness right back at her. She laughed for the glory of the moment, the beauty of the music and the freedom of the dance and suddenly she was outside, dancing on grass and the rain poured around her. As every drop fell, she felt the spark whispering "Remember me!"

From that day to this Sally has always stopped in the rain and remembered that moment. And if you also take the time to stop and look you will see that at the heart of every raindrop is where the rainbow begins.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Is Josh Groban made of bacon?

The awesomeness of bacon is beyond dispute.

It has a TVTropes page in honor of its sheer perfection, it has become master of many food stuffs including (but not limited to) ice cream, salt, jam and the all time British favourite (the perfect cure-all when combined with a cup of tea) the bacon butty.

No, wait. That didn't imbue the moment with suitable gravitas....

The Bacon Butty!

I digress. And I also make myself slightly hungry. However, to return to the subject in hand...

The awesomeness of Bacon [we kneel before thee] is beyond dispute. I put it to you similarly that the awesomeness of Josh Groban is beyond dispute.

If we therefore consider the well-known truth of life, the answer to the greatest question, the source of all mankind's happiness: specifically that
"everything is better with bacon" 
we are immediately forced to question:

Would Josh Groban be *more awesome* if he was made out of bacon?

Or is he simply so awesome that he is clearly *already* bacon?

Is this the reason he refuses to appear topless in public? Is it possible that when his shirt is removed the mere sight will make us crack out the L and T?

I am not saying he is or isn't; I'm just throwing the idea out there for you to discuss amongst yourselves.

If it is true (and I think you can infer from context that I accept this is a very real possibility) I think it is in our best interests that Josh either stays single, or only dates vegetarians. Otherwise we face a world where his girlfriend got a bit peckish in the night and nibbled his ear lobe a little too vigorously.

Alicia

Monday, 22 July 2013

Online dating

I have been online dating for a grand total of 7 weeks.

Well, OK, I admit I only started paying for my account on Thursday last week, but the time during which I was scoping prospective males without any communication lends weight to the tirade I am about to subject you to.

I have learned things. Things which I must communicate for the preservation of our species. Because it is abundantly clear to me that if certain things aren't pointed out then - following the escalating trend of reliance upon internet dating within our society to its inevitable conclusion and extrapolating from my few days of communication on a dating site - I can conclusively prove that our society will die out.

Tip number one for gentlemen undertaking online dating: If you wouldn't say it in to my face, while you are sober and preferably in front of your parents, don't say it online.

By this I don't just mean the awful "Ur hot, wud u cum for drinks xx" (Yeesh. For the record, I'm not that easy). I am also referring to (in no particular order):

The Interrogation.

Nothing says "I'm interested in YOU" as much as a barrage of questions which you don't even give me time to answer. Beyond the fact that clearly you don't care about my responses, you're also not giving me any indication of who you are. So if I put up with this, I actually don't know anything about you by the end of the conversation except that I don not, under any circumstances, want to subject myself to that again.

The Essay.

Picture this: I'm in an art gallery, attending an exclusive opening (because, obv. I'm that sort of person) admiring the general scene. Up you come and you talk to me. But you don't actually talk to me - you talk at me. For about 5 minutes you hold forth on you, what you deduced about me from a minute analysis of my guest pass and at the end of it you say one of the three following closers:

  1. I think you're pretty should we go on a date
  2. So tell me about you
  3. Well, that was fun, if you enjoyed it we should meet up some time.
Clearly: 1 & 3 are the conversational foreplay to a life spent being submitted to it all being about you, you, you. You had so much fun during that time in which I didn't open my mouth that you want to repeat the experience. Again, I don't. 

And 2? Well, here's how I operate. I have a CONVERSATION. I start with something specific: a shared hobby, for instance. We talk briefly about why we each like it and what we get from it. We *share* information. From there talk becomes more general - discussions about where we have been in pursuit of a hobby may become a chat about holiday destinations: desired or previously experienced. Beyond that we may discuss other ambitions, dreams, hopes or simply preferences (I want to climb Everest. I always wanted to go on safari where you can really experience wild life. One day I'll see the Northern Lights. I enjoy camping but these days I'm really a 5* spa hotel type girl.) And from then we just talk.

If you present me with an essay, and I respond with a conversational gambit, how do you respond? Well, according to my experience you go straight for another essay.

The "Direct Approach"

I don't think I'm being overly general when I say that women who are online dating, as a rule, don't respond well to "If you liked my resume maybe you should immediately jump into my physical presence!" Because nothing says "I'm willing to establish what sort of distance and time frame you're comfortable with and will respect that" like "I want it NOW!"

This paragraph is just about me: I've actually had an email that said "I hope my profile didn't scare you. If it didn't we should meet for a drink some time." All I know about this man is that he a) thinks I *might* be scared of him and b) that if I'm not scared of the profile I'm clearly brave enough to immediately chuck away a few hours of my life finding out whether he's the kind of guy who will beat me in an alley way. Well, no, actually. I appreciate that I'm typically very cautious, but the implication that I could be scared coupled with an immediate pressure to meet up *and* a disinclination on his part to use the site to get to know me better *before* applying said pressure would surely send alarm bells off in anyone's head!

Bottom line: if you don't let a woman know you're interested in discovering 
  1. What she is comfortable with (and then tailoring your approach appropriately)
  2. Who she is as a person
  3. Whether she, as a person, is compatible with you
She won't usually be interested in you. And before you cry out about how unfair that is and how much effort you're putting in remember this: If the subtext to all your "effort" is "I'm not interested in you as a person, I'm just looking for a blow up doll based on your picture", then you have no right to complain about the fact that the person on the receiving end of your effort is just as uninterested in you as you are in her.

End rant.

Alicia.

PS, for clarity, I have this weekend also online-met (is there a word for that yet?) three genuinely nice guys who are capable of conversation and who I am interested in. It's not all bad.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Art Work

So, this is my very first photo art without the benefit of a tutorial taking me every step of the way.

It's rough, I know, but for a first attempt I'm very proud of it.


The eye was the most difficult part. In the end I duplicated the existing iris and flipped it round, but that left me with two sparks of light in the pupil. I hoped the lens effect would cancel it out, but apparently not.

The cogs/ gears and eyepiece/ lens were made in Powerpoint, and given depth there before being transferred to Photoshop for texturing. The mask was outlined in makeup and given texture and "realism" in Photoshop.

You can't tell at this scale. but around the edge of the mask, I managed to give it a ridged effect - it looks very like a welding join.

The idea with the gears is that the mask holds the facial structure in place, while the gears drive the muscles that move the jaw. The gear work continues under the hairline, and the two furthest onto the face are bound to the musculature below and spin as they work the muscles.

I wanted to have a text component as well, so I bunged this in:


I suspect that it's too much. But I'm hoping time brings perspective and the internet brings opinions.

I have a *lot* to learn. Anything you can tell me about how the quality could be improved would be most welcome.

Alicia

Monday, 15 July 2013

Internet Friendly

Dear Josh

I am aware my previous review of your concert may have been a little.. stand-offish. Perhaps slightly formal, pragmatic and possibly even (although I'd be grateful if you didn't mention it to anyone) a trifle factual and altogether too based in reality.

Henceforth I assure you I shall relinquish all grip on said reality and make my stand in the internet friendly world of opinion and observation.

It was a hot day in Manchester and, it being the North of England and prior to the quite hideous weather experience we've been having lately (I'm given to understand it's called a "heatwave"), not something I was at all used to.

Therefore I was anticipating the onset of your concert with even more fervour than one could possibly expect. I had been walking through Manchester in very pretty sandals and stood in a queue for a reasonable length of time. Then I was told we were in the O2 customers queue and if we weren't O2 we had to go join another queue.

Now, although my sisters are not, and the tickets were purchased by one of them; I am an O2 customer. Sadly, I'm also English and therefore was constitutionally incapable of clarifying the situation with the nice man in the colourful jacket, because he was clearly working and I didn't want to interrupt. Therefore, I sidled sheepishly to the end of the other queue with my sisters in tow. That occupied the next hour or so, as we navigated our way around the vast majority of Manchester. Everyone else in the queue was very nice and gave us excellent directions - I met a family who had set up a pub in the time since the queue had formed. They were doing very well.

At some point the queue started moving. I, in my very nice sandals, teetered precariously towards the entrance in line with the queue. We passed a campsite or something en route, where I saw several people with security labels and suchlike. I was tempted to collapse into the arms of the nearest - there is a 50:50 chance of being whisked either backstage or to the nearest hospital in such an event, but as she was barely taller than I am, considerably slighter and also sufficiently older that I seriously worried about being required to call an ambulance for her if I tried to make her catch me, I chickened out.

Once through the door it took seconds for me to find my seat and plunk myself down. Having done so I determined that I should never move again. Until, of course, you spied me from the stage, summoned me up and spontaneously proposed to me1.

Having secured my seat I had freedom to observe my surroundings and I noticed that you had decorated your stage with the inside of your wardrobe. This brought up two questions:

  1. Just how many converse do you have?
  2. Where did you put them all while you had the storage lining your stage?

Before too long the music started. You're very good, you know.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the fashion world on behalf of all females for this rage for squeezing well built men into the tightest possible pants. You should by rights have been singing soprano, Tariq made my eyebrows go straight up (hneh, hneh) and as if that wasn't enough, your rather beautiful lead violinist stood and nearly gave me a heart attack2.

Disappointingly, you showed no interest in me while you delivered your show. I was out of range of the lights when they were turned on, so I suspect you missed out on my allure. That's OK. After all, my hope is that I lose interest in you before I'm arrested, so technically I suppose I should be thanking you for your selective blindness.

I didn't stay behind to meet you after the show. I have no signature, lock of hair, chunk of flesh or restraining order to remember you by.

I will be more prepared at your next concert. I've taken notes and come up with the following plan:

  1. Arrive early and establish my premium position at the front of the O2 queue.
  2. Get through the door, stumble and "sprain" my ankle.
  3. Bat my eyelashes appealingly at anything male
  4. Be whisked backstage and fussed over, whilst I quite nobly insist that there is nothing wrong with me.
  5. Am escorted to my seat.
  6. After show sit quietly until someone calls up and asks me to leave.
  7. Explain that I was hoping for an autograph, but had hurt my foot on the way in.
  8. Have a private, post show meeting with Josh while he's still all sweaty and rowrr, and get that spontaneous proposal.
Alicia


1 I have a script for such a scenario - I suggest you practise delivery of your lines (my first proposal - at least that I accepted - did not go according to plan and I am determined that the next shall be glorious).
2 Although I do suggest that in future you face the opposite way when bowing, so we get the most out of your wardrobe.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Monster Flu

Ideally, this would be a picture story. I'd like to strip out some of the descriptive stuff and replace it with images. Therefore, it probably doesn't read well to people who don't have the pictures in my head. But there you go.

-------------------------------------------------

The three headed monster had flu in two of his heads. The third had been straining to stay out of reach of their germs and sneezes for so long he'd developed a severe crick in his neck.

Mark and Dorothy entered the cave, hauling a cauldron behind them. Mark set to slicing lemons into the cauldron and Dorothy started a small fire. As the lemons were sweating their oils and the aroma gradually filled the room Dorothy added a tin of treacle to the pan. The fire was very small and just liquified the treacle enough that it started to dribble through the sliced lemons to the bottom of the cauldron.

The monster was so tired the two sick heads could barely lift themselves and the third was in such a bad mood he refused to help. So, using their shoulders, the two sick heads shuffled themselves across the cave floor towards the cauldron. Because the third head was facing backwards with his eyes closed huffily, his head banged against the crystals hanging from the ceiling as the others passed underneath. This made him feel very upset and he snuffled quietly as two great tears fell from his eyes.

The thing about monster tears is that they always turn into diamonds as they fall, which is why everybody wants to fight with monsters and make them live in horrible places - because the unhappiest monsters make the biggest jewels.

However, Mark and Dorothy cared more about the monsters' health and happiness more than the jewels, so when they heard the tell tale clacking sound of the diamonds hitting the rocks they felt sorry for him. Even though he wasn't sick himself, because his other heads had been coughing and sneezing all through the night, he hadn't slept very well at all and so was very tired, as well as being sore in the neck and now, thanks to his bump, he was going to have a very bad headache too.

Dorothy went outside to where the horses were waiting with the rest of the supplies and guided one into the cave. Taking one of the horse blankets from the back of the cart, she dragged it up the monster's ear and laid it over the bump on his head. Then she took buckets and buckets of water, soaking the blanket, so the poor monster had a nice cold compress to soothe his pain.

When he was feeling happier his scales turned from an angry red (with tones of mustard when he was crying) to a fresh, rich dark green. Seeing this, Dorothy pulled on his ear until it lay in a slope from the ground to the top of his head, and guided the horse and cart up to his brow. There the horse trotted back and forth (which he couldn't feel any more than you can feel a butterfly), dragging the heavy cart along. To the head the cart felt like a hand stroking his forehead, and the he was so very tired that within five minutes he had fallen asleep.

Dorothy returned with the cart and what was left of the water to the cauldron. Mark had been busy, and now there were several layers of sliced lemon, cinnamon, cloves and treacle in the pot, all in one gigantic gooey mess.

Dorothy unwrapped the special belt she was wearing, which contained the last secret ingredient, and threw it in as Mark stoked the fire up high. Immediately the mixture started crackling and bubbling and they began throwing water onto it as fast as they could. The water turned into steam and soon the cave was one gigantic scented cloud.

The secret ingredient lulled the two sick heads to sleep properly, and all the other good things made them able to breathe more easily. Dorothy and Mark knew that it was best to let them drink the mixture, but the beasts were so big and the cauldron so small that there was no way to make enough liquid for two whole mouthfuls.

But, as a special treat for themselves, Mark and Dorothy always drank the last two cupfuls of the mix - because although it's the best thing to drink when you're sick, you don't actually need to be sick to drink it and it's one of the tastiest beverages in the world.

I've found husband number two!

Joe Friday (author of the below): Marry me.
It isn’t that we only know one word, nor is it that we’re illiterate. We know a plethora, a smorgasbord, a veritable cornucopia of words. We see beauty, not always in flowery prose or poetic dictation, but rather in aptness, when form follows function. To you a word is dirtiest when it falls into the arbitrarily annexed zone of “profanity”, but to us a word is cleanest when it perfectly expresses an emotion or describes an idea. We don’t always use the prettiest words, but we most certainly always use the correct words. We spin our ideas into words, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, like weavers at a loom crafting the most luxuriant of garments to adorn the naked shapes of our characters. We are horse tamers and words are our spirited mounts, transporting us swiftly and efficiently to our intended destinations. We are royalty and words are our brave and loyal subjects, carrying out our bidding and charging headlong into war at our command in service of whatever cause to which we choose to rally them. When we say “fuck”, it isn’t a desperate cry for attention or a petulant defiance of propriety. When we say “fuck” it’s because we FEEL “fuck”. Do you grok?
This was in response to :
why is it necessary to have a trash mouth? I was always told that if you can’t express yourself you use profanity, doesn’t take any brains to use profanity.
Josh is funny and talented without you debasing the interview and making it very offensive, I also did not appreciate Josh’s use of the f word either, It is actually very offensive to me.
I am sure you don’t care one way or the other but I won’t be visiting your website every again.
 (If you're wondering about the "debased" interview, it's a Nerdist podcast here)

Alicia

Friday, 5 July 2013

Interview

Three times in his life he had felt this way.

First, as a six year old at a fairground, desperately wanting to join his big brother on the rollercoaster, but secretly terrified someone might say he could.

Second, as a teenage boy, trying to get off with Lizzie Hopkins.

And now. The doors loomed before him. Behind the imposing facade of steel and glass lay either his dream job or his greatest humiliation. Possibly both.

It was the final interview before the job was to be allocated. He was fully suited and the tie had a stranglehold around his neck like nothing he had experienced before.

His background was in engineering tech. and he had, for the first three stages of the interview, been expecting it to come out as a black mark against him. Now he knew it must be fine, because he'd never have made it this far otherwise.

He was moments from hightailing it out of there when his nipple vibrated. It was a seriously odd place to put a pocket but his phone fit in there perfectly, so who was he to question?

Grateful for the excuse, he wandered away from the doors and opened the message. He smiled for the first time that day. It was a picture - almost - of his kids. Their cherubic countenances were practically obscured by a poster that they had obviously spent the forty minutes of his commute making. Paint spattered fingers clutched it tightly and held it high, while blue and brown eyes peeked around the edges.

Good Luck Daddy!

It probably said that. The poster had started as a piece of A2 paper, and at five years old, neither child had pristine handwriting - scrawling the letters trying to fill the page had made them unreadably erratic in both size and shape. Nevertheless he was grateful.

The attached text read: We love you. Hugs and Kisses, Jake, Sally and Alice xxx

He reread it a few times, before pocketing the phone and striding confidently towards the building.

Monday, 1 July 2013

My greatest acheivement

Before you lies a tale of great sporting prowess and heroism. Certainly my greatest athletic moment, and quite possibly the best moment in sports history that was never recorded by an impartial witness.

----

The ball shot through the air. With great skill and lightening fast reflexes, I screeched and covered my face as it plopped harmlessly in the water beside me.

My serve. I seized the diabolical projectile and tapped it, with some slight force, in my opponent's general direction.

This was not a competitive game.

I was waist deep in the swimming pool, she stood on the shallow slope, roughly knee deep. We'd learned early on that there was no possible way to move quickly through the water to catch a wayward ball (jumping sideways to swipe a wide shot made it impossible to get the next and so signalled the end of the rally), so the technique was all about co-operation and building the longest rally. Being able to place the ball accurately was vital and my squash practice began to show its value.

Our highest rally so far was six. We were aiming for ten.

It is possible that our alcohol intake had dulled our respective sporting prowess, but I firmly believed that after the three days practice we'd had, our numbers were about to start rising. And I was right.

We made a score of ten, then decided to aim for twelve and this was where the magic happened.

At three shots apiece we were halfway to the golden twelve. I was in deep water - although I could jump for high shots, my reach to either side was restricted by my arm span. She returned the ball to me and.... Disaster! It was too far to the left. I knew from the extensive practice of the last few days that I would not be able to turn to get my right arm there in time.

Without thought, without calculation, with the skill only a natural athlete or prognosticator can lay claim to, I threw the racquet from my right hand to my left, reached out and tapped the perfect return. 

The game moves on! Alicia saves the day! The crowd goes wild! 

We didn't make twelve on that game, but we did shortly thereafter. At which point I retired my career at the pinnacle of the profession of Slightly Inebriated Ibiza Pool Raquetball and celebrated with a generous reapplication of sunscreen.

Alicia