Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A bad day.

He wasn't afraid of the dark. The dark was safe and comforting. It was soft and fuzzy and gentle.

During the day the light made his eyes hurt and his skin prickle. He looked forward to the night when the air cooled and the world became still.

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Going nowhere. She kicked the wheel in frustration. There was never a good time to get a flat, but driving through the desert an hour after using your spare on another had to rank pretty highly.

Staring down the road in the vain hope that someone would drive out of the mist (oh, you misrepresenter of the population of desert roads, Shania Twain!) she mused on how smooth it looked stretching out into eternity. When in reality, the blasted thing was littered with slippery sand, small rocks that played havoc with the suspension, bigger rocks, pot holes and rusted items of every sort (and how does that happen? There's no water to make it rusty!).

She kicked it again in futile frustration and managed to make her day worse by stubbing her toe. After hopping around, growing ever more creative with her swearing, she decided to do something sensible: break out her emergency kit, sit in the shade and have a small drink of water while figuring out how to cover the final 100 miles.

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The light was glaring down at him. He curled up and burrowed deeper, hiding from the noise and fuss going on.

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Her phone had still had enough signal to send a series of texts to her insurer, but that had still necessitated a wait of almost three hours. Her food and water had lasted easily, but she was going out of her mind with boredom. Not a single vehicle had passed - after half an hour her concerns that she might only see a group of mocking idiots who wouldn't even slow down had been replaced with the feeling that even that might break the monotony.

She didn't dare play games on her phone or table in case she needed the battery for communicating later and she couldn't afford to waste fuel or car battery to listen to music in case someone arrived before the insurer's repair and rescue service and she was able to drive to the nearest town.

She sat, staring into the sunset, as the world cooled around her.

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His sleep had been so disrupted he was in a very bad mood. As the sun's glare faded, he kicked himself out of the comfort of his bed and staggered out of the safety of his den. He paused at the entrance, looking around and trying to decide what he should do. He rubbed his nose, scratched his rear and decided to get a drink.

A sudden noise caused him to start violently, but it was coming from the other side of a barrier and he didn't panic over it. However, it had drawn his attention to the drink lying freely available beside the barrier. He glanced quickly around, looking for any kind of deterrent, then ran to the beverages and cautiously sipped. It was just water. Tasted a bit funny, but it was water.

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The mechanic had arrived! She'd been so happy to have someone with her that she'd kept him, Gary, talking for a few minutes. When he'd said he'd brought two good tyres, she almost hugged him. The spare and the blown tyre were both on the same side of the car, so he suggested he jack the car up at its central point and replace both at once. To do that, she needed to unhook her shelter, which was also on that side, and pack it away while he was working on the wheels.

As she walked back to her shelter, she glanced back over her shoulder and called out to Gary about how pleased she was to not have to sit under it anymore.

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The noises had changed, and were coming towards him. It was a threat! He leapt as high as he could into the only shelter available - the barrier - and retreaded into the first dark space he found. It was uncmfortably warm, but safe for now.

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She cried out in frustration when she saw that she'd knocked over her water canister in her excitement. She still had plenty of water in the other, but given her luck today, it was almost guaranteed she'd regret that waste later.

She packed up the shelter and its few accoutrements and left the bag, with everything packed in it, beside the car then went to give Gary a hand.

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The world shifted. He scrabbled around desperately, but there was no purchase on this surface.

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The car was jacked and the wheels changed in record time. She took the spare, as she knew the nuts were looser and preferred to carry the smaller wheel where possible.

Once the new wheels were fixed, they dropped the car and she went around the back to sort out the boot. She leaned around the edge of the raised boot cover and asked for the spare which Gary rolled over to her. She sidestepped, caught it, and hefted it to the edge of the boot.

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The chaos had stopped and he ran to the opening. The danger was not aware of him.

It was deeply unpleasant here - far too hot and the air was bad. He looked around, but saw no where safe to run. He looked up, and saw a safe new crevice.

The sounds suggested the threat was coming back, so he speedily jumped, ran and ducked into the safety of the crevice. Here he found a dark channel, which he scampered along, in search of a more secure spot. The whole world shook once. He froze. There were noises and minor shakes, before one almighty KerrThump.

He curled up tightly, into as small a space as possible and for a long time nothing happened.

He'd begun to relax when a roar sounded. The world started to shake, and then the wind began. He fought against it before giving up and running for a new shelter. The world was different - part hot, all smelly and full of obstacles. Soon he found a safe place.

Once he had been curled up in the darkness for a while, he found that the roar was no longer threatening. He closed his eyes, relaxed and after the worst day of his short life, slept.

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When she got home, she would find his droppings in the folds of the blanket she used as her shelter. She despised rodents.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

I'm not impressed by this

I'm hesitant to say anything, because I think it's going to be misinterpreted (you know, by the millions of people who don't read this blog) but I think it's important.

Putting up a sign saying "Intellectual Area: No blondes allowed" is deeply offensive.

Putting up a sign saying "Career person's area: No women allowed" is deeply offensive.

Putting up a sign saying "Teetotal area: No Scots/Irish allowed" is deeply offensive.

So why, why oh why oh why, is it considered OK to put up a sign that will be displayed in front of a live audience of millions perpetrating another negative stereotype?

For those of you who haven't heard, the BBC produce and televise a series of musical events over the course of each summer known as the Proms. The Last Night of the Proms is a huge deal - it's broadcast at major venues throughout the UK and in many countries around the world.

This year, for the first time, the conductor of the Last Night was a woman, Marin Alsop. Kind of big news for some. For me, not so much. I'm afraid that since the conductor is no longer a repeat visitor (you know how everyone has a Doctor? I also have Sir Andrew Davis) I cannot form an attachment or interest in them. The music means more than the individual.

The prom goers responded to her arrival in a sweetly humorous way - they added pink "It's a Girl!" balloons and streamer decorations to the conductor's stand.

To me, that's enough. That is clearly taking the piss out of anyone dumb enough to think women can't do it, that is not offensive to anyone, it isn't aggressive, but it's funny.

However, someone added a sign. I don't know who - the suggestion online is that Marin added it herself but I wouldn't take that as iron clad.

image

It's in the bottom right of the image and it says "Multitasking area, no men allowed". My google fu is appalling so I couldn't find a better image.

I really, truly, 100% feel that  was unnecessary, aggressive and not amusing.

And - for anyone who thinks that it's OK, because it's women fighting against the man, and men have been doing it for years, etc - Yes, they have, and we are the ones who think that is bad. We're the ones standing up and saying equality, justice, common decency, etc mean that things like this *shouldn't* be said. What message is it giving when we just join in?

Anyway, it's been bothering me.

Alicia

Monday, 16 September 2013

I had a thought

So, this morning I was flipping through the piles of psycho crazy that were generated over the weekend while I wasn't looking (seriously; you think all Americans are white? Have you maybe considered crawling out from under that rock and observing the real world at any point?) and something occurred to me.

For as long as there has been a celebrity culture there have been people talking in great details about the exciting aspects of celebrities lives as a bit of escapism.

You know the stuff: X flies off to [insert glamorous location du jour here] in private jet, to party with [insert It Crowd du jour here].

It's stuff that we could never do, or dream of doing.

Social media enables everyone else to post their life online for the viewing pleasure of millions.

You know the stuff: Went to get dog food, forgot to change out of slippers. #oops.

or

Going to pub with X, Y and Z. #onthepull

And it got me to thinking. You know how everyone has a celebrity crush at some point in their life, where they get caught up on one celeb and gush over them (as I have been parodying1 to great effect)?

Wouldn't it be awesome if there was someone out there who tweeted such everyday banality that they became a celebrity's mundane crush?

It's a sad fact that celebrities tend to not have the freedom to do a lot of the things we take for granted, and they're denied the escapism of wishing they could do something exotic because it's a part of their day job. But now they can see all of these snapshot stories of people like you and me (well, maybe not like me - I think I'm too scary to be mundane) and we (or, more likely, you) become their fantasy/ escape.

Don't underrate escapism, it's a fine art.

Alicia

1 ...or have I?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Rrrrowr.

There is, on the magical land known only as the internet, teh intarwebs or one of many alternative names, a page entitled:

Josh Groban’s 16 Most Important Hair Moments

Now, I grant you, there are some nice pictures here. But when I go to that page (I've rationed myself to once every two hours, or 40 minutes in a three hour period) I scroll hastily down to Number 11: that's right, I bypass the dog (albeit with a momentary wibble of squee1) and sit in rapt contemplation of one of the sexiest things I have seen for a very long time (and I've recently watched Artem Chigvintsev dance mostly topless, so this isn't a low-hanging bar2).

What do you mean you can't be bothered to go look at it? Fine, here.


And just a little extra for the similarly inclined ladies (and gentlemen); when you tear your eyes away from that lusciously coated chest (yes, that's one of the reasons he beats Artem in the sexy stakes) watch his expression. He gets this cute little pout which can (I should know) be interpreted as a "yeah, I know what I'm doing to you!" moment.

Sadly, as I saw that Graham Norton episode, I also know it's actually a prelude to a shudder, because apparently he buys into this idea that body hair = bad.

So, I'm contemplating kickstarting a project to coax the follicularly blessed out of hiding and into the open. Ordinarily I would endeavour to describe the visual impact of such a plan, but I suspect if I tried and anyone read it I'd wind up sedated in front of an air conditioning unit as medical professionals tried to determine if I was rabid.

Take my word for it, it will be glorious.

And I would sincerely like to express my gratitude for and approval of the recent trend to include hairy chests in TV adverts once again. No more do all men glisten as though they have been waxed! No longer do I wonder if they smell like furniture! I like it.

And I'm going to quickly post this, because the gif has gone off the top of my screen and the more I write the longer I have to go without watching it.

Alicia

1 Shush you, that's totally a legitimate sentence!
2 It doesn't come over well in a photo, but trust me when I say that the man dances juuuust fine.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Eye of the storm

You know what the problem is with writing on a weekly basis? I genuinely can't remember if I've written this stuff before and I don't have time to re-read everything to find out.

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The storm lashed at the carapace above as the passengers decanted from the seriously weathered vehicle. Around them, skaters were falling one by one as the remnants of their energy were fed into the vehicle's protective shield that responded to the sounds of impact and explosion high above.

A welcoming party stood near a heater, backlit by the blue neon that was used throughout the pit city. First came Helda - personal assistant and primary public contact for this incarnation of Salinda Cotra. She made the way, eyes taking in all the surrounding details, ensuring the surroundings were as she had been briefed and the welcoming party were all personally known or at least identifiable from network discussions. The data dump she took upon leaving the shielded vehicle barely made her stumble, although her eyes lit up to a bright shade of green as she processed it.

Following her came the brain of Salinda. The body was easily nine feet tall and physically powerful. No signs of the rigours of the journey showed; instead the simple leather armour she wore enhanced her physique and silenced any who had wondered that she dared travel without a bodyguard. The various input points around her arms, thighs and neck had been disconnected and sealed over before she left the vehicle and the metallic rings and dark tattoos appeared purely decorative in the absence of any wires or peripheral devices. She did not bother to look around - all data received by Helda was filtered and fed through to her. If she thought something vital had been missed she had access to everything in Helda's mind and could also take remote control of Helda if she thought it expedient.

Lastly, hauling all of the additional technology needed to run Salinda's brain in the event the body were to be dismissed, came Junta. Whereas Helda was a physically weak human with a small amount of technology to allow her to fulfil her role (not least of which was as a firewall; in the event anything malicious got past her security, it would infect and kill her before it reached Salinda) Junta was made of whipcord and steel - figuratively by nature and literally by nurture. Junta was able to embed into any technology, view the data streams as a natural born human would watch an instructional video and what little human physically remained was sinew which had been trained and honed to lightening fast reflexes and appalling skills of both nurture and destruction.

The three moved from the vehicle to the city with the absolute confidence of the unassailable.

The welcoming party showed no signs of objection to either the attitude, or the ravages Helda and Junta were making to the data being picked up by the Pit City's security systems. Salinda herself remained as a data black hole, visible only to the naked eye and traceable only by the absence of any information at that point. As her trail was always coated with a subtle stream of dissonance and manufactured alternative data, the hole would be blanketed over moments after it was created. Helda and Junta, although terrifying as a defensive unit when connected with Salinda, were unremarkable without her backup and mastery - much as the body she used was merely a thug without her guidance, the two of them were exceptional but not awe-inspiring without her power controlling them.

Salinda nodded to the party who grovelled at such a mark of consideration and walked into the chambers prepared for the meeting. She seated herself at the head of the tables, Helda assumed a place at her right, and Junta disdained the available chairs in favour of hovering at Salinda's left shoulder, much in the manner of a mounted gun, ready to be fired at any second.

The welcoming party filed in and took their places. They were the actual physical forms of the leaders and head merchant bodies of the Pit City and were making a rare physical contact as a sign of gratitude that Salinda had made this journey. Behind the thirty two of them flickered hundreds of screens as Helda triggered the network conference bringing all the representatives from other local cities and more far-flung industries online.

They all made their respects and waited to hear Salinda speak.

"I am here as a representative of the government of all worlds and economies. Over the next few months I shall be travelling to a random selection of cities within this sector in order to establish growth requirements, tax collection and investment opportunities. I have been chosen to cover this sector as Salinda Prime and relatives have no personal or business connections to these cities.

"These visits are being made on a personal basis as we have reason to believe significant evasions are being undertaken by various parties, hindering the advance of the world economy for the benefit of the individual. Similar visits are being made across all sectors including those under the government and subsidy of Salinda Prime.

"There will be no future investments made by Salinda Prime or relatives in this sector as a result of this visit. Likewise, Salinda Prime and relatives shall take no information sourced on this visit and employ it within their own business dealings.

"A complete report of the observations and recommendations of myself and my colleagues shall be produced and submitted to the governor at the end of each visit and made publicly available upon completion of the tour. Depending on the content of the report and the recommendations made, there may be action before the report is made public. No city will see their own report before it is publicly available."

As she spoke, Helda and Junta had been scanning and storing responses and data traffic generated by her words. A few were privately flagged up, but for the most part it was generic data. Suddenly a massive data spike occurred, targeted straight at Salinda, via Helga's interface.

The spike encased a body of malicious software and was designed to overwhelm Helga, shut down her filter and overspill into Salinda, releasing the virus. Salinda stopped speaking and turned to watch Helga as she stiffened and absorbed the data. Junta had bonded wirelessly with Helga the moment the spike occurred and the two of them were locked in stripping out the unnecessary content to find the core, while preventing the virus from being released. Helga's eyes glowed a bright unnatural green, while Junta was muttering under his breath as he ducked and dived through a maze of projectiles only he could see.

Salinda casually leaned back and tapped into the cleaned surface data. After a momentary analysis she shut the connection and left her two aides to do their work.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Breaking point

The warmth of the sun oozed over her, barely disturbed by the cool breeze that trickled through it. She reclined on a sunbed, wearing a bikini and reading a book. The occasional fly buzzed lazily past, the heat driving them into a somnolent state that the birds were swift to take advantage of. They seemed to glory in the swift dives and the bright sunlight.

The girl remained oblivious as she casually turned pages.

In the trees on a cliff overlooking the property the photographer lowered himself into place. He didn't know who she was - didn't really care - she'd reached the island clinging onto the arm of a sugar daddy who had booked this movie stars' holiday home under an assumed name. There was something going on, and that meant he could profit. He set the camera up, resting precariously on three branches, cursing the lengths the movie star had gone to in order to isolate this place.

Finally, he was set up and he focussed in on her. He smiled. Jackpot. She was lying on the patio, under the shade of an umbrella, but from his angle there was a perfectly clear view. She was skeletally thin, which would give the womens' mags something to criticise and - snapping a few pictures and zooming in further - there was some suspicious bruising on her thigh, which gave something for the rags to link to the movie star.

Far below, the girl was drawn from her book by the sound of an alarm. She sighed and folded the arm holding her book across her belly. The other arm reached up, resting on her forehead. The beeping continued. After a few moments, she reached over and disabled the alarm. She rolled her head to one side and stared down at the box beside the sunbed with a kind of loathing in her eyes.

Moving with sudden speed, she sat up, reached over and picked it up. With shaking hands, she assembled the contents. The assurance of her motions talked of regular practice. She lay the box aside, withdrew the syringe and lined it up on her thigh. There she hesitated.

High above the photographer was taking pictures so frantically he might be able to sell them as a video. He tensed as he saw the sugar daddy walking swiftly onto the patio, but kept snapping.

The girl looked up and saw him. She smiled a little and he walked over, pulled up a chair and sat beside her. "Would you like me to?" he nodded at the syringe as he spoke.

"No." she spoke flatly. "I wouldn't like anyone to."

"I'm here if you need me."

She nodded, staring off into the distance. For about a minute all was still on the patio, then she inhaled swiftly and injected herself. Job done, the man retrieved the box and she replaced the syringe in it. He leaned forward and stroked back her hair.

The photographer was ecstatic. This would be huge money for him! As the man returned indoors with the box, the girl reclaimed her book and everything returned to normal. The photographer checked his watch and spent a moment or two weighing the likelihood that he would miss anything if he left now. The pictures he had were already worth a fortune, and he wasn't exactly comfortable in his position.

He began to pack up all his gear. Within ten minutes he was done hauling himself out of his nest, and was sprinting towards his motorbike to return to the airport as quickly as possible.

The man returned to the patio with a basin full of random items. A book, pens, paper, a bottle of energy drink, a thermos, several towels, some biscuits and a tablet PC. The girl looked over at him and smiled even less than before. Her skin had paled while he was indoors, and there was a faint sheen of perspiration over her face. She took a towel and wiped herself dry.

"I wish you would let me hire a nurse." he spoke gently, with deep concern. She reached out and touched his hand.

"Please don't. If I had a nurse it would be so obvious and I just don't want anyone to know."

"People aren't going to judge you, my dear."

"No, they'll be nice to me instead! They'll ask me a million questions about how I'm feeling and if the chemo is working and they'll try and do things, and I'll never have any privacy. I just can't cope with convincing other people that it's OK, when it isn't, and I don't want them to know enough that they want to help. You just let me get on with it, most people wouldn't. I just can't bear the intrusion."

He poured a hot liquid from the thermos and handed it to her. "Here, drink this. I think it would be easier for you if you had someone else to take control of the unpleasant parts. You're too worn down to have to inject yourself. At least if it was another person's job you wouldn't have the mental battle."

She looked at him over the rim of the thermos lid. She was inhaling the steam and her eyes looked slightly moist. "Let me get on with it."

He nodded. "If that's what's you want."

"I think I want the basin."

He handed it over wordlessly and she retched into it for several minutes while he gently held her hair. Finally, shuddering, she stopped. He stroked her gently with a fresh towel and she shivered. After a short while, he handed her the thermos lid again and she took a cautious sip. He picked up the book he brought out with him and began to read out loud. She managed twenty minutes before another paroxysm overtook her.

After the second event she began swathing herself in towels, huddling for warmth and trying to stop the shivering. She switched to the cold energy drink, but the taste was vile to her tortured tongue and she only managed tiny sips.

He took the basin inside, and returned with a clean one a few moments later. In his absence she had begun nibbling on a biscuit. He didn't comment, merely picking up the book where he left off. After ten minutes more, she had begun to relax and was clearly on the verge of falling asleep when suddenly the tablet started beeping wildly as several people tried to contact her. Startled awake she reached out automatically and flicked to the messages. Her eyes widened and her face paled. With a shaking hand she tapped a link. Moments later tears were pouring down her face and he reached out and seized the tablet. Discarding it without a glance, he wrapped his arms around her and began stroking her hair, rocking her back and forth.

After a few minutes she had stopped sobbing, but now her eyes were tormented as they had never been before and she stared out into the trees. "I can't deal with this filth." She spoke clearly and firmly then stood up and walked inside.

He collected the tablet and glanced down at the webpage that had opened. The first picture he saw was suggestive of the two of them in a "romantic" embrace. Dismissing it, he scrolled up seeking for the real source of her distress and saw the headline and leading picture: "Where's your wife? While her husband says she is holidaying quietly, this Hollywood wife is doing drugs and his management team!"