Wednesday, 21 December 2011

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

I´ve never really been a huge fan of Christmas. Don´t get me wrong, I like the giving that represents God's gift of Christ and sharing food with close friends and family. I like the cold weather and the tree and the decorations and traditions. I even like Santa. He´s a great story. I also like the Grinch and that Fa-la-soy-boo song they sing at the end while holding hands. I really like holding hands. The problem is that, all of these individual fancies don't combine into one big general appreciation of Christmas for me. For a long time I thought I was jaded for whatever reason, or that my Christmasy wire was loose... or that my heart was two sizes too small.
This year I've been doing a lot of thinking. Jon says it's the commercialization of the Holiday that I don't like. That may be partially true, but even if you took it away - if we didn't participate in the gifts or the decor or watch Snowman Burl Ives singing Silver and Gold - I don't think I'd feel better. Drastic measures are worthless if you don't fill that spot with something, and most the time it's a spot that can be filled without removing the "problem." Like I said, I like Santa and presents and lights.
Just after Thanksgiving, Nathaniel and I were running errands. I busted out the only Christmas music on my phone and listened while we drove around. It's a concept album called Behold the Lamb of God, The True Tall Tale of the Coming of the Christ by Andrew Peterson. I've heard this album dozens of times. I also don't cry often, but by two songs in the floodgates were open. Why? One of the contributing artists made a comment in reference to the album. He said "It's not really so much about Christmas as it is about Jesus." Its about Jesus. I know, I know. Baisic. So baisic I hardly ever think about it. For me, the Jesus of Christmas has been so intertwined with everything else that the real story is barely there anymore. I for one, would like to take a break from Frosty and shopping malls and take a moment to remember the true story. The real Christmas.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Eight Stages of Creative Gift Giving

1. Make a list of people you want to give gifts to. Add a few more because you're just a dripping with generosity. Ignore the fact that in a few months you will have to mass produce personal, meaningful, and hopefully inexpensive bits of wonder that you've harvested from the depths of your soul.

2. Realise that Christmas is 6 weeks away so you might want to get this process moving, if you want to avoid finishing the gifts for people on Christmas day/in January. You shudder slightly and divide your list into "must gives" and "maybe gives".

3. Take an afternoon and surround yourself with inspiration. Get you coffee or whatever and start thinking. Last year you shot a little too high and ended up not even making most of the brilliant gifts you thought of. This year, try to think up something that is both mass producible AND personal.

4. After hours of research into how much book rings and card stock paper cost en mass, settle on the MOST BRILLIANT CHRISTMAS PRESENT IDEA THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!!!!!!! It's funny and personal and can be made cheap enough to send to every single person on your list! You are a genius my friend! Revel in the fact that all your friends are probably going to be asking you to make more of said gift to pass on to their friends! You might even become famous! (You feel slightly guilty about obtaining fame from something that is supposed to others-focused, but you don't mind too much.)

5. Begin production. It takes hours of writing and rewriting, making and remaking, thinking and rethinking, but you don't mind in the slightest because you are CREATING! You are forming little bits of love to give to all of your favourite people and they are just going to melt with gratitude!

6. Continue production. Okay, this is taking a little longer than planned. You start to wish you could do something different today. You start kind of disliking your once brilliant gift. You've already watched an entire season of Doctor Who and you're mad they changed the actor to that skinny, dorky guy so you have nothing to pass your time with.

7. Give. You finally wrote the last note, curled the last ribbon, and addressed the last package. You stare at your mountain of presents, ready to be sent. You should feel happy and satisfied right now but you don't. You start picturing people's faces as they open them and you project your current feeling of dislike for the gift onto them. You hear them say "Uh, thanks! This is really, um.... neat."and are flooded with insecurity and a little bit of self loathing for thinking such a dumb idea was going to turn out well. You consider burning them all, but you've already told some people to expect a spectacular gift from you and there's no way you can think of something better at this point. You drive, wincing, to the post office and drop them all off, swearing that you'll never create again.

8. Take heart my friend! You might feel like poo right now, but I'll bet when you wake up in the morning tomorrow you'll at least be happy it's done. Then some people will start getting their gifts and thanking you and tell you in a genuine, honest tone of voice that they really like it. You might not get famous, but you gave something to every friend you could think of, and went only slightly over budget, and Heck! That's something to be proud of! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Day of Mars

  I'm inclined to view Tuesday as a sort of fragile, ill tempered kind of day. Monday gets all the flack, and having a reputation to uphold, has made outstanding efforts toward congeniality. Monday is usually kind, productive, and can carry on a friendly conversation. I picture Tuesday in the corner with a double shot whiskey, writing emo haiku.
  Tuesdays catch you off guard because you've just passed through Monday with mild surprise at her good manners and are left with a general sense of well being. This is exactly what Tuesday wants. Tuesday starts you off well and begins to gnaw quietly away at your happiness until you've not only forgotten what you came into this room to do, but it suddenly feels as if something terrible is about to happen. You wonder at this for a moment and go back to check your email because maybe that was what you were going to do but then you hear the neighbors dog barking and your mind is suddenly flooded with images of home intruders with machine guns and you hear a fighter jet fly by and listen intently, just in case this one was a bad guy and the bombs are now dropping. Then you make a plan for what you're going to do when this actually does happen. First, you carry a bread knife around, then you make a mental note of what you're going to text your husband or friend and where you plan to meet them. You write the text out, to save precious time. Then you think about how you and your son are going to get out of the house/city with only a motorcycle when all hell breaks loose. Would he be better on the front, or in the backpack being carried? You think the backpack would have too much wind. The phone rings and you jump and are pulled out of the Tuesday-mare.
  After checking everything off your to-do list and then adding more things and checking them off, you check the clock. 3pm. Tuesday has more minutes to the hour apparently. You decide to take your kid for a walk because Tuesday is also bad parent day and you're trying to appease your guilt at wishing he wanted to watch more TV or knew what cookies were so you could bribe him to watch more TV with them. The house is also seeming stuffy and you wonder if that's what happens when you have a carbon monoxide leak.
  You summon the most adventurous spirit you can muster from your disquieted soul and walk around your oatmeal and sometimes olive colored suburbia, hoping against hope to find something worth seeing. There are little bridges over a little ponds and cement tortoise lawn ornaments. There's the electric hum of a Toyota Prius driving around the streets behind you that all bear mildly regrettable names, in every case succeeded by the word "glen." Brickella-Glen, Salvia-Glen, Goldfish-Glen, etc. As if there is always a nameable valley you're about to come upon suddenly. Neighborhood watch signs are posted liberally vowing protection for you and your kin from everything save boredom and occasional gossip.
  You're walking to pass time and somehow the passing of seconds is easier to palate when paired with the passing of steps, but your mind is wandering again. You find yourself wondering what the difference is between Pipit-Glen Pl, Pipit-Glen Way, and Pipit-Glen Ct. and consequently, do the residents often mistake them? You wonder how many species of palm trees there are, and if there is a difference between a yellow fire hydrant and a red one? And can you park in front of a yellow one if you do so cautiously?
  Then you start making up stories about the people you see. The slightly hunched woman with the hook nose and chunky-heeled shoes, dressed entirely in black from the neck down. She's probably a Russian spy, or a librarian that hoards the best books and that's why you never got Harry Potter even though you had it on hold for 15 months. It's at this point, when the sun is setting and your reliable 72 degree weather is chilling slightly, that you catch a whiff of the smoke from some over enthusiastic holiday lover's fire and are instantaneously transported back to you parents house in wintertime. You're once again sitting in that dark room with the snow falling silently just outside the walls coating the world in a crisp blanket and making everything still. You and your siblings are scattered about the living room with stomachs full of casserole and hot chocolate and it never crosses your mind to worry about things like if it would be safer to go down the stairs or jump out the bedroom window if there was a sudden, violent earthquake destroying your house because you're just kids and you have parents to think about those things for you. You just sit there together and quiet and everyone watches the dance in the fire and everything is fine. Everything is overflowing with peacefulness. Everything is ok.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

STC - Ulysses

To quote Krisann "This is an acorn story. You're an acorn that sees everything inside itself to be a huge oak tree, but you can't will yourself to grow. You're still a little acorn and it's a wonderful thing." With that said - my vocabulary is no where close to broad enough to capture the movement and emotion I FEEL in this story, but as she is right, and I'm still just the seed of a writer beginning to grow, I'm happy with it. Oh, and even though I know you're not supposed to have to set up a story, for your sake let me say: This is my take on the Odyssey.

 It had been twenty years. Twenty years since he had pulled the life of Ithaca’s air into his lungs or filled his blood with the warmth of wine and kin. Twenty years of war and wandering. Twenty years since that fool Palamedes had called him out of his feigned stupor and gave flesh to the prophesy he had been trying with every fibre in his being to outwit, outrun. In a day it was all gone. The velvety green hills scattered with rock and beast, the musk of a morning’s hunt with his son, training the boy’s eyes and arms, and always, always upon return, the beauty of Penelope’s face... oh, her face. His eyes habitually closed at that thought to find her, but he was losing her more every day. His mind, filled with blood and metal and endless sea, was pushing her image away despite his daily struggle to keep it close. She used to call him home. He used to see her standing on the edge of the sea and singing a wordless song that ripped his heart in two and filled him with longing and hope. Now the effort to recall his wife only produced a vague shadow, blurry around the edges. Of all the horrors he had faced in the last twenty years, all the challenges, nothing had put fear in his heart... nothing except that fading image; the loss of what was keeping him sane and bringing him strength, and calling him home.
 Closing his record book, Ulysses stretched his substantial limbs to their fullest, pushing back the walls and thoughts that were closing in on him. Heavy hearted, he climbed out of his cabin and onto the deck. He always took the night-watch. The sailors thought he had assigned himself to this post because of the multiple times they had run aground or been attacked by various monster or beast under cover of darkness, but it was not. Ulysses walked the ship at night because, in the darkness, his footsteps echoing on the deck seemed to fill the air instead of drowning in it, the sound of water on wood was easier to imagine as wind in the trees behind his home. In the darkness you could pretend there was no ocean, and the stars... the stars reminded him of her. They shone with a high beauty. They twinkled, and he could almost see her eyes. They gave him hope and called him home. They were the only bit of her he had left; and he clung to that because his life depended on it.
  The night descended on his spirit like a fog. His mind, always searching for employment found nothing to occupy itself on and settled into numb recollection. Scenes of the last two decades scrolled across his consciousness and his feet paced across the boards. First was Calypso - fierce and strong. His barren heart had found a landscape of beauty when he first saw her. A stunning face and fiery eyes... Just like Penelope. He wished she had been her. He tried to make her into his wife and to renew the fading hope of love, but the longer she kept him, the more the nymph faded just as Penelope had. The ache for his love could not be soothed by another. He could not stay. The shipwrecks flashed and faded in a wave of ragged memory, and he paced still. Whirlpools, monsters, fantastic dangers and adventures all came and went and nothing stirred with their memory. It was excitement he couldn’t even have dreamed of with his young, islander imagination that longed for purpose and identity so many years ago. None of it had given any life or glory. Nothing gave satisfaction; but left only emptiness. Then came the Sirens. Here he lingered in thought for a moment. He was a wise man, and had not thought himself above their deception, but with caution and restraint he heard their song. With the first note Penelope’s face rose out of the mist. It was her song rising from beyond the railing! The wordless one that had called him home so many years ago, but since faded. He had fought against his cords and screamed for her. It had to have been her! But through the fog and melody there was no wife and sank again his hope with this reality. Just remembering it he could see her face again in the fog. That was the closest image he had to recall the one his heart could never forget. The memory of his dead Mother, with news of Ithaca’s treachery and his family’s faithfulness, did nothing but aggravate his sense of helplessness and he let it fly by quickly. Then Circe and the cannibals and the cyclops and Poseidon's storm all swirled around the steady image of his island on the horizon - the only glimpse of home in all these twenty years, stolen by greed... and greed for gold no less! What had the crew expected? That the tiny bag could hold enough to repay them all for their faithfulness? That in my joy upon return I would forget to reward them with honor and riches for their service? But no! They condemned us all to this ship, and that is their reward. Life and death at sea. Isn’t that all that’s left to us? The promise that took me away has been driving me away ever since. I’m fighting and I’m losing, but what else can I do? I have nothing left but to set my sail for home, always home. I’ve been stripped to my core and I’ve been defeated and yet I sail. I cannot cease. There is nothing left for me but to sail, sail, forever sail away from that rising sun that fades the stars as time fades her face. I hope she holds fast, for I have no strength left.
 Twenty years of trial. Twenty years alone. Twenty years of sunrises that held no promise of an end. Today was no different. Today the sun rose on a man clinging to the last hope in an empty soul. Today the sun rose and relieved him of his watch. Today the sun rose and he thanked the gods for the hours of sleep that would take him away from this, even just for a moment, and as Ulysses lowered his head into the dark cabin, the sun rose on a yet unseen speck of gold on the western horizon. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Oxford, Round 2

Today, November 2nd 2011, my husband is sitting the elusive Oxford Thinking Skills Assesment test. With mixed feelings of confidence in his maturing brain and worry for his exhausted emotions I wished him luck as he rode off on the beast today. He is applying for another course in January, but in a lot of ways, this is it. This is what we failed at last time, and this is what says if he's done with school this year or has 3 more years of academia. If he does get in, we have to go..... who turns down Oxford, right? Especially if you're the first in your family to get even an Associates degree from a community college. Who could say no to just three more years that will have such a huge impact on not only our future, but on the future of our children... our children who may only know their father in spurts of school breaks for the first years of thier lives..... Lord, oh Lord give us wisdom.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

STC - Unfinished Story

Our writing challenge this week was to craft a story based on the pun "celery stalk-ers." I went for a Dick Tracy esque detective plot (with all characters being celery rather than human) and quickly realized that I am not quite the thinker for a crime story, and that the one that I invented refused to end. I was aiming for two pages and at the start of my fourth, stopped/ran out of time. I couldn't get it to land, but here it is for you in all of it's raw glory. Please enjoy the plenteous puns!

  It was a dark and stormy night. Everything in Apiaceatropolis had slowed to a stop... that is, everything except the crime that never rested. The crime that, like a burning ulcer, had consumed all joy and hope in the hearts of our city’s citizens. A city that once had flowers on every street corner and showed goodwill to all who entered it’s gates; now a city littered with the dismal slime of greed and contempt. Some say it started when the longtime mayor Smarty Pants retired and appointed in his place a greasy newcomer: Slim Pickens. Some say Slim had spent a bit too much time in the cooler. Some say he had buttered the mayor up, or put him in a sticky situation to get himself appointed. Some say he was starting to rot from the inside out. I don’t know. All I know is that things went south when Smarty left; and that Slim’s public statements are a little too bendable to be called upstanding. One thing for sure is that Slim’s longtime girlfriend Sulty Omosis and right hand man, Myco Tocsin are seen together frequently at the bar Celeriac, which also happens to be the hub for the gutter trash, slug eating, rotten killer - The Man.
  Because of all this, this mushrooming villainy I’m working late again. Because of this malfeasance my girlfriend Crispy Trueheart is home alone again tonight. Because of this infelicitous turn of events I was forced to change my name, leave my home, and take up a life of crime in my own way. Who am I? Cellar E. Stalker’s the name. Sluthing’s the game.
  Two nights ago a tall, thin woman showed up at my office. Usually, I work for myself, asking and answering my own questions, but her son was two days missing. The seventeen year old had been working all day (at an upstart guttering business) and never came home. After some questioning I was interested and stumped. This was the kind of boy seventeen year olds used to be. Responsible, dependable, kind. He worked to support his mother and younger sister. There was nothing out of the ordinary and nothing to suggest him as any kind of target. Then she said it, a passing mention about the job being new, replacing the person who used to work for the guttering man.
“What’s his name!” I jumped to my feet “What’s the gutter man’s name?”
“I... I’m not sure! Uh, it started with an L... Loo... Loomy. Loomy Num! That was it!”
“Did your son mention anything else about the person he replaced?”
“Not that I recall. Just that Loomy said he was a better worker than the other boy.”
“So he was young! Interesting. Lady, you better get back to your daughter. I’ll do what I can to find your son.” I got up and opened the door, locking it behind her.
  I had seen this type of thing before. A middle man. But it had only been that dog walker that went past the Korean market every day, and the old woman stealing dresses for that famous actress... who would this Loomy Num be stealing boys for? Why would someone need boys? I pulled my trench coat over my shoulders and grabbed an umbrella. I was going to find some answers.
  I used my two-way wrist TV and contacted Crispy the next morning letting her know I wouldn’t be home for a few days. “Be careful Cell. This city’s not the only one that needs you.” The night of searching had been to no avail, other than an idea I had, sitting outside of the Celeriac hoping to see something. When I got in this morning I checked the phone book and there it was: L.N. Guttering. I called. A slightly raspy, but even voice answered and said he could come by to give an estimate around 2 o’clock. With that, I layed down on the cot in my office closet and took a nap.
  Loomy never came. I called the number again on my wrist TV and saw nothing but an empty, messy office... and wheat grass. No! I was lucky enough to trace the number to an address across town and rushed over. The door was broken open and there was Loomy, or what was left of him, laying in a pool of green blood. There was nothing in the office to indicate any family and nothing to really indicate crime except a matchbook from the Celeriac laying by the ashtray on the desk. I had never actually been in the bar before. I had wanted my face to remain unknown to that lot, but if I wanted to stop the crime I was going to have to face it.
 Once night fell I approached the despicable place. Ordering a bloody mary I sat at the bar staring at my glass. On the way over I turned on my Corne inner ear eavesdropping system with the intention of listening instead of looking. The couple in the corner booth were talking about some risque pollinating they planned to do later. The guys around the celevision were betting on the juicing match. One hour. Two hours. Nothing. I had gone through three drinks and was getting ready to leave when a stumpy man in a white jacket walked in and quietly addressed the bartender “I have those supplies you ordered. Want me to take them to the kitchen?” When the barman walked out with the white jacket I moved toward the bathroom, ducking into the security office instead. I quickly reached around the guards head, putting a ranch drenched cloth over his nose rendering him unconscious. I didn’t have long, but in here I could see what every camera in the place saw. There was the main room, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and.... a gym? I’ve never heard of a bar doubling as a health club before. The guard was coming to and if I had any hope of keeping my anonymity I had to go. I sat back down in front of my bloody mary and told the intoxicated man next to me that there was a place down the road that was doing half price peanut butter shots and he took off out the door at the exact moment the bartender was coming back in and the security guard, still a bit dazed but furious, burst out of his office. They both set off after peanut butter guy. Now was my chance! I patted the salad shooter under my coat and headed back down the hall. No gym. I swung through the kitchen. No doors, no gym. Then I remembered the white jacketed man going outside. I walked around the block and into the alley behind the buildings. The bar had no back door, but then something caught my eye from behind the dumpster. A staircase. No one was posted at the door and it wasn’t locked. No private sign, no keep out. As quietly as I could I descended the steel stairs and looked around the corner. It was the gym. There were weight benches and treadmills and what looked like a yoga class in the back room. Every machine had someone on it, and every person was wearing what looked like a kind of wetsuit... but wait! What were those tubes at the cuffs of the sleeves and pants? They went loosely from the suit into the floor and seemed to be draining a opaque liquid. Just then I felt something creamy on my face and everything went black.
My eyes opened on a white room. Sulty and Myco were there. So was the security man from upstairs (still sporting a slight smear of ranch on his cheek). Slim was sitting in the corner with his head in his hands and Crispy was sitting next to him. Oh no, Crispy. How did they know? I tried to keep my face blank.
“I see some bumbling do-gooder finally stumbled into our gym.” The guard almost hissed. He was a yellowy, stalky man.
“I’d wager he didn’t stumble. What do you think Sulty?” Myco said cooly.
“Maybe he was just looking for his girly friend! He probably missed her.” She returned in with a childish tone, glancing at Crispy. Crispy didn’t move.
Slim raised his face, smiling “Well, now that he’s here, why don’t we give him a tour? If he’s good, maybe we’ll introduce him to The Man himself!”
  They jerked me up and took me back out to the main room. From closer up I could see that those were most definitely tubes going from the runners and lifters and benders. They were all young boys, and they seemed exhausted.
“Wondering about the tubes huh?” Grinned Sulty. They took me down more stairs to a room with a giant tank in it. The tubes ran from the ceiling into the tank and at the bottom were workers filling bottles with the clearish liquid.
“Sweat.” Said Sulty “Nasty sweat. Who would have guessed it could be so valuable?”
“You’re running a sweat shop!?” I gasped
“Hit the nail right on the head.” Myco elbowed me.“We add sugar and sell this stuff as a super beverage! People think it can do anything - Weight loss, energy supplement, even make you more attractive! A miracle drug!”
“Androtestosterone.” I breathed.
“The one and only! A steroid released through sweat... aaannd highly addictive!” Sulty chirruped happily.
“And you use the young boys because...”
“It’s so concentrated in them!” She said, then moved closer “But older men work too..”
  They put me in a tubed suit and took me back up to the treadmills.
“How do you keep these boys here?” I asked, nervousness growing in my fibers.
“They want to stay” said Myco “They’re good boys, and they don’t like seeing other people get hurt... or killed.”
They set the machine to 6mph, tossed me onto it and left. After an hour I was tired. After two I was stumbling. With all this time to think I still couldn’t understand: How were all these people connected? How did it all start? What did Slim hope to get out of all this... but maybe, maybe he was the middle man. Maybe Slim wasn’t doing this all for himself. Maybe Slim hadn’t empowered The Man, but the other way around. Maybe it was The Man behind all the destruction the whole time! Slim didn’t look exactly happy to be in that white room. He looked troubled. Was he falling out of The Man’s good graces?
 After five hours they came back and took me to the white room again, the same faces filling it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

STC - Sea Turtles

This week we were supposed to write anything we wanted as long as it included sea turtles. I set to write about the (naked) girl and turtle in the painting that went with my first STC post (The Bad Gift) and here's what transpired:

A soulful girl, a slogging beast
the ocean land world at a crease,
walk together by the by
and here the girl let out a sigh,
"But for to live as you do friend,
one toe in water, one on land."
"But oh!" he said, "As you wish I,
could over land on two feet fly!"
Came now Amphitrite up from the sea
"But only could my life been but as thee!
For here I am in marriage bound
to mean Poseidon my joy to hound
and will never walk in sympathy
with lovely companionship as do thee."
With crashing wave she held their hands
"Now you in water and you on land
shall ever be in friendship thus;
To share in life and love and trust
and share the sea and share the shore
and share swiftness on either or."
Had their wish been granted them?
Hopefully they took a swim.
Both could equally skim and dive
and without a frequent breath did thrive.
Now from the shallows to the deep,
to see what creatures they could meet.
"But how I want to try the land!"
Said the turtle and took her hand.
They set their feet on shore to run
so far and fast till came the dunn.
Resting in a mossy glen,
they stayed till sun came up again.
Such contentment!
Such abandonment!
Such as this their lives were spent,
with child joy and merriment,
and every year were closer bound
by this sweet fellowship they had found
for sharing is what makes a friend
and these are cords no man can rend.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Day the Saucers Came - Poem Feature

I just happened upon this poem in the Rabbit Room and thought that it was so great I felt the need to share with you all. Enjoy!

The Day the Saucers Came
by Neil Gaiman

That Day, the saucers landed. Hundreds of them, golden,
Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
And the people of Earth stood and
stared as they descended,
Waiting, dry-mouthed, to find out what waited inside for us
And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
But you didn’t notice because

That day, the day the saucers came, by some some coincidence,
Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
But you did not notice this because

On the saucer day, which was zombie day, it was
Ragnarok also, and the television screens showed us
A ship built of dead-men’s nails, a serpent, a wolf,
All bigger than the mind could hold,
and the cameraman could
Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
But you did not see them coming because

On the saucer-zombie-battling-gods
day the floodgates broke
And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
And charm and cleverness and true
brave hearts and pots of gold
While giants feefofummed across
the land and killer bees,
But you had no idea of any of this because

That day, the saucer day, the zombie day
The Ragnarok and fairies day,
the day the great winds came
And snows and the cities turned to crystal, the day
All plants died, plastics dissolved, the day the
Computers turned, the screens telling
us we would obey, the day
Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
The fluttering capes and arrival of
the Time Machine day,
You didn’t notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not even reading, not really, just
looking at your telephone,
wondering if I was going to call.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sunshine Again - A Fairy Tale

In my vocal class last week we chose the second song for our performances out of our textbook. The one that stood out to me was cited as being written by George Macdonald. I assumed it wasn't the Scottish minister/author that I know and love, but after a little research it turned out to be a poem of his that was set to music somewhere around 1950. As part of our homework we have to write a story about the song and so this tale was born. I wrote it hoping to catch even a little bit of the essence of G.M.'s stories. Enjoy!

Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.

And yet, how easily things go right!
If the sigh and a kiss of a summer's night
Come deep from the soul in the stronger ray
that is born in the light of the winter's day.

And things can never go badly wrong!
If the heart be true and the love be strong,
For the mist, if it comes, and the weeping rain,
will be changed by the love into sunshine again.
- G.M.

It was a bright night, even for the forest. The trees glowed with a internal luminescence. A young man had taken to walking here every night and could notice even the slightest changes on his path. Along with the light, there was an uncommon scent of honeysuckle and sage. Cresting the ridge of a shallow glen his eyes fell upon the source. A woman in shining, pale green robes sat on a large rock in the valley. Her eyes were the same shining green as her clothes and her hair fell softly about her shoulders in soft brown ringlets. He was taken at once. Love seized his heart and he ran and seized her. She didn't resist. She didn't react at all. He spoke love to her. Nothing. He kissed her hand, her cheek. Nothing. He wrapped his arms tight around her, smelled her sweet honey hair, and when his eyes opened there was nothing in his arms save a mist that had sunk from about the trees. He looked everywhere but found no trace of his lady, and as he began to weep so came the rain.

Two years passed. Still, every night he walked and while he no longer hoped to find her, he thought of her often. He thought of how he rushed to her and grabbed her. He thought of how he had abandoned courtesy in the name of love. He thought of how something called love and acted on with greed is not really love. The leaves fell, and winter fell, and as he walked in the frozen forest, he began to learn a true way to love.

Mid April, as the glowing tress had begun to bud little lightning bug leaves and the clouds hung heavy with rain, he walked again. He rarely thought about that beautiful woman anymore and his thoughts were mostly on a poem he had read earlier in the day. It promised hope to a true heart and he hoped his heart was true. He noticed something as he came to the ridge of the glen, but it was not his lady. It was a she-wolf scratching fiercely at her back paw that had gotten wedged between the boulder and  a tree. She lunged away when she saw him and panicked when her paw became even tighter between stone and tree. His curiosity had just made her situation worse and he couldn't bear the thought of her slowly starving to death, or resorting to maiming her leg to free herself. In obligation and trepidation he approached. He got close enough to throw his thick coat over her head and tried not to think about what would happen when she was free. He wrapped his legs around her back to still her, and with much effort and scratching and loss of blood (on his part) pulled her loose. He jumped away and sitting up from under his coat was not the wolf but the woman, and now, instead of a face void of reaction she smiled, leaned forward with eyes like sunshine and kissed him.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

STC - A Brief History: The successes, Failures and Figureheads of Communism and Hip-Hop

 Ideals, bad reputations and powerful leaders are just a few of the things that tie communism and hip-hop together. The first takes it’s stand on a mostly political level and the second on a mostly artistic level; despite this difference, both have had significant, worldwide impact through their respective methods of creating social change.
 Communism was originally a concept birthed out of the French Revolution in the early nineteenth century when the idea of equality for the working classes was very appealing. The actual term, Communist, was coined by Goodwyn Barmby to describe the followers of a controversial French journalist Francois-Noel Babeuf. It was then cemented by the delineation of Karl Marx’s socialist philosophy in his work The Communist Manifesto. The basic concept was for social classes to be abolished and for the common man to essentially follow a sort of instinctual self/communal democracy where everything from tools to land is shared without exception. Marx himself was also a newspaper man who was born into a wealthy middle class family, but whose strong political opinions and controversial worldview resulted in him being exiled multiple times from multiple countries. His life ended in poverty and one can only presume how much of an effect his personal experience had on his work. Most of the funding for Marx’s work came from Friedrich Engels who also edited the Manifesto and had an astoundingly large moustache.  If Karl Marx solidified the idea on paper, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky fleshed it out. Leading the Bolshkeviks in a revolution they overthrew the Russian Czar and here’s where everything started straying from the idea of a country led by a common democracy into a sort of dictatorship. The majority of Russia’s citizens were never empowered to lead themselves, but instead had Lenin’s, and after his death, Joseph Stalin’s ideals forced upon them with a method that was often much worse than their original situation. While Stalin did help the Russians in many ways (by industrializing the country, creating a unique style of architecture, and putting them on the world map in terms of nuclear power and space travel), it could be said he did more hurt than help. The same was also true of Mao Zedong’s efforts to bring communism to China. During the time of his influence he educated millions of Chinese people, made health care readily accessible and increased the overall life expectancy of the population. The problem was that he simultaneously exposed them to violence and famine caused by revolutions and also pushed his ideals by means of torture and extreme persecution resulting in the deaths of millions.
 These men were what originally gave communism the negative connotation that it has today and it’s a huge question as to why a philosophy based in communal leadership, when acted upon, nearly always ends in singular dictatorship where the leader has to defend their position with strict laws, secret police, and murder.
   Our second topic is one of the newest music genres, and has gone beyond that singular industry to become an entire social movement of it’s own. Birthed in the poverty and violence riddled area of South Bronx in New York City the Hip-Hop movement was pioneered in the 1970’s by a group of artists who took samples of existing songs and mixed them together using a pair of turntables and a guitar amp to create new, danceable beats (called DJing) while simultaneously speaking over the music in a manner based on the Jamaican tradition of spontaneous toasting and West African folk poets (called MCing). This music was also paired with a new style of spontaneous energetic dance (called Breaking) and a type of street art/marketing using spray paint to “tag” various objects (called Graffiti). A Jamaican born man who went by the name of Clive “Cool Herc” Cambell created the blueprint for what we know today as Hip-Hop, while his friend Grand Wizzard Theodore invented “scratching” records, and Grand Master Flash coined the term “Hip-Hop” in a rap he performed and was the first person to be called a DJ. Toward the end of the 70’s, one of these original artists, Jazzy Jay, realized the potential of taking the local gang’s competitive energy and pointing it toward this art rather than violence. It was at this point that he created an affiliation called Zulu Nation. In many ways this was a very successful endeavor. You could now see gang members dissing each other in a rap competition, or B-boys and B-girls having a break dancing competition in the alley instead of fighting and killing. The problem with Zulu Nation was that it worked almost too well. It took a localized trend and brought national attention to it. What followed was a series of films in the early 80’s that launched the style to an worldwide audience, but also shifted the focus from social issues back to the original problems of drugs, violence, and the victimization of women. It’s founders focused their creative energy and personal influence on giving kids an alternative to violence, while the current leaders of the industry (e.g. Eminem and 50 Cent) use their influence to promote a personal lifestyle of violence and drugs - that is now even being marketed to people living in a healthy home environment and neighborhoods that don’t have daily shootings.
 While Hip-Hop has always been obscene in one way or the other, what once challenged and empowered it’s performers and listeners to rise above less than ideal circumstances has now done the opposite, and in the name of honesty, encourages it’s audience and artist alike to take a negative perspective on their situations and elevates the victim mentality.
 In the end, Communism and Hip-Hop are both powerful movements that were started with the ultimate goal of bringing peace to the oppressed and providing a solution to real problems and they have both digressed to the point of creating the problems they were aiming to solve.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sea Turtles Club - The Bad Gift

 December 26th. The day of leftovers, killer sales... And returns. The sales associates at Mind Your Buck department store had formed a sort of unspoken alliance especially for this day. In a lot of ways this was a kind of animalistic instinct - probably about the same as that of the buffalo who circle around their young when wolves are on the hunt. Customers equal Wolves. Young Buffalo equal Employee Sanity. In the name of equality the store manager had made a schedule of rotations for all the employees to work at Returns today. This was the same manager that took about fourteen "breaks" a day. Once, while she was "on a break" a girl from housewares spotted her sticking her fingers in the scented candles and rubbing the wax in her ears. No one was ever brave enough to call her out on this, but it did clear up the question of why you would sometimes get a sniff of Ocean Breeze when standing next to her. Jenna Jenkins, the Assistant Manager was the staff’s saving grace and knew how to gracefully walk the line between total control and superior appeasement.
 The store opened at five am with a line of women (all frothing at the mouth) wrapping around the store. They were a completely feral group of shoppers and the only semi logical idea floating around in their heads was that they needed to return every possible thing they could in order to increase the day’s expenditure limits. Each section could only afford to give up one associate for returns today. As it stood, there was already a group of women climbing on top of each other to get at the Barnyard Boots Bargain rack and a crazed forty-something lady with mismatched shoes roaming the store snatching items out of people’s carts while they were looking away.
 The first unlucky soul to take the helm of returns was Glenda Caphalon from Housewares. The women in line were scowling and clutching their venti quad-shot Sugarbux lattes as if life depended on them. Glenda was a  thirty- seven year old, level headed, systematic woman (who liked crosswords and rollerblading) and she fared better than most would in the initial attack. Glenda found that if she could focus on the tags and numbers and occasionally look at the customer, imagining what kind of animal their facial structure would lend them to becoming in another life, she could get through the returns quickly and keep a smile on her face. Her three hour shift ended faster than she expected. 
Lauren Raphael from Clothing took over at eight. Getting ready to head back to Housewares Glenda patted Lauren on the shoulder and said “Good luck Lo. You can’t imagine the stuff I’ve seen already. Half of it I didn’t even know we carried until I scanned it in. There was one young girl who brought back an extra large red sweater with an Elmo face and words saying ‘you can tickle me anytime.’ that her Dad bought her!”
 Lauren was nineteen and always sang Stevie Nicks songs when she went to Karaoke with her friends. She silently cried to release the tension of inner rage triggered by insults from customers for most of her three hours and the worst gift she saw was a Condolence Wreath of magenta and gold flowers with a plaque on the front that said “At least it wasn’t you.”
 Stan Stanley from Tools was up next. He was the only man in the store that day and the stunned, mouth open look he met Lauren with was the same that he wore his whole shift. He didn’t speak a single word to the customers or the next employee who took over for him at two o’clock, but he was pink around the ears and she could see an old woman putting a Learn to Strip From Home kit (complete with pole) in the overflowing returns bin beside the register.
 Eve Madden worked in the shoe department and was the sensitive type. She spent most of her shift trying to make excuses for the gift givers like “I’m sure he had good intentions.” and “Maybe she’s a bit color blind and didn’t notice this hat was chartreuse.” Her positivity broke when a very abrasive middle aged man with a floppy gut and sausage fingers returned a set of Anger and Stress Relieving Meditation CD’s from his considerate brother. Her shift ended abruptly with her making a comment along the lines of “Maybe he should have bought you a douchebag jar instead!” and leaving.
 Apparently the manager (who had only been spotted briefly today stuffing the complimentary mints from a register stand into her socks) had assigned the five o’clock shift to some girl working at the in store salon. The salon wasn’t actually open today but no one was in any hurry to bring this to the manager’s attention and the five to eight shift passed uneventfully with the person at the front of the line taking a pick me up nap against her mound of disposable Santa plates and everyone assuming there was someone else in front of her since they couldn’t see past her heaping cart.
 Eight to eleven was Eu de Chantelle from Perfume, a haughty French woman who married an American and now had to work at Mind Your Buck to pay for her imported cheeses. Her shift consisted mostly of verbal sparring between clerk and customer and always ended with her sneering something in French and violently shoving the receipt into their hand. A box of California Chardonnay was obviously the worst gift she saw.
 Jenna Jenkins had the last shift and was skillfully pulling the mayhem of the day together (the manager was currently sleeping under men’s belts). After making a round of the store and mapping out the areas to send the forklift for clean up to tomorrow she moved her thoughts of organization to the now nearly undetectable returns counter. Her staff had done well keeping the items in semi distinguishable piles. “Great job today guys.” She thought halfway out loud. “Um, can I return this please?” An attractive, quietly sad looking woman holding a diamond necklace had walked up and startled her. “Oh! Oh, sure. Sorry, I didn’t see you walk up. I’ve been here since yesterday and I’m nearly hallucinating!” They both chuckled. “I quit my job yesterday” the attractive woman said. Jenna smiled, checking the packing of the necklace for a bar code “Oh? You must have had some great presents to merit that step of independence.” “All of my presents were great... except for that one.” “Not into diamonds much?” Jenna asked casually, handing her cash and a receipt. “I guess I’m not.” she replied “That’s the first one I’ve ever had. My boss gave it to me. He said he thought it would look great on my neck. I didn’t want it or that job anymore. I’ll take this pawn shop wedding band over that kind of attention any day.” and with that she walked out, leaving Jenna at the register holding the worst gift of the day.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A good friend of ours is a fantastic writer. He was telling me about this "Modern day hymn" that he wrote based on the author of Amazing Grace. I was really captured by it and he said I could feature him here if I gave him credit. Enjoy!

by Randy Rigby Joseph Goodwin

Now I lift my anchor from the mirky deep
To the final journey whence I sleep

Now my boat does heave and pitch
Beyond the stormy sea adrift

On my lofty skysail clipper
I set sail to eternity

There is nothing that is swifter
Than my soul sailing to Thee

My anchor now and ‘till the end of time
Against gale winds and changing tide

Not of iron stone wood nor lead
My anchor is the living Head

His spirit blows through my rigging
My sails set on broad reach

Of my final day I’m singing
Singing of my soul to Thee

I race to eternity, I race to Thee
Anchor of my soul

On my lofty skysail clipper
I set sail to eternity

There is nothing that is swifter
Than my soul sailing to Thee

My anchor now and ‘till the end of time
Against gale winds and changing tide

Not of iron stone wood nor lead
My anchor is the living Head

© 2011 El Morro Music

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Dum Spiro Spero

I took a name to have and hold
and call my own until I'm old
and grey of hair and weak of eye
but for a spark of hev'n inside.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Misadventures of a Lady and Her Cleansweep 5

The Beast. The Hawk. The CleanSweep 5.

I decided that as a motorcycle lover and owner I should actually use the bike I have. Disregarding the passing comment made by the Trophy Motorcycle shopkeeper about how we should sell it unless we have a death wish, and it's less than perfect track record, I opted to ride it to work instead of taking the car.

Eleanor Roosevelt said "Do one thing every day that scares you." Well, I can emphatically check that off my list. Last time I rode it I dropped it down a hill and later knocked it over on a lady because I didn't get it into neutral when kick starting. I was apprehensive to say the least. Knees shaking I headed out on my 45 min sans freeway ride to work. The shocks are bad so you feel every bump and crack but after a few minutes I was okay. The wind in my face always does that for me. Arrived: Safe and sound. Fast forward 8 hours (4 more than I was expecting), I remount and set out to retrace my steps home.


  • Unavoidably scratched helmet visor = Less than ideal night vision.
  • Wind = watering eyes. 
  • Missed turn (due to tear blurred vision) = forced freeway entrance (I have my license but desired to keep speeds lower).
  • +55 mph = tremendous wobbling.
  • Inexplicable spluttering = Empty gas tank.
  • Darkness = Difficulty in finding reserve tank switch.
  • Filling 2 gallon gas tank in Ca = $8.00
  • Old motorcycle being insulted by the price of gas these days = Refuses to shift to neutral.
  • Sitting on your ratty motorcycle trying to shift for more than 2 minutes = Looks of concern from passersby.
  • Riding in "crisp" weather with no jacket, and wind on your face = Aching limbs from uncontrollable shivering. 
  • Riding in "crisp" weather with no gloves = Temporary onset of arthritis in hands (limiting ability to operate clutch and brake).
  • Distress from above mentioned factors = 2nd missed turn and illegal u-turn due to growing desperation.
  • Owning a motorcycle instead of a 2nd car = Still glad we made that choice.

Riding a motorcycle makes me feel wild. It connects me to the recklessness I can feel in my chest.  The speed makes me feel like the wind is bearing down on me, fighting me back, but I'm pushing through. It feels like flying and I love it.