10 Jan 2017

War is Stupid

I am disregarding the creative aspect of this prompt to instead rant about how stupid war is. 

Day 6: Write about >> this piece of artwork <<: its creation, subject matter, period or the artist's perspective.

War is stupid.

Those who know me would agree that I generally try not to make sweeping statements, or those which could lead to confrontation or a war of words (except with My Person, because, you know, if you can't share extreme and overblown views with the person your soul is intertwined with, then what the actual). I'm pretty open to debate and sometimes will even play Devil's Advocate, just for the hell of the intellectual ping-pong.

Regardless, I do not even care to argue this particular topic. It doesn't matter how intelligent you (think you) are, I'll say it again: War is stupid.

I believe that everybody has their (or a couple of them) flare-points. Topics or opinions that, no matter how balanced and reasonable the person is, will inflame them and almost in a sentence drive them to that cul-de-sac of the debate: BECAUSE IT JUST IS! It's just wrong, or it's just immoral, or it's just the way it is. These are all argument-enders. There's no talking it out with a person who resorts to this kind of statement to explain their point of view: either there isn't anything else behind that drywall, or it's something they cannot communicate in words (which doesn't mean it isn't a valid point, take Faith for example - whole other blog post).

Anyways, I digress, the topic of War is one of my flare-points. When I was in high school one of our set-work poems was Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. I remember being very, very angry throughout this entire portion of the school term. In case you're not familiar with this beautifully constructed (and timeless) piece of art, here you go:

'Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling 
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 

In all my dreams before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,— 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.'

The final line of this poem is attributed to Roman poet Horace, and the Latin translates to English as "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country".

There isn't much more that I can write that encapsulates the futility and egomaniacal concept of War, as well as this piece does. And to be clear: I am not talking about defending one's home (country etc.) from invading forces - that is not an act of War, that is an act of self-preservation, which is deeply programmed within each and every human being. I am talking about the offensive act of waging War on another person/nation/belief/peoples/species for the satiation of a whopper-sized power trip (or in so-called "defense" of one's beliefs).

If everybody just calmed the *expletive* down, became just a smidge more mindful (and maybe hugged someone), we'd all see the absolute absurdity of War.

You see, I have to get angry about it. My anger is my self-preservation, because the reality is, if I don't get angry, I am going to fall to pieces at how far we are falling as a species and how hopelessly lost we are.

So, just in case it wasn't made clear in all of the above, War is stupid.

[word count: 707/746]

Ever the Dreamer...

So, about that writing project hey?

Today is Day 10 and the last time I published a post was Day 5. Why?
Because Life.
And because no matter how I see myself as a risk-assessing, productivity-pushing, efficiency-driving Type A Realist, at heart I am a dreamer. I think this is part of the reason why I start these kinds of "projects" and "hobbies" and fail to finish them - because I always think I will have more time & energy in my day. Because my life's motto is "Meh, how hard can it be?"
That, and all it takes is one puppy-dog eyed look from My Person to stay on the couch and watch another episode, or nap a little longer. #Priorities

So, this dreamer is going to try to compromise terrible personal time allocation with some kind of passion: I am going to continue to receive the Write500 Daily Prompts, but I'm going to choose posts here and there (time and energy allowing). It's not really cheating because this isn't really school. Perhaps I'll also feel inspired sometimes to just write - no prompted topic, just me.

Let's see how this goes, shall we?

[word count: 195]

5 Jan 2017

The Day The Earth Pushed Back

Today's prompt made me chuckle, because not 3 days ago I was listening to 50s/60s Rat Pack tunes for inspiration for this post :)

Day 5: What do a 1952 Chevy, a fast food diner & the view of the Earth from the Moon have in common? An appearance in your story.

The room snapped into focus violently, every sound, smell and sight hitting me at once. 

"...And then d'you know what I said to him? I'll tell you - I told him that the only way that he was gonna get me to go steady with him was to die and come back as a com-puh-letely different person!"

White-knuckled hands gripped the table in front of me. Whose hands are those?

"Ronny, Ronny are you even listenin' to me? Seriously, what is UP with you today? Anyways, so you know what he said to me then? 'Uh, uh, uh, well Nancy you're a... you're a mean person! That's just downright mean!' I swear, we gassed so hard we almost blew soda pop outta our noses!"

Laugh damnit - this is your cue to laugh! I chuckled woodenly, almost certain she'd see through it. I looked past her to the exit, calculating my escape should she make a scene. Legs tensing, I felt my pulse quicken in anticipation. Man I hope this body is quicker than the last one.

"I know right, hi-LAR-ious! So, who are you takin' to the dance?"

I had to get out of here. We didn't have time for this. "Oh shoot, I was supposed to do something for my Dad and I'm totally late. He's gonna go ape!" I really hoped this body had a Dad. Before she could begin to protest I jumped up and started moving towards the exit.

"But Ronny, what about the food?! Ronny, your keys! How are you gonna -"

As I skipped down the steps of the diner, her shrill voice faded into the sound of The Archies starting on the jukebox. I picked the first car I saw in the lot - an Admiral Blue 1952 Chevy - and jumped in the front. 15 seconds to hotwire, 540 seconds to get to the compound, 240 seconds to get past security and into the lab. Damnit Leland, you've only got 105 seconds to spare. You better hope these legs are fast! The car roared to life and I sped away, watching chatty Nancy waving wildly in the rear window.

Getting past security at the compound was easy. Government facility security my ass. Moving as quickly as I could without arousing suspicion, I navigated the maze of corridors to the astrophysics lab. I had one chance and only 220 seconds left. I turned the last corner and there he was: Dr Edward Jennings, the grandfather of the end of the Earth.

A mere 117 years from now in the year 2086, Professor JT Jennings will engineer a tool to extract core materials from the outer core of planet Earth. In the race to sustain the ever-expanding population on our planet, scientists pushed boundaries, looking for higher potency energy sources. They dug deeper and deeper into the Earth, trying to breach past the tangent cylinder to the inner core. Until the Earth pushed back. Now all that's left of humanity are holed up on the Moon, staring at what used to be home, waiting for all the smart arses to find another habitable planet that we can swarm to. And that's why I had to do what I was about to do. Dr Edward Jennings can never have a son. Professor JT Jennings could never be born to that son. It was our only chance.

I walked into the lab, trying not to get distracted by the glaring lack of security. Dr Jennings turned around at the sound of my footsteps. "Excuse me, you're not allowed to be in - ", the shockwave from my neutraliser temporarily disorientated him, dropping him to the ground. He'd be ok, in fact, he probably wouldn't even remember I was here. Sure, he'd never father any children, but it's a small price to pay for the safety of the planet for another 100 years or so. 

As the good doctor came to his senses, I felt the room slipping away; the edges of the light fading, as if I was staring through a window that was beginning to mist up. "Hey, hey you! What the - Marcy! Marcy get in here, there's a man, a ghost, whatever the hell Marcy come quick!"

But Marcy would never see me, and Dr Jennings would be treated for concussion and a "disturbance", caused by lack of sleep and heightened stress levels. And the Earth would keep turning.

[word count: 737/841]

4 Jan 2017

Limitless Determination

Today's prompt had me torn between 3 perspectives: 

  • a reflection on how truly privileged I am to have sight, and how easy it is to forget this and to simply look, but not see 
  • my gratitude for the creation of Braille, not necessarily in how it has changed my life, but in knowing that those who are visually impaired can still experience the imaginings that written words can inspire *cue my favourite poem, in Braille, which in itself is quite beautiful to see*
  • my memories of the first time I really comprehended the fact that some people cannot experience the world as I can, and the book that inspired this.

I've gone with number 3, but today's prompt has also inspired moments of quiet contemplation on 1 and 2, which I am really just so grateful for. Due to the fact that this post isn't creative writing, it will possibly (almost certainly) meander. Put your hiking boots on Betty.

Day 4: today is World Braille Day. Share your thoughts.

When we are little we are invincible. We may screech and shriek at creepy crawlies and the thought of big, scary crocodiles under our bed *personal share*, but we are fearless and open and ready at a moment's notice to take on the world. Children, for all of their outwardly appearing fragility, can be the most resilient little buggers. When we're little, our inquiring minds and unfailing honesty somehow make us far less fearful of the myriad of things that can (and do) go wrong in life. I'm sure you've heard it before: a small child encounters someone in a wheelchair who may be disabled or somehow physically different, and they turn to their parent(s) and loudly, without shame or malice, ask,
"Mommy, why is that lady's arm waving around all funny?"
"Daddy, why is that man sitting in a chair and not walking?"
"What is wrong with her legs, where did they go?"
"Why is he shaking like that?"   

These types of questions are normally quickly followed up with responses like "Shhh honey you can't say that" or "Shoosh that's rude, we don't talk like that"

Except, to a child who hasn't experienced physical disadvantage, it's not a condemnation but a curiosity. And this is where my long-winded intro leads to my first comprehension of visual impairment as a child.

I have always loved to read. My mom taught me how from the age of 4, and by the time I was going to school I would pretty much read anything you put in front of me. Sometimes, when I am feeling anxious or need to focus my mind, I read ingredients labels on whatever is at hand - shampoo bottles, cans, jars, you name it. **This is a COMPLETE divergence and not at all relevant to the topic, but hey, it's yours now. Like your literary version of a Stikeez toy.*

Anyhow, back on topic. So, one of the series of books I was given to read as a child was the ValueTales Series and the book that stood out the most was
The Value of Determination: The Story of Helen Keller.

I remember asking, many times in fact, "Why?". Why was she blind? Why was she deaf? Why couldn't they "fix" her? Why didn't she give up? Because, as a child who is born with full function of sight, hearing, motor skill, etc. the world is an infinite universe of wonderful possibilities. Why would we not all have that wonderfulness? 

I remember thinking (before the lesson at the end of the book) I couldn't do that, I would just give up. Because life without sight must be tough. It must be a level of tough that I cannot even begin to comprehend or put appropriate words to. The subject of my book would soon show me though, that when faced with adversity so incomprehensible, the power and resilience of little ones astounds. 

Case in point: Helen Keller was left deaf & blind after contracting an illness when she was just under 2 years old. Despite the overwhelming odds stacked against her, she was adamant that she would communicate, and communicate she did! She became known as a world-renowned advocate for people with disabilities, obtaining a BA Degree, publishing many notable works and giving inspiring speeches all over the world. In her extensive travels she met many foreign dignitaries, befriended artists, inventors, literary greats, the list goes on. She met every single US President who held office between 1885 - 1963. Did you know that Helen Keller could tell who had walked into a room based on the vibrations of their footsteps? It's reported that she could even distinguish the age & gender by the way their footfalls fell.

When I had finished reading Helen Keller's ValueTale I remember looking around, as if I had never really seen everything around me; I remember really listening to everything I was hearing; I remember the feeling of both inspiration and admonishment that If she can do ALL OF THAT, I have NO excuse to EVER give up. So, even though I was filled with the sadness of now knowing that there was such a thing as losing your sight, I was inspired by the fact that this loss does not mark you as "valueless", or prevent you from functioning within society. This rings even more true looking at the creation, refinement & adoption of the Braille Alphabet. 

I guess, after all the meandering, what today represents to me (historical figures aside) is that the human spirit can be a truly unconquerable force. This has only been reinforced by reading more about the inspirational people in history who have been partially or completely blind. So I'll leave you to ponder this thought:

Perhaps there is a shared perspective in how the world is seen by both a child & a person with visual impairment? Perhaps there is simpatico between the fearlessness (or heedlessness) of physical boundaries that children show, and the unconquerable determination to overcome unseen "boundaries" shown by people such as Helen Keller and Louis Brialle.

[word count: 846/1015]

3 Jan 2017

A night's embrace

Each day, the setting sun reveals two “lovers” right on my doorstep. They are inspiring to watch…

As day is done and night comes out
when no one else is seen about
two lovers take the chance to meet,
but they aren’t seen out on the street;
they meet up high, up high above
where they can sit and be in love.

He wraps his arms around her hips
and she moves in to meet his lips
and all night long they sit there, still;
they hope and pray with all their will
that dawn won’t come, that no new day
will take the moment’s love away.

But without moonlight, this won’t last;
the same as every night that’s passed.
Tomorrow, back here they will come,
embracing once the day is done.

Now without mercy, day draws near
and with the sunlight, vision clear
to show two lovers for their truth:
two chimneys, seated, on the roof.

[Words by Stacy Kleinhans. Originally penned 9 Oct 2011]

Appetitus Interruptus

Today I'm focusing on spending less time thinking about the writing prompt and just smashing the words onto the page. Kind of like dipping a wide paintbrush into a bucket of paint and flicking it forward as hard as you can towards the offending wall. Hopefully this will also translate to a shorter story.

Day 3: a perspective following a character in the career of GP (General Practitioner).

He sat alone at the small table, waiting. She wasn't quite late, but she wasn't early either. He hoped he'd gotten the place right, there was only 1 restaurant called Très Cher in the city. He looked around again to make sure that no one else was wearing a yellow rose in their hair - the agreed "badge". Blind dates were both exciting and a little silly, kind of like being on a pretend CIA mission when you're 10 years old. He felt ridiculously out of practice - I mean, the last time he went on a date was more than a decade ago. He could hear his sister tut-tutting, Damien, if you don't make the time for it, you'll never have the time.
And then there she was: a vision in her long red dress, as beautiful as his colleague had described her. She had the most petite yellow rose brooch he'd ever seen, elegantly pinned behind her ear. It sparkled in the candlelight as she turned to survey the patrons in the small French bistro. He lifted his long-stemmed yellow rose slightly off the table and their eyes locked. She glided over and he fumbled to pull out her chair for her, tussling a little with the maître d' for the honours. A lilting laugh escaped her lips as she cooed, "Now now gentleman, let's play nicely.". She was obviously loving the attention, and he resolved to try to be a little more suave and aloof. "So," she said, a smile creeping into the corners of her lips, "do you think this place does pizza?". 

The rest of the evening was far less intense. He found she had a wicked sense of humour, dry like his, but not as dark. It was going well. He made every effort to prompt her to talk about herself, something all of those "self-help" books had suggested. Needless to say she didn't seem to notice, and if she did, she really didn't mind. He managed to stop himself from analysing her movements, her breathing, the small patch of dermatitis that crept out from under her halterneck before she re-adjusted her dress. You're off the clock, remember? You need to learn how to have a life, how to interact with people in a social manner, not a diagnostic one. He was finding the journey of a recovering workaholic a tough one. I mean, how do you just "switch off" a part of your brain that is tuned to risk assessment and problem-solving? Wait, what did she say? Shit! Why is she looking at me like she's expecting a response?
"I'm so sorry," he said apologetically, "I thought I heard my name and was distracted for a second. You know, cocktail effect?"
"Oh yes, crazy that hey? Gets me every time!" 'Whew' he thought, as she continued, "Well I was just saying, enough about me - what do you do for a living?"
Oh no. Here goes. We've done so well up until now...
At his pause, she lowered her voice and leaned in, whispering "Or are you a secret government agent and if you told me, you'd have to kill me?". He laughed and replied "No, I'm in the medical profession".
"Ooooh, tell me more? What do you do?"
Damn. Why is that never enough? Oh well, I may as well tell her now rather than later. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe she won't...
"I'm a GP" he said, before signalling for the waiter to come over. Maybe if I quickly change the subject to dessert she won't -
"Oh that's exciting! You must encounter all kinds of interesting things every day! You know, I've got this funny patch of skin on my collarbone and I've been meaning to go to the..."

And that was that. Dinner, for him, was over. He turned to the approaching waiter and signalled for the cheque. He would tackle finding the perfect partner, not patient, another day.

[word count: 659/727]

2 Jan 2017

Exchange on the I-75

I won't lie, when I received today's writing prompt my first response was *Moms, if you're reading this, close your eyes*: "What. The. Ferret?!" (Ok, I didn't really say "ferret", if you know what I mean). HISTORY?! No. I hate history. This is like a school project. Where do I unsu...

But wait, little firecracker. Just stop for a second. This is a prompt. It's supposed to challenge you to be creative. So, be creative. You don't have to write about a history lesson...

Day 2: your recounting/variation/take on the USA-RUS prisoner (spy) exchange of Feb 10, 1962.

Brief history lesson  >> here << . Now please bear with me as I venture off brief... for a *touch* more than 500 words.

The year was 1962. The weather was a less than balmy 4°C. Frankie sat in the corner of the basic wooden hut in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, the threadbare woollen blanket providing no comfort against the cold. This was a very, very long way away from his home in Bay Terrace. Hell, before this he'd never even been camping. A charmed life he'd led, star quarterback for the New York Giants and going steady with the most beautiful girl on Staten Island. His future was a sure thing, all mapped out. Until he got mixed up with Merrill and the Coach in that hair-brained plan. It's easy, all you gotta do is sneak into their digs and grab the playbook. They'll all be out for the season and nobody will see you. We've set it up so that the janitor will let you into the change room and we know he won't say anything because he's always buzzed. Frankie could hear the Coach's calm assurance as if he was right there with him. Except that he wasn't. Not even nearly. Merrill had run like lightening in the opposite direction when the Packers Coach had spotted them in the gymnasium. Where the hell was all that speed when Merrill was on the field?

Anyhow, that was months ago. At this rate he would miss the next season and be so out of shape that he'd never run down that field in a Giants jersey again. What was he thinking? It all seemed so important at the time. I mean, they all knew that the Green Bay Packers had only won the previous season by such a landslide because they had pulled exactly the same move the year before: get in, steal the playbook, take the season. But he should've known - they eventually tracked down and caught the cat who had pulled off that job - and he was still paying for it (holed up somewhere in New Jersey of all places).

He snapped back to his current predicament. Someone was coming. He could hear heavy boots crunching on the fallen branches outside. He hoped they'd brought some food, he couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. He hoped they weren't going to ask him any more questions about the Coach. They already knew he was a Giant, they must have been talking to the guys back home, surely? What more could they want? He didn't run things, he didn't come up with the plays, he just knew his part. When were they going to let him go? 

Footfalls on the wooden landing. A key in the lock. Whew, it wasn't the bruiser. "We're packing for bear". Frankie stared at him blankly, which didn't seem to be the correct response, because the man lunged forward and yelled "Ey, I say let's go yet?! Get up!". With legs that didn't quite straighten out and ankles still bound by zip ties this was easier said than done. Impatiently, the warden grabbed Frankie by the arm and yanked him along, the blanket slipping from his hands. "No, wait, it's too cold out there for..." "Quiet. No more jibberjabber!". One shove through the door and he was outside in the fresh air, staring straight at a mockingjay blue Thunderbird. Funny, I didn't even hear that arrive thought Frankie, but no sooner had he started to feel a creeping sense of elation than the trunk popped open. Frankie began to protest, but a shift in position revealed a hunting knife holstered on his captor's left hip. At that moment he realised that he was going in there, willing or not.

The journey was a bit of a blur. The car stopped a number of times and he heard what he thought were 4, maybe 5 voices. He couldn't make anything out, other than that they were all thick Wisconsin accents, dragging their "A's" through the cold, wet snow like a heavy blanket. And suddenly he really missed that blanket. After a few hours the car sounded like it hit a gravel road. Frankie thought he heard, or rather felt, jackhammers all around him. The deep-chested vibrations faded away, but the gravel road became bumpier, bouncing him around in the small, cold space. 

Suddenly the car stopped. He heard the driver & passenger get out and begin shouting. They're gonna kill me, I just know it. Seriously, c'mon fellas, it's just NFL. I mean, I love this game as much as the next guy, but please, can't we all just get along? You do your thing, we'll do - his silent begging was interrupted by the trunk popping open. The bruiser stood over him, sneering. "Get out will yer?!" Frankie swung his still-tied legs over the edge of the trunk and edged out, blinking up into the softly falling snow. A thick hand to his chest and the reappearance of the hunting knife stopped his breath in his throat, until he saw the blade moving down to cut the ties at his ankle. And then he saw it - there in the distance, about 300m out, the most beautiful sight he'd seen in months - the royal blue of his team colours. Resisting the urge to push his hulking captor and run towards freedom, he let his sulking companions hustle him along until he was about 50m out from his teammates. A few quick exchanges, mostly grunts and nods, and he was being shoved forward unceremoniously by the two Packers. He roughly brushed shoulders with an equally harassed-looking man in a green jersey moving in the opposite direction, Hey, isn't that the guy Coach caught trying to... and it suddenly dawned on him: Frankie was being exchanged for the Green Bay Packers' spy from the previous season's heist. 

No sooner had the exchange taken place, than the Coach stepped out into the drifting snow. "Well if it ain't Frankie G Powers. Let's get yous guys inside, it's brick out here and those Packers are giving me the creeps". And just like that, the 1961/62 Great Playbook Infiltration was over. And I was going home.

[word count: 1021/1140]