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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Blog 108: Dead Good Records

Welcome to Dead Good Records where the great and gone are reborn in all of their lost vocal glory. Instead of cloning dead vocalists, which proved so disastrous, we now grow their vocal organs from recovered genetic material. The organs are then hooked up to maintenance systems to ensure  profit from the investment. The organs are then conditioned in a process we call ‘realising’ which subjects them to the necessary substances and stresses to produce the dead artists true sound. Thanks to our work the legacy of the deceased can continue to grow even in their absence allowing for previously impossible collaborations. The ethics of our work have been criticised but who could argue with the beauty and value of Somewhere South of the Surface, the collaborative album by Ian Curtis and Jeff Buckley. The Once and Future King by Elvis is the fastest selling album of the Century, that statistic says it all. Thank you for listening and as we say here, good music never dies.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Blog 107: The Unborn Companion

This is an appendix from a larger piece I've been working on for a few days but encompasses the idea simply and quickly. This is from a fiction novelette so far called The Singular Soul which I want to publish through Blurb as I did with the books for my degree show but more in the format of my dissertation, playing with chronology and continuity. Here it is:

A man loved me more than half a century before I was born. He knew about my life; its highs and lows, they were his escape from his own tormented life and I've come love him back in my own way via the stories passed on by the man who helped free him from the confines of an asylum. I was the unborn companion of Nathaniel Cawdor who saw my life and me through reflections. He loved me and my life with a passion I could call obsessive a creepy but to be honest I could have done with a friend like him before now. He worked around the rules and made the best of a hard life in war torn times.

Each life might be considered a room with a door at either end. We walk through the first door into the room which might be bigger or smaller, full or empty and then we exit through the second door to a new life. This is reincarnation as best I can describe it. Most of us can't remember the last room. When I leave this room I'll enter the room that is Nathaniel Cawdor, I can't see his room but he can stare through the keyhole into mine. Maybe the rooms of our lives aren't in one long line, it seems impractical that they wouldn't twist back alongside or on top of and under themselves and have small skylights, windows or a glass floor here and there.

Maybe you’ve experienced the moment where you're feeling vulnerable and another person who still has to deal with their own problems offers you a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on. That's what it feels like when I read the story of the man who died so young so long before I could have met him. His hand reached through time to me to offer the comfort he took from my life when he needed it. I was a friend who could be there for him in solitary confinement while the screams of the mentally ill and the odour of their waste kept him awake. That I could help someone in a time like that brings warmth to me, the pride of hope donation. We could all of our organs away and never have enough but within us hope springs eternal, why not give?

Blog 106: Stagnant and Stationary Self-discovery

Know thy enemy and thyself and you need not fear the outcome of a thousand battles was the quite reasonable theory of a Chinese strategist Sun Tzu. My enemy is for the moment and has for the best part of my life been boredom, we’re well acquainted. Through familiarity with boredom I know myself ever more. People talk about journeys of self-discovery, traveling abroad to ‘find themselves’ which I’m finding ever more absurd as I remain where I am, as I do the same thing day in and out.

On a journey we meet new people and learn things about them and the world where as stuck in place I feel we are better poised to look within ourselves. Day after day I clean the same rooms in a hotel and day after day I return to find them trashed by drunks with no regard for the time limit I have to clean a room set by someone in an office, possibly in another country. This person might never have heard of Aberdeen or considered the scale of destruction half a dozen drunken louts can wreak within a room between check in at three in the afternoon and noon the next day.

While I clean I have a lot of time to think, escaping the cycle of destruction, restoration and making beds by walking through far flung realities within my own mind. I have hours to consider my view on any particular subject that might be raised by the daily papers left next to televisions I must dust or to learn Polish from my co-workers. Free tutelage in a foreign language, dziękuję.

I’m in a job I’m overqualified for just as anyone with independent thought and free spirit would be but my stagnant and stationary self-discovery feels as valid as any story about a gap year in the third world that I could never afford.

People moan about the density of foreigners within our country, immigration’s terrible isn’t it? No. I see the faces of foreign places, the words of foreign languages and I think how lucky I am to live in a time where even if I can’t afford to see the rest of the world as much as I might like to children of other nations will surround me that I might learn their ways in the comfort of Scotland. I hate the heat of strong sunlight which makes me sweat which in return causes rashes to cover my oversensitive skin. If stories of the sunny equatorial regions fly their way to me then why moan about it? I joy in the possibilities of genetic diversity the present and future hold with people moving so freely across the globe. Genetic predispositions to illness or other maladies could be negated with less pedigreed genetic pool.

I have to wonder if the morons who clamour for racial purity have really paid attention to the portraits of communities in the past. I saw one a while back while on holiday in a rural region of Scotland, the portrait of an entire village. The whole image seemed to detail every minute change you could make to the one face in order to render one individual as many. Each villager had the same nose, the same shape of face, the same jawline and ears. If that’s the past we’ve left behind good riddance. Our ancestors inbred because they could not or would not summon the effort to leave their native hills and valleys. There’s nothing romantic or patriotic about marrying your brother or sister and being both parent and aunt or uncle to your children.

Through this view of not just the advantage but very real need for genetic diversity which lighten some of the load bourn by our strained health services by improving genetic health I have been considering once again the concept of uniformity. Schools have an obligation to educate us in more than just academic fact but not to set impressionable children bad examples in terms of socio-politic concept. In this last respect I think any school which enforces and idolises the uniform fails its pupils at a very basic level. The purpose of uniform is to nurture a group mentality which may benefit the school as a unit but suggest a group mentality to the detriment of individuality which seems unhealthy. We live in a world of individuals, each unique and better for it. To program us to fit in by wearing the same clothes as school bothers me for the same reason I hate to be turned away from an establishment for my chosen garments or hear stories of outsiders picked on by groups with a hive mentality.

In America all of the gangs have a form of uniform; The Bloods show their allegiance by wearing red, the Crips wear blue and the Latin Kings wear yellow. We are better together for certain but can’t that mean the group is humanity or life itself which is the outsider in an otherwise cold and empty universe?

We must follow our own path in life, unhindered by the rest of humanity and equally helping others along their own road. I hear of depression amongst those who live undeniably comfy lives here, supported by a welfare state and one of the best healthcare systems in the history of the world. I hate the days where I feel I’ve done nothing to further my goal of being a writer/visual artist. I think that anyone with any concept of where they want to go in life will suffer depression if they no they’re making no progress. Even those who live without a dream or vague aspiration must strive for one. We are programmed to grow at every level. There is no limit to our ambition, we must move ever onward for our own peace of mind.


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Blog 105: The Once Silver Moon

Did you know the moon shone silver once? The sun's light was bounced off the grey dust that feeds the grass that gives it the emerald hue we see today. It must be ringing a bell now, you've heard an old man tell you that idly, maybe your father or his. It's easy to forget that life did not find itself on Earth's constant companion by the same means as it did on Earth itself. You'll have heard of N.A.S.A I'm sure? They were some of the first spacemen, sponsored by the American Government, desperate to beat the Russians in a petty publicity war known as The Space Race. The Russians had their early victories such as the probe Sputnik which only hastened the Americans on to set other records of their own. It was an American who set foot on the moon first, you must know that.

Even the grainy black and white footage in defunct  four by three ratio shows clearly enough that there was no sea of green grass on the satellite's surface when the astronaut took his first steps. The seeds of the all-encompassing lawn we see today were sown by his organisation three quarters of a century later to make their final mark on history. As a last act N.A.S.A coloured the moon green so their legacy could be seen by anyone who ever looked skyward at night. The effort was also the first and to date the most successful example of terraforming.

You might one day be lucky enough to stand on the green turf of the moon and look down upon the glimmering blue orb of Earth and if you do just think about how long Earth has looked as it does compared to how long there has been grass on the moon.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Blog 104: Judging Depth

The surface of the water glistened like glitter, blue and shimmering in the bright light of the summer of two thousand and nine. He dipped his toes in, wishing the lake was as warm as the air, the wind only serving to blow more of the heat into his face. He wished he'd cut his hair which was too long and working too well as insulation. He waded into the water, shivering while his body baked in the sunlight. The pebbles on the bed were mostly round but here and there they hurt his bare feet as he'd left his shoes, jeans and t shirt above the tide-line.

He saw the destination, half a mile away, right next to the waterfall. Beyond that point the calm water became vicious and swift, twisting and turning for miles downstream.

He thought of the car in the car park, almost out of fuel. He walked deeper and shivered more violently as the water reached his crotch. He gasped, thinking he was past the worst of it and threw himself into the cool water. For a moment he forgot to breathe from the shock and then gasped and floundered in the still shallow water.

Only steely determination kept him in the water, made him swim but swim he did. He stirred the dirt in the shallows and kept his eyes shut beneath the surface, having to course correct until the bed of the lake sank away. He hit his stride there, knowing he could not turn back.

The stolen car parked in and around a tree was being inspected that very moment by police. His blood on the steering wheel proved he had been injured but not enough to stop him kicking his way out of the passenger's window and running off through the woods toward the lake. Drops of blood from his nose punctuated the deep imprints of his footsteps in the mud of the woods and then the sand. Drops swirled in the water as he made waves, swimming for his target.

He heard the sirens but it was too late for them, he'd reached the concrete of the old dam. Beneath the surface he moved the grill of the service panel which led into the disused outlet for a village up the hill. Replacing the panel behind him he hauled himself out of the water into the dark, slimy cavern beneath the public path. He found the torch he'd left there and illuminated the dank space where there was also enough food to last his for two days.

Hours passed, he heard officers on the path above discussing his disappearance and the continuing search downstream. He waited until the voices had stopped before taking a nap, it wasn't comfortable but he wanted to wait longer. After waking to complete, extended silence he made his way up the narrow tunnel towards the water works through a horrendously smelly old pipe and exited through hatch into the dark building. There were no workers needed for the facility to run which was why he was shocked to discover the bag of clothes he'd left himself was missing.

He had presumed maintenance workers had removed the bag and quite rightly but not that they would have informed the police who were waiting for him as he left the facility. He was almost grateful for the blanket draped around his shoulders but not the handcuffs as the officers bundled him into a car.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Blog 103: A Less Seasonal Solitude

She trudged slowly and half-heartedly through the last of the winter snow, heading north, back into the mountains for the winter. Night retreated from the rising sun as she lost the cover of darkness and raised a middle finger to the shimmering orb of red and gold that was rising over the horizon. Her footsteps in the snow were quickly erased by cold wind which would not save her from the inevitable orbit of the Earth moving closer to the hateful sun.

She’d had the best of winters; meeting seasonal friends down in the valley. She’d shared walks with them dressed in their warmest clothes while she walked simply wearing a warm smile. Her pallid surface contrasted their bright winter clothes. Her watery blue eyes glimmered with joy when she saw the youngsters playing and remembered all the years before. There weren’t many like her left, not in that region anyway and she would never leave her home.

Looking down over the valley she saw the world of old, moving forwards like a stop-motion set each time she came down from the mountain. Once she’d had a name of her own, given to her by family but they were long gone and so was her memory of the word they’d called her by. The change had been gradual once, a few new houses, extensions or replanted gardens, no longer. Entire streets stared to spring up between her visits and the village became a small town which crawled ever closer to her winter hideaway. She didn’t much approve of the newest additions to her valley, they were too rushed; there was no love of design in them.

The warm air hit her with a rush and she felt the sickness; dehydration had begun. A water droplet ran down her pale greyish-blue arm, slowly and tentatively at first but gaining speed and confidence. She raised her hand gently to watch it grow at the end of her small finger before falling into the snow at her feet.

Moving as fast as she could, which was not very fast at all, she made for the shade of a tall pine. The conifers marked her path to the deep dark cave where she would spend the summer. She would spend the warm seasons there, sleeping if she could to pass the time. Her kind had done the same for endless millennia, watching the progress of the humans in their valleys. As the ages had passed their numbers had risen as those of her kind melted away. She told herself they’d moved to other valleys but she knew that many had given themselves to the sun as she sometimes thought to.

There was always a slim chance that her kind would be reborn in the cold of a deep winter but it had not been so since the last ice-age. Even when they did return it was reincarnation more than renewal, they were not the same friends she’d mourned for; they were strangers of the same visage.

Her feet felt heavy as she climbed the mountain, the light chasing her as the shadows retreated ever further. It was not her energy that failed her but the will to continue the fight against the celestial order. She stopped; waiting for the burning pain and the sickness. It was not long before the sun abandoned her and she felt the warmth of the rising disk of light. She no longer felt sick; she was resolute that she would face the end there.

Beads of melt-water began to form then dribble down her. Her worried went with each droplet; they would matter no more. As she melted she became almost transparent like a statue made of glass. The young boy would remember that sight for the rest of his life, years later as a heart attack took him in a hospital bed that image would snap back into his head; his final thought.

He watched for almost a minute, wondering why she would stand there in the sun, then the realisation hit him and he panicked, running down the hill with his sledge dragging along behind.
“Please don’t die here.” He shouted, startling her. She turned to see him in his multi-coloured waterproof winter wear and shrugged. Why would she wait for another painful year? Why should she sleep to return and mourn the changes which came naturally?

She was the last of them that he knew of, there were black and white photos of others that he’d seen but they were worn and yellowing where they weren’t sepia toned to begin with. Everyone knew her or of her and told the stories of their childhood with fond smiles but all the same it seemed the consensus that she was a companion for the young who cared nothing for conversation. She was beautiful, eternal and moved with grace but an air of naivety. Her face had no mouth to voice her thoughts so instead used sign language in which the natives of the town were more versed than the country as a whole.

He watched her hands move as she stood dripping; I’m done, let me go. He shook his head as she fainted and fell in a puddle before him. After a minute’s blind panic he gently lifted her onto his cheap plastic sledge and kicked the melting snow over her before hauling the heavy load uphill. He moved as fast as he could until he was dripping with sweat. He knew the cave where the elemental slumbered over the winter. The cave went deep into the mountain above the snowline, past the warning signs left by mountain rescue teams after accidents he’d been lectured about.

She didn’t know what she meant to the boy. She couldn’t understand the wonder she inspired in such a boring world. Science had conquered so many once magical unknowns but she as an elemental remained to counter the cynicism of maturity. He couldn’t let her die so he sat with her there in the freezing cave. The sweat of his exertion caused him to shiver so much his teeth chattered but his determination to stay with the slumbering elemental never wavered for a moment. He indulged his imagination, wishing he was an elemental himself who could stay with her through the summer to accompany her down the mountain the following winter. She always had a smile, even without a mouth it was clearly carved into her gorgeous, glassy features.

He knew she was lonely, she reminded him of the single mothers who watched his parents jealously at the school gates. He felt like that sometimes; alone even amongst the millions of his own kind, he was a loner who had yet to come to terms with the fact. Despite knowing it would make him colder and her warmer still he lay down and held her as she slept. It was cold but he settled into sleep as the warmth so quickly draining from his ear warmed the cold, damp fleece of his hood.

While he slept the frosted glaze of her complexion returned despite the heat he was radiating behind her. The boys’ complexion had changed in a far less healthy manner while they slept; he’d turned purple and was going blue.

She woke and stretched, feeling the ache of her dehydration but less demoralised; at terms with her state until she saw the young boy freezing to death on the ground next to her. It was dark by that point, the light from the moon barely illuminating the deep recess of the cave. She moved as quickly as she could, emptying the snow out of the red sledge and sliding the limp form of the child onto it.

Staring down the mountain she considered her options; she could not simply let the boy slide down the hill in the hope that he would be found and hit nothing on the way down. If she ventured down with him she would not make it back up the mountain before the light of the sunrise but had to ensure his safety for the sake of her own conscience. She sat the boy on her lap and paddled down the mountain, steering and slowing the pace of the sledge as best she could.

In no time at all they were at the foot of the mountain, just a mile from the city’s edge. She settled the boy on the sledge and walked as fast as she could towards the nearest bright lights of the town. There were voices in the dark, frantic calls of fearful townsfolk searching for the lost child. As she walked further into the light of town they surrounded her and wrapped the boy in jackets and blankets. While he was rushed away to hospital they all thanked her and smiled and cheered. She smiled while she thought of the young boy but looked back to the mountaintop and knew that there was no chance of her making it back there by daybreak. They all asked her why she didn’t look happier for saving the child and she wrote her dilemma in the snow. While most were stumped for a solution to the problem one woman told them all that the boy’s father ran a fish packing factory with a walk in freezer. They were all sure that for saving his child the man would let her stay in the freezer for as long as she needed to.

The father was more than happy to let the immortal elemental sleep in his clod store where she spent days recovering like the boy in the warmth of the nearest hospital. He was resilient but took longer to heal than her. It was a long while after she’d started pacing between the crates of seafood when the boy was allowed home to be nurtured by his parents. The father visited her every morning and thanked her despite her explanation that she owed the boy more than he owed her.

Eventually she saw the boy again, dressed like an Inuit from head to toe more so than when they’d met. He’d asked to help his father in the factory so he could talk to her again just as she talked to most of the workers during their break. The boy might not have taken on the business had it not been for her but their friendship meant they saw each other every day for many years. She slept when the humans slept and helped them when she could, grateful for the company and the conversation.