Posted in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Notepad Conversations, Technology and Software

Would I Ever Throw Food at Anyone?

I doubt it very much. πŸ™‚ Seems like a waste of food. I suppose it’s always possible, if I was angry enough (or had some other reason).

That was the latest WordPress ‘post a week 2011’ prompt, if you were wondering.

It makes me wonder though… there are so many things I wouldn’t normally dream of doing, that other people have done or do regularly! Impulsively, as children, or without even thinking. I’m a goody two-shoes, maybe, but I don’t know why that’s such a bad thing…

I haven’t been on the computer a lot lately; it seemed so dark and cold at the back of this room. For several days I didn’t even turn the computers on.

Suddenly thought of science fiction shows… Star Trek, Stargate or Babylon 5. People sitting in dark shadows with glowing computer screens. Communicating with each other, or doing painstaking research. A lot of the light on my face and hands is from this screen… spooky, strange. Anything could happen… somebody invisible could be swooping around the room! Maybe my messages are being intercepted by some starship full of aliens. And with a whoosh, a portal will open in the wall, and when I look through, there’s a raging snow storm in another world.

Instead, it’s just shadowy and gloomy, and I type in the glow of

AARGH!

Excuse me, I’m not kidding. I got that far, and there was a ‘boing’ and a thud, and cold air… somebody standing behind my chair. I twisted round, and it was Mum, scowling crossly and holding a notepad. (I didn’t hear her come in because, no hearing aids!) I felt stupid about this message I was typing, so I chivvied her out into the hall saying I didn’t have a pen (I didn’t. They disappear). But I found a pen in my bedroom, the one I write my personal journal with at night.

The ‘alien’ wrote down: “Fancy having a gigantic desk and no pencil! If you are up early tomorrow we can go to Morrisons.”

I can’t wait.

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Posted in Agoraphobia, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Health Issues, Injury and Mishap

Futuristic Health Care

Something I keep wishing we had is an automatic treatment unit in every house. I probably read about something like this in Ringworld by Larry Niven. Every morning you could step inside, and it would scan for irregularities and make any adjustments necessary. Cracked tooth? Repaired without pain or extraction. Furry arteries? Sweetly cleared. A tumour just starting to form? Safely zapped in seconds.

No need to worry your family with these mundane details – they’re carrying out similar checks and changes on themselves.

Broken bone? Beautifully straightened and set without pain. Poor hearing? Tuned to perfect pitch! Failing kidneys? Repaired, as good as new!

No need to go to hospital, sit for hours in waiting rooms and have tests… only for the doctors to say they don’t know what’s wrong with you, or they do know what’s wrong with you and can’t fix it, or they thought they knew what was wrong with you but got it wrong.

A treatment unit in the corner of your own bedroom would be lovely from an agoraphobic point of view especially – not having to go out to the GP, optician or dentist. Fewer people milling about in buses and on the roads (not having to go out to be treated). And just think – no more valuable land given over to grim hospital buildings and sprawling, expensive car parks. No more people catching superbugs they wouldn’t have caught if they hadn’t gone near those places.

I suppose it would be worrying if the technology really was that good, then one day you stepped inside your treatment unit and it said “sorry for any inconvenience, but you cannot be repaired.”

Imagine a society which has evolved beyond our current laws and adds the option of self-euthanasia. “You cannot be repaired. Your heart will self-destruct in 66 hours, unless you choose self-euthanasia.”

Panicking, you click on Y, and it says “are you sure?”

Some weeks later, it is realized that your treatment unit had a bug and wasn’t working properly. The engineers responsible are being sued to the hilt, but that’s no comfort for your grieving family and friends.

That sounds more like real life…. unfortunately.

Posted in Current Affairs, Life and Family, Pet-Minding, TV and Films

Dribs and Drabs

I met a gigantic worm a few days ago, thumping determinedly across the path in the hot sunshine. This creature was the General Woundwort of worms, as big as a small snake, and it wriggled so fast I believed it would make it into the grass at the other side of the path in minutes. It seemed to know where it was going. But people and dogs are even faster, and the next person round the corner (or a crow from the tree) might be less friendly to invertebrates than I am.

Therefore I moved it into the grass. How it fought! It lashed and squirmed angrily. Once in the grass, it lay coiled and raised its sharp snout, weaving warily, as though tasting our presence in the air. Thundercloud was so amazed she strained towards it, her ears pricked and paws scrabbling. I didn’t let her near it, but what a fighter that worm was – amongst its fellows it must have a name like Leafbane or Rootcleaver.

Battlestar Galactica is enjoyable so far, though it suffers from deliberate camera wobble – very annoying. It distracted me from something Apollo said at a key moment – it zoomed in on his face in three short, sharp bursts, and then he said…? I couldn’t remember.

One of those moments I hate: when I’m putting the top back on a screw-top jar or bottle, and it spins out of my hand and clatters onto the floor – inner side down.

Contradictions? When I was a child I thought (as children do) that everything was good or bad, black or white, and I didn’t realize people could change their minds and thrash about in grey areas. It seemed to me my mother was very contradictory and it confused me. Now of course, I’m just the same. Anyway, the other day I picked out a pair of minty green summer slacks, and she said “yes, that’s nice.” Then she said “no wait – they’re too short for you.”

A little surprised, as I tend not to worry much about the length of these things, I put them back and kept browsing. Mum approached with another minty green garment from the same range, except that this was a three-quarter length pair – summer crop.
“There – THESE will look nice on you,” she said.
I laughed at her – “you tell me the last ones are too short, then bring me a pair that’s even shorter!”
“Yes, I know, but I prefer these to full-length trousers which aren’t long enough.”

Just now I was watching something about water shortage (on Tonight with Trevor McDonald). When the grim thing was over, I got up and went into the kitchen and suddenly noticed… rain on the window! I rushed over and opened the door, and it had been coming down in sheets for a wee while, judging by the level of dampness. The smell of the wet earth rose up around me, and cool drops splashed on my face.

Posted in Books, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Health Issues, Hearing Loss, Political and Social Issues, Rants, Technology and Software, TV and Films

Escape from One Brave New World to Another

Escapism, for me, is reading books. A good book makes everything whole again. I find fantasy is the most evocative genre, the one that takes me furthest away from the things I hope to escape. Good triumphs, magic exists and loose ends are rare. People enjoy their work, value their way of life and possess depth of character, understanding, and a low tolerance of injustice.

I miss the characters and their worlds when the last pages have been reached. I feel as though they still exist somewhere out there, and it won’t matter what happens to me here because I’ll always be able to go home to them. Maybe I will stay for a while in Bag End with the Bagginses and Gandalf, or with Badger, Mole or Ratty in their comfortable burrows. I won’t go anywhere near Toad – he makes me tired. I would rather hobnob with the weasels, especially those friendly with Badger. I could go wombling on Wimbledon Common with Tomsk and Wellington, looking in particular for sweetie papers to wallpaper their home. Better still, I could hibernate for the winter in Moominvalley – I always fancied the idea of a nourishing bowl of pine needles just before curling up to dream away the ice and the snow.

Do I prefer the sleepy stories to the adventures? It’s possible. Maybe I like the contrast; the sense of giving respite to characters who have been out in the cold for weeks on end. Or maybe it’s something deeper.

I’ve always been a sleepy kind of person, and have never been able to understand where people get the energy to do the things that they do. Where did Napoleon get his energy, for instance – or Alexander the Great? Too often I’ve lain in bed in the morning (instead of beginning the day’s chores) wondering about such people. Is there something wrong with me that I have never desired to leap up at cock’s crow to add to my little empire? Why do I never feel the impulse to go travelling, exploring, or to conquer Mount Everest? Why would I rather read about volcanoes than stare down into their smoking craters? Why are my favourite passages about people having rabbit stew for supper before turning in for a nice long snooze?

I’m sure there are various reasons. For instance, I sometimes wonder how The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy classics would have turned out if Frodo (or other fantasy figures) had been deaf? How about Gollum? “Sssorry, master, you’ll have to repeat that as poor old Smeagol don’t hear so good these daysss, gollum.” The thought of all the communication difficulties with innkeepers, magicians, trolls and the like, met while hiking along the road to defeat evil, makes me want to curl up in a ball and close my eyes.

Even more depressingly, I still wonder if Mum is right when she suggests I have an underactive thyroid. Maybe that’s always been part of the problem. That’s also why I don’t entirely believe in the concept of laziness – if you dig deep down, deeper than you expect, you may well find all kinds of unavoidable reasons why someone drags along and refuses to get involved with whatever’s going on.

Or perhaps my sleepiness kicks in because ‘modern civilization’ is so intensely regimented and boring that all the fun has gone out of it. Strange things happen but they make me more tired rather than less – people are criticized if they so much as put the words “Oh, shut up!” into the mouth of an Angry Beaver. It doesn’t matter what you do in this climate – either it’s something you’ve been kindly allowed to do (repeatedly) for limited amounts of money or it’s something someone somewhere will hate and despise you for, such as wearing white ankle socks or keeping cats.

There are so many parts of the world (even locally) that we never get to see in our lifetimes because they are the grounds of some reclusive ogre in his castle. Every so often they throw everything together into museums, trusts, collections, gardens or national parks and let everyone in (for a fee) to sigh ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. They tell us with satisfaction it all belongs to us now and we can come and stare at trees, canyons, animals, old ships, musty houses or junk in glass cases for as long as we like, just so long as we get out before closing time, and provided we don’t get too close, feed the exhibits or touch things with our grubby fingers.

Doesn’t that seem a mite sanitized? You can’t say “hey, I visited the Grand Canyon” or “we went on safari and bothered a group of elephants” or “I found a marvellous whale skeleton that’s bigger than my house”… everybody else has visited/done/seen everything too, and will just look at you as though you’ve presented them with a hot and sticky bunch of daisies.

I don’t even like ‘discovering’ a wonderful blog post only to find the writer has already drawn an admiring crowd of other readers. They got there before me – how dare they! And if I can’t run shouting to everybody “look what I found”, then what’s the use? I can discard that unworthy feeling after a while, but it still leaps on me unawares every so often.

Have you ever noticed that the world has shrunk, and nothing and nobody is beyond your reach? We can dredge the Titanic off the sea bed without killing ourselves in the attempt, and nobody falls off the edge of the world any more. It used to be that you would send someone a carefully worded letter and if you haven’t heard from them after a couple of years, you start to wonder if maybe they died and nobody told you. Now, if you dash off an impulsive email and the recipient has not responded in the next five minutes, you get very angry and think “what did I do to offend the old blackguard? I sent a friendly ‘howdy doody’ across hundreds of miles of land and sea and this is all the thanks I get!” It doesn’t do much to lower your blood pressure.

Finally you discover that everything you do, whether it’s leaving your TV on standby, allowing your tap to drip, or cooking Scottish cod on your gas hob, is a threat to the entire planet. It gets so that they ask you to vote for a cast iron cooking pot on the grounds that it marked the start of the Industrial Revolution, which is a good thing, isn’t it? But then you think “that’s when people lost their jobs and their skills, and that’s also when we began to destroy the world”… and that squat black cauldron suddenly becomes the linchpin of evil. Not so suddenly, perhaps – there could be an underlying psychological reason why it was associated with witches and black magic.

Having embarked on all this industry and technology (how I love my emails and my blog) it becomes very difficult to quit without making enormous sacrifices, including (probably) our own lives. As slaves to the machines, computers and other systems that have been put in place for us and which only seem to fully benefit a select few, what is there to live for? Oh, right – books! Books that make everything fresh, whole, and exciting again. Especially books that allow you to put your head under the blanket and hide for a little while – not just from Sauron, the Weasels of the Wild Wood, the Groke’s frozen loneliness and the rising dark, but also from factories and other places of brain-deadening occupations, politicians, committees, intolerance, inequality, injustice – and pollution.

Where do people get the energy to maintain this way of life? I’m not just talking nuclear, solar or wind power here, I’m talking people power. I have always wondered.

Edit Feb 2008: Some comments I received to this post on Blogigo:

1. drifting wrote at May 18, 2006 at 10:38:
What a wonderful post. I love the way you wrote it coming around in a circle. I share your love of books as escapes from reality. I much prefer to live in the world of fantasy where there is justice and true love and honour, etc, etc. And you (or your mother) may be right about an underactive thyroid. I’ve never had the energy that everyone else seems to have – just watching them or thinking about what they do exhausts me. I did have an underactive thyroid (may still do) and with treatment it apparently ‘returned’ to normal levels but that was some time ago before I got fed up with doctors and checkups, and now continue my slow life. I believe in relaxation and activity in small doses.

2. Diddums wrote at May 18, 2006 at 20:52:

I don’t like the sound of checkups and pills forever more either. I can imagine myself making the same choice you did. I suppose I should go in for some tests, though, and see if the suspicion is correct… sigh.

3. Pacian wrote at May 18, 2006 at 22:28:
I can sympathise with preferring the nice scenes in a fantasy sanctuary to the brash adventuring, albeit perhaps for different reasons. It’s always scenes like that that make it feel real to me. If I was in some weird alternate world, I imagine I could take great pleasure in little things like having a home and a window to look out of.

I read something, on a blog not too long ago, that stuck with me. Someone wrote that when you find out more and more about people, you discover that everyone feels that they’re hanging on by their fingertips to a life that moves too fast and is too hard. All our media and stories tell us that happiness is doing loads of stuff and exerting yourself in certain ways, but I don’t actually think that this is true for everybody, or even most people.

4. Diddums wrote at May 19, 2006 at 00:53:
That’s a good point – they do add depth to the book; a little perspective and a chance to study the surroundings. People can sit around and talk to each other a bit more, too – and usually they meet somebody new, or hear something in the way of stray gossip…

I go off some characters if they turn out to be somebody really important – royal personage or such. They get trapped in their new roles and responsibilities at the end of the book, and that never feels quite right to me. Maybe it’s that lack of energy getting in the way again!

5. kateblogs wrote at May 20, 2006 at 16:03:
What a wonderful post, you sum up the modern world so well. There are a lot of great things about the 21st century, ease of communication for example. Oh, and of course electicity and medical treatment. However, sometimes I do envy people in the past. They did have new places to discover and explore, new theories to prove or disprove, and their lives don’t seem to have been as regimented as ours. Certainty is good, but I think we all need a little adventure too.

Posted in Books, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Observations, TV and Films

My Very Own Lost World

An experience from June 2004:

I walked Thundercloud and managed to get lost in a wood. Setting off between the cool trees, I felt uneasy. Lots of people walk this way, but what if one of those big black ‘Beasts of Bodmin Moor’ (or whatever) is around somewhere, perhaps lurking just behind the next bush?

There was a sharp dip in the ground where we had to cross a muddy runlet – Thundercloud stopped and looked round anxiously. She seemed to sense something, and didn’t know if she should go on. I clapped her rump and said “move”. If there was a big black beast around, crouching behind a tree stump, the best thing was to keep on our way – confidently and noisily. Cats, I can handle. I’ve got three of my own at home.

I thought I knew that route but it didn’t turn out how I expected. The track went on and on – and on. I thought it would continue to the edge of the world, the forest never-ending and the burn meandering forever through its tangled groove.

The track disappeared, and we passed through a dark mossy ‘basin’ – dank, depressing, and filled with crisp packets and empty beer cans. My sandals sank into the moss and very little light filtered through the overhanging trees. Eventually we scrambled up a steep bank and emerged into a field I didn’t recognize. I looked around disbelievingly. I couldn’t remember any of my previous walks ending up here. It was like reaching out to touch the back of the wardrobe and ending up in Narnia.

I took a step or two along the edge of the field, then turned to see where I had come up, and it wasn’t visible. It was all grass, shrubs and trees. I had visions of myself hunting desperately for the way back, so memorized the landmarks – those houses just visible over there – that gorse bush over there – best of all, the blasted oak. Yes, that’s the guy. Better still, let’s just go straight back down.

It was like crawling down a hole into the dark underworld. Thundercloud kept shoving her nose into the long grass all around as though she was convinced something had died in there. “No,” I thought, “I can’t go back down there! Not where the dead beer cans are!” I hesitated, then remembered the band of gritty adventurers in The Lord of the Rings. A brown blackbird suddenly whirred down into the hole and was gone. “If birds are about, there can’t be anything nasty lurking…” It was like a sign.

Going back down, we pushed our way through a large patch of nettles – my legs were bare but I didn’t particularly care, just got on with it. Thundercloud decided she wasn’t so keen on the nettles and let me go ahead while she sheltered her sensitive nose behind me.

We slunk back along the dark path, trees crowding in close and twigs snapping underfoot. Sometimes, just as I was walking along a precarious bit with a sudden drop beside me, Thundercloud would slither rapidly down the hill and barge into my legs.

I thought to myself “if this was the Lost World I wouldn’t last more than two minutes. I would scuffle straight along this path till a T-Rex or a litter of raptor babies appeared, and then I’d just scream and run along the path some more till they got their act together and brought me down. Thundercloud would be no help – she would yank the leash out of my hand and run a bit faster than me. Maybe she would get home to N. while the baby raptors were still chewing on my bones. If I managed to hold onto her she’d help me fight them but that seems a bit mean as they’d just eat her too. Would I make her stay or let her run? She’s quite strong and pulls me along with her, so I think I’d hang on!”

Having settled that to my satisfaction, I jumped when something popped up behind a fallen log – but it was just a large golden retriever, bending a motherly eye on Thundercloud. Behind her came a human mother with her children and a second retriever. I was quite relieved to find there was other raptor fodder about.

By the time Thundercloud and I got all the way back to where we started, I’d had enough and thought “let’s just go straight back to N.’s”. It was only 10 minutes from where we stood but our hour was already up.

The nettle stings tingled all night.

I remember a story told by Mum – or was it Gran? Boys chased her home from school and she ran straight through a patch of nettles, knowing they wouldn’t dare follow her – and they didn’t! I didn’t remember the story till I had already tramped stolidly through the nettle patch and gone home. Getting back to civilization was more important than any little dangers and inconveniences such as hostile vegetation, tree roots, steep precipices and rusting beer cans.

Posted in Books, My Cats

Bookish Cat Lady

I finished Orion last night, and this morning started a fresh Ben Bova paperback: Star Watchman. So far it’s very readable.

I’m trying to weed books out of the bookcases in the sitting room. I need space for the books that don’t have homes yet, and I’ll only let them go after I’ve read them. So emptying the bookcases is somewhat slow, as I spend much of my time on the computer, walking dogs, editing, watching TV, washing cat bedding, peeling potatoes, writing snaky things in my journal, drowsing on the sofa… anyway, there’s a small gap in one bookcase now that I’ve removed two of the Ben Bovas. Exciting!

I better not tell all my homeless books, otherwise they’ll tear each other in the mad stampede to fill the gap. Makes me think of the sheer number of humans beings and the lack of good jobs and housing… and the hoops people have to jump through to get either.

Anyway…

My cat Sharky has a new game. I began it by teasing him one day and now he initiates it. He goes up on the window sill behind the red curtain and starts dabbing me through the folds. I jab him back, in different places, and he tries to catch my fingers with paws and teeth. He must see my shadow as he’s so good at it. It’s odd when I feel a ring of teeth close on my fingers… but they don’t bite! My cat L. used to be much more ferocious – if you played one of these games with him and he caught you, you needed antiseptic cream and a plaster. I don’t think he did it to be cruel – he played rough.

His mother is just the same.

Posted in Books, Rants

Women Through the Eyes of Male Writers

Something I’ve noticed is how some male authors get women completely wrong. Mostly their mistakes are in how women perceive themselves and what they look for in romantic relationships.

It usually takes you by surprise, because you don’t start a book thinking “I’m going to scrutinize every little thing he says about women and relationships.” You are just reading along, quite enjoying the story, and suddenly something in it feels so wrong that your teeth are set on edge.

Just for example, I’m reading a science fiction book – Orion by Ben Bova. It’s entertaining but I came to a screeching halt when I reached a passage where the hero warned the love of his life that there would be a lot of hard riding through hot and dusty regions over the next few weeks. She sleepily murmured that she was better padded for that than he was.

I beg your pardon?

To paraphrase: “oh, I have a bigger bottom than you, I’ll be alright.” I don’t know any female who would respond that way. Am I wrong? Do women say things like that? If they do, I can only imagine they were born on a different planet.