Thursday, April 28, 2005

Worst Job

The worst job I ever had was in a theatre, a few years ago. I had to look after Uri Geller. Where's the bad part of this, you're thinking. Sure, Geller comes across as a bit loopy, but he's not that bad, is he? It was my job to feed him and clean out his cage.

The manager of this theatre, Mr. Bowyer, had a thing about psychics, mediums and the like. He'd book them for a night, get them in, lock the doors and then force them to prove their talents were real. No tickets were ever sold, they were private performances for Mr. Bowyer and a few of his larger associates.

Margaret, who ran the confectionery shop in the foyer, said it was all because his wife had left him after consulting with a clairvoyant. She was told this by Doris, the cleaner, who was never one to gossip.
Slander maybe, but never gossip.

Brian, one of the ushers, said it all stemmed from Mr. Bowyer's father - who owned the theatre before he passed away, God rest his soul. He had been conned out of a week's takings by a faith healer. She'd pronounced him free of cancer, and run off with the cash before he could see a doctor. Old Tom in the pub had told Brian this, so it must be true. Brian spent a great deal of time in the pub.

Derek, the part-time projectionist who came in on cinema nights, had been told it was Mr. Bowyer's religious beliefs that drove him. That all this contacting the dead and seeing the future business was an affront to God, and he'd taken it upon himself to put a stop to it. Derek usually smelled of cider and had a penchant for conspiracy-theory films.

I stayed out of it, only nodding and oh-really-ing when the subject came up. None of my business, I told myself.

Word got out among the "gifted" practitioners of the mystical arts that our theatre wasn't a good place to attend, unless you happened to like being beaten senseless, bundled into the boot of a car, and dumped on waste land on the outskirts of Watford. Of course, that only applied if you failed to convince Mr. Bowyer of your claimed talents.

By the time I started work, as an assistant to Mr. Bowyer, the psychic bookings had all but dried up. One of the first things I had to do was
book "someone who's got some sort of supernatural talent", as Mr. Bowyer put it. Thinking nothing of it, I phoned around a couple of agents.

All of them turned me down. The first one laughed and slammed the phone down. The next two threatened to get the police involved if I phoned again. Some politely declined, and offered other types of act.

Now, this was just a small, rural, theatre. One hundred seats and the
dressing room doubled as a broom cupboard. I'd only been phoning small-time agents, and was getting nowhere, so with a bravado born out of desperation I went to the top. The biggest, most famous, psychic act I could think of. His mortgage payments must have been due or something,
because to my astonishment Uri Geller's agent took the booking.

I met Uri at the stage door and guided him to the dressing room. He asked if we'd sold many tickets for tonight, as the car park had been quite empty. I said I'd have to ask at the box office, although I'd been wondering when people were going to start turning up myself. It was unusually quiet in the theatre, considering we had such a big name on. I told him I'd be back in about half an hour to take him onto the stage, and to use the internal phone if he needed anything.

Mr Bowyer was in the foyer, talking to a group of about half a dozen burly men, and he beckoned me over.
"Here he is, the man who's made this evening possible," he put his arm around my shoulders, "Should be a good night tonight, let's see what Uri's got up his sleeves."
"There don't seem to be many punters, Mr Bowyer. Is something wrong?"
"No, no, lad. It's just a ... private performance. For me and my associates here."
"Oh, I see. Should I let Mr Geller know? Only he was asking where everyone was."
"Oh, don't worry. Did you get that prop sorted?"
"Yes, it's on stage. Brian gave me a hand, it weighed a ton."
"Thank you, my boy. You go and get Uri on that stage, then you can go home."
"Oh, er, okay. Thanks."

When I got in to work the next morning Mr Bowyer was already there. He was dressed in the same clothes as the night before, and seemed to have spilt red wine on his shirt.
"Got a little extra work for you, boy. Nip over the road and get some burgers, and take them to the dressing room. Here's a tenner."
"Dressing room?"
"Yes. Mr Geller's going to be staying with us for a little while," he said, rubbing the knuckles of his right hand with his left. They looked bruised and swollen.
"Why?"
"Well, son, we don't take too kindly to frauds and charlatans here. Mr Geller is staying until he proves he can bend spoons with the power of his mind."
"You can't do that! What about the police?"
"Nobody's going to tell the police, " he looked straight at me, "Are they?"
"Er-"
"Especially not the person that's responsible for bringing Uri here in the first place."
"Oh, fuck."
"Yes, son. Now go and feed Mr Geller. He's had a busy night."
"What about his agent?"
"Mr Geller was very thoughtful and phoned his agent last night, telling him he was going on a short holiday. Off you go. Don't fuck this up, and there'll be a little bonus for you in your wage packet. Fuck it up, and you're someone's spirit guide."

I couldn't really believe that Bowyer had Uri Geller trussed up in the dressing room, this was surely all a wind-up. I bought some burgers anyway, and headed back to the dressing room.

The door to the dressing room was shut, and I hesitated before opening it. I wanted to run away, but I wasn't even sure that Geller was in there. I turned the handle, then pushed open the door.

In the corner was a cage, about a metre on each side. Just big enough for Uri Geller to sit up inside. Which he was doing, his head resting on his raised knees. He looked up as I closed the door, but didn't say anything. I offered him a burger, but he just shrugged and looked over his shoulder. I noticed his hands were tied behind his back.

"Oh, sorry, " I mumbled, breaking off a piece of burger and feeding it to him through the mesh, "Here you go."

His eyes were dull, he looked like he'd resigned to his fate. Well, mainly he looked like a man who'd been comprehensively beaten by several large men. He didn't look like he wanted to talk, so I examined the cage as I fed him. Where there would normally be a padlock, someone had threaded a teaspoon through the loops. Evidently, Mr Geller hadn't managed to bend the spoon to escape. I mentioned this to him, and he stared at me. I got the impression he wanted to disembowel me, probably with the spoon.

I told Uri not to worry, that I'd get him out somehow, and left the dressing room. If I'd been any sort of hero, I'd have come up with a cunning plan to expose Mr Bowyer, free Uri and make the girl fall for me. The only problem being that I wasn't a hero, I had no plan, and the only girl likely to fall for me was Doris, the cleaner, and that was only because she was 64 and had a dodgy hip. Falling was something she did quite regularly.

So, I ran away, and phoned the police from a call box. Discretion is the better part of valour, and all that.

[Please note: no psychics were harmed in the making of this post, nor do I endorse the brutalisation of fraudsters, charlatans and hucksters.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tidying up

Looks like Writing Parent is b0rked. I'll remove it from the list of links; it was a bit pants anyway. Their daily writing exercises, which weren't daily, were often along the lines of: "Take a picture, write about it." or "Think about something, then write about it". Grr. What I could do with is a RSS feed which provides different writing ideas every day. So that I could ignore it, and feel guilty.

*Googles*

Hey! I found one. Only it hasn't been updated since August, 2004. Arse biscuits.

*More googling*

Double arse burger with a side order of arse fries and a large arse cola. There's nothing. All the writing prompts/exercises sites are badly designed pieces of shit. And we all know how badly shit can be designed. Looks like I'm going to have to do this myself.

*Sounds of sleeves being rolled up, pencils sharpened, papers smoothed*

Right. Any minute now, I'm going to come up with something. I can feel it.

*Tumbleweed. Somewhere in the distance a bell tolls.*

Aw, horse spit. I've got nothing.

*Kicks over table, drops to knees, rips open shirt. Shakes fist at sky, wailing, "Why me, God? Why me?"*

*Sheepishly gets up, tidies mess.*

Anyway.

I also toyed with adding a blogroll from Bloglines, the news aggregator that I use. It didn't look too good, so I didn't bother.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Careless

[This week's Creative Theme over at The Writing Parent]

I think it was Oscar Wilde that said: "To lose one parent is unfortunate, to lose both is careless." It might have been one of the characters in his plays that said it. Or it might have been someone else entirely, and at the moment I'm too tired to find out. He never extended the quote to cover the circumstance of losing all of one's ancestors in a frankly implausible time-travel accident, oddly enough, so careless will be sufficient.

I'm not totally sure how I managed to do it. I was so sure I was right. It all seems so silly now. Too much to drink, too loud a discussion about paradoxes (what is the plural of that word?) in the pub, and one stupid, stupid bet. Rule Number One of the Temporal Driving Code: don't get into your vehicle when drunk, either on beer or testosterone.

Rule Number Two: don't think that your logic and knowledge of physics is better than the universe's. It isn't. The universe has been dealing with the likes of you since before your planet was born. Physics is it's bag, man.

Three: Don't fall in love with your great-grandmother. For a start, it's icky. Secondly, you may interfere with her meeting your great-grandfather. Even worse, you could wind up being your own great-grandfather. Count your fingers - more than the normal amount could mean you've already done this in your future. Dirty boy.

Four: remember that you can never return to the time you left. That's the bad one, the one we didn't work out until later on. Until it was too late.

I used to subscribe to the one, unalterable, time-line idea. That if you went back in time, you couldn't change the things that had already happened, because you had already done that in your time. No matter what you did, when you returned to your time then everything would still be the same. I was so sure I was right. All my experiments seemed to back me up.

So, I did it. I went back. I didn't do the nasty with Great-Granny, but I did enough to prevent her from meeting my great-grandfather. When I returned, to this empty warehouse instead of a bustling physics lab, everything was different. Nobody knows me, my family never existed. Somehow I've managed to return to a separate reality. I just hope that the many-worlds theory is correct, and that my family still exist back in my reality, and that it's just me that's gone missing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tired and emotional.

I only recently discovered that "tired and emotional" was a euphemism for drunk. I'm so naive (you'll have to put the two dots thing above the i yourself, I can't work out how to get my keyboard to produce it).

This weekend I went on a cultural tour of Barcelona. My fellow art lovers and myself took in many fine sights, most of which sold alcohol, and the rest were tanned and wore tight clothing. It was a stag do, after all.

We did manage to take a look around Barcelona on Saturday, paying a visit to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral / Building Site as well as strolling past various other Gaudi creations. Take a look at some other people's photos. I didn't take my camera on the grounds that I'd most likely be too pissed to use it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dream Job.

I had an interview lined up with a small firm on the other side of town. They made an exciting range of kilts, so they said, and wanted me to spit-shine their website in preparation for the hordes of uber-confident men that were currently constrained by the whole trouser thing. What the hell, it was work.

Google had pointed me in the right direction, but when I got to the right area nothing looked familiar. It was a quiet part of town. Back in the good old days, when people still made things instead of just trying to sell things made in other countries, the streets would have been choked with trucks and people, the factories belching out smoke. Now everything was quiet, the shops were all boarded up and the factories dark and filled with pigeons.

I was lost. I'd written the address down, cleverly thinking ahead, but not the phone number. There was a stray dog on the other side of the road that was sizing me up, working out how many meaty, bite-sized, chunks I was. A tinkling at the end of the road made me turn round. A man was coming out of a shop, the only shop not covered in fliers for long-past club nights.

"Excuse me", I shouted, but he can't have heard me and he disappeared around the corner. I headed towards the shop. Maybe they could help me.

The bell above the door tinkled again as I pushed it open. The room was small, and a man was behind a large wooden counter. Behind him, the wall was covered with shelves crammed with crystal balls.

"Yes, sir? How may I help?", he said as he looked up from a newspaper.
"I was really just looking for directions. I'm a bit lost."
"Aren't we all, sir?"
"Er, I suppose." I fished in my suit pockets for the address I'd written down. "This is the place I'm looking for."
"Oh yes, sir. Turn right as you leave the shop, take the second left, carry on for about 200 yards and it's on your right."
"Thanks." I turned to leave, but something was odd about the place and I couldn't quite work out what it was. "I didn't realise there was such a big fortune telling industry."
"Sir?"
"The crystal balls. I wouldn't have thought you'd get many gypsies crossing your palms with silver these days."
"Oh. No, sir. Those don't tell you the future, just the now."
"What do you mean?"
"They are realities, sir. Each ball is a different might-have-been."
"You've lost me."
"Here, take a look." He handed me one at random from a shelf. It was warm, and lighter than I was expecting. I peered in, and I'm fairly sure I let out a frankly embarrassing little girlish gasp. Inside, I saw people working in fields gathering strawberries.

"Wow. That's pretty cool. How does it work?"
"I'm afraid I can't explain that to you, sir. Trade secret."
"I see. What am I watching - I don't recognise the film?"
"It's not a film, sir. What you are watching there is what would have been if the industrial revolution had never taken place."
"I don't recognise any of the actors either."
"They're not actors, sir. They're the people who would have been here, if things had turned out differently."
"Riiight. Ok, this is some sort of joke, isn't it? There's a hidden camera somewhere."
"No, sir. Let me show you another."

He took the ball from my hands, replacing it with another from a different shelf. This time I saw myself, sitting at a table in a small room. There were two people sat opposite me, they seemed to be asking me questions.
"Er, what's this?" I knew the answer already.
"It's the interview you're supposed to be at right now. This is what would have happened if you had written that phone number down."
"Oh, bollocks." My stomach lurched as I realised he was telling the truth. "So - all these balls are realities?"
"Yes, sir."
"Where do they come from?"
"Every observation that is made creates a new reality, and destroys the other possibilities. The destroyed ones come here."
"Shouldn't there be more of them?"
"There's another room out the back, sir."
"And you sell these?"
"Yes. Well, rent would be more accurate."
"Who buys them?"
"Everyone who's ever said 'if only...', sir. Here you can find out."
"You don't seem to be very busy."
"Truth be told, business has been a little slow lately. I blame television."
"Television?"
"Well, it's so easy to escape into another reality through the television these days. People just can't be bothered schlepping halfway across town, despite the fact that the product is far superior."
"I see... have you considered selling over the Internet?"
"Oh, I don't understand all that computery stuff, sir. I'm just a simple manipulator of quantum manifolds."
"Well, then. Maybe I could be of assistance."

That's how it all started. I became CEO of ActualRealities.com, and started using fifty-pound notes to light my enormous cigars. Right place, right time, I guess.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Evil Overlord Of Middle Management

Crisis 2004 - 011
Crisis 2004 - 011,
originally uploaded by maarten_demont.
"So, Martin, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?". Derek steepled his fingers and leaned forward over the desk, in what he thought of as his active-listening pose. He concentrated on projecting an air of "I am interested in what you have to say". The training course had made this aspect very clear, and he was keen to put it into practice.

"...and I'd like to go through that with you beforehand...", said Martin, looking up for the first time, a slightly sheepish expression on his face. Derek resisted the urge to punch him. No punching, that was emphasised in the course too.

"Go ahead, Martin". Derek wasn't sure what Martin had been talking about, or why he was in his office. Derek had been told to have an "open-door" policy, but he was sure it didn't mean you had to entertain your fuckwitted subordinates all day long.

"Right, well, the board meeting is on Tuesday."
"Yes, I know." No punching.
"Well, I wasn't sure what form my presentation should take."
"You're just presenting the department accounts, Martin, nothing tricky", said Derek as he repeatedly pressed the button hidden under his desk. Nothing happened. The bastards had disabled the trapdoor.
"I know, but I wanted to run through what I was going to say."
"Say what I normally say: we're doing fine. We're under budget, thanks to some cutbacks, but we could do so much more with a few more resources."
"But, that's not true, sir. They slashed our budget for this year when they found out about that volcano island underground base project. "
"Yes... they'll pay for that, oh yes...", Derek rubbed his hands together and gazed out of the window across the car park.
"Er, sir. You're doing the laugh again. You know you're not supposed to..."
"Silence! Insolent dog!"
"Sir, I don't want to have to report you to Human Resources, please", said Martin, edging his seat back a little. At the mention of Human Resources, Derek's face paled and he shuddered. Not the management course, not again.

"Sorry, continue Martin."
"So, I, er, made this model of the boardroom. This is where I thought I'd stand to begin with, moving around the table as I mentioned all the wonderful things we've produced in the past. The monorail system, the orbital defence array, the one-man submersible technology-"
"The death ray?"
"No, sir. I was going to skip that one."
"What about the sharks with laser beams for eyes?"
"Um, no. Not really a project with wide applications."
"Damn. I liked that one."
"Anyway, once I'd reminded them of our usefulness, I was going to press for an increase in our budget."
"Of 500 billion dollars?"
"No, sir. This is departmental budget allocation meeting not a ransom threat."
"I always treated them the same way."
"We can't do that any more, sir."
"It got results."
"It also got you sent to the training facility." Derek flinched as Martin said it.
"So, what are you going to do if they refuse the increase?"
"Ah, six months ago the boardroom was refurbished and I took the opportunity to install a laser, left over from the shark project, into the security camera over here."
"Martin... I'm impressed."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Enough already.

Two posts in, and the blog has already turned into a whine about how I don't do any writing. So, I'm going to use this:The Writing Parent - The 365 Daily Writing Prompts. I'll attempt one of these every day.

Until I get bored. Or stuck. Move along, nothing to see here.

UPDATE: Hmm. They don't seem to update their writing prompts as regularly as I hoped. Instead, I'll pick a random picture from flickr and write something about it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Middle Names

I started off this post with an explanation for the title of this blog.
Here's the short version: I have no middle name. Other people do, I
don't. That's it.

The blog post I wrote went on for about 5 paragraphs and was
excruciatingly dull. So I've started again. This is something that
happens a lot with me. I start writing things, realise they're really
quite rubbish and either delete them or put them to one side and never
go back to them. I write several different versions of the same opening
paragraphs. Each one slightly different, but never quite right. I never
finish anything.

I tried using pen and paper at one point. This is something Neil Gaiman does. He writes his
stories longhand in notebooks, then transcribes them onto computer. The
idea is that this discourages you from tweaking and rewriting as you go,
which is all too easy when using a word processor, and forces you to
carry on until you've finished. Unfortunately, the thought that I have
to choose the right word now, because I can't go back and change it,
tends to paralyze me. I agonise over the choices, never happy with the
result. Maybe it's a technique I should return to once I'm happier with
my writing. Right now, I like being able to delete things and retype
them, polishing as I go.

The downside to this, as mentioned above, is that things never get
finished. It's largely a lack of confidence in what I've written. I
think it's a steaming pile of shite, so why should anyone want to read
it?

It's taken me so long to write this entry, that I'm bored with it. If
I'm bored with it, why would anyone else want to read it? Hmm. I sense a
pattern...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Brace yourselves.

I've always wanted to be a writer. Even as a foetus, I yearned to put pen to paper. Even though I consisted of only a handful of cells, I dreamed of having fingers with which to grasp a biro and enough neurons to comprehend the concept of language. Honest.

Okay. Maybe that isn't true. But I used to love the times at school when you got to write anything you wanted to. Usually this meant that the teacher had a lot of marking to do, or wanted to finish off the gin. I'd write thrilling adventure stories filled with dinosaurs, pyramids, mummies, spaceships, and aliens. Generally, they'd involve me being the leader of some expedition with my school friends filling out the parts of lackeys, minions, cannon fodder, and dinosaur chow. Sometimes they'd be illustrated in great detail and crayon.

As school went on, the opportunities for writing things I wanted to write got fewer, and the need to write essays about sewage processing, Laurie Lee's memoirs, and what Romeo really meant increased.

Then came university and maths replaced English as my main method of expressing creativity. Or at least, my main method of displaying my incompetence. I started work, and my mediocrity shone in the medium of Java.

I turned thirty, and wanted to do something I enjoyed instead of churning out dodgy websites that no-one uses. I decided to become a writer. I read every website and book available that gave advice on writing everything from comics to science fiction to literary novels to erotica to sitcoms. I can summarise that advice here: "To be a writer, you need to write."

So, two years later and I still haven't quite understood that advice. Sitting on my arse for a long time doesn't seem to have produced any fabulous works of fiction, apart from a few emails. Hence, this blog. I'm going to write between 500 and 1000 words every day. 500 words of utter nonsense most likely, but my literary muscles need the exercise.

That's it for today. Go away, now.