Category Archives: Fiction

Journey beyond the spam wall

Spam is such an interesting piece of our digital lives. It’s us determining what we don’t want, what we consider too vulgar to consider. There are different levels of obstruction that we can apply to the spam waves. Sometimes things that we need are trapped there, behind the wall. Other times something charming can be found amongst the muck. Like this email I received the other day.

Dear Thomas Wilson,
We send you this e-mail as a result of examining your CV presented at job board website database.
Let us give you some information about our corporation. Our firm was set up in 1983. The company compared corporate doctors and its participants decided to establish its background. To make it true they formed a team consisted of operating managers, functional experts and consultants. Our purpose is to give help to our customers in all fields required. We execute their efforts and provide juridical and primary support facilitating tax burden.
We need honest, responsible and reliable employees, for whom we would like to bid both full and part time work.

The candidate should meet the following requirements:
– Facilitation skills, the ability to multi-process and withstand fast working pace
– Capability to work under pressure

The employee will have the following job description:
– Monitoring and processing payments
– Producing weekly and monthly reports
– Following the instructions of top managers

The approximate fee for the job is 2,200 with extra recompense for every transaction processed.

The organization is fully responsible for bank and other relevant costs.

Now a Financial assistant job position is valid at our corporation.

In case you are intrigued by the position, please, send us a message by e-mail expressing your interest.

Corporate jargon? Check. Complete lack of details? Check. Hitting very close to something that I actually want? Check (that is, a job). It’s probably a genuine attempt at hiring me, because there were no phishing hyperlinks to be found.

The email was sent by one ‘Beverly Webb’ (like, interweb?) using a free nokiamail account. I would say they found me through Freelancer or oDesk, both websites where willing workers search for contract jobs of dubious respect. However it got to me, I’m glad it did.

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Reading Review: The Trial and On the Art of Reading

I have read Metamorphosis, and didn’t really get it. The same goes, now, for The Trial.

Kafka has an amazing style, and conjures wonderfully dreary environments for his characters, but the underlying message — the novel doesn’t really go anywhere — eludes me. At first I thought it was about his take on writing, and how he feels trapped, judged by those around him. Then I thought it was about a girl, a commitment to marriage that he wanted to escape, and everything that happened was a horrible dream. The scene where he makes love with the administrator’s mistress is particularly reminiscent of a dream or fantasy.

Where did these ideas come from? The little introduction, the few pages that a lot of classic books have that talk about the author and the book. From reading this one can then judge what the book is about. From pinpointing exactly when in the writer’s life a certain text was written the reader can discern what the hell they are talking about. Rather than Cliff’s notes, read the author’s biography.

This is one of the pieces of great advice that I took from the book On the Art of Reading, a transcription of lectures given by one Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch from around the First World War. Example chapters include Children’s REading, On Reading the Bible, and Of Selection. He restates such virtues as writing every day, and inspires some new thoughts, such as waiting to read Paradise Lost until the age of 30, and using the Book of Job (yes, from the Bible) in literature classes. Not much has changed, and in fact the body of written work has expanded, making judicial choice much more important, and that importance is a matter of subjectivity. To quote Sir Arthur, “Considering for a moment how personal a thing is Literature, you will promptly assure yourselves that there is —there can be — no such thing as the Hundred Best Books.” Read widely, but wisely.

So back to The Trial. Has reading it imparted anything on me? I can’t say, except for perhaps the unique style, that is has. Certainly knowing more of the man may help, but as it is, The Trial is a bleak story and that’s about it.

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The Rise of the Self

Computing has made life much easier in almost all aspects. It has touched everything from cooking to culture. The one thing it has affected most is the notion of the self, and the implications of this shift in productive ideology could be a disaster.

Let’s start with the world before modern technology. Communities–from roving band of warriors to medieval village–had to work together in order to survive and thrive. As technology improved less and less focus on the group has been needed. Technology replaces the need for a specialist, the need to rely on your neighbour. It has worked on many levels, particularly in terms of globalisation, but the final battle is now being fought.

Computers specifically have been a massive aid to the improvement of the self. PCs meant working from home, they meant conversing from home, and they meant dating from home. But this democratization of the self doesn’t mean we have found ourselves. Far from it. Sherry Turkle, in Life on the Screen, says that, “…technology is bringing a set of ideas associated with postmodernism.” That is, instability of meaning, among various other theoretical dilemmas. Once where we had to calculate our choices carefully, computers mean that there is no need to fret while simulation takes precedence. And this insidious touch has reached out from the screen.

Companies utilise technology against the individual, to trap the present proletarian exactly where the money and power brokers want. Think about it. At the shops, we have self-serve lanes. Websites and automated answering machines force us to guide ourselves through whatever issues frustrate us, under the euphemism “trouble-shooting”. Education is moving online, prompting “sef-learning” through online courses. And all this we brought on ourselves.

Consumerism is the culprit. We wanted things for ourselves. We wanted the education of our dreams, not what is necessary to be happy. We were sick of off-shore helpline workers. We wanted faster shopping line queues. It’s been me, me, me for decades now, and the world is giving it to us in spades. What this does is cut every person off from their neighbour. It makes the individual an island of selfishness and greed. The Internet is a gateway to learning about the world from the comfort of our bedroom, yet we refuse to listen to experts.

There is a fight back, and there will hopefully always be fight. From farmers markets to Occupy, people do realise that in order to maintain the world people need to come together. The fear is that as technology does more for us, we’ll be less inclined to do so.

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Friday Fiction: Afraid of Flying

The prompt I used for this piece insisted on my first flying experience. I, however, decided to explore another angle of the flying experience: One’s first fall:

We were over the Northern Territory when it happened. Almost over the water. It had been such a peaceful flight—no children, and plenty of spare seats to stretch out over. I think I was drinking my third or fourth scotch and dry. All I remember is taking a sip and choking as the cabin blew apart.

I suppose it’s lucky there were so few people on the flight. A red eye trip to Singapore to pick up more passengers before heading onwards to Europe. I’d done it dozens of times before. Going overseas was nothing. I know so many people who never leave Australia, except maybe to go to New Zealand or Tasmania, and they don’t count. It had become such a droll experience.

I remember standing in the line to board and feeling entirely nonchalant and seeing the nervous chattiness of the people around me. Families and lovers all moving closer together as if they could see their impending doom, or at least feel it. Humans are instinctive like that.

It’s a good thing we are or I wouldn’t have survived and I’d be just another body under mounds of fuselage and the search crews wouldn’t find me for days and my family would be holding on to hope only to be even more disappointed. As it is it’s like I’m the second coming of Jesus, a miracle. I just grabbed on to whatever was closest at the time and didn’t let go.

It’s isn’t true, that whole time-slowing, or life-flashing. No, everything happens very quickly and you barely have time to take notice of anything before it’s all over. One minute we’re all quite happy, the next there is the howling of the wind and I’m flying. Truly flying, no strings attached. I must have blacked out at some stage, but for the briefest of moments I can recall falling. Like Icarus, I had too much confidence in the contraption that carried me.

No one can explain the exact physics of how I survived. The best anyone can come up with is that the shock of impact was nullified by whatever plane materials were between me and the building I hit. The family that lived in said building was killed so that I may survive. I really don’t think it was worth it.

Now I’m in hospital, with a couple of broken bones and a collapsed lung, but altogether rather fine. The only survivor. It’s times like this you want to believe in a God, or that you lived for a higher purpose. But I’m not so easily fooled.

I went for a flight, it crashed, and I survived. That’s it, there isn’t any more.

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Friday Fiction: Bit of Horror

It’s been far, far too long between blog posts. The three or so weeks before Christmas were crazy at work: Typical busy period compounded with a severe lackof staff. Barely had a day off, and as a result there was little willpower left with which to write.

But now Christmas is over and I can get back into the swing of things. I’ve been maintaining my Writer’s Devotional and keeping up with The List. I have also started researching my virtual communities book again, and should get back to my novel in the New Year.

To the writing of the moment, a spooky piece of prose. Enjoy.

I hit the switch, run towards the bed, and jump. I imagine some leviathan’s claw swiping at where my feet were moments before, only to flap uselessly at the air. I have outwitted the beast, again.
Landing hard and bouncing a little, I scramble under the covers, enveloped in darkness and then again in the physicality of my sheets. I am safe for another night. The cupboards are closed, the door ever so slightly ajar, and my stuffed animals in a protective line against whatever evils may assail me in the night.
My eyes flutter closed, which is when I hear it. A constant wickering, an incessant scrabbling in the walls. Or in the roof. Maybe emanating from the cupboards themselves. I draw the covers closer.
The noise continues, slight variations as if some creature is stopping and sniffing the night air, sniffing out fear. They can smell fear, whatever they are. But I can’t help it. Everything I’ve ever dreaded is coming true.
Ever since I was a child I knew this day would come. I thought I was so prepared, had worked out every way to avoid the abyss. Whatever has come will find me, and I will be finished.
But not without me seeing it’s face, not unless I stare it and confront it. That is the least I can submit to.
I gingerly place a foot on the carpeted floor, swoop out from under my bedsheets. Through the darkness  I make my way towards the door. The sound gets louder, and images flash before me, all too terrifying to describe. I am almost paralysed by the possibilities that lie beyond, and I feel as if time stops; I am halted in that blackness, the sliver of light mere inches away, but feeling like miles.
My hand clasps the handle, and I wrench the door open. Light blinds me for a moment, but when my eyes adjust, there is no beast, no hideous monster waiting for me with clacking claws and slavering jaws.
There is only the fan, it’s rotation off, a loose screw nestled at my feet. The noise continues as I slip back into sleep, now a comfort rather than a terror.

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