Sir Winston Churchill

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill,  (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965)

(Source: en.wikiquote.org)

Flash Fiction Faction: The Fruit

This is another 100 word Flash Fiction inspired by a prompt. This prompt came from Quill Shiv; follow the link to read more posts based on this prompt. Thank you for the inspiration.

Here is the prompt and I have tried to go the extra mile. Tell me, if you think I have done it in a convincing manner. I welcome other constructive criticisms as well. Cheers!

Mark had been overjoyed to see his partner, who had been missing for days from the excavation site. But that joy had swiftly turned into anger hearing that idiot’s preposterous plan.

“I am trying to conserve your ancestor’s dynasty and you threaten to blow up the temples? That is totally senseless behavior, even for you!”

“Taste this fruit, Mark. The food-hunter said that he can easily market this as a high priced product. We need to destroy only a few walls to aid the harvest!”

Mark bit into the sweet smelling food, puncturing its smooth skin. The taste was indescribable!

Back to Nature

This flash fiction is inspired by the following photo prompt. the challenge is hosted by Madison Woods.

I welcome constructive criticism that’s why I am posting these pieces on a blog. 🙂 Thanks in advance.

“Mommy! I need to pee!”

“Lily, why aren’t you asleep yet? You peed thirty minutes ago!”

“Mom! I can’t sleep. Lee is wiggling in her sleeping bag!”

Samantha rolled her eyes at Jack. She left the warmth of the campfire and headed towards the children’s tent.

“Come on Lily. Do you only need to pee?”

Lily nodded her head energetically as she got out of her sleeping bag.

Samantha looked back at Jack and her smile slowly melted away.

“Lee sweetie, I need you to keep quiet and still. Kids, remember what I told you to do when a bear visits us?”

The Dreaded Red Box

This is a 100 word plus the prompt, …the red box…, flash fiction challenge hosted by Julia.

Pete stared dreamily at the photocopier. The CEO was scheduled to arrive that morning. Maybe he would be in the meeting too and witness Pete’s strategy to increase sales. That overdue promotion could finally be his! He caught a flash of colour from the corner of his eyes. He turned to look directly at Mr. Smith walking down the aisle. He was carrying the red box. Pete felt sweat beads rolling down his forehead. His colleagues had noticed the box too; their eyes glued on its path. All were silently praying it was not their time to pack their personal belongings into the box.

Racism has many faces

At several points in my life, I have been confronted with racism. These occurrences were not life threatening but they were hurtful nonetheless. When I started going out with Mr.M, I often heard that he was only with me to have fun on his holiday. You know white guy goes on holiday to South East Asia. He promises the innocent Asian girl that he loves her. But we all know what he is after, right? Wrong! I am glad that I trusted my instincts in this case because Mr. M turned out to be my soul-mate. But he had a hard time convincing others of his honest intentions. Once we were walking down a street and a man passing by on a scooter, shouted profanities at us. Since we were the only ones walking on the path, we assumed he was offended by the fact that we were a mixed couple. We could see his face; he was one from my race.

I live in Germany for more than eleven years now. I am often asked, if I have faced racism during that time. I can only say that wherever I have been, I have been welcomed in a friendly and accepting manner. In fact my physical difference seems to add a certain level of exoticness to my being. People often want to know where I come from and what it is like there. The Germans I have met so far are extremely open to other cultures and love travelling, which I think helps to expand one’s mental horizon. They love foreign cuisine too; evident in the number of döner, pizzeria, Chinese or Thai restaurants in most towns.

Having said that, after we moved to the village we are living in now, I heard from several sources that the area we moved to was a stronghold for neo-nazis. The first time I went to the post office, which is actually integrated into a small store run by an old lady, I was hurt by the abrupt way she treated me. She was grouchy and unfriendly. I assumed that the rumours were true and was in tears when I related my experience to Mr.M. I dreaded going there again but I had to post Christmas cards. This time she was extremely friendly to me and chatted with me for a long time. The next day when I came back to post the second batch of cards, she even told me that she had pasted Christmassy stickers on the cards. She was probably having a bad day when I first met her. However the “news” I had heard caused me to interpret her actions wrongly. Imagine how it would have been, if I had only gone there once? I would have unknowingly and falsely confirmed the racism claims.

However recently I had an upsetting conversation with a German teenager. The teenager was never interested in excelling academically. He has the minimum school education. He was complaining about the fact that he had difficulties finding an apprenticeship. He has been rejected with the explanation that he was not qualified for the position he applied for. I thought he was going to admit that it was a mistake that he did not take school seriously. Instead he said in an angry tone, “Instead of training me, a local citizen, they rather employ skilled workers from overseas. They support foreigners, who only come here for the money.” If you asked him, he would not say that his remark was racist. In fact he feels as if he is being discriminated against. Is this the beginnings of racism? How to make it clear to such people in similar situations that their anger is misdirected?

I watched a documentary on the Ku Klux Klan aka the Knights Party yesterday. The reporter followed members of this group for a certain period of time. One of the men interviewed admitted to being a Neo-Nazi as well. He said that his parents did not share his sentiments. However he has felt the hatred against Jews since he was a child. He hated Jews for being Jewish, not because he was taught at home to hate them or because he was hurt by them.

Where does racism start? Does racism sprout off stereotypes? Do clichés fertilise racist ideas? Like we all have the propensity to do evil; do we all have a racist part in us? Does ignorance and hatred cause this side of us to surface and take over our minds and guide our actions?

It cannot be said often enough, be our differences are only skin deep. Inside we are all the same. We have the same anatomy. The colour of our blood is the same. If you need a blood transfusion to save your life, only the blood type and not the race of the donor matters. The same things can hurt us physically. We go through the same cycle of birth, life and death. Ultimately we all want to live a happy life. Living itself is complicated and it is unnecessary to further complicate it with racism.

The Hate Game

Amanda closed the cubicle door. She lowered the lid and sat down. Her pulse should have been racing, given but she felt extremely calm. She took a box of Panadol out of her school rucksack. She had bought one at the pharmacy last week to add to the package she had found at home. She popped one pill out of the blister package. Her fingertip traced the groove in the middle of the pill. Would breaking them in the middle quicken the effect? She held each end between a thumb and index finger and pressed. It was harder to split the pill in the middle than she had expected. She decided to leave the remaining pills whole. She couldn’t risk dropping any of the pills; she needed every single one.

Her heart skipped a beat at the shrill ring of the school bell. She prayed that no one would enter the toilet. She had chosen the one on the third floor because most of the rooms were only used for Extra-Curricular Activities. She had one more free period before her next lesson started. How fitting that it would a Math class; since she hated it and hopefully wouldn’t have to live through it. It would have been nice, if it were music instead because singing made her happy. Amanda wiped the tears on her right sleeve.

There was no other way out.

She needed to put an end to the pain. She threw the ham and cheese sandwich, her mom had made for her lunch, in the bin in the cubicle; the lunch menu has changed. She removed the remaining pills from the blister packages and put them in her lunch box. She concentrated on the monotonous action and managed not to think about the chain of events that had brought her there. She had 47 pills in all. She hoped it was enough for her plan to be successful. She stuffed the empty packages in her rucksack. She stood up, righted her uniform, swung her rucksack over her right shoulder and left the cubicle.

Amanda knew the perfect spot, where she could consume her special lunch in peace. There was a bench next to the canteen, overlooking the school garden. There was a rose bush right next to the bench. She loved sitting there because the roses smelled lovely. When she closed her eyes, she imagined being in a candy shop, surrounded by the sticky sweet smell of roses. She bought a can of Coke from the vending machine. She had read on the internet that carbonated drinks increased the effect of paracetemol. Even if it did not, it was much tastier than plain water.

She placed the first pill onto her tongue. She took a sip from her can and swallowed the mixture. The next 5 followed swiftly in the same manner. However she couldn’t hold back the tears for long. She wiped her tears with a tissue paper, folded it and blew her nose. She hoped no one noticed her crying, especially not a teacher. She was doing the right thing. She couldn’t live another day reading the lies her classmates spread about her on Facebook. The names they had for her went through her mind, virtually burning, hitting, spitting on and shaming her before hundreds of spectators. Some were strangers but most she knew personally. They encouraged her demons with their applauding and cheering! Why her? Some of her tormentors used to be her friends. She has looked for a reason many times before as to why they had turned on her. But she always came up blank. There was no sense to the madness that had overcome them.

Amanda had difficulties swallowing the remaining pills. Her throat felt constricted and she was sure that the slightest pressure could result in her puking into the rose bush. But she would see this through. She wanted her death to haunt her tormentors with guilt for the rest of their lives. She practically shoved the remaining pills one by one down her throat and washed each down with Coke.

The bell rang again. Amanda stuck the empty lunchbox in her rucksack and threw away the can. She was starting to feel ill, comparable to the time she had the flu. Her stomach was cramping as she slowly made her way to class.

“Amanda, you’re late!”

“Sorry! I don’t feel well.”

“What is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You do look pretty pale. Cynthia, please escort Amanda to the sick bay.”

“Not Cynthia. I can go myself.”

“You look as if you would faint any moment. Now get to the sickbay quickly.”

Amanda and Cynthia walked to the sickbay in silence. Amanda wanted to tell her a lot of hurtful things but she couldn’t get a single one out. Instead as they stood in front of the sickbay she said, “Hope my death makes you feel happy.” The shock in Cynthia’s eyes was enough to make Amanda feel temporarily happy. At least Cynthia will suffer after her death.

“Here’s a pail my dear, in case you need to be sick again. Your mom is on her way here. She will bring you to the doctor. You have a slight fever. It is probably only a stomach-flu. Have had a couple of kids come down with it last week. You will be fine in a few days time.”

***************************

“Amanda! You have visitors.”

“Mom! Who?… Oh! What do you all want here?”

Cynthia and five other classmates entered her bedroom. Cynthia held a bouquet of roses up and spoke.

“We want to apologise for being mean to you. We did not seriously mean the things we said. It was only fun. We have deleted all the posts about you. We hope you can forgive us.”

5 Reasons – Why procrastinating writers should not be blogging

Reason 1 – Blogging is simply another way to continue procrastinating
I was actually proud of the fact that I have actually kept one of the resolutions I made for this year – to blog every day. I was happy until the moment I started analysing what I have accomplished in the first quarter of 2012. I am ashamed to say that all of my other resolutions have failed. I am far from a flat tummy. I haven’t even started exercising yet! I stopped keeping a To Do list a long time ago. It was supposed to help me overcome my procrastination by setting doable goals every day. Instead I spend hours on the internet researching for the next post, writing the next post, replying to comments on past posts or researching my Stats page every other minute. While every view makes me feel happier it also binds me to continuously refresh the Stats page, wanting to get another adrenaline rush associated with a new view.

Reason 2 – Writing posts takes away time that could be used to write that book
As some of you might be aware of, I have been procrastinating in various areas of my private life. One such area is writing a novel. I have aspired to become a novelist for as long as I can remember. I love writing and I believe that I can communicate my ideas well in the written form. Therefore as I was making my resolution for this year, I decided that this would be the year I write that first book of mine. At that moment, I thought blogging would be a great way to get writing practice. While I might have written a handful of fictional pieces, most of my posts are about topics that caught my interest somehow. These posts take time to research and to condense the information in a readable post length. (My hunch is that most people do not read posts that are about a thousand words or more – too time consuming.) All that time invested for nothing much to show for it except for maybe a couple of likes. In the meantime that time and energy could have been invested in finally writing that draft novel.

Reason 3 – Building and maintaining the blog’s followers is a time consuming process
What is the use of writing, if no one is reading it, right? Well spread the message that you have a blog! You could post it on your Facebook profile but as I have mentioned in another post, chances are only 16% of your “friends” would even see that post. More than 2 months after I started blogging, I keep getting questioning remarks on my Facebook wall asking, “You have a blog?” So even if you have hundreds of Facebook friends, the number of views referred by FB could be really low. At the moment I get an average of 2 views per day referred to my site by Facebook. I have about 365 friends. You can calculate the percentage rate.

What else can you do? If you want to increase traffic to your site, WordPress advices you to read other blogs. But reading and liking a post is not enough to entice other bloggers to your own blog. You have to leave interesting comments on them. It might sound kind of sneaky but there is some sense to what they are proposing. After all, a comment is a teaser, showing your writing style and personal interests. Furthermore reading other blogs could help you improve yours, find new inspiration and simply become part of the blogger community. I have to admit that I have come across a few blogs that I would not have found otherwise. But the point is it is time consuming to get people to read your posts. (How many hours were there in a day?)

Reason 4: Bloggers are too nice to criticise
I have had the good fortune that I have only had friendly people visit my blog. Most visitors leave encouraging comments. I have posted some creative pieces, which I personally thought had weak parts. But I was surprised that I only received positive feedback. As I mentioned, the blogger community is too kind. I was thinking that I should add a comment at the bottom asking for constructive feedback. My work is not going to improve much, if it continues in this fashion.

Reason 5: Blogging is an ego-inflator
This point follows reason number 4. With all the praise and likes a post receives, it is difficult not to feel good about oneself. Feeling good is a good thing, right? Wrong! Feeling good in this case would mean that you are reaping the reward before even seriously starting to work on that book. For this very same reason, it is not recommendable to talk about your goals. It is how our brains are wired and I wrote more about it in this post. If you feel the reward, what is to entice you to do work afterwards? Suddenly I catch myself dreaming about getting Freshly Pressed instead of being published.

Conclusion
While blogging brought me into writing mode, it is keeping me away from the writing that novel. Soon I would be working fultime again and have much lesser free time. I shudder when I think about it.

Do you agree with me? Are you an aspiring author? What is your experience with blogging in relation to your goal to write a book?

Can you lose something that was never yours?

Yesterday I watched “Schlag den Raab” on TV; it is the German version of “Beat the Star”. Actually “Beat the star” is a copycat of “Schlag den Raab”. I wrote about Stefan Raab in one of my earlier posts. Yesterday’s candidate, Alexander, had the chance to win a million Euros. The game went on for more than 6 hours and was the longest show in the history of this series. Unfortunately Alexander lost the 15th game and with it 1 Million Euros.

Strictly speaking Alexander did not lose a million Euros. It was never his to begin with. What he had was the chance to win it. However I am pretty sure that after the show he must have felt the loss intensely. He was literally one shot away from a million Euros.

The 15th and final game was to kick a football through a rather large hole in a portable goal wall. It was also a game of sudden death; meaning that the game was over the moment only one of them does not score in a round. Just before he took the shot, Stefan Raab mentioned that it was a mean game. He said that people would not understand it, if one of them does not manage to shoot the ball through wall, because it looks relatively easy. He simulated the kick several times before finally kicking the ball. The ball sailed through the middle of the hole.

I wonder what Alexander’s strategy was, if he had a strategy in the first place? He kicked the ball relatively hard and hit the wall instead. The game was over after the very first shot! Six hours of hard work and nothing to show for it! Throughout the evening I was impressed with the strength and general knowledge of Alexander. He was as cool as a cucumber and a worthy competitor for Stefan Raab. Therefore I was surprised that he took the shot quickly and without obvious consideration.

How does he feel today? Does he feel the richer for the experience or the poorer for the loss? Would he be able to teach his kids play football in future, without thinking about how close he was to becoming a millionaire?

Can you lose something that was never yours?

Springtime Blues

Irene squeezed her eyes shut blocking out the sunrays and pulled the blanket over her head.

“Wake up sleeping beauty. It is a beautiful day!”

M opened the windows letting in the sound of birds chirping and thousands of invisible pollen. Although she could not see them, she felt their presence immediately. She rubbed her tongue against the roof of her mouth. With closed eyes she groped for the packet of Kleenex she always kept on the nightstand. The itch spread to her nostril and she felt the pressure to sneeze growing within her. She was ready to give in to it.

M said loudly, “Achoo!”

“Why did you do that for? It is bad enough that you rip me out of a wonderful dream. Am I not even allowed the satisfaction of a sneeze?”

“Stop complaining and eat. We are going to make the best use of the first sunny day after winter.”

Without another word, Irene ate her toast with jam and drank her semi-hot cup of chocolate quickly. M was probably trying to make her agreeable by serving breakfast in bed. She dragged herself from the bed and into the bathroom.

“I assume you already have it all planned out. What are we doing?”

The hot shower caused the sore skin around her upper lips to burn; another reason why she hated spring. The following weeks she would be wearing a moustache of crusted skin, caused by the attrition of super soft paper handkerchiefs against her even softer facial skin.

“We are going to the mobile home fair. It is outdoors. What better way than to spend a day like this outside?”

“Afterwards I’d like to go to that newly opened frozen yoghurt place. I forgot the name. Michel was raving about how great it is the whole day yesterday at the office.”

“Fine with me! Now get changed quickly. The later we get there, the more difficult it would be to find a parking lot.”

“15 more minutes, if you let me get ready in peace.”

Irene washed down her allergy tablet with a big gulp of water. She packed her anti-allergic eye drops and nasal spray in her handbag. She was ready for the wild outdoors!

************

Irene stopped in midstride and pressed her upper thighs together. Another watery glob of pollens came charging out of her nostrils. But she was ready to capture it with a new paper handkerchief. She folded the tissue in half and held it before her nose like a hygiene mask, ready for the next sneeze. The tingly feeling in her nose was a dead giveaway that she wouldn’t have to wait long for the next one.

She scanned the crowd around her. Where was he? She had only paused for a few seconds. He couldn’t have gone far. That is the problem with visiting an outdoor mobile home fair. On the one hand, the constant pollen attack was weakening her physical state of being. On the other hand, she kept losing track of M in the blink of an eye it took her to sneeze. She remained standing in the middle of the path. He had to come out of one of these mobile homes sooner or later.

She felt drained of all energy. Too bad she was too old to lug a schnuffeltuch around. She would love to curl up on her sofa with a comforter and give in to the feeling of sickness that overwhelmed her. But she couldn’t hide indoors all spring or could she? She contemplated the repercussions of such a decision when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“Would you like some apple juice?”

“No thank you. My panty wouldn’t remain dry for long when I have to walk around with a full bladder and sneeze unrelentingly. Let us get on with this show. A frozen yoghurt is waiting for me.”

They walked down the aisle hand in hand.

Project X – Party & Peer Pressure = Bad Decisions

Yesterday I came across a news article on the death of a boy in Houston. The boy was shot multiple times and died as a result of the injuries sustained. He was one of many hundred partygoers, who had gathered in a mansion to celebrate spring break in “Project X” style. What does celebrating “Project X” style mean? It means that first you are no longer a teenager and second it is the title of a Hollywood movie released this year.

Naturally I went to IMDB to watch trailers of the movie and read up on what it was about. It actually sounds like just another teen movie, where a kid throws a birthday party at his house when his parents are out for the evening. He and his 2 friends plan on becoming popular at school because of the party. As expected lots of people turn up and the party gets out of control; things go up in flames, a person of very small stature climbs out of the oven and starts punching them in the sensitive area between their legs. In one scene, a neighbour even gets tasered when he threatens to call the cops because of the noise. This plot is not something new. I am assuming the only difference to the movies before lies in the magnitude of destruction. Lots of things are destroyed for one night of carefree fun.

Is the movie to be blamed for these teenagers’ destructive actions? Ever since it has become possible to “invite” strangers to a party via Twitter or Facebook, such parties have taken place all over the world. The teenagers simply have a cool name for their parties now. You have to admit that “Project X” sounds catchy. Teenagers have always wanted to party through the night. Flirting with the other sex probably causes the adrenalin level in the body to sky rocket. If alcohol is available, I shudder at the damage teenagers under its influence could cause. Yes, the movie is to be blamed for giving an impressionable group of teenagers ideas for such parties. No, the movie is not to be blamed because it can also be seen as portraying the vulnerable nature of teenagers and their need to belong to the “cool” group. These teenagers would have partied just as wildly and carried weapons around, even if the movie was never made.

I read an interesting article which explores the connection between age and peer influence. This article talks about a test carried out on three age groups; teenagers, young adults and adults. The aim was to discover how peer pressure influences one’s willingness to take risks. The test takers played a race on a computer. The aim was to finish the race with the quickest time possible. They had the option to stop at yellow lights, which would cause a slight delay. However the probability of maintaining control of the vehicle is high. Alternatively they could pass yellow lights without stopping. As a result, they risk driving too fast and crashing the vehicle, which would result in a longer delay. They went through this test twice. During the second run, they were told that their (same-sex) friends were watching the test from the room next door.

The teenagers were the only ones, who altered their behaviours. Physically the part of the brain that has to do with rewards became active, when they thought their friends were watching them. It is seen as the reason for their reckless behaviour in the second round. Interestingly peer pressure doesn’t only occur, when friends are bodily present. Simply the thought of friends being aware of what one does is enough to influence a teenager’s action. The scientists believe that this could provide the reason why a child, who is mature in the presence of his parents, could still act irresponsibly when with his friends.

This reminds me of some incidents in Germany, where kids beat up complete strangers in the public. They acted in groups and not all regretted what they had done. This apparent callousness frightens me. Is it futile to hope that teenagers behave sensibly even in the company of their friends? But there are still some well-behaved teenagers in this world, right? What causes them to behave well? Well-behaved friends? Something else? Do you have teenage kids? What is your experience?

Related Articles

1.http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/teenagers-friends-and-bad-decisions/

2. http://abcnews.go.com/US/project-movie-inspires-teen-parties/story?id=15922034#.T2NbY_XLsw9