Archive for children

The Prophet

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2012 by javedbabar

The Prophet was a well-structured text. Sophie had read it many times. There were twenty-six poetry essays on topics concerning the tribulations of human existence. It was early inspirational fiction that had lasted in a way that recent over-hyped junk just wouldn’t.

The topics could run sequentially, she thought, starting with love and ending with death. Or somehow concurrently, infused with the essence of the work, which could be described as enhanced awareness.

“It starts and ends with the sea,” said Danny, QARY’s chief technician. He had started as a regular crew member when the old quarry was converted into a multimedia venue, and had proved himself over the past two seasons. He was now Sophie’s right hand man.

“Yes, it does,” she said, “Would that work as a theme?”

“I think it would. At the beginning, Almustafa is waiting for his ship to come after twelve years in Orphalese. Then he stands before a sea of people and runs through the journey of life. Later he bids them farewell and sets sail for home, with a promise of return, like a tide.”

“I need to watch you,” said Sophie. “I think you are after my job.”

Danny smiled and reddened. He didn’t know how to deal with Sophie since she had spurned his advances. They had a comfortable working relationship, but an uncomfortable personal one.

They decided to retain the book’s structure, but split the essays into sections. The quarry’s chambers would each show one third of the work: nine, nine, and eight chapters respectively. Each chapter was self-contained and didn’t need to be seen in sequence. There was a benefit in seeing some sections together, such as love, marriage and children, and these would be kept in their original order.

The finished show was good, though not their best production. There weren’t enough of Kahlil Gibran’s’ mystical drawings to illustrate the performance, and the new ones they created lacked his magic. Digital media will take you so far but cannot replace nuanced genius.

They did the best they could. Sophie loved hearing the Prophet’s profound words. Her favourite parts were those about love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, and joy and sorrow.

“When love beckons you, follow him; Though his ways are hard and steep.”

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness; And let the winds of heaven dance between you.”

“Your children are not your children; They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”

“All you have shall some day be given; Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.”

“Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”

“Work is love made visible.”

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

The words were beautiful, spiritual, meaningful, but something wasn’t right with the show. Sophie wondered what it was. The performance felt empty and a little contrived.

The QARY computer had been given the role of HAL in the 2001: A Space Odyssey show. The computer had enjoyed this role and not relinquished control. All images, words, sounds and actions were now part of a programme continuing forever. The crew and audience were part of the programme too.

Big machines had once hollowed the quarry and violated Mother Earth. Now one of their number, gazing into the past, attempted to make amends. QARY had transcended physical karma and manifested virtual karma. This empty space was now filled forever.

Creativity

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2012 by javedbabar

The Jobs of the Future program was in trouble. How could Shama achieve his goal of doubling training numbers when budgets seemed to halve each year? He knew that the MD was stealing funds, but Shama had only just started as Training Director, and afraid that if he said anything he would lose his job.

He would have to be smart with his use of funds. Who was best to focus attention on? Which group would be most receptive?

He could target seniors, the most out of touch with technology. His efforts there could make their generation economically active. He could target middle-aged people needing to brush up their skills. He could boost productivity of younger workers, and empower the engine of the local economy. Or maybe it was best to focus on children. Yes, that would be the best long-term investment.

The Headmistress welcomed him to the Elementary school. She said, “The children are excited. Their whole life is the future. Some have troubled pasts, it’s true, and we do the best we can for them. We believe there’s hope for every little person here.”

Shama stopped to admire some drawings pinned to the wall. Talking puddings and ants made of jelly – how did they conceive of such things?

That’s it! he thought. He said, “Mrs Johnson, I won’t be needing that projector after all. I’ve had a better idea. Do you have colored pens and paper?”

“For you, or for the class?”

“For everyone. I think that today is a good day for drawing.”

The class was well behaved but restless. The boys especially were itching to speak to him. Once Shama was introduced, a ginger boy put up his hand and shouted, “Do you really have a job in the future?”

Rather than speaking about the future, he thought that Shama was from the future. Before he could correct him, another boy shouted, “What is it? Do you make robots?”

A girl said, “Do you fly spaceships?”

The questions became more general.

“Is it true that you can live inside video games?”

“Can you grow and then eat your own clothes?”

“Can you make sweat into water, for people who live in deserts?”

Shama smiled and said, “Sorry to disappoint you all. I am from today, like you are. I hope that I will have a job in the future, and I hope that you will too, a job that you love, and at which you are brilliant. But I am here today to tell you about the skills you will need to do those jobs.”

He ran through the key areas – pattern recognition, common sense, creativity, imagination, people skills, technical awareness, and clarity. He asked them to draw how they would use those skills.

The children produced the craziest drawings he had ever seen. Some also made models. He was thrilled by their enthusiasm and creativity. Kids are amazing!

At the end of the class he said, “Don’t forget to take these home to show to your brothers and sisters, and parents and grandparents.” Their drawings stuck to fridges, and their models on coffee tables, would be daily reminders to all generations of skills required for jobs of the future.

Dried

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Global Travel, Mystical Experience, Uncategorized, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie had been affected by the drawing she’d found this morning on the Lucerne Valley Road. She decided to display it on her office wall. She couldn’t make out any details clearly, but it gave the impression of a vast, complex city, filled with human activity. Framing it had been a good idea. It filled the boring expanse of beige opposite her window. People looking into the office now had something to see.

She was mostly out of her office that afternoon, at crisis meetings about rising water levels in the Upper Valley. Two straight weeks of blazing sun had melted snow caps and caused the highest river levels since the last great flood of 2008.

She’d pulled her door closed behind her when she’d left, as per regulations. There was no need to lock it though. Every door opening was recorded on the surveillance system, which was enough to deter unauthorized staff from entering her office.

To improve village hall’s green rating, the office manager had switched off air-conditioning systems, and the building’s passive solar design was meant to keep it cool. However the angle of the sun today was such that the overhang was insufficient. Sunshine poured in throughout the day and made her office an oven.

The framed drawing took a direct hit of sunshine for over an hour. The city portrayed within it heated unbearably and began to suffer droughts. Its reservoirs were exhausted and aquifers dry. Its infrastructure had been repaired after the recent “nuclear accident” which most citizens knew had really been a war. However, due to corruption and incompetence, it had not been fixed well. The little water supply there was suffered big losses, causing The Authority to implement rationing and initiate Level Three hydrostatic measures.

Tensions arose on the streets, and there were simultaneous water riots all over the city. Ozwald Malchizedek claimed to be the Prophet of Aqu – the god of fresh water. He called a citizens’ gathering outside the Transparent Temple and said, “People of the holy city, we have displeased Aqu. He is withholding his water from us, the blood of life. He no longer fertilizes mother earth with his fluid seed. He withholds his kindness and displays his strength. He is angry because we have forgotten him!”

There were shouts of agreement.

He continued, “Let us remember the Dreamtime story of the first parents – Aqu, in the form of Bobby, and Pani, as Naomi – who came from another world and created this one. Their pathways became our waterways. Their dreamlines are our bloodlines. Let us build more vessels for water. I call for the initiation of a mighty canal-building project for transport, leisure, and trade. Let us show that we are worthy to be blessed with the gift of water. If we build the canals, they will send water.”

The Authority had no choice but to supply the machines, tools, and workers required. They knew that drawing water was a matter of life and death. Right now they were powerless, but let Aqu and Pani take the blame. Religion is useful for civic order. Amen!

The Asian Children

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2012 by javedbabar

I’m used to them now, the little rascals, thought Albert. Much can change in a week! Last Tuesday he’d been doing his school run, same as ever, and there they stood, twenty-four Asian children, by the side of the road. He didn’t know for sure that they were Asian, but that was his and everybody else’s best guess. Even the ethno-linguists and social workers were not certain. “Indo-Tibetan” was their best notion.

Who they were, and how they’d got there, were burning questions. The story however had been kept out of mainstream media, The Authority believing it would inflame the immigration debate. It remained a local, word-of-mouth story.

Albert had stopped for them immediately but then been stumped. Should he pick them up now, or leave them here and seek guidance in town? He was out of cell range so couldn’t call the bus company or cops. Albert made three decisions that day.

First, he decided to pick them all up and take them into town.

Second, he drove right past his usual pick-ups, making some of them cry. Their parents had rung the school to complain. Under the circumstances he felt his actions were warranted. He needed to get these lost kids to a safe place. His usual charges had a safe place already, and it was best they stayed there for now.

His third decision was to take the kids straight to school rather than to the cops. It felt more appropriate. Teachers would know how to handle troubled children; cops would likely frighten them. He’d spent too much time with cops in his life, and never enough time with teachers. His life had been so fucked up from the beginning: his violent family, his mixed-up head, his abused body, everything. It was amazing he was still living and breathing, here and now in Lucerne. Okay he was single and had few friends, but so what?

It was decided to house the Asian children at a local Bed & Breakfast, but many of them began to scream, till they were taken out again. They didn’t like town at all. They preferred rural areas or wilderness. They also hated being separated. Efforts to divide them led to more screaming.

The village council held an emergency meeting, and decided to accommodate them in the old school house in the Upper Valley, twenty kilometres out of town.

The Asian children didn’t mind coming into town for school though. They liked seeing the other children, though they were not yet ready to engage with them. Albert having found them on the Lucerne Valley Road, was asked to drive the Asian children back and forth. They liked to sit together at the back of the bus.

They were silent for the first few days, but then one said hello to Albert while he was driving. Albert said hello back, immediately after which the bus was filled with sniggering. He turned his head and saw that there was no one standing in the aisle or sitting in the front rows of seats. Who had said hello?

“Please keep your eyes on the road, Mr. Driver. You’ve got our twenty-four precious lives in your hands.” There were many more sniggers. “We are telepaths. It is a very useful ability in the mountains where we lived. We didn’t need to cup our hands and shout while climbing.”

“How did you get here?” Albert asked aloud.

“It’s hard for us to explain that. Why don’t you tell us how you got here?”

Albert realized that this is a very hard thing to do.

Pryground

Posted in Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by javedbabar

Grandpa was pleased they’d built a new playground in Lucerne. His grandchildren were on the other side of this vast country and he saw them only twice a year. Now he could watch children play daily; it would be something to look forward to.

It was a pretty fancy playground; in his day there would have just been a roundabout, see-saw and swings. This playground had those, but also a complicated climbing frame, something that looked like a maze, and a series of long tunnels. The central features were two artificial hills, one higher than the other, the launch and terminal for a zip-line for children to ride along in a suspended tyre. The red metal fence enclosing the playground had only one entrance, with a hut beside it, manned by a guard.

Everything was privatised these days, maybe even playtime; he wondered if there was an entry charge. “Gooday Sir,” said Grandpa. “What a fabulous playground you have here. Is entry free?”

“Of course it is. We’re not going to charge these angels. What do you think we do – rob children?”

Grandpa didn’t like his choice of words; they were unnecessary, but he smiled just the same. There was no harm in being friendly. He said, “Okay, thank you. Have a good day.”

As he entered the playground, the guard called out, “Wait a minute! Where’s your child?”

“My child is forty-four years old,” said Grandpa. “He’s on the East Coast, rearing my grandchildren.”

“What? You don’t have them with you? No? I’m afraid this playground is for children.” He gave Grandpa a suspicious look. “Adults can enter only as guardians. That’s a strict rule. No unaccompanied adults.”

Grandpa was disappointed. However he accepted that in this paranoid modern world, they needed to keep adults away from children. Because of a few sick individuals, the most natural thing in the world – an old person interacting with a young one, sharing generational wisdom – was forbidden. It was, in a sense, even purer than a parental relationship, which primarily served genetic interest.

Grandpa watched from beyond the red fence. He ate an apple and sucked on mints as he watched children playing. They were sort of enjoying themselves, but things didn’t seem quite right, and it took him a while to notice why.

This playground ran like clockwork; children were moving between attractions in an orderly manner, their moves timed to coincide. What was going on here? Weren’t playgrounds meant to be chaotic places with children running wild? How would their enthusiasm express itself, and their sense of adventure? Their curiosity, feelings and emotions? Why were they behaving in such a strange way? Grandpa was confused and went home.

He thought about it all night, and in the morning returned to the playground. He said to the guard, “I’m with my grandson today; he’s visiting from the east coast; look there he is.” He pointed to a child on the zip-line, and the guard nodded him in.

Grandpa chatted to some children. They all seemed scared. He noticed that within each group one child acted as leader, shepherding other children around. Sometimes quite casually, but at other times they pushed and bullied. Many children wore grazes and bruises, and worse than this, they wore looks of fear, and of pain.

His casual questions and observations revealed that The Authority ran a programme designating superior children as Lifetime Leaders (LL). Their job was to develop their own leadership skills, and via this process, shape other children’s characters to be downtrodden; to become yielding, malleable future citizens.

A Lifetime Leader reported Grandpa to the guard. He was arrested and banned from the playground forever.

One-Do

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown, World Myths with tags , , , , , on April 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Kenneth felt sorry for the boy walking along the Lucerne Valley Road. He was always out, regardless of weather, scampering home alone. He seemed brave and fierce like a guard dog, while Kenneth floated past in his car. Kenneth had twice stopped to ask if he wanted a ride, but he’d declined politely. He didn’t stop to ask again, as he may get accused of being a paedo. That was one of the sickest things about the world today. Now adults feared children they didn’t know. What a perverse situation.

The boy’s face was often bruised. Was it another kid, Kenneth wondered? Was it a parent? Should he ask him what happened? Should he get involved?

Kenneth waved to the boy as he passed him, but he never waved back. He seemed to be moving his arms about, but more like dancing than waving. He must be listening to music. Was he alone by choice, Kenneth wondered? The kind of boy who was shy, and not yet ready to handle the world. Or was he alone by rejection? Someone who yearned for company but was denied. Kenneth had been the former when younger, but now as an old man he was the latter.

He didn’t see the boy for a while. He must have moved on like they all did eventually. This place is too small, thought Kenneth. Kids need a bigger town, maybe with a hockey rink or a swimming pool. However a month later the boy returned. On a silvery full moon night, there he was again, walking up the Lucerne Valley Road, but this time on metal crutches. Kenneth pulled up and said, “Hey son, do you need a ride today?”

The boy said, “No thanks, I’m building up my strength again.”

Should he ask him? He decided to. “What happened to you?” Then he made it a less pointed question. “A sporting injury?”

“Yes it was, but I’m almost healed now.” He indicated his legs.

“What sport do you practise? I used to play cricket.” In his mind Kenneth heard a leather ball smack a willow bat.

“I’m a martial artist,” said the boy. “It’s a style called One-Do.” As soon as he said that, Kenneth felt his limbs burning. He shivered slightly and then grimaced. “Are you feeling alright, Mister?” Kenneth said yes. “You know I think I will take that ride after all. Thanks for asking. Is that ok?” Kenneth said yes. “You can drop me at the Golden turn-off.”

They drove in silence initially, and then Kenneth said, “Please tell me about One-Do.” He felt that he should know already, but didn’t, or couldn’t remember.

“It’s an ancient martial art developed by the Golden King in 3,000 BC. Some say it developed in Arabia or India, others say China or Japan. It requires internal and external training.” Kenneth asked him to elaborate. “Internal practice like awareness and focus. External development of muscular flexibility and cardio fitness. Are you interested in martial arts?”

What could Kenneth say? He had watched a Bruce Lee film but that was it. Yet the moment the boy had said One-Do, Kenneth’s body came alive. “Yes I am,” he said. “But I’ve never tried any.”

“Would you like to start now?”

“Are you serious?” said Kenneth. “At my age? I’m seventy-seven you know.”

The boy said, “I think you’re much older than that.”

“Cheeky bugger!” said Kenneth. “What a thing to say!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I was trying to be funny. It’s a One-Do joke.”

“There’s One-Do jokes too?” said Kenneth. “It must be a truly holistic system.”

“Yes it is.” The boy said that he was fully conversant with Techniques, Forms, and Stances, but needed to practice Applications. If Kenneth wasn’t too busy, he would like him to become his practice partner. How about it?

Kenneth was speechless. He didn’t know what to do. But there was also another explanation. He knew exactly what to do, so there was nothing to say. Somewhere deep inside, this was what he had been waiting for. He knew it would happen. It must.

For the next week he practised rudimentary techniques, conditioning exercises, and simple movements performed repeatedly. The second week he focussed on stretching and meditation. The third week was striking, throwing, and jumping. The fourth week he worked on adapting the techniques he had learnt to hunting and military applications, by fine tuning his muscular strength and flexibility, breath and energy management, and proper body mechanics.

The boy worked with him daily, with endless patience and full support. It was clear that the boy was not just a martial artist, he was a Master of the Art. He taught Kenneth the wisdom of animal mimicry, the powers of religious ritual, and hidden meanings of legends. They practised with curved and straight swords, fighting knives, bamboo sticks, and bladed nanchuk. For closer work there were brass knuckledusters, Cretan cestus gloves, D-shaped tekko fist extenders, and Indian push daggers. For longer distance they used four-pointed shuriken throwing stars, Aztec atlatl spear launchers, 3-balled bolas, and ebony knobkierrie. The boy taught Kenneth both Hard and Soft techniques. It was clear that the boy preferred blocking head on force, and diagonal cutting moves – Hard techniques. Kenneth’s inclination was to yield, and turn an attacker’s force to his disadvantage – Soft techniques.

Within one month Kenneth had re-learnt everything that he had known in his previous incarnation 2,000 years ago as the Floating Turtle Warrior. He now fully recognized his cyclic foe, the Thunder Dog Brave. His noble opponent had retrained him well, for it would not be a fair fight otherwise. And following this auspicious full moon of the ninth quarter their time had come. As soon as the boy’s leg was fully healed, they would engage in mortal battle once more beneath the holy peaks of Mt. Alba and Mt. Negra. Kenneth also had the benefit of his current knowledge. He could lead his opponent into a disadvantageous position and then snap his weak leg, exerting of course only minimum force.

Guru Baba

Posted in Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on April 8, 2012 by javedbabar

Guru Baba didn’t know who these people were. They stood before him expecting something, or maybe he was expecting something from them; it was difficult to say. It always paid to be friendly so he decided to smile. The people seemed pleased when he did this.

They certainly looked fancy, all dressed in robes and wearing elaborate hats. The one in red pressed his palms together, the one in white made finger shapes in the air, and the one in black rocked back and forth. They were still waiting for something. Guru Baba raised his right hand, and their motions stopped immediately, then they all looked lost.

The one in red had a bald head. He looked at the other two for permission and stepped forward, and said in a sort of Indian accent, “Guru Baba, it is a great pleasure to see you again. The last occasion was not a happy situation. My people couldn’t take more oppression and had risen up spontaneously. The crackdown was brutal, but your involvement transformed the situation completely. The Chinese government saw their errors, and granted our autonomy. When my time comes, I can now expire with satisfaction. My life’s work is done. On behalf of Tibetans, our Chinese brothers, and peace-loving sentient beings everywhere, I thank you.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. Guru Baba wondered what he was crying about, and also what he was talking about.

The one in white wore a tall pointy hat. He now stepped forward. Guru Baba admired his bejewelled staff. He would like one like that. Maybe the one in white would let him hold it for a while, but before he could ask him, he said, “Guru Baba, I have much to thank you for. When I became the Vicar of Christ, the Church was in a fractured state. Contentious issues such as abortion, homosexuality, women priests, and paedophile priests, were ripping our holy community apart. But your intra-faith work was invaluable. Your universal principles of belief became the glue that held together our altar of faith. The holy brethren of the Church Universal honour your noble person.” Guru Baba nodded and smiled at this glamorous man. Should he ask now to borrow his stick?

The one in black stepped forward. Guru Baba liked his beard. It was long and black and curly. He also liked his wide-brimmed hat that seemed like a furry flying saucer, and his accent that went “khh”. He said, “Guru Baba, my people were exiled from the Holy Land for a hundred generations. Some of our faithful returned but didn’t find peace there. And the last few years have been especially painful for us and for our Palestinian brothers. There are few excuses for both our and their inhumanity. Thank you for bringing us together at last – for bringing peace to our homes.” Guru Baba liked this man speaking with “khh”. He wondered where this Holy Land was. He would like to visit it.

The ones in red, white, and black repeated their earlier motions – pressing palms, making finger shapes, and rocking back and forth – and stepped back slowly. Guru Baba wondered if they were going home now. And if so, would they come back tomorrow?

Three men in blue suits replaced them. Why were they all wearing the same colour, he wondered? The first one stepped forward and held out his hand. Guru Baba held out his hand too, which the first man in blue shook gently, and said, “Guru Baba, you have brought us great honour by making this land your home. We were a vast nation in terms of land area, but under populated. Our larger neighbour was always more powerful, and the chaos they fell into was disastrous for the world. Thank you for suggesting this brave solution. I was not sure that my government was ready to serve an additional 300 million people, but the United States of Canadia is now the world’s most stable and affluent nation. That’s why I have come to Lucerne today, to relay the appreciation of all of its citizens.” His chatter rung a faint bell. Yes, he remembered coming to this beautiful valley. But when and why he couldn’t say.

The second man in blue suit approached him. He used too many s’s in his wordage, which made it sound like he lisped. What language was he speaking? It was a sort of English. He said, “Guru Baba, as the President of Europe, I thank you for your work in stabilizing our currency. It was vital to our Union, so hard won after murderous great wars.” He carried on like this for a while. The third man in blue suit was a black man. Didn’t he look smart in his suit? He said, “As Chief of the United Nations, I would like to thank you for bringing peace to the world…” and other things.

More people came to see him. There were scientists, musicians, artists, writers, dancers, sportsmen, media and business people, and others. They were all friendly people, but he didn’t recognize any of them. Should he? One of them held a newspaper saying “World in shock: Guru Baba has Dementia and is Dying”. What was dementia? It sounded serious.

Then he saw some people he recognized, but they were far away. Somebody was being mean to them. A tall man in a black suit, with a shaved head and a gun, was shouting at them. These little people – what were they called again, children? He beckoned them over. They were excited but scared. Some were laughing and some were crying. Both were sounds he knew. They were the sounds of the universe announcing itself. Wailing sadness and screaming hope. Comedy and tragedy. These were the people that he had wanted to see, not all of those others. Those men in robes and suits talked a lot but knew nothing. These little ones only laughed and cried, which showed that they understood everything. He stepped down from his throne and kissed their feet. He was pleased to meet these little gods.

Arty

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“Thanks for coming,” said Mr. Jameson, Recreation Manager of the Community Centre, aka. The Transparent Temple. “Would you like some tea?”

“Er, do you have some coffee?” said the journalist. “I’m not really a tea drinker.”

“I’m sorry we don’t. It’s Tea Awareness Month in the Village. All municipal facilities have only tea.” The journalist licked his lips as if trying to compare the two beverages. “And it’s also political. World Coffee Corp has taken over all the coffee shops in BC, so municipalities are promoting tea. Anyway, that’s a different story.”

“Yes, it is. Let’s talk about that next time. Yes tea would be fine, with milk and sugar please.”

Mr. Jameson served the tea, then seated himself opposite the journalist and said, “Would you like to ask questions, or shall I relate the whole story?”

“Just start at the beginning – tell me about the artist and how you acquired the artwork – and I’ll ask questions when I need to.”

“Ok then,” said Mr. Jameson. “We have a fabulous creative community in Lucerne. Artists first came here twenty years ago to escape the City, and rented old cabins here and there. The mountains and forests inspired them, and they had the isolation they craved.”

“How did they survive financially? Did they sell their works?”

Mr. Jameson smiled. “What’s the second largest industry in BC?”

“They grew pot? That was their income?”

“Well when they sold it they had income, and when they didn’t they smoked it and didn’t care.”

“That sounds like a good life to me,” said the journalist.

“Well it was initially. But then they got married, had kids, bought houses, and most got regular jobs. But some stayed out there literally. Unemployed or unemployable. Peter Stone never stopped working. He never sold anything, but never stopped working. He said it was his duty. His gift from God.”

“Is that a quote? Did he actually say ‘gift from God’?”

“Yes, he wrote it in his proposal. I can give you a copy if you like.” The journalist nodded. “Anyway, when we initiated the ABC – Art as Beautiful Community – program, he submitted work along with everybody else. He paints onto full-sized plywood panels; we thought it was too rough and rejected it. But then the large format painters we’d chosen – maybe you’ve seen Sharon Move’s old barns, and Wynn Kingston’s young bears – couldn’t commit their works for six months, due to upcoming shows. So we were left with Peter Stone. He’s an abstract painter, and we knew that his work would receive mixed reviews. The most prominent piece was Embrace of Infinity.”

The journalist said, “Do you have a picture of it? I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen it. I looked online but found nothing.”

Mr. Jameson nudged his file around the desk and said, “You won’t believe this, but we don’t have any pictures of it either.” He explained how none of the images appeared. All you saw was a blank plywood board. The paints were invisible. There was no explanation for it. The artist said that his work expressed the inexpressible. It was a work of light and shade.

“Tell me about the yoga class – the children’s one.”

“Well the painting was shown in the Great Hall for three months. Some people liked its raw energy and rough colours. They said its swirls reminded them of seasons, the weather, skiing, and moose rutting. But most thought it was pretty lame. Then we started a children’s yoga class on Wednesdays. One boy – who I can’t name for legal reasons – just sat there staring at the painting and wouldn’t move. The next week, two more boys joined him. The week after, the whole group sat before the painting and chanted, and the week after that too. We thought that yoga must be too intense for children, and cancelled the…”

The journalist interrupted. “That’s when I first heard about Embrace of Infinity. My colleague covered the yoga story. That poor teacher had a really hard time. I hear she’s left town and gone to live in an ashram.” Mr. Jameson raked his head up, indicating yes. “Is that when the City dealer came to the Transparent Temple?”

“You mean the Community Centre? I thought so. Yes he viewed the work then went to meet the artist in his cabin. He declared Peter Stone a genius and the work a masterpiece. He estimated its value at $12 million.”

“Where did that figure come from?” He tapped his pen. “It sounds pretty random?”

“Well I remember telling him that the Community Centre cost $12 million to build, and the next thing I know the painting’s worth the same.”

“What do you think? Is it worth $12 million? Look, is there any way that I can see it? I mean, this is a public building after all. Can’t I just have a little peek?”

Mr. Jameson shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s impossible. Even I can’t see it now. Due to the controversy the Great Hall is closed till further notice. Its windows are all covered, and the painting is guarded around the clock. It’s being removed by the dealer tomorrow. He’s found a wealthy buyer.”

“There are rumours that it’s World Coffee Corp’s owner.”

Mr. Jameson stiffened. “The Village has every right to sell it. We have a buy option for $1,000. It’s in the contract. I’ll give you a copy. It will pay off the Community Centre’s construction debts. It’s important that you give our side of the story.”

“And what about Peter Stone?”

“He has made violent threats against us. He is not allowed within 100 metres of the Community Centre.”

Drawing

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , on February 5, 2012 by javedbabar

“Let’s do drawing,” said Naomi.

“Sure, Sweetie,” said Bobby. “What would you like to draw?”

“Everything!”

“Well, we’ve got all day,” he said; his sister wouldn’t be picking her up till six. “Let’s see what we can do. I’ve got some paper in my printer; we can use that, and…”

“No! Not on paper,” said Naomi emphatically. “You have to draw in a proper book. Then it’s a proper drawing. Do you have a book?”

“Will this do?” he said, producing a hardback notebook with black cover.

“That’s perfect!” said Naomi, and found a good page.

“And let me get some pens, I’m not sure what…”

“I’ve got special pencils,” said Naomi. “I always use them for drawing. You can use them too.” She produced a dozen fat, coloured pencils with natural wood casings, their colour only indicated by the lead.

“Thank you,” said Bobby. “Shall we start?”

Naomi nodded, and said, “I’ll draw me, and you draw you.” She started with a circle for a head, and triangle-dress below; stick arms and legs were followed by pig-tails, hands, and shoes. Bobby drew himself: tall and thin, with red hair and beard. When he’d finished, he looked over Naomi’s drawing. She had added more details to herself. She now had facial features, folds and buttons on her dress, and some elbow and knee details. Much better than he’d expected.

“That’s great!” said Bobby. “How do I look?”

“You look ok,” said Naomi. “Let’s draw some other things.” She drew a star and sunflowers. He drew a tree and snake.

“Do you mind if I go and do a few things?” said Bobby. It wasn’t urgent, just checking his email and Facebook, but his habit was unbreakable.

“Ok,” she said. “But don’t be too long. You have to help me with drawing.”

When he came back after twenty minutes he was amazed. She had filled the page with thick jungle. The first tree, sunflowers, and snake were enclosed within it, with the lone star shining above. It was surprisingly good for a six-year-old.

“You took too long,” she said. “I had to do all the drawing myself.”

“I’m sorry, Naomi, there was something important,” he lied. “But I’m back now. What shall we do?”

“Let’s do colouring. Us first. I’ll do me, and you do you.” She filled in her dress bright blue, added shading in the creases, and brightened up the front and sides. She made her skin a realistic milky-golden, and her hair brown-black. She got the hues just right. Bobby thought, she’s got some talent, this one, and began to colour himself. He didn’t quite get it right though. His skin was the colour of potatoes, and his hair and beard seemed fire-engine accessories. He wasn’t pleased with his purple shirt either, which he’d wanted to make black; and was he really wearing turquoise trousers?

Naomi giggled. “You look funny!” she said. “Do you prefer that you, or this you?”

“I think I like this me,” said Bobby, tapping his chest.

“I like the other one!” said Naomi. “Shall I help you finish him?” Bobby nodded. “Ok, you can finish the other things.”

Naomi selected her pencils and got busy. Bobby didn’t want to waste too much time on this. He quickly coloured the star, sunflowers, snake, and tree. He started feeling drowsy. He’d forgotten how tiring it was playing with kids. They seemed to have unlimited energy and imagination, and were happy just being themselves. It was good being a kid! And it was tiring being an adult, with or without them. Even more tiring than usual today; what was going on?

Bobby realized that he was somewhere else. Where was the cabin? Where was Naomi? Where was he? All he could see was jungle everywhere. It was not green, but white – a ghost jungle. He looked at his hands, his arms, his legs – they were coloured naturally – but everything around him was plain.

Leaves rustled in the distance. He wondered whether to hide but then thought, “what from?” and stayed where he was. Leaves quivered close by, and a moment later, Naomi burst out of them. “Hey, you’re here too, Uncle Bobby! Isn’t this fun?”

“Where are we, Naomi?” Bobby was dazzled, and disorientated.

“We’re in the drawing of course.”

What – actually in the drawing?

“Yes, that’s what happens when you colour it nicely,” said Naomi. “Didn’t your parents ever take you to art galleries?”

“Sure they did. But only into the galleries. Not into the paintings.” Bobby couldn’t believe he was even having this conversation.

“Didn’t you ever go into the paintings?” Bobby shook his head. “Oh, I only mean into them a little bit, to look around. Only the painter can go into them properly, and see what they really are. But see – You came into my drawing! I know I helped you, but now you’re here. Let me find some other people.” She skipped back through the leaves, but then poked her head out and said, “Just wait here; I won’t be too long.”

Bobby sat on a tree stump – was there logging in drawings, he wondered? – trying to make sense of his situation. He felt cool darkness and turned around. Naomi’s sunflowers towered over him, their heads filled with teeth rather than seeds – looking like octopus mouths – walking hulkily towards him. Bobby ran away from them into a forest clearing. High above, Naomi’s star began pulsing and screeching. It sent down red death rays. Bobby ran faster and further, till he reached a giant tree, and became tangled in its strange branches. He sensed movement around him, a slithering and hissing. It was his own snake about to attack him in his own tree. He shouted, “Help me!”

There was a rustling nearby. Naomi popped out of the jungle. “Oh, sorry,” she said. “I should have given you some pencils. It’s hard the first time, till you get used to it. Then if you don’t like something, you just rub it out and redraw it. But don’t rush it this time; remember to colour it in nicely.

Workins

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi with tags , , on January 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Amand waved to her little sister on the training roundabout, and smiled. Ah! Those were the days, she thought, so carefree. Her sister was only two but could keep going for ages. She seemed to enjoy it; it was still a game for her. Have fun while you can, thought Amand. It won’t last long.

Amand’s pace slackened when she’d lifted her hand to wave at her sister, so she now pushed harder. Despite her extra effort there was no perceptible change in The Wheel’s speed. The other seven children must have been pushing steadily, so her lapse was absorbed. It would have been different during the evening shift. With only four children working The Wheel, a quarter reduction would have showed – or at least annoyed the other workins.

“Amand! Pssst! Amand!” came a voice from behind her.

“What is it Samanth? You know we can’t talk now.”

“Can I come and see your rat tonight? I’ve heard he’s got really fat.”

“I’ll have to ask my dom,”  said Amand. This referred to a dad who had become a mom. Its opposite was a mad. Neither were her real parents. They had been appointed by The State.

“I’ll come at four, just after dunch.”

Amand’s shift ended at two. She ate dunch – the only meal they were allowed each day – with her family, and then went to the shrine. Every home had to have one, containing either a carved or a living rat. She fed the rat some wholemeal bread. It’s teeth nattered so nicely. Nat-nat-nat-nat! It was hard to believe that people used to kill rats once. Millions of them, even in their own homes. It was good the State had banned killing animals.

Her grand-dom said that a long time ago, animals were used for work. They even had something like The Wheel that was turned by cows. Imagine that! Cows instead of children turning The Wheel at the village centre, pumping water, making power, grinding grain! It was too funny to imagine.

Samanth came over to see the rat. She fed it red cabbage. Nat-nat-nat-nat! Amand mentioned about cows turning The Wheel.

“My grand-mad told me too,” said Samanth. “But she said it was horses.

They had seen neither animal. They were kept only in temple-zoos.

“So what did all the children do?” said Amand.

“I’m not sure. I think they just played.”

“What? All day?”

“I guess so,” Samanth shrugged. “My grand-mad said there were too many children. No one could feed them anymore. That’s when The State said that children had to become workins. They had to work to stay in the community.”

“What if they didn’t want to work?” said Amand. She rubbed her hands, which were sore from pushing.

“Well, they didn’t get any dunch. They’d eventually get hungry and go back to The Wheel.”

Something got into Amand that night. A kind of fury. Even though it was evening shift, she pushed harder than ever. The other workins looked at her strangely. They whispered from all sides asking her what’s up, but she ignored them. Then instead of pushing, she started pulling backwards, working against the others. They were surprised and slackened off. So without really meaning to, Amand pulled The Wheel backwards.

The village lights dimmed. People came out to see what was happening. Workins not on duty ran to help with The Wheel. But because of the dimness and general confusion, they pushed the wrong sides of the handles, and worked with Amand rather than against her. There were no longer four, or even eight, workins at The Wheel. Each handle had three children, so there were 24 of them pushing hard together.

The Wheel accelerated, spinning in the wrong direction. All the gears worked backwards. Nat-nat-nat-nat! They reversed their linkages, magnifying The Wheel’s effects. It started here in the centre of the village, but spread throughout the system. As the children ran around together, laughing, they felt that they had broken the cruel fist of history. They had twisted it around its own back. They were playing – what children should do – and not working!

The Wheel locked without warning, and they were all thrown off. They banged their heads together and bruised their limbs. They landed in a jumble. The next day Amand was back at The Wheel. This time she was chained to it. Despite her little sister waving to her from the training wheel, she couldn’t wave back.