Motion picture, baby

The Quarter Percent ūüĎąūüŹĹ DOWNLOAD BETA VERSION

Blurb A
During thirteen intense days of summer, 2030, profit is territory, and the quarter percent wield influence and prestige to fight for more of it. Behind the screens, a reclusive entrepreneur is rewriting the rules of the game. As the rules change, a former social media influencer struggles to adjust. On the Continent, a popular and charismatic king works covertly to undermine his rivals. His younger daughter takes on an exciting new challenge while his youngest finds herself in his cross-hairs. His oldest daughter is heir apparent. She marshals forces in a bold scheme to burnish her brand. She will do whatever it takes to win.

Thumbnail for the trailer, The Quarter Percent.
Click the image to download the BETA version


Blurb B
It is summer, 2030. Truth is the weapon, and profit is the territory. Behind the screens, Marvin Stone is a wealthy recluse who uses powerful, cutting-edge technology to rewrite the rules of the game. As the rules change, Augustine Santa Clara, a former social media star, struggles to adjust. On the Continent, the popular and charismatic King Cordial of Vale works covertly to undermine his rivals. His youngest daughter, Costmary, is in his cross-hairs. Rue, his older daughter, takes on an exciting new challenge. Gala is the King’s firstborn. When she is named Princess Regent, she forges new ties and unveils her master plan.

Trailer created by Ateeb Khan.

Cover art by Emanuel Malu. Click the image to download the BETA version.

A tale in the crypt

Gala meets Velour’s First Minister

Jennifer Horn has done a fantastic job again creating this storyboard for a key scene for my novel, The Quarter Percent.

In the first scene of the final chapter, Gala and the First Minister of Velour are in the crypt of Ruby Palace. On screen is a replay of the ‚Äėfall of the house of Moss‚Äô. At a prestigious awards ceremony, in front of the crowned heads of the Continent, Mrs. Moss spills the dirt on the Continent‚Äôs aristocrats. Gala explains that it is her system of interpersonal sabotage.

Morse coded message I created online

In the epilogue, one of the characters receives an invitation card on his breakfast tray. The card is written in Morse. He presses it to the screen of his tablet to translate the message.

ÔľąÔľĺŌČÔľĺÔľČ


Have a happy week ahead, everyone.

Rinse, repeat …

Collage with postage stamps

So far, the new WordPress editor is driving me bonkers and is about to get slapped upside the head with my pimp hand after trying to stitch me up via Siri. 

Warning! Rant …

I spent the last four days trying to delete my Instagram account, which I started four days ago. Before that, I was forced to shred my Twitter posts, all 202 of them and delete my account. Long story short, Twitter is Babylon.

I have sworn that I would never use Facebook products ever. I had to go back on my word because I‚Äôm not able to travel overseas this year. 

Instagram’s software decided that my photos were professional-looking. I was prompted to upgrade to a professional account and pay for advertising. They then said that I needed a Facebook page (so they can mine my data and sell me ads). I declined because I wasn’t going to sell my artwork anyway, and their analytics are irrelevant. I was planning to post photos from my archives to establish some credentials. I wanted other artists to pay attention to me when I engaged with them. Instead, from the fourth post in, my photos started vanishing. Soon after, I was not allowed to react to stories, or comment on more than four consecutive posts. So I said, I’m done. Four days later, after several thwarted attempts, I finally did it.

I was miserable the whole time.

You have to understand, I study programming and machine learning so I know how algorithms work. I don‚Äôt believe that their algorithms are even-handed. Machine learning code requires human input and all of that ‚Äúthe algorithm changes constantly” nonsense you see in tech magazines, is shorthand for ‚Äúour programmers are constantly re-drafting the code so that people who are not buying advertisements will feel compelled to do that‚ÄĚ.  

I had zero followers and was getting suppressed. It is a clear sign that Facebook exists to sell advertisements. They don’t cater to anyone who refuses to add to their bottom line. I don’t have access to their servers, so there is nothing I can do to change their policy to help myself.

Please do not ask me about all of the accounts I visited in stealth mode. Oh, I spied on everybody: neighbours all the way to my former teachers, classmates, childhood friends, crushes, crushes’ crushes, uni friends, colleagues. People are so nice when they don’t know it’s me commenting.

One of my cousins, who is a fashion designer, sent me a lovely welcome audio message to thank me for joining her army of fans. In real life, her husband banned her from talking to me because I told my cousin she should not allow her husband to name himself CEO of her multinational fashion brand, which she started on her own. He has no business training, mind you. He claims on his social media accounts that he is naturally better at business because he‚Äôs a dude and men are traditionally the provider. It’s a very long story – and you can read about it at that link. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a face full of the power couple in an Instagram live stream. Their marriage is amazing and perfect and stuff so they were cohosting a marriage counselling session with a very good-looking celebrity singer couple. I had to intervene after a guest complained that her man wasn‚Äôt ready to have children. She joked that her friend told her to take a sample of his you-know-what while he was sleeping. I quickly jumped in the chat to say that it was assault and battery. (If I had a partner kinda sorta joke that they would impregnate me in my sleep, there‚Äôd be no discussion about it: that would be the very end. Don‚Äôt say hi to me, get lost forever).

Of course the power couples ignored me. Because, they don’t have any knowledge about fundamental human rights. And why would they? They’re not really helping anyone, they’re building a brand.

 

Tear up that cheque

Rue et Cassidy

Cassidy looked at the cheque. It was written in the amount of ten million euros. The recipient’s name was Asparagus Saints, LLC. She looked at Rue with her mouth open. With a puzzled laugh and flutter of her eyelids, she asked, “Why are you giving this to me?”

“I think you mean to ask why I am not offering it to you through a representative,” said Rue. Her calm voice disguised her irritation. Cassidy‚Äôs tone was informal and they were not close friends.

“Well …” Cassidy said, while rolling her eyes.

“Let’s get some things sorted. You could take that cheque to a journalist and repeat everything we spoke about here,” said Rue. “However, as soon as someone rings my attorney for a comment, you will be thrown in jail for extortion, blackmail and money laundering.”

“What?!”

“The person who wrote that cheque runs the Kiev underworld. I asked him for ten million euros, and he gave it to me no questions asked. Do you have any friends like that?” It was a rhetorical question, but the princess waited for a response.

“No, Ma’am,” responded Cassidy, feeling put in her place.

“I also asked him to register that business in your name and open an account for you at a bank in Niue.”

“I didn’t ask for this,” said Cassidy.

“Your endgame was to spend the Count’s money,” responded the princess, referring to her first ex-husband. ‚ÄúHouse, car, boat, plane, diamonds, clothes, bags, shoes, skin, hair, nails, boob job, lip fillers, vitamin drips. This is more than you would get in a divorce. Doesn’t refusing this cheque make you a liar?”

“No!”

Image by Sebastian Coman via Unsplash

“Really? Do you love him?”

“Yes.”

“Yes? I handed you a cheque for ten million euros, threatened to have you locked up, and there you are, still holding it.”

“I’m trying to understand what this is all about.”

“I believe you’re hesitating because you think you can cash that cheque and keep sleeping with my ex-husband,” said Rue. ‚ÄúYou are an entry-level backstabber. If you had any real gold-digging skills, Karl would have married you already.”

“I’m not a gold-digger, or a grifter, if this is what you’re trying to prove,” said the woman.

“Did you earn that money?” Rue looked at the cheque, looked at Cassidy‚Äôs face and leaned her head to one side. She felt she was exercising a great deal of self-restraint.

“Of course not,” replied Cassidy.

“You’re holding a piece of paper representing an amount you haven’t earned. If you loved that man, you would have torn it up and stomped out of here.”

Cassidy calmly put the cheque on the table, hooked her arm through the handle of her purse and stood up. With a curtsy, she said, “Your Royal Highness, if I may be excused.” Her voice was trembling.

‚ÄúYou may not,‚ÄĚ said the princess, smiling. She leaned back in the sofa and looked up at the Cassidy. “Sit down.”

Cassidy obeyed. Tears were welling up in her eyes. She asked, ‚ÄúWhat do you want from me?”

Image by Rod Long via Unsplash

“I believe that in spite of your low aspirations, and uncouth behaviour, you think that you’re ambitious. However, you have misunderstood people‚Äôs opinions of you. You think they respect you for spending Karl’s money. But they think you are a sex worker. You would know how not to act like one if you had a good mentor.”

“Ma’am? Are you offering to mentor me?”

‚ÄúThat would be inappropriate, not to mention unpleasant, given how thick you are. Put the cheque in your purse. Accept it as a generous payout from a concerned third party. Consider that you would get nothing after the inevitable demise of your opportunistic coupling.” Rue inhaled deeply and glared at Cassidy with a glacial glare. 

Cassidy picked up the cheque and neatly tucked it into her wallet, which she had retrieved from her purse. Rue continued, “Now, I’m going to introduce you to a stylist.” She turned her head towards the doorway behind her and called out. “Harlowe?”

A petite, curvy woman with ankle-length, rose pink dreadlocks entered the living room from an adjoining room. She was wearing a white dress that looked like an apron over a blue silk jumpsuit. There were thong sandals on her feet. The straps were bejewelled.

Picking up a pen and notepad from the table, Rue scribbled something on a page, tore it off, and handed it to Cassidy. “When Miss Harlowe is finished with you, arrive at that address, on that date, at nineteen o’clock, sharp. No plus ones, thank you.”

“Ma’am,” said Cassidy. Now intrigued as well as confused, she curtsied to Rue again and followed Harlowe into the adjoining room. She didn’t hear when the princess exited the suite.

(o^  ^o)

Hello everyone and thank you for reading. This is a rough draft of a scene in my novel, The Quarter Percent. Context is everything, I suppose.

How did you meet your husband?

Praia and Augustine

“How did you meet your husband, Praia?”

“It is a very long story.”

“Start and keep going until you get to the end. My brain is saturated with work stuff. Cleanse me with your tale of true love.”

“I met him in Bhutan five years ago. I was already in country for three months when we met. I was a field tech volunteer with the Yoon-Kim Foundation. I was involved with Xu Ming, the film director. You might have heard of him?”

“Who hasn’t?”

“He was there to film a documentary about the Yoon-Kim Foundation. My boss asked me to guide him and his crew high up in the mountains. He wanted to capture some nature scenes. It was pure lust. At least, for him.”

“What about you? What was it for you?”

“I thought he was the one. He was humble, thoughtful and attentive. While I was deeply infatuated with Ming, I met my husband. He was taking a year off after finishing an internship. He decided to be a volunteer medic in Bhutan¬† while looking for fellowships. Everything was platonic. We went on hikes, explored some parks, had picnics, took photos. We didn’t hold hands or kiss or anything. He had a girlfriend back in Canada: a commercial pilot.”

“Hot stuff.”

“I was crushed when I saw her photos. Former Air Force pilot, two engineering degrees, speaks five languages, double D cup, skinny as a toothpick, super long legs, the type of creamy platinum blonde hair you only read about. He won the lottery ten times over, right?”

“Depends on what he wants.‚Ä̬†

“Good point. But I never thought that at the time. Well, one day, while we were waiting for a ride to pick us up from a remote village, he looked into my eyes and said he wanted me to run away with him to America.”

“What?”

“I thought he was joking. So I said what you just said.”

“What did he say?”

“He repeated what he said.”

“What did you do?”

“I asked him about the genius supermodel genius. I didn’t care if he thought I was insecure. She was dynamite.”

“That happened to Ming?”

“A few days after that shocking declaration, Ming called me from Shanghai. Anyway, I told him I loved him and he seemed happy. But a day later, I texted him to ask if he was coming¬† to Bhutan to see me. He told me he had to¬† be in Kyrgyzstan for a location shoot for that big budget film.”

“Nothing unusual about that.‚ÄĚ

“When I told him I missed him, he laughed out loud and called me a silly girl.”

Ahh …”

“Yes. I don’t remember what I said to him, but I felt stupid, thinking¬†it was serious.”

“Then you ran into your husband’s arms?”

“No. The last thing I needed was a rebound fling from a non-thing. I found the most remote village in Bhutan and hid out there. I don’t think I showered for the first six weeks.”

“Rejection is pain.”

“I was ashamed and angry, and I took it out on myself. I believed that Ming was into me. It makes me cringe even now.”

“And then you ran into your husband’s arms?”

“Not yet. It’s a really long story. While I was outdoors rolling up tents one morning, my tablet lit up. It was Ming. He wanted to video conference but I had no makeup on, my hair was dirty and pinned up, I was in baggy pajamas, three parkas and mucking boots.”

“Sounds like you were having the time of your life out there.”

“Oh, I felt happy and free. Smelly, and … free. I looked at my tablet and for a moment thought about pressing the accept button. Let him see me looking destroyed.”

“How long was that moment?”

“It was long. But I chucked it in my bag and finished up my morning work duties. When I came home for my lunch break, I saw that I had a video message. Ming said he missed me and wanted me to fly to Paris to see him. He had an awards ceremony and wanted to bring me on the red carpet.”

“And?!”

“After what he put me through? He should have sent me an apology. I laughed out loud. I’m sure the entire village heard me.”

“Was it the kind of laugh you hear in movies when the villain realises he trekked across the universe, wiped out dozens of civilisations to retrieve a box, only to open it and realise it was empty the whole time?”

“Exactly. And I was laughing at myself. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He rejected me and there he was, begging me to drop everything and run to him.”

“Right? Was it a rebound summons?‚ÄĚ

“Maybe? I didn’t think about that at the time. I remember thinking he was hideous. That’s when I finally took a shower. I had to scrub him off me.”

“Was it like waking up from a trance?”

“Not really. I think I started to feel better after accepting that I was being silly. He was¬† right about that. Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for.”

“Wait, I need more juice. All right… Go.”

“All right. So I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, after scrubbing a month’s worth of dead skin off my body. My hair is fluffed out and all over the place. I hear a knock on my door. I open it, thinking it’s one of the villagers …”

“Wait … it’s your husband at the door.”

“Yes. Accompanied by … genius supermodel genius.”

“Ugh…”

“She sparkles, by the way. I am sure it was the loads of highlighting primer she had on but let me say, she was the design template for hentai fantasy. She had translucent teeth, skin and hair.”

“Ugh….”

“They got a ride up to the village and wanted to ‘explore the area’.”

“How smug.”

“The way he looked at me though, you’d never believe he’d ever seen a woman before. I felt scared for a minute.”

“And, how did you react to the way he looked at you?”

“I pulled my ‘best bitch’ face and told them to see me at the village tuck shop after my work duties were done. It was only after they walked away that I realised I was wearing a pair of huge, neon yellow room slippers, a bright pink dressing gown, and no bra.”

“Please … stop. You met your supreme love rival, GSG, in a bathrobe?”

“And don’t forget that my nipples were poking through.”

“Crushing.”

“I face-planted on my bed. Anyway, when we all met up later, he was asking me if I was with someone. Like, a love interest. I thought he was looking for some sign that I wanted him, so I took a shot. I said that romance was elusive and that I wanted to run away to America, where I could meet people who understood the words coming out of my mouth.”

“What did GSG say to that?”

“She smiled sweetly, in her computer-generated-waifu way, and squeezed his hand. She was saying something inspiring, because she’s also a guru and totally into keeping it simple with her feather-soft complexion. But I could barely hear it because her engagement ring blinded me. It blinded me because it was that big.”

“Oh, no! Not again … This is not a romantic story, Praia. It’s a suspense horror thriller.”

“Believe me, a week later, I was this close to throwing myself off the side of a hill into a gully, when my phone rang. It was him. He was on his way to see me. I hung up.”

“How on earth did you both get married?! Wait a second. I need blueberry popcorn.”

“I’m getting there. When he shows up, we have a quarrel. The gist of it is that I ask him if he thinks I’d be grateful to let him get on me because he’s engaged to every otaku’s wet dream. I say I’m not interested in running away to America to get dumped. Not that I could even consider moving unless I had a job waiting.”

“Right on, babe.”

“So he pulls out a tablet with an electronic marriage license application. Downloaded it from the Canadian High Commission’s website. And filled in his part of it.”

“Where were you when this was happening?”

“In a staff lounge in the free medical clinic set up by the foundation.”

“So, he was engaged to someone else a week earlier, but he wanted to marry you right then, to prove he was serious about you?”

“It felt weird for sure, but I didn’t ask him about … GSG … because I was insecure and jealous.”

“But you signed the marriage license?”

“Yes. Two days later, the license cleared, we signed some forms and we were married.”

“So in other words, you really liked him?”

“I did.”

“Wait, you didn’t have a bash after you moved here.”

“Nope.”

“You must let me plan your wedding. I’m a disgraced ex-fashionista. I’ve got you covered.‚ÄĚ

“All right! Go for it.”

( ‚ó† ‚ÄŅ ‚ó† )

Have you made it to the end of this very long story?  This is a chapter from a work of fiction I’m writing. Reread a few chapters recently and I see there is lots of polishing to be done. Hopefully, time is on my side.

If you’d like to stay in touch with me on Twitter, this  is me: @dotjp_n. Or send me a message on this blog’s contact form. Have a great Tuesday.

The Puppet Prince

Masked ball participant at Venice Carnival 2010

Sophie’s man was always fresh out of ideas. But he¬†desperately needed a new roster of¬†financial ventures to stay solvent. At the outset, his advisors found it difficult to tether him to a coherent idea. Thus, for his own good, his role had to be more “paperweight” and less “partner”. Occasionally, when hurled at an aide, his temper¬†would do a lot of damage. Otherwise,¬†Sophie compelled him to exist as a voiceless lunk.

The man’s lack of foresight had threatened to destroy Sophie‚Äôs childhood ambitions. However, she couldn’t simply chuck him to one side, grab a tiara and let that be that. This was not 18th century Russia. Yet, even in those days, serfs would not obey autocrats unless convinced¬†of their¬†right to rule.

And yet, it is 18th century Russia, though the serfs are tending to plots in unformed space. Tapping and scrolling, oblivious to bandwidth overheads, they tithe their landlords in views and clicks. Under Sophie’s influence, the landlords gather with advertisers and content providers at the private soir√©es she hosts.¬†Grateful, they¬†pay¬†their dues in cash and kind.

Now, as then,¬†the serfs assert the right to touch their rulers, and lash out if someone in power abuses their privilege. The man has an irrational fear of being stoned in public, so Sophie controls him by pointing out what he stands to lose. She does that by feeding him to the serfs, one intractable flaw at a time. Then, she makes the alternative easy to bear: “Let qualified advisors do the heavy lifting. Go along and do not interfere.” She accomplishes this task by training the man to be helpless.

It is breakfast time in the drawing room. As usual, a valet is spreading homemade jam on a slice of crumb-free toast. A mandarin tells the man when to start sipping his coffee. The pages of the morning papers are carefully screened and selected articles outlined in green ink. The same mandarin hovers nearby and¬†murmurs a summary of each one into the man’s right ear.

Though somewhat soothed by the devoted scratchings of knife on bread, the man is in a strop. An item of blind gossip had been planted in the previous evening‚Äôs tabloid, and a copy ‚Äúforgotten‚ÄĚ on a coffee table outside the drawing room. He’d seen it on his way in. Someone had blabbed about that day last month when he was pouting about going outside for thirty minutes to cut a ribbon. The front page photo showed him wearing the tiniest frown as he was leaving the car. The sun was in his face, but no matter.

+_*

Image credit: Carnevale di Venezia, Italiana 2010 (Italy), photo by Anja/Edward N. Johnson, 13 February 2010, via Wikimedia.

Notes: Four years on WordPress. Time really flies. My archives are bursting and so was I. Big thanks to everyone who has made this loads of fun.

Shame-free Romance (PG 16+)

 German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi doing the tango
Photo courtesy Chigirev

If romance were like sports, winning would be easy.¬†A game has rules and a clear winner.¬†But as Grace Dent elegantly states it, “real love with actual humans can be an arduous task.” That is why, if¬†you’re¬†bashful, like me,¬†you¬†will be appalled by¬†the idea of approaching a¬†person and saying, “Please, like me, please.”¬†It¬†seems¬†pushy¬†and even rude¬†but¬†lots of¬†men and women do this¬†with no¬†fear whatsoever.¬†I¬†wondered if¬†I was missing out.

Over dinner, a friend helpfully suggested that I try to be bouncy. I thought she meant I was to change into a thigh-split dress and hurl myself from a moving car.

 Rebecca Ferguson in Rogue Nation
Photo courtesy Business Insider

I liked the idea, as it is a subtle way of asking to be introduced. Until another friend explained that she meant I should mislead witnesses with a padded bra.

While my friends¬†discussed these details,¬†I¬†recalled¬†three attention-grabbing techniques favoured by women¬†Glampions. I’ve seen these tactics in sports: The Wedge, the Lob and the Shirt Pull. They are 100% shame free.

Wedge | When a woman is talking to a man you want like, wedge yourself into the conversation with a tango style pasada, and body block. Slowly caress his thigh with your thigh, à la Gisela.

 Lonestar Rollergirls, Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Lobbing |¬†Pretend to misunderstand information.¬† Lob a series of pointed and penetrating statements¬†at your rival’s pride. For example, Fantastic Bachelor¬†says,¬†“Ai, you look¬†lovely this evening.” Ai says, “Sorry I’m late. I¬†stopped for gas.”¬†You¬†respond, “Oh, no! Go home and get over your¬†case of bad gas, that’s¬†happening right now, at this moment. Remember? You mentioned it in la toilette yesterday!”¬†Keep at it¬†until she¬†evaporates.

Caroline Wozniacki at the US Open
Photo courtesy Fansided

Shirt pulling |¬†Pull up your shirt and expose your tummy, on which you’ve¬†scribbled your phone number.¬†This may cause Fantastic Bachelor’s¬†brain to short circuit. If it does, he will text you over and over until he passes out.

 Photo: London 2012 Olympics

All right. I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100% shame free. But¬†the¬†tango looks enticing.¬†It¬†is a contact sport and it has a very dressy uniform.

London, 1953

The intruder pulls me away from the closet door, believing I’m too frightened to react. But I am a woman with a plan.

One roundhouse kick to his chest fractures a rib. He reels backwards. His¬†abdomen and chest form¬†a ramp and I use it to vault over his head. Twisting in mid-air, I end the discussion, heel to jaw. He’s on a timeout.

His¬†accomplice rushes in to assess the situation. My fists plough through his face. The concussion blinds him temporarily. Ax kick to the knee. He’s on the floor. I stomp¬†on some fingers to disable a hand.

My bodyguards have finally¬†joined us. They look shocked. (They’re also fired). I point to my wrist¬†and say, “You were taking too long.”

I adjust¬†my tiara¬†and make my way to the banquet hall. Two hundred guests, most of them blood relatives, are waiting. My smile says, “Welcome to my coronation reception.” But to be honest, I am a bundle of nerves.

‚ôĒ

London, 1953 (Coronation Day)

Notes: Feminist Tuesday. Special shoutouts to Mek @ Work in Progress and the Artful Blasphemer. Thank you all very much for your support.

Photo: Claire Foy in “The Crown”, courtesy, Live for Film.

Wallis

Wallis Simpson photographed with former king Edward on their wedding day. She was a real feminist, unlike some contemporary feminists who pay lip service to the idea, mistakenly thinking that a strong woman is angry. Faux feminists wouldn't recognise an actual feminist if one stomped on them

The Merry Widow looked weary this afternoon. Her minders took note as they unearthed her body from a trough of pink salt. People said she was well-preserved, meaning it as a compliment. They had no idea how literal that was.

Despite the attention on spa Wednesday, she felt hollow. A long walk outside would have helped but her sponsors forbade prolonged exposure to the sun. They shuttered her windows. They gave her books, soft lights and sweet music to keep her subdued.

From the walls of¬†her bedroom, the covers of¬†Life and Time mocked her. “Parasite of international society has zero net worth. Ha ha ha ha ha!”¬†Sponsors fetched her every three weeks or so. They¬†shoved her in front of cameras to¬†promote various agendas. They fed her milk and farm fresh produce. Only enough, and the nurse made sure, to maintain her trim figure. When she was younger, she had been ruthless about¬†looking petite. These days, she always felt a little hungry.

It is possible to succeed and fail miserably at the same time. She was a strong woman with more ambition than decorum. There were two lessons she hadn’t learned. One, do not¬†offend the wrong people, starting with her sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. And two, when you reach your endgame, stop. The high profile fling was a ploy for social deference.¬†Instead, she found herself serving the establishment for the rest of her life.

~_~

Photo credit: Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day, June 3, 1937. “Los Duques de Windsor, un amor que cambi√≥ el rumbo de la historia,” via Hola magazine.¬†

Pandora

Sorry, faux feminist, no Cliff's Notes to help you decipher this one

Pandora stretched herself out on a parapet of black stones, under a pleasant copper sun. She was still dripping wet after bathing in the filtered streams of the lake. She felt safe, as her guardian was scanning the surrounding woods. He was cautious and ready.

Her facial muscles tightened, drawing her lips into a wide grin. She couldn’t feel them, but infrared radiation from the stones had already coaxed her cells back to optimal function. She had outlived the great grandchildren of her childhood playmates. Yet, her stunning features and sensual vitality suggested she was frolicking past her nineteenth summer.

She knew how to get along with the young ones. Honeybees had taught her that for healing, she could use venom and propolis. For nourishment, pollen. And for restful sleep, nectar. She’d spent years practising her craft.

“Yay, cat,” she said now, gathering up some of the stones. “That’ll have us for a bit.”

This was to be their last visit. A new settlement had welcomed her to stay. Pandora planned to age gracefully there. With the stones she would bring the young ones time. Time that was still firmly on her side.

ūüźĚ

Notes: Best wishes for healing in November. In this story, I present Pandora as a nomad and the world’s first naturopath, who created the myth to protect her anti-aging secret.

Photo: “Morning Beauty,” Alek Alexeyeva by S√łlve Sundsb√ł (2009) for Vogue via Fashion Gone Rogue.

Coffee + Heart

Melbourne – Monday, June 13 – 08.08

GUEST POST

Reflection and photos by Machine.Gun.Meow (mGm)
Facebook: Machine Gun Meow Twitter: @MachineGunMeow
Instagram: @machingunmeow

Growing up in Nairobi, as a girl of Indian heritage, diversity has shaped my worldview. I have been in a nostalgic mood of late and, given recent tragic events, SB asked me to share my morning reflection with you.

While watching The Revenant last night, I noticed the treatment of the Native Americans in the film. I said to Mr. Meow that it is unfathomable that we, as a human race, seek to hate others based on differences.

Filtered

We could go to land’s end and the hate would find us¬†because there is¬†always something that distinguishes one person from the other. What is more unbelievable is that the situation has changed little in the two hundred years since the film’s setting. Simply put, the hate stems from a sense of righteousness or superiority, whether you blame it on religion, ‘science’, politics or custom. I feel we must find a higher order of being instead of looking for problems where none exist.

Mixed bowl

At the moment, I am¬†writing a fantasy fiction novel.¬†In it, I explore the idea of diversity. The questions I¬†contemplate are, “What is the alternative to diversity? Is it uniformity or conformity?” I¬†wonder, is that the kind of world we want? Are we better off being¬†cookie-cutter images of each other? Is that what would encourage¬†acceptance?

Reflection

If the defilers of diversity were confronted with the alternatives, would they reconsider their position? This is wishful. I concede I have no solutions.

 

Moby

She’ll do anything for emoji
Each tap of phrase, a shameless chase
His sweet reply, her saving grace
Cracks a smile at the fine glass ceiling;
one goal she’s had with textual healing

Cast far and wide, Explorer Class
Heat seeking thrills, two types shall pass
and once you’re in, you’ll see her face
unCatholic in blank disgrace
Now steaming live, let’s start the show
(It’s this marquee just so you know)

MOBY
Lap dances with Calypso
in floral closets 
on wine soaked Sundays 
after noon

Pecs Bowen responds to 48, Single Men Only

Please Stop Watching Porn
x Pecs Bowen

If you are a man and you do not watch porn, this is not for you. If you are a man, have watched porn and are repulsed by it, this is not for you. If you are a man, you have sex with women and you watch porn regularly, please continue reading.

It is my humble request to you, to please stop watching porn.

I am not asking you to stop watching porn because it degrades women or objectifies them, not also because it is hypocritical on your part. While you fight for the cause for women to have a life of dignity, you also contribute to the demand side of that profession. No.

I am asking you to stop watching porn for the sake of women who come back home with you to make love. Sex is such an incredible activity. Two people naked exploring each other’s bodies, learning ways to pleasure the other, building a rhythm, discovering a tempo, having a deeply personal experience together, something which is their own.

You do not need to take lessons or read a tutorial to know how to please a woman. It is something you can learn slowly and over time. Women do not really care if you cannot keep time or how many positions you switch or whether you look like one of those fellas in pornos. We really don’t.

What matters more is how much you are into it at the moment. What matters is the intensity of your need for us, what matters is the passion, intensity and caring at the same time. But these are general things, what your woman specifically wants cannot be learnt from a movie. You will learn it by spending more time with her in bed, by experimenting a bit (use your own imagination for this please, you will be surprised how much fun you can have if you just improvise on the spot) Read her body and moods and just be there with her wihout any preconceived notions on what works and what doesn’t.

I think it is silly, how many men, when it comes to dealing with, talking to or having sex with a woman leave their brains behind. They think we want what popular media says we want: Candlelight dinners, wild long lasting sex, a happily ever after. (Sigh.) How silly can you be?

It really breaks your lover’s heart when she learns that all that you ask her to do in bed, you do because you have seen other men do it to other women in a porno. You probably are expecting from her the same fake noises, and the same over the top enthusiasm for those gag things and those toy thingies.

We are not stupid you know. We have seen pornos. We have seen how men treat women in them. So if you treat our bodies like that, we know that while your heart is in the right place, your mind is somewhat perverted. And goodness gracious, what a turn off that is.

So please, please stop watching porn and make love us any way you want. Just not like how they do in porn films.

Much Concerned,
This Woman

The Not Shall agreement (3 of 3)

Panda
Terms to be discussed.

Gabbe
Let’s stay away from technical language. I want to just be frank and open so there are no misunderstandings. This is a mediation and not a deposition.

Panda
I’d like to state for the record that all verbal agreements, yes, affirmative, okays and alrights are valid unless stated in the record.

Gabbe
Duly noted.

Horlick
What’s first?

Vanessa
You mean, what’s only. Money. That’s why we’re in this room. Would you marry me if I had … didn’t have … four hundred million dollars?

Panda
That’s liquid. Plus six hundred million in assets and climbing.

Vanessa
Don’t be vulgar, Stanley.

Neil
I’m not…

Vanessa
No, no. This is what you aspire to. You’ve done nothing but shop since we started going out. I watched that documentary¬†by your former boss. I realised¬†that¬†I can¬†buy the love of a doting husband.

Panda
Strike that from the record. It is an emotional statement meant for contextual purposes only and does not constitute a basis for this agreement.

Tori
Noted, and so stricken.

Gabbe
Would you like to say something, Mr Ross?

Neil
I’m insulted and hurt, so no.

Gabbe
Perhaps we should continue to the first items on the agenda. You have them listed here as “Not Shalls.”

Vanessa
They’re like commandments. I learned from my mother’s first three marriages that there is the need for honesty. It makes everyone clear.

Gabbe
Do you have an opinion on this?

Neil
I can’t believe¬†you’re painting me as a gigolo. You know I am attracted to you. The fact that we’re getting married¬†makes us¬†equal.

Vanessa
You’re attracted to me? How sweet you are. As for equality, why don’t I give my money to charity and become a stylist?

Neil
No problem. Do it.

Panda
Your father left you stewardship of his estate and¬†controlling interest in his group of companies.¬†You can’t just give away your obligations.

Vanessa
Thwarted by vested interests. What luck for you, my darling little duck.

Neil
That’s a nasty thing to say. I’m not here for that.

Vanessa
I know I’m not pretty.

Neil
Please, there is no need to feel insecure. I’m¬†committed.

Panda
But, what are you committed to?

Gabbe
Uhmm… May we¬†proceed¬†with the list?

Panda
All my client is saying is that she is a human being with feelings. She wants to retain her self respect.

Gabbe
Would you like to say something reassuring before we continue, Mr Ross?

Neil
This is hard for me, as I feel a lot of this is private.

Horlick
Let’s just get on with the list.

Panda
Not Shalls.

Eli
Here’s my handkerchief.

Neil
Just cut out the theatrics!

Vanessa
This counts as emotional abuse. Discounting my feelings. Calling them theatrics.

Neil
This is abuse, ganging up on me with this team of lawyers.

Vanessa
You didn’t complain about my team when they got you a coffee and a quick chat with Bruce.

Eli
Let that be stricken.

Gabbe
Not shall everyone be overreacting, please.

Vanessa
Okay, can we please just punch this out? My biological clock is ticking.

Gabbe
Not shall one: Both partners shall not deviate from a strict vegan diet. Meals outside of the home are to be prepared at a list of approved kitchens in each of the following territories.

Neil
Wait…

Vanessa
You told me you were a vegan when we met. You only buy organic vegetables. You only eat out at Soign√©. You swim three kilometres every morning. That’s why we connected. We had so much in common.

Neil
I need …

Gabbe
Do you agree or do you disagree?

Neil
Yes. I mean, yes, I agree.

Tori
Noted.

Eli
Not shall two.

Gabbe
Not shall two: Both parties shall not deviate from a strict regime of physical, aesthetic and emotional upkeep.

Horlick
That’s three things.

Eli
Blah, blah. One category, upkeep.

Gabbe
Upkeep includes scheduled appointments with physical trainers, physicians, aestheticians, and Kabbalah teachers. Appointments may include therapy, counseling, physical examinations, semen sample submissions, drug screening and biweekly STI panels.

Neil
I can … Yes. I agree.

Gabbe
Not shall three: Both parties shall not break a period of strict celibacy after the conception of each child, for a period of one year. After which, relations may continue by mutual consent.

Vanessa
It’s part of my religion. Celibacy during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Neil
What religion? You liar. We do it three times a night now.

Vanessa
His religion is Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford, Comme des Gar√ßons… I respect his religion by letting him use my Amex Black Card to the maximum limit. Every month.

Eli
Stated for the record: Miss Plank respects her future husband’s religion and has supported him fully while they are engaged.

Gabbe
Religious intolerance is strictly prohibited. Respect for either party’s religion is a non negotiable, I’m afraid. Now, do you agree or disagree?

Neil
Damn you. Yes, I agree.

Gabbe
Not shall four: Both parties shall not exceed an interpersonal proximity of two hundred kilometres in radius to be activated at agreement signing, until the youngest child reaches the age of majority.

Panda
That’s eighteen.

Neil
I agree. This is sounding like a jail sentence.

Horlick
Please strike that last passionate flourish from the record.

Tori
Duly stricken.

Vanessa
That’s why they call wives the ball and chain. He’s already accustomed to it. Frank M√ľller watches at Christmas. Family friend discounts at Versace. Homes in Athens, Rome, Berlin.

Neil
This is getting ridiculous.

Panda
It is called a prenuptial agreement. If you had the money, we would be negotiating the installation of cameras in her eye sockets.

Vanessa
I would not show up on his radar, in the first place. What was her name again? The model you said you wanted to buy?

Neil
That’s an awful thing to say. That was pillow talk. Fantasy …

Vanessa
She’s nineteen. Right… Her name is Roja. She is a starving model, a high school dropout, who is almost half my age. I hired her as my full time personal assistant. You can stare at her all day, but if you¬†so much as sniff her. If I can’t get pregnant, she’s agreed to be my surrogate.

Neil
You’re sick.

Vanessa
I’m a paying customer!

Panda
Not shall five, please.

Gabbe
Not shall five: Mr Ross shall not engage in paid or unpaid employment with any employer other than the Gareth E Plank Memorial Foundation, as its chief operating officer.

Neil
Okay, finally, something I can agree to while keeping my manhood. Yes, I agree.

Vanessa
Thanks for not asking if it’s a paid gig.

Neil
Screw you!

Vanessa
Actually, when we’re finished here, that will be your only duty as COO.

Eli
Ha! Chief “Operating” Officer. I get it. What?! That’s funny …

Vanessa
Shall we continue?

48, Single Men Only

If you were a spornosexual dandy in your twenties and thirties, forty was the year you were smoking hot. You could do no wrong. Women wilted at the sight of you and men wanted to be you. The first thing you needed to be an expert at when you hit forty was how to be with women. I don’t care how much you suck at your job, this was the most important skill you needed to have at that age.

If you weren’t lucky enough to have won the style sense lottery, are unhappily single or divorced but gainfully employed and reasonably sane, this post is for you.

You are not a small animal, so stop acting like one. First, do not compare women to inanimate objects. It’s not a compliment. If you think she’s beautiful say, “You’re beautiful”. That’s it. If you like her say, “I like you.” No explanation necessary. Never try to be poetic or descriptive about why you like her. If she wants a man to read her poetry she should join a book club. Because a woman with that as a priority will bring you nothing but misery and pain.

Second, never initiate a conversation with a woman when you feel horny. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to put your foot in your mouth and she’s going to slap you.

Image courtesy Brent Music Reviews Why is that leopard pretending to be you, Cee Lo? The universally scorned Cee Lo Green is forty years old and is the perfect example of a man who has a seriously high opinion of himself. He is still living in his twenty something past. He needs to take stock before forty eight. Note how the small leopards in Twitter ate him after he gave in to his animal instincts.

Assess yourself before you wreck yourself. Think of all the wonderful things about yourself that you admire. Your humour, your good looks, your charm, your ability to use eye contact to melt panties. Now strike all of those things off your list because no one sees you that way.

In other words, don’t be a pompous oaf. If you’re overweight, balding and lumpy; take medication for diabetes,¬†high blood pressure and heart disease¬†before drinking half a bottle of cognac;¬†have erectile dysfunction and smoke like a chimney, please¬†leave the woman’s tiny little breakout alone. If she’s younger and fitter than you are, it is simply oaflike to use the fact that she’s over the age of eighteen against her.

By the age of thirty seven most men have a working knowledge of who they were at twenty seven. Socially, it is not a requirement for men to constantly reassess and update themselves as they grow. Women have a better advantage because we always see ourselves as we are going to be in ten years.

Now imagine reaching forty eight and interacting with women as if you’re twenty seven. Are you having problems getting women to stay interested? That’s why.

Listen. It’s really important to pay attention to what is being said to you. Assume she’s not speaking in metaphors. She knows exactly what she’s thinking and she’s telling you exactly what’s going on in her mind. Ask lots of questions if you don’t understand. Be direct and use simple phrasing. It’s what forensic scientists, economists and Nobel prize winning physicists do all the time.

Third “animal point”?¬†Stop making out in cars. Get comfortable first. Her breast is not a horn so don’t pump or tap it. I don’t want to hear any of that crapiology from the 1920s when people were passing syphilis around like it was cornbread. It is 2015. There is no excuse for you to not know how your body works. The Playboy Channel is not the way to learn. Your superhuman ability to sustain an erection for days is a cause for concern. Borrow¬†an anatomy textbook from your local library and read it from beginning to end.

Fourth animal¬†point. The law of reciprocity applies. Before you start inspecting manicures for length and sustainability, see your above list of flaws and pick them apart at home. Be thorough. At forty eight did you really ask her to gag on it? Alright, get an unpeeled banana and shove it down your throat to see what it feels like. Try something a bit more rigid and unyielding up your rectum. Jam it in. Ask someone to yank on your hair really hard and pull it out. Tell them to ignore your pleas to stop. Try waxing the hair off your legs. Pull hard through the pain. Don’t cry. I know you’re bleeding, but just go with it.

If you say you’ve enjoyed all that, you are lying. But that’s what you sound like when you talk to women about “passionate lovemaking.”

Shut up. Awkward silences help you to assess the way you feel in the space that you’ve created with each other. Your job is not to entertain a woman. She should know how to entertain herself. You’re simply enjoying her company and that’s all any woman should ask of you.

Good luck.