Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Oh all right I will show them my tits

Image result for breastsAn appointment letter for a mammogram arrived. Of course I threw it out. Then a few weeks later the breast screen program people texted me, to confirm my appointment. I rang the number but got lost in the phone system and did not bother continuing. I thought I would just not turn up.

I have written before about the choices made by people experiencing precarity of work and finances. It gets overwhelming, the worry and the grittiness and the focus you need to get by. One more thing to deal with, and it goes in the bin. I am not particularly interested in a mammogram. There are lots of false positives with them, there is no family history of breast cancer, it is travel costs and hassle and I am really only in a position to think a week ahead.

Let us consider. A child is admitted to hospital requiring a nebulizer after his umpteenth asthma crisis. He is there for two days. His mother doesn't visit. The nurses are disparaging when she turns up to get him upon discharge, and they lecture her about his health and her care of him. In fact, when he is admitted, she thinks that is one less crisis to manage. It's not that she doesn't love him, but her teenager has started to self harm and the Police have called about her brother who is living with them because he has nowhere else to go, and everybody around her eats and nobody pays the rent. Her generosity with time and attention has just about reached breaking point. The lecture is all she needs. So her boy goes home, and she has to take time off work because he is not well enough for school, and she doesn't get paid. So when the brother gets to spend the weekend in the cells it is another little break for her, because he is a complication she can't handle right now. It's not that she doesn't love him, but her boy is sick again and it's been raining for days and the carpet is wet with mould and so on and so on.

 So, some weeks later I got a call from someone called Patti from the breast screen program wanting me to confirm my appointment. Can I just cancel it, I said, and she said no. Look, I said, I work in different jobs off and on each day and I am on call all the time in case I get work. If I don't work I don't get paid. I can't just pop out for some appointment. I have no idea what work I will have on the day you've given me. She was pretty understanding, Patti was. She offered me an appointment in the evening. I demurred. She insisted. I caved.

Goodness she was persistent, our Patti, and very pleasant with it. And so naturally I considered the issues facing the mental health service, also part of the public health system. In mental health, no one texts and phones to remind patients of their appointments, and no one offers that much flexibility. If you don't go to your appointment, the clinician you were booked to see heaves a sigh of relief because they have a whole hour to do something else. If everyone came to their appointments, the whole system really would grind to a shuddering halt. What does the clinician do with the hour suddenly at their disposal? Move on to the next crisis of course.

Sounds about as functional as the woman with the asthmatic child above. And slightly less functional than I am. Go figure.Image result for cartoon crisis centre





Monday, September 18, 2017

Is there a heaven? I'd like to think so.....

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3570702/Excited-villagers-thought-blessed-angel-heaven-doll-washes-beach-Indonesia-discover-inflatable-SEX-TOY.html

Image result for angel sex doll indonesiaPossibly the saddest and strangest story I have read for some time, and don't ask how I came by it. The gist of it is this, gleaned from several news articles: after a recent solar eclipse, a young fisherman from an isolated village in Indonesia found an angel or an angel child in the sea, and brought her home. His family cared for her, providing clothing and a new hijab every day, and even took her on outings. News of this find spread, until the local police investigated. They found that the angel was in fact a sex doll, and the took it away in order to avoid distress among the villagers. They don't have the internet, the police chief explained, they don't know what a sex doll is.

Sex dolls have been around much longer than the internet. The title of this post comes from Roxy Music's 1973 song 'In Every Dream Home a Heartache', a sinister and desperate love song to an inflatable doll: 'I blew up your body - but you blew my mind'.

So what were the villagers thinking? What did they see? The news articles all emphasize the simplicity of the villagers, who seemed to think the doll was an angel and who somehow overlooked her obvious orifices. Were they such ingenues?

Indonesian spiritual and religious ideas are layered and complex. Local animism became overlaid with Hindu/Buddhist and then Muslim beliefs. These villagers seemed to be at least nominally Muslim. but they may have had local spiritual expressions as well. Religion is often syncretic, and as I have said before, the gods of the old religion become the demons of the new, or they become diminished. Perhaps there was a myth, of the arrival of a silent beautiful woman by sea? There are other myths in sea going cultures about mermaids or kelpies who marry fishermen. Did they mean an angel in the Christian or Muslim sense, or were they thinking more along the lines of our fairies or nature spirits? An eclipse is often a time where the veil between the worlds is thin, and if the villagers saw it as a time of portents they would not be alone.

The story interests me because it illustrates an imperial hangover that is almost quaint. Our news sources portray Indonesian villagers as savages, living somehow untouched by the internet or the modern sex industry. They are almost completely othered. We reduce them. We can't relate to them at all. We think of the digital age as complete, global, and homogeneous where it counts. Anywhere it doesn't touch must be truly bizarre indeed.

I have no idea why the villagers took in the sex doll and cared for it. Any attempt to work it out would doom me to the usual reductionist fantasy of savages and simplicity. I do think there is a basic drive to anthropomorphism, and I want to call the doll 'her'. I also feel obscurely moved by the fact they they treated her well, as if I ascribe feelings to her. Perhaps she was a sort of Velveteen Rabbit - made real eventually by kindness.   



Roxy Music - In Every Dream Home A Heartache (Musikladen '73 ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nesJfSx0ves
 


Friday, August 11, 2017

TERRIBLE AND UNWORTHY THOUGHTS

Image result for temptation imagesI feel the need to explore the dreadful problem of covetousness. It is not a usual vice for me, but lately I have fallen prey to its blandishments and I think it is worth discussing its fearful mechanics in order to help guide both myself and other souls at risk.

I am a huge Grant Morrison fan and recently a kind friend lent me about the first third of the original Invisibles comics.These are the original comics, published in the 1990's, mind. Rare beasts.In good nick, with all the extra newsy bits and the ads for other comics, and the dusty feel of first editions.

As soon as he offered them to me, I began to scheme. I offered to buy them. He said no, they are not worth much financially but he will never get them again. However, I was welcome to borrow them.

As soon as I got them, I began to have terrible unworthy thoughts about the comics and about my friend. Here is a sample. He has so many books and comics, in fact his house is full of them. He won't miss them if I just don't return them. Perhaps I will just quietly lose them. Except, I only have the first third. I need to get the next lot before I lose them. Perhaps I will ask him to just leave the second lot somewhere and I will spirit them away before I pretend to return the first lot.

After a bit of everyday common or garden scheming things start to get weird. No one can appreciate the comics as much as I do. My friend only owns them by happy accident. They were meant to come to me. He only got them in order for them to work their way into my hands, as if propelled by some grand cosmic imperative I am sure I will understand later on. After all, the comics are saturated in Chaos Magick, and are in themselves a magickal working. Clearly they know where they need to be. It is plain destiny. I am meant to have them. And so on and so on.

By this time I am trying to get a grip on myself and telling myself sternly, THEY ARE JUST FUCKING COMICS!  This is ridiculous.These are Terrible Unworthy Thoughts and you should know better.

Admittedly I have had the beginnings of this train of thought about library books. Like this:

I love this book. Nobody else could appreciate it as much as me. I could pretend to lose it and then just pay the fine. I got out of the library once a large format book of Peter Beste's photographs of Black Metal bands and their members. It included articles and memorabilia and all sorts of goodies. I wanted it so much, and it had already had its best pages ripped out. A year or so later I went to get it out again, and it had been stolen. Stolen! Not by me. By bad thieves! Not good thieves like me, who would only steal for literary appreciation.

I have always been slightly prone to rash decisions. Once I watched an infomercial. I mean it: once I watched an infomercial. It was probably the only time I ever watched an infomercial, unless you count the time back in the 1980's when we would put the TV ads through huge-ass speakers and play them insanely loud and fall about laughing - The Ginsu knives! But wait there's more! Ah, simple pleasures. Anyway, I watched this infomercial about the Vacuum Action Duster and I wanted one. I coveted one. It was the only thing that made sense that moment. And I had to phone now to get a second one for the same price, I had to phone.. I was going to phone...now...I went to use the phone, and when I regained my normal consciousness my small daughter was holding both my hands firmly and gazing intently into my face with her big blue eyes, and repeating earnestly: 'Mum! Mum! It's just a cloth on a stick! Just a cloth, Mum. On a stick. Mum! Mum!'

People do make light of the vices, or deadly sins, and they have been largely stripped of moral seriousness. Here in New Zealand we have a pizza chain called Hell, which names its pizzas gluttony and sloth and lust and so on. Actually I don't think there is one called covetousness, which makes me wonder if it is an unfashionable vice. Or just awkward to say as in 'I would like a large Covetousness please'. In the Bible you are not supposed to covet your neighbour's ox or ass and I guess that is a bummer if your neighbour has a really cute ass. So we joke about such things. But my coveting of my friend's comic books actually messed with my head a little. It turned me briefly into Gollum. It made my world a little smaller and meaner. Religious dogma aside, perhaps that is what a vice is, something that shuts us down, de-means us, limits us, closes our world in.  

So I never got the Vacuum Action Duster and since then I have had to be content with putting my own cloth on my own stick. And now, older and wise to the vice of Covetousness, I have decided what to do with the comics. I will return them forthwith.

Oh yes, the image above. It is a nineteenth century painting by Octave Tassaert, and it depicts the temptations of St Hilarion. He was an eremitic and extremely ascetic type and the inspiration for St Jerome, who wrote about St Hilarion's temptations in forensic detail. Alone in the desert for decades, the poor saint could barely lie down without being visited by visions of luscious women bearing lascivious food and drink in appalling abundance. My temptations are sadly less lysergic, although probably more eccentric.

Monday, July 10, 2017

HOW I TOOK *THE PUNGENCY*


Alerted by my young friend R, who is hip to these things, I decided to take the risk and drink THE PUNGENCY.

So, with a name like that, and with the beautiful cursive writing in gold and the little royal label, what would I get? I considered something of a mix of ayhuasca, DMT, Fentanyl and the hallucinogenic Lovecraftian language Aklo. Pungent indeed.

Since this looked like magick to me, I spoke to the bottle very seriously. I asked it to give me the stamina of a young werewolf, the vision of a shaman, and the genitals of Messalina. I read the instructions. I shook the bottle. I drank thereof.

THE PUNGENCY  is a form of sweetened milk tea made by Japanese beverage giant Kirin and retailing for $3.49 at Countdown supermarket. It tasted like a form of sweetened milk tea made by Japanese beverage giant........oh never mind.

Next time I get excited by Engrish, I will be sensible enough not to actually purchase anything.

Monday, July 3, 2017

HOW I BECAME THE LUCKIEST PERSON IN THE WORLD


It was raining messily and the day had already lost the will to live even at 1 pm. I was driving south, and rounded a bend and started down the hill when I saw the diesel spill. I slowed, but hit it and fish tailed several times before I spun out and to the left. The car jumped the ditch and leaped through the fence, and landed in the soggy field, facing the wrong way. The engine was still on. The music was still playing. I turned it all off and got out.

A group of people had gathered, including the truckie whom I would have hit if I had veered right instead of left. So I stood in the field in the rain, and spread my arms wide, and declaimed, 'I am the luckiest person In The Whole World!!' 

A woman came towards me, tears on her face. 'I want to give you a hug!' she cried. We hugged. And they gave me a lift to Springs Junction, a glorified truck stop, where there was cell coverage, and I talked to the tow company, and they went to get the car and got the tow truck stuck in the field and had to be towed out, and they put the car up on the hoist and declared it fit to drive. So I drove home just before they closed the pass because of snow.

My car is a deliberately ordinary Toyota Corolla. It is an ex rental with high mileage and few extras. I love it. It just goes. It is called Fenriz. Fenriz is the giant wolf in Norse mythology. He is the son of the god Loki and a giantess, and he grew so big all the gods feared him. In the end he was tricked by them, and he was chained up until Ragnarok and the end of the world. My car is only indirectly named after the wolf, though. Mostly it is named after Fenriz the drummer for the Norwegian Black Metal band Darkthrone. This is Fenriz. He was accidentally elected to his local town council, partly on the strength of the photo below. He doesn't look like much, but he is a legend in the metal world. Fenriz has contributed more to the BM world than just about anyone. He is a complete metal geek who is so badass he writes his t's as little upside down crosses. I liked how my ordinary little Corolla just does the shit, like its namesake.

Image result for fenriz darkthrone

Fenriz the car has its name in runes tucked into the console on a piece of cardboard. Here they are above. The runes say FENRIZ. I put them there when I began to need the car more for driving between all my various work places. I did not exactly think they would bring the car good luck, but they showed my care for the car. During the accident, the runes stayed in place, when everything else flew around the car like paper in a wind storm.

Did the runes keep me safe? Did they mitigate the accident? Why didn't they stop the accident occurring? Did they do anything at all? Am I in fact the luckiest person in the world, because I survived almost uninjured and could drive away? Or am I unlucky because I had the accident in the first place? What is luck anyway?

The Norse had a concept called orlog, which is destiny, but not necessarily in a fatalistic sense. We can accept or fight our orlog, but it will run through us anyway. In old English it is called a geas, and I suppose it links to karma or the idea of spiritual consequence. I doubt that the accident was predestined. Luck is something that happens retrospectively; it is recognizing patterns after events. We can only say that things come in threes, for example, after the third thing has happened. And it is subjective, of course, I could have seen myself as unlucky and that may even have been more realistic, but instead I was jubilant about being alive. You can't make your own luck, you can only see events through the chosen filters of the past.  

The day after, the adrenalin wore off. Poor Fenriz was dented all over and had lost a wing mirror. I was broke and facing the expensive car repairs. I no longer felt so lucky. But Fenriz keeps on cheerfully going, and so do I.
 




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

PUBLIC SPACES

Image result for library images

When you google images of libraries this is what you get. Books. Quaint, huh.

It is has been a long month and here we are just past the Winter Solstice. We alternate between a week of rain and low cloud, and several days of hard frosts. It's tough out there.

In the public library (extraordinary that there are still such things!) there are indeed books, but there is noise and stress and complexity. Some people browse or study, but mostly they are using free wi fi or waiting to use the desktop computers. There is a booking system. Today I am getting graphic novels and browsing the shelves, but in stranger times I have been there for the warmth and the free wi fi. So I know what these guys are doing. They are applying for financial assistance, job hunting, or trying to get something out of the welfare system, whatever department it might be. Government is proud of being e-government. Some departments have no phone system or offices. Everything has to be done online. Not easy when you have no wi fi in your boarding house or garage, wherever it is you camp out these days. Even harder when you are homeless. No wonder the atmosphere is a bit tense. There are probably deadlines to meet. Apply for this by the end of today, or risk losing your benefit. If the computer is booked out, you have a lot to lose.

All this is probably tough on the library staff, who are not trained in crisis work or calming and de-escalation. One of them, a small plump middle aged woman, was doing just that. She said to the large young man, well, that is your choice (When I hear the word choice, I reach for my gun), if you want to behave that way, I am afraid you will have to leave. Oh come on, he replies, every time you cough everyone can fucking hear you. Well, she says, that is your choice, you will have to, now, thank you, thank you for that, yes, thank you. And she walked away.

So, that was weird and for me almost contextless, but I noted something I have considered before. It is the use of thank you. Thank you does not mean thank you. It means I am scared of you but I am obliged to be polite. It means good bye, leave now, if I am thankful for anything it is the space you leave behind. In other words, you can fuck right off. It is remarkable how we thank people for nothing, or for merely doing their jobs, or for not being there. Thank you is a term almost too diffuse for meaning.

I got my graphic novel and went to the shopping maul to read it with a coffee. A man came into the food court. He carried a sleeping back and a back pack. He was very warmly dressed. (With these guys, you ask them to take their jacket off to have a look at their wounds. They take off their jacket. And then their other jacket. And then their three sweaters and their two tee shirts and finally you have an arm to examine.) He circled the food court for a minute or two, and then he sat down at a table where there was an abandoned styrofoam container. He opened it. He ate from it. Then, he spat in it, closed it up, and left.

It was the spitting that made me wonder. It was so contemptuous. It was as if he was befouling it. Was he making sure no one else would benefit from it - that if anyone else ate from it they would be dirtied by it? I know that there can be fierce rivalries among the homeless, for resources, especially sleeping places. Was he showing some sort of inchoate contempt for the situation - the bright lit shopping maul, the plastic food, the raw injustice?

I felt slightly derealised as I drove home. Observing is not connecting. I had witnessed two incidences of behaviour I found myself working hard to explain. For a few minutes, the street scenes around me looked hyper real, drawn flat and vivid, like my graphic novel. Car lights seemed multi coloured and far too bright, alarming, urgent. Observing is not connecting. Observing is two dimensional. I had no obvious means of connecting with either of these incidences. Just left wondering.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

100 WORDS

  • The music was always so bright it hurt, and she would put her headphones on
    when she entered. She would dance, gently building her own small world,
    dreaming colour, the disco lights singing like people, the Macarena moving
    around her
     
     Image result for bad conga line dancing
     
    She saw him there often. Big glasses, big grin, skinny, fronting the conga line,
    making the support workers laugh. For once, in both their lives, he truly saw
    her. He was brave enough to come to her, and she was brave enough to notice.
    She turned her face up, and his kiss was as light and sudden as her heart.
     This 100 word piece was for a competition with the Readers' Digest, and I did not hear back from them at all even to let me know they had received my entry. So I figure it is mine to use as I choose, and it is my second piece of writing about the lives of people with disabilities.