Friday, December 1, 2017

DON'T WEAR BLACK, THEY SAID. HOW TO AVOID PAYING RENT

Since I am semi transient nowadays, or as I prefer to put it, peripatetic, I am keen on ways of avoiding paying rent. This is how to manage without having to live in my car. I mean I love my dear Fenriz Car, and I half live in him anyway, but I do like a roof over my head and a shower.

So I have taken to house sitting. I do this for an agency, and while I don't get paid, I do get to stay in some very nice houses, and look after some wonderful animals.

The first time I did it, I envisaged writing scathing blog entries about the class war. I envisaged snooty humans and snootier pets. Unfortunately for literature, I really liked the family I house sat for and I adored their dog.

The cats, however, well, the cats. They were two Birmans, very beautiful and aloof, and they looked so similar I could not tell which was which at first. For the first twelve hours, I saw them only one at a time. I checked on them, found one, and was missing the other. I checked again, found what seemed like the second one, but may have been the first one again in a different place. I ended up going from room to room, in this huge beautiful old house, trying to catch them close enough together so I could be sure they were both present and correct. I became convinced they were gaslighting me. I began to panic. I checked again. One cat. Again. One cat. Night fell. Still one cat - or were they taking it in turns? Had I lost a cat? Someone's expensive furbaby? And so I ran screaming into the night... and as I was led away by kind people, I looked up at the lit window and damn my eyes if they weren't high fiving each other's paws and lifting glasses of champagne. It was then I realised why so many house sitters never returned...

After a while I became the Mary Poppins of house sitting. I learned how to pack minimally, how to have a house clean and sheets fresh the minute the owners walk back in, and how to use only my own stuff in someone else's house. I learned I dislike porcelain butler's sinks and I really appreciate anything easy to clean. There are principles - you leave it better than you found it, you don't use the owners' food, and you take such good care of the animals that when their owners return the animals look up at them and shrug and go 'meh'. I specialise in writing witty and informative emails to the house owners, and sending photos of their pets doing cute things. So far I have had good reviews.

As for the animals, after the terrifying Birmans, who did settle down after that night, I looked after wild birds, Pit Bull crosses who weren't allowed inside, a Devon Rex cat who wasn't allowed outside, some very aerial but quite stupid Weimeraners, and others. The Devon Rex specialised in life threatening neck massages in the middle of the night (Oh no! I'm sure that was my carotid!). She shed white hair everywhere; don't wear black they said. And they were right. The Weimeraners were obsessed with cats and would wildly jump at anywhere a cat had once been, or might be, or even spin about on their leads trying to get to cats that really were there, or stare at them until they didn't go away. The Pit Bull crosses I would race across the yard to the door, because then they would block my entrance and jump on me mercilessly as I grappled with the door handle. I always lost the race.

I can get away with house sitting because I still appear respectable, as a gentlewoman in reduced circumstances. Nobody asks my story. I interview well. I am well and truly Police checked (for every job I go for!). And I get good reviews because I take it seriously; I treat it like a job.

I wonder about Mary Poppins. No really I do. Where did she come from? Where does she go next? Does she have a family? She doesn't have a back story, although she clearly has knowledge of a world outside the household's ken. She is a function, a mathematical symbol, a cipher. I am too. I arrive, engaging and helpful, and I leave. Where do I go? Who knows where people like me go?

There are lots of ways of living nowadays, for those of us who are interstitial creatures. Soon I may not be able to live this way, moving on and off the heights, alone but connected to place, drawing the thread of my life across the city, pinning it at points on my mind map, drawing it out again. But for now I continue.
Image result for mary poppins

Sunday, November 19, 2017

CAN YOU HANDLE THE KNOWLEDGE?

I am now in possession of forbidden knowledge, of a piece of technology so powerful if I use it I fear it will gradually destroy me.

I am very aware that this is the age of information. In this age of Aquarius, that which was once hidden is revealed. We are free to commingle as we wish, to seek companionship across the reaches of the globe, to study far beyond our usual ken. By and large, this is harmless. With the wisdom of the ages on our screens, we choose to look at the cute and the accessible. That is as it should be. 

There are some things of which humankind should not wot. Unnatural things, that may be safe enough in the hands of the few who have the self discipline and insight to handle them. These things should by rights remain difficult to access, cloaked in secrecy and symbolism. If the knowledge of these things spread, there would be illness, despair, the breaking up of families, dogs and cats living together, the end times would be at hand. Many people cannot handle the knowledge I now possess. However, knowing that full well, I need to unburden myself here for my own safety. So that a year from now, if you find me dead on my couch smeared with brown streaks and my fingers stuck together, you will know how this started, and you will be forewarned for your own sakes.

Now I will tell you this, so that you will have possession of the facts, even if their true implication is beyond you.

I know how to make a fudge brownie in five minutes in a microwave. 

Pic tangentially related.Image result for horror demon pics



Saturday, November 4, 2017

SEXUAL POLITICS IN EXTREME METAL - A SATANFEST RETROSPECTIVE

SATANFEST!!!

Worthy of at least three exclamation marks, as well as throwing the horns \m/ and gratuitous windmilling, Satanfest is an annual weekend festival of extreme metal held in New Zealand, and this year I was lucky because it happened in my town.

Live metal music really does stir the soul, and then it punctures your breast bone with sheer power and hammers you into the ground.  High was my heart and brave my steps in the warm eventide of Beltane as I made my way into the seedy Embankment pub, my sinuses already fucked but my chest infection mostly under control. And it was all on





I will say something about going to gigs at my age. I go with people who say nah, I can't stay for the last set because I'm working in the morning, and I can only go on Sunday because the ex missus has the kids then. And we don't drink much, and we mostly lurk and listen, except for my excursions into the mosh pit.

I will say something about being sexually harassed in the mosh pit. That was of no moment, but what was more interesting was a young man standing beside me at the front by the stage. He looked concerned, and gestured to me to ask if I was OK. I gestured back that I was fine. Later he came over to me and said he was glad I was all right, that he had been worried I appeared unsafe, that there is too much of that sort of thing at metal gigs and it has to stop. Generally I have found metal heads to be nice young men and respectful of their elders.

On the second night I got knocked down in the mosh pit. A dozen hands reached down to pull me up. You really don't want to stay down in there. I noticed it was not just me - whenever anyone looked like they were in trouble, people helped out. Someone dropped a phone and someone else cleared a space so he could  hold it up and find its owner.

The final act of the festival was Organectomy, a very competent local band. One of the vocalists, a lean young man with very long hair, took his shirt off. Several women at the front, where I was, began essentially to assault him. They reached out and touched him, and actually groped his buttock and poked fingers into his navel. He seemed to take it with humour. Being me, I wondered what he really thought. If he had been a woman, people would have seen that behaviour as sexist and entitled. Was he flattered? Was he disgusted? Was he annoyed?

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylFU-4YA3ok  for Organectomy, 'Beckoning the Horrors of the Depths'.

On the first night I went, the final act was Vargafrost, which was old school Norwegian style Black Metal with motifs so specific you can listen and call them out phrase by phrase - like, that is from Thorns' 'Aerie Descent', a weirdly influential track from 1992. Here is Vargafrost, the cover of their album Honour, Blood, Spirit and Love.


 
 Naturally they come from Tasman, in New Zealand. Tasman does not look like their album cover. It looks like this:





Image result for abel tasman national park
And here are Vargafrost* in their natural habitat, feeling the stern wisdom of the Norse Gods as the chilly wind from the fjords freezes their bones to darkness, contemplating the rape of their noble heathen culture by evil Xtians and planning their next Pagan Black Metal attack on those soft souls not Tru to the Kult \m/ \m/. Because as you can see in Tasman there is absolutely fucking nothing to do, nothing at all, it just makes you want to slit your wrists with broken glass from the window of a VW Kombi

*Actually probably not Vargafrost. Probably just random tourists. 
Image result for abel tasman national park

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

OF COURSE SHE KEEPS ON SMILING

Visiting a rest home, I found the residents unusually engrossed. They were watching a DVD called Lord of the Dance - Dangerous Games. Because they so engrossed, I decided against the usual outing I do with one of the people there, and watched it with them.

So, Lord of the Dance - Dangerous Games is ostensibly an entertainment extravaganza with a backbone of Irish Dancing. I am new to this so I thought of it as part Cirque du Soleil, part ballet, and part pop concert. It claimed to tell a simple story of good versus evil. It was fairly easy to tell who was good and who was evil, thusly:

Good: white, blonde, water, nature, freedom, carefree semi-nakedness, lack of artifice, smiles
Bad: red, black, fire, sexual wiles, metal, regimentation, modified bodies, stern countenance

In other words, morality is an aesthetic. It's not about how anyone behaves, it's all about a set of tropes where the stereotyping isn't even subtle or considered. You just knew when the bad guy, the evil Dark Lord, came out. He was part Black Metal vocalist, part Tom of Finland, part Rothbart. You could pick the bad girl too. She had long black hair and a slightly BDSM tinge to her tight black outfit. Naturally she got better dance moves than the good girl, who looked like a low rent Marilyn Monroe in a platinum wig and a cute white dress which she was almost wearing. The good guy, supposedly the rightful Lord of the Dance, was noted for being conventionally handsome, and he won his battle against the Dark Lord by taking his shirt off to reveal an impressive six pack. Half the audience cheered enthusiastically. This was a brilliant dance step as well as a killer fighting move. The only man who I have ever seen match it was All Black and serial football code switcher Sonny Bill Williams, who could win a rugby match by removing his shirt. And then the whole audience cheered enthusiastically. But dancing is dancing. Apart from some hamming ('dance menacingly!' 'dance handsomely!') footwork is footwork whoever you play. It is the aesthetics more than the skill that separates Odette from Odile.

I was most interested in the sexual stereotyping. For the men, the Dark Lord was not a sexually interesting figure - he was too unnatural and contrived, and wore way too many clothes. The good Lord of the Dance played on conventional good looks, and somehow his getting some of his kit off was not considered at all exploitative. The male dancers all were as handsome as their dancing.

As for the women, they were all babes. The good girl and the Lord of the Dance's rightful gf was cute and pretty and and the bad girl who tried to seduce him was dark and smouldering. But they were both babes. The dance troupe women were babes. The violinists were babes, in tight sequinned dresses and high heels. The vocalist was a babe. All babes. All wearing more or less revealing clothing and one sequence removing some of it.

Nudity betokened virtue. The bad guys were fully clothed, except for the wicked seductress, perhaps because there is never any point in a fully clothed woman, and her role was to express the evil power of women's sexuality. Clothing seemed to represent artifice and restriction, while nudity represented freedom and joy. A happy idyll indeed.

At the end, the show's director Michael Flatley came out and danced with the crew. He indicated cast members and singled them out for special applause. He made Usain Bolt gestures. He led the cheers and involved himself in several encores. He came across as part circus ring master and part paterfamilias, as he passed on the torch of Irish dancing extravaganza to the next generation of babes and six packed Ladies Night specials. But his behaviour disturbed me, especially in the light of recent revelations about rampant sexual harassment in the entertainment industry (surprising no one, ever).  Mr Flatley flitted from woman to woman, embracing and kissing them and putting his arm around their waists. And they played on, smiling, and they danced on, smiling. And I was thinking, each time, of course she keeps on smiling, even though this guy is practically groping her, she's on stage, he's the Man, he's the Director, and when he has the Power, you keep on smiling and you save your goddam dignity for some time much later.

Image result for lord of the dance dangerous gamesGood girl
Image result for lord of the dance dangerous gamesBad guy
Image result for lord of the dance dangerous gamesBabes


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.