Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas with mayhem

Just prior to Christmas i was shown an e-card. It was on someone's computer at work. It was completely scary. Let me tell you why.

It started with a snowy forest scene. Two cute mice came into view, pushing a snowball. A cute cat and a cute dog came into view, also pushing snowballs with their noses. A banner came down asking us to help our little friends. With enormous trepidation, we clicked to put the three snowballs one on top of the other. We then clicked on the little friends to help them make the features of a snowman. They helped each other up to get to the high-up bits. Then a banner came down saying Happy Christmas. Bells jingled. The snowman waved an arm and magic light was sprinkled all over the forest. It ended.

As we watched, the first thing i expected was the carnivores to eat the mice in some gory manner. The Disneyesque cuteness continued. As we stacked the snowballs, i expected the snowman to come to life and slaughter everbody with a bazooka or perhaps a flame thrower at the very least. It was hard to be told to stack the snowballs when we feared we were endangering the lives of cute forest animals. But we did it because that's what the Christmas e-card banner told us to do. i just hope you understand me here, right?

By the time we got to the jingling and the fairy goddam lights nothing would satisfy the expectations of the narrative except total muthaf%&*ng mayhem. At this point the sheer adorable tweeness of the scene required mass destruction, and it had to be gory, and it had to be loud, and it had to make teenage boys punch the air and shout 'Yes!'.

i sent the e-card to others and got the same reaction, especially among the young adults in my life. They waited for the explosions. They 'kept expecting something really bad to happen'. They were inexplicably disappointed when 'nothing happened'.

i suppose if nothing bad happens, then nothing happens. What is with our aesthetic sensibilites here? Too much Call of Duty Black Ops? Are we just cynical bastards who are tired of Christmas and who are all brought up on a media diet rich in irony?

Or is it something older? There is a view that there are only seven plots in the world, and that e-card had no plot. We know how this is supposed to work. A joke has a punch line. A story has a plot. The ending has to satisfy the demands of a recognizable plot. When we are confronted with a thing that looks like a story but isn't, we try to insert a story to make sense of it. We use what we have to hand - popular images from the mass media.

An e-card with no plot is like an unfinished

Cruel, eh? See what i mean!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

in praise of 'like'

i am a fan of the ways young people communicate. Unlike my daughter, who texts in full, grammatically correct sentences with semi-colons, i lyk 2 txt free from the contraints of grammar and spelling and even common sense. i was born with a red pen in my mouth, and with parents who would correct my grammar even when i was in tears.

i am a fan of some of the vogue words. i enjoyed 'random'. i am amused by 'shit for Africa' and use it myself. 'Epic' is also fun. But my favourite is 'like' which seems to have stayed the distance of years. You know, it was like, cold, so he was like wearing his hoodie and like the police thought he was like some gangsta so they like ...

'Like' is great because it introduces fundamantal ontological uncertainty. There was like a hundred people at the party. That's a delightfully open statement. How many people were there? Did you, like count? No, but it felt like a hundred. Or it may have been about a hundred. Reality is subjective. Perception is malleable. Everything is context. We are aware of the observer's paradox, aren't we? Even if it is only that we forget to count ourselves in the crowd.

'Like' is also usefully sociologically fuzzy. He was like a gangsta. He may have been one. But he was like one. There were definite similarities. But for now we will reserve our judgment. Until i see the colours, he was like a gangsta. In the mean time, we will be humble and observe restraint. 'Like' calls us to reflection. Who had the knife? The black man? The white man?

Of course, there is nothing like otiose pseudo-academic speculation to put a young person off their stride. Perhaps if we point out the splendid intellectual underpinning of their communication habits, they will be resentful of us and thus go forth and strive for precise and measured speech in order to piss us off. i suspect not. i suspect language will continue to change and evolve and in a year or two we will be saying something equally charming, and ephemeral, and unconsciously wise.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Found poetry #2

Here are some tips on reciting found poetry. Much found poetry is only truly found once it is recited. Remember, you are harking back to ancient times, when learning took place by listening and speaking. The blood of the bard runs through your veins....

Start with some un-found poetry. Made up poems. Try Dylan Thomas. Now then, please in your best Richard Burton voice:

Do not go gently into the dark night,
but rage! rage against the dying of the light!

or the gorgeous 'new rhythm' of Hopkins:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatmess, like the ooze of oil

Here are two poems found in song lyrics. Both of them are all in the reciting. The first one comprises most of the lyric of a rap song. It should be spoken as if you are reading Dr Seuss to a child, or maybe presenting a children's play. Use your brightest, enthusiastic voice and cock your head to one side. Go for a sort of maxed out perky:

This is why
this is why
this is why

I'm hot!

I'm hot
'cos I'm fly
you ain't
'cos you're not

This is why
this is why
this is why

I'm hot!!

OK, the next one is lyrics by Marilyn Manson and it needs to be recited in serious, credible tones as if reading the news on public radio:

You can't see the wood
for the trees.
You can't smell the shit
when you're on your knees.

The beautiful people
the beautiful people
the beautiful people.

i think Marilyn (whose actual name is Brian Turner, and Brian Turner is a well known New Zealand poet. Ha!) anyway i think Marilyn would approve and maybe so would Brian.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Found poetry No. 1

A good method of finding poetry is to start with google's home page and type in half a common sentence. This throws up common searches. It generates enough randomness to be amusing and also enough content you can make sense of. These change over time, depending on what people have searched for recently. Some are song lyrics, and some you may recognize from famous speeches. Try it. Minutes of fun for you and your fellow cubicle dwellers!

Here are the best two:

Type in 'It is not' and you get:

It is not the critic who counts
It is not good for man to be alone
It is not death to die
It is not meant to be tame impala
It is not our darkness that we fear
It is not the benevolence of the butcher
It is not in heaven
It is not illegal to be illegal in Massachusetts
It is not a tumour.

And try this one, slightly less lyrical but no less cryptic, by typing in 'It is':

It is well with my soul
It is what is
It is written
It is 416 kilometres west of Sydney
It written Oceania
It is people it is people it is people
It is not OK
It is finished.

Next time i will discuss timbre, metre and voice in reciting found poetry.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Problems with the poverty of induction

Since Hume, academic philosophers in the West have known how problematic induction is. There is no proof for it. Just because the last fire you touched was hot, and the fire before that, and every other fire you ever touched, was hot, it does not follow that the next fire you touch will be hot. Of course we can't live like that in the real, philosophically naive world. We would get helluva burned up for a start. But Hume successfully turned logic on its head and it's been that way ever since.

Since the Christchurch earthquake, i have felt less trustful of induction even at its most ingenuous. Just because i drove down that street yesterday, it does not follow that i can drive down it again today. Today, it may be blocked off because aftershocks have caused fissures in the road. It can take several attempts to get anywhere.

Here in New Zealand we have benefited from an incredibly stable and safe social and physical environment. We expect today to be the same as yesterday (although we hope we may be a little richer and a little thinner). The uncertainty of the earthquake and its aftermath, where some people still have no water and raw sewage arupts into people's houses, has shocked us.

If we lived almost anywehre else it the world we would perhaps be more flexible. Perhaps if i lived in Mexico it would be fairly ordinary to avoid a street one day because a new drug lord had taken it over. In parts of Vietnam, houses flood every year and everyone decamps to their top storeys for a few weeks until it is over.

Now it is our turn to trim sails and adapt and do life differently for a while.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The state of the police

Or the police state, given the number of them working in Christchurch since the earthquake. This has led to some interesting findings, as houses fall down and there are just so may police around. Somebody set up a P lab in an abandoned house - full marks for entrepreneurialism. One poor woman in her 50's tried to keep her cannabis plants alive with no water or power and was so relieved when the Police finally removed them.

Then there is the state of the police station. The building has always been on a bit of a lean, and i'm sure the lifts move sideways. Now they don't move at all. The top 4 floors of the 13 storey building are unusable due to earthquake damage.

The cells at the best of times are best described as a cross between an abbatoir and a submarine. A maze of concrete cells, the worstone being the 'tank' which is a concrete box with a drain. They put the prisoner in the recovery position with his/her face towards the drain, which then accommodates vomit/blood, shit etc and there is minimal cleaning afterwards. The cells always smell of vomit, blood, shit etc, and alcohol, and disinfectant and rotting rats. Rats appear in the cells at night, leading to people screaming and flinging themselves against the bars. Sometimes even the prisoners become alarmed.

Post earthquake, the cells, which are underground, have cracks in the walls and shake badly in the aftershocks. Several times a day they are plunged into darkness. There is a nasty ka-joonk noise, and all the watch house computers die, and by darkness i mean primal chaos type of darkness. Like, Darkness. That leads to people screaming and flinging themselves against the bars. Sometimes even the prisoners become alarmed.

Actually, what am i saying. Down in the cells people scream and fling themselves and rattle bars and hurl abuse all the time.

Another earthquake story. The girls of my daughter's high school are taught earthquake drill and how to get under their desks. Being plump Kiwi girls, most of them can't get under the desk, and crawl around the floor like snails.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On

This old World War Two British motto has become a catchword for life after the earthquake (AE). It does seem to characterise how we are managing. Work goes on - currently people are painting my roof. My workplace is uninhabitable so we are camping in a crowded office in the suburbs. We have now had over 500 aftershocks and i sleep through most of the night ones. We can probably guess magnitude as the aftershocks happen - hmm, i would say that one was about 4.7.

i think i would handle it differently if i had had a terrible experience. If i had major damage to my house, or a narrow escape, or had toddlers who were frightened, i may be taumatised. One teenage girl is still managing her mother who continues to panic after each aftershock. One man struggled through the broken glass as the earth rocked, carrying his tddler under one arm and trying to get to the baby crying in his cot. His wife was away, in Wellington, and he feared that she had been in an even bigger earthquake, because Wellington is earthquake prone. Fearing her dead, he managed his panicking toddler until she could return. Some people are still without sewerage and using public port-a-loos. A hospital security guard is trying to carry on at work while struggling with his own constant panic. Lots of people are just plain over it.

The state of emergency was lifted today. There is still a very small cordon around some of the CBD. One of the most poignant sights for me was driving past the Peaches and Cream Adult Superstore at night. The building was cordoned off.and clearly damanged. A mannequin wearing pink bunny ears and a fluffy pink negligee still posed in the broken window, the little cute pink skirt fluttering sadly in the night breeze.

We now have celebrity geologists. The best website is Christchurch Quake Map which has excellent graphics showing the Big One and all the subsequent aftershocks with magnitude, depth and time. i look at it daily.

Everyone has an earthquake story. i like this one:

Ollie age 6 was looking forward to returning to school because he had News! Liam age 8 says to him, witheringly, 'It's not the eathquake, is it, because everybody's got that one'. No, says Ollie, patently lying, it is the Brick, the souvenir brick he took from the fallen chimney. When you are 6 your world is quite small, and the earthquake was special because it happened to you. When you are 8 your world is bigger, and you also get to be scathing.

i think Christchurch will never get back to normal in the sense of BE (before earthqauke). It's a bit like having a baby - you do get back to normal but it is a different normal and it is years after the birth.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Here everyone has an earthquake story. In fact we all have the same earthquake story, with minor variations. We all were woken by the earthquake at 4.30 on Saturday morning, damage was done, we all survived. It measured 7.1 and was centred 30 kms west of Christchurch. Some of us lost everything. i lost a mirror and the mizzen mast of a model sailing ship. The next day sand volcanoes sprung up at the end of the street and there were fissures and cracks to wander amongst. People really did check on their neighbours and lend each other things, and when i walked in the neighbourhood i overheard the same conversation from each house. Are you OK? What was it like? There was looting which got people pretty excited - i think what actually happened was two young men tried to throw bricks through a window but were caught in the act. It was a very restrained and Protestant emergency. The day after, everyone tried to contact friends. Despite authorities asking that people keep communication to a minimum most people phoned or texted or went on social networking sites - everyone must be accounted for. We have had 85 aftershocks that could be felt, and more that were too small. Some up to 4.whatsit. We were without power for 12 hours and the water is still contaminated. i know i am a girlie swot but i have collected about 33 litres of water and kept it more or less refreshed since 1999. We had torches and batteries and a radio which we eventually go going, and food for days and everything except hand sanitiser. The main issue now is waterborne disease. And of course the damage. This will be the day of the steel capped boot wearer who will rise up and speak out and demand ... triple time i'd say. Good on them.

My daughter pointed out how unique this was - everybody in the area had the same experience at the same time. Last time that happened was perhaps the big snow of 1992. Or maybe 9/11. But in a city this size, a small city but a city nevertheless, there is very little shared experience. When was the last time everybody watched an election on TV, for example, i mean everybody? That used to happen in the 1960's. Now, we are mobile and fluid and atomised.

i always said Christchurch is a model of Victorian positivist engineering. Drain the swamps! Tame the river! Build the bridge! Ready-to-consume suburbia complete with leafy avenues! But what amazing engineering it is. No lives lost, thousands of houses with little damage. If this was Haiti or Mexico we would be bleeding. There would be an international aid appeal! School children would send us their clothes! But no, here we are, and i am thankful for a law abiding, stable society and for hundreds of nameless engineers and builders and other workers who have done such a sterling job.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lemmiwinks the Gerbil King - a pre-axial age hero

Hopefully you will be familiar with the sublime South Park episode 'The death camp of tolerance'. A plot summary is on Wikipedia. For these purposes, Mr Garrison the children's teacher is trying to behave in an outrageous manner in order to get fired so he can then sue the school. He reaches his denouement by inserting Lemmiwinks the class gerbil into the anus of his lover, Mr Slave.

Once the sphincter closes, Lemmiwinks begins an epic journey through the gay man's digestive tract. He is aided bythe spirits of other animals who have been inserted in a similar manner. These are the Frog Prince, who gives him a magical helmet, the Sparrow Prince who advises him, and the Catata Fish who tests him with a riddle which he must solve. When he finally escapes and is coughed up by Mr Slave, he frees the spirits of the animals and is crowned the Gerbil King. Throughout, a song accompanies his quest. It is sung in a folksy voice and in a quasi-bardic style it outlines his heroic exploits.

Google Lemmiwinks and you will see excellent YouTube videos. The animated journey has Lemmiwinks portrayed as a realistically drawn gerbil, with no human expression on his face. Lemmiwinks has no internal life and undergoes no reflective process. He does not develop as a character, and his story is told entirely from an outside point of view - of the bardic singer and the animal spirits.

When i first saw the episode, i was amused for several reasons, only one of them being a long term love of the scatological. Obviously, Lemmiwinks is cute and innocent and that is juxtaposed with his gory plight. And obviously, he does not show human expression - he's a gerbil, for heaven's sake. But i was surprised how much his story resonated with me, and how i intuitively understood how the story went. Lemmiwinks is of course an archetypal hero in the Joseph Campbell mode. We know his story as intimately and unconsciously as we know that of Luke Skywalker or Herakles. Or Harry Potter.

But let's go back further, to a crucial age in the development of humankind, and because all of our thinking is moderated by the popular media we will consider Lemmiwinks the gerbil king from the points of view of two theories which i believe intersect in interesting ways - Karl Jasper's seminal ideas about the Axial Age, and Julian Jaynes' theories in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Thus we step into the gloriously dodgy field of psycho-history.

Between about 900 and 300 BCE vast and traumatic changes took place in the main civilisations of the world. People travelled and traded more, environmental crises occurred as semi-pastoral societies ran out of resources, and new technologies emerged. Larger units of society such as city states developed. The cultures we think of as our own various heritages were formed then - India, China, the Levant, and Greece.

There is evidence that prior to this Axial Age people did not have the reflective capacity we have now. They experienced their actions as driven by fate or the gods. Individuals had a name, loyalties and ties, and a personal history, but did not see themselves as conscious moral decision makers. Terry Pratchett would say they did not have a psycholology.

Jaynes takes the view that in the days of Homer's heroic age, people literally heard or were commanded by the gods. When early writing talks about this, it is meant literally. For Jaynes, people routinely hallucinated and obeyed their hallucinations. Their brains were 'bicameral', or split in two, and one side talked to the other. During this period of time, peoples' brains physically changed. They learned to mentalise - to talk to themselves inside themselves, and to reflect and choose. They became conscious moral agents. Jaynes sees vestiges of bicameralism in some modern phenomena such as hallacinations in mental illness, and the experience of religion or the psychic world.

Jasper noted the change wrought during the Axial Age in the development of religion. Early Vedic and Biblical scripture is ritualistic, and people become briefly divine by following ritual properly. Over time, ritual becomes more symbolic, and finally it becomes internalised. Instead of sacrificing an animal in fire, people meditate on their own internal fire, or even do away with the symbol altogether and just meditate. Early prophets in the Old Testament describe being driven by God to act, even against their will. Later on, God is less present in the world, but works through the moral doings of his servants. All our great world religions came from this period. All of them came to some sort of view that we must live rightly to understand our spiritual selves, and that we must have compassion for others. This was a revolution, and it happened over a surprisingly short time.

Lemmiwinks is a bicameral, pre-axial hero. He is guided directly by spirit animals, not by his conscience or by entering a higher state. In other words, he hallucinates his way through the gay man's digestive tract. He does not reflect on his actions, nor is he a free moral agent. His only choice is keep going or die. Despite having a deeply chthonic experience that harks back mythically to the time of Chronos, he is not aware of this. He frees the animal spirits incidentally, not because of any conscious compassion or belief about the value of life. If he has a soul, and there is an afterlife, he does not know about it.

He's a gerbil, for heaven's sake!

Recommended reading:
Daniel Smith 'Muses Madmen and Prophets' on hallucinations and bicameralism
Karen Armstrong 'The Great Transformation' on the Axial Age.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Two notes may help this poem.

1. i express the idea 'necessary but not sufficient', which is often used in academic philosophy. i can think of many situations in real life where something is necessary but not sufficient.

2. i hold a negative view of evil. i share this with some important thinkers such as Augustine. Evil is the absence of good - it is what happens when good people do nothing. Evil is not a positive force or a person. Evil is in stupidity, ignorance and laziness. Evil is easy. It is what we sink to without education or hope or exposure to virtue. It is not a metaphysical concept. Major evil is probably rare.
i think when we die we take only virtue into the next life. This means if we have not developed virtue, we do not do well in the next life, because we lack the tools. A baby in the womb develops limbs and lungs for which it has imperfect or no use. Only when it is born does it find the use for what it has developed. We develop virtues in this way - but in this world we have the choice to do so consciously.

Here, then, is the poem.


No one kills themselves on my watch.
i won't allow it.
But you did.

You were loved.
You were the most loved of men.
Love is necessary but not sufficient.

You were good.
You weere known for it.
Goodness is necessary.
Goodness is still necessary.
You take it with you
and you leave it behind.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wilie and the Poor Boys

i mentioned more on Willy Apiata and it is timely given that New Zealand/Aotearoa has had its first military fatality in Afghanistan. It rattles the teeth a bit. i have a nephew-in-law over there. We are still a small enough society to know someone who ...

On heroism. When i talked to my husband the Archduke Piccolo about Willy's VC he was scornful. In his view, New Zealand is an invading power and the true heroisim lies with the 'insurgents' who have been invaded, and who are fighting back with everything at stake. Yeah, i agree it is still the wrong war, even if Iraq was wronger. And i agree it is good to look at our ideas of heroism and take them beyond the military purview. To ask what are the medals for and what do they show us. And who gets them.

i wondered about the George Cross, which can be given to civilians. i noted that its recpients tended to be in uniform, if not in the miliatary itself. The only female recipient outside the British secret security forces in World War Two, (and unless you count half the population of Malta) was Barbara Harrison, a (uniformed) airline stewardess who saved passengers from a plane on fire, and gave her life doing it. New Zealand's most recent GC came out of the Aramoana shootout ( a quasi-military exercise, if you will). So the sort of heroism for which you get medals could be characterised by a sort of uniformed mentality. Nothing wrong with that. Short bursts of extreme action. Giving it up for your mates. Pragmatism. Knowing who you are. Task focused. Wily, quick, strong. Punching above your weight. Unity. But then of course there are other sorts of heroism - like the residents of Gaza, who require acts of uncommon bravery just to get through the day. Or those already-poor people of New Orleans who saved others during Hurrican Katrina - young people who kept others safe, and who are now battling poverty and gang violence in forgotten communities. There are also many people who are simply heroes of their own lives, survivors of the usual soul-crippling muck our kids often get dished out like sexual abuse and impoverishment and ignorance and stupidity.

i still think Willy Apiata is a hero. He also portrays dignity and humility and courtesy in all his public dealings. i hope he lives. i hope he continues to exude mana and provide a true role model to young men. Moreover, i hope noone tries to deconstruct him, or do a revisionsist hatchet job on him.

i also nominate for my own personal GC list Nicola Inchmarch, of Viva Palestina, who i understand is heading back again to run the Gaza blockade. Kia Ora Gaza!

Monday, August 2, 2010

in the style of Ogden Nash

Here is a very short poem about teenage boys:


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

notes written upon accidentally accessing internet porn

i was at work, looking up information about dholes. Dholes are asiatic canids. i am interested in the origins of domestic dogs, because it ts thought that humans made dogs and to some extent dogs made humans - we may not have had successful pastoralism without them. But dogs are not descended from wolves. What happens if you back breed dogs, is you don't get a wolf. All over the world dogs are let loose, and breed, and the result is a tan coloured, medium sized, prick eared dog like a dingo. Or a dhole. South East Asia has many such dogs, and they live with humans in an earlier version of the relationship, keping down mice and seeing off intruders, in exchange for scraps and some rough-hewn protection.

So i was at work looking up dholes and i found a site caled family pictures of dholes, and i scrolled down pictures of dholes, and dhole habitat, and cartoons of dholes, and then i came upon a picture of a thin blonde woman performing an indecent act upon a very largely endowed man of recentAfrican or Melanesian descent. Horrified, i called my work colleagues over. There was some hilarity. One female colleague thought it was a rather huge amount of chocolate. The picture was enlarged. There was further hilarity. She then thought it was probably a pepper grinder. Even more hilarity resulted. By this time i had, with some further hilarity, realised that i had accessed a pornographic image at work. Even more hilarity as i was told people had been sacked for less (it's true!) and i will never work in this town again.

i am now left with two issues. One is whether or not to confess to the Powers that i saw the image, with all its appalling racial stereotypes and resulting hilarity. Clearly the site abut dholes had been tampered with, as the picture was nested into paragraphs of text about dholes and other pictures of ... dholes, actually. We know the internet is not safe by any means, but we do not expect to access this stuff at work when WebMarshall forbids Photobucket and Flickr and all sorts of innocent material. In the end i took advice and did a big fat nothing. After a while i will stop feeling uneasy. Time is such a distraction.

Oh, the other thing. Never again will i look the same way at my husband's large dark wooden...

...pepper grinder, as it sits grinning evilly at me on the kitchen table. For my dining pleasure...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Today was the day Gage the Police dog died in action, in a street not far from mine, in Linwood.

Gage, his handler and another officer were looking for someone and the officers knocked on the door of a neighbour. Suddenly they were in the middle of a cannabis growing operation.
The grower's flatmate shot Gage's handler in the face, the other officer in the leg, and Gage himself was shot dead in the street. Armed offenders squad members then arrested the 'suspect'.

i knew Gage, having worked with him twice or three times in the course of my work. He was a dog of noble dispostion, and huge enthusiasm for his work. That made him slightly scary. i would wonder if he was thinking 'ooh, testicles!'. He was also as beautiful as a German Shepherd can be, athletic and charming and bright.

It is often thought that humans made dogs. Actually, dogs may have begun the domestication process themselves. Friendly canid puppies may have sought human warmth and scraps, and human children may have played with them. The relationship has always been complex and possibly genuinely symbiotic.

Once i was walking my little dog Tigger and a wandering dog was hit by a car as we walked by. i tied Tigger up and went to help, along with others. The dog screamed with pain and snarled at its rescuers. When i returned to him, Tigger was shaking with fear. i took him home.

No physical harm came to Tigger that day but he must have some sort of imagination because he felt the fear and pain of that dog. Today, after Gage was shot, another Police dog was part of the AOS callout. i wonder what it was like for that dog, passing its dead companion, doing its job, like the human officers. When we enGage the services of dogs, we ask their all and we get it. Then, we owe them, for sure.

Now the two officers, including Gage's handler whom i also had worked with of course, are in hospital badly injured. i bet there will be a funeral for Gage. His handler would have dedicated a large part of his professional and personal life to Gage. i wish him healing and courage. And i do feel sour about the man who did the shooting. i hope his weed was worth it. Reflexively, i think that the penalty for killing a Police dog should be the same as that for killing a Police officer.

Well, Gage, you were born into a human world and your lot was thrown in with ours. Thank you for your service and go well, wherever you are, there will be crims to chase and balls to bite, and nobody to tell you to stop.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lights and sirens

i have had the experience several times of ringing ambulances for people (not myself) where i am not in the house with them and only know the situation from phone calls.

The ambulance staff ask me if i want lights and sirens. And do i want normal road speed.

So, how the hell do i know? i'm not there in the house. i may not even know the person very well.

So, i say, well shit, just don't bother with the lights and sirens and drama, and how about you order a pizza and pick it up on the way there because it is cheaper that way, and when you arrive at the house i suggest you make like repo men and turn your lights off and cruise up the drive way really really slowly...

So, no, i don't say that, because i don't know what is going on in that house and i kinda don't want anyone to die.

What i say is this.

Fuck yeah i want lights and sirens. And speed. More speed, dammit! And i want helicopters and the armed offenders squad and at least one platoon of Marines going hut hut hut...actually skip the Marines, as i've heard they've had their brains removed to make more room for ammunition. Instead, i would like the New Zealand SAS led by the awesome Corporal Willy Apiata, VC. And i want him straight from Afghanistan looking like a hero from Gears of War or something XBox anyway, armed to the teeth and all sweaty in the dusty heat. And he can take my person to the Emergency Department and all the nurses will pause and look thoughtful, and it will be me who sent him and i will say, oh yeah, Willy, yeah, good guy, no worries, real casual.

Actually i don't say that either.

But more on Willy later.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

in praise of light

Late afternoon, walking by the river from my workplace. The light in winter, on a day of storm and then sun. It's not like summer light in Southland, which is almost my all time favourite light. Southland summer light at low lattitudes is glory. It is long and languorous and spreads itself over the land like syrup on cornbread. My other all time favourite light is around Kaikoura, in the evenings, when it's all misty and golden and falls down from the mountains to the sea, and then the Huttons shearwaters rise up the mountain, calling and helping each other in flocks of hundreds. There the mountains and the sea are so close to each other the light has a sort of lysergic intensity. It's enough to drive you to drink. Today's light was not like that. It was brittle and short. It made the river water spark and dance. It brought out the brown of the leaf litter and gilded it. i liked it, and was briefly grateful.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I nearly didn't get here....

i nearly didn't get here at all due to technical diffiuclties, caused in part by the pitfalls of setting up a blog while on night shift. i am married to the Archduke Piccolo, and at first all i did was post on his blog. Ok for me, as he is a very entertaining writer; not so good for his followers. i then made several attempts to set up email addresses and for several days it all got quite runny. i am pleased that i have been able to fix technical problems, and been patient (most of the time). It is not easy for a 50 year old with wonky vision to read those anti-hacking characters for logging in. And have you tried to hear them? They sound like your brain on drugs. Demographically challenged by tech anything, i am the least hackerish person i know. But now i think i am there.

Hey, just to show i am cool and hip and tech savvy, try reading XKCD webcomic. Very nice. Reverse Polish Sausage! Yeah, totally!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

About the syrinx

Primarily here, the syrinx is the voice box of a bird. Humans have larynxes; birds have syrinxes. The syrinx is shaped like an upside down Y and birds use both arms of the Y to make sound. This means they can make two sounds at once, or very rapid sounds, or one sound scaling up and the other down, or all of the above. This ability is most advanced in passerines, or perching birds.

Syrinx was also a nymph. She was pursued by the god Pan and fled into the river, where her voice became the wind in the reeds. Pan grieved for her, took reeds and made the pan pipe. A syrinx is thus also a word for a pan pipe.

A syrinx is also a medical problem, essentially a tube where it shouldn't be.

i like the idea of a nom de plume similar to ones used by Victorian newspaper columnists. The name itself becomes a commentary.

i also like the idea of making sounds that are different, not human, aesthetically challenging, maybe beautiful or moving.

And i like the idea of a reed, hollow, a vessel for sound, for the songs of others or maybe new sounds entirely.

This blog will be sometimes humorous, sometimes reflective, and it may involve what passes for poems. There will be times when it will slip into a parallel universe that is almost but not entirely unlike this one. i cannot predict when this will happen. There will also be deliberate distortions of identities and some events, to protect those around me, because i have a sensitive job.

i hope to have some fun.