Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The revolution will, like, be totally televised

Two recent events interested me. The first was the revolution that occurred on 19 June. You noticed, right? No, it was not that revolution, that old thing where the proletariat overthrow the ruling classes who are then strung up by the thumbs next to the creators of the Game of Life. This was a po-mo version where individuals acting only on their own behalf used social media to gather in a creative fashion, to shout out in many different ways. This is nuts for the traditional media. A good example comes from the big London demos in March this year, where Lucy Annson of the UK Uncut group protesting about government cuts made the great statement to a journalist:

'We are a network of people who self-organise. We don't have a position on things. It's about empowering the individual to go out there and be creative'. She then said 'I am a spokesperson for myself'.*

Take the Square is a Twitter-based network inspired by the Arab Spring. They have been involved in the big protests in Madrid and Greece. Their idea is that a protest can start small, as it did in Egypt, but by the time it becomes so big it swamps a public space it is unassailable. (Not sure if these guys have heard of Tianamen Square). They planned a a world wide take-the-square revolution on 19 June. Hard to find out what happened. Here in Christchurch if you tried to Take the Square you would have to bust through the cordon, piss off the army and risk having earthquake debris fall on you. Big public spaces are a bit rare here.

Thing is, if we act for ourselves and speak for ourselves in protest, we can do lots of things. We can be flexible, creative, and inclusive. We can even have fun. Take the Critical Mass cycling jams for example. But can we change the world? Can we handle power? Would be becme victims of success if the system actually changed and some of us gained a seat at the table?

The other recent event that names this post is the death of the gorgeous Gil Scott-Heron. He was the father of rap among other things, a bluesman and a poet. He died in May. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is his most famous piece of spoken jazz. The revolution will not kill the germs that cause bad breath. CBS will not predict the results at 8.32. The revolution will not go better with Coke. It's all edge, all hope and despair, back in the early 1970's. Love it. Mean it.

Thing is, even back then i thought he was wrong. Back then i thought that for a start there was no point in having a revolution if it wasn't televised, you wave your placard for the cameras after all. i also thought, rather dimly in my youth, that the media already had it all sussed, and i was right. Consumerism is endlessly adaptive. The language of revolution and anarchy has been appropriated by hundreds of commerical images, from the poster of Omar Sharif as Che on the wall of the student flat, to the poster ad for the clothing shop that has women wearing the shop's clothes, posing para-military style in a jungle and Spanish viva! slogans in the background. The revolution meme is televised all the time.

My daughter once asked me if i was one of the first feminists. i laughed and said no, i was one of the last. What has happened to feminism? It is not finished, it has been hijacked. We feel like we've won when we can drink alcohol like men and fight like men and even have our own porn. When pop culture disses men as being childlike and impractical we can feel superior. But that's just the market, just how they want to sell shit to us, not how reality is for women or men, and not how women become themselves.

Of course everything is being televised all the time anyway, so the revolution is bound to be televised by default. Someone will catch even the tiniest revolution on CCTV or a cell camera. It is interesting that revolutionaries try so hard to be anonymous; a guide to living through the revolution has a large section on how to disguise yourself, especially online. Think of the Anonymous group. It's as if we think we are real people and not just faces on Zuckerberg's book. Somehow there is a need to be famous and private at the same time.

Gil Scott-Heron talks about the song, and i realise i am taking him too literally. He has had many years to think about it. He thinks that 'not be televised' means getting our heads right first, adjusting our attitudes, learning for ourselves. Yeah, can't argue with that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chch EQ poem

Earth, she is restless in her sleep.
Half-dreams a million tiny hurts,
and some very big ones.
Sobbing shakes her -
Frightened and frightening
she bursts into muddy tears.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Painful weight loss diaries

On Thursday i had lap band surgery. A silicon band like a cable tie was put around the top of my stomach, with a wire and a port placed underneath my skin. In about five weeks the will be inflated with saline. It will be adjusted over and over again until it leaves me able to eat half a cup of food three times a day without feeling hungry or interested in food. For another ten days or so i will be on liquids only, and then for two weeks i will be able to eat only mush. The last two days have been water only.

For the last three weeks i took some stuff called Optifast, a weight loss supplement, along with two cups a day of light vegetables. Nothing else. i lost 5 kilos. i kinda got the hang of it and didn't suffer too much. Two days before the surgery i cheated - i ate two and a half slices of luncheon sausage and afterwards i has visions of the surgeon finding the horrible things, completely undigested, still flattish and slightly curled at the edges, in my stomach, and he would be scathing. But that was my only cheat. i turned down fudge brownies and chocolates and fish and chips and actually felt the better for not eating them.

Before that i was seen by a dietician, an exercise consultant and a psychologist for assessments. I also saw the surgeon. All of this was under the private system, so it was in pleasant rooms with National Geographics, where i bet no one threw up in the water coolers. It's a a different world where you pay for stuff. And i paid all up about $20,000.

The operation was at a private hospital. i had an ensuite room to myself and the wards were named after the First Four Ships*. There was blonded wood panelling and rosy pink carpet. i have always been suspicious of luxury. It seemed to go well however, and i came out with five interesting incisions in my stomach, as if i had been in a sword fight.

Two days later i was wracked with pain, just trying to ride through each minute of the pain, bent over with it, and eventually i rang the surgeon. He arranged for my admission to the public hospital. i spent the next night in a ward that seemed to be for medical mysteries and seriously dying people. The surgeon saw to me even though it was the weekend, and ensured i got the best stuff - even a CT scan. But it was the public system all right - tatty, grubby, noisy. It struck me as ironic that i had paid all that money and then when it went wrong, it was the public system that bailed me out.

It was gas all along. They put CO2 in my stomach for the op, and i was constipated, and it was all just gas and shit. If i may quote Timon: 'With you, Pumbaa, it's all gas'.

Home one night and then yesterday we had a 5.5 earthquake. Things fell over and i felt a bit vulnerable being post-op and still sore and very gassy. Then the lactulose began to kick in. i was on the loo when the 6.0 earthquake struck. i was dethroned, and ended up on the floor, and the cistern lid came off and splashed water all over me and the room. i pulled my pants on and made my way through the laundry to the computer room, where i crouched behind a couch. The earth rocked on all that time.

The filing cabinet had fallen over and blocked my way out. My husband had to shift it single handed. We had intermittant power and no water for a while. The rest of the day we saw neighbours, and he picked things up, and i couldn't help much. It was deja vu all over again. The quake, the screaming, the sirens, then the liquefaction comes up from under next door's porch, and the traffic jam begins. There has been a lot more damage in the city. Again, we are lucky as hell.

So why have surgery for weight loss? i have had a BMI of 37. i have been unable to fix my head and shoulder pain through osteopathy and exercise. i have high blood pressure and the next thing will be cholesterol and so on. i come from a long line of little round people, but they often live a long time. If i live till 90, i need to be healthy enough to look after myself and to continue to be responsible. i have commitments to others, and it is important to me to be useful. Service and diligence are core virtues for me, despite their unfashionable status. So that is why.

There are some mental changes already. i think much less about food and if you gave me something large i don't think i could even consider it. i have had several dreams about not eating specific foods. i had one dream where i was at a feast, and was carrying food to be served. i ate 6 snow pea shoots. In the dream i chose the snow pea shoots. Weird as.

i figure the blogosphere is full of weight loss diaries so i will not add to them in any regular way. But it was for me a remarkable decision, and worthy of a post.

* The ships that brought the first main contingents of Pakeha settlers to Christchurch. Descent from these people still carries some weight here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Destroying Leibniz

On books, or even Books.

Here are some truisms: that writing down our thoughts changes them by making them permanent, that the written word has at times been too sacred to entrust to the non-cognoscenti, that some books are considered holy, that the invention of the printing press made mass social and political movements more accessible, that a literate population is a more involved one.

And some more: that knowledge moves faster than ever, that the wisdom of the ages weighs the same on line as Lindsay Lohan's driving record, that literacy involves more than than the written word, that major social movements erupt as fast as flashmobs.

People buy fewer physical books than they did. But the physicality of books is still appealing. i still own books from way back, even daft old things like the one that predicts that before the end of the twentieth century computers will make us rich and give us more leisure time. Many were bought second hand. Our dear old Smiths book shop is gone now of curse, but it really did have dusty shelves that reached to the ceiling, and triangular ladders, and tiny rooms on the third floor.

My daughter had an art project where she needed to juxtapose two unrelated themes, in her case books and rabbits. When she got a bit multi media she wanted her rabbit to leap out of the pages of a book, rip up the pages and go free. She needed a book.

We went through the most obscure shelves, and found book after book that we thought was too precious to rip up. We had almost decided that every book was in some way sacred, a talisman, a special expression of the ideas of a person, maybe from hundreds or even thousands of years ago. It seemed sacrilege. She was more reticent than i was - i have always been a bit of an iconoclast and i am defintely not a hoarder. But the deliberate destruction of a book is a serious matter. It is redolent of bad times for civil rights and freedom of thought. Remeber your Ray Bradbury. It took moral effort to choose a book. It was a little sacrifice - old art for new, the old permanence for the new ephemera. In the end we kinda took pot luck, and chose a pocket introduction to the work and life of Gottfried Leibniz. Leibniz was a 17th century philosopher and mathematician who among many things worked out the binary number system and was a pioneer of rationalism. i had had the book for decades and, i am ashamed to say, never read it.

She ripped up the book and the rabbit romped through it and out of it, and little traces of Liebniz's life and thought were spead around the art page. The rest of the book went in the recycling.

And, the thing is, if you want to know more aboout Liebniz you can just wiki him in thirty seconds.

Some minor updates - no more mice, Isis Fang was given some catnip versions to enourage her but she ignores those too. And today we had a 5.5 earthquake.