Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's your attitude

As the marmite crisis deepens here in Kiwiland, i face a new issue.

You may know i have a little dog called Tigger. i love him. He is 13 years old and has numerous health problems, but he still gets to potter in the park and frolic on the lawn and he manages with four different medications, all old people's meds - diuretics and ace inhibitors and analgesics.

Recently he has become more and more fussy about how he takes his meds. For a while i could just push it into his food, but then i had to crush and grind and mix. i think if i am murdered in my bed the CSI will come and wonder why there are traces of all sorts of medications under my finger nails. Anyway, Tigger even stopped taking the meds crushed and disguised and was refusing to take anything at all. The vet nurse suggested ..... a marmite sandwich.

Marmite is a salty extract of yeast which is used as a spread or a flavouring for soups. It is unique to New Zealand although there are variations in other parts of the colonies eg Vegemite in Australia. The factory making the stuff was munted during the earthquakes, and since then the nation has faced a shortage. Now, Marmageddon has become a bit of an internet meme and jars of marmite sell on trading sites for hilarious amounts. Personally i think it's time for an ethnic food riot. Recently there have been food riots in response to collapsing economies. In Mexico there have been tortilla riots, and in Israel there have been, of all things, cottage cheese riots. Cottage cheese is a staple in Israel. We haven't had a good ethnic food riot in New Zealand for ages, and it is high time we hit the streets.

Well, i scraped out the dregs of the marmite from the jar, and someone very kindly donated me the last of hers. What community spirit there was. No doglet left behind.

Then he refused his marmite sandwiches. He was able to taste the medications even through the marmite. He would just stare at the sandwich and then trot outside.

Tigger, Tigger, Tigger. This is not what made our country great. This is not keeping calm and carrying on. This is not what we withstood ten thousand earthquakes for. This is not how we fought the Hun. It's not good enough. It's your attitude, boy.

And then, earlier in the week, i was stopped by the police for going through an orange light, and fined $150. i was mortified. The cop was quite brusque and i felt i was being Made An Example Of.

My driving isn't the best. i have a sort of inner Stig. The speed limit is a guide for beginners. Speed bumps are for getting air. Certain music, such as Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E Flat, or American Idiot by Green Day, sends me inexorably up to 70 k's. i also tend to set up a running commentary which can be disconcerting for passengers. Probably the worst thing i ever said while driving was 'Where's the road?' My husband the Archduke Piccolo says i have always driven cars like i stole them, it's just now i'm getting caught. My daughter thinks my driving is actually worse as i age.

When the cop pulled me over i thought maybe i could cry. i thought maybe i could say i had an Important Job, and that i was travelling with documents and confidential files for the hospital (that was true), and i even wondered about using Femine Wiles, whatever they are. i thought of saying, good heavens, i did go through the orange light, but whether i could stop safely is pretty darned subjective. i don't mind a fair cop. i work with the police often enough, there is no need to be unpleasant. It's your attitude, mate.

There was a small ray of light, however. As i sat in the car waiting for the police officer to check my details i saw a poster for a gig for Plasticine Heroes, who are playing the Dux on 6 June.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Playlist for the Y

For a lazy hypothyroidic slob like me, the key to a good workout is music. Preferably loud and fast.

It has its pitfalls. One is the risk of singing. This would not be a good look. Another pitfall i discovered is that if i close my eyes for too long on the treadmill, something unfortunate happens to the space time continuinuinum and i fall off the end. i think i either go through a worm hole or stop running, whichever is most likely.

Here is a rough playlist. With commentary.

MC5: Kick out the Jams. Gosh, it was easy to shock people back then.

Bailter Space: Grader Spader. Lovely cacophony.

Led Zeppelin: Rock and Roll. Partly because of remembering when i first heard it. You may know i come from a small town that boasted only one heavy metal band, called Sacred Morgue. When i was 15 i stayed in a sort of commune. My parents would have been horrified. The guys there were hip beyond belief. They were so hip they made their own guitars and never washed. i was way out of my depth. Of course i got totally sick, shat in the bath because the long drop was beyond contemplation, sat outside in the dark on the lawn gazing up at stars the size of dinner plates, listened to Led Zep 4.

Cairo Knife Fight: Big Face. Yeah i know, latest kiwi indie band, but whatever, fun.

The Black Keys: Gold on the Ceiling. Just nice loping rhythms, bringing me nicely to:

The Dead Weather: I Cut Like a Buffalo. Deceptively fast. Good for cycling.

Mariam and Amadou: Unissons from their Welcome to Mali album.  Warm and charming music from the Sahel, and i imagine people dancing and happy and united.

My Chemical Romance:  Poison Party, Planetary (Go) and Vampire Money from their Danger Days album. Gerard Way can do no wrong, for a start. Gerard Way can sing 1234 and make it sound significant. Once you hear me on that, you realise this is not just teenage trash of the first water. This is a very bitter and sophisticated album and great to move to. Vampire Money for example is their not so loving tribute to glam rock, channelling in the process The Sweet, Beck and (shudder) Twilight all in one verse. You probably have to be my age to appreciate it all. They also do Desolation Row better than Dylan, but then so do lots of people. Do Dylan better than Dylan.

Flux of Pink Indians: Sick Butcher. Thrashy little vegan number.

The Village People: YMCA. Oh the irony.

Tool: The Pot, and Rosetta Stoned. i do like Tool partly because of Danny Carey's preturnaturally fucking fast drumming. There is nothing like going fast as on the cross trainer, listening to Rosetta Stoned thunderously probing the arse of some poor guy's psychotic break, while on the silent TV screen in front of me there is some cooking show, and a viscous crimson liquid is being poured with precision onto a white plate, like some sort of visceral yet post modern and oddly sterile blood sacrifice.....

Time for warm downs. And jumping around in the locker room if there's no one to see me, and shower, and home.

Friday, May 11, 2012

On death and dying and the Mongrel Mob

You may know i spend a bit of time in cemeteries. Peraps that is why i noticed two recent minor news stories that were televised here, about death, grief and reverence.

The first was about the headstone of the grave of James Kingi, member of the Mongrel Mob gang. There had been objections to the city council about this headstone, which carried Mongrel Mob insignia. A woman whose relative was buried next to James felt the headstone was offensive. The council was considering a bylaw against offensive headstones.

Well, as a keen cemetery walker i could get offended about quite a few things. i object to vulgar and maudlin displays of sentiment for a start. It's just not Ango Saxon to festoon graves with cheap garden ornaments from big box stores, and soggy teddy bears (don't get me started on soggy teddy bears), and masses of artificial flowers that spill onto other people's grave sites. i am also not keen on mawkish, grammatically unique, overly personal poetry. i don't particularly like photographs, partly because they deteriorate over time and end up looking beige and weird. i even have my reservations about some of the themes i see as grave site art develops past the old school conventions of  'loved father of...' , or the Bible quotes. i have noted that the statements on graves about women stick to their relationships, whereas those of men often mention their hobbies or sports either in text or with a picture. i think in the end being defined by the fact you liked fishing is a limiting and impersonal as 'now in the arms of Jesus'. In the end, who cares about whether or not you played golf? i think about my mother's funeral, and how inadequate i felt as i tried to describe her life in ten minutes. She loved her garden. She played the recorder rather well. None of it touches on how her life streamed through time and streamed through my own life, and what she took with her when she died and what she left behind for us. The Mongrel Mob insignia on James Kingi's grave seems rather petty in comparison.  It is as adequate an expression of his life as anything else.

The other story was about the funeral of young Troy Kahui. His friends showed the proper respect by doing burnouts in their cars outside the funeral home. Police were called and the young friends were arrested for endangering the public. Troy's mother, not a car enthusiast herself, was disappointed with the Police response. She felt his friends were giving him the sendoff he would have wanted.  She was right.

What is reverence? It is one of the most mysterious and beautiful virtues, and one of my favourites. Reverence is full of surprises. It hides in plain sight. It is wonderfully accessible and yet often missed.

A defintion comes from The Virtues Project:

'An awareness of the sacredness of life. Living with wonder and faith. Having a routine of reflection'.

In our society public grief is very limited, if you want to be socially acceptable. And we have little sense of the liminal - few rites of passage for example. So we can undergo our death rituals with not even a sniff of reverence, and we barely notice.

A young man dies of cancer. His funeral is large, as they usually are for the young, and mostly the preserve of the family. Lots of aunts, lots of hugs, little cousins, sandwiches, the crematorium booked for an hour and the next funeral party waiting as everyone leaves. At the 'after party' some uncles get ridiculously drunk, and there are more little cousins twirling in their fairy dresses.

Blessed reverence comes to his friends the next night. They meet up more or less accidentally. They light a fire on the beach where he used to surf. They smoke probably too much pot and cry more than they expect. They talk about him, only a little, but they feel his life as it streamed through time, as it streamed through their lives, and they feel it streaming still.

Friday, May 4, 2012

We will always love her no matter what

In the universe next to ours, a woman emails her sister:

Hey, sis, good to hear from you.

Have you seen Elyse lately? I wondered if she talked to you. Did you know what's been happening at our place? You will have to tell me you are surprised. Elyse came out as straight. So our household has been in a bit of an uproar.

Well, of course we are supportive. Debs and I are very conventional parents but we have always supported our daughter's choices and we will always love her no matter what. We may express concern, that's what mums do, but we will always support her. And she is a good kid, we just never saw this coming.

I guess there were some signs. She never took much interest in other girls and when she was about 13 she had a crush on a male teacher, but that's no big deal, it's just experimentation. Even now at 16 I wonder if she's just playing with the idea. Like, she says down at the skating rink some of the girls like it when girls kiss guys, it makes the girls seem hot apparently. A bit of gender bending seems fashionable these days, I don't know.

And I must admit I don't really like that word straight. Why not just say heterosexual; it's accurate. Straight used to mean something, like a straight line, now you can't say straight line without it being some sort of double entendre. They've taken a perfectly good word and made it unusable, for political purposes. And some of it just political, it's a way of protesting or something, which is fair enough I guess when you're young, but really you don't want to take it up for ever.

And yes, she has a little boyfriend. Jacob. We've met him. He's quite sweet really and seems a bit overwhelmed. I wonder what his parents must be thinking.  Then I think, perhaps I should just look in a mirror.  Of course I am not letting them in her room with the door shut. Debs disagrees, she thinks they are of legal age and we can't stop them, and she also says would I feel the same way if Jacob was a girl and I don't know, honestly, it's just that I have to have a say in what goes on in my own goddam home. Debs has always been more liberal than me.

We are liberal mums. We have never allowed heterophobic language in our house even when the kids joke about it. We want the best for our girl. It's just that life is so hard for these straight people. They do get discriminated against and stereotyped. Elyse's school has a support group for straight teens run by a straight teacher and that's OK,  I hope she gets involved with him. I guess. But they have a higher rate of bullying at school and they kill themselves more often, all the stats say so, they have more mental health issues, there's more pressure, and the straight lifestyle isn't always the best, let's face it. I know I sound prejudiced but I'm not. I just want Elyse to have the same life chances as everyone else. I don't want her in some straight pigeon hole living with a bunch of people who, let's be honest here, just breed.

I know the breeding label is a stereotype and there are plenty of straight people who are very good parents, but I just grieve when I think of what Elyse might have to go through. For a start there's the constant thing of trying not to breed, well, not to get pregnant, it's just plain unnatural all those pills and things they have to take. And straight people, especially the young ones, they just pop kids out and then they can't take the consequences. The kids end up in welfare care and it's all grief, and then the little idiots have another one because they just can't help themselves. And they tend to be promiscuous, I know Elyse would never be like that, but she will be around people who just impregnate each other for fun. It's not natural and the social cost is too high. I'm sorry but I really just disapprove.

Debs and I are conventional, I know. But we thought hard about having Elyse, we got to know her bio-dad really well, we knew all about her before she was born, we knew what we were doing and dammit we have been good mums to her. Well, we thought we knew what we were about. Maybe we didn't. She's been a  great kid, this is the first curve ball she's ever thrown us, but it's a biggie.

So sis, your big sister needs some support herself now I guess, wish me luck, help me and Debs through this one.

Love,  Claire