Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The best fun you can have standing up

Moshing is the best fun you can have standing up. For those who don't know what moshing is, it takes place in mosh pits at metal or punk concerts, or other concerts that are of the heavier sorts of music such as grindcore or crustpunk. You will see footage of people down the front near the stage, fighting and grappling and jostling and shoving and stage diving and dancing. Mostly they are young and male. There are pictures at the bottom of this post. It looks fierce because it is.

Earlier this year I went to see seminal death metal band Suffocation, from the US, and their excellent support band Decapitated from Poland. Also playing were local band Blindfolded and Led to the Woods. This was my first ever death metal concert. I was there in my borrowed Absu t shirt, black jeans and Docs, and prepared to rock out. The venue had a balcony at the back and I stood and watched the moshing below. Here are photos of the bands.

After a few minutes I figured it was governed by algorithms.

The flocking of birds (called, so beautifully, a murmuration in the case of crows) is governed by algorithms. There is no bird in charge, no bird says 'Hey guys., let's take to the skies'. Mathematical energy builds, and then the flock takes off. The mathematics governing steam arising from a cup of coffee is called Brownian Motion (a name which amused me greatly when I was about 11) and it is also an algorithm. The maths eludes me, and I wonder at times if the appeal of algorithms is just that it is so incredibly groovy and explains things in a manner that allows for heaps of fuzz and imagination. Like I don't know what fractals are, really, but they sure are pretty.

Regardless, it struck me that I could make sense of the mosh pit if I saw it as an entity in itself, rather than just a mass of individuals behaving strangely. I watched as it pooled and flowed, and grew and dispersed, and there seemed to be a core of people who were there all the time, and others who came and went around them like the arms of a whirlpool. Hold my bag, I said to my friends, I am going in.

Because I have a low centre of gravity (i.e. I am very short) I was able to work my way into the pit easily, basically by knocking out people's legs. All those sweaty young black clad bodies. The atmosphere was dense and wild. Soon I was in the thick of it, right up at the stage, in the jostling throng.At least, I jostled, and the young men jostled back, and then they looked down at me, and being decent fellows, decided they could not really knock me around any. That meant that I effectively shut down the mosh every time I shoved someone, so I stopped. Kind young men made way for me and I found myself jammed up against the stage. If you see footage of these gigs, there is always a row of people right up against the stage, throwing the Horns and head banging. That was me. I was flung right onto the amp, bashed by a tide of bodies; the tide would crash against me and I would shove it back in order to keep standing.

Now, my other reason for going in, apart from to investigate the notion of algorithms, was to consider the possibility that moshing could alter my state of consciousness. Rock gigs are magic. The energy created is literal magic and could be used by someone who knows their shit, I suspect. It certainly was a wonderfully visceral way of understanding the music, especially that of Decapitated, who just hurl forth into the ether this powerful grinding background bass reminiscent of Sibelius. I really like Decapitated! I enjoyed myself immensely. There was a highlight for me when the vocalist from Suffocation bent all the way down and shook my hand. But the coolest thing was when there was a bit of a quiet patch, and one of the young men next to me shouted to me that I was 'metal as fuck', which under the circumstances I take to be a compliment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

So much more POWER!

 I am longer be a style magnet, no longer adopting the cool repose and casual sang froid of a person who drives a Holden Statesman. I an ordinary driver again.

It was Arctic white, and looked clean even when it wasn't. It was so big you could accommodate a family of refugees in the boot, and I felt like I was piloting the Starship Enterprise when I was up front. It had so much torque I could pull out into tight traffic despite its size. It probably cost me $20 just to start it. It had leather seats and a Blaupunkt stereo and under the hood was .... well, who knows? It was all encased in boxes and big and clean and techy looking. And big. Like, big.

On the open road it was a dream. It was so elegant and so understated and yet so powerful it was like Coco Chanel meets Godz Fucking Zilla.  It would do 130 without even noticing. Actually at 115 a little bell would ring, and tell me I was over speed, but very politely, in the manner of a butler calling me to dinner. That was easily dealt with by turning the music up. It barely condescended to take corners at all, it just made the road in front of it as it travelled along, out of the wastes of nothingness, like God. It levelled hills and raised up valleys just as it pleased.

The only problem on the open road was the grinding frustration of everybody else. Why was everyone going so slowly? What the hell was wrong with them? Were they new? Were they stoned? Were they carrying the eggs of the incredibly rare short tailed bat, and therefor must not travel over 87 kms an hour or the eggs would explode? Were they trying to piss me off? It's only a bit of snow, for fuck's sake! Whaddya mean road works? Why do they call them road works when the road doesn't work? Ridiculous! The speed limit is 100. That means you have to do 100. Slow driving is not a virtue, it's just annoying. I will pass you. I will so pass you and you will not even notice until I totally own you. And so on and so on.

Meanwhile the Statesman would just calmly drive over them all, and leave them sweating, while I fulminated needlessly and played Deathcrush at full noise.

Mind you, for such a civilised car, the Statesman had one fault. It hated sports cars. Especially red ones and yellow ones with number plates like SAURON. When it saw one, a red film of fury would cloud its headlights and it would want to feel veins between its teeth. Once I parked it next to a little red convertible and when I got back it was snarling and frothing and I had to speak firmly to it. And one night, I pulled up a the lights beside a red Mazda thingie, and I was playing Finntroll loud of course, and I looked at him and he looked at me and I was like, I can so take you. We took off and were doing I don't know some mad speed and I really was all over him and then the lanes converged and I chickened out. But I could have had him. I could have! He was more agile but I had so much more POWER.

Driving the Statesman was like having sex wearing nothing but a fur coat. Yes, it was wildly indulgent and bad for the environment and a bit out of character, but OHHHHH!!!! Now I am back to the driving equivalent of a flannelette nightie. I miss it of course. I say things like, if I was driving the Statesman I would have been all over that bastard in that Land Rover sort of thing that cut me off, just because he drives a Land Rover, I would have so been all over him! ALL OVER HIM! Yes, says my passenger, soothingly, it's all right, I completely believe you.

Anyway, although my driving has not improved, I was probably more lethal behind the wheel of the Statesman than anything else I have driven. So the world is now a little safer, and has me to thank for it. You're welcome!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Since like poor Blanch DuBois I am now depending on the kindness of strangers, I am currently living in Stepford. As in wives. Here the elderly man across the road inspects his lawn for hours. I have always been opposed to lawns. Monoculture, environmentally disastrous, two dimensional. Don't get me started. The houses are all different and yet so thematically similar it is hard to distinguish them and I find myself consciously finding points of identification. Wild things, or even wildish things, do not survive here. It was days before I saw a cat. The hawk flying overhead finds itself mysteriously turned into a Maltese terrier and crashing to the ground.. Here the garages are huge and the dogs are tiny. I am the worst thing around. What is it about me that lowers property values by my mere presence?

It was about 11 am on a Sunday when my neighbour crossed the road approached me. He was wearing a dark blue suit and a yellow spotted bow tie, possibly home from church, so his dress sense was perhaps forgivable.* He introduced himself by name and said he had 'just a friendly request'. What is it about friendly requests? There is always some incipient threat. This is the friendly request. The next request might not be so friendly. It might not even be a request, but more of a demand. This, motherfuckers, is how wars start. So naturally I did not shake his proffered hand, nor did I give him my name, in case it may be used as evidence against me.

This was his friendly request. I park my very ordinary non cop magnet in fact painfully nondescript car outside the house on the street, as you do. He wanted me to move it. He said that when his wife brings her four wheel drive out of the garage the turn into the street is too tight for her, because my car is in the way. He suggested he park my car a little further up the street, and waved his arm to indicate this. Just up there a bit, you know, not so far really.

There were several things I did not say. I did not say, your wife's vehicle is not a real four wheel drive, it is a shiny red wankmobile incapable of genuine off roading. If she cannot turn into the street because there is something of reasonable size parked on the other side of it, perhaps she should drive something a little less ostentatious like, say, a fricken Lexus. I did not say that perhaps she could raise the issue with me herself, because if I said that I might undermine his sense of manhood and being in control of all the shit. And because perhaps the poor woman is scared of me. Or scared of him. Heaven knows, despite their immaculate lawn and the fact that he can spend ten minutes wiping a speck off the eponymous vehicle, they NEVER OPEN THEIR CURTAINS. So their poor kiddywinks are raised in darkness, and presumably they have something terrible to hide. So having compassion,  I pointedly, so pointedly, did not comment on his truly desperate tie. I did not offer to spit on his Beamer, because I know he loves it so and I am not cruel. Instead, I said I would consider it.

Well, I did consider it, and I now park a little further up so I am out of the way. As you can see above, I had many uncharitable and unworthy thoughts and I am afraid I could easily find this man risible and pathetic. I am not here long and probably will not get to know him. I resort to the broadest stereotypes in order to manage my annoyance. I am in my way as high handed as he is.

There is a lot to be said about developing the softer virtues such as mercy and love for the sake of ourselves, not for the sakes of the people around us who may or may not deserve it. I am beginning to work on a strange idea about equality here. I am not this man's equal. I am below him. In terms of social class I am certainly below him. I have also put myself below him by serving his purpose, and by offering him consideration freely. I am also potentially above him, because I have not engaged in a pissing contest, and I have stopped judging and stereotyping him.

The picture above, by the way, is from the movie Edward Scissorhands. Of course the suburb in that movie was a parody, and the suburb I live in is not like that. It has more beige.

*But not really.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


There are as many security guards as staff at my local Work and Income office. As I enter, I am asked for ID and checked against the list of people allowed in that day. I wait on a row of chairs. A woman is coughing and sneezing. Other customers are annoyed by this; they think she should not be there as she is clearly ill. A staff member comes to see her and tells her she cannot have money that day. She is angry and waves her arms around, and leaves. Already today the office has been locked down because of someone's violence. It leaves the staff edgy.

A screen plays videos on a loop. They advise me of the importance of being drug free, and they tell me motivating stories about how I might be able to find a job if I have the right education. They warn me that my child must be vaccinated for me to gain financial assistance. Kind looking people tell us that having a job will be good for us.

Already I have been to the seminar on registering. We were told all about Obligation Failures. If you don't come to your appointment, that is an Obligation Failure. If you don't come, that lets the whole side down. Only hospitalisation should dissuade you from your appointments. If your voicemail message is not positive and friendly, that is an Obligation Failure. If you cannot show that you are spending 30 hours a week job hunting, that is an Obligation Failure. If you fail a drug test, that is certainly an Obligation Failure. The penalty for Obligation Failures is that your financial assistance is docked by 50% until you do what they want you to do. If you persist with your Obligation Failure, you lose financial assistance altogether. Of course there are many Obligation Failures than I have mentioned here, and the system is slightly more labyrinthine regarding drug testing, but I have given a range of them with the aim of showing the tone of the Work and Income experience. We are also told about how small the amount of financial assistance is that we may actually get, and shown figures that are only slightly distorted, to prove this. Employment is so much better. Much, much better. You don't want to be on financial assistance. You can't live on it, don't think for a moment your life will be easy.

Work and Income is currently being restructured and the woman who delivers the seminar is clearly jittery. She even talks about how she may lose her job. Her jitters do not give her empathy. I'm not your PA, she says. I will contact your previous employer, but that is the last thing I will do for you.

So here I am two days post seminar. I am waiting to see this same woman. As I sit in front of her, she expresses disbelief at my situation, which is undeniably complicated. She tells me I may not be eligible for financial assistance; there may in fact be a further 13 week stand down.

Now, I used to have a little dog called Tigger. I would talk to him often, like this: Now Tigger, you know not to eat the cat food, you are a naughty Tigger, you need to be a good Tigger. And Tigger, being a dog with a vocab of about 15 human words, would hear this: Blah Tigger blah blah blah Tigger blah blah Tigger.....

In front of the Work and Income woman, I am reduced to a working vocabulary of 15 words. I hear no money, thirteen weeks stand down. Oh sure, there are other things. Like, I have appointments to see someone at another office in another town, and I have a seminar to attend on how to write a CV and another one on how to go to a job interview. And much of the information I carefully and expensively have gathered for her is actually not required. But my hippocampus has shut down. All I am is hard wired freaked out amygdaloid system. No money thirteen weeks. No money. Thirteen weeks. No money. Shit. Shit shit shitshitshit...........

I am trying not to cry. I shift in my seat, I stand up and sit down and even windmill a little. No way am I going to cry. I am crying anyway. I rummage through my bag and pockets. I can't find a tissue. Things spill out and I am too disorganised in my head to put them back in properly. Hell, I am actually whimpering. If I was young, male and Maori the security guards would be around me by now, as I am plainly 'agitated'. The woman avoids eye contact and enters my data. I suppose this happens to her several times a day. What might she be thinking? Best just to box on, really, if you buy into it they just get more upset and then there's no end to it, keep your own head above water, it's all you can do. Too wretched even to say thank you (for what?) I leave when she's finished and sit in the car and sob.

So, hey, I have been a part of the precariat for some time now, living partly off grid. Now I have a system interested in the minutiae of my life. They also expect me to be wired for them for life. Everything is done online and a taxing degree of computer literacy is required. For those without such skills and without internet, which is often poorer people over 45, people who have been in institutions a lot, or the homeless, Work and Income must be an impossible place. They have no free wi fi for example; I have to pay for data to show the staff the information they require. Note: they require. I am only paying for data because they need it, and therefore so do I. They require in my case travel between towns to attend two offices. And for me to own a printer to see evidence of job hunting. And a positive attitude. They tell me I will go a long way with a positive attitude. Perhaps I will try it some time.

I am lucky I am not a real beneficiary. I am only a gentlewoman in reduced circumstances. I don't rage and flip desks and demand attention. I delay gratification in a genteel if slightly shabby fashion.  My phone still works. There is money on my bus card for travel.  I still have good work clothes, which they tell me I must wear in case they send me to a job Right Now (sure, honey). I even own a car, which they have not required me to sell even though I can no longer really afford to run the damn thing. I do not have a disability or a mental illness or a background that makes understanding the world around me difficult and traumatising. I can read and write and 'give a good account of myself', as they say. I am lucky. I really am.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

If I was a gun

If I was a Star Wars character, I would be R2D2. I have a thing for R2D2 as I see myself as small, brave, clever and cheerful.

If I was a gun....

I used to see guns as requiring Great Moral Seriousness. Because they, like, kill people. And it is Ok to kill an animal, but only if you intend to eat it and only if you are grateful for its life and understand the place both you and the other animal have in the Great Circle of yada yada yada.

Now that I have actually fired guns, I just want to make things go bang.

I was out in a forest with my friend and learning about his guns by firing them across a river.

First I fired a .22 and it was a snippy little high tech thing, and it had a silencer, and I figured it was kinda cool but it would take me a while to get on side with.

Then I fired a Magnum 44. A Dirty Harry gun.

I was in love just looking at it, so beautifully made. When I fired it I was so excited I literally jumped up and down. It was noise and the power and the smell and the bang and the zing and the sense and the everything. It was the most awesome thing in the world.

If I was a gun, I would be a Magnum 44. A short, intense little shit kicker of a gun. That's me.

I was then offered the possibility of firing more powerful guns. This is a thought that is both thrilling and sobering. Because knowing me as I do, I suspect I am only slightly more lethal behind the sights of a gun than I am behind the wheel of my Holden Statesman.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hi, I'm.....

Back when I was a respectable person with a job and money etc I would get to go to training sessions or conferences, and there would be name tags with things like

'Hi, I'm...'

and you are supposed to put your name on them. Back then I would refuse to wear one in order to show I was capable of minor rebellion. Recent events have shown I am in fact capable of major rebellion. So if I am ever again in a position to go to training sessions or conferences I will write other things on my name tag.

Here are some ideas:

Hi, I'm...
An innocent bystander.

Hi I'm....
The Doctor's new Companion.

Hi I'm....
Devastated. Just devastated.

Hi I'm...
Not really here.

Hi I'm...
His lovely assistant.

Hi I'm....

Hi I'm...

Feel free to add to these.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This is a poem about prison


gut me
strew me
in wet strands across the dark beach.
My last breaths come through my ears,
like blood,
like brain.
There is the desperate stillness of celluloid here,
the sky a hung screen.
At last the rain begins
and my eyes run with this black blood -
or tears,
or just mascara.
I turn over and my hips scrape pits in the damp gravel.
I see you in the shadows, a dark shimmer, an unnatural lambency, an occlusion.
Are you coming towards me?
Or are you walking away?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015



Damnat, little fawn, Lily of the Fire,
First refugee of Monaghan,
Fled her father,
Went to Gheel
And worked miracles. 

She was only little still
When her father killed her,
But her spirit caught flame, and its bright shadow sheltered 
Those of us in search of healing. They
Are Monaghan's refugees too, they
Follow her journey and rest under her.

The old kings of Oriel fought each other, 
And then they fought the English,
And then they died,
And then they left. 

Now there are new kings,
And they fight each other,
And they fight the English,
And they die.
And they leave.

It's not their fault. 
Their graves are too shallow. They
Never touch the dark bones of karst, even in death, they
See the stones but not the grass, they
Watch the rain and it hurts them, makes them hard.

I want them to find their way to shelter.
A little fawn awaits them in a magical green clearing.
She believes them, all the bad things they don't talk about, she believes them.
Her milky purity is all she needs to heal them. 
She awaited their ancestors, but they never came either. 

Go on then,do it hard, like they've done for centuries. 
Leave Monaghan, find it all out for yourself.
It's there is Belgium, Brooklyn, Christchurch - 
It's there in the clearing too.

So, the references. Damnat is an older name of St Dymphna, who was the child of a pagan father and a Christian mother. Her Christianity is emphasized of course, but I see her as a more complex figure who straddles two cultures and two beliefs. Her father either wanted to commit incest with her or did so, and she fled with her retainers to Gheel in Belgium, where she worked miracles.Her father found her and killed her, and she was only 15 when she died. She founded a hospital for the mentally ill, and she is the saint for the mentally ill, victims of incest, runaways, and psychiatrists and psychologists (and probably social workers!) Damnat and Dymphna mean little fawn. She was also known as the Lily of the Fire, for her sexual purity. 

Oriel is the old name for a more or less legendary kingdom which took in most of Ulster. The McMahons were its main clan and they were a great thorn in the side of the English, as they lived close to the Pale. 

County Monaghan has suffered great losses through wars, the famine and the resulting diaspora, and now the Troubles of course. I saw Damnat as a refugee who made good, and thought about the whole Irish tradition of leaving and making good elsewhere, after terrible loss and suffering. And yet there is healing in the land, if only they could see it.