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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

HOW I TOOK *THE PUNGENCY*


Alerted by my young friend R, who is hip to these things, I decided to take the risk and drink THE PUNGENCY.

So, with a name like that, and with the beautiful cursive writing in gold and the little royal label, what would I get? I considered something of a mix of ayhuasca, DMT, Fentanyl and the hallucinogenic Lovecraftian language Aklo. Pungent indeed.

Since this looked like magick to me, I spoke to the bottle very seriously. I asked it to give me the stamina of a young werewolf, the vision of a shaman, and the genitals of Messalina. I read the instructions. I shook the bottle. I drank thereof.

THE PUNGENCY  is a form of sweetened milk tea made by Japanese beverage giant Kirin and retailing for $3.49 at Countdown supermarket. It tasted like a form of sweetened milk tea made by Japanese beverage giant........oh never mind.

Next time I get excited by Engrish, I will be sensible enough not to actually purchase anything.

Monday, July 3, 2017

HOW I BECAME THE LUCKIEST PERSON IN THE WORLD


It was raining messily and the day had already lost the will to live even at 1 pm. I was driving south, and rounded a bend and started down the hill when I saw the diesel spill. I slowed, but hit it and fish tailed several times before I spun out and to the left. The car jumped the ditch and leaped through the fence, and landed in the soggy field, facing the wrong way. The engine was still on. The music was still playing. I turned it all off and got out.

A group of people had gathered, including the truckie whom I would have hit if I had veered right instead of left. So I stood in the field in the rain, and spread my arms wide, and declaimed, 'I am the luckiest person In The Whole World!!' 

A woman came towards me, tears on her face. 'I want to give you a hug!' she cried. We hugged. And they gave me a lift to Springs Junction, a glorified truck stop, where there was cell coverage, and I talked to the tow company, and they went to get the car and got the tow truck stuck in the field and had to be towed out, and they put the car up on the hoist and declared it fit to drive. So I drove home just before they closed the pass because of snow.

My car is a deliberately ordinary Toyota Corolla. It is an ex rental with high mileage and few extras. I love it. It just goes. It is called Fenriz. Fenriz is the giant wolf in Norse mythology. He is the son of the god Loki and a giantess, and he grew so big all the gods feared him. In the end he was tricked by them, and he was chained up until Ragnarok and the end of the world. My car is only indirectly named after the wolf, though. Mostly it is named after Fenriz the drummer for the Norwegian Black Metal band Darkthrone. This is Fenriz. He was accidentally elected to his local town council, partly on the strength of the photo below. He doesn't look like much, but he is a legend in the metal world. Fenriz has contributed more to the BM world than just about anyone. He is a complete metal geek who is so badass he writes his t's as little upside down crosses. I liked how my ordinary little Corolla just does the shit, like its namesake.

Image result for fenriz darkthrone

Fenriz the car has its name in runes tucked into the console on a piece of cardboard. Here they are above. The runes say FENRIZ. I put them there when I began to need the car more for driving between all my various work places. I did not exactly think they would bring the car good luck, but they showed my care for the car. During the accident, the runes stayed in place, when everything else flew around the car like paper in a wind storm.

Did the runes keep me safe? Did they mitigate the accident? Why didn't they stop the accident occurring? Did they do anything at all? Am I in fact the luckiest person in the world, because I survived almost uninjured and could drive away? Or am I unlucky because I had the accident in the first place? What is luck anyway?

The Norse had a concept called orlog, which is destiny, but not necessarily in a fatalistic sense. We can accept or fight our orlog, but it will run through us anyway. In old English it is called a geas, and I suppose it links to karma or the idea of spiritual consequence. I doubt that the accident was predestined. Luck is something that happens retrospectively; it is recognizing patterns after events. We can only say that things come in threes, for example, after the third thing has happened. And it is subjective, of course, I could have seen myself as unlucky and that may even have been more realistic, but instead I was jubilant about being alive. You can't make your own luck, you can only see events through the chosen filters of the past.  

The day after, the adrenalin wore off. Poor Fenriz was dented all over and had lost a wing mirror. I was broke and facing the expensive car repairs. I no longer felt so lucky. But Fenriz keeps on cheerfully going, and so do I.
 




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

PUBLIC SPACES

Image result for library images

When you google images of libraries this is what you get. Books. Quaint, huh.

It is has been a long month and here we are just past the Winter Solstice. We alternate between a week of rain and low cloud, and several days of hard frosts. It's tough out there.

In the public library (extraordinary that there are still such things!) there are indeed books, but there is noise and stress and complexity. Some people browse or study, but mostly they are using free wi fi or waiting to use the desktop computers. There is a booking system. Today I am getting graphic novels and browsing the shelves, but in stranger times I have been there for the warmth and the free wi fi. So I know what these guys are doing. They are applying for financial assistance, job hunting, or trying to get something out of the welfare system, whatever department it might be. Government is proud of being e-government. Some departments have no phone system or offices. Everything has to be done online. Not easy when you have no wi fi in your boarding house or garage, wherever it is you camp out these days. Even harder when you are homeless. No wonder the atmosphere is a bit tense. There are probably deadlines to meet. Apply for this by the end of today, or risk losing your benefit. If the computer is booked out, you have a lot to lose.

All this is probably tough on the library staff, who are not trained in crisis work or calming and de-escalation. One of them, a small plump middle aged woman, was doing just that. She said to the large young man, well, that is your choice (When I hear the word choice, I reach for my gun), if you want to behave that way, I am afraid you will have to leave. Oh come on, he replies, every time you cough everyone can fucking hear you. Well, she says, that is your choice, you will have to, now, thank you, thank you for that, yes, thank you. And she walked away.

So, that was weird and for me almost contextless, but I noted something I have considered before. It is the use of thank you. Thank you does not mean thank you. It means I am scared of you but I am obliged to be polite. It means good bye, leave now, if I am thankful for anything it is the space you leave behind. In other words, you can fuck right off. It is remarkable how we thank people for nothing, or for merely doing their jobs, or for not being there. Thank you is a term almost too diffuse for meaning.

I got my graphic novel and went to the shopping maul to read it with a coffee. A man came into the food court. He carried a sleeping back and a back pack. He was very warmly dressed. (With these guys, you ask them to take their jacket off to have a look at their wounds. They take off their jacket. And then their other jacket. And then their three sweaters and their two tee shirts and finally you have an arm to examine.) He circled the food court for a minute or two, and then he sat down at a table where there was an abandoned styrofoam container. He opened it. He ate from it. Then, he spat in it, closed it up, and left.

It was the spitting that made me wonder. It was so contemptuous. It was as if he was befouling it. Was he making sure no one else would benefit from it - that if anyone else ate from it they would be dirtied by it? I know that there can be fierce rivalries among the homeless, for resources, especially sleeping places. Was he showing some sort of inchoate contempt for the situation - the bright lit shopping maul, the plastic food, the raw injustice?

I felt slightly derealised as I drove home. Observing is not connecting. I had witnessed two incidences of behaviour I found myself working hard to explain. For a few minutes, the street scenes around me looked hyper real, drawn flat and vivid, like my graphic novel. Car lights seemed multi coloured and far too bright, alarming, urgent. Observing is not connecting. Observing is two dimensional. I had no obvious means of connecting with either of these incidences. Just left wondering.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

100 WORDS

  • The music was always so bright it hurt, and she would put her headphones on
    when she entered. She would dance, gently building her own small world,
    dreaming colour, the disco lights singing like people, the Macarena moving
    around her
     
     Image result for bad conga line dancing
     
    She saw him there often. Big glasses, big grin, skinny, fronting the conga line,
    making the support workers laugh. For once, in both their lives, he truly saw
    her. He was brave enough to come to her, and she was brave enough to notice.
    She turned her face up, and his kiss was as light and sudden as her heart.
     This 100 word piece was for a competition with the Readers' Digest, and I did not hear back from them at all even to let me know they had received my entry. So I figure it is mine to use as I choose, and it is my second piece of writing about the lives of people with disabilities.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

We are Union - sort of

Image result for worker new zealandImage result for worker new zealandImage result for worker new zealand

To the tune of 'We will rock you', fifty women thump their thighs and chant 'We are, we are union'.
Where am I? Training to be a union delegate.

My first training was a day of empowerment for women delegates. The union I belong to represents many different industries, from aged care to aircraft engineers, but many of us work in precarious, low paid low status, female dominated industries such as support work, caregiving and process work. Union membership is fairly low. We are in too much of a state of permanent sleep deprivation to be 'woke'. This training was an attempt to bring on women workers.

It was an odd mix of Rosie the Riveter and standard self improvement schtick. We watched a Ted Talk by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook whose net worth is 1.6 billion, talking about why there are so few women at the top and - I dunno I can't remember - how you have to believe yourself and then you can do anything, or something, whatever. There were some bonding exercises and talks by union leaders and the local mayor, who was inspirational until she was asked about pay equality for her own staff, when she became strangely evasive. Many of the women there saw themselves as outspoken and strong, and described numerous scraps with difficult bosses.

We did a bit of getting into small groups and talking about the barriers to leadership for women, and many of the groups felt that the biggest barrier was motherhood. Not capitalism or patriarchy or equality. Motherhood. One woman told a story that was held up as inspirational. In order to make ends meet, she worked long night shifts at a factory some distance from home. This meant she could not have her child living with her, and so she arranged a kind of child swap with her brother. This was seen as a fine example of how women adapt and stay strong. Except during the tea break, she started to cry, remembering how much she had missed of her child's growth, how hard it was, how little sleep she had, how much she needed to connect with this daughter who had somehow become primary school dux, seemingly with no influence from her hard working, inspirational mother.

Motherhood is where the heart is. Motherhood is where it hurts.

Next up, was a forum for delegates. By this time I had been involved in some disciplinary action for a workmate, which fortunately was resolved well, and several small spats about rostering and hours of work with management, so I was hoping to learn some skills. What I got was talks from union leaders and politicians, some ideas about how to persuade people to join the union, and some truly disturbing stuff about how some working people think.

Truth is, they are desperately conservative. At the beginning of the forum we were asked to place marbles in jars which were labelled with issues, in order to find out what were the most pressing issues for us. The top issues were:
- decent wages
- affordable housing
- better health care
- better education system
- fair economic system

Broader social and systemic issues, such as the environment, did not feature. Fair enough, people want the best for themselves and those close to them. Then when we got talking about the reasons for the problems, people's conservatism let rip. Migrants are the problem. They take our jobs, and then they do them poorly. The jabber away in their own language, and don't you just hate that. They should learn our ways, because they are in our country now. Mind you it's not their fault; the government shouldn't let them all in. They can get away with murder. And so on. It was the kind of language I left home to avoid, and I never expected to hear it again in any open forum.

Previously the union leader had talked about migrant workers, and he pitched it carefully. He saw migrant workers as vulnerable to exploitation, and felt they should be unionized. He also saw the need for balance between support for migrant workers, and support for those New Zealanders needing decent employment. I agreed with him. But the mood on the floor was very different, openly xenophobic and, well, conservative.

It was equally conservative when it came to the idea of jobs. While people condemned the increasing casualization of work and low pay rates, they did not link these problems with the rise of the precariat and the gig economy. They wanted steady paid employment, what used to be called real jobs, and to be paid better and have better conditions for what they already did. Which was working for a boss, for a wage, selling labour. I felt that these largely older, Pakeha working people were in the eye of a storm, racing around trying to save their possessions, unaware that part two of the storm was about to sweep them all away. The generations after them are Uber drivers and sub contractors and agency workers. They don't hustle to keep in place, they hustle to get anything at all. 

I was disturbed by the conservatism and rank populism. I had entered a world devoid of theory or even context; everything came down to personal stories and matters of taste. It was reactionary. And I think it is dangerous - while it would be naive of me to expect a room full of activists, I had hoped to see something of the genuine Left in actions, and I didn't. Without the coherence that theory provides, this kind of populist conservatism lacks discernment and opens itself to anything that appears to offer tangible goodies. There are very good reasons for this, and I understand how people can become depoliticized through sheer exhaustion. But on the day, I went away too depressed to care.



Monday, March 13, 2017

ON HUNTING


I will not complain. I will not look too grateful when they slow down and suggest a breather that is clearly for my benefit. I will keep up. I will not say things like just leave me here to die. I will be grim of purpose and clear of eye. I will not pee down my leg and come out of the thicket all damp. I will carry my share. I will not say nerdish things about bird life that show me up as someone who has read books but never been anywhere.
It is OK going in, and up. Crossing the river and wandering along the banks is pleasant. We don’t even get any shots off, because there are other people in the area. There are no goats, not even spoor, and few prints except for possums. Going down again is harder on the body and treacherous with it. Here the track is as wide as my boot.  Someone says, I’m glad I didn’t bring my son, he would have got too scared. One slip down the bank and you’re dead in the river.
The world closes in. Through a brown tunnel I see a mere circle of grass and stones. I drop down and work my way crab wise along the bank. I can hear the river running and my heaving breath.  You have lost the track, someone says gently. If you put your foot back down a bit you will find it. What track, I think stupidly. All I can see is where I will put my next limb, as I am now on all fours. It is like looking through a telescope. You’re beginning to panic, someone says. Yes, thank you. I keep going.
These are good guys. They don’t crowd me and they don’t say anything sentimental or encouraging. They don’t distract me. They just wait and lend me their presence. After all, if I fall I die. They can’t save me.
They are also kind enough not to say anything afterwards. I’m shaking as I walk out. The mind has maxed out the credit card of the body.  


Monday, February 20, 2017

YOUR LIFE IS ENTIRELY UNATTRACTIVE, AND I SHARE NONE OF YOUR VALUES

 Image result for wise woman

https://medium.com/@DaleBeran/4chan-the-skeleton-key-to-the-rise-of-trump-624e7cb798cb#.2wejyctrb

This is what our children are saying to us.

Your life is entirely unattractive to me, and I share none of your values. Look at you. You are exhausted and fat and you dress like shit. What you see as decades of service and caring, I see as a decaying mess of passive aggressive weak kneed liberal cowardice. You preach tolerance only because you're too tired to hate. You squandered the education you got for free. You sold the environment down the river and then you pretend to care by buying expensive laundry detergent. The cultural gulf between us is wider than that between that of the baby boomers and their parents. You invented post modernism and then you fail to understand the irony of our situation. You even mopped up all of the decent drugs. And you are only protesting now because you are in fact deeply conservative. You have nothing I want. The world gives me nothing. I will take what I want, even as I know I don't want it. You dare to be upset because I voted for Trump, or posted a Nazi meme, or parted my hair to the side? Don't even try. Don't talk to me, don't lecture me and don't make out you know anything. You need more than a weatherman to tell you how the wind blows.

And maybe we say in return, something like this.

When you come out of prison you will have a roof over your head, and the only reason you got half release last time was because of my support. You can spend your life in your room gaming because I work two jobs. You can do your umpteenth useless little course in web design because I paid the fees. You know why I will never drive through Paris with the warm wind in my hair? You, my darling. And yes, some things I do get, for a cultural diet rich in irony. Yeah, Pepe the Frog is not really a Fascist icon, except when he is. Clever. And suicide is heroic -  research the Suicide club in early nineteenth century London, and you will realize that entitled, idle angry young men have a long history of idiosyncratic protest. And your reclamation of terms - failing is winning, a basement dweller is a term of respect, fighting for social justice is wrong. We did that too, we took words like queer and fat and made them our own. I was there, remember.  I took you to demonstrations. I came out to you. I planted trees with you. I stayed awake for you and thanked the cops when they brought you home. But you were always angry and you always struggled and I grieved because I gave you a life that is sometimes too hard. I may be no great role model, but beneath the tiredness and ignorance, there is love. And love is always strong.

So, above, two images. The picture is roughly the model of the wise woman in medieval Germanic society. The link is for an article about the relationship between 4Chan and the rise of the 'alt right' among young people. It is worth a read, although I am sure the young people in my life would disagree fiercely with it. I continue to try to understand the world around me as it shifts. One day I may have a proper idea. For now, this will have to do.




Sunday, January 29, 2017

AN AGE WORTHY OF EXCLAMATION MARKS! THE HOMUNCULUS

 Image result for homunculus

In many of my blog posts I take disparate ideas and random facts and try to put them together in unusual ways. I see the world as glorious chaotic play. Any sense I make of it is mine for the hell of it. I draw the longest bows, quite unashamedly, linking the cake on my bedside table as a child to Mithraic bull sacrifices, for example. I have no real sense of scale, I'm afraid. I know there are the biggest ideas that humans are capable of, and I also know there are these tiny bursts of intuition, and for me both are valuable. Wisdom, which I primarily seek at this stage of my life, is everywhere. In order to be at all productive, I need to stop it flooding me as I stand in the stream of all that humans have thought, and felt, and dreamed, and feared.

Understanding the current sociopolitical situation is tough going and I feel a sense of urgency. Of course my social media feeds are full of it and some of it is pretty disturbing. I want to add some ideas that sound a bit random, but I believe are quite principled. Like this:

- 'We' in this case means most people I associate with, those of the liberal left. These are generally educated older, 'white' people who value democracy, and support human and civil rights, and consider themselves to have an inclusive, caring approach to others around them.
-  We watch celebrities (political and spiritual celebrities as well as media ones)  'nailing' 'destroying' and 'ripping into' (watch the language!) Trump and his allies, and we make great cartoons, and we argue ad hominem. Social networks do what they do best. The sheer volume of it makes real thinking more difficult. We react and react and react. Hells, there is enough to react to.
- Just because someone dislikes Trump and didn't vote for him does not mean they voted for Hillary Clinton. It doesn't make them a Democrat. It doesn't make them anything.  Disliking pork does not make me a vegetarian.  Nor does it make me Muslim, or Jewish. *
- No it's not normal. It shouldn't be normalised because it's not normal. Not only is it not normal but it may well be illegal and unconstitutional. And what is worse, it is Not How We Do Things Around Here. Of course breaking norms and mores is far worse than breaking laws.
- Those of us who are alarmed about the breakdown of these systemic norms are speaking from both the right and the left, and it is worth looking at who is speaking. There are some strange bedfellows emerging blinking and disheveled from darkened rooms. My enemy's enemy may be my friend for now, but we must never be unprincipled.
- There are many people who do not give a monkey's fuck about 'normal'. If they had wanted normal they would have voted for Clinton. Or just about anyone else. These people are truly disenfranchised and whether for sensible reasons or not they are galactically angry. Saying to them 'We Can't Have This! This Isn't How It's Meant To Be!' is like trying to ban rock and roll. These people might not being joining the big marches, but they might just be the true rebels, and they have a lot less to lose than those on the liberal left. Plus they are armed for bear.
- There are many people who are genuinely afraid and with good reason. They are scared that they will be deported, or that their marriages will be annulled, or that they will be victims of violence even if they aren't already. These social and legal gains may look like identity politics to those who don't care for such things, (and who are armed for bear), but they are hard won and the resulting social truces have always been fragile things. Social issues are as important as economic ones when it comes to voting, surely.
- the Whole Trump Business was at least forty years in the making, possibly since the war between labour and capital was won, possibly since the rise of neoliberalism. I think I understand this, and if I have a fundamental critique it is of the system that made him (and us). Now, I do get that blaming systems can abrogate myself of the responsibility of owning my own privilege, and can end up with victim shaming and it doesn't take into account the lived experience of victims of oppression.  And no I am not being sarcastic, so stop rolling your eyes. I think these are valid concerns. But I want to think about this in the most sophisticated way I can, because simple thinking here may well destroy us. It just means we can't just dismantle it. Trump could even be impeached, but it doesn't stop what made him.
- I want to play with the idea that Trump is nothing important in himself. Trump is a kind of badly made homunculus. Alchemists and more modern occultists have tried to make homunculi - small artificial humans created in flasks. Guess what, they never work. The stories say they never last long.  I would like to say that Trump is made from something simple, such as stupidity, venality and hatred. But I suspect he is made from some more arcane material. He cannot now be put back in his flask.

I always come back to this, in my writing. I declare the Enlightenment dead! This is the age of wonders, the age of the non-rational! An age worthy of exclamation marks! No, it's not normal. Sorry guys.

Above I have talked about the importance of principles and of trying to think clearly. There are very few situations in life that are so urgent we can't take ten seconds and breathe. Whether in the end we go high or low, fight or pray, reach out or retrench, we need to be still and steady and principled.

Pause for effect...........


* I don't eat pork because it's too close to human. You can put a pig's valve in your heart. Then if you eat pork you are almost a cannibal. 



Saturday, January 14, 2017

TRIGGER WARNING -DISCUSSES DONALD TRUMP'S SEXUAL PRACTICES



Image result for showers of goldThe title is a joke of course - the news that Donald rump President Elect has received golden showers from prostitutes is all over the show, and humorous GIFs etc abound. Stop it, I say, stop it.

There are many good reasons to vilify this man. His sexual preferences are not one of them.

 I can see why an investigation into a man's sexual proclivities might shed light on his performance as President of the United States, but this is not the place to do it. Problematic sexual practices might exist because they exploit others, display unworthy traits such as narcissism, and are not safe, sane and consensual. Cheating on your wife is generally considered a bad thing in Western society, (but not in places like Japan or Vietnam, where among wealthy men of influence it is a way of displaying status). US presidents have been known for cheating, for sexual licentiousness as youths, and generally being testosterone-laden and entitled, and it has not necessarily lost them votes. The best question is surely, how does it affect the job? Does it evince the kind of immorality that could spill over into their public lives and policy making? Does it make them 'bad' people or harm the country's reputation? Does it make them psychologically vulnerable, or open to blackmail? Are they breaking the law? Are they poor role models? Should they be role models, or should they just be good at the job? Do we expect the President (or any other major public figure) to be any better at being human than we are? Should they be?

Maybe these are private, family issues that are best kept out of the gaze of the baying public. Maybe they are personal tragedies. Maybe they are just what happens in heavily negotiated marriages, in the manner of the great families of the past, such as the Borgias or the Roman imperial families. Maybe it's none of our goddamn business.

I also want to say something about golden showers. Of course Pornhub reports a sudden increase in online searches for golden showers, and I wonder if more people are trying them out. Thing is, they are not uncommon. Of all the sexual practices people do, and there are many, many of those, water sports or piss play is common. You may not do it yourself and you may think it's icky, but chances are you know someone who does it, as you probably also know a man who wears silk stockings and a woman with a clitoral hood piercing and so on. This stuff goes on out there and the thing I want to say is, it may well happen more than you think, and - get this - it's Mostly Harmless. When done in a safe, sane and consensual manner among adults, it is harmless. Rape, exploitation, sexism, and cruelty are not harmless.

Personally, my body fluids are sacred, and I would not piss on Donald Trump for a million squillion dollars. Well, I might if it guaranteed a Bernie Sanders presidency. But that is only a 'might'.

The image above is Danae and the Showers of Gold, a Lacanian krater. Very tasteful.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

ON BEING WOKE - AND PROBLEMS WITH SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE



Image result for wokeThe first person I knew who had special knowledge was my father. He strongly believed that his view of the world was vitally correct, that it was hard won, and was shared by a very few. In his case, it stemmed from moving to a large city in his late teens, and being newly exposed to different races, cultures and ideologies. What he learned stayed with him, fully formed, for the rest of his life. His resulting political stance was resolutely conservative and ultra right wing. He had brief involvement with ultra rightist groups, but found them too liberal. He wrote many letters to the local newspaper on matters of race, and developed a small following among other older white men of similar ilk.

He found his special knowledge burdensome. He would talk at times about how he was on the losing side, that the world was being taken over by women and members of inferior races and how the weak and politically correct system enabled them to do this, despite their obvious lack of ability. He feared for the future, where the Anglo Saxon race would decline and ignorance would take over. He felt it was his duty to point these things out, but he was also doomed to remain unheard. He felt he had come to his understandings himself, over time, after careful thought, without influence, and the fact that it was manifestly true made up for the fact that it made him unhappy.

In other words, in the parlance of 2017, he stayed woke.

I disagreed with him on all counts, and I worried that his ideas hurt him and made him afraid. He died after a short illness, during which he was delirious. He believed he had been kidnapped by some sort of Maori cabal, who were secretly running the world, and that they were experimenting on him in a laboratory. It was painful to watch.

Staying woke is a phrase that came in part out of the Black Lives Matter movement and it's a great expression because it conveys independence of thought, passion and commitment. You can say 'she is woke, of course', or 'she isn't woke yet', or 'these woke guys have made some awesome music' or whatever.  You can say 'stay woke, bro'. But really, it is about having special knowledge, or an understanding about social justice, culture and the future not shared by most people.

I doubt if I'm woke.

I have always had problems with special knowledge and what to do about it.

In my late teens, I belonged to a faith community where we were big on eschatology. We believed that the old world would end, not physically, but spiritually, and there would be a new era of world peace. We also knew that most people didn't believe this, and we felt sorry for them and wanted to help. At the time, I also hung out with people who had different and opposing eschatologies, and also people who belonged to other small groups, all of whom had the truth, and felt sorry for those who didn't, and wanted to help. Then there were the occultists and psychics who felt they had special knowledge too, but on a more personal level. They knew things no one else could possibly understand. And alongside, the activists, who knew about secret politics and dirty tricks, and also tried to help others grasp the real situation. All of these groups had special knowledge, and all of them saw this knowledge as radically true, and poorly understood or ignored by the general population.

This thread pulls itself through time and today I associate with activists, occultists, conspiracy theorists, light workers, healers and members of small religious orders, and they all have special knowledge.

So what are the problems with special knowledge?

The first problem is that it can make you an asshole. This is by no means inevitable, and for some, it is desirable in fact, because for them special knowledge makes it just plain hard to deal with idiots. And the world is full of idiots. However, if having special knowledge makes you cruel or worse, indifferent, then I think that is a problem. It is mean spirited to be pleased when others suffer, just because you know that the world will end in catastrophe any minute and only you and the rest of the chosen few will escape to heaven. It doesn't make for compassion. It makes your world smaller.

Special knowledge can also be hard to live with. It can exhaust you with activism, and splinter large groups into smaller ones as identity politics takes its prisoners. It can sadden and stress you as you acknowledge that your views are so marginalized. Knowing you are up against mighty and ignorant forces can make you feel alone and scared.  It doesn't make you happy. It may be the price you pay, and you may pay it willingly, but that does not mean it's always easy.

The other, closely related problem, is what to do about everyone else. That is, the general hoi polloi, the masses, the sheeple, the unconverted, the non-woke. You can worry about them and try to help them, by proselytizing or social care. You can despise them and expect them to die. You can fear them. But because you are by definition in a minority, you can't ignore them, unless you live completely off grid, or in the ultimate echo chamber of only your own head.

I have never observed a group coming to grips with these problems. I have associated with groups that value unity and have hierarchical structures, and those that value free expression and conflict. They can be kind and inclusive, or they can make you earn your stripes before they will even talk to you. Same thing, though. These problems of what to do with special knowledge are just intractable, part of the dynamic of having ideas with other people.

The word 'woke' is interesting in itself. The idea of waking from sleep into truth goes back to Plato. I was asleep and then I awoke....I was blind and now I can see.... ignorance is like sleep, it may be comforting, but it is not reality.....reality is brave, clear and mature....yes, it is a good word, a quasi-religious word. Its antithesis I think, is SJW, or Social Justice Warrior, which is a pejorative. So what Woke is to passion, commitment, love and ferocity, SJW is to mawkish earnestness, following the fashion, picking fights about terminology, and splintering. 

Of course it all seems pretty indulgent when you face real despair, as you would if you were in the snow at Standing Rock, or if police were likely to shoot you if you went out. Perhaps people like me can never really be woke. We can experience our own lives with as much honesty, bravery and class as we can, whoever we are, however, and I can say this. Anyone calling me and mine sheeple or sleepy hobbits can go - well, just go, just live their lives, and I will do the best with mine.