Tuesday, November 29, 2011

bistre lustre (you can't go home again)

They say you can never really go home. Who are they? I don't know... I read it somewhere sometime, I didn’t realise I'd have to take notes. Anyway, that's what they say, or said... I don't think it's entirely true, but then I think you never really leave home. I think your home is something that you carry on your back like a snail, wherever you lays your hat, and all that jazz. Sometimes our idea of home can be crystallised, though, located in space. There is a place I used to live in and call home. It was warm, and familiar, and all my stuff was there. That's a pretty adolescent concept of home, but when I lived there I was an adolescent, so there you go. Well it wasn't always warm. I was in a family that came together, rolled along, and blew apart there. So I guess it wasn't always familiar, either. I could never figure out my father (actually my stepfather, although I never never called him that), he could either be warm or cold, kind or mean, and I never knew from one minute to the next which it was going to be. That was very hard, very unfamiliar (and what does unfamiliar mean, as opposed to family?). But I did call it home, for eleven adolescent years. Is eleven a lot of adolescent years? I think I started early, but hit a developmental trough at about nine, in which I was trapped until I was fifteen. Anyway, that particular repressed trauma is not the current focus. Home. My old house, where all my stuff was. I went back there one day and it wasn't like going home at all. I found myself stacking wood in the front bedroom, with my mother's current boyfriend. A large room, an empty room except for the pile of split logs we were building in one corner. It used to be my room, and yet standing in it that day I felt quite alien, like I'd never been there before. I used to play drums in that corner there by the wardrobe. I shot half of my bursary photography portfolio based on the way the light played through that window. When we moved in the front bay windows were clad in corrugated iron hammered flat, and the morning frost crept across the floor, inside. Then it was lined and insulated. Now it was a wood shed again. That might have something to do with it. Where there used to be a wall to wall decoupage of pinup posters, stickers, idols cut from comic books and magazines, sport stars and rock stars and monsters, the gargoyles gaurding every teenage dream of the 1990s, there was now just an expanse of sun fading yellow and brown, broken by sellotape scars, bent nails, thumb tack holes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

mental. health mismanagement.

Two in two out is a baseline. Breathing is a deliberate act. Diaphragm is tight, footfall is light, less likelihood of stitch.
One day, everyone is beautiful. They smile. They have a purpose. And you notice all the weirdest things. The middle aged woman in the full length wool coat, pants suit, wearing fire engine red Converse Chuck Taylors. The young people that want to be taken seriously, the old people that simply don’t. What is the difference between people who walk up escalators and people who ride them, and how do we know to keep left? We used to just ride escalators, so from whence came the keep left (unless passing) rule?
The general practitioner looks to the general system. From the outside. The clue is in the name. They talk to you. They listen to your complaint. They make a value judgement: you are/are not a drug addict seeking medication. Then they make a clinical judgement: some part of you is broken. Below the surface. Literally subliminal. Geusstimation. Which specific fingers have been paralysed? Evidence. Quantitative surveying. Diagnosis: herniated disk, C6-7.
One in two out. That’s for a little bit of Go Faster. Or past the turnaround point. Or on the final third. Or a light incline.
Another day everyone is ugly. Acne scars. Obesity. Ill fitting insensible apparel. And it is not just skin deep. People are ugly on the inside. Insecure. Rancorous.
What changes? Something in the world. You are in the world. Something in you. Chemical levels. Agonists and antagonists. Receptors become saturated, synapses become exhausted. You can get it fixed, levelled out. Go and get your reuptakes selectively inhibited.
You can take a pill for this. Or go for a run. Or paint a picture. Or take a kicking. Whatever finds your lost remote.
It takes 7 months of mental health mismanagement to get an MRI. You don’t know what you missed and you can never get it back.
MRI reveals the specific system, from the inside. Fluid and goo that is made of you. A spacer. A worn shock absorber that is protruding its innards like a feeding mollusc, pressing tongue perversely into your CNS. Part of you touching you in strange places (hands, shoulders, knees and toes) from the inside of your neck. And the specialist practitioner, armed with this representation of the secret inner world, gives the diagnosis: herniated disk, C6-7. Luckily the treatment is the same, in either case. There is no treatment.
One in one out. This is a tempo or intensity increment. This is for hill climbs and stairs. Ten times. Then a two out. Then repeat. The two out on the tenth is for balance, it forces a swap of the out leg (three into two won’t go). Otherwise the out leg gets stronger. You end up running around in circles.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Self Help Abuse

I have a new plan. I am writing an anti self help book.
I'm going to do the chat show circuit, the whole bit, promulgating the new dialogue of defeatism. Seems like thinly veiled sarcasm, but I'm ominously sincere. “Oh, I’m living it”.
[opening talk show host preamble] – How did you come up with this idea?
Oh I always intended to write an anti-self-help book, and I never got around to it, you know? All that research, effort...
Well, I got to thinking that the market is saturated, you know, with success. Everyone is dieting, doing positive affirmations, exercising, slimming down, toning up, learning a second language on their iPod, blogging about their achievements. And for every one of us that is trying so god-damn hard the odds of any one of us actually succeeding is proportionately reduced… So I think what we need is for more people to… just fucking give up already.
[But who is it for?]
It really is for everybody. Even the successful people could take their foot off the throttle a little. Put on some weight, miss a few deadlines, forget a few contacts, fuck up a few million-dollar deals. Give the rest of us a chance. Look – we have some people on board already – George Lucas is revisioning his classic movies into shitty ones, there are the cover artists, reality television, the twentieth season of survivor, celebrity chefs…, it’s not like it can’t be done. Models of the runway. Television is really blazing a path into mediocrity and it’s taking millions upon millions of viewers with it.
But we need more – we need something to bring down the readers and the thinkers too. So, I figured, a book.

Right now I only have the chapter outline: Smoke, Drink, Do Drugs, Watch TV, Relax, Play MMORPGs, Play Farmville, Gamble, Do Clock Watching, Buy Gaming Consoles, Junk Food. I don’t know if it needs that much structure (reeks of planning and success), but we’ll see.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Party Central

This used to be the last hundred meters of my regular run. Now it is the first hundred meters of many people's night out at the RWC.

This is the golden moment between the road being closed on a Friday afternoon and the crowds arriving, to queue until Sunday, to witness quarter final glory and misery.

It is free to get in, but there are temporary fences on the historical fences, which keep people from getting to the electric fences. That's our farming heritage: we fucking love fences.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

album review - I'm with you

first impression - it comes too easy - first impressions not always right
first pass, second pass, i didn’t hear anything that i thought was thought was going to stick
maybe the rap/chorus contrasts in even you brutus, maybe the chorus in brendan’s death song, rain dance maggie

but i also remember, to be fair, I didn’t “get” blood sugar sex magic right away either (of course, I was pretty young for it at the time). but the longer i listened the better it got. so i gave imwithyou the front of the playlist for three days. that’s three return trips to work, some extra highway time picking up the kids, some extra time in the office on my ipod...

it has weird echoes of former songs - and not even ones I liked, things I thought were not quite ‘finished’ on onehotminute or bytheway... but somehow in the echo, in a part of a phrase of a different song, they are redeemed.

what has three days amounted to in imwithyou land?
i cried the fourth day, listening to Brendan’s death song. Sometimes music takes me away to where i wish i had written, read, or performed something somewhere. It used to be epic rock operas that I wish I’d put on stage in high school. I don’t know.
But this one was I wish I’d read or sung it at someone’s funeral.
I’d like it at my funeral.
I have a list of those songs somewhere, for messing with people at my funeral - i update it periodically.
I’d add this one.

every listen reveals a little more craft, another layer in the backing vocal, another turn of phrase that is actually dead clever, works on two levels, and so on.
another rumbling drum track. boom de yadda.

it isn’t 4 young sociopaths locked in a haunted house in beverly hills given free range to improvise a wall of sound with children’s pianos, pipes, rubbish bin lids, horns, and everything else that was bssm. but it is something. the madrigal build at the end of brendan’s death song. the female vocal parts to did i let you know.

it’s not about sexual ascendency and immortality and experimentation.
it’s about mastery, reflection, love and loss, sex and death, and even parenthood.
it’s the opposite of a mid-life crisis.

go back to first impressions - it’s cardboard. double layer of cellophane. the cd is in there already - which struck me as odd - the stores are so numb to stock loss that they don’t keep the disks behind the counter anymore. but hey, it’s not like anyone is stealing music anymore, right?

but then - I get it, it is a replica LP sleeve. complete with sleeve notes on one side. it is stripped back - where blood sugar sex magic was worked and reworked and reinked until every page was filled with swirly curlicue the song lyrics for imwithyou are austere. text on white. unformatted. sans curlicue. the inside of the sleeve is - blank. it’s the chili pepper’s “white” album.

and they’ve done this before. my boxed set of the first three albums is is little mini replica lp sleeves, the disks themselves stylised like the labels on old LPs. i like them as ironic material objects almost as much as I like the music.

instead of elaborately posed art portraits of the band members in various sexydangerousdarkandtricky poses it is 4 dudes sitting in a diner. restrained. here’s my breakout move for the photo - imma make a joke with the ketchup. now come on - we are due back in the studio, eat your sandwich.

highlight: even you brutus - “sister brutus sister judas”, the typecasting of the female in the role of ultimate betrayer, but the occupation of the brother’s space, it’s an inversion, a reversion, a subversion, it’s been done but it will always be redone, sometimes it is done artfully.

it will do nicely

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kinexium Shave Oil

Kinexium Shave Oil. The blue one.

1 – First impression

Small. Portable.

With *silicon* technology - which is awesome because it will make my boobs bigger, and my computer faster.

2 – Ease of use

Point and shoot. And rub. I can do that. Usually in the reverse order.

3 – Current Shave Prep you use
I'm a bit zuhanden in my shave prep - I'm partial to a squirt of conditioner when I can get it but I'd settle for a bar of soap applied directly to the bristly chin. I've been a bit spoiled for the last few months with a "years supply" of some other brand of proper aerosol shave cream - which is all very well but made me feel terrible about the ozone layer, landfill for the giant empty cans, and so on.

4 – Better/worse than your current Shave Prep
Vastly superior. Didn't gunk up my razor either. Left my skin feeling moist. Also gave my hands that baby-oil beading that they've been missing since I was, well, a baby. Doesn't give you a big wadge of lather to navigate through either.

Here's a before shot - I was going for a decent 36 hour kind of stubble, the *worst* for shaving.

And here's the after: smooth, like bad peanut butter.

5 – What would you expect to pay for each product
Based on the ~100 shaves on the packaging, I probably would have guessed about $10 a bottle. (Checks intertubes). $9. I reckon $9. To be fair I was comfortable using about twice the amount on the directions. Still a bargain.

6 – would you use again
Why yes. Yes I would.

Plus any other comments
Keep up the good work.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

some phone calls are hard

Me: Hello

Caller: Hello… Nigel?

Me: Oh, Hello, Nigel

Caller: Er, ah, no I wanted to speak to Nigel. Have I got the wrong number?

Me: Oh, yeah. But you sound like somebody called Nigel.

Caller: Okay, goodbye. *hangs up*

Me: Are you sure you’re not Nigel?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

internal travelogue

When you only travel for work interesting exotic destinations are really just looming deadlines.
Check in, check out, passport control, the opening act is security theatre. At least in New Zealand security theatre you get to keep your belt and shoes on. For now.
Duty free outbound - an hour to buy three top shelf tax free bargains. The a/c in the departure area is hyperactive. Get nuts, chips, beer. Salt. Protein. Muscle relaxant. I'm not expecting a matter transference beam but you never know - be prepared. I think the same biochemical preparations would be appropriate for interstellar teleportation or a terrestrial air transportation crash landing. I know where my towel is. Douglas Adams has given me permanent brain damage.
OK - the Rico thing, that is a national disgrace. Not on a par with our bodypainted flight crew. Bring Back Buck Naked. In flight viewing... Spoiler alert: Exit through the gift shop. Piquant with that have-i-just-been-fucked? mockumentary aftertaste. Still, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.
Space Battleship Yamato - apocalyptic meandering anime derivative. Battlestar Galatica meets Akira meets Dr Stangelove meets Starship Troopers meets my high school Japanese class. I like how Japan think they are the only survivors eking out a living on the post-apocalyptic earth. And looking for a 'cure' for 'radioactivity' - that's genius. Radioactivity - so hot right now.
In flight drinks. Bourbon. Beer. Pinot Noir. Bourbon me again. Washed down with antihistamines and antiinflammatories. I don't remember the third inflight movie - was it 2001? Something less esoteric? It was a classic.
Also what the fuck gives with these seat assignments? I don't believe there is a smaller one on the plane - my feet are jammed sideways under the one in front, my knees are grooved lengthways with the steel frame inside.
Earplugs in. Facemask on. Donut pillow donutting around neck. Blackout.
Wake up fuckers, it's 6 hours later in your pressurised cabin artificial dawn. Sleep well? It's nearly lunchtime earlier the same day, so here's breakfast.
Vancouver - looks nice from the air.
The International Connection walkway is 20 feet up, so I have not set foot in Canada yet. Connecting flight is in like 30 minutes. Flag down the United greeter - we are special needs travellers from a far away land called noo zulland. Skip the queue. Go right to the next queue. It is long and there is serious business going on - there will be no skipping here. US customs and border protection - no cellular phones in this queue either. Reminded by the well armed functionary - promptly forgot - lucky not to get a second reminder.
20 metres across the tarmac, I have now touched the ground in Canada, but technically I already passed through US customs... So am I in the USA?
The Canadian alpine ski team are on board, heading for Seattle.
Their gear isn't coming.
They're not best pleased.
Sleepy in Seattle.
Run the waterfront.
The Lenora Street bridge.
Take the A99 viaduct or the I5 expressway - depends if you are heading into town or heading out.
Against the traffic in the morning I take the I5.
Against the traffic in the evening I take the A99.
If this was Northern California "the I5" and "the A99" would be the wrong dialect. You would sound foreign. You should just say "I5" and "A99". The more you know...
Driving to Tukwila (na na na na na na na na).
I sing that song every time I see the Tukwila sign. I could be an annoying person to travel with.
The fishing pier.
The pool is two stories up, but lies in the shadow of the Lenora Street bridge. Goes from inside to outside. Outside it is raining, hailing, sleeting. Homeless people freezing on the Lenora Street bridge look down on me floating in the pool. When I get cold, I float to the inside bit.
It is raining.
Seafood chowder.
King crab. Dungeness crab. Bourbon chowder.
Chocolate shake and double quarter pounder.
Queue full of teenagers - one keeps trying to get a confederate to go in on the chicken nugget meal deal with him. Too good a deal to pass up, too much food/$ for one person.
I didn't order the combo but I got one anyway. Fries here are different. Skins on. Chewier. Flourier. Maybe seasonal, maybe different potato species? First encountered this a couple of years ago at an In-n-out Burger in South San Fran, assumed it was an In-n-out thing. Turns out maybe it is an American thing. The FRIES are different. Who would have thought? "The little differences". Thanks, Vincent Vega.
I only wanted a shake, told myself that given the opportunity I would give the food parcel to the next homeless dude... But when I got the opportunity it was a homeless dude running up to the door of the car, and I was having enough trouble driving on the wrong side of the road, so he was out of luck.
Run. Through the centre of town, up every hill.
Find the landmarks.
Find the lake.
Find the hill (Queen Anne).
They go up and up (and up and up).
Last night bourbon and coke with Dan Dan revolution.
He still hasn't emailed me or friended me on facebook.
I have several times observed the standby flyers clamouring at United Airline gates. It is a different market than New Zealand. Cut throat. Opportunistic. How I pitied them, from my Star Alliance Frequent Flyer confirmed-a-month-ago seat.
So I missed my flight (stupid 6am flight to denver. As if. Who flies then?)
Arrived airport at 0700. Standby for flight at 1100. Instantly prepared to slit the throat of every would be sob story spring break and furlough soldier trying to get home to their family - that seat is mine. Nervously strayed as far from the gate as the next door breakfast bar. One eye on the gate from 0730-1100.
In the end it's a free upgrade happy ending. These frequent flyer boots, baby, they were made for walking.
Denver. Dude, I think this whole town is high.
Run. Altitude training.
Didn't feel it.
Except for the dehydration, cracked lips.
A drive in the rockies with a high school friend. Mountains, brewery, casino, snow.
Work. Ride alongs. Bullet proof vests. Lights and sirens. Rubber gloves. Season opener for the Rockies.
A morning routine. Starbucks. Banana muscle milk (fine print: does not contain milk). Need singles for the valet, quarters for the washer dryer. Why is there a valet? My car is right there...
A fortnight later.
Drive to the airport. The long trip home starts as a short road too long.
Turn on the radio to wake up, distract self and passenger from the fact that i don't know where i was for the last few seconds. How to describe the way the road fades out and fades in. Luckily the road is three lanes wide and straight. Not all of them are. But the road home is, and I am on it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thought Experiment

The rapture goes ahead tomorrow as scheduled.

This means, among other things, that this 6000 year old universe is really the way an extreme sect of right wing homophobic racist fundamentalists believes that it was described to a single particular tribe of superstitious desert dwelling bronze age goatherds (and their descendents) during the time between 2 and 4 thousand years ago.

Even given the chance to 'repent', would you still want any part of such a universe?

Would the ones who got raptured really be on the "right side" of the coming conflagration?

And what happens to my Super 15 Rugby picks?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

One minute writing.

Minutia. Minute. Hour. Minute. Second.
I have experienced long droughts between downpours of inspiration.
Time. Energy. Ideas. Vocabulary.
But there is always a place on the intertubes for motivation and feedback in tiny bite sized pieces.
A lady named C. Beth runs a blog called The One Minute Writer where you can go daily (daily!) to get a simple, motivational, creative prompt.
Sometimes what you really need is a constraint. In this case it is all in the name: you only have ONE MINUTE to craft your response. And the front page of the blog contains a handy 60-second timer widget that you can set off when you start writing. When the bell goes, ding ding, pens down, you're done. (Sometimes, I have to admit, the bell is actually the starting point for the five minute editor but that is a whole other topic).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Silence Reflects

most of our building sought out the ground floor pub
a nice juxtaposition to the crowds in squares, concourses, pavillions and churches that beam down on us from above
on invisible waves of special edition coverage
in inner-city auckland the denotation of silence has been widened to include trucks reversing and the chattering of the EFT-POS terminal in the cafe across the street
but the off-key beeping and whirring serves to punctuate, rather than mar, the fleeting moments
silence reflects from the shoes and ties and half filled glasses,
from the wide screen tvs
silence resounds from the exposed beams and mortar and masonry that we still believe in
silence resides in the space between the notes of the kaikaranga who calls us all back from our solipsistic reverie
and invites us to re-enter the world of light and love and life
and sound

Monday, January 17, 2011

Run, you fools

I run.

When people find out that I run, or have recently been for a run, they invariably want to know what I am training for. Actually I don't generally do "running events". I have done three in the last 7 years, I admit I did 'train' for one of them. One was "fun". One got cancelled.
So I usually say "nothing" or "to stave off death". Each of those answers is only half true.

Why else do I run? Why else should you run?

Run to lose weight. When I started running I weighed 130 kilograms. A hundred and thirty! I hadn't run a mile in about 8 years. I had a dream that I was running to a basketball trial for a national squad and I didn't make it. The ending of the dream was... ominous. I ran home from work the following day. At the time I lived 5 km from my office and I couldn't run halfway home. It's been a few years and I've been up and down the scale but I now weigh (a little) less than 100kg. I'm not going to get selected for the national basketball squad but I could probably run with them.

Run to get high. It really works but you have to work for it. But fuck - nobody is addicted to anything they didn't work for. I've seen people nurture their addiction to nicotine, alcohol, heroin... There is always a pain barrier (or a puke barrier, or a massively complex social network barrier, or some combination of all of them). If you don't get through it, run further. If you're a beginner I pick you'll need to break 6-7km to get your first hit. And then we'll jack up the price. If it is too mild and doesn't seem worth the effort, run up hills: big ones, the steeper the better. I used to run up the MTB trails from Logan Park High School to the top of Mount Cargill - when I got to the top and stopped the world kept moving for a few minutes. Trip-py. If you like that, find a big flight of stairs and use them: I recommend 6-10 reps of 6 flights of stairs in the middle of a 40 minute run (for beginners). 20 minutes out, 20 on the stairs, 20 back. You'll feel a bit sore the following day: jog it out for 5-6km. The next two days you'll struggle even to walk. But after that you'll want to go again. And it won't hurt as much: you'll have to go faster and hit the stairs harder just to maintain.

Run for pain relief. I have a slipped disc in my c7 and have been in perpetual pain for 6 months. I have restricted mobility in my neck and partial paralysis of my left arm shoulder and chest. I was on 100-150mg tramadols for nearly a month and they didn't touch it. They did make me partially psychotic though (swings and roundabouts, that's a whole 'nother blog post). But when I am running (and for a while after) I am whole again.

Run as perpetual training for a future reckoning with a long lost childhood friend. I used to imagine my best friend was there pacing me. One day we were going to play basketball or go mountain biking or running together again, and I had to be ready. He died. So for a while I ran to get back at him. Now I just let him pace me again.

Run to save the planet. More than half of my regular runs are commutes. Maybe I am not burning calories as efficiently as the train, or even a car, and maybe my shoes are manufactured by little slave kids, and the water in the shower I take after is heated by electricity generated by burning coal and on and on... but fuck it if those urban-attention-seeking cyclists can get press for taking a car off the road then I want a carbon offset.

Run to think. When you are running at a decent pace for a decent distance you (and anyone you happen to be running with) actually have to shut up for a while and... just think.

Run to heal an injury. I am not a doctor, but - except in cases of *serious* bio-mechanical disruption - your body will actually grow stronger the harder you make it work. "I get sore knees/feet/thighs/shin splints". Yup - so does _every_ runner. You injure a tissue and it grows back. It's how weight training makes body builders bigger. Running damages the connective tissues and contact surfaces in your body and (provided you don't blow them completely to bits) they grow back stronger. Find the balance - do enough damage that it has to grow back.

Run to find the hard questions to ask yourself. If you come up with any - let me know.