Friday, May 19, 2017

Reasons why not

Suicide is a tricky subject and only the bravest attempt to comment on it - and commit it, perhaps - though it might also be characterised as a cowardly act, indeed perhaps the most cowardly. It's complicated.

Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said on the subject: 'If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide', which, as with most of what he said, seems to cut to the heart of things.

When, during my darkest days of researching and writing on violence against women, a period when my mother told me I had lost my sense of humour, I was asked by a counsellor if I had suicidal thoughts. I hesitated for quite a while before replying, through torrential tears, in the negative.

I did want to run away though, which I confessed to the counsellor at the time, even though I had a young family I loved and was loved by (most of the time). I'm glad I stayed -- not sure about them.




That was in my thirties. My teenage tears over frustrated dancing dreams seemed even worse -- as they will. Because at that age you are so new to adult feelings and pressures that you are almost living in a state of perpetual shock at the unexpected bigness of life and your own frustrating powerlessness to make things go the way you want them to and to figure out where you fit in.

Writing about those tears and years as I am now in the second volume of my memoir I am almost amazed and even proud of the funny letters I wrote home from London (which Mum kept) that belie the deep despair and confusion I was feeling at the time, letters that seem to speak to Ghandi's idea that our sense of humour saves us, if anything can, from being fatally cowed by the big bad world and its attempts to destroy and diminish us, real or perceived.

So, it is in this light that we move to consider the big bad present day and its show of the moment Netflix's 13 Reasons Why that tackles teen suicide head on and in much greater detail and depth than has ever been done before on screen.

We (Moose and I) hesitated before spending thirteen hours watching this YA show, but I'm glad we, the parents of three teens at one time and one teen now, finally did. That said, it was too drawn out and not quite believable that a girl like Hannah: smart, an only child from a more or less happy family, and not exactly unpopular, would kill herself at 17 and leave her parents, whom she loved, to find her bloodless body.

Then again, emerging adults are so much in their own traumatic world and with the volume turned up so high that it does seem to shut out all else, so it might be believable from this perspective that is so hard to fathom once you've moved, as I have, so far beyond that world.

But beyond suicide the gender battles are particularly well portrayed, with the rape scene, or scenes, done simply and realistically, rather than sensationally, to make it all too believable that the perpetrator, a classic privileged male narcissist, could do what he did and get away with it - but for the tapes Hannah left, which is the crux of the matter. She gets to explain what happened to her and why she did what she did, with the rape as the culminating cause but not the only reason for her to end her life. For this aspect alone I'd recommend the show, if these scenes do make for rather unsettling viewing.

And I hope the show can be educational and reformative for the young people watching it, as well as for those people -- all of us, really -- responsible for helping our young people begin to find their own way in the world without hurting themselves and or others. Humour would have helped these teens do this better and viewers to watch it as well, but then the outcome would have had to be entirely different.

So in its way, this serious and unflinching portrayal of troubled teen life ending (and starting) in suicide, confirms Gandhi's view on the vital, life-saving importance of humour. And on that note, I will sign off and get back to rewriting my very own teen comic tragedy under the working title: 'A woman of strange substance'.  



     


















Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Leaves walk (poetry warning)

Leaves walk
Run and tumble
Across the wet
Sticky grass

New autumn leaves are lost
Liquid Amber boss

Leaves walk 
Right up to the front door step
Knock! Knock!

But they don't want to come in
They are just friendly
Plant smiles


Leaves walk
Leaves talk
Shshshsh.....


Autumn parade
Cat walk
Tip-toe charade
Shshshshsh...

Leaves walk, talk and tumble
I need glasses to see them
But they are there just the same
With or without me - 
And my glasses

Leaves walk
No they don't
Yes they do - on tip-toe
Thrusting their shoulders
Rolling their hips
Shshshshsh...


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Block blues and other hues


This spectacular flower (?) was snapped outside one of the houses renovated in the Block NZ TV series a few years back. I think I blogged on it here at OWW. 

They are strange looking flowers and from a distance as you drive past they look top-heavy and gangling. But close up they look like this! Like a plant version of an ice-cream sundae, perhaps. 

I picked the day, or the day picked me. Though our firebrand flower seems to be shielding herself from the glare of the sun. Yet how well the blushing blue sets off her colours. She appears to know this too. 

It was taken in summer, late summer last. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sweet subtlety


I have just posted this chocolate photo on my Facebook header. It is a good fit and replaces the man being tripped up who had run (or tripped) its course.

It's a box of chocolates opened out onto a white plate from last year's Mother's Day chocolates. But I can't find the source photo and Facebook won't let me copy it from there (now I have found it).


The one pictured below is an actual raspberry inside a white-chocolate shell. My sister sent a box made up in Christchurch for Christmas 2011, but they could work equally well for Mother's Day.

One comment and 'like' in one hour on Facebook. It's from VC, who writes: 'I've seen some heavy hints in my time...'. Indeed.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adams' Arrival
















The title of Amy Adams' latest film Arrival seemed a bit lame to me until I realised it was intended as a subtle - too subtle, in my opinion - tribute to one of the greatest records of all time: ABBA Arrival. This realisation has made all the difference to my appreciation of the film and explains why an actor with the initials AA was cast to play the lead. I do prefer it when things make sense.

It would have been helpful if they had incorporated something of the ABBA Arrival soundtrack in the film to give us more of a clue as to this tribute. For example, when this alien (heptapod) 'hand' slaps the glass partition between it and Adams, 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' might have worked well. Instead they went with eerie instrumental stuff that only added to the general confusion.

But seriously; ABBA aside, Adams brings real-world (and real-woman) cred to this alien-invasion film based on a short story 'Story of Your Life' by American-Chinese author Ted Chiang about the fluffy physics of wondering what we would do if we knew the future. She is great, even though she can't sing or dance.

But though the story and the reviews of the film have not emphasised this, one of the main strengths of the film for me is the progressive gender commentary and critique it offers, with the contrasting roles played by Adams and her male support, Jeremy Renner, representing the female emphasis on language, patient understanding and lateral problem-solving as a more subtle and ultimately superior response to our failures of communication than the male emphasis on logic, abstract physics, and, if that doesn't work, concrete weaponry that has prevailed throughout history

I think this is the direction our sci-fi imaginings of the near and distant future need to be heading in, rather than continuing to assume weaponry and wizardry (math) will help us fix the present and find the future.

And really what the film is saying is that the future of humanity lies in both types of reasoning (female and male) coming together to work out how better to support each other to save the future from the past by moving beyond the profoundly destructive conflict that has existed between men and women throughout much of history the world over.

When men and women work together, as they are meant to, as they do in this film, and as they did in ABBA, more or less, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Indeed we may even be able to see the future.

Knowing me, knowing you is what it's all about, indeed, and I really think that should have been the Arrival theme song.  





 





     

Thursday, May 4, 2017

To lose and laugh

I like this take on how to deal with losing without slitting your wrists. Having spent the morning wrestling with this very challenge, it has helped me a little. I wouldn't be able to type this nearly as clearly as I am doing, with only a moderate trembling, if I had already slit my wrists.

But this quote from the tennis legend that implies that those who fear (HATE) losing are in fact the champions, puts a heroic spin on losing if you twist its meaning just a little, and what's a little meaning twist to save a twisted life? Nothing. Now I just feel sorry for all those scaredy-cat would-be winners.

Yesterday I found out I lost my bid to become NZ's newest oldest stand-up comedian, and worse, that I was apparently never in the running - too old? Ironic, but probably. Either that or my ears are too big. Old ears are big - all the better to hear you with, evil comedy overlord.

I was told, not in so many words but thereabouts, that there was a desirable cross-section of new comedians and I wasn't situated on it. I was in the blank bits, the undesirable void, the withered wasteland, the shapeless, shitty pits where no potentially winning comedians dare to stray.

And all the time I had myself picked to win the thing. Ha! How funny is that! See how I made humour out of losing? I think maybe that's my next book. No wait; there are already 874 books on bouncing back with humour already published this year. Oh well, there's always next year.

I think maybe I need to build my own cross section.



Monday, May 1, 2017

Artful Ali

Ali Smith is a genius. To read her book Artful is to know that totally. She is beyond good.

The book is a collection of four lectures given at Oxford University in 2012 that were clearly written also to work as a whole. For they do work as a whole.

Artful is ostensibly taken from Dickens' Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, but it goes way beyond Dickens (into the 21st century). There is at least one story within a story in Ali's Artful, whereas Dickens favoured the meta-narrative.

'Artful Ali' is both the artful horticulturist narrator and the uber-artful elite academic dead friend who the narrator keeps talking to, going on holiday with and even steeling books in her name.

She, the friend from the underworld, is in the middle of writing four lectures when she dies. We never find out what she died of. How is certainly incidental compared with that.

The lectures are:

1. 'On Time 2. On Form
3. On Edge and 4. On Offer and on Reflection.'

Katherine Mansfield also gets more mentions and more salutes than in any book I've read that was not either directly about KM and or written by a New Zealander. It doesn't happen often. It barely happens. And it should happen. KM is well deserving and overdue such praise.

So I appreciate this recognition of a proper creative genius. Living in NZ this is especially appreciated. Sometimes it takes a genius to recognise a genius.

Artful by Ali Smith is a brilliant and beautiful read and a definite must for anyone who likes to think hard about life. Anyone who dares.