Monday, August 31, 2015

95 Today!

Dad, the year before he died, with our youngest:
Cal Lloyd (the Lloyd after Dad) 
Dad would have been 95 today had he not died 15 years ago just shy of his 80th birthday. I don't normally celebrate his birthday or always even remember it, but this year I have anticipated it for some reason that is not entirely clear to me but may have something to do with the memoir that I am still in the process of publishing and in which he features rather prominently.

Whatever the reason, this year I feel the need to do something to honour the man who was the first, and in many ways the most important man in my life. So I am writing a posthumous birthday blog post for him, which is not much, I know, but it's the best I can do on this rainy Monday morning that is probably better spent under the ground anyway.

I wasn't always the greatest daughter to my father, it's fair to say, and if you read my memoir, presuming THE PUBLISHING PROCESS EVER ENDS, you will see more of what I mean by this. I was cheeky and obstinate, always wanting the last word. I was also a bit odd. When Mum and Dad asked me what I wanted for my third birthday - my third birthday - after a good long pause to consider, I apparently answered: 'A man.' This was probably not the best way to endear myself to my fairly traditional father who was, after all, a man. Still, I like to think that Dad, who had a pretty good sense of humour, especially when he was drunk, and in a different life might have been Eric Morecombe whom he both resembled and admired, did not take my answer as a personal affront. I'm sure this wasn't my purpose.

Fortunately this remark did not make it to the memoir; there just wasn't room for all the odd material I had from my childhood. Also the publisher is fairly small and couldn't afford a lawsuit. But mostly I don't think Dad would have been too pleased if I'd included it and although he is long dead and there is some other stuff in the memoir that he would likely not approve of either (more or less my whole childhood), I do still hope that the memoir, on balance, pays a tribute of sorts to him; a man of good heart and humour, who tried to save the Third World and nearly succeeded, and who, in the process, didn't always get things right where I was concerned. But then hardly anyone ever does. I loved him anyway - and still do.

Happy Birthday Dad; I hope everyone is saved where you are and there is unlimited cold beer on tap.



Friday, August 28, 2015

Hell's bells, seeds and cells!

In honour of our National Poetry Day (not an altogether promising opening line, but bear with me if you will), I want to pay tribute to a fond fellow freak who not only shares with me an aversion to seedy cellular clusters but a profound talent for poetry...

In fact, she is Morgan Bach, published author of Some of Us Eat the Seeds (2015) and I am stretching my poetic licence and skills rather too far to make any kind of comparison between us, even on the seeds and cells front, as her aversion is more to seeds and mine more to cells.

Still, it's close enough for me, considering I have never met anyone else on this seedy cellular planet of ours who is repulsed by either seeds or cells. And now that I have (if not in the flesh yet), and she happens to be a poet of extraordinary skill, I think I am entitled to feel a kindred spirit of sorts; seeds/cells and all.

My aversion to images of clustered cells is such that this blue image, which is actually of cells with Aids, was as close as I could get to viewing healthy cells en masse without wanting to vomit, and if Aids improves something for you you know you've got a problem. And I do. Because even this was still too close for comfort. So please excuse me while I go and bring back my breakfast, no reflection on National Poetry Day of course.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Red rap

The cancer is back...

like a punch
or a pomegranate,
red faced and flaked,
soft swollen,hard baked.

But no need
to go back
to black
just yet;
it's only 
skin deep,
unlike ugliness.
In contrast
my hair 
looks quite neat
compensating for
the cancer's 
one embarrassed cheek.

I would 
take a selfie
but the camera 
is shy
knowing it 
cannot lie.

So I settle 
for a painted
red head
to wrap 
up my rap
with a splatter and a splash. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Titanic Lie

HMS Titanic survivors:     
Donald Trump proving that male gallantry is dead
and male self aggrandising and knee-jerk misogyny is
alive and well. But were men ever gallant?

Adult female survivors: 324
Adult male survivors: 323
Children survivors: 56

When a male comedian performing at the London Apollo recently mocked the 'women and children first' rule of the sea, saying it makes sense for children but surely 'women are in the wrong category', I decided to do a spot of research on this oft cited and much resented example of sexism against men. 

Sure enough, as I suspected and against popular mythology, even on the Titanic, which is thought the exemplar of this gallant rule in action, the number of men and women that survived was almost exactly the same - only one less man - and the first lifeboat launched had all male passengers aboard. If the captain hadn't ordered women and children first into the lifeboats, based on what happened in other ship sinkings the men would likely have saved themselves in much greater numbers still. 

The reason for men's lament about the woeful sexism against them on the Titanic is that there were many more men on board (approximately 1,200 more) so the percentage of women survivors was considerably higher than the percentage of male survivors. But many of these men were crew who would have drowned with the initial flooding of the engine room rather than being denied a place in a lifeboat. There were only 22 female staff members compared with 896 men - in the days when the all-male parliaments and voters didn't allow married women to work in the paid workforce. There were also almost twice as many male as female passengers, reflecting men's far greater freedom to travel than women in these times. 

The Lusitania that sunk just three years later exposed the myth of male chivalry in full, with men fairly charging the limited lifeboats and making up the vast majority of survivors.  

Gallantry does not come naturally to most men, it seems, as really both these ship sinkings show. Most women know this, but most men still prefer to maintain the illusion of male gallantry, portraying themselves as self-sacrificing heroes and protectors of women who, conversely, are portrayed as pathetic damsels in distress waiting on their men to rescue them - don't wait women, they're not coming! - and or self-serving creatures who happily leave men to perish at sea or send them out to work while they relax at home or go shopping. 

In a 2012 Swedish study - you can count on the Swedes to see through the sexism - of all the major ship sinkings over the last 150 years, including the Titanic, men have overwhelmingly saved themselves rather than the women and children on board, with on average 17.9% of women passengers surviving compared with 34.9% of adult male passengers surviving and only 15.3% of children. So roughly twice as many men survive ship sinkings as do women.  

Add to this the fact that virtually all of the criminally rich business and banking barons, as well as political and religious tyrants and con-men throughout history responsible for systematically destroying countries and cultures across the globe, killing millions to make their billions, were men, and the notion of male chivalry seems about the most titanic lie ever told and sold. 

Donald Trump in his uber arrogant bid to be the next US president while hating on all women who aren't a 10 (sorry Heidi Klum), in many ways exposes the reality of the essential male, as a self-serving narcissist without an ounce of real courage or chivalry in him. If even ten percent of men were truly brave and chivalrous - like Rose's Jack - the world would look a far cry from the way it looks today and in a way Trump, by showing men's true colours, is doing the world a favour - unless of course he wins, which would be the sinking to end all sinkings of the HMS US and possibly the world. Get your life-jackets, women!

Ah! My good man is back with the shopping. I must go and help him unpack. You will (and do) call him emasculated, but I call him emancipated. For he is the kind of man who in serving and supporting others, especially women, shows that if the test of gallantry came at sea or on land he would be prepared to save others before himself. Alas, I fear he is the exception that proves the rule and when it comes to it, there just won't be enough life-jackets to go round.   

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Amen Amy

I'm not one for religion as you know, but Amen, originally from the Hebrew for 'truly' - if my online sources are to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt them - is a fitting tribute to one of the most authentic, talented and true artists of our times: Amy Winehouse.

But the most fitting tribute of all is the recent documentary film of her life Amy which is breaking box-office records for documentary viewer-ship and with good reason: it's a great film of a truly great star.

My good man and I were two of the first people in NZ to hurry out to see Amy and were even more impressed and moved than we'd expected to be, which is quite impressed and moved indeed.

There's nothing much I can add to the accolades about this soulful songstress extraordinaire, except to rail, once again, against the mainstream (male) media that played a big part in her undoing - as the documentary shows - in failing to understand or care how vulnerable she was to overexposure as a young female artist with fragile self-esteem and body-image/beauty issues, who never believed she could or even ever wanted to be rich or famous. She just wanted to be loved. And so she is.  Amen Amy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Piper Power

Okay. So I've finally read the memoir (2011) that started the movement that changed fashion beyond recognition to the point that before long, surely, prisoners around the globe are going to be wearing black instead of orange... and I, for one, couldn't be more pleased.

Piper Kerman, memoirist and prison/fashion activist, is my new hero. Her book is the Netflix series without all the salacious, silly, sensational and seedy stuff, and instead with the bare bones of real life as we don't know it exposed in all its brilliant beauty and beastly brainlessness.

That's probably to throw a few too many adjectives at the thing, but when I feel strongly about something I get wordy - call me old-fashioned. But PK's memoir is worth shouting about. It's pioneering stuff on the feminist front especially, but also on just about all other fronts of social complexity, confusion and conflict.

As I've said before, and PK says much more poignantly, if indirectly, in her memoir, when you correct the way we see and treat women to something approximating fairness, you begin to fix everything's that wrong with the world. In prison, especially in women's prisons it seems, we do the exact opposite of this.

Thanks to Reagan's 'war on drugs' since the 1980s, and organised religion since forever, we have done almost everything possible to denigrate womankind, compounding men's natural urge to think themselves better than and in charge of women, from whence an awful lot of the world's pain, suffering and stupidity comes.

Just so, the totally pointless and brainless 'war on drugs' in the US was devised by a bunch of rich white, right-wing, 'Christian' men who thought they knew everything but in fact knew nothing, least of all about women, and in thirty years quadrupled the US prison population, ensuring far more people are imprisoned today for drug offences than for violent offending, with most of the increases being in the number of women imprisoned. Most of these women have children, which has also meant that a significant percentage of the present young generation of American children have been raised with their mothers in prison. Excellent job, boys; Jesus would be pleased.

Moreover, most of the women Piper met inside were poor and had committed minor drug offences resulting in major sentences of several years, according to a male-devised penal system of absurdly punitive mandatory minimum sentences, while operating as coerced, often beaten, assistants of some man or other.

That these women overwhelmingly kept their humanity inside and did not descend into self-pitying, if entirely justifiable 'victimhood', but pulled together and supported each other across race, religion, class and age, is one of the most humbling and inspiring examples of true sisterhood ever demonstrated and all power to Piper Kerman and her pen for bringing it to the public eye. I hope Hillary Clinton reads it - and weeps - as I did, and then puts her rare privilege to work to undo the mistakes her male predecessors, including her husband, have made.    




Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fifty Shades of Green

One rainy Saturday, I sat meditating on the garden - as one does, as I do - rather more often than is probably altogether necessary. And marvelling at the colours deepened by the downpour, I felt moved to comment casually to my better half, who was making a quick quiet getaway up the stairs behind me: 'So many shades of green!'

'Fifty shades of green' said he, quicker than whiplash, without even looking at the garden.

And that, in short, ladies and gentlemen, is why I married the man. Indeed I like a man with a good pun at the ready in his pocket, who can whip it out at a moment's notice, without needing hours of notice to work himself up to it.

And so this blog baby was born: Fifty shades of my green garden, shot by yours truly, in the rain, with the aid of a large umbrella, while the man with the quick pun was inside, keeping dry, vacuuming - slowly - for speed is not everything in a man indeed. Enjoy...