Laughing in the Dark

Are we the only self-hating species? The only species that commits suicide? Are we the only species that laughs? Have you noticed how little humour there is in mass extinction and environmental destruction? That this secular end of days is the source of hardly any comedy?

It’s unseemly — profane even — to laugh out loud about the anthropocene. Unless it’s that grim, knowing, gritted-teeth kind of laughter in which we marvel at being part of a civilisation more concerned with counting calories than carbon. (If only we could harness vanity in the service of ecological repair); in which we mutter, “well, you gotta laugh because what else can you do?” or “if I didn’t laugh, I’d be weeping”.

Yes, there’s a lot of Weeping in the Dark, but not much laughing. Which is also surprising, because we often laugh at tragedy. Think war (Black Adder Goes Forth, Waugh’s Scoop); racism and red-neckerism (All in the Family); religion, which is a tragedy only to some of us (The Life of Brian, Religulous, the Bible); humanity (where to start? Perhaps Gulliver’s Travels, Candide, or the Bible, again.)

If Henri Bergson is right and laughter doesn’t exist outside the pale of what is strictly human; and if, as he says, its natural environment is society, then shouldn’t this be a time of rolling in the aisles clutching our stomachs in uncontrollable mirth? Because what could be more human than this human-all-too-human epoch?

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Taku Akoranga Māori

Ko Mauao te maunga; ko Te Awanui te moana, ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi; nō Matira au; ko Tauranga Moana tōku kāinga ināianei; Ko Alison ahau.

Kua ako tonu au i te Reo Māori, te kai a te rangatira, mai i te 2014. He rerekē rawa atu te

He tino pai tēnei pukapuka hei whakaharatau i te Reo.

He tino pai tēnei pukapuka hei whakaharatau i te Reo.

Reo Māori i te Reo Pākehā nō reira he reo uaua mōku. (Whakatikahia mai koa ōku Reo — i ngā pitopito kōrero, kei raro!) Engari, he tino pai ki au, ā, ka whakaharatau au ia rā ia rā. (Whakamahi ai au te pūmanawa tautono kō “Anki”.) E pīrangi ana au ki te kōrero Māori engari kāore he tangata e kōrero i te Reo kei tōku kainga.

He pātai taku: Kei hea ngā pakimaero i te Reo? Kua whēuaua kia kitea ngā pukapuka i Te Reo e taea e au te mārama. Ko He Pitopito Kōrero nō te Perehi Māori (nā Jenifer Curnow rātou ko Jane McRae ko Ngapare Hopa) tētahi pukapuka tino pai nō te mea kei ia whārangi i te Reo Pākehā me te Reo Māori hoki. Engari kei hea ētahi? Kei hea ngā pakimaero pēnā? Ā kei te mōhoi koutou ko hea ētahi [blogs] i te Reo? (Hmmm, he aha te kupu Māori mō “blog”?)

I whakarongo hoki au i Te Kaea (ki te pouaka whakaata Māori) ia rā ia rā engari kāore i te tino mārama ki a au.

Ki ōku kaipānui, 😉 kōrerotia mai koa a koutou kupu āwhina e pā ana ki te akoranga o tēnei Reo! Ngā mihi.

Alien Invasion aka Frozen Shoulder

Not my usual kind of post. Rather, boring personal health stuff. About this mysterious mad awful condition called Frozen Shoulder (or “adhesive capsulitis” or $%#@##&^%!!!!!) aka a drawn out period of the body torturing itself for no known reason. I had this in my right shoulder back in 2007-2008. It took a while to work out what it was, though not before I’d gone through the additional torture of physiotherapy, which has left me with a pathological fear and aversion to physiotherapists.

7165073-female-skeleton-with-highlighted-shoulder-stock-photo-shoulder-pain-jointNow, it’s back. In my other shoulder. Apparently, a repeat performance is pretty common. So, while no one knows what causes it (at least this “idiopathic” version), they seem to have worked out that if you get it in one, you’re likely to get it in the other. (Oh, and because it’s not an ‘injury’, ACC doesn’t cover it or treatments, neither does my DHB.)

This really is a strange condition. Pain and agony become your constant companions, and in any number of forms — aching, throbbing, stabbing, piercing; top of the shoulder, arm to elbow, shoulder blade, sometimes right up into my head. There is no known cure, just endless theories about things to try (cortisone shots, torturous physio etc.), which work for some and not others. It comes. It tortures. It (usually) eventually leaves.

Stages, the total lasting up to 2 years:

1. freezing (pain scale out of 10 = 6 to 9, I reckon)

2. frozen (pain scale: low)

3. thawing (pain scale: low)

Anyway, among my main challenge is trying to learn to keep on keeping on and not falling into a slough of despond, and wading out into the sea with rocks in my pockets (but only on my good side). It’s not life threatening, so there’s that. (And, I do appreciate, what else is there really?) But unrelenting pain is a total bitch. It’s like having been invaded by this moody, cruel, and totally unpredictable alien entity, not knowing what it wants, or why, or when it’s going to leave. It feels almost like a battle of psyches or wits or something.  Or maybe the pain has simply driven me barking mad.

‘The Thief…’: Investigating PND

So I spent a good chunk of 2016 working on a series of articles about postnatal depression (aka postnatal distress), which finally went ‘live’ at on Friday 21 October. The research and writing were funded by the Scoop Foundation for Public Interest Journalism. (Thanks!) You can support the Scoop Foundation’s efforts here.

Here are links to the articles, anyways:

  1. The Thief that Steals Motherhood
  2. But I’m not Depressed
  3. Finding Someone Who ‘Gets It’
  4. Quick Facts and Links
  5. Rough-cut audio of women telling their stories

And there was an interview with Kim Hill on RNZ, Saturday 22 October.

Thanks so much to the women to talked to me about their experiences. I’m very grateful. And everyone else who helped in lots of ways. It’s a big complicated important (I think) issue that remains (like so much to do with women’s reproductive lives) stigmatised and hidden. I know there are a lot of people doing a lot of great work, some of it funded by the public health system, a lot of it not.

There were lots of ‘take-aways’ for me from all this. One was: there are undoubtedly a lot of women out there suffering from what can be a very scary illness who aren’t getting help — help that could really go a long way toward getting them well. Another was: getting help can be a bit of a crap-shoot, depending on where you live, who your midwife or Plunket/Tamariki Ora nurse is, how confident you are about asking for help, how confident your whānau is about asking for help — or even realising you might need it…and so on and so on…

But PND is coming out into the open, thanks to the mums and the people who are their champions. Kia kaha!

We Are What We Read

Having largely cut corporate media from my information diet (more on the food analogy below), I’ve had time to read more books. Recently: for review, at Scoop Review of Books, Barbara Brookes’ epic A History of Women in New Zealand, Paul Moon’s Ka Ngaro Te Reo: Māori language under siege in the 19th Century (plus Why English? Confronting the Hydra, a rather depressing collection about the global dominance of English); in The Listener, Susan Faludi’s memoir about her parent, In the Darkroom; and, a few months ago, some first novels for The New York Times. I’m working on reading, and hopefully writing about, The Struggle for Māori Fishing Rights, by Brian Bargh (Huia), and I just got my hands on Vincent O’Malley’s The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000 (Bridget Williams Books).

bwb8126_the-great-war-for-new-zealand_lrVincent foreshadowed this book in his 2014 collection Beyond the Imperial Frontier: The contest for colonial New Zealand, in which he had a chapter on the Waikato wars that included some of his new research. (My review is here. Yeah, sorry for all the self-linking, but if I don’t do it, no one will.) I don’t remember hearing a whole lot about that book back then (I might have missed it), but this new one seems to be attracting a lot more attention. Thankfully.

There’s definitely a growing momentum for more (any? some?) recognition of the wars fought on this land, particularly since 2014, which was when we really got to see clearly how much media and government attention was lavished on foreign wars (well, mostly the Gallipoli battle) compared with those fought here. It was 100 years since the former, and 150 years since several major battles of the latter. (I researched and wrote about that pretty extensively back then.)

Not for review (by me!), I’m up to volume two of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six (yes six) volume memoir, My Struggle. I can’t really explain why (so far) I love this book (does it count as “a book”?) But I’m thinking about it. Meanwhile, am a bit stuck at around the one-third mark in Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Actually, there are quite a few books I’m stuck in the middle of… And, no, I have never been able to finish Infinite Jest.

But still moving along is another epic on the state of the bloody media, in the form of a collection titled Don’t Dream It’s Over: Reimagining Journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, put out by Freerange Press (who do some very cool stuff). Which brings me to the media and food.

We Are What We Eat, uh Read

We need to start treating the “news” more like we (try to) treat food: Eat healthy, stay away from junk. It’s up to us to get these people to stop pumping out sugary crap (aka clickbait etc. etc.) by not “consuming” it. I haven’t taken this so far as to come up with particular news diet fads (what would be the news equivalent of Atkins, or mediterranean, or high-protein, or low fat diets?). But we all know crap when we see/taste it, and I suspect we all know we should be avoiding it.

I’m actually not a food dieter, so it took a bit of trial end error to work out how to change my news eating habits. My findings: Start out with a fast of at least a day and up to a week. That means no mainstream corporate news/junk food at all. Not even headlines. I predict not only will you feel less depressed and annoyed, you will actually be better informed. (I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but don’t forget, you won’t be under the misapprehension that the most important issue facing humanity/Aotearoa NZ society is All Black sex.) After the fasting period, slowly introduce the healthy stuff – longform, serious, non-clickbait content that has some substance to it, and books. And, yes, if you relapse and find yourself clicking on that sugary shit, you must atone by consuming something serious. And, yes, you should feel guilty, as guilty as if you’d scarfed down a giant bottle of fizzy drink. (If you fall off the wagon, another quick fast should get you back on track.)

I think you’ll find that almost nothing of what our for-profit media are pumping out is stuff you need to know. Which brings me to a premature conclusion from having not quite finished Don’t Dream It’s Over: People, it already is over. Time to put them out of their misery, because as with sugar, they’re doing us way more harm than good.

Kua tae mai a Matariki

Ko tētahi karakia a Matariki tēnei:

Matariki-magnet-shopify_1024x1024Tērā a Matariki ka rewa i te pae
Nau mai hāere mai ngā hua o te tau hōu
Ka tākiri mai te ata
Ka pua te ata
Kōrihi mai ai te manu i te tino awatea
Ka ao ka ao ka awatea
Ko te tangi a te manu kō kō Korimako
I te ata tū tū ka takatū
E Rongo whakairia ki runga kia tīna!
Haumi e, hui e, taikī e!


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