Life’s a lich and then you die. Better pack a phylactery

Apparently I could have a fractured wrist.

It’s convoluted, but I went to a walk in on Sunday. Got an x-ray yesterday. Today the results were faxed to my GP. My GP is on holiday, so another doctor called back with my results. Supposedly it’s fractured and I’ve made an appointment tonight to have it checked out. Pray for Mojo.

With my feeble limbs-a-flappin’, I’ve had idle time for idle thoughts. While trying to sculpt a dumb lich pun yesterday (as you do), I wondered about being a lich. Would that be an enjoyable (un)lifestyle? It could be all sorts of snazzy to have mind control, immortality (tied to my handy phylactery of course) and the ability to summon skeleton friends. Thing in, liches are undead. I don’t think they need to eat, sleep or have sex. I’m not sure where the boundaries lie, but do they have internal organs? Muscles and tendons? A heart? You can have all the power in the world, but from the perspective of a human, what good is power without the pleasure it can provide? I’m not a rich person, but I imagine people do it so they can enjoy the finer things in life. To some people I guess this would be respect and admiration, or the ability to abuse your station in order to manifest your desires. I don’t know that this particularly appeals to me. I’d love to have access to all the best things, but not enough that I’d give up my connections or desire to struggle. Without conflict, these things have precious little meaning. I’d want to feel creatively actualised, following pursuits or passions. More than that, I’d want love around me. Do liches love? What warms the cockles of the icy space where their heart once was?

This is a thought experiment, so we can go further. What attributes would I love to have? The ability of flight? To be able to swim the depths of the ocean? Endless stamina? Telekinesis? Cool light-up body parts? A chitinous exoskeleton? An incurably curious mind? Mental alacrity? Super speed? What would I give up of my humanity for them? What would I not want? When I start putting words to what I have to lose, I’m coming up short. Like the original thesis, it’s all the stuff I feared losing to lichdom. My brittle bones? Tactile sensation? Taste buds? Soft skin? Tenderness? My capacity for heartbreak? Memories? Emotional resonance? It reads like a list of what it is to feel. To be human.

Could I give up humanity?

Maybe I lack conviction. Perhaps it’s having been encultured with a human perspective. It’s possible that I don’t possess the ambition to think on a large enough scale. I’m not sure I could give it up. I love my humanity. The knowledge that I’m fallible is what keeps me trying. None of this is worth anything if you don’t have to sweat, bleed or cry for it.

I suppose that’s worth an injured limb or three.

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Who’s the Better Man? Eddie Vedder or Leon Bridges?

It’s nice feeling indomitable again. After sinking to the depths of a mental parabola, I’ve come out the other side with a renewed vigour. I’ll run with this momentum for as long as I can. Maybe the runner’s high can keep me aloft. Anyway, let’s sprint to the next paragraph.

A friend was hosting an event for the Red Cross. It was the kind of thing I’d normally let pass me by, but a mutual friend was keen to go. My girlfriend and I were meeting her for lunch, so after the meal we went on down to check it out. You know what? I found it quite compelling. Here’s a thing. Compassion fatigue is a big force in my life. I scroll through Facebook and Reddit daily seeing just how terrible the world can be. I’ll see a number indicating fatalities or misplaced refugees and there’ll be no difference in my head between 20 and 200,000. Numbers are black and white, they mean very little to me without colour to flesh them out. I’ll hear about a tsunami in some developing nation and it’ll blend into all the other terrible stuff that happens to places that aren’t me and/or don’t play host to anyone I know/love. It’s easy to ignore atrocities when they’re so far from your day to day experience.

This event was fascinating. I dunno, maybe I was just in an inquisitive mood. I get like that sometimes. They had one or two doctors who’d worked in an ERU (or Emergency Response Unit) floating around a space that’d been outfitted with various screens and audio components. There were pictures of the Bangladesh environment in which the Red Cross had administered aid. Talking to one of the doctors, I was able to construct a greater understanding of the scope and scale of the organisation. I had no idea that the Red Cross had 190 different international organisations around the world. I was curious to hear how they distributed aid. Apparently they’ll often have specific jurisdictions or areas in which they’ll tend (Canada deals with North America, etc). Outside of this however, if they have the resources and are interested in sending aid to an area outside of their jurisdiction they’ll get in touch with national outposts closer to the affected area. They’ll then facilitate the type of aid the area needs and how to make it happen.

The ERUs I mentioned earlier are basically mobile hospitals. The setup cost of each is about $3,000,000. This allows for equipment, personnel and capacity for training. They’ll be prepared for setup, which takes around 12 hours altogether, then they’ll be all ready for operation. The idea isn’t just to get into an area, help for a bit, then leave. What they end up doing is creating a hospital, then skill sharing. They’ll pass on knowledge to local medical professionals (and to be clear, the doctor I talked to emphasised, these people have medical experience. The knowledge they’re passing on is how to use all the particular gear the Red Cross is equipped with. It’s not like they’re coming from a place of elitist ethnocentrism). The end result is that after the Red Cross have pulled out, they’ve ideally left a self-sustaining facility that can then skill share and pass on that knowledge.

What I thought was even more interesting is that there are a shortlist of ERU varieties and a limited number of them. Water and Sanitation, Logistics, IT/Telecommunications, etc. What’s more, specific countries have specific types of ERUs. They might only have one complete unit they can send out, but these countries do have experienced personnel locked and loaded to send off to other ERUs if required. So say Canada sends a Rapid Deployment Hospital, New Zealand could send their Communications team to help smooth the relief effort, disseminating vital information, etc.

I don’t want to come away from this experience sounding like I’ve become a walking evangelist for The Red Cross. My friend did make a point of emphasising that there are a myriad of various NGOs all doing valuable work throughout the world. That the notion of helping is a bigger cause than the PR of making sure you get the best photo ops. It was cool to see that some people (better people than I, even at my most indomitable) are giving so much of themselves to those in need. I doubt I’m about to start monthly donations, but it was fascinating to gain perspective on affairs that I usually would look past.

I don’t know that I’ll become a better human, but maybe I’ll listen to Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” a couple of times.

Bill da wall.

I’ve been in a monologuey mood since my trip. I’ve had a bunch of Facebook discussions with friends. Here’s something that cropped up from a chat about American folks tendencies to look at the world as existing within their own borders. It’s very much a thematic extension from yesterday’s topic.

You’re totally on the money there. When we took our US RV road trip in 2011 we had a lot of thoughts on this. There’s a shocking statistic out there that without exaggeration something like 87% of Americans don’t own a passport. For many it’s a financial issue. You know that post about “Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires” that was going around during the election? I think that plays into it a bunch. There’s also the notion that for years they’ve been fed this message that America is the greatest country in the world, so why go anywhere else? The message is so pervasive that as a kid growing up on American TV, I used to believe it.

Living in NZ it was insane to me that some people had never seen the ocean. In NZ the ocean is everywhere. I think you’re something like 2 hours drive away from the ocean at max at any time. It’s a huge element of our way of life. Because of the scale of the US you can drive for days without seeing it. Some people go their entire lives without the opportunity. For me I just had to cross the street.

Then when you travel the US you realise how geographically and (relatively) culturally diverse most states are. It’s like traveling between countries. Add to that a country with a dense fear of change. If they’re sticking to their own borders they don’t need to think about different currency, languages or customs. They can be unapologetically themselves.

While I couldn’t be more vehemently opposed to the mentality, I understand it. I love travel and it’s led to a lot of my opportunities for growth. I’ll always remember meeting Peggy Sue, who worked at a checkout in a Roanoke Walmart. She was the sweetest. Very funny and kind, but had also never heard of New Zealand before. When we told her about our plastic money, she laughed at the absurdity of it, handed us a coat hanger and said “here’s your chance, sir”. She thought we were making it all up. She’d never in her life traveled more than the next town over. I don’t think it’d really occurred to her. We all felt a little sad, but at the same time realised that thinking any less of someone because they haven’t had the same opportunities as you was a shitty, elitist and classist mentality.

It’s tempting to look at the insular nature of the US and think “oh, it’s just cause they’re dummies” and be done with it, but this is a hella myopic view when the reality is so much more complicated.

#juststrangerthings

I’ve lived a life. Most living people have. I’ve met many people in those years I’ve spent alive. Some I’ve been fortunate to keep around me and get to know better. Others have passed through like, well, people who are no longer living. I hope they’re still living though. A few people in particular really livened up the time I spent with them. Some left a hefty impression. In fact, there are a handful I think of on the regular. I wonder what they’ve done with their lives, where they are, who they are now. Let’s meet some. Story time, starting with the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.

Some context. I was a chubby 11 year old at the Takapuna Normal Intermediate School social. If you needed to guess the year, I was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and zip off khakis with at least six pockets (think 90s proto Guy Fieri). One of the most exciting features of the night was a potluck snack table. It was in the music room, around the corner from the school hall. I had a bunch of friends, but I was far from one of the cool kids. The teacher chaperone announced that if we wanted to go to the potluck room, we’d have to ask someone of the opposite gender (I repeat, it was the 90s) to link arms with us and walk there side by side. In short, we needed a date. I was excited about the snacks, but really nervous to ask anyone. I asked three or four girls, who all turned their nose up and said they were taken already. I felt awful, shaken and on the verge of tears.

Then this girl walked up to me. We weren’t super close friends, but I’d always thought she was really smart and cool. “Hey” she said “I don’t know about you, but I really wanna go pig out. I’d be so happy if you’d join me.” She offered her arm. My heart swelled and my smile went full on Julia Roberts. I think it’s the most mature thing I’ve ever seen a kid do. It totally made my night. It’s not like we grew into best friends after that or anything, but I always appreciated what she’d done. I swear I’ve thought about that moment every week for my life thus far. I don’t even remember her full name, but every time I think of it, I’m so hopeful she’s gone on to have a wonderful life.

I was once at McDonalds at around 3am. Some drunk dude was having a riot of a time with the self service kiosk. He figured out that if you ordered a sundae, you could keep adding crushed peanuts for no additional cost. He said his goal was 100 packets. My order came and I really wanted to get the hell out of there. When I last saw him he was up to 53 additional packets. I have no idea what happened, but my sincere wish is that he walked out that door with a sealed box full of peanuts and a sundae as the cherry on top.

When I was in Thailand with friends, we visited a small town called Krabi. We were keen to go out and get buckets. I noticed a sign for a place that was advertising buckets, but they were way over the normal market price. Surprised at the audacity, I popped in and asked what it was that made their buckets so special. The guy behind the counter, a French dude, shrugged. He thought for a second and pulled out a bottle of Sangsom from under the counter. He exclaimed “with my buckets, you do your own pouring.” *It was unanimous, we were in. What followed was a debaucherous night of drinking. The guy, François, had been through hell (largely due to his own idiocy) getting to Krabi.

Three times he hired sex workers, then kept falling asleep and they kept taking large sums of money from his wallet (he’d lost $4000 combined from the three times). He’d injured his leg during his travels, then the bus he was on in Cambodia (they managed to evacuate first) had burned down, taking his baggage with it. He’d gotten in touch with a friend who said he could come manage this bar in Krabi. All he wanted was to hear hip hop from around the world and play bingo with pocket change. The next morning may have been the roughest hangover I’ve had in my life, but it was entirely worth it after the preceding night. Every once in a while I think back to that night and wonder what François is up to now.

Thing is, I must be this person for a bunch of people. I wonder at times what random encounters people have had with me over the years. Is there any chance I treated someone with the kindness that this girl did for me? Am I someone’s mysterious stranger?

A plea for coffee more than anything else.

I went out for dinner with family last night. It was nice and some parts of it have stayed with me. Namely the parts blocking up my digestive tract. We ate a lot of meat. More than that, it was a good chance to catch up and chat extensively. EXTENSIVELY I say. We all got there earlier than our 7pm reservation and left at 10:30pm. Then we did late night ice cream for dessert. I think the only reason we ceased our catching up and extensive chatting was that the ice cream joint was shutting down and my girlfriend needed to use the bathroom.

I’d say shit happens, but I’m gonna need a coffee before anything’s happening in my system.

Anyway, we shot the shit, chewed the fat and talked ourselves to death. It was a great chance to discuss all manner of issues with people at a different stage of life than us, who have experienced the world in a different manner. I don’t want to make it sound like they’re eternal vampires who’ve witnessed the turn of many centuries. They’re not that old, but I’d wager being on the other side of having borderline adult children gives you a different perspective from disillusioned avocado toast munching snake people who’ve abandoned this cesspool of a world in favour of retiring to Never Never Land.

I dunno. I got worked up and ranted a little bit. Not like this is a huge deviation from the norm. At one stage I was asked something about coping mechanisms. In short, if everything seems dark out, how do you lighten up? I thought about it for a while, then went to the domain of thought: the bathroom. I certainly wasn’t doing much else there, the dinner had been lacking in dietary fibre (though overflowing with some manner of moral fibre). I considered it and later reflected. Escapism was my answer. Drinking, eating, watching endless TV shows, deep diving into video games. Many hours of mindless internet perusing. Basically all numbing behaviour. The response to a world in which seems to be circling the drain.

I posited that this kind of mentality had coloured the humour of this generation. I thought back to Generation X and the rise of sarcasm as humour in response to feelings of discontent. I considered this generation’s reliance on memes. Sarcasm, irony, meta narratives where the joke is on larger structures that society enables. Nihilism as common parlance. An understanding that we’re all fucked and if we don’t laugh about it, we’ll have no recourse but to cry. Frankly, we can only cry so much in a day.

I wanna point out that I’m not naive or ignorant enough to steadfastly believe that absolutely everything in the world is on fire. Small victories exist all over the place, it’s frankly just hard to see them through the smoke sometimes. Of course social media and groupthink play a big part in it. Disasters draw more notice than wins. We have rubbernecking on a global scale at a frequency that’s causing whiplash. I’m sure there are amazing scientific discoveries and advancements occurring every day. I’m sure that there’s probably more good in the world than bad. Thing is, you can only walk two steps forward, one step back for so long before you start focusing on how much further ahead you could be.

I mean, didn’t we all think we beat the Nazis over 70 years ago?

Something’s awesome in the state of Denmark.

I was checking Facebook memories this morning as I always do and saw an interesting link pop up. Past me seemed to find it compelling and present me went along for the ride. It was about a 1938 conference called the Évian Conference. Established by the United States, it called together a bunch of countries to tackle the growing Jewish refugee crisis in Europe. I’m not much of a history buff, but I read on.

The most salient point piquing my interest was that Hitler was there too. Before the thrust of his final solution, it was pretty clear that he saw the Jews as little more than meddlesome stray animals. His pull quote was thus: “I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals [Jews], will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.” Unfortunately, most countries decided that there wasn’t much they could do about taking in refugees. The US and Britain both took around 30-40K per year for three years. Australia took about 15K and the Dominican Republic took in around 100,000. Canada was conspicuously silent. It’s both mind-blowing and heartbreaking to me to think of the massive loss of life that could’ve been averted. All the suffering that amounted to history’s most infamous genocide.

So there I was at the bus stop getting pretty emotional reading about all this. Holding back tears thinking about how monstrous humanity can be. The ramifications of this huge event still being felt all these years later. Not just the death and suffering, but the callous reduction of human beings to lesser life forms in the eyes of those who rounded them up. It struck a personal note as my own heritage that, while not a massive cultural part of my life, was certainly warped by the Holocaust. Not only harrowed that this could happen in the first place, but that, even with this kind of racial persecution widely considered to be at the foremost of humanity’s atrocities, the resurgence of Nazi mentality exists in these times. How is it possible to hate an entire culture of people enough that you don’t consider their claim to life to be valid? It’s heavy stuff and it burns a hole in my soul to consider that there are obviously people out there who wish it had fully succeeded.

My dark haze was lifted somewhat by learning of the lengths to which Denmark went to in order to get refugees to safety. Apparently 99%, or roughly 7,800 Jews were safely evacuated to the safe haven of neutral ol’ Switzerland. Denmark, at the time, was gripped with a fierce national mentality of a close knit lifestyle. Of treasuring one’s community and neighbours. They took in those who hid, went out of their way to search up anyone who sounded Jewish in the phone book and warn them, offering asylum and passage elsewhere. Officials opposed orders from the Nazi regime and a number of Nazi soldiers stationed locally were encouraged to turn a blind eye. Members of the upper class contributed of their own fortunes to help contribute fare for travel. Locals put themselves at great personal risk to hide and ferry Jews across boarders under the watchful eye of the Nazi regime. Reading all this, the strength of human spirit and courage in the face of adversity was unbelievable. The citizens of Denmark could’ve rolled over like so many, but instead chose to fight for what was right. It gives me hope that, should another inhumane regime rise once more, the world would not stand for it. Not now, or ever again.

But then again disasters and genocides seem to happen every other week and the Western world doesn’t give two shits. Let’s not break a rib trying to blow ourselves here.

It seems like Life and Liberty are at odds.

Honesty time. My true, unfiltered reaction to the Vegas shootings was “aw geez, not again”. Seriously. That’s the appropriate response to a kid getting into the cookie jar. It fits with a dog drinking out of the toilet bowl. It’s wildly inappropriate for a gratuitously armed aged white terrorist killing 50+ people and injuring over 500. I don’t know what your first reaction should be to the worst mass shooting America was ever faced, but I figure at least more than mild surprise.

I do know that “Thoughts and prayers” is also the wrong response. Thoughts and prayers go out to acts of God, to matters that are so far out of our control. Thoughts and prayers are suitable for tragedies we can’t prevent. Thoughts and prayers are for hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes. You know, those disasters that aren’t man made. God can’t help curb gun violence in America. If there is a God, he sure as shit didn’t make guns. God most definitely didn’t weave this love affair with armaments into the national consciousness. Save your thoughts and prayers for someone they could help. What America needs is policy and action.

The proliferation of firearms in America is indefensible. There is no reason any individual should require access to semi-automatic weapons. You don’t need a semi-automatic to hunt anything but pedestrians. Why are women seeking to have an abortion put through the ringer, but anyone looking to buy a gun is treated like they’re shopping for a couch? Money, of course, like everything else. Powerful lobbyist groups putting copious amounts of money into the back pockets of politicians in order to protect and serve their ability to keep their product on the market. It’s unbelievable. Their conscience gets in the way when a woman wants to “kill” her unborn foetus, but it’s fine if she has access to handheld weaponry and inconceivable amounts of ammunition. There’s clearly nothing wrong with this picture. What if she needs to defend herself and her family?

It breaks my heart that good people raised in a culture of fear could think that guns are necessary for self defense from… Well… Other people with guns. Really though, much like rape culture, they should be taught not that self defence from guns is necessary, but that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the notion that owning an efficient killing machine is a basic right. Take their guns, take them all. People will cry that their freedom is being taken away, but they live in one of the most heavily surveilled countries in the world. Any real freedom they have is an illusion. Why aren’t they up in arms (pun intended) about that? Because they need their guns to hunt? Why not create specific hunting sites where they can have access to guns for hunting purposes, but they’re expensive and heavily taxed?

Better yet, why not just outlaw gun ownership by men? How many terrorist shootings have been perpetrated by women? I don’t have the stats, but I’m willing to bet it’s pretty near to zero. You know the mantra of one guy ruining it for the rest of them? Well many men have ruined it. People crying out for the loss of their freedoms? What about the loss of freedoms for the victims of gun violence? The freedom to live? To not be at the mercy of a madman with a gun? Also why are people so against gun control while also being steadfastly opposed to universal health care? How many victims of this latest terrorist attack will go bankrupt in hospitals? Some of them probably wished they were dead so as not to leave their family in debt. Tell me there’s nothing fundamentally fucked up about that.

I don’t have all the answers, but neither does God. If these politicians can’t look past the money lining their pockets to find workable solutions, they’re sure as hell not serving their citizens. More will die as they pointlessly look to the sky, wondering what could ever be done.