reflections on homelessness

The other night I participated in the 14 Hours Homeless challenge, aimed at raising awareness about homelessness and money for the agencies who work directly with the homeless who pull together to make the event happen. We got to visit a couple of them and see what they do, and hear stories of the difference they make. (Strongest one: the dental work DCM do, sometimes relieving pain that has been ongoing for years. Yikes.)

Then we spent the night outside on cardboard trying to get some sleep.

Big takeaways:

  • homelessness can be ended. Solutions exist. The vision from the agencies at the coalface is of ending homelessness. This is an awesome vision but it will require the government to step in.
  • the strategy is simple and three pronged: stop people becoming homeless in the first place; respond quickly with supports when they do; prevent them from falling back.
  • being homeless can feel like being invisible. The simple act of acknowledging homeless people, and talking to them, makes a huge difference. If you are left wondering what to do when you walk by, be human first.

Personal reflections: man, you don’t get a good night’s sleep sleeping rough. I found the noise more disruptive than the physical discomfort. I was pretty much a zombie after. Doing this for any length of time would be hella rough going. And even though it was a mild night with little wind, when the wind got up around 2am, I sure noticed.

I also figure the circumstances that got you to being on the street – having nowhere to go, no one who would put you up, and no money – would do me in more than the physical side of things. Most of the stories we heard were from people who never expected to end up homeless.

Today saw the release of the results of the Cross Party Homelessness Inquiry, set up when the government refused requests for a select committee into homelessness. Their recommendations are simple and stark: adopt international best practices the government is so far refusing to, namely put homeless people into housing first, then add in the supports. Build more affordable housing. Intervene in the housing speculation market. Create a nationwide strategy on homelessness.

The word from the agencies I encountered at 14HH was that this is doable. Ending homelessness in Wellington by 2020 is their goal. They can’t do it alone, however. We need the government to step up, or elect one that will. Hearteningly the Maori Party have announced they would split with National over this issue.

This is a live ball, but political pressure from the population is now what is required to get movement from the government. Let them know this issue matters. That it is not okay for Kiwis to be living on the streets and the government to do nothing. That’s not how we roll or who we are. We’re a damn lucky country, and we don’t want to become like some other countries where poverty and homelessness are endemic and entrenched.

Oh, and you can still donate to my homelessness fundraising page, which goes to support DCM. As of right now I’m third on the DCM leaderboard, a buck ahead of our departing mayor Celia Wade Brown 😉

 

net life achievement measured in excrement

Thanks to the internet and morbid curiousity I have just calculated that I have so far produced ~ 6000kg of excrement in my life.

Imagine 1000 people who weigh 60kg sort of lumped together into a giant flesh pile.

Now imagine it is poop, not people.

This is my legacy, to date.

the moose dances offstage

I am probably going to let this website subside. Over a decade of various musings, and many stages, but I’m not really using it any more. If there is any content you want to nab for posterity, or revisit something or other, get on it. The site will probably vanish at the end of the month.

Thanks for reading and commenting across the years.

I figure anyone who is still reading is probably a pretty interesting person. 🙂

memoir

Just unexpectedly finished a draft of a memoir. Not something I ever thought I would write, but somehow I churned out 65000 or so words in a few weeks, making it the fastest thing I’ve written.

I didn’t write it as an outward facing document – I don’t expect to show it to anyone, or think that I am particularly interesting or have lived a particularly interesting life – approaching it more as an exercise in self-reflection at what is perhaps the half-way mark of a life, and turning an unsentimental gaze across time, identity, and change. As such I have found it a rewarding process, and will be curious to read it over sometime.

Mostly just logging it as it marks the first time I have written two drafts of new books in one year.

new draft

just got to write “the end”, two sweet words to write after the preceding 60000 or so, of the first draft of a new novel.

it feels rather too long since I have said this.

but anyway, I know this is where the work begins, and sometime I need to read it and see what I have done and what needs doing, but it is a definite milestone in the process, and for now I can sigh and go flump.

undulating ungulate turned 10 years old a month or so back

undulatingungulate turned 10 years old in September, I have belatedly noticed.

Weird!

In that time 1125 posts have accumulated, and the world and internet have changed a great deal. Blogging is not what it was when I began pre facebook, twitter, social media, smartphones, apps, etc. These days it is all narrow-casting and niche-focus to build an audience for a blog, whereas the ungulate has been all over various places in its day. Thanks to anyone out there who still reads! Hopefully you’ve got something out of the various content and musings…

 

 

 

internet addiction (filters part 4)

Two months into the internet restriction protocol, here is a report.

The short version? It is great, a clear and definite improvement.

I have more time, more focus, and am getting more done. Of course, I have made other changes in my life which help with that, but this is definitely a factor, and a big one.

I am noticing old habits creep back a little – I check email more than I need to, that is for sure, though I do not touch my busiest account. Unsure if it is confidence that the habit is broken, or that it is just habit reasserting itself, and that I need to formally rededicate myself to the protocol. Writing this post is part of figuring that out.

Some longer rambling observations:

There is something weirdly addictive about the sense of power and control that comes with the internet, and using a computer in general.

For example, clearing my email inbox after a week away. I make decisions, little decisions, reading some, deleting others. Moving things around. Controlling the little world of my desktop. Arranging files. It as as if I am doing something real. And I am, in a little way. Organising information so it is where it needs to be for what I want to do next is an adjunct of organising my physical space to be the way it needs to be. Useful to the extent that it is necessary – creating a functional environment – but negative when it becomes obsessive or redundant – as with OCD cleaning.

On the days I access the internet, I want to check again, an hour after I just checked. Even though most of what was there for the last week was not essential. There is something addictive. Research indicates that irregular reinforcement schedules – never knowing when you are going to get another hit of whatever you are addicted to – is the most addictive timing, and email is that par excellence.

Once a week re-exposure to the flood of trivial information Facebook provides is addictive in its own way. It is easy. It never ends, the page will scroll down forever. Not quite a sugar hit. Not quite food. More conscious than breathing. Popcorn? Moreish even when you don’t want or need more. Even when it is rarely any better than it is, rarely rates more than a vague “Oh?” It turns out I have missed a couple of incidents in my wider community, but nothing it feels catastrophic to have missed; and surely some announcements of insight or life redirection have slipped by unnoticed.

(The one cheat I allow myself with Facebook is to occasionally log in just to send someone a message if it is the only way to get hold of them, but not look at anything else. I think directly communicating with people, and the ability to do that, is such a powerful thing it is odd to limit the ability to act on it when it is a conscious choice; the difference is in not checking obsessively for a reply, or just in case. There are many avenues of communication, and perhaps a thirty second phone call is the answer to many prolonged email waits.)

So I need to shore up the habits and restate the boundaries. It is about using the internet more consciously, and I feel like I have managed that. It is a powerful resource and tool, the trick is to corral it to just that; the danger is it can be an endless drift of youtube clips and pointless linkbait lists and sort of vaguely interesting articles, a gossip magazine collectively edited by your friends.

The biggest challenge in a way is finding something else to do. It is almost embarrassing. The internet is such an easy default. It is our generations television. Instead of just sitting down mindlessly with the remote and starting to flick, we sit down mindlessly in front of the internet and start to click.

I have watched more media – am I just replacing internet with TV downloaded from the internet? Certainly, discovering live streaming of the cricket world cup sucked some time. I am reading less at the moment since I am writing, so that is out as a distraction.

So yeah. Interesting and useful so far, will be an ongoing process of tweaking the protocol and observing the feedback.

internet restriction protocol (or Filters: Part Three)

 

Time and attention are two of the most precious resources we have, and the always on internet is one of the worst things for draining and disrupting those resources. (This is something I have been thinking about for a few years now.)  Most of the great thinkers, innovators and so on of the past had one thing in common – their ability to focus on what they were doing for hours at a time. This type of thinking is crucial to certain types of breakthrough and productive work. (I have a faint terror that the current generation will never even develop this capacity for extended focus.)

So I am embarking upon an internet restriction protocol. This is based on the observations I made a few years ago when I went and lived at the beach without internet, television or phone, and came to town only once a week at which point I checked email etc, and my dissatisfaction with my current experience of online mediated reality.

The protocol is essentially this: I am going to stop checking my email and social media accounts except for one day a week – Fridays. (I will likely check my business email address more regularly.) Within the protocol I am allowed to use the internet consciously, as a tool, in recognition of how embedded it is in life. (eg) internet banking, buying stuff, research, Skypeing. But then get offline once I am done using it as a tool.

The key is to avoid general browsing and mindless clicking on things that leads to more clicking. I like the idea of checking my /mutants list on Twitter once a week for an hour as my information gathering phase.

The goal is to be offline as much as possible; to shift that fundamental practice, to realign my sense ratios, and re-engage more consciously with the world. After spending a week lying under trees at Kiwiburn, I realised again that I don’t miss most of the online world. I acknowledge it is somehow important, but hypothesise that this importance can be successfully and accurately valued within the confines of one day a week.

I suspect that one day a week is enough to stay informed/connected in terms of email and social media. If anything really important happens I assume someone will call or txt.

I do plan to spend some of the time freed up hanging out with people in meatspace, pursuing a better quality of connection.

I anticipate getting more done in general, writing more in particular, and being happier overall.

I may blog from time to time about the results of this experiment in attention and filtering. I invite anyone else who feels inclined to join in the experiment.

free fantasy giveaway: Eddison’s Zimiamvia

So longtime readers will know I am something of a nerd in general, and a fantasy nerd in particular.

My favourite fantasy author is E.R.Eddison. He was pre-Tolkien (and indeed, the only thing they could compare Tolkien to), and wrote great demented parallel-worlds, time-distortion, hi-concept philosophical-exploration through fantastical imaginative literature, back when there was no conceptual roadmap for what he was doing; ultimately it is pure Art. His prose is astounding, deeply affected, and not always easy. There is really nothing else like him. He is, as they say, the shit. He gets it like no one else and taps an unearthly vein of joyous wonder.

I have one copy to give away of his epic masterwork Zimiamvia trilogy – comprising Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison (aka the best fantasy novel I have ever read), and The Mezentian Gate (the most complete version of this unfinished novel) – in an annotated edition containing over a hundred pages of scholarly notes. It is the best available edition of Zimiamvia.

If you want it, post in the next few days explaining why you will treasure this. It helps if you are in NZ, but maybe not essential.

Review: Inferno (1980)

 

I first saw Inferno on late night TV, maybe somewhere in the 12-14 age bracket. It holds the distinction of being one of the very few films that ever genuinely scared me.

 

 

Later in life I rediscovered it as one of Italian horror legend Dario Argento’s masterpieces, a companion piece to the absolutely sublime Suspiria, one of my all time favourite cinematic experiences. They both feature the same bizarre mythology around the Three Mothers, Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum, and Mater Lachrymarum. They both feature the same insanely lurid colour palette and utterly dreamlike narration. They both use striking music to excellent effect.

 

Along the way I had came to regard Inferno as the lesser of the pair, neglecting its own magnificence, and hadn’t watched it for most of a decade. Rewatching it recently was a real treat.

Gorgeous, incredibly atmospheric and dreamlike. Very little actually happens in the story; it is an intense exercise in style in the telling. The action is simultaneously grounded in simple moments of reality that extend out forever – how can he hold the shots so long, and make them so gripping? – and a surreal inescapable nightmare layer, a world of constant descents into weirdly lit labyrinthine spaces.

What scared the younger me was not being able to work out what was happening. Atmospheric whispers, hooded figures, old books, malevolent cats, strange women, not quite human hands…. It was just so weird. Something is clearly going on, people are being killed horribly, but the motive and murderer is generally unknown; perhaps simply the power of evil itself unleashed.

As an adult the film barely makes sense, even on multiple viewings. It almost coheres, but is most effective on an unconscious, metaphoric and symbolic level. The encounter with a genuine archetypal force beyond us, working through us and the world, will not be a rational one.

And ultimately the forces at work in Inferno are transcendent. Death itself, present as a purposive force. There is no escape. Triumph is an abeyance. The flames change nothing.

Beyond its immediate visceral impact, Inferno remains a work of art with depth that rewards repeated consideration.

 

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