Saturday, October 13, 2012

Now they call it bullying


“Oh. My. God.”
“Here she comes.”

“It’s the suck.”

“Suck of the world.”

She could never quite recall or understand when this name was fastened to her, but now it was so stuck that to rip it off her would be fishhook-like, tearing her flesh and infecting her in ways she couldn’t imagine.

There was another name, Maggots, but that was supposed to be an affectionate name, a pet name, the kind of nickname all the kids had at school, now pull yourself together girl, don’t you understand that all the kids are treated this way and all the kids have to learn how to take a little teasing so they can make it through the school day?


But “all” the kids aren’t razzed at the school dance because nobody’s dancing with them and all they can do is stand around gawky as if they weigh about 3 thousand pounds. “Whatsamatter honey, having a slow night?”

I don’t know, I try to be normal I guess, but (the guidance counsellor wrinkles up his brow in that “I don’t know what you’re talking about” way she will never see the end of, not even when she’s 50 years old and trying to communicate with a psychiatrist).

Don’t you make an effort to enter into the normal activities of the school day?

What about your social life?


“Suck of the world.”)
She has thought about the end of the world lots of times, especially while getting stoned with her brother or trying to keep a guy’s hands off her at one of her older sister’s drunken parties. Some married guy. Her sister phones her up and says hey. You’re wondering why you exist again?  I guess you can come over. It’s as if she’s doing her a big favour by inviting her to an adult party. So she decides to come over.


Come over and watch people 15 years older than her get soused, whoop, fuck, and throw up. A guy named Chivas keeps topping up her glass and calls it a Chivas Special. Or is Chivas the name of the drink? She can’t tell, she’s dizzy and spinning around and puking and falling down. Her older sister is taking good care of her and her parents are not at all concerned, nothing bad can happen to her. Right. It’s still better than standing there at the dance by herself or finding notes stuck in her locker, CUNT. We. Do. Not. Want. You.

Some day there will be a name for this activity; they will call it “bullying”. For now, they call it “school”. For now, they call it “hung over and puking in the toilet and telling Mum I have the flu and being sent to school anyway and getting rocks thrown at me by the Catholic kids”.


Yeah, I meant to tell you that it’s
Young lady, I find that hard to believe.

Oh okay, so it isn’t happening then. So I’m not getting those cold stares from my “friends” and those puzzled, puckered looks from teachers when I show up in class crying: “Do you have a cold today?” Yes, a cold that feels like the end of the world.

And it’s lower, lower, lower when she is sent to a psychiatrist and begins to chat him up, flirt with him, make him laugh in that Old World way that shrinks always laugh, the stupid fuckers. He looks like Sigmund Fucking Freud with that beard. She hates them, hates every one of them, and lies about what happens. That’s what they want to hear.



“Suck of the world.”

A long, long, long time later, after she has finally beaten the alcoholism her sister generously bequeathed her in her teens, she will hear news reports about girls who killed themselves, girls who were only 15 years old, slender and pretty, girls who seemed to have absolutely everything she would have died for in Grade 10, but they died anyway, hung themselves, hung themselves because someone abused them, but it’s doubtful that anyone threw rocks at them or stuck notes in their locker.
No, this time it will appear on a screen, and absolutely everyone in the world will be able to see it.


Human meanness leaks out in all sorts of ways. Pieces of paper stuck to the inside of a locker with tape: “cunt”. Black magic marker on the inside of a biology text book: “stinking twat”. She will get in trouble for defacing a book and have to pay for it. You can’t rip out pages like that, it’s destructive!

You can’t rip out brain cells, blackened memories of a hell she barely scraped through. You can’t do anything but live around it, the carcinoma of social persecution. What was it about her that caused them to brutalize her so relentlessly? Why can’t she die? Is there another sort of life she can find beyond all this hate?

Living around it is like slinking around the outside of a shadow that is permanently sewn to your body. Don’t fool yourself, everyone can see, even though nobody has the nerve to say it now. You are here because of OUR generosity and you should be GRATEFUL we spared you, that we tolerated your presence! We gave you every chance to be social at those parties, and what did you do?


The Old World psychiatrist looks at her over his glasses. “Vhat you heff,” he pronounces, “is yoooth paranoia.”

“Paranoia? Isn’t that imagining you’re – "

“Yes, imagining! But zere is goot news. You vill outgrrrrow it.”

“Glad to hear it. Just one question?”




Blackout: what will really happen when the power goes out

Since there are only three or four (or nine or seven) degrees of separation between this topic and another-this, I thought I'd relate the above brilliant re-conception of the audio player to a new hit TV show that I don't really like.

I had high hopes for Revolution, that show where the power goes off. I mean really off, permanently, everywhere, all over the world. You can't even use batteries, for God's sake, though they don't explain why (though after 15 years, when the story actually starts, my guess is that they'd all be used up, except maybe a few reserved for Camilla Parker-Bowles' vibrator). The concept seemed chilling and full of possibilities, so I promised myself I'd watch two of them, in case the pilot was a dog.

I confess I didn't even get to the second one. It was one of those warlord things, one of those, how-do-you-call-'em, the kind I don't like anyway, violent and paranoid, full of border patrols and big guys with chains around them, guns n' weird tattoos n' stuff. I wanted to know things like, how do you make toast without a toaster? How do you blow-dry your hair in the morning, and how do you avoid freezing to death in the winter?

This series, the premise of it anyway, plays on an underlying fear (WAY underlying - most people have pushed it down so far it doesn't even register) that some day, the worldwide power grid will fail and we will be up shit creek without so much as an electronic paddle. This may not happen all at once - or maybe it will - or maybe it'll rotate here and there, just as the collapse of the world climate is poking up here and popping up there: a flood, a drought, a horrendous mudslide, a freak snowstorm in July.

Then I saw what the network did to that great premise, bored it down, dumbed it out, turned it into yet another one of those gritty "things", what's the genre called anyway, but it sure has nothing to do with the ingenuity people would have to summon up to survive a complete and permanent blackout.

Well, it's silly, isn't it? For millennia, that's all there was! For millennia, all during our evolution, all during recorded history prior to the late 1800s (and when was the lightbulb invented? Do you think I'm going on Wiki just for that?), nobody had so much as a flashlight. We were choppers of wood and hewers of water, or whatever the saying is. We made clothing out of blobs of cotton, we squeezed cows and took down squirrels with a slingshot. Some of the greatest geniuses who ever lived never had a Smartphone. 

I love the video above, I love the primitive brilliance of chopstick-and-paper-cup sound reproduction. The only thing stranger is the theory that clay pots somehow recorded sound, I mean hundreds or even thousands of years ago, as the decorating spindle etched grooves in the rapidly-spinning wet clay.

In theory, it could work.

In the last few years some scientist or other discovered he could play back tiny etchings made on paper covered with soot. These went back to something like 1860, and at the time they were made they weren't play-backable, but the guy - do you think I'm going on Wiki for THIS? Forgettaboutit - at least had the principle down. Pointed stylus, rapidly revolving glass drum covered with sooty paper to capture the vibrations. Problem is, this guy was mainly interested in seeing the patterns. A few bricks short of a genius.

I remember eons ago - speaking of low technology, this is the lowest - WHAT show was it, anyway? It wasn't Monty Python, but one of those British comedies like Morecambe and Wise or The Two Ronnies (and I am sure we got more of them here in the True North than the States ever saw), with Spike Milligan, people like that, and maybe Dudley Moore, and. . . anyway, the sketch showed a giant record lying on the ground, and some idiot - maybe Peter Cook - running around and around it with a big stylus and playing it.


I wonder if I have a point here. If technology fails, which it seems to be already in the general dumbing-down of the populace, who will thrive and who won't? I'd say the paper-cup-and-chopstick guy will do all right because he has found a way to think outside the cup, so to speak.

Most people are soft - nowadays they are, I think - and selfish - look at the shameful Vancouver post-Stanley-Cup riots -  and will panic and loot and smash and grab and treat each other like shit. Those people will sift out, eventually, having killed each other, leaving behind the real survivors, the reverse pioneers, the retro-explorers who are tough but able to share their resources. And by resources, I don't mean just food but innovative ways to adapt to huge change. This is how we survived as a species, not by fucking destroying each other over a handful of batteries.

Those nutty survivalists, by the way, the crackpots with more arms stashed than the Unabomber, will very quickly be winnowed out. Do you think they're going to share even one can of beans with a starving family? The crazy will NOT inherit the earth because they're inflexible to the point of lunacy. If there isn't any government left to be paranoid about, they will lose the will to live. Just as Jane Goodall once said, "One chimpanzee is no chimpanzee", in the huge scheme of things, one human being is no human being. Without each other for social and practical and even technological support, we're sunk.

I'd be willing to give Revolution another try if it got past all the "my-family-is-alive-and-I'm-going-to-find-them" stuff, the gun-totin' gals with tangled tawny hair who still look sexy without a stylist (and, I assume, still smell nice without running water or deodorant) and the woman with the ludicrous hamster-driven Commodore 64 computer flickering in her basement. But I think it would have been braver of the writers to start with the actual blackout and not just flash back to it for a few seconds here and there. To actually live through it would create the kind of doomsday gut-lurch that futuristic drama is all about.

We have felt the wind of the wing of this particular madness. We're brave enough to glance at the subject, but not to wade right in.