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JOE CHIP AMONG THE DEAD

it was a strange journey … a “Not Trevor” incident…

My grandfather sits in the ruin of his house.  It is always night when I am here.  The sky is my skull, a low dome seen from the inside.  His jaw is strong and held hard, grinding the fossils of his teeth.  (Even if he still smoked, he could not.  His pipe stem could not be forced between those lips.  It would be snapped by those teeth.  The end of it would stay in that mouth a hundred years, preserved.)

Wind sweeps the ash.  I do not feel the cold.  I stare at the strength of that head.  I remember bending and kissing that head, like a child’s, as it laid on a pillow.  The man I never kissed, who always shook hands.  The skull beneath the skin.

That he came back to sit here, among the ruins.  He does not decay, instead the house does.  Each time I come, it has deteriorated further, taking his place in the grave.  The elements do not bother him.  If the wind wears him, if water drips him away, leaching away the minerals of him a drop at a time, perhaps it is for the best.  Perhaps it is what he desires.  As he weathers, mountains are ground down, oceans rise, seas fall.  Forests grow and are consumed.  The constellations shift, all sped up for him.  He is the Time Traveller, he is Rod Taylor in his chair, encased in stone, then freed again.  In my visits, I am a shadow.  I am the flickering ghost.  It is I who am death, I am mortality.  We are worn down around him.

Read the rest …

The Power

Powerful Owl

Powerful Owl

This is not a great photograph, in fact it is not even a good photograph.  The light, the bush, my camera and my skill levels were all against me.  However I have not come across owls in the wild very often, and wanted to share my encounter with a Powerful Owl.  It is the largest owl in Australia, and in my state is listed as “vulnerable”.  This photograph was taken in Sydney Botanical Garden.  They mate at this time of year and can be heard calling particularly in March and April.  I have been fortunate to hear at least one over the last few weeks at home, but not spotted it yet.  I will try to keep to half decent photographs in future, but this one was more about the excitement of finally seeing one of these beautiful animals in the wild.  Check out those talons.

Joe Chip is at home amongst the dead this week.  I appreciate the interest of those who subscribe to and visit this site.  If I could ever encourage you to click on any of the links to have a look at my other work, could I encourage you to have a look at “Not Trevor” this week please?  It is not an easy site to publicise, and it is strangely personal.  Many thanks to those who have a look.

Attempts at humour and poetry appear here and here.

If anyone comes across Edgar Edgarberger, please tell him to get in touch.

Little Corellas … of Death!!!

Privet. Must. DIE.

Little Corella gorging on privet berries

Little corella

Snap away, I don't care

Well, there’s a title for you.  They are a threat to berries.

Not an uncommon bird around here any more, they appear seasonally, following the food.  This particular privet is now gone, the tree is a weed, a real pest and nuisance.  They are widespread and have altered the ecological balance, so that former large predators, such as currawongs, that were migratory, no longer have to leave for the winter, so smaller birds are under attack all year round.  Wrens and robins have now disappeared from many places.

Your mate has slowed down his posting.  He has decided to come clean.  For years he has been working on a horror novel.  (It may be crap, it maybe at least as rubbish as all the others he moans about, but it will be his, whether it is ever published or not.  All he can promise is a monster, and that many people die.)  Along the lines of Julia Cameron’s “morning pages”, the various blogs have been a good stimulus.  Now (dropping into the first person) I need to spend more time on the actual story, as the most recent draft is more than two thirds along, so there should be less done online.

Please feel free to click on some of the links below and check out your mate’s other posts, it makes him feel good for a little while …

For the first time in a long time, there is new entry over at “Not Trevor“, in fact, it is the Genesis of the Daleks, or not quite, it is the first time Trevor notices the existence of your not-quite-a-hero, whose name happens to also be Joe Chip.  Please have a look, it was a long time coming.

Your mate has been rhapsodising poetically about his lunchtime adventures when briefly free from the cubicle of death.  First about the young Mormon missionaries keener to evangelise to pretty young Asian girls than to your mate, and then about a strange day when everyone he passed seemed to have a scar.

You may be surprised that woolly little lamb scrotums (scrota?) do not taste like chicken, but that is our function at the Joe Chip Laboratories, to expose these and other truths.  And your mate provides assistance to a wandering fool thinking that there are loopholes to life, over at What Would Joe Chip Do?

This weeks yell out goes to Mike585 who wanders about marshes at night encountering badgers and foxes and toads, and records it wonderfully in words and photographs.  The patience this man has!  This is a really cool blog.

Reading: The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake; Necroville by Ian McDonald.  I like McDonald a lot, really enjoyed Cyberabad Days, The Dervish House, and Brasyl.  I am finding this a little hard to get into, but I suspect the fault is mine, the clutter in the writing is deliberate but at the moment I need some clarity and simplicity.

I finished The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein.  Bits were good, but overall not for me.  Its on a couple of lists of all time best vampire books and many people write about it favourably.  I did not find the terror creeping, because I did not care very much about the characters.  I am not a professional reviewer and as I have said before, I am not very articulate about these things, but I did not get what I wanted from this.  This does not make it a bad book, just not a great fit for me.  However, it did have me thinking about the nature of the vampire, and our ties to time and familiar settings.  Another book on one of those lists was “Fangland” by John Marks, and that did not do much for me either.  The failure is no doubt with me and my laziness and requirement for genre expectations to be fulfilled.  If I enter a leisurely stage of life again (like the times when I could meander through Tolstoy and Dostoevsky), I will lift my game, I promise.  I would like to be like the cool kid who never likes the second album of any band, and who is ahead of the game and finds the most wonderful obscure tidbits, but my favourite vampire books of recent years have both been massive best sellers: “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist and “The Passage” by Justin Cronin.  I look forward to the upcoming re-release of Kim Newman’s “The Bloody Red Baron”.

This is my favourite, for all sorts of personal reasons. I liked it so much it has just about killed this blog for me, unfortunately as I quite liked playing around with it, but I feel I have set a standard I cannot reach. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is not the Sistine chapel, I am just talking about what I am trying to achieve in this little pool. Oh well.

Not Trevor

News of the bus misadventure in the Canutes caused me to reflect on an incident from my school days.

Those of a certain age will remember the tightening of the curriculum, when a scientific fine tooth comb was drawn through the hippy length hair of what in those days passed for the imparting of knowledge to the young.  How bracing we found the shock of the new, when the wool was pulled from over our eyes and we saw not through a glass darkly for the first time.  I remember our science teacher, nervous, looking around, perhaps unsure of how we would react to the “New Learning”.  Then he opened his mouth:

“Children.  Here is something interesting that I have to … need to tell you about.  Did you know that flight is impossible?”

How intrigued I was.  I recall the brand new text books that were handed around that day…

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Unexpected Visitor

White faced heron

an unexpected visitor

We don’t normally expect anything this large visiting backyards in Glossolalia (except Cthulhu perhaps, or a spider-woman).  I would have included a shot of it on the top of my old garage, but that may have tricked you into believing that birds can fly, when we know that is not possible. There was a drought at the time, so lots of marsh birds were looking elsewhere for tucker, even in the desolate suburbs of outer Dis.

I continue to work on the next installment of Not Trevor, but the memories are too difficult to deal with.  In our anxious world, do we have as many words for mental illness as the Eskimos have for snow?  You betcha we do.  Think about it though, if the DSM is couched in terms of a wine-taster’s palate, who are the connoisseurs who enjoy the tasting? A dark and hidden group?  Thats why it is called Poetry and Paranoia.

This weeks truly terrible poetry is your mate’s tribute to 60s rock musicals, where he lambasts chickens for their failure at lactation and general lack of mammalian aspiration.  Just because you can rhyme does not mean you should, kiddies.  A trite contribution to Marxian theory with a short recitation of a visit to a bank is here, but you really wouldn’t bother clicking, except for the picture of communist superman.

Finally, in WWJCD?, one of nature’s terrible challenges.  A young woman laments the medical condition known as “spontaneous penis”.  Or is she suffering from the more disgusting, but easily treated, ingrown lizard?  Read it and find out.

A big hello this week to gingerfightback, who is seriously odd, and is nice enough to comment on some of my stuff occasionally.

Your mate reads a lot of horror stories (though not as much as he used to).  He is very used to being disappointed.  Somewhere (can’t be bothered reaching to my shelf) Orwell comments upon the difficulty with short story collections, the effort of settling in and allowing the mental furniture to be arranged, only to have to dump the lot a few pages later.  One lives with a novel a lot longer, and so the investment of settling in has a greater pay off.  Perhaps its just laziness.  I read a lot more novels than short story collections possibly for this reason, possibly for reasons of marketing and accessibility.  I read genre fiction also out of laziness, but also because of marketing – I like these particular sorts of things, so there is a good chance I will like books marketed as these sorts of things.  Yet reading horror and sf, what am I after?  The idea, the gimmick, the surprise, the special thing.  The difference between a genre novel and a genre short story is often just the space the idea is played out over.  I appreciate good characterisation, impressive use of language and so on, your mate is not just reading for the “thing”.  Often, to get a novel out of “the thing”, there is a predictable treatment, either the adventure novel or a thriller.  That is fine, I read on trains, I read on buses, I read late at night when I get a moment.  A thriller keeps the pages turning, but I have been there and done that so many times.  Looking back at my recent reading, I received a lot of pleasure from “Thought Crimes” by Tim Richards, a short story collection, and look forward to the release of another soon.  I very much enjoyed “2oth Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill (more than I enjoyed his novels, what was the point of ‘Horns’?), I was excited working my way through it.  I look forward to the thrillers of Michael Marshall (I confess “The Straw Men” is on my shelf of favourite novels), but they often read as high tech or spy thriller approaches to horror themes, with the associated predictablility.  Yet his “Substitutions” (writing as Michael Marshall Smith – I read it in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol 22) raised in me a frisson that I don’t get to experience very often as I grow older, until the end where “oh shit” turned to “Oh SHIT”, leaving me with a big smile.

So where is all this leading?  There were quite a few lovely bits of horror in that collection, but of course with the range of writers represented, one is often bound to be disappointed, after all it is someone else’s selection.  I found that with the previous volume.  Who knows, I am no reviewer, I am not particularly articulate about these things, I just know what I like.  Maybe it was my mood, maybe because I was reading on an e reader instead of a book.  However, having said that, there was one story which knocked my socks off, “Two Steps Along the Road” by Terry Dowling.  Excellent.  A premise which usually piques my interest only to leave me “meh” is that of a paranormal investigation group, from the government or a university.  It is treated so well here, and the monster, who is not hidden at all, who walks amongst us and eats meals with us and talks with us about itself, is terrific.  Nice and interesting, good story, enjoying it a lot, then, on a commuter train, in broad daylight with people all around, I realised that I was scared.  Usually, the best I can hope for in horror fiction is that other spice, disquiet, and I am happy when I get it.  However, I do not scare easily when reading.  I can be fearful for a character I have invested in, but not scared like watching a horror movie scared.  Sometimes when I cannot sleep images from reading may scare me or lead me to unpleasant places, but again, that is not scared while reading.  I loved it.  If you get a chance and if you like horror at all, I recommend it.  I have bought his novel “Clowns at Midnight” on the strength of it, so we will see how that goes.

And I enjoyed this.

And your mate is still blushing from the maybe declaration of some kind of love in the comments under “The Crimson Pimpernel” below.  You are too kind!!

The Crimson Pimpernel

Crimson Rosella

There we go, as promised in various places, if you don’t like the words, at least there is a bird to look at.

Your mate really has no business blogging when there are so many other calls on his time, such as hiding from creditors and looking at birds, but he cannot let you down.

Looking around the Joe Chippish traps, a message has got through from Glossolalia, though it is hard to understand.  I suspect evil Trevor has been up to something.  In honour of Valentine’s Day, the Joe Chip laboratories have conducted an in depth analysis of love (scientific name: LERV), to see what its all about, Alfie.  You may be surprised at our results.  Or you may not.

Continuing with the romantic theme, you may be intrigued by the strange attraction your mate has to the Australian billionaire, Gina Rinehart, and the question he asks: does she have ninjas?

In the poetic realms, we consider the effect of the cryptid creature, the numb-bat, and those who seek its bite to remove all feeling, and why light is a bad thing.  (Who is this “we”, Joe?  I don’t know, you tell me, Joe.)

This week’s shout out goes to Osteoarch, who is a freelance osteoarchaeologist, and how cool is that?  Most interesting job description I’ve come across in a while, and she gets to wear a white coat in her pictures, which I don’t.  Check out her site.

Just finished “Embassytown” by China Mieville, the bestselling communist fantasist.  He continues with an obsession about religion.  In earlier books such as “Perdido Street Station” he wrote of demons, though they were throughgoing materialists, existing on the physical plane.  In “Kraken” he was a bit more direct, depicting a London populated by members of thousands of obscure and generally warring sects.  He has a respectful Marxist approach to religion – he does not believe a word of it, but acknowledges it as a real and continuing part of human existence.  While a complete sceptic, he does not take the dismissive approach of a Dawkins or Hitchens, no doubt in part stemming from his Marxism, in that religion cannot be reasoned away until the material conditions of humanity change and the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system are resolved and the state withers away and so on – he has his own apocalyptic agenda whether he realises it or not.  I don’t know that too many religious believers would see themselves reflected in “Kraken”, though perhaps their detractors would.  yes, they can be evil, intolerant, scheming, whatever, but they can also be loyal, devoted, selfless and self sacrificing – in other words, human.  However, religion is reduced to subscribing to an arbitrary series of postulates (unlike, say, Marxism).

Here, the theological concerns are definitely non-theistic.  In “Embassytown”, humanity is confronted with a pre-lapsarian world, with creatures who cannot lie.  This is no “Case of Conscience” James Blish world – they are not innocents – they scheme, they kill, they profit.  However, for purely Darwinian reasons, they cannot lie.  Humanity then introduces the serpent into their world.

It is all very interesting, however for all the discussion in reviews of the cleverness in its discussion of language and so on, it still felt arbitrary.  This thing happens because these creatures happen to do this when this other thing happens.  Hardly a criticism, I know, isn’t that a description of life, however I don’t know that it is justified to raise the discussion of the book as high as it has gone in some circles.  It is one of the slimmest of his books (his books are getting a lot shorter than when he started, whether that is a good thing depends upon how much you were enjoying them), but frankly I thought it could have been a lot thinner.

There are many excellent science fiction touches.  I enjoyed the Turing machine, however it left me feeling a bit stupid – its role just drops off, and I  was left thinking that I must have missed something obvious about it and its inability to adapt.  Perhaps there was a comment in there about Turing machines being a test of whether humans are conscious independent sentient beings that I missed in reading it on my daily commute.  The stuff about interstellar travel on the immer and floaking are fairly lovely for those who enjoy sf.  Philip K Dick when interviewed  said that the pleasures of reading AE van Vogt for him included that they hinted at things unseen.  There are plenty of hints in this book – interdimensional lighthouses built in the immer – leading to the irony of the narrator, existing in a world so exotic to us, being led by the human instinct to leave her humdrum existence behind and strike off into even further beyond.  Whatever we reach, there is always something further.  However, while I enjoyed these aspects, to me they were a little bit of a cheat.  When I was elbowing my way into the novel, trying to settle in and get comfortable, there was a scene of a ship returning from the immer that was insufficiently quarantined.  Suddenly, something breaks out, and reality begins to be converted into the stuff of the creature.  A monster from the true beyond, something strange, a great weird moment.  I thought this was a hint of the crisis to come, of the crux of the novel.  No, it was mostly a throw away scene.  *Sigh*

An intriguing premise, some lovely dollops of weird, but in terms of playing with words and their manifestation, I preferred the playfulness of Steven Hall’s “The Raw Shark Texts”.  Perhaps I am shallow.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Your mate loves youse all!