30 November 2010

The spineless, the law, and the gutless

Recommended, back to back:

A story about medlars, now online

Maybe this blog has finally bletted. After some years, the medlars especially are at last getting the kind of delicious interest they've always secretly craved. And from such quality stock!

People like Catherine Moran, that temptress at Shropshire Prune (Don't just post an announcement on your new blog saying that you will soon post. I'm looking forward to what you say!) Then there's Stephen Read of the Reads, Nurserymen since 1841. Even his twitter page is full of such good stuff, now busy with thoughts of quince and medlar.

And who started all this? I'm not sure, but it might have been Nick Mann at Habitat Aid, the purpose of which is something I feel so strongly about that I fear I can be a bore. Nick isn't. As he says, "Help save native habitats and promote biodiversity in the UK" and then shows how beautiful diversity is. Even if you're like me and can't buy any imported plants (I'd be inviting aliens, an illegal and reviled act that I wrote about recently in my story "Gnawer of the Moon Seeks Summit of Paradise"), you can support the efforts of Habitat Aid and its charity partners, in other ways. As a knife fiend, I want to own that Japanese Hori Hori knife so much, I can feel my fingers close on the handle. Or just steal pleasure from Habitat Aid's many beautiful photographs. I especially like the scene of the harvest mouse eating berries. So many would cry, "Warfarin!"

To thank everyone, I've just reprinted a story for your pleasure, not to mention the pleasure of medlars in both hemispheres.

Valley of the Sugars of Salt

NOTE: I'm assuming all of you have already enjoyed Alys Fowler's article titled simply Medlars in Saturday's Guardian. I urge people who haven't had the pleasure, to dig in, even though I disagree with the Marmite analogy. In our modern world of fruit grown for as much colour and as little taste as possible, so as to be inoffensive, the only people likely to meet medlars are adults who are also either already bletted or fighting dentist and cosmetician, to stop their noble rot. In this mutual state of maturity, the adult can find the alcoholic fruit as sensually pleasurable as a drink that every child knows for sure, is stinky poison. But who do you know who has first met Marmite as an adult, and not rolled the lip? I think one has to be born with a Marmite-clogged spoon near the mouth.

29 November 2010

It's upside down, so like history in a blog, the last is first

Click on these to see the details in all their glory.

Another less mysterious view is on a site I'm experimenting with:
"My Shot" in National Geographic. I love the philosophy about photography that National Geographic states in its invitation to submit photographs:
"I encourage you to submit photographs that are real. The world is already full of visual artifice, and we aren't running Your Shot to add to it. We want to see the world through your eyes, not the tools of Photoshop. Please do not digitally enhance or alter your photographs (beyond the basics needed to achieve realistic color balance and sharpness). If you have digitally added or removed anything, please don't submit the shot."
Great idea, but I don't know if My Shot is just Time Waster. I have found that the priority that National Geographic places on loading the video ads first, takes up so much time that the page says "Done" with no content loading at all, except ads. Maybe it's just my satellite connection, but a pox on these unblockable ads that are costly, too, and the priority that they take. If you try this site and find that this happens to you, my apologies for wasting your time. If you successfully see my experiment of 7 pictures in my "gallery" there, and they bore you, then er, uh, oops.

28 November 2010

Trawling Andromeda Spaceways. High recs

In issue #46 and the current issue #48, the editors have emphasised the horror in the mix, but in both issues, there is also much, much, else.

I'm first bringing up Issue #46 from the depths of the Back Issue Sea. #46 was unfortunately released along with #47, and so it sunk deeper than a wobbegong carpet shark, and seems to be as camouflaged because it has really only been noticed by readers looking for horror. The otherwise has been treated by them with the disdain prawn trawlers give to spider crabs.

In Issue #46
First, I'm recommending yet again " 'The Laughing Girl of Bora Fanong' a Tale of Colonial Venus" by John Dixon and Adam Browne. It's a much bigger and brighter fish (lit by lamplights, and bleary-eyed and probably tar-lunged from second-hand pipe smoke) than the description of it, "dark SF". I would say of the editor Mark Farrugia who was more caring about the contents of this issue than many a mother crocodile, her young, "He has chosen bloody well, but labelled poorly." (A secret about consumption: I had the pleasure of consuming this story first raw, in manuscript form — and that it was a pleasure, is a rare pleasure indeed.)

Issue #46, in pdf and/or hard copy.

Also, I wouldn't do it for myself, mind you. But on behalf of a story that is not horror (unless I have no sense of horror) I must mention that the story with my byline, "How Galligaskins Sloughed the Scourge", does not fit in the horror genre either (unless you flee from gingerbread) but does fit like a sardine into a tin, into the Tambourian genre (and for those post-docs and international conference-goers, needing an answer to the Call for Papers, the subgenre of Tambourian Medlarania; and going even deeper, the subbasement genre of Tambourian Medlarania Poetasterosity ).

Onward, to Issue #48
The only reason I didn't write earlier about two stories in particular in this issue is that I wanted to make a splash about them, so I was waiting for a splashy page to appear on the ASIM site with the whole Table of Contents, and the links to purchase. That hasn't happened, so I won't wait any longer.

Issue #48, in pdf and/or hard copy.

Two very fine authors have stories here that I highly recommend. In fact, I urged both of them to submit the very stories I recommend, and though I never twist arms, I am delighted that editor Juliet Bathory had such good taste. She chose them both. (This was no shoe-in. She didn't choose another one by another friend because she already had one about a chicken.)

Anyway, I highly recommend
  • "Radioactive Gumshoe Blues" by Jamie Shanks
  • "To Stand and Stare" by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy (also known and published as Jayaprakash Sathyamurthy, just to keep us on our toes.)
Jamie Shanks is one of my all-time favourite still-breathing authors. He was quite popular amongst readers when we were both elbowing each other in issues of Elsevier Science's HMS Beagle: BioMedNet. See some stories and humor by him in the HMS Beagle archive. He could make Chandler crack a giggle, and steal a line. In not too long from now, I'll announce something else by Jamie Shanks. He has a ripper of a detective-romper-science-fiction novel in late stages of birth, and the scars of my boots up his insides from birth-induction midwifery. A fine publisher is pacing, ready to take that baby as soon as it screams.

As for JP, I think he's been too unknown. I recently published an excellent horror story , Come Tomorrow, in my Virtuous Medlar Circle. Here's another by him that is in quite another vein. "So I posted a request for the name and author of a book about a schoolboy-wizard who carved replicas of King Arthur and his Knights out of potatoes rather than do his homework and was eventually banished to Hades ." JP posted it on his blog in a fit of impatience. I know. Silly him. Only one rejection. This Is Not The Story No One Wrote.

And now a funny story about this issue. Editor Juliet Bathory worked so hard on it and was so careful, that she was especially worried about the quality of the cover, getting the colours of the cover to match that of the superb artwork, getting the author list placed nicely, and a terrifying thing that haunted her: spelling Jayaprakash Satyamurthy right. The author just below him in the list, Jamie Shanks, somehow became James Shanks.

27 November 2010

Medlars in spring, and their companions

Many spiders make their home in the medlar trees. The work of the web-builders is showiest on dewy winter mornings, but here one is now.

The little flower spiders of the Thomisidae family, on the other hand, are ambush hunters who protect the medlar as they use it for their lure and lair. They are constant companions to the medlar flowers, each spider taking up a flower as its base.

Well, rot my boots! I'm not an entomologist's shed eyelash, but I let my caution down enough to not say "I think", but ignorantly state. Whoever said 'ignorant is bliss'? An idiot. I can only shuffle with embarrassment here and say that I was just feeling so superior last week, when I read in the August edition of History Today, "One can imagine the titillating movements of the whore 'Moll Medlar' (named after a suggestively-shaped pear, best eaten when rotten) as she flirts with Wat ..."

Suggestively-shaped pear! I wrote in high dudgeon to another medlar-lover, "as in a human's head being interchangeable with a durian."

The moral is to say "I don't know" more than I do, and ask for answers. Even that can produce errors. If Lucie Skeaping who wrote that otherwise scholarly, fascinating and fun article, "All Singing, All Dancing — Sexually explicit jigs were a major part of the attraction of the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Restoration", had consulted the Cambridge World History of Food, she'd be wrong'd. But who would think so, with so many experts and such a price? As things dance, Lucie Skeaping loves and is an advocate for and a performer of, another love of mine, "forgotten music", which is so complementary to medlars that I'm surprised she doesn't smell half-rotten from eating them, in the best of ways.

Sometimes the best things in life ARE free. Budak's blog, and budak's help
Thanks to the incomparable Budak (see, for instance, Budak's post,"Crap Spider") who kindly corrected my disgraceful mistaking of identities within hours, I can tell you now that these little spiders below are not flower spiders, nor are they Tom, Dick, or Henrietta Thomisid. This is a picture of a real flower spider.

I'm a flower spider (Diaea sp)

No rice pudding

See a whole smörgåsbord of spiders of different families in what I found when I opened up a mother wasp's stocked nursery, in Fresher than that from the "Fresh Food People"

But now back to this post, and
As Budak says, the spiders below are Salticids, and could I venture to say that they might be either the Opisthoncus parcedentatus or a close cousin?

Medlar flower and Jumping Spider

Later, a smooth white pillow of an egg sack filled with many verrrry small, celery-green eggs fills many a medlar's calyx. And later still, minute spiderlings emerge, and traverse their globes.
(And now, Budak, from what I shakily understand, both families make the same type of egg sacks with a top and bottom sheet that enclose light green eggs). I've seen the sacks and eggs in the calyxes with me own confused eyes, so who do you think made them, and do you think these families both live amongst the medlars?

And back to safe ground. Here in this little village, other otherwise-forgotten apple types live amongst the medlars.

Fenouillet Gris

The apples to come—were before our time, celebrated as dessert apples of great excellence. The Fenouillet Gris is an apple meant for an eater who has a nose and teeth. Small and flattened, aromatic russet, hard, crisp, not too sweet, and redolent of aniseed. The skin is my favourite part—delicious as only a russet skin can be, and not red as in other descriptions of this 1600s apple, but a colour that could be named Bruegel.

24 November 2010

A Day in the Life of a Red Ant Guard

Red bulldog ants construct
particulated houses.

Soldiers poise at city lip,
hairs taughtened to
the waves -
slop feet slapping.

Tsunami-near I come
deliberately as
gumleaves blowing.

Guards outflow.
Jaws clamp,
stings pierce —
a lightning strike at
eyeless, brainless legs.

Air burns
to dancing yell
and fire-scent.

Jammed between skin and socks,
the dead defenders won.

My footfalls die away
and houses hum below.
Up from the tunnels,
new red guards flow.

And the sky did not fall today.


This poem was first published in the July 20, 2001 · Issue 107 of The HMS Beagle: BioMedNet Magazine, now RIP. The Beagle then was the best science magazine I've ever seen and a credit to Elsevier, interfering with genuine work for many readers, most of whom wouldn't know a Myrmecia gulosa from a Nerello Mascalese. The decision to eliminate the poetry, fiction ("scientists don't read fiction") and humour, and to turn the Beagle into a generic trade mag showed a level of survival intelligence, be it hard-wired or learned, that would need gods to to save the species. No gods appeared, but you can enjoy picking through the Beagle Archives.

19 November 2010

Is that a Lucifer Cantos in your pocket?

Yes it is.

I've already written a paean to pocket-size books as companions, so this isn't a repeat. It is, however, a burp of repletion, for this little beauty bound by Erzebet Yellowboy at Papavera Press, The Lucifer Cantos by Hal Duncan is warm from nestling in my breast pocket after much fondling of pages. And your copy can nestle in your breast pocket, along with, I can attest, extra room for a tear of sympathy for whomever, and a dessicated boutonnière. Or you could wear this book at your hip. Hell, it's so small and convenient, you could pack it in your boot. It's smaller than a swig-flask, and will give you much more pleasure.

I hope Duncan never decides he is a poet, or one morning even he could wake up and write about a window, the fixture that afflicts all professional poets at some time in their career. One infamous poet wrote about a w. and curtains moving in the b., and it was published in a joblot that was one of his books. And it came to pass that a desperate academic circled it and stuck his round set of teeth into the thing, and sucked. And he made of it a thesis or maybe a dissertation rich with "There is intense understated, underlying sexual innuendo that has a not so 0…" and so forth, and this thesis or maybe it was dissertation got a great rise amongst the review board, and even more when it was published, from the poet.

And so, ever after that, the poet, when invited to teach his poetry, taught that poem, just as he had learnt its true and elevated meaning from an expert.

But back to Hal Duncan's poetry. It's angry, loving, frustrated, flowing and beautiful as honest passion. I don't know what he does when he feels dull, but he bloody well doesn't write.

Even the way his poetry looks matters. You can't get this from a power-hungry artificially illuminated 'reader', or from any screen. His poetry belongs in a book, in a hand.

I want to quote parts of it here, but I won't. Rather, buy the gorgeous little book (it's a small run, so don't leave it forever)
see more links to Hal's poetry and novels and essays and philosophical expeditions on his Notes from the Geek Show. One recent brilliant essay that I could even understand is Would a Robot Love You? Jeeves? Meet Joe.

But back to Lucifer, which leads to a true story.
In South Africa, matches are called 'fierhookjes' (fire sticks).
So this South African Afrikaner visits the Netherlands, and finds he's out of matches. He walks into a bar and asks, in of course, Afrikaans, for fierhookjes. The bar explodes in laughter. "You mean," says the bartender, "Lucifers."
er, back to the subject.

One of the interesting aspects of this particular book is that it proved to me that there might be a commonality amongst the one who has many names.

Do all devils think in related fonts?*
It hit me when I opened the pages of The Lucifer Cantos that he uses the same font as one I know who goes by the aka of Brett Hartshorn, who also has a penchant for the lyrical line, not to mention passion.

Maybe that's why so many hot-type printers on this surface of earth burnt down, practically all at once. I can't wait to get to Hell to feel their books. Those indentations, that cataclysmic sound of the Printed Word. I just hope they let me keep my pockets.

*The font is sort of crabbed and quite small, so I guess they have a hard time using their hands for the grand flowing gesture on the page. I guess it beats using their feet, though I've never seen any ancient Lucifer Cantos on clay tablets. Possibly Hal has, and can reveal if they're a series of tight little v's. But, ooh, I've just looked, and that's Sumerian to a two-toed dance. History is mystery. And meet your ancestors.

Symphony in blues

What's not having friends for?

Private communication, primitive communication.
Your oyster!
If you're here, congratulations on not having friends either, or if so, managing to tear yourself up for a moment from that pitcher-plant lake of public lurve.

Of course, you're still looking at a screen instead of cricking your neck at the heavens or tickling a tardigrade—but maybe your screen is supposed to be showing Work.
So, try to only make suitable workish sounds when you read:
Facebook meme: Ready for pasting into your notes

And now this exhortation comes to you completely Friend-free!
It has no Friend-prints, nor little bird droppings. It's just a recommendation from me to all you millions of fellow medlar-lovers to see this beautiful work of art by Tineke Stoffels, who sees herself as I do me, as a "citizen of the world".
White Plate with Medlars by Tineke Stoffels

17 November 2010

The strength of a mushroom, in any tongue

Mushrooms are awful in the old sense. The current trend in unwillingness to compromise, and these mushrooms, remind me of an old haiku of mine that was laid in The Heron's Nest
again negotiations fail
the clay path broken
by a mushroom

And if you like haiku, you might like to read more.

How do you say kookaburra in Russian?
These of mine have been posted on a site in both English and Russian, though I don't know how the translations read in Russian. Like with most poetry that is reprinted, no one asked permission, something that cheesed off Wendy Cope so much, she recently complained in The Guardian.

Even in a haiku, translations vary enormously, each translation a creation. If, for instance, two fabulous writers each of whom plumb depths very differently and idiosyncratically, Vera Nazarian and Ekaterina Sedia, each dug their thumbs into the same poem, story, novel—and translated, I'd love to read both of their creations, though I can only read the English version, and they can translate both ways—English to Russian, Russian to English.

People who can think in more than one language are very odd. They are wealthy beyond imagination, beyond designer handbags and tourist trips to space—but they aren't burdened by the envy normally directed at the rich.

15 November 2010

The glorious Golden Glory Pea

Gompholobium latifolium — Golden Glory Pea

This is the largest of the native pea flowers, and there's a riot of beautiful pea flowers blooming now, many of them bearing names that fit them as well as this one does. Much loved at all times of the day is Egg and Bacon.

See also:

Do octopuses see cephalopodic arms in surfaces?

I'd call this Work, and certainly Art

But that's just because my eyes behold it. The spiders who leave silk on it, and the tiny dasyurids who leave droppings smaller than that of mice, don't think of art at all. It is a vertical surface that leads to something as far as the dasyurids are concerned, and to the spiders, it's another terrain. To people who don't appreciate Art, it is a detail of the side of a galvanised steel garbage bin.

14 November 2010

Suu Kyi "free"? Is this a press release from the generals?

"Myanmar democracy activist Suu Kyi is free"
This is the headline to the story in the Los Angeles Times, written by, I guess, some ignorant office drone in L.A. who should live in this kind of freedom. At the end of the actual story, the Times states: "The writer is unidentified to protect those who work with him."

A linked story, also in the Times, is Suu Kyi outlasted her oppressors.
Gosh! That must mean that those who just gave Suu Kyi "freedom" did lose the election.

This Amnesty International headline and story is by Jim Roberts, Myanmar Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA: Aung San Suu Kyi Finally Free!

Aung San Suu Kyi: Burma leader's first night of freedom - BBC News

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi freed in Rangoon as crowds celebrate –Washington Post

What's a democracy leader who can't participate in a democracy in a country that calls democracy "treason"?

An informative post by Dáithaí C: Suu Kyi will be free only when Burma is free

Recommended: NAMFREL – National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections
Their most recent post: Burma election not free and fair; unrest looms

Related post:

13 November 2010

"Pokky Man" too gristly to be mash

Mashups are so nice and friendly
for those whose teeth are lost or bendly.

A little mashed fudge bt eggplant goes a long way
The problem with themed anthologies is that in the midst of, say, mashed fudge bt eggplant, one can find something that one would really like, be it endless power without responsibility or a story that you can't consume with drink unless you don't mind choking on your own laughter.

But one is hardly likely to order mashed fudge bt eggplant if one has had enough already of what Tansy Rayner Roberts calls "Relentless Adaptations and Seamonsters and Vampires and a Latte Please". (Her blog piece follows the drollerically passionate story by Roberts, "Relentless Adaptations" that had me bashing a chair arm going Yes Yes Y.... " Listen to the story here or read it in another anthology that you might not pick up because it is themed: Sprawl edited by Alisa Krasnostein. In fact, Sprawl sprawls in fascinating ways, as rivetting as a smashed bottle of milk or an elephant drunk on maroola fruits. Another story in the book,"Sweep" by Simon Brown, should also appear in future horror collections. As deceptively simple as a haiku, and like a needle in I'm sure everyone's spine of guilt. I have a story in this antho too, but that is by the by.)

So if you, like me, feel nauseated by even the thought of

take a deep breath, and order. When you have it before you, trust me as you poke through the mash with pole or finger. Eventually you will come to
"Pokky Man – A Film by Vernor Hertzwig"
—a story so gristly, it leaps the plate. Also, it must have been so much fun to write (and so bloody inspired!) that its own author didn't recognise its worth, and maybe doesn't still. But then as I once heard two editors agree, "authors are the worst judges of their own work". So I'll speak his name here once to get it over with (Marc Laidlaw) and leave him to his ignorance.

"The truth immediately strikes every reader with conviction."
Captain Gulliver

In our hyperbolic age, the calm reportage in "Pokky Man" is icily refreshing. The "story" is really just a written transcript of a documentary, itself composed of clips. "Pokky Man" reminds me strongly of two classic masterpieces of fly-on-the-wall documentary, Cane Toads–An Unnatural History and Rats in the Ranks. Narrator-free, all of them, and "Pokky Man" has the additional dryness of being music-free, so there is nothing interpretative (some would say manipulative) going on here. Interpretation can, therefore, run riot, as in this reaction to the head rat in Rats...

"While many have said this documentary was Larry Hand's undoing, I think he emerges as the hero; not because he eventually wins the mayoral election, but because it is he who is the most honest about his intentions."

"Pokky Man" as a mashup fails for the same reason that it is great, classic satire. No one knows precisely who inspired Aristophanes to have a character say, "If well paid, these men also teach one how to gain law-suits, whether they be just or not." Maybe Ari time-travelled to now, or laughed over the same truth with Swift; or travelled to the end of our time, for cockroaches won't be the only survivors.

When Hemlock Pyne, Pokky Master, says
"I am moving away from the Arena, friends, because when this happens, the blast can spread far outside the –WHOA!"
—what immediately popped into my mind was something I thought only some Australians might think. But my household, it seems, was not alone. Widely quoted was the "sick" comment on Air America: "I'm still cheering the fact that some stingray whacked that Aussie pain in the ass Steve Irwin." And if you google " 'Steve Irwin' obnoxious", quite a lot appears, as does " 'Steve Irwin' hero". A Sea Shepherd ship was named after him. Stingrays were murdered and will be hated forever on behalf of Irwin's memory. But then, as a blogger wrote, "There are a significant number of 'Steve Irwin' types in South Africa." Not that all this matching to real-life-or-other-fictional-character matters as regards "Pokky Man" any more than that Shakespeare didn't know from Jets and Sharks.

What matters is that Hemlock Pyne, Crystal Burl, his girlfriend; Vernor Hertzwig, filmmaker; Dr. Jasper Chrysolite, and the rest, all talk and otherwise in their own way, with no cuts or retakes. "Pokky Man" is told completely straight, and as such, is as funny as this quote about the Chapman brothers' art.
Arguably their most ambitious work was 'Hell' (1999), an immense tabletop tableau, peopled with over 30,000 remodelled, 2-inch-high figures, many in Nazi uniform and performing egregious acts of cruelty. The work combined historical, religious and mythic narratives to present an apocalyptic snapshot of the twentieth-century. Tragically this work was destroyed in the MOMART fire in 2004
White Cube Gallery
The real stuff—a little scrap from "Pokky Man"
Vernor Hertzwig, filmmaker
The childish, even cartoonish aspects of the story, were far from appealing to me, especially as spending time on a hundred or so hours of Pokkypet footage would mean delaying my then-unfunded cinematic paean to those dedicated paleoanthropologists who study human coprolites or fossil feces. But there was an element of treachery and tragedy that lured me to look more carefully at the life and last days of Hemlock Pyne, as well as the amount of money Digito was offering.
"Pokky Man – A Film by Vernor Hertzwig" will, I trust, be included in some great anthologies. (It would have gone well with Thurber when the New Yorker was up to that quality.)

In the meantime, buy Classics Mutilated and congratulate yourself for finding it.


I just remembered that, not that he has ever run a restaurant or judged cuisine, but God hates mash.
You might want to read my report, The Wages of Food-Play