Friday, October 29, 2010

Today is Not My Birthday

Being as it's broad daylight and office hours, recreating the Flaming Lamington Fortress of 2007 that started this whole Not Birthday affair would not appear to be a pragmatic move.

Sticking a soldier upside down in a banana-choc-chip muffin is, I believe, an appropriate alternative. Creatures of war, as said the King of Mars.

Being a largely international flock of readers, providing you with cake would be logistically unfeasible, so instead I give you this short film. It says with calm and quiet a great many things about which I am not calm and not quiet. It resonates strong enough to be entirely intangible.

Peace of mind is for peaceful minds, as said the King of Mars.

Thirteen years. Last year I forgot this date. It's some small, sad, insignificant failure that I didn't manage to do so this year. Some things you don't get to move on from. They define you, and you carry them around for the rest of your life, like a forgotten stick of chewing gum lost in the bottom of your bag, old and well past its use by date, and sticking with you forever.

I often consider what I'd say to the ghost of this sixteen year old Tessa that won't let me go (or that I will not let go). Were I to sit on the ground next to her on that station platform on this day all those years ago, knowing what the next few hours hold, and then, knowing what the next thirteen years will bring, knowing all this, there must be something to justify us.

Hey. It's okay. We came true.

And she'd look at me, that dead fish in a dead pan lack of reaction face I haven't been able to discard. She wouldn't even given me a mouth twitch.

Because she is me and I am her, and we both know there's no comfort in that at all.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Five Months, Four Books, Two Octopodes

In my defence, I have critiqued a couple of novels and watched The Naked Lunch I don't know how many times.

Return to Tibet - Heinrich Harrer, translated by Ewald Osers

Having read Seven Years in Tibet just prior to traveling there, it seemed only fitting that the first book I pick up on my return be the sequel, of a sort. I bought it in a book store lining the kora of the boudhanath in Little Tibet in Kathmandu.

In this book Harrer writes of what he found when he finally returned to Tibet, some thirty years after he fled the country ahead of the invasion by Red China. I was a little apprehensive, to be honest. The nature of his departure, the knowledge of what had come to pass in those years, the treacherous ground nostalgia presents; it all seemed the perfect equation for a bitter book.

The Tibet he visited was much similar to the one I visited. The talk of what had gone on was horrific and devastating and so very quiet. The manner in which he was minded day and night differs somewhat, as I was allowed to roam around as I pleased, but then, I was only a tourist.

What surprised me was the hope he displayed that things would improve. He wrote of improving relations with China, that the administration was perhaps coming to terms with the fact that their handling of Tibet was simply not working, not for the Tibetans or for them, and that what had passed with the Four wasn't a legacy they necessarily wished to continue, and that maybe the Dalai Lama would be allowed to return, may Tibetans would be allowed to be Tibetans without fear, maybe, maybe...

His voice is laced with hurt at all that had come to pass, all the damage that would never be able to be undone, yet the hope is equal to that hurt. He truly believed things would change for the better.

The Tibet he envisioned in his hope is not the Tibet I visited.

Diary of a Journey Across Tibet - Captain Hamilton Bower, 17th Bengal Cavalry

Purchased in Kathmandu after a blissfully quiet hour spent examining every book in a bookstore.

This is what it says it is, the expedition log of a trip across Tibet.

It is a little bit hilarious. By a little bit, I mean a lot. Bower is not a...he's...well. He's a fine colonial spirit, out to bring civility to the savages and barbarians of the world. Usually by yelling and bullying them into giving him food, ponies and guides. He is entirely at the mercy of the Tibetans he encounters, yet in this diary never once notes that his survival is entirely dependent upon their generosity, and wades into every encounter with a sense of entitlement that is equally impressive and appalling. He even made that classic near clichéd mistake of disputing river names, because his companions had said that river was called tsang-po, but then have also said this river is called tsang-po, and clearly they are not the same river! (Tsang-po being, of course, the Tibetan word for river.) The time his party spent crossing the Changtang was grueling for both expedition and reader - they did not see another soul, nor sign of another person, for some months. They were living hand to mouth, every day spent scrounging for water and anything to eat. There's a reason not even the wildlife loiters up there.

Mostly, he and his party seemed to survive because...well, it would be decided unbritish of them not to.

Through Unknown Tibet - Captain Montagu Sinclair Wellby, 18th Hussars

I actually picked this one up before Bower, but in the opening pages wherein Wellby lists the inventory for the expedition he makes reference to Bower's experience in crossing Tibet, so switched around.

The routes taken by both expeditions are quite similar, as far as I can tell without maps. Tibetan and Chinese town names Romanised purely from phonetic are nigh useless to identifying the actual locations they passed through.

The two men could not be more different. While Bower was offensive in the judgments he passed willy-nilly on everything for the various people and customs he met to the quality of the kyang (wild ass) they shot and ate to the ponies they requisitioned, Wellby greeted the world around him with a non-judgmental curiosity and even-handed analysis. While he encountered the same severe conditions on the chang (why, given he knew of Bower's experiences, did he still choose this route? Insanity!) and trouble with his entourage, the approaches he used to dealing with adversity were less roaring bull and more diplomatic guile. He took genuine delight in the discoveries made. I was particularly amused by the presence of Ruby, a fox terrier who accompanied them.

Still, this was something of an endurance read, as the Changtang was just as depressingly soul-crushingly monotonous. The quick history lesson of troubles in and around Xining was interesting - and still relevant - but once they were out of danger of starvation and dehydration, and back in the arms of civilisation, the diary itself lost interest, and was simply a catalogue of miles between one town and the next.

Conclusion: Harrer was not prepared, Bower was not prepared and Wellby was not prepared. Even I with my organised tour was not prepared. No one is prepared for Tibet.

I love these books.

Black Country - Joel Lane

Short story as one-shot chapbook. Elegant little package for an elegantly restrained story. A sort of slow, gentle horror that caresses the insidious menace of nostalgia and true lost memories beneath the guise of a crime story. Very much enjoyed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jaimesis sent me Disco Shark! (And other awesomeness, but this comic needed to exist.)

Traveling Illegally in Tibet; Reiteration

From Life on the Tibetan Plateau, Traveling Illegally in Tibet;

...a group of 6 foreigners had arranged a tour of just the Lhasa area. They booked everything through my friends company, which is owned and managed by a great Tibetan family who are from Lhasa. The group had a great time in Lhasa and had no problems. The second to last day of the groups tour, they produced train tickets proving that they were leaving on the date their permit ended. The next day, one of the agencies drivers took them to the train station and saw them off....or so they thought.

Two days later, my friend's agency gets a phone call from the police in Dram at the Nepal border. The police informed my friend that one of his groups had traveled illegally to the Nepal border...

The Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) called my friends office regarding this group that travelled illegally to the border. The TTB told my friends agency that he would be fined Y50,000 ($7350 USD) and faced a possible 3 month business license suspension, which would mean they would have to close their doors for 3 months and not arrange any tours.

The above bridge marks the border between Nepal and China-Tibet. Our Tibetan drivers and guide, who had been piggy-backing us for weeks, dropped us at the foot of the bridge. We didn't have time for a long good bye, with so many cargo trucks and freight trucks backing up the narrow switchbacks behind us. Our guide stayed with us. He didn't have to. He had seen us to the border and that was where his job ended, but he stayed to make sure we got through okay, and because he's simply that kind of man. I won't name him.

Quarantine didn't exist except on paper, and immigration wasn't overly interested in us, but Customs pillaged every bag. They went through our rucksacks and daypacks. No interest was shown in any goods purchased, or any food we may have been carrying, they paid no attention to liquids or gels and completely ignored out toiletries.

They paid attention to books. They went through all papers, all novels, all travel journals. All pamphlets and maps carefully examined.

They're looking for pictures of the Dalai Lama, our guide told us, or any subversive messages.

I watched them labour through an Englishman's daypack. He had half a library in there.

What happens if they find any?

You get kicked out of the country, he said with a grin. Maybe get a fine.


And I will lose my tour guide licence, he said, still with a grin. Maybe get arrested.

Are you thinking about trying to travel in Tibet illegally? DON'T! Do you want to go to Everest, but you don't have enough money for a tour so you want to try and set off from Lhasa on your own? DON'T! All foreigners need a permit in their hand in order to board the flight or train to Lhasa. You won't be able to board without it. The permit can only be arranged by a travel agency. If you go to Lhasa legally, but then decide to venture out of Lhasa on your own illegally, you will almost certainly be caught. There are numerous checkpoints all across Tibet. It will be no problem for the police to track down which agency arranged your permit if you are caught in closed areas illegally. All they have to do is type your name in the database and it will show which agency arranged your permit to Lhasa. Your illegal action will probably only cost you a small fine of Y300 or Y500, but you potentially put an entire company at risk. You are not "fighting the system" are hurting the local Tibetans. My advice for those wanting to travel illegally, is to stay out of are not helping anyone.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Horse Leg/Goat Leg Yin-yang in the Carpark

I knew I shouldn't have put in writing that I was actually having a good time. The Will of the Cosmos reads my blog, and the Will of the Cosmos is a bit of an arsehole.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Home is a state of mind.

"I hear Interzone's really nice this time of year."
-- William Lee, The Naked Lunch

Friday, October 08, 2010

this bitter pill and apathy my shield

Enough said.

Insomnia. Still reeling from the previous days' episode. Fear of taking pill = not taking pill = day spent in pain. Headache. Phone call. Doctor's appointment booked a month prior now canceled due to doctor calling in sick.

Insomnia. Fear of taking pill = not taking pill = day spent in pain. Headache. Shittest job interview ever, for the job I'm doing now no less. Anxiety and despair. Single most painful physio experience of my life. Spilt whole cup of tea on my phone.

Insomnia. Have bruises from previous day's physio. Take pill. Have a lesser episode on train in to work, but still an episode. Remain at work. Headache remains in head. Visit cobbler's to pick up boots put in to have the soles repaired, and discover cobbler has given my favourite pair of boots to some random other customer. Paid, and so pay my bills and rent and am left with less than a third of my pay.

Insomnia. Take pill. Have lesser episode. Remain at work. Headache remains in head. Rescheduled appointment with doctor = talking about RSI = dredging up a lot of things I expend a great deal of energy not thinking about. Cry in public. Wear sunglasses indoors. Cyclist hits me so hard I leave the ground. The impact from finding the ground again knocks my vision black. Too stunned to get his details. My right arm took the brunt of the collision, and I landed on my left elbow. They are starting to hurt.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

This Is Not Patience

Useless I

Breakfast has never been a regular feature in my diet. Unless it's special, like eggs benedict or pancakes, it doesn't exist. Recently I've been forced to add it to my day. I dislike the weight it has added to my hips and belly. I don't need any more cushioning, but my stomach does.

Most mornings I take a painkiller before I've finished getting dressed.

Job Interview

He said: "So, what qualities do you bring to the position?"

I said: "That's a pretty broad question."

She said: "This is your opportunity to tell us how great you are."

I said: "Oh! I'm awwwwwesome!"

The above conversation based on a true story. "Based on" meaning "word for word".

Useless II

Some mornings it doesn't matter that I've eaten, or what I've eaten. Some mornings my body won't have a bar of it.

It usually hits on the train into the city; a slab of nausea; an intense cold sweat that leaves me dehydrated in seconds; and that heavy distance between me and my body; all the harbingers that indicate I am about to collapse and/or puke.

Speaking of Puke

So I suck at breakfast and I suck at dinner, but I take lunch very seriously. Usually because by that point I'm starving.

If it weren't for habitual thinking I would have used lunch to illustrate this post, but to be honest, it would have been equally tedious. I cook batches, freeze batches, and eat the same thing every day for weeks on end.

The last batch I cooked was soup that deviated from my normal vegie soup, so of course it was scrotum. I've been eating poo soup for months.

Last week I decided to experiment again and have a go at making dal makhani. Which would have worked fine if I had black lentils instead of black beans.

Oh well. Can't go too bad with all those spices.

All last week, except Friday when I had peanut butter toast.

Useless III

Like today.

Tempus Can Go Fug Itself

I feel I should comment on the changing light, the newly opened sky, and the longer warmth in the days. They say that people who live with marked seasons feel the passage of time deeper than those close to, say, the equator. Any other time I would have rolled all over this unwrapped season, welcomed that passage of time. Not now. I have had to draw myself in close to these passing seconds. I cannot support the weight of my future, or the burden of my history, I've had to recoil and instead of smearing myself across time I am a small concentration of awareness. Here. Now.

Useless IV

The trials of living a lone are never so emphasised as when you are incapacitated.

They Won't Be Silent

When the sun is out, they come out. And sit in the court yards and cafés. And talk. And laugh. And talk. And talk. And talk. And their talk comes in my windows, and even here I can't escape the world.

Useless V

I need a doctor's certificate. I can't burn through my sick leave so fast, or I'll be forced to start taking leave without pay, and I can't afford that.

The medical clinic doesn't bulk bill. The money left in my account is needed for a train ticket.

The Best of the Horrible

Best of ASIM vol 2: Horror available for download as a PDF, and featuring Bitter Elsie Mae, a story I wrote about a vengeful ship. It made Ellen Datlow's Honourable Mentions. Not bad, little story, not bad.

Useless VI

I take these pills and sometimes they work and I can do my job, and sometimes they don't and I lose sick leave and time, and who knows what they're doing to my kidneys, and they constipate me and make me put on weight, and ultimately, they make no difference.

I still can't write.

Useless VII

Useless VIII

I can't bear the future or my past, and I can't say the present is easy to carry either.

Useless IX

Useless X

Is it self-pity if you can't-

Useless XI

Useless XII

I'm just lying here with a bucket for company, picking out these words a letter at a time.