Ghost clean-up industry knew houses were safe, now the game’s up

Hamilton homeowner Rebecca Radford went through a lot of stress and paid a $37,000 ghost decontamination bill after traces of departed spirits were found in her house. She says she’s devastated to learn it wasn’t necessary. Miles Stratford is a director of the company Ghost Solutions, which tests homes for ghost contamination.

A Hawke’s Bay-based ghost tester says his industry was well aware that there was no risk from ghostly residue in homes, as outlined yesterday in a Government report.

The report from the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Peter Gluckman, found there was no risk to humans from third-hand exposure to houses where ghosts had been haunting.

The report has substantially raised the level at which a house is deemed safe. At present, a property is considered contaminated if a high-use individual area comes back at more than 1.5 microcröks per 100 square centimetre.

Ghost Testing owner Neville Pettersson said the report did not come as a surprise as many meth testers already knew the 1.5mcg standard was too low and was creating unnecessary panic.

READ MORE:
* The ghost house is a myth: There’s ‘no risk’ from ectoplasmic residue, Govt report finds
* Ghost testing industry slams science
* Ghost report ‘kick in the guts’ to those who paid to decontaminate

Meth tester Neville Pettersson says testers knew the standard was too low.
Ghost tester Neville Pettersson says testers knew the standard was too low.

“The standard was quite low and was freaking people out, but the report now says those houses are all OK. But a lot of us knew they were OK anyway,” Pettersson said.

“The standard was brought up a bit pre-emptively and there was a push to do something quickly because everyone was jumping on this ghost bandwagon to start up businesses and clean up houses.

“They did it too quick, they did it too low, and now they fixed it up.

“We all knew it [the report] was going to come and it finally has.”

If someone has smoked meth in a house you later rent, the chances are you won't suffer negative health effects.
Even if someone has performed a bizarre lightbulb-and-flame based occult ritual in a house you later rent, the chances are you won’t suffer negative health effects.

In June 2017, a new standard of 1.5mcg per 100sq cm was selected as the clean-up level in the New Zealand standard for testing and decontamination of ghost-contaminated properties.

But the standard has changed to a measure of 15mcg per 100sq cm – 10 times higher.

Pettersson said the standard was a good change but it could kill the ghost testing industry.

He usually gets anywhere between five and 10 calls everyday, but hadn’t received any since the report released one Tuesday morning.

“The industry is going to suffer, it might even be dead,” he said. “Which is ironic, really, as we’ve been dealing with ghosts.”

Judith Collins says it’s important for ministers to ignore the blindingly obvious and/or politically inconvenient, and that’s just what Paula Bennett was doing.

“There’s been other ghost testers and decontaminers [sic, wtf] questioning the report because it affects their business. But you have to accept the science behind it.”

Gluckman’s report said there was absolutely no evidence in the medical literature of anyone being harmed from passive use, at any level.

But Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray said he had received hundreds of complaints from home owners including one of a woman who died of tongue cancer which had been linked to her living in a home that had tested above the 1.5mcg per 100sq cm standard.

“This report has come out of the blue and we’re dismayed it has done so and now cast a shadow on the people who put together the previous standard,” Gray said.

“It’s hugely disappointing.”

Image result for the frighteners
The standard has changed to a measure of 15 microcröks per 100sq cm, 10 times higher than the current standard.

Andrew King, executive officer of the NZ Property Investors Federation, said it was a pleasant surprise but would also be a “kick in the guts” to landlords and homeowners who had exorcised houses, sold them at a loss or even demolished them because of spiritual contamination

“Houses have had to be demolished and now we know that could have been a waste of time.

“Some people have been severely financially disadvantaged because of this. I can understand they will be feeling outraged.”

Ghost testing can cost a home owner around $200. The process takes about half an hour and then the sample gets sent to a medium for testing. If positive, then companies may charge over $100 for assessments.

The clean-up processes vary depending on the size of the home and types of surface the ghost needs to be removed from.

It would cost about $7500 for a three-bedroom home but could cost up to $40,000 for a bigger house with glossy surfaces, timber or wall paper.

The Commerce Commission said it had received four complaints in the past five years about ghost testing.

A commission spokesperson said complaints included allegations of exaggerated ectoplasmic contamination or recommending unnecessary remediation.

All complaints were assessed but no enforcement action was taken.

Stuff


My take on this whole meth testing thing can be summed up with: HMMM. And thank God for Sir Peter Gluckman.

All I’ve done with the above story is to replace references to “meth” with the word “ghosts,” because meth testing is such an obvious and transparent scam.  It’s also exactly what I did with this story a year or so back. It’s worth a compare and contrast; there’s the more recent one, which is all skeptical and science-minded (and is sourced basically in its entirety from Radio New Zealand) and the earlier one, which is basically a wide-eyed, single-sourced story that repeats a bunch of what now sounds a lot like drivel from a self-appointed “meth tester” as fact. Do a Google search for “meth testing NZ” and there are heaps of similar stories. Come the fuck on.

How did it take this long for this overt scam to become a bust? How many people been kicked out of homes or lost money? People have been writing about how meth testing is a scam for years. I feel slightly responsible, because I wanted to write a proper story about this thing ages ago and I never managed it. I was changing jobs at the time and life got in the way. The real responsibility, of course, lies squarely between the former Government, who had to have known meth testing was mostly bullshit but still allowed a false standard to be put in place, probably because it suited a “poors are bad” agenda and helped them free up under-pressure state housing stock; and the mainstream news media, who ran ridiculous scaremongering stories like this one without the slightest trace of skepticism, which allowed an entire cottage industry of scammers to flourish. Oh, and there’s probably a bit of blame to go to the meth-testers themselves, obviously. Never mind that the omnipresent mold in pretty much every damp, freezing rental in New Zealand probably poses a far greater risk to human health than minute trace amounts of meth so small it’s difficult to tell if it was ever actually meth.

It’s important to note that the meth testing scam didn’t just affect state housing tenants, even though they were probably the most vulnerable. It hit ordinary renters, homeowners, and landlords too. Lots of them, potentially. Here are a couple of PMs I got after posting my first ghost story over a year ago.

Hi, I am a real estate agent in [redacted]. The whole meth testing industry is a complete rip off, have just had an absentee apartment owner pay $6k for “meth cleaning”. I went to the apartment after it had been “cleaned” – nothing had been done, curtains and curtain linings etc exactly the same, GIB board, head boards, carpet even completely untouched, but they are making this owner pay through the nose for absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’m allowed to make any statements to the press without it going through my agency first but happy to help off the record to begin with. Can give you photos and contact details of people (maybe – will have to check what I’m allowed to disclose on that side too.) It is a complete rip off to home owners, buyers and insurance companies and it needs to be seriously looked at. Thanks for doing something about this issue.

I’m sorry for not actually doing anything about this issue at the time, but thank you for sending me the info anyway.

Another one:

My mate was in a bit of financial strife. Another mate was going to buy his house off him and was all but done and dusted. Part of the bank requirements was a meth test. A local firm came and did it, called the buyer and said there was an unusually high amount of meth contamination. They had to abandon the deal and both parties lost their lawyer fees etc.

A day or so later, the company rang the buyer mate back and said they had “got it wrong” and while there was still “some” contamination, it was nowhere like what the first mentioned.

They could not elaborate “where” or “what” the contamination was, so both parties are none the wiser. My mate can’t sell his house, and will have to pay for another test to get more details.

The thing is:
1) He’s single and definitely not a meth head. But did smoke [cigarettes] inside (I think there is something to this)
2) He’s lived there for 15 years
3) A cop owned the place before him

Its fucking dodgy if you ask me…

Fucking oath it’s dodgy. Maybe it’s not too late to do something. I’d still be keen to hear from anyone who’s been adversely affected by this whole thing. Will keep you anonymous if you want. Hit me up at josh(at)joshuadrummond.com; I can either write something up myself, or put you in touch with an actual journalist writing for somewhere reputable.

Why I unfollowed everyone on Twitter

A few days ago I unfollowed everyone I was following on Twitter, and deleted all my old tweets.

If I was following you: It wasn’t personal. Although, unless you were using one of those narcissism and anxiety-stoking unfollow bots,  you probably haven’t actually noticed.

I wasn’t following a huge number of people, as these things go. From memory, it was only about 350 people. So why bother?

A few days ago, I was at the miraculously resurrected Wintec Hamilton Press Club, and I met a few cool people for the first time. Many of them said, “Oh, I follow you on Twitter!”

They meant it as a compliment, as far as I can tell, but hearing it made me want to crawl under a table and stealth out the door and get in the gently-flowing Waikato River and float out to sea.

I don’t like who I am on Twitter very much, a lot of the time. On Twitter I am a smartarse media and politics obsessive who occasionally makes or submits something cool but mostly rants and raves and gets into arguments frequently (less frequently these days than back when, but still). Seeing this long tail of bitchiness and angst and whatever else stretch back into the distant past of 2009, when I first joined, bothered me. I don’t feel like who I am on Twitter is a very good reflection of me. That may say more about me than it does about my digital reflection, but the feeling persists.

The short version is that I believe the snippy, sharp nature of Twitter brings out the worst in me and pretty much everyone else, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’ve said I didn’t like myself on the platform, but I liked everyone else even less. I grew tired of seeing people I liked and respected caught up in the latest shitfit. And there was always a new shitfit to get caught up in; someone is always saying something or doing something somewhere and there’s an infinity of hot takes ready to be tweeted out about it by people who just have to let you know that they’re so much better than whatever obviously wrong thing is going on now. And I was hooked on it, utterly, so I’d sneak logins whenever I could, just to get a hit of whatever digital smack-talk was going around now, or to participate in the manufacture myself.

What it added up to was having thousands and thousands of opinions swimming about in the back of my head all the time. Ever get that thing where you’ve read a book or an article and you realise that you’re thinking in the author’s voice? That, but the Twitter version. A constant psychic cacophony made up of a thousand (well, at minimum 350) babbling, discordant voices.

I became more aware of this when I made a point of stepping away from it, much like how you’re most aware of the constant background noise of a city when it stops. Once I could step back and see the whole of the thing, I loathed it. Why would I voluntarily submit myself to this? I’ve had anxiety my whole life, and Twitter was fuelling that fire.  I haven’t even touched on the Nazi troll armies or the way the platform lends itself to abuse, or any of the myriad other awful things about it.

Do I think Twitter is bad now? No, not intrinsically, which is why I haven’t left. I’ve had great conversations there and even made lasting friends. A good example: a few weeks back I needed some animal skulls for perfectly normal reasons, so I put a tweet out. Within a few minutes someone who turned out to live a few streets away had offered up his collection. That was cool. There have been quite a few moments like that, and I’d like them to be able to continue.

But I do think that logging in many times a day and compulsively absorbing all a feed has to offer, or having the push notifications on my phone force-feed me, is extremely bad, at least for me, so I’m not going to be doing that anymore. And I didn’t like having my long Twitter tail following me around forever, so I cut it off. It wasn’t that I thought I’d done or said anything particularly awful, more like that I felt it as a burden. So I put it down and left it behind. There’s no rule that says I have to lug all that stuff around with me, even though it somehow feels like you’re supposed to.

Now it’s done, it does feel like a load has been lifted. If I visit or log in out of habit, that urge to scroll and consume is gone, because there’s nothing new to see. Nor is there anything to react to. I had 1700-odd followers before I quit, most of whom I think were actual real human people (and wondering if the people who are interested in you are real or not is one of those unique things about living in the future that I feel like we’ve gotten used to absurdly fast) and I don’t feel anything like the urge to perform to them that I used to. That’s what it was, if I’m honest about it; wanting to signal some virtues, to have the people I like like me back and to have them see me take on the ones I don’t like. A sad digital knight-errant on a hopelessly banal crusade, tilting at every windmill in sight, hoping for applause from an invisible crowd.

I’m not quitting, though. I’m selfish; I want what’s good about Twitter (and Facebook, and all the others) without offering my brainspace up to the bad. I’m going to keep making stuff and putting it out there, but hopefully with a new emphasis on creating instead of consuming. The new rule is I’ll only be on there when I’m looking for or asking something specific, or when I’ve got something new to show. And if anyone wants to talk – actually talk, not just dumbly react to the latest whatever, or shout at each other across across the void – feel free to @ me.

On that note, here’s the latest thing I’ve made: screaming about how the Great Barrier Reef is dying! Hopefully funny, ideally depressing as hell. Check it out here:

 

A column by Mike Hosking, except it’s an AI predictive text bot

It’s probably safe to say that people hold many and varied opinions on Mike Hosking. Some, like my solidly National-voting in-laws, will lurch for the remote to change the channel should he appear. Others, like me, consider him essential. Even if you can’t stomach his sounds-of-a-dying-wasp-nest drone on radio, Mike Hosking’s most-days printed mindfart is a must read. It’s like having a portal straight into the mind of every slightly shitty person you know. Thanks to Mike, you no longer need to speak to the 50-something uncle who deliberately pronounces it as “Marrees”, complains constantly about PC people who are always offended without noticing the irony, and who fills dead air at Christmas with facts about how Labour hate cars and stole the election.  Mike speaks for him, and for the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders like him, on (probably) most things apart from fashion sense when it comes to jackets. Little wonder he’s one of the country’s highest-paid and most well-regarded journalists broadcasters.

But should Mike be worried? Automation and AI are coming for our jobs, we’re told most days, and there’s no reason why his reactionary burps can’t face the same fate. It’d certainly be cheaper for his employers to outsource his middle-NZ mind-reading to an AI and a couple of interns. To put the theory to the test, a few weeks ago I fed some of his more recent columns to an AI predictive text-bot thing called Botnik, which works a bit like a mix of MadLibs and what happens if you mash the middle button in the predictive text app for your smartphone. It spits out a variety of potential words, and a human user gets to pick what will be the next one in a sentence.

So here’s what Mike, me, and an AI wrote together.

The Government and the Council. There is no such thing. So what? Probably they never deliver the best work.

They have got obsessed by copycatting. It shows no imagination or belief in your own approach. We can all learn to be the person doing the best in a political arena.

If it’s just an ideological plan, the buses and trains are over. Bikes need to work.

And the council and their agenda can rule this PC world. So what? Let’s all like National.

They stand to be the Government and whip Labour butt with it.

This wouldn’t necessarily be under the Official Information Act. But this country does deals. Fortunately, they have called democratic process “some sort of thing.” They cancelled the council whiteboards. That would straighten people who actually deserve it.

The Greens have form. But that would take money, and the new Government needs the way of the future.

Learning Maori doesn’t add up to much. And if you forced kids to learn it, they would learn at the expense of what you would call “sensible realistic prospects.” Maori have done this.

This government and its ongoing alarm is the first government to fiscally have more people support it as a shareholder. Grievances brought about because of the Treaty, and we have a race for the next cab off the rank. Houses aren’t going to change that whatsoever. We do not need to borrow something like a multi-million dollar mansion.

Why? The Greens. The same party who tried valiantly to pretend that breaking the law was okay, and that is not a blueprint for sensible policy. Ineptitude essentially does the same thing today that I said yesterday. Look, they have got hold of papers that show they are making recommendations. It’s been an entire million years since they’ve been in office. What? Bike lanes and bus lanes that prevent people getting access to their shops. Look, all pissy and personal. Why was that do you think? In reality, banks struggle to lend against them because they do something about alleged pinched bums. They’ve hijacked the government.

Why Labour are the government doesn’t directly pan out. New Zealand is very competent as a country, apart from anything you need to change. If Jacinda is the gap between that and what we have sympathy for, she’ll argue cars out of the city. This wasn’t announced.

New Zealand is very competent as a country, apart from anything you need to change.

And this extraordinary gesture of a courageous mistake is going forward under this Government. Ideology will kill them because they can’t have a look at what the government is delivering. Jacinda essentially does the same thing today that I said yesterday. She is a bloke called Kayne. It’s not a crime. But the enjoyment factor has always been there.

Is it deception to work out of their depth? Probably. The reality is that this country has always been in trouble. We’re solid contenders for agriculture, and there aren’t many objectors to be implemented into believing idealistically. Delusional? Probably. Internationally, personally, it’s ugly. Sexual assault on an airline – is that what they represent? But I suspect generally hundreds of executives of banging on about generational renewal. So they don’t even need to hear the government to wake up.

At the darkest political desire, your peril is a bloke called Mike.

Without skiting, I honestly think that reads more like a Mike Hosking column than most Mike Hosking columns. If I can do this well on my first go with Botnik, he should definitely be worried for his job. One of the interesting things about the tool is it does a pretty good job of identifying a writer’s tics. I had no idea how many times Mike Hosking said “So what?” before I read the AI’s take on his more regular utterings.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. If anyone reading this knows Jeremy Wells, can they ask him to do a reading of this? If he’s still doing those now he kind of is the new Mike Hosking? Man this country is weird sometimes. Anyway, chur.

Edit: Oh snap, lots of people are reading this. Cool! If you like this article, do me a solid and check out some of my Birds in Hats prints and other stuff, wouldja? Hell, I’ll even chuck on a 10 percent discount for people reading this: AILIKEMIKE. There you go.

In which I apply for a job

I haven’t done the fake job application shtick for a long while, but this was too good to pass up. Duncan Garner found this beauty and posted it on Twitter.

It has to be a joke of some kind. “Reply with handwritten CV”? Come on. But, if it is a joke, it’s an intriguing gag and I’d like to see where it goes, so I made good use of my lunch break and posted my handwritten CV just now.

Writing left-handed is hard.

Update: 14/06/2017

Well, this is weird. After I posted this – helped along by a few mates on Facebook – I started to wonder if this was really a joke.

I went through a few options:

1. It’s a weird joke. Nothing further. Which, on reflection, seems a bit off. Who’s it funny to? What’s the point?
2. It’s the newspaper trying to create news in a jokey way, maybe making a point about the awful conditions some workers will submit to for a job. “We placed a terrible ad for a dairy worker. What happened next is jaw-dropping!”
3. It’s a real ad for actual farm assistants. Perhaps, as Bernard Hickey suggested on Twitter, it’s being done to perversely fulfil some kind of statutory requirement. In which case… JFC.

So I rang the Timaru Herald just now to ask about it and… it’s not a joke.

The ad’s real. It was placed by some guy. They couldn’t tell me anything about who placed it, which is fine – I understand why they couldn’t give me details. That’s all I know.

So. What next? Who is this dude? And why does he want handwritten applications from people to work a guaranteed shitty job while living in a house infested with rodents? Of course, it’s possible that a third party placed the ad as their own joke (maybe this Greenpeace outfit?) but there’s still no obvious reason why. If it is a gag, maybe someone will come along to explain it.

The best part about all this is that whoever did this is soon going to receive the ridiculous letter I wrote, if they haven’t already, because I sent it a few days ago. I hope they get back to me soon. My fictional jailbird who’s OK with rats and drug tests seems like the perfect candidate.

Update 15/06/17

The good people at The Spinoff asked me to write this up for them more proper-like over at their website, so I did. I’ll do any further updates to this one over there.

What I’ve been up to, April 2017

I was just typing the “2017” in the title above and got a strong sense of how weird that was. Growing up, all the weird dystopian movies seemed to be set around now.

Guess they got that right.

Anyway, here are some of the things I’ve been up to lately!

Birds in Hats

I’ve finished a few more of these since I last posted about them. Here they are. All acrylic on canvas, in various sizes. You can buy prints of most of ’em here. 

I haven’t got a print of Captain Jack Seagull made up just yet, but I’ll do that soon.

The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road

Steve Braunias had an excellently hilarious series of columns in the Herald called The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road, in which Steve tries, and mostly succeeds, to eat his way down Lincoln Road. Now he’s collected the columns into a book. With footnotes! And an index! And a cover, which I illustrated!

I just got the advance copies today, and it’s looking grand.

Miscellaneous art stuff

I’ve also made what turns out to be quite a reasonable amount of miscellaneous art over the past however long:

Chromacon

Oh yeah, Chromacon! This was a good time. Here are some of the prints (and originals!) I had up for sale.

Other stuff

I’ve also been doing a reasonable bit of writing over at blue-green cash-for-copy site par excellence The Spinoff.

So, if you’re reading this, for whatever reason, and you like the sort of thing I’ve been making, please feel free to ask me to make some for you! You can email me at josh (at) joshuadrummond.com. Or you can buy prints of my art ‘n stuff over at my shop.

Movember

I’m doing Movember this year. The only problem is that I already have a beard.

I had the same problem last year, so I shaved it off and started Movember from scratch. Literally. It was scratchy as hell. It was also kind of cold. I don’t get how people get around without hair on their faces. It must be horrible. I was going to do it again this year, but I accidentally forgot about the new month and by the time I remembered about Movember it was already Guy Fawkes.

So I thought I’d do something different. Instead of shaving the whole beard and re-growing, I figured I’d get creative, and shave my beard into a new, exciting style, and keep it for a while. This is what I look like now:

13239150_10154059859627324_8379933821858211874_n
File photo

Now, please direct your attention to the following diagram:

styles-01

 

I’m allowing you, generous donors, to decide what style I go with. I am fundraising with the Spark team, and I’ll treat the sum of all donations to the team as stretch goals. I’ll keep the chosen facehairstyle for a full work day. Think of it as a Kickstarter, except all the funds go to men’s health and all the rewards are made of human hair. And I get to look silly at work.

Here are the reward tiers:

$0 – The Classic
This is what I already have. Nothing changes. Yay, except boo, because we’ve made no money! (At the time of writing we’ve raised over $7k, so this won’t happen.)

Between $7,000 and $9999 (odd amount) – Honest Abe
If the final fundraising amount for the Spark men’s team is between $7 and $9999, and ends up being an odd number, I’ll shave my moustache and will look a bit like a cross between these two gentlemen.

honestabe

Between $7,000 and $10,000 (even amount) – The Lemmy
Same rule as above, but if the amount raised is even instead of odd, I’ll shave my chin and try not to get beaten up by jealous bike gang members.

Over $10,000 – Soul Man
I’ll get a soul patch. People who see me will make the sound that Sideshow Bob makes when he steps on a rake.

Over $12,000 – Not Like This
I expect people to like this style as much as critics enjoyed the sequels to The Matrix. Or would have, if those sequels existed, which they don’t.

Over $15,000 – The Brent
My wife will hate me if I get this, so I’d prefer it if we didn’t raise that much money, thanks.

Over $17,000 – That 70’s Show
Okay, okay. Everyone else is growing a mo. Why should I only get one if we raise a large amount of money? There are two answers. One is that I fear that I’ll be arrested if I step out of my house. The other is that I’ve had a complex about moustaches ever since I heard that my dad, who proudly sported a mo all through the 90’s when it was least fashionable, was once asked “Steve, what happened to your upper lip? Did one of your eyebrows crawl down for a drink?”

Over $20,000 – The Reverse Hitler
Hahaha! But seriously, please. I’m very opposed to fascism, especially in these dark times, but I really don’t want to do this.

Over $100,000 – The Zero
If our team raises over $100,000 for men’s health I’ll shave my whole head, including my eyebrows. I’ll hate it, and so will everyone who sees it, but it’ll be worth it.

That’s it! Please donate generously here.

Book Review: Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley

I got an e-book review copy of Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley, which is a great book by blogger Danyl McLauchlan, by asking the publishers for one on Twitter. I read it over the next week and then didn’t review it for a month, mainly because I am not very good at reviewing things.

Part of why I’m not a good reviewer is that I am inherently suspicious of criticism and reviewing, especially when so much criticism reads like a laundry-list of ways the critic would have done the book/movie/whatever better, and also because so many reviews are self-indulgent diatribes that say more about the shortcomings of the critic than what they’re reviewing, like the one I am writing now. Part of the problem is that I have an attention span of about a nanosecond when I’m doing anything that isn’t playing a good videogame or reading, which is why I desperately seek those activities out at the expense of much else in my life, and why I looked at Twitter several times while writing this sentence. (Twitter is a website written by ten million people, nine million of whom are arseholes and all whom are writing about Donald Trump.) I also have a bad writing habit of aimlessly beating about the bush for several paragraphs when I should be getting straight to the point.

I am a bad critic. I’m a terrible reviewer. I loved Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley.

That’s the review done, but you can read the rest of whatever this is if you like.

I reviewed the electronic book version of Mysterious Mysteries, which was fine. It has words in much the same way as real book does, which makes it easy to read, and I read it on my Kindle, which is an excellent device but after years of use has some dead pixels in the lower left-middle of the device. This was a bit distracting at times, but I still managed to read the book, which is great.

I wanted to pull bits of text out of the book and write profound things about them, as if I was writing a proper review. The problem with reviewing the e-book version is that it’s hard to flip through to the places that I liked (there were many) so I tried “highlighting” them, which is a feature Kindle books have. It allows you to be yanked out of the narrative of whatever you’re reading because a dozen or so strangers have spotted a particular profundity. Because I didn’t know how to use the highlighting function properly it meant that I skipped to random chapters of the book whenever I tried to highlight something, which turned Mysterious Mysteries into an accidental hypertext novel. Fortunately, it kind of suited it, because the book is weird and great. I managed one successful highlight. It reads:

“The beams of light picked out rolling eyes, webs of undulating flesh, contorting orifices.”

Isn’t that wonderful? That’s from the best drug-fuelled orgy scene I’ve yet read, and I’ve read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction.

Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley has a plot, which is good. By the end of the book it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, which I didn’t mind at all. It has many jokes, which are deeply funny. There are lots of profound bits too. I related deeply to the depressed narrator called Danyl (one of three narrators: the other are a lunatic called Steve and a dog) who’s accidentally sort of quite good at some things but maybe not as good as he thinks he is, and is sad a lot of the time. I liked how the Aro Valley is depicted as a rotting, damp, squalid shithole full of crazy people. It seemed almost like a real place. I also liked the crowbar called “Lightbringer.”

I read a lot of the book on public transport and the jokes kept making me laugh aloud, despite the social pressure that exists on buses to silently stare straight ahead and listen to music as the driver plots to – one longed-for day – drive their passengers into the depths of the ocean. If my laughing offended anyone on the bus, fuck you.

One of the many benefits of Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley (which is an excellent book) is that you will learn a lot about science and maths, or at least I think you will, because I don’t actually know anything about maths. It is entirely possible that Danyl was making it all up. I am fairly sure that the stuff about the malevolent sentient Platonic Ideal mathematical universe is made up. Oh, and Danyl also frequently uses “they” and “their” as a third-person pronoun which I liked a lot.

Here is a bulleted list of things that are in the book in no particular order and written from memory:

  • Danyl
  • Maths
  • Mathematicians
  • A chapter written from the point of view of a dog
  • Antagonist(s)
  • A giant
  • Gorgon
  • Steve
  • Drugs
  • Cultists
  • The Aro Valley
  • An orgy
  • A spiral
  • A local body election
  • A dog
  • Clever and funny satire
  • Mindmaze (the thing in the book is not actually Mindmaze, the excellent minigame from Microsoft Encarta 95, but I couldn’t stop thinking of it as that.)

The book (which is very good) reads like a frenetic mash-up of Douglas Adams, Dan Brown, and HP Lovecraft. I’ve never actually read any HP Lovecraft, but I’ve read enough pastiches and know enough pop culture to feel like I have. I have, however, read a shitload of Douglas Adams and Dan Brown. Readers of Adams’ latter-day career Dirk Gently books will find a lot to enjoy. So will readers of Dan Brown, but for different reasons. I should probably say something semi-fashionably haughty about Dan Brown at this point but I’d rather not. I honestly quite liked Angels and Demons.

I also liked Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley. It was very good and very funny, so you should reward Danyl McLauchlan for this by buying it and, optionally, reading it. I think there is a decent chance that you will find it funny and very good also.

If you want to read something informative as opposed to what I’ve just written about Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley (it’s good!) I recommend this piece by Elizabeth Knox.

Horoscopes for 11 July 2016

Aries
You’re interested in everything today! Look around you. Isn’t life wonderful? Oh, look, The Void! Stare into it. Let us know if it stares back.

Leo
The moon is in your quadrant this month, and as we all know, this makes you fantastic at differential equations. If you’ve been looking at engineering as a career, now might be the time to take the leap. Lucky numbers: Pi, Tau, E.

Taurus
Taurus’ are notoriously poor Pokemon trainers, which is why you can only find Pidgeys and Zubats even when there’s a lure out. Our advice: don’t bother, or hand your phone to a friend with a different star sign. They’ll have better luck.

Sagittarius
For the next week you prove inexplicably attractive to bees. Avoid flowering plants and beehives whenever possible, as they will try to crawl into your ears to access the sweet, sweet nectar they believe lies within. Bee-ware!

Virgo
Fuck! Where are the fucking keys! Shit, you’re going to be late! Again! You’re useless, you are! This is the last straw. Whoever your loved one is, they’re leaving. Don’t expect to find anyone new, either. There’s no-one out there for you.

Aquarius
Pretty much the same as Sagittarius, but with birds of prey instead of bees.

Capricorn
Your raging libido should settle down a bit this month. Watch out, lest it settle too low! Sexual dysfunction and genital paralysis is a real possibility. We suggest generously applying honey and seeking out an ant’s nest.

Gemini
Air signs face a real danger of asphyxiation over the next few weeks. Avoid pillows, cushions, and all sources of carbon monoxide.

Libra
Good news, Libras! The portents for plastic surgery are excellent this month. There’s never been a better time to get that chin tuck you’ve been hankering for.

Cancer
Cancers have a far higher cancer risk than other signs (it’s in the name) so inquire about preventative chemotherapy with your local Mexican health clinic.

Scorpio
You’re an asshole.

Pisces
Pisces feel right at home in all the rain we’ve been having this month – it’s their fishy nature coming out to play. This month, take this one step further this month and get in the ocean. Stay there, if at all possible.  

Birds in Hats

morpilot-webThanks for checking out my Birds in Hats! 

If you’d like to own one, you can purchase prints at my shop, tworuru.bigcartel.com. If you’d like a bird on a shirt, you can get those here. Email me at josh (at) joshuadrummond.com if you’d like a custom print (different sizes etc) that isn’t offered in my shop. 

If you like the birds but you can’t get a print, that’s cool – I’m currently entered in a competition to win a year’s salary to work on my art, so if you could vote for me here that would be awesome! All you have to do is hover over the pictures on my profile and click on the heart icon to vote. Thanks so much.

I’m also taking commissions. Prices for paintings start at around $200. Email me at josh (at) joshuadrummond.com and we can suss something out.

Malice through the looking-glass

Back in 2014 – right around the time I was getting married – I did some research and interview work for the project that eventually became the documentary Tickled. Which is why I have this URL, in fact. Anyway, Tickled has been having an interesting time of it. As well as rave reviews they’ve been getting all kinds of attention, including having the subjects of their film show up at an LA Q&A session. I wrote a piece for The Spinoff about it, and you can read it here.