About Joe Beginner

Joe Beginner is an alter-ego of the Canadian artist Josh Thorpe.


By |2017-11-29T15:16:03+00:00November 29th, 2017|Misc., The cosmos, Things|

Late November in Glasgow is sunny and brisk. Yesterday a man named Smiley told me he liked to jog 6K home from work late at night but that he’d stopped for the ice on the pavements. One hour later I slipped on just such a patch in Queen’s Park.

On the train a fidget spinner, as if out of thin air, knocked against my leg and clattered to the floor. Is this some kind of plague, I thought. No one seemed to notice. Someone could have stumbled on the toy, so I used my foot to nudge it to the side for someone to discover. Some young boy on the platform must have plucked the thing from another child, perhaps a younger sibling, and tossed it aboard.

I almost picked it up, simply out of curiosity for how such a thing might be to hold, but I did not.

Fewer Daisies

By |2017-11-29T07:35:59+00:00June 28th, 2017|Animals, Landscape, Plants|

Well something ate the daisies again.

I say ate, but the buds are left like little insect eyes just scattered on the ground. Decapitated is the word. Some are even caught up in the plants’ leaves. And the cuts are precise; I couldn’t imagine a squirrel doing that, unless it had scissors, which I know is next to impossible. Anyway the chicken shit I’d sprinkled on the ground was supposed to scare squirrels off. It’s almost like some grinning fairy did it in the night to piss us off. Or the woman my landlords let park her car in our drive: she’s nasty enough for such an act. But too dimwitted to figure out how to open the gate, I suspect.

I imagined maybe my neighbour Harry had done this as a service. Maybe he had thought that these buds somehow needed to be “deadheaded.” He did used to be a gardener, and who knows, maybe he knows best about these things. But I asked him and he said No, have you considered that it might have been squirrels? I told him the buds were just scattered on the dirt and some were caught in the leaves of the daisy plants. He registered surprise.

Then at 8 o’clock at night, as the sun had fallen past the houses to the west and the light was perfect, Marta and I looked out at the garden and maybe got a clue: Raccoons on the climbing hydrangea, little baby ones, right on top of the whole fence-hedge too. And they were putting hydrangea flowers right into their mouths. Raccoons eat flowers.

The neighbour clapped at them to shoo them off and we joked that the animals mistook it for applause.

So I guess these silly baby raccoons put daisies in their mouths and spat them out. Why not, other babies do it with apple sauce and peas. And no one ever heard of a racoon afraid of chicken shit.

I think people have a love-hate relationship with raccoons. They smell like the city trash heap but with their mask and stripes and their brontosaur hump they do look very good.


By |2017-06-19T21:32:01+00:00June 19th, 2017|Animals, Landscape, Plants|

Daisies in the garden today. Last year the squirrels ate the flower tops right off the plants and they never came back. This year I put chicken shit on the dirt around each one. Squirrels dislike the odour it is said. Now the daisies are in good form. I deadhead them every day.

Jeff Tutt, the painter who is a flower designer, picked a dozen for our big party and these are back in bloom already. He says these guys look like cartoons. I think that characterization suits them fine. Each morning they sing to me in four-part barbershop bliss.

April 30: Thorpe @ 3A Gallery

By |2017-04-22T19:21:52+00:00April 18th, 2017|Art, Events|

Willows and Palms: Josh Thorpe / Joe Beginner
Opening and Book Launch: Saturday, April 30, 3-6 p.m.

3A Gallery: April 30 to May 28, 20173A Gallery is pleased to present the work of Josh Thorpe, an itinerant Canadian artist, writer, experimental music composer, and rock musician.

Willows and Palms will be an informal presentation of several recent drawings and screenprints. The drawings are hasty and ham-fisted scribblings of nocturnal scenes in rich pastels, the screenprints more pristine representations of similar scenes in one or two strange colors.

“Some of Thorpe’s work reminds me of Saenredam’s paintings of empty churches,” Dan Graham said, “But it’s all about fantasy.”

As part of the exhibition, Thorpe will be introducing his latest piece of writing, Beginner’s Microbiome, published as alter-ego Joe Beginner. This semi-autobiographical novella is dedicated to the memory of New York writer Harry Mathews. Written in the form of a daily journal, the work is a tribute to the constant strangeness of daily life.

As described by Malcolm Sutton, fiction editor for Toronto’s BookThug press “Joe Beginner is a detective of the everyday, a genius of the senses.”


Note: 3A Gallery has been closed since the summer of 2016 due to the recent illness of Executive Producer Dan Graham. Dan is feeling much better, and we are happy to be back to work.

3A Gallery, 179 Canal Street, #3A, New York, NY 10013 / 212-219-7523 / info3agallery@gmail.com

Beginner’s Microbiome is available

By |2017-04-25T17:08:38+00:00February 5th, 2017|Books, Writing|

Buy the eBook online at Amazon.caBeginner’s Microbiome: a story about a man who changes what he eats. This is a biographical novella and a meditation on diet and life. It begins with experiments in dietary regimen based on the advice of authors like Rafael Kellman, Robynne Chutkan, and Elaine Gottschall, and proceeds through many moments of strangeness and beauty in everyday life.

Here’s an excerpt:

November. It is cool and sunny; 13º. Last night I had strange dreams. As though I could move between the world of the living and the dead. Dramatic and vivid, these dreams. They must be from this recent change in diet. The gut is clearly connected to the soul. Unfortunately for both, I am stuck in Oshawa, Ontario. Where there is nothing good to eat. But I must not pan Oshawa: It is surrounded by some of the region’s most beautiful rolling hills and mystical woods.

Leslie Spit Sunday

By |2017-04-18T22:20:12+00:00September 12th, 2015|Animals, Landscape, Places|

Sunday at Leslie Spit, the waves crashed and the wind was high. Everywhere I walked hopping bugs hopped up, and to my left and right they chirred in the red and green grasses.

Only some things were brown today, like the dead and cobwebbed seedpods and desiccated bushes. Some trees were going gold, but there were many bright flowers, and strong young pines, and the leaves of the poplars seemed to rush through the wind like surf.

No butterfly would allow me close. Many cabbage whites lighted nearby, but they are in almost constant and erratic motion, and when they do stop they stop for less than a moment, and you only have time to consider approaching, but never the time for even one step before they fly.

Mink and coyote scat at the edge of the trail. Dried and cracked mud on the dikes. The sun was out and my face got red. It was 20 degrees.

Outside my window now, the air is thick with midges. They get caught in the hairs on my arm.


By |2017-04-21T23:30:25+00:00July 16th, 2013|Art, Writing|

At the pharmacy cash:

“You are reading that book?”


“It is a very sad book.”

“Very beautiful.”

“Yes, very beautiful and very sad…. Do you want a bag?”


“I will give you a bag, only because this is my favourite book.”

“I will put the book in the bag, so as to keep it safe.”

“Yes, good.”

“Good day.”

“Good day.”

The Clock

By |2017-04-22T19:14:20+00:00October 7th, 2012|Art|

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is a 24-hour film assembled from thousands of short clips of other films, each of which contains an image of (or reference to) the time, which reference corresponds exactly to the real time at the time of viewing. If you are in the theatre at 12:37, the film has an image of 12:37 or a reference to 12:37.

One has to appreciate the labour that must have gone into making the film, but that’s not what makes it interesting (laborious-process-as-product is an old conceptual art move that doesn’t guarantee good work). What makes The Clock interesting are its strange effects as a film, some of which I try to describe below:

  • Different times of the day are represented by different normative states and activities associated with that time of the day: At 14:58 dozens of children are waiting to get out of class; at 15:12 one child is sitting detention. At 16:30 someone is leaving work early, or sitting alone in an empty bar. A pleasure of confirmation and representation. (Interesting to note: not much in the way of science fiction, fantasy, or very old period pieces. These genres rely on their being readable as not-of-this-world.)
  • Representations of states and behaviours that do not correspond to our expectations are hilarious when abstracted from their context: Someone goes to bed in the afternoon, for example. I never realized how many of these anachronistic moments there are in cinema.
  • Because of the above, a narrative develops around the tracking of time and the very specific narrative device of attention to time.
  • But, surprisingly, though a certain anxiety does wind its way through The Clock, it turns out that attention to time can also be casual, lazy, meditative, bored, sleepy, ad hoc, random, and funny.
  • Watching the Clock is like being in two places at once. Cinematic time and “real time” convolve, so the space of the theatre and the space of the world also convolve. This is not just academic: It really feels as though the image and its apparatus turn weirdly transparent.
  • Outside of the intention of looking at a clock, outside of the particular time one finds it to be, there is a particular feel, a familiar mood, to the act itself.