Author's Posts

Something’s rotten in the state of language today.

But I know you don’t come here for the commentary; you come here for the Taffy. So here he is:

Nothing’s rotten about Taffy. He’s fine.

There is a decay of the euphony and precision of language.

Please don’t wake me No don’t shake me, Leave me where I am. I’m only sleeping.

A blight.

Creative napping. The best part is the three Blue Jays looking in, wondering, Is that cat dead? Because we Blue Jays are carnivores and that cat looks mighty tasty.

There is a plague of mealy-mouth dithering, across the land, and it’s all because of two ubiquitous words.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Last Thursday, on NPR (National Public Radio, the hi-brow talk radio of progressive politics and culture),  I heard a pundit explain to an morning news show host: There’s sort of a definition of “terrorist” that does not call out white supremacy. (1)

On Friday, on NPR’s evening news program All Things Considered, an economist discussed on-line markets as opposed to real world economies: They [on-line stores] don’t sort of have a place consumers can go to. (2)

Reading the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the gold standard of long form journalism. . .

Cover of New York Times Magazine for March 31, 2019, the headline “Can a Woman Play Shakespeare’s Lear?” Ew. I cannot tell you how much I do not care whether Glenda Jackson can play King Lear or not.

 

. . . from a story about the hot shot agents who are representing the best selling Tell All authors from Trump’s administration, this quote: The challenge with Trump people is they’re looking for legitimacy and they’re looking for sort of an outlet to unburden themselves o the baggage that comes with the job. (3)

Monday night, I’m reading my new favorite book, How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. On page 402, Mr. Pollan quotes a psychiatrist who hopes that in the future, sick and well people will have access to therapeutic psychedelic drugs in a place that is safe and supportive, a place that is Sort of like a cross between a spa/retreat and a gym. (4)

On Tuesday afternoon, I am listening to my local NPR affiliate, to an interview of a curator of a new show at the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art; the curator is explaining why she chose to exhibit racist art: If we eliminated it from art history we would sort of be missing a teaching opportunity. (5)

I could go on and on, but let’s let these five examples suffice.

What do all of these citations have in common?

Two little words.

Sort Of.

Synonyms for sort of: slightly, faintly, remotely, vaguely; kind of, somewhat, moderately, to a limited extent.

So, then:

(1)  There’s sort of  slightly a definition of “terrorist” that does not call out white supremacy as such.

(2) They don’t sort of faintly have a place consumers can go to.

(3) The challenge with Trump people is they’re looking for legitimacy and they’re looking for sort of  remotely an outlet to unburden themselves of the baggage that comes with the job.

(4) Sort of Vaguely like a cross between a spa/retreat and a gym.

(5) If we eliminated it from art history we would sort of kind of, moderately, to a limited extent be missing a teaching opportunity. 

Really? Have we become a people that can’t spit out an unqualified thought, opinion, or factoid?

I think that we are so used to hearing “sort of” in conversation that we don’t even recognize it as something that is rotting out any kind of accuracy, or coherence, or credibility in the language.

Sort of is annoyingly passive. It’s dickishly timid. Sort of are mincing filler words that seem to spew randomly from the mouths of people with no back bone, no real gumption, no true point of view. Sort of is for wimps. Sort of is trying to be cute, as if talking like a high school stoner will make you look younger. Sort of is flabby, and coy. It makes you sound stupid. So stop it.

Thank you.

As long as I’ve got you here, can I also request that you stop using the word lyrical to describe a painting, a design, dance, or screen/book writing? It doesn’t make you sound more poetic and deep; for christ sake just say pretty.

And stop using half a decade as an imposing length of time. You can’t inflate the importance, seriousness, weight, or  awesomeness that is half a decade. It’s still just five lousy years. FIVE. Top Cat has shirts that he bought five years ago that he hasn’t gotten around to wearing yet so half a decade is, like, six months in experiential time when you’re a grown up.

Also, when I have to rev up the Toyota hybrid to accomplish a long To Do List in an afternoon, would you all please stay off the roads? I don’t want to have to deal with your absent-minded turn-signaling, your day-dreaming when the light turns green,  and your hogging of the left lane at exactly the speed limit.

That is all. For now.

Last week, Dear Reader Meghan (Yes, that Meghan, the Duchess of Melbourne), came to the rescue when I asked about a mysterious book shop that comes and goes in London. Here it is, my Dear Ones:

This is the Lost Lending Library by Punchdrunk  Enrichment with lists its offices in The Canon Factory in London. They visit schools (they have even been in our own Meghan’s neck of the woods) to install secret lending libraries. The kids visit it and, inspired, they write their own stories, which are then added to the collection of the Lost Lending Library.

Neat.

I have plans for the used book store that I co-manage and I want to steal the esthetic of the Lost Lending Library. The source of my inspiration is a book that we got in as a donation a few months ago. . . and I will tell you more about it next week (I can hear Top Cat in my head complaint that this blog post is already too damn long).

But I know that as much as you all love the Taffy content here in this humble blog, you also love to hear the latest updates on the little used book store that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island. Here’s a typical donation:

At least once a week somebody drops off a pile of books on the doorstep of the used book store. I thought this doorstep deposit was above average because it’s cantilevered. There’s also a big coffee table book about Colonial Williamsburg. What is it about Colonial Williamsburg? We get a lot of books about Colonial Williamsburg, usually in the kinds of donations that happen when there’s been the death of an elder in the family. I guess at one time, Colonial Williamsburg was the hottest thing in American culture but jeez…do people not know that Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation, and it’s totally fake from top to bottom?

The old Colonial Williamsburg books never sell, but I always give the latest one a chance — I put it on the shelf and leave it there until we need the room for something that the people who buy used books actually want, such as picture books about dogs.

And then this fell out from a 2001 Frommer’s travel guide to Italy:

And that’s the news from my corner of the universe, that corner of Reality in which we do not Sort Of, in which five years is a blink of an eye, in which we dream up ways to make a lowly used book store feel more ensorcelled, and in which we do not jump for joy when we find a dead Blue Jay on the street because songbirds are protected species and it’s wrong to put them in your freezer and then desiccate them like the Native Americans do to collect their feathers, no, we don’t do that.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. Taffy hopes that you all get a good tummy rub and a chin scritch to give you sweet dreams at nap time.

Read more

First things first: Let me assure Jeanie and all of Taffy’s fans that Taffy is still alive and well and watching the birdies eat breakfast on the den patio:

Now we can go back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I’ve had to work extra days at the used bookstore this week (all proceeds go to the Friends of Bryant Library) because we have too many hours of openness and too few volunteers. Usually I take a radio to the store with me to keep me company during down times, but on Wednesday I forgot it so I plugged in the small CD player I keep at my desk and I played an old 1991 CD that we got in a donation a while ago.

One of our regulars was browsing nearby and he asked me, “Is that Bruce Springsteen?”

No, I said. “It’s Gordon Lightfoot.”

“I left my hearing aids in the car,” he explained. (He’s in the store once a week and you can never talk to him because he ALWAYS leaves his hearing aids in the car. Dude! Put in your damn hearing aids!)

And then he went on to say “I like Gordon Lightfoot. I can’t get out of the ’60s and ’70s. It’s still my favorite music. I guess I’m showing my age. I’m 65.”

When I find out that people are in my age bracket, I mentally put us back in high school together so I can figure out where we stand. I’m guessing that this guy was a senior when I was a freshman. We would have been in different orbits back then but here we are now, chatting like Baby Boomer homies.

I’m OK with music from the ’60s and ’70s, but the stuff I truly adore comes from the 1980s. That’s because I didn’t like high school at all, and I had a lot more fun and thrills in my late 20s/ early 30s, when Tears for Fears and Johnny Hates Jazz was the background music. God, I miss the ’80s.

But as a professional, I agreed with No Hearing Aid guy that the music of our youth was the best ever, and he bought a copy of Look Homeward, Angel and a history of Tudor England and left. Things were quiet, so I unpacked a big box that had been left on the book store’s doorstep overnight.

The box was full of children’ books, which I always like to look through. We have an excellent children’ book section, which I have organized into five categories. One of the categories is Princess and Ballerina Books.

This is where I put the Disney Princess books and the ballet books because, sometimes, you have to find a book for a kid who loves pink. (I love pink, too.) And lo, what should I find in this Wednesday donation but the perfect mash-up:

It’s very disturbing, to me, to see illustrations of Cinderella and Prince Charming in a pas de deux, but I priced it at 50 cents and dropped it into the box because who am I to judge?

It was still quiet, so I thought that as long as I had my camera out, this was a good time to take a photo of our main Fiction bookcase:

I have plans for this book case. But before I transform it, I need to ask you, Dear Readers, for your help.

A while back, maybe a  year ago when I was new to used book selling, one of you darlings sent me a YouTube about a group of artists in England…London, I think…who take over a space in a public school and, overnight, install a mysterious book store. The shelves are full of tattered volumes and tiny treasures, and the whole shebang is presided over by a dotty caretaker, a lady who invites the school kids to come in and browse. Then the kids go back to their classrooms and write about this mysterious place.

If there is a Dear Reader, or Taffy fan, who remembers sending this to me, please send it to me again. I’ve been hoarding artistically tattered books for a year and it’s time to make some use of them.

Thanking you in advance, I will forever be indebted.

Thankfully, before I could become bored out of my mind, in came a woman looking for kids’ books to use in her kindergarten movement class and, close behind her came another regular, a collage artist. The kindergarten teacher needed books that had a lot of different animals in them so the kids could move like all kinds of  creatures. But not spiders. She tried getting them to act like spiders once and they didn’t go for it.

This is one of the books she bought. It wasn’t in the Princess and Ballerina box. I had this in one of the seven Picture Book boxes.

The college artist uses black and white photographs for his stuff, so he always checks out the latest coffee table books — he found a Time Life book about the 20th century, and another book about early American arts that had a lot of portraits in it.

He’s going to have a show in September at a local gallery and I am looking forward to seeing what he’s made of our books.

The kindergarten teacher overheard the collage artist and me talking and she volunteered that she does collage too. Well, actually, she does decoupage. She puts animals on chairs and donates them. She showed the collage artist photos of her chairs on her phone and he said that they were good. I’m not a “crafts” person so I had not heard of Mod Podge before, and now I think I want to try it out.

It was half past noon and I had made $10 for The Friends of Bryant Library. I was sure that I would be on my own until closing time (3 o’clock) but a mere half hour later my favorite book collector came in. I haven’t seen him since he spent four or five days with us last Summer, buying hundreds of books to re-stock a friend’s flooded-out library in Houston.

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August of 2017. Hurricane Harvey is tied with 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, primarily from catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas.

A basket of squirrels rescued from Hurricane Harvey because, Awwwwwwwww.

Turns out that our friend enjoyed that book-buying experience so much that he quit his job as a computer tech and set up a warehouse, and now he’s a full-time bookseller on Amazon.

I ended the day with $101.50 for The Friends of Bryant Library. It was a record-breaking Wednesday.

So that’s three hours in the life of a used book store.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the rarefied world of used book selling and if you have friends who live on the north shore of Long Island, please urge them to come volunteer three hours a week of their time to join us in all the rollicking good fun.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. If you’re having the blues please remember that everything that we have heard about the Mueller report is lies coming from lying Republican bastards. But are we down hearted?

NO! Because The Truth Will Out, and when it does it will wipe the smug shit-eating fake-billionaire grins off every Trump face for, oh, about 2 – 10 in a Fed slammer.

This just in on Taffy:

He’s still alive and dreaming.

Taffy Say Relax.

Read more

On the last day of Winter, Taffy did his final Roll of the Season:

 

 

 

 

Then Top Cat and I made dinner and packed it into a picnic basket with bottle of champagne and we took ourselves to the shores of the Long Island Sound. The wind off the water was bracing, and not a bit Spring-like, and the champers was ice cold and the gourmet sandwiches were tasty (but everything taste great on an Equinox picnic at sun set).

Watching the sun set over a body of water is good for smoothing out the mental ruts of worry and despair that is the groove of the day in Trump’s America.

If a Democrat had said half of what Trump’s been shitting out about John McCain, Fox News would be screaming non-stop Off With His Head… but Trump can even lie about McCain and nobody on the right whispers so much as a tut tut.

If a non-white mass mass murderer had killed 50 Christians and called Obama his inspiration, the Senate would immediately call themselves God’s Warriors and declare a holy war on every black and brown person in the world…but the Christchurch shooter can name Trump explicitly as his white nationalist guiding light, and the Republicans are all, “Words! It’s only words! Only crazy people think words have meaning!”

 

 

So we watched the sun set over the Bronx and talked about our travel plans for 2019. We have not yet hammered out which way we want to go once we head off the Orkney isles…to the left? To the right? Or should we journey straight ahead, down the Highland Main Line to Glasgow? Ah, Scotland. Maybe this is the year that I’ll get Top Cat to buy a kilt.

Speaking of Scotland, which is the birthplace of golf, which makes me think of my miniature golf event at the local library, which makes me think that I have devoted way too much of my life on this event, I have recently discovered that when I thought that fund raising was the hard part, I was wrong. I have raised $14,050 for the Friends of Bryant Library so far (and yes, it’s a record about of money), and although that was not easy, now that I am in the “management” phase of getting this event off the ground, I am working even harder. Soliciting press coverage by pitching stories to newspaper and TV, sending out PR announcements, lining up volunteers to staff the event, getting approval for library staff overtime, making sure that all our sponsors get their due in press materials, etc.

It’s taken me three days just to deign a scorecard for the golfers, because it has to have all our sponsors’ logos on it and trading down all those pixels from a dozen entities is, to say the least, time consuming. And I’ve never designed on the computer before. And I probably never will again. I am looking forward to the end of this event, and all the free space that will open up in my head and in my daily schedule.

And then I can concentrate on the new incarnation of Project Runway — yay! It’s back on Bravo!

I will miss Tim Gunn, but I’ve loved Christian Siriano ever since he let Rami Kashou carry him into the workroom in a handbag. (Season 4, and Chrisitan is really small.) Karlie Kloss, the model who is married to Jared Kuchner’s brother, is taking over hosting duties from Heidi Klum and she seems to be rather bland, but maybe she’ll get some juice once the series gets rolling.

(If you have not seen the utter creepiness of dips hit Ivanka Trump’s “congratulation” of Karlie in a video she posted, do yourself a favor and watch it here.)

I love watching Project Runway because I am 63 years old and I still have not learned how to shop for clothes. I still buy stuff that I will never wear, and I buy stuff that I shouldn’t wear. I really shouldn’t wear a light green and gray fleece jacket is ugly and boxy, and I should never have bought it but it looked warm, and I wear it as a last resort when all the good stuff is in the hamper. I’ve been seen in public in this ugly fleece. I look terrible in it.

Two years ago I bought an incredibly spiffy Calvin Klein jacket that I have yet to put on and take out. This is it:

OMG, I LOVE this jacket! It fits like it was made just for me, but I don’t know where to wear it to. Maybe I just like having it around, to remind me of some other, more stylish Vivian I could be.

Truthfully, I dislike 90% of what I wear every day, so I’d like to design my own clothes and feel well-dressed no matter what I’m doing. And I think that if I watch enough Project Runway, I will learn something useful about fashion.

Now let’s turn to something I DO know.

Books!

This came in last week in a donation to the used book store that I manage:

I am dearly bored by anything having to do with Paris in the 1920s but this little sticker caught my attention:

There is no library marking any where on the book, but it does have five little stamped dates inside the back cover which I assume are Due Dates. I wish I knew from which private, pay library our donor had stolen this book from.

This is a first edition, published in 1950 by Doubleday & Company, right here on Long Island. I checked…it’s not worth anything. True to form, tho, the author’s photo takes up the entire back cover:

In case you can’t read the text beneath the pensive, and k d lang look-alike, Mr MacCown, here it is:

Last year Alice B. Toklas said to a friend passing through Paris, “Gertrude used to wonder and I still do why Eugene doesn’t write his memoirs which would be so much better than all the books by bright young men about Paris whose authors didn’t really know anybody and Eugene knew everybody and has so many more stories to tell which were all unbelievable and all perfectly true.”

So of course I had to look him up. And Eugene Macon really was quite the Man About Town! This is Google-translated from French  Wikipedia (he doesn’t have an American Wikipedia page):

**Arriving from Missori in Paris in 1921 where he attended the artistic and literary bohemian of the Roaring Twenties and in particular Nancy Cunard, of  which he paints a portrait in 1923, Jean Cocteau who meets this “teenager with long hands, who walks like a panther and has animal eyes “, or Rene Crevel, whom he met during the winter of 1923-1924  and became his lover. Emmanuel Pierrat remarks that in the same way McCown deeply fascinates Bernard Fay  : “Mac Cown is the exemplary incarnation of these American angels who fascinate … His amorous gifts, no less than his cruel frivolity, appear to merge into a magnetism of which [Bernard Fay] have been the beneficiarie as much as the martyr. ”

A figure in the Montparnasse district and its cafés such as La Cupole, the Dome, or the Select, he moved to a studio on Rue Campagne Premiere, where he became a successful painter at theEcole de Paris. From that time, like René Crevel and Nancy Cunard, the features of Eugene McCown remain known to us by the photo-portrait by Man Ray.**

Eugene and Nancy Cunard in Capri, c. 1925

 

The only MacCown painting I could find in color, called The Spanish Woman.

Well, from his dippy author photo I can’t see the “magnetism” that made the artistes of Paris swoon, even though it’s taken by a noted fancy- art photographer named Lotte Jacobi. And, yeah, MacCown should have written his memoirs! Because they’d be a whole lot more scintillating than this tepid roman a clef, a synopsis of which I read in Gay American Novels, 1870 – 1970, A Reader’s Guide, by Dewey Wayne Gunn which relieved me of any desire to read this book.

And that’s the week that was. It was a little boring for me (not typical), a lot tragic for our civilization (as usual), and excruciatingly frightening for our planet (which is the norm these days). I hope 5 o’clock comes early today so I can go to my Happy Place, which is anywhere that a glass of wine can take me, preferably to a place where  Top Cat is wearing a kilt, Urquhart tartan, please.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. I think we might have reached the critical mass of Stupidity, and things can only get better, and that’s what I believe.

And to those on the other side of the world, for showing America and the planet how decent and honorable and giving a society, and humanity, can be in times of violence, anger, and sorrow:

 

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.

 

Read more

If you thought that I was in a bad mood before Daylight Savings time. . .

Steve, last week, at dawn, or dawn-ish, right before breakfast.

. . .  you should see me now.

I like waking up at dawn — I get to live another day in this wondrous world! I love the clarity and kindness of the early morning light. I like the way we get a spiritual Do-Over with the first cup of tea. I like the hope that comes with toast, a fresh start every 24 hours illuminated by the miracle of daybreak, courtesy of our very own star a mere 98 million miles away.

None of that happens when you have to get out of bed in the dark, shiver into two layers of fleece in the dark, put the tea kettle on in the dark, and back the car out of the driveway in the dark.

Why, o why did the Democrats not get rid of Daylight Savings Time when they had control over both houses of Congress and the Presidency? And, while they were at it, they could have ditched the Electoral College as well but noooooo. . .

A lot happened last week at the used book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island and I’m here to tell you all about it. Let’s start with Mike Massimino, a guy who absolutely did not cheat his way into college:

I liked Mike Massimino when he guest-starred on The Big Bang Theory and No, I did not know he was a real astronaut when he first showed up in Season 5, episode 15. His book is fun to read because he’s humble, he’s funny, and he’s smart. He’s also very hard working — he wanted to be an astronaut so badly that he did extensive physical exercises on (with?) his eyeballs so he could pass the vision test. You can’t “money” your way into NASA and to become an astronaut, and you have to be very, very good at science and a whole lot more. Who knew that being fluent in French is a + on your astronaut application?

This first edition copy of Spaceman is not the only astronaut book we have:

We have a second edition copy of Sally Ride’s book about Mars and GUESS WHAT!

Both these books are signed:

I am selling these books as a set for $25.00.

This is my favorite part of Spaceman, on page 121 of Mike Massimino’s life story:

——-

Other than flying in the T-38, one of my favorite parts of astronaut training was the enrichment lectures. Former astronauts and older NASA guys would come by and give talks about the space program. … My favorite lecturer was Alan Bean, who flew on Apollo 12 and is one of the twelve guys who walked on the moon. After retiring from NASA, he became a painter. Alan’s letter was called “the Art of Space Exploration.” He talked about the mistakes he’d made and how he learned to fix them. … the last thing Alan said to us was “What most people want in life is to do something great. That doesn’t happen often. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be blasé about it. And don’t blow it. A lot of times, believe it or not, people blow it.”

——-

I want to send this to every teenager I know because I wish I had had Alan Bean around when I was in my 20s warning me to not blow it because Oh, yes, I know very well how people blow it.

Haven’t we all? This people typing this right now, for example, has blown it. More than once. And maybe as recently as yesterday. That’s another thing that I love about the early morning: it’s too soon in the day to have blown it yet.

Last week at the used book store we got this in a donation:

It’s a Book of the Month Club edition (basically not even worth its weight in scrap paper) but I’m interested in it because of this:

Ah, those were the days (in this case, 1981) when author photos took up the entire back cover, when writers were important people and the books they wrote mattered (even fiction). And you know why this particular author photo is special to me (hint: cat). But, I wonder, did people not know how to crop photos back in 1981? I know that photographers like to get people’s hands in the picture. . . was John Irving’s left hand doing something weird and they had to crop it out, even though that left a lot of dead space at the top of the frame? Or did the art department have a thing for the tippy top of that background tree?

Working in a used book store gives you a lot of time to think about stuff. These fell out of a coffee table book about Rembrandt:

I was thinking, Oh yuk, a Rembrandt book; but then the New York Times Sunday magazine did a cover story about the discovery of a “lost” Rembrandt and now I’m thinking maybe Rembrandt is coming back in style and I put a $1.00 price tag on it.

And then there is this:

Have you ever heard of Patrick White? I had no idea that an Australian had ever won the Nobel for literature but there you go. You always learn something in a day’s work at the used book store.

There are always people who think the used book store is in desperate need of their ancient beat-up college paperbacks:

This one had a cigarette burn in it, and such useful notes as: Nothing is ever it.

I have a story about Ulysses that I have been saving to tell until just the right moment and that moment has come!

When Vladimir Nabokov was teaching literature at Cornell (1948 – 1959), he made a note of this in his diary  dated March 21, 1951, about a meeting he had with a student who was “explaining to me (after getting a 55 [on a test] that when reading a novel (Ulysses, in this case), that he likes to skip passages and pages so as to get his own idea ‘you know, about the book and not be influenced by the author.’ ”

I can only imagine the look on Vladimir’s face during this exchange. I wonder what that student went on to do with his life.

This is the book that I nominate as this week’s Most Boring Book Ever Published:

It came in with Ulysses. A note on the inside cover says, P. 261 – READ OVER.

So let’s look at page 261:

Almost every page of this little paperback is filled with underlines and yellow hi-lights. This guy really loved Oliver Cromwell. Go figure.

And, next; this is just sad:

The book was printed in 1921, so it was already quite old when it was given away.

Dated Riga, 1 April 1939:

My dear friend Fanni, to remember a time I will not forget.

This is from Wikipedia, translated from the German, about the book’s author, Artur Landsberger (1876 – 1933):

As a sharp-tongued social critic Landsberger was persecuted by the National Socialists.  Finally, he took an overdose of Veronal  at his desk and died by suicide . In the “Third Reich” his books were no longer allowed to be printed.

This book would have been banned by the Nazis in 1939, and I can only guess what it meant to Isi to give it away, or to Fanni to receive it, in the year before Riga was invaded by the Soviets, before the mass deportations by the Germans. This book has survived the worst of the 20th century. I’m not going to throw it out.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, how about this three men on an island self-published fable-with-a-message from 1992:

No more birds, fish, trees, or flowers.

What have we done to this island of ours?

Vantage Press was founded in 1949 and ceased operations in late 2012.

Vantage was the largest vanity press in the United States. In 1990, the State Supreme Court in New York ordered Vantage to pay $3.5 million in damages to 2,200 authors it had defrauded.  According to the plaintiffs, Vantage charged money upfront, but never promoted the books as the authors had expected. (I can relate. My books never got the promotion I expected. . . but that’s how all writers feel.)

But wait, I  saved the best for last!

Published by Octopus Books in London in 1972, this books hits my sweet spot of vintage cook books. It’s got the ’70s color scheme (burnt orange, brown, and more burnt orange) and harkens from a day when life was simple, when there was no such thing as a food stylist. You cooked the food, slapped it on a plate, garnished it with red cherries, and snapped a photo.

If you were fancy, you’d put a copper pot in the background.

But under no circumstance would you go out of your way to make the food look edible.

And so goes another week in the exciting world of used book selling.

This week I got some mail from my publisher. Out of the blue, they forwarded two letters that had been sent to me in care of Bloomsbury in New York City. Both letters were about my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, which on November 15th this year will be eleven  years old.

One letter came from a reader who told me that my book helped her endure the chemotherapy treatments that have made her cancer-free since 2016, and she still re-reads it every month as she gives thanks for her recovery. I can’t tell you how profoundly, and humbly, I am honored to be part of this Dear Reader’s life.

The other letter was a ten-page illustrated booklet about cats and hearts, good soup and wildflowers, stars and talking mice in homage to When Wanderers Cease to Roam. What a treasure, and what a privilege to be a catalyst for such creativity.

Thank you Dear Readers, here today and long distance mind-melding, for bringing me into your kindest, sweetest considerations about the most beautiful and important parts of living and loving on this planet.  (Cats, tea, stars, good books, etc.) I am not worthy.

Have a great weekend, you marvelous creatures. Stay warm, or cool in the shade; whatever is best for your greatness.

XXOO

 

Read more

There were no robo-calls from the governor warning us to stay off the roads, the local TV news station did not break into my Judge Judy viewing time with dire forecasts of dangerous weather, and the cats did  not haul in extra firewood or stock up on macaroni and cheese in case our power was knocked out. So when I woke up on Saturday morning and discovered that had been blanketed with five inches of snow on the ground, I was totally unprepared. This had snuck up on me.

The huge holly bush in front of Steve’s cubby took the brunt of the storm. Steve stayed dry and cozy.

We called a Snow Day at the used book store because we didn’t feel like shoveling our cars out in 20-degree weather and I spent the day drinking tea and toasting a loaf of ciabatta. Not the whole loaf all at once. Every two hours I cut a ladylike slice and slathered various toppings onto it, from plain salty butter to spicy hummus, with peanut butter and melted cheese and butter-and-marmalade in between. I could eat nothing but toast for the rest of my life.

Saturday turned out to be a warm and sunny day so most of the snow had melted by Sunday afternoon, and that’s when came dire robo-warnings from the governor, the TV news casters losing their minds in panic forecasts, and the cats hauling in extra firewood and looking up Top Cat’s best recipe for macaroni and cheese. We were going to get it again, and this time it was going to be BIG, the BIG blizzard such as we, so far, have not suffered through here on the north shore of Long Island.

I went to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, and the Food Emporium was packed with lots of other people similarly preparing for disaster. This is when I thought to myself, “At times like this, I must remember to wear my wedding rings.” This thought came to me as I was standing on line at the checkout counter and the lady in front of me, no Spring Chicken herself, with a cart full of milk, bread, meat, green vegetables, fruit, etc., turned to look at me and said, “Ma’am, you can go before me.”

WTF?? She called me Ma’am! And she had to be, at least, within shouting range of 60!  WHO DOES THAT?? As if  I were some object of pity. . .

. . . And as far as I could reckon, the only difference between she and I was that she had a cart full of “family” food while  I was standing there holding 10 cans of cat food and a bag of Cheetos, and no wedding ring. As if I were a single cat lady who was going to die alone and whose body would not be found until the neighbors realized it had been weeks since anyone had seen me out in my front yard yelling at the kids to stay off my grass. I was slightly mortified, but I took her up on her offer. I hate waiting in line at the grocery store on a good day, and this was not a good day.

Ad, by the way, I actually was “single” for a few days last week when Top Cat went to San Fransisco. I only eat Cheetos when he’s not around and I am missing him like crazy. He bought me some cute socks while he was on the Left Coast.

So, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday March 3, the cats and I set the Champagne-O-Meter out in the back yard and settled in for a snowy Sunday night:

First, it rained:

At dusk the flakes began to fall:

By dawn, the world was transformed and I was seriously considering putting left-over Cheetos on my toast for breakfast:

Call me a Romantic, but seeing a bottle of Champagne that looks like this (below) makes me fall in love (with alcohol):

For those of you who are not dipsomaniacs, there is a less boozy way to gauge the snow fall, something I call the Hutch-O-Meter.

Here’s the old rabbit hutch in my backyard on Sunday afternoon:

Here’s the old rabbit hutch in my backyard on Monday morning:

That’s enough about the weather and how easy it is to get on my Shit List (see: DO NOT EVER CALL ME MA’AM).

Not to blow my own horn, but I have been very busy, and very effective, raising money this past year for my local library. Between the stellar earnings from the book store that I co-manage, and the money I have coaxed out of various corporate and private sponsors for this miniature golf event I cooked up, I have raised $17,800 for the library through my volunteer time and effort.

To publicize the mini golf event to be held on April 6, I  get the display case in the library lobby (the same one that showed off my book art/paper castles in December) for the month of March. I am going to hang a big banner that lists all our corporate sponsors, and I’m going to put in my new Book Art (I call it,  Miniature Miniature Golf) to drum up excitement for the event.

You have not seen the new Book Art in its finished form, so here is the installation (they go together in pairs). NO. 1:

All the bears: Corduroy, Paddington, Pooh, and Baloo.

NO. 2 . All the bunnies — Velveteen Rabbit, Thumper, Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and The White Rabbit — with the crew from The Wind in the Willows:

The next pair I call Here Be Dragons:

That’s the big green dragon from the Inheritance series of YA novels; that’s the kid and his dog from Dragons Love Tacos; there’s Arthur the Aardvark, and the two girls from the cover of Where The Sidewalk Ends (looking forlornly at their golf ball, which has fallen into the cave below).

And beasts and ogres:

I’m so happy that there is a new How To Tame Your Dragon movie out this year!

The final twosome begins with Bilbo Baggins sitting outside his hobbit hole:

And this is the grand finale to the Miniature Miniature Golf saga, a scene of anarchy with cats:

You can’t see The Giving Tree very clearly, so here’s what is going down on that side of the scene:

It’s a golf club. The Giving Tree is giving a golf club.

And there’s Alice, holding a flag with the time and date of the library’s mini golf event:

I hope that these little scenes would encourage people to linger at the display case, burn the play date into their minds, and entice them to come back to the library and pay $5.00 per person to play golf.

Miniature Miniature Golf will be on view at the Bryant Library from March 10 to April 7.

I’m publishing this blog post on Thursday afternoon and it’s been so frigid this week that all the snow has now frozen into a solid land iceberg. On Sunday the weather will be in the 50s and it will be rainy — San Fransisco weather — and I hope all the snow and ice will be washed away.

I have found some interesting things in the donation bags at the used book store this week, and I plan to do a whole blog post about them next week, but here’s one little tidbit to tide you over:

Before there was an Air Force, there was an Army Air Forces, and this is a diploma from the huge facility on Miami Beach, Florida at the beginning of the war. Clark Gable trained here. The Army was in desperate need of administrative officers and they took men as old as 45. During the way, 30,000 men were graduated from Miami Beach. The graduates performed ground duties that would free up the guys who flew the planes from any responsibilities that might keep them from flying bombing missions.

Lucky for us, one of our volunteers knows the guy who dropped off the donation that contained this diploma, so we have notified him to come get this  artifact.  I found the diploma between the pages of a big heavy coffee table book called The Age of Suleyman The Magnificent, 416 pages published by Harry Abrams.

I have been wondering about the filing system in use, in which a WWII Army Air Force diploma from 1942 is filed into a book about the longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1987.

I dislike Ottoman art, so at first I put this book in the “Kill” file; but then I had a second thought and retrieved it. I put a $2 price on it and maybe it will find it’s perfect reader, some day, out there.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. It can’t stay mean and cold forever, so let’s just grit our teeth and get through the next three weeks.

XXOO

 

Read more

Sweet Dennis was gathered to the ancestors on Monday, Feb. 25, on an unseasonably mild day. He was buried in a corner of my neighbor’s garden where, in Summer, there will be a rose bush in bloom. Here are some of my remembrances of him during the 11 seasons that we were lucky to have him in our lives:

Yes, there is a kitty in this photo.

The old rabbit hutch in our backyard was Dennis’s first favorite place.

Summer was when Dennis was his most scenic:

 

Dennis with Taffy, his mortal frenemy.

And this is how Dennis coped with the heat waves of Summer ’17 and ’18:

We will miss his sweet face and bright smile.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for all your dear wishes for Dennis and the people he leaves behind. It will take a long while before I stop looking out for him at every breakfast, or looking twice at Taffy trying to figure out if it’s him or that other handsome darling ginger cat from next door.

In times of sorrow, thank goodness for books and tea. A friend sent me a link to a video of Amy Sedaris’s book collection, for obvious reasons:

Screen shot.

You might recall that I have a very small collection of color-coded book covers, mostly just for “decoration” in the two  small built-in bookshelves I have in our living room , but Amy Sedaris goes over the top with hers. When it’s done on a big scale like this, it’s very fetching, don’t you think?

Amy Sedaris says that when she wants to find a book, she has to look it up on line to see what color the jacket is so she’ll know where to find it on her bookshelf. That sounds easier than the system that I currently have in place, which is ad hoc hit-or-miss, Where Did I Put That Book I Just Had In My Hands?

In Used Book Store news, we got this the other day:

This was a new way for someone to do a drive-by used book donation — they dumped it by the library’s book return.  It was a plastic carrier bag full of paperback books in Arabic and, no judgment here, there is no way that we could sell Arabic-language books at our little charity used book store, so I asked the librarian if they needed this load for their foreign language collection — and the librarian said Yes. That’s the first time the library has taken unwanted books off my hands. So, yay for the Arabic language readers in Roslyn, Long Island!

We also got this in another donation last week:

We do not normally accept dictionaries because they do not sell, but this month a collage artist let me know that she would take any and all dictionaries that we get (the older the better). This Funk & Wagnall’s was from 1973 — not exactly “old” because that’s the year that I graduated from high school — but I put a $3 price tag on it and the artist loved it.

The collage artist is not interested in children’s dictionaries, so I knew that I would have to scrap this one that came in last week, too, because nobody buys children’s dictionaries:

But first, I checked out the end papers because that’s what I do before I get rid of books these days, and wow — this dictionary had lovely vermillion-colored end papers, plus a dazzling little something extra:

I love that tiny four-leaf clover. Then I flipped to the back cover and got this:

The clover flowers are still knotted, still in tact as a sweet little necklace and now I don’t know what to do. I can’t rip out the end papers, I can’t throw out some child’s gathered miracles…so the book is sitting in Top Cat’s den, on top of a pile of other rescued books that are not worth selling at the used book store, but also aren’t deserving of being thrown out.

That pile of books includes a battered 1922 copy of The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morely. If it were a 1919 copy, it might be worth $300, but it’s just a 1922 edition and Christopher Morley, a Long Island writer whose house used to be about half a block from mine (until 2010, when it was torn down and a really nice mansion was put in its place) is unreadable. I find his prose to be extremely annoying, and this 1922 book isn’t worth a dollar, but still. . . it’s survived this long, I hate to toss it. So Top Cat’s den is the new Limbo for old books and Top Cat is thrilled.

If you remember from last week, I had made a tree for the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland:

I introduced you all to this original sketch from Sir Tenniel, which mashed up the Cat with a certain Tea Party:

So, in celebration of March being the Tea Time Month. . .

. . . I am going to make a paper tea cup to go with my paper Cheshire Cat tree!

And the crowd goes wild!

Page 39, When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

While the tea cup seems as if it is one of those designs that seems so natural and so very handily form-fitting-function that is must have appeared plena canite, the tea cup as we know it is actually a culturally-specific adaptation to 19th-century Western tea drinking.

The handle to the tea cup is the most recent aperture to have evolved in the five thousand year-old history of tea. It’s a very hi-tech addition to the classic design that originated in China about 2,500 years before Jesus (who preferred wine over tea) was making with the loaves and fishes.

I made the tea cup’s bowl and saucer in one afternoon, and it was so mundane that I didn’t even bother to photograph the process (sorry). But then it came time to add the handle to the tea bowl and I knew I was in for it BIG TIME. I pondered the engineering and came up with an audacious plan.

This is the tea cup that I used as my model:

Wedgwood, style “Derwent” scalloped, 1964 – 68, now discontinued.

I am left handed so I never use a tea cup in this orientation (as shown above), but when I had to draw it I could only do it in its right-handed mode. I drew the handle, then I flipped it and traced its reverse image there on the paper beneath the cup so I wold have two exact copies of the handle I wanted to make:

Let’s call this handle shape, the “Q”.

I am going to try to re-make the handle as a form (in other words, I am not going to wrap it, as I would the trunk of a tree; or roll it and bend it as I would a tree branch). That strip of paper with the notches cut out of it, called the strap, is what I am going to glue between the two mirror-image “Q”s. I have to be very precise when I fold up the notched edges, so I use a small ruler like so:

This is the strap ready to be glued into place:

I lay down a line of elmer’s glue and let it set for a minute or two, to be less runny and more “tacky”:

Then I lay down the strap onto the glue, using the fat end of my scalpel to tap it in place (because my big fat fingers won’t fit in this teeny space):

I let the glue dry, and then I trimmed the “Q”(mostly) and now I’m ready for the other “Q” to be glued on top:

So now I have a hollow handle, and to my great relief, if fits against the Alice in Wonderland tea bowl I made earlier:

Then I take text from my $1 copy of Alice in Wonderland and glue it onto one of the”Q”s, and I insert an inner strap to make the handle not hollow:

That’s the tea bowl and saucer in the background.

Of course I’m using the name of the chapter as decoration on the outer strap:

I pay attention to detail.

And this is the wonder of engineering that is the paper handle for my paper tea cup:

It fits!

The bowl was almost perfectly circular until the glue dried, then it got wonky.

Because of how I want to use this tea cup and saucer, I am not adding the foot that is in the Wedgwood prototype but some day, I would like to make a footed paper tea cup, yes I would.

I am very proud of this tea cup. You can actually pick it up by its handle — it works, and it’s sturdy.

I can’t show you, yet, how I’m going to use this tea cup with the Cheshire Cat tree, because I am photographing all my book art pieces for posterity and I can only do that in my dining room when it’s overcast ousted. It’s been sunny the past few days — cold, with random snow flurries that don’t stick around, but sunny — but I can show you some of the book art that I’ve succeeded getting pictures of so far:

Top Cat got me some large sheets of beautiful dark black suede-like paper, and I made little set with several sheets of this paper taped into the recesses of the window seat that is built into the north wall of our dining room.

Here’s Farmer McGregor’s vegetable garden and the Wind in the Willows scene that you read about back in January:

When I was in Florida two weeks ago I raided some thrift shops and found The Velveteen Rabbit, and Thumper to add to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. The White Hare came with Alice:

I used Inga Moore’s illustrations for Mole, Rat, Frog, and Badger from Wind in the Willows:

Dear Reader Francesca sent me a wonderful copy of WITW with the the wonderful illustrations by Ernest Shepard, but I could not make them work for this project, in which all the characters have to be playing golf. The nest time you’re looking through a children’s picture book, see if you can find characters that are striking poses into which you can insert a golf club.

It’s not easy.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. It’s Michael Cohen Testimony Before the House Oversight Committee Day + 2, a great day to be alive in America (for the first time since Nov. 9, 2011).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

If you haven’t read about our dear sweet half-cat Dennis (Top Cat and I shared him with our neighbors) you can catch up with the him in the post that follows today’s usual blather about terribly important things such as weather, other cats, champagne, books, and stuff you can make out of books. We love Dennis to infinity and beyond.

Let’s start today’s drivel with Taffy on Wednesday morning, when that little brain of his, which is attuned to all the vibrations of this wondrous cosmos, detected an exciting snow storm barreling towards us here on the north shore of Long Island and celebrated with a roll in his favorite patch of dirt:

That’s Taffy’s mortal enemy, Bibs, watching him, thinking, How is it possible that this idiot is the boss of me?

A few hours later, here’s Taffy surveying the same spot:

And then his little brain sparks joy and he dances upon the flakes. It’s SNOWING!!

Meanwhile, on the front stoop, here’s Steve emerging from his super-cozy heated cubby to let me know that he’d like something along the lines of a nice turkey pâté, please:

And now, Dear Readers, due to a severe lack of snow here on the north shore of Long Island in the months of December and January, here is your very first Winter of 2019 Champagne-O-Meter!!

12:30 PM:

1:30-ish PM:

A little after 2:30 PM:

3:31 PM:

4:40PM:

Just before 5:30 PM:

6:45 PM:

It was an underwhelming blizzard, but the next morning, the Champagne-O-Meter was perfection:

There is nothing better than a bottle of bubbly that has been cooling deep in Nature’s ice bucket for ten hours. I wish I drank champagne for breakfast but I’m not that much of a degenerate, yet, so the Champagne-O-Meter been moved to the fridge, counting the hours until 5 o’clock.

So let us move on, from cats and champagne, to cats and books and stuff that you can make out of books.

I know you know what’s happening here:

And I know you know that I’m going to be making this tree and this cat out of paper and the books that I slaughter in the name of art.

To begin, I chopped a derder that I got when I used up the last of my paper towels:

Yes!! Did you know that that cardboard tube inside a roll or TP or paper towels is called a derder?

Now you know.

Then I inserted a taller, slimmer roll of bond paper inside:

This tree is going to be tall and top-heavy, so I need the double-stegnth of the two rolls, one inside the other, to make the tapered trunk. But I had to figure out how to make the inside roll stay in place and I have to confess, this is the part of making stuff out of paper that I LOVE.

I LOVE McGuyvering solutions to really stupid problems. So I came up with this:

BTW, that’s my diamond-grading tweezers. You need the needle-like tips to grasp a loose diamond and, it turns out, it’s also really good for grasping tiny bits of paper.

You see how the O-Ring slips over the inside roll, down to meet the top of the derder?

Now I have to stabilize the two rolls:

This is how I make the tree trunk into a taper:

DONE:

(With the taper. We have a long, long ways to go until we done with the tree.)

While you wait for the taper to dry (it’s loaded with Elmer’s glue), you can make some various size rolls and flat sticks that you will use for tree branches:

When the taper is dry, you take your scalpel and hack a hole into the side of the tree trunk:

Insert one of your small paper rolls:

This is OK if you want your tree branch to shoot straight out of the tree trunk. But if you want to make a bendy tree branch, you have to cut a little nick into the side of the paper roll like this:

Now you can fold the roll to make a bendy tree branch. You have to slather it with Elmer’s glue and sit holding it while it dries. and this is boring, but you can pass the time rehearsing in your head the scathing comments or bitchslaps you would give to any of the bullshit Kardashians if you would meet them in a dark alley or on a talk show:

Or you can use the time to compose sonnets. It’s up to you:

I don’t have any use for this page that I ripped out of little book that I cut up, except for the green bits in this illustration:

I am cutting out leaves (what a diamond grader would call a “Marquise cut”: ):

The Marquise Cut is a low-class cut in that it is shallow (a bad thing for a diamond to be) and is for people who want a lot of bling for the buck. It’s a showy cut, and is reserved for getting the most out of an inferior stone. I see a Marquise Cut (you pronounce the “S”) and I think, Tacky. It’s the diamond equivalent of riding a motorized scooter around a Walmart parking lot drinking wine out of a Pringle’s can, except that I definitely want to be best friends with that lady.

A good round cut is a very fine cut, but an Emerald Cut is divine.

I glue these leaves on one at a time, using my diamond-grading tweezers to place them onto the branches:

It is a very delicate and thoughtful and time-consuming operation that might drive some people crazy, but I find it extremely calming and mentally absorbing. I LOVE doing this.

This is what the tree looks like from behind:

Then I had to leave town and go . . .

. . . to FLORIDA! I had to visit my favorite Florida kitties, Sammy. . .

. . . and Mabel, wo had never seen a Winter coat before so she had to test drive it for kitty compatibility:

I left sunny warm FLORIDA on a Delta flight that for some reason tracked us as if we were flying out of West Africa to JFK:

Sorry for the red herring. But if I ever go back to Africa, which I probably never will, it would not be back to my old stomping grounds of the west; it would be to South or East Africa to see gorillas and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

My theory is that the same computer glitch that had us flying out of the Gulf of Guinea also booked the plane with only 18 passengers:

There were 106 empty seats on this plane! It was the single greatest plane ride I have ever taken! No fights for the overhead luggage racks, no shoving for arm rests, and everybody got double free bevvies and snacks, and de-planing was a joy. A joy, I tell you.

And then I came home and finished the tree. . .

. . . except for the cat:

I did, I did vandalize a hard copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to get this cat, and then I put him in the tree whence he grins, and I saw that I ad made the tree too damn big. Bummer. Buuuuuuuummer.

P.S., I don’t mind that the tree looks very lumpy and home-made — that’s my esthetic — but in future I do want to concentrate on making more tree-like trees.

Well wouldn’t you know it — the used book store comes to the rescue!!

We got a donation that included this catalogue of all the best art and object sales in Christie’s showrooms for the year 1987 (and this is a shot of my work space because making book art is very messy). . .

. . . and I’m sure that we don’t have buyers for this book so perchance I opened it to check out the end papers to see if I should salvage them and OH MY GOD:

The universe must love me. I must be, like, one of its darlings. Don’t you always feel that way, when you take the time to count your blessings (and then use them as proof that you are indeed one way above-average and anointed being, or is that just me?).

Thank you, Great Spirit, for this 1987 record-breaking sale of original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel:

This Cheshire Cat is the right size, and it’s printed on nice heavy-card stock:

Here’s my new cat in the tree:

And that brings us to the end of this week’s installment of VivianWorld.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Count your blessings, Dear Readers, however small, because we are all beloved equally by a benevolent and beguiling universe.

XXOO

 

 

 

Read more

I took this picture of Dennis (below) and Taffy (above) on January 4:

Dennis looked like his usual self, tubby and content, but little did we know that he was, in fact, getting very sick.

When he took a nap on one of our dining room chairs later that month, on January 22, I had no reason to believe that he was not the healthy, dreamy kitty he’s always been in the three years that I have known him. Look at his body language! Everything about him says I’m happy and relaxed and do you have any turkey-flavored treats you want to give me?:

On February 1, he was napping in his favorite sunbeam in the hutch in our backyard and I called him, over and over, Dennis, Come inside, Dennis, It’s too cold for kittens, Dennis!

And he calmly blinked back at me,giving me that look that said Why is she yelling, and who is this Dennis?

He could always make me laugh.

I came home from my travels late on February 14 and I picked up Dennis to give him a hug and I was shocked. He had suddenly become very thin! This is always worrying. Then I remembered that his appetite had seemed to drop off in the past two weeks, but I assumed it was because his parents next door were feeding him something he liked better (and that’s what they thought, too, when he became a picky eater over at their house).

Dennis’ parents were away on a week-long trip to Florida, so I took him to the vet the next day, a Friday. The vet felt his tummy and could tell that his kidneys were enlarged and she also felt “a mass”. She took blood and gave me the results the next day.

Dennis is in kidney failure. He needs a sonogram to confirm our worst fears about that “mass”, so I got him the first available appointment with a specialist at the animal hospital, on Monday.

Late Sunday night, his parents came home from their own travels. I saw them Monday morning to tell them about our sick kitty, and this news stunned them for the same reasons it gob-smacked Top Cat and me — Dennis seemed so normal and healthy, all the way up until the time that his situation became catastrophic overnight.

We all went to the specialist together.

The specialist confirmed the worst. Dennis has lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes and spreads to other organs. In this case, Dennis’ kidneys are affected. The specialist told us that further  treatment (chemotherapy) is not recommended due to the severity of Dennis’ cancer and the damage done to his kidneys. Dennis’ prognosis is very poor. It’s a matter of days.

I have kissed him a hundred times, and told him how much I love him, and he is home now with his parents and his favorite blankets and toys. Although he is not in pain, he probably feels queasy due to the toxins that are building up in his body  due to his malfunctioning kidneys. He is being kept comfortable. We’ll know when it’s time to bundle him up and take him back to the vet, for the last time.

Dennis is seven years old. We had to chose a birthday for his hospital records, so I picked February 14, 2012. He’ll always be my Valentine.

May 12, 2016. The first photo of the new kitty in my backyard.

 

May 21, 2016. I think this new kitty is sizing us up.

 

June 23, 2016. Sure. Make yourself at home. My garden shed is your garden shed, stranger.

 

July 21, 2016. I think this one is a keeper. I better get my TNR ready.

 

Read more

This is the actual flight tracker on Delta Airlines (seat 20C) from my flight home yesterday:

There is more to the story, but I’ll have to tell you all about it next Friday.

I am jet-lagged today and Dennis is doing poorly so first things first: a trip to the vet and then, a nice long nap.

See you here on the 22nd.

In the meantime, have a great weekend. Hakuna matata y’all.

 

 

Read more

I didn’t watch der Dumpster give the State of the Union address but I’ve been reading all about it:

Here are some other possible captions:

Rush this into movie production. I don’t even need to know the plot; I just know it stars Julianne Moore and I will see it five times in the theaters.

Sung to the tune of She’s Always a Woman To Me by Billy Joel:

She can kill with a clap, she can wound with her eyes
And she’s far from impressed with your Soviet ties
And she’d quite like to stab you and laugh as you bleed
She’s Madame Speaker and she’s Nancy the Great One to me

If this isn’t sign language for Fuck you, Asshole, it should be.

From Nancy Pelosi’s daughter: oh yes that clap took me back to the teen years. She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work. But here’s a clap.

Remember how, right after the November elections, everyone thought Nancy Pelosi was too centrist and too Old Party Democrat to be an effective anti-Dumpster Speaker of the House? And now, ever since she manhandled der Dumpster into re-opening the federal government, suddenly everyone loves Nancy Pelosi.

Rock on. When I’m 78-years old, I want to be like her: The Head Bitch in Charge.

Back to the real news: I was sorting through old books at the used book store that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island and I realized that I have been a real dope all this past year.

I could kick myself for not having thought of this sooner. . .  all the books that I have to throw out (because they are cookbooks, which no one wants to buy anymore; or they are in terrible condition; or they are religious books, which don’t sell; or they are rejected for any number of reasons) all those books often have very nice free-end papers (see above) that are heavy stock and come in colors that are more subtle and interesting than what you can buy in any art supply store.

Jeeze. I could have been collecting some great free-end papers all this time.

This is what I got from one day of hauling out the trash:

Can you imagine how this will impact (yes, I use “impact” as a verb, so sue me) my book art? Because this is a legit way to get color into the stuff I build out of old crap books that no one wants.

Consider this Vivian’s Tip Of The Day For Making Your Life Better: Get the free-end papers before you throw.

Are you familiar with the J R R Tolkien fantasy novel called The Hobbit? All you have to know is that it’s set in a world where little people live in luxury hobbit-holes dug into the sides of hills and mountains, like this:

This is Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit from the upper classes of hobbits in The Shire, from the Peter Jackson movie trilogy Lord of the Rings (above and below).

Please note that winding uphill walkway that leads to the round front door. I will be cursing it shortly.

Because of course, this is what I decided to build out of books: Bag End.

I started out making a supporting structure in 2 pieces:

The top is just a dome that I made by criss-crossing strips that I cut out of a book that had nice medium-heavy pages. The bottom bit is a platform, of sorts, that I made out of a Triscuit (the delicious baked-wheat cracker snack) box. . . but after pondering how I was going to insert a winding uphill walkway into a box-like platform, I saw that there was no way I could achieve that in this set-up. So I ripped it apart and built another one out of one of those heavier free-end papers (white):

It was NOT EASY to make this supporting platform, because it had to be circular and curve around the dome, and leave me a recess into which I could insert that damn winding uphill walkway.

This (below) is how I stabilized the platform so it cold be free-standing, and also how I cut it down by half an inch because I made it too high:

I started to glue in strips of bond paper to make the platform slope into the dome . . .

. . . but I realized that I would have to complete the facade of the hobbit hole before I could add to the structure to make the slopes. I did not take photos of my construction of the facade because I am a dope and I was rather absorbed in seeing if this would work out — it was iffy — so here’s a photo of how I inserted that damn winding uphill walkway into the platform structure after I had finished making the facade:

Oh yes. This was as persnickety as it looks. This stairway of the winding uphill walkway took what seemed like hours to do, but was probably only 50 minutes. I had to fiddle with it because none of my first ideas worked — but combined with my second and third ideas with a last-minute fourth idea, I got a reasonable facsimile of a staircase.

Then I covered the treads and the risers of the staircase of the winding uphill walkway with text and other bits:

This is when Top Cat wandered in to my work room and looked over my shoulder and said, “Jeeze, honey, I don’t know…”

I understand that it looks terrible, but I’m not looking at this as a work-in-progress. I’m seeing it finished. That’s the only way I can carry on: Hope Against Hope.

I should tell you that I am using the BEST book for cutting out good green bits for grassy hills and such:

It’s the same paperback children’ book that I used for Farmer MacGregor’s vegetable garden. The only problem with this book is that the pages are thick (Top Cat knows paper and he could tell you how many microns thick it is, but he’s not here right now) and it takes a lot of finesse to drape this somewhat stiff paper over a dome. Be warned. But oh! The illustrations are so delicious!

It all came down to this, the last gap in the back of my hobbit hole:

The paper was too stiff to simply lay a strip over that gap to connect those two sloping ends. So I cut out this:

The notches in the form make the paper more bendy, and it also camouflages the “seams” on each side:

For the record, I am always this careful with the backsides of my builds. For instance, remember this?

This is what it looks like on the side that no one will see:

To finish off Bag End, I cut out some neat little details from my source book:

They covered up little gaps in the coverage and add interest, if you know what I mean. Visual interest to those who are examining this hobbit hole with a magnifying glass, which no one will, but I’m a double Capricorn with Virgo tendencies so I’m a little obsessive:

DONE:

Top Cat saw this and he said, Wow. I’m not sure it’s a WOW wow, but certainly it’s wowier than when he last time he saw it.

The original plan was for this hobbit hole to go in the foreground of this story, with the Wild Things:

But I forgot that Bag End has a tree that grows atop it, so that nixes that. I’m going to have to make a new story, and a new tree, for a stand-alone Bag End:

Did you hear that the East Coast, including us here on the north shore of Long Island, got a fine heat wave this week and temperatures soared to almost 70 degrees? It was life-affirming, and sun, and I couldn’t resist taking this photo —

The light in the forest. Nice.

Speaking of forests. . . it’s cloudy again, but still mild for Winter, and Taffy has often been missing in action. He has started to do day-long Walk Abouts, and you know how you always fret when your indoor/outdoor cats don’t show up for breakfast. So I had to go find Taffy the other day, and I had to trek through the small woods that separates my backyard from the neighbor’s. In Summer, this woods is so thick that I never even see their house, but in Winter it’s shockingly bare and Taffy doesn’t come when called so I had to venture out where the Wild Things are. Can you see Taffy in this photo (below)?:

He let me pick him up and carry him home. He’s a sweet cat. He’s a terrible brat, yes, but he’s sweet.

On warm days, Steve comes out of his heating-padded nest by the front stoop and sits on his favorite place on our front porch wall:

Dare I say it? We can’t wait for Spring. Which hits here in mid-May.

But wait, there’s more.

We got this in with a nice donation last week:

It was published in 1998. Remember how cute William was when he had all that blond hair? I don’t understand how he’s bald already, since his father has decent hair, and 97-year-old father’s father has respectable hair, and his mother’s father had plenty of hair, and his mother’s brother and nephew have loads of hair. How did he got the bald gene??

I have section in the used book store for British History, and a subsection of Royal Bios. I am surprised that we don’t sell out of our royal bios, because we have some good ones from Alfred the Great to, now, William. This People Magazine bio is available for $1.00.

And here’s the best picture from Prince William’s bio:

Even cat-people can love this. (That looks like his cousin, Lady Gabriella Windsor, behind him.)

Hounds, princes, hobbits, tips for better living. . . now you see why I only blog once a week. (Top Cat still says my posts are too long. Excuuuuse me for being so fascinating.)

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Truth is marching on.

 

 

 

Read more