September 2020




First off, I apologize — I don’t have a pet portrait to show you this week. It wasn’t a good week for painting. When I wrote last week’s blog headline, I did not expect things to get so crazy so fast.

We all felt like we got a punch in the stomach last Friday when we heard the news that Ruth Bader Ginsberg had died. I’m still processing it. Here’s a few thoughts that I’d like to share:







This week’s blog post headline comes from the Attorney General announcing that New York City, which is about 15 miles to the west of my 100-year-old house here on the north shore of Long Island, is now an “anarchist jurisdiction”. Nobody knows what the hell that means, but it sounds kind of saucy.

I went into Manhattan last Friday, the first time I’ve been in the city since Top Cat and I did our bBack Lives Matter march in June. I also took the subway, which I haven’t done in a long, long time. And I will try to never do it again.

Dear Readers, the New York City subway system is really, really, really scuzzy.

The trains are fine. It’s the people that scuzz up the system. From what I observed, the pandemic has taken a toll on New Yorkers since of propriety. I can only attribute the months of lockdown and working-from-home-ism to the lowering of standards as to what constitutes “public attire”. I swear I saw people wearing pajamas on the IRT, and apparently there is a shortage of combs in NYC. Maybe wearing clothes that are three sizes too small is a fashion statement, or maybe people haven’t been able to update their wardrobe to accommodate the pandemic pounds they have packed on, but either way, squeezing ten pounds of sausage into a five point bag is not a good look. When you ride the New York subway, you realize that humanity is, mostly, made up of very unattractive people, and it’s no wonder why our society vales beauty so much, it being such a rare sight amongst our species.

Other than the, things looked pretty normal in the heart of the anarchy.




I came across a news story that made me feel pretty good about the red state of Tennessee.

Tony Tenpenny (you ave to admit that that’s an AWESOME name) was a Republican and a “coronavirus skeptic” who used to publish anti-mask memes on his Facebook page. This is from May:

This is from Tony, in June:

Tony was still wondering why America was falling for the Democratic hoax in August:

Additionally, Tenpenny had been very active on social media voicing his support for President Donald Trump and his opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.

On May 30, Tenpenny posted a statement on Facebook falsely attributed to former Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., putting forward conspiracy theories that the virus is nothing more than a political trick to derail Trump’s re-election bid.

On July 7, he wrote that “the CDC and the WHO are pure lying (expletive)” and that public health officials are “not telling you the truth.”

Tenpenny made more than a dozen posts stating or sharing Covid-19 disinformation, including video from a Texas doctor who peddled dangerous theories about the virus, linking its cause to demons. Facebook flagged the July 29 posting by Tenpenny as “Partly False Information.”

And then, on September 20, this happened:

Tenpenny was hospitalized for five weeks and was placed on a ventilator earlier in September. No word on whether he thought his death was a hoax, or a political trick to make Trump look bad.

Let us all take a moment to say Thank you, Karma.

That’s all I got for you this week, Dear Readers. Let’s all try to re-adjust to this new, depraved “normal”.























Have a great weekend, Dear Ones.

If you’re reading this on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, join me tonight in raising a glass for the late, great, notorious RBG.

And, lest we forget:

Fuck Trump.








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Actually, I was guzzling the VegaMeataVitamin by May.

Here on the north shore of Long Island we have had spectacular sunrises, thanks to smoke from the wildfires on the west coast. The sun hangs in the air like a huge, brilliant, fiery, orange ball — I haven’t seen anything like it. As it gets higher in the sky, it bleeds out and becomes the hot white star that we usually see but oh! Those first 40 minutes of the morning, it is spectacular! Sorry, California, Oregon, and Washington.

So I’m sitting here at my computer, wishing I had not paid attention to the news and looking for a shot of some VitaMeataVegamin, and my little helper comes along:

She thinks the cursor might taste good if only she could catch it.

I am pleased to announce that we have given Car Cat a real name. I present to you: Kimmy.

Kimmy keeps me company whenever I am at my computer, and I am at my computer a lot.

She is bouncy, pouncy, flouncy, and trouncy. . .

. . . and she is full of fun, fun fun.

I thought that I did not want a kitten but it turns out that I really needed a kitten.

Before we get into the reason why #HitlerYouth is trending on Twitter this morning, let’s do some painting!

Meet Benji, who lives in New Jersey with Stromness Rock host and Dear Reader Carol:

Adorable, right? But if you’re going to paint him, you’re going to have to deal with several quirks of Benji that could go horribly wrong when you paint him, especially if you decide to paint his entire body because you live to make yourself miserable.

Actually, I don’t usually paint entire bodies because of the parallax problem in working from reference photos. But this is the rare photo where all of Benji is in focus and is in perspective, and he’s very graphic and appealing, so what the heck. I like to make myself miserable. Here are the BIG problems with Benji:

One: He’s entirely back-lit. The light is behind him and his adorable ears are glowing but his body is in shadow — how are you going to paint that?

Two: He is, and I can’t stress this too much, a white cat. How do you paint a white cat??

Three: He’s white, but he as some very specific black markings that you have to get just right or it won’t look like Benji. Got that?

Four: His face is in shadow, which you are not going to paint because, hello, it will look crappy to have a portrait where the sitter’s face is eclipsed by shade. So you’re going to have to figure out how to fake it so his adorable white face shows.

Five: He’s got a big fluffy black tail in the foreground. It’s big, and it’s of a shape and color that will be very hard to paint so it doesn’t look like a turd. Don’t make it muddy, don’t make it look lumpy, don’t make it look like shit, OK?

Thanks, Carol, for the challenge.

OK! Let’s get at it!

As always, I start with the eyes. In a white cat, the eyes are ever more crucial since that’s pretty much the only things that are going on in the face, and I spent a lot of time on Benji’s. I layered light washes of color, layer over layer, to get a color that is greenish-yellow but is also a bit muted, since the face is in shadow:

I even put in some blue shading in there, and I added white enamel paint as highlight. I also shaped the eyes very carefully, since they are so expressive — I even got in there with a pencil to do what I can’t do with even my tiniest paintbrush. They are the soul of Benji.

I must remind you that I’m working very small here:

Coming up, ears that glow. Again, I layer the paint: pink, peach, another pink, and even a little yellow to get a translucent effect:

Now to blend in those black markings:

I forgot to take a photo of how I cheated on Benji’s face and only painted him in half-shadow (sorry). I also decided to use a blue-grey color for the shadows on his damn white fur:

I mixed three shades of Grumbacher blues with Winsor Newton China White and Payne’s Gray to get a “blue” that would have depth and complexity.

I never use a brush this big, but I wanted to have a casual feel for the big shadows on his body.

Once in a while I get a smart idea, and for the tail (AKA, big black blob that takes p the whole foreground of the picture) I had the thought of letting the paint and the paper do all the work. I used a lot of water, and I mixed the paint and water on the brush so that each time I paint, I got a different saturation of paint/water that will add interest to this large area of paint. I am going to let the water and the paint do their thing:

Below: This is what I mean when I say I let the water and the  paint (and the paper) “do their thing” — all I did here (below), is let a very watery wash dry on good Canson paper:

I love the effect. It looks like watercolor, but it also kind of looks like fur!

Although Benji looks finished here (below), I still need to add more fluff. He’s a very fluffy cat, so I’m going to go completely fake here and “draw” with paint, using a very thin brush to outline the fluffiness of Benji’s fluff:




Now, I promised that I would explain why #HitlerYouth is trending on Twitter this morning. It’s because our dips hit president announced yesterday that he is signing an executive order to promote “patriotic education” at American schools:


This is in retaliation for the widespread adoption into middle and high school curriculum of a body of work known as “The 1619 Project” . The year 1619 is the year that the first enslaved Africans were brought to the American colonies, and The 1619 Project, through a number of essays and texts by outstanding scholars and historians of all colors  and ethnicities, educates students to the systematic racism that has permeated American culture and government for over three hundred years.

So, Trump wants to create a TrumpYouth program, even though the federal government has almost no leverage in the actual curriculum of any school, which are all run by local governments: cities, towns, villages all decide what to teach — not federal edicts.

So, in response, Twitter is lighting up with comments about this latest attempt to polarize our country by the Republican nazis. Like this:

(Ben Shapiro is a loud mouthed conservative crackpot.)

So, things are going to get crazier and crazier, as if they weren’t crazy enough already. Sometimes I wish I could go to sleep and wake up on November 3, vote, and go back to sleep until Joe Biden takes the oath of office.

It is going to get very ugly. Be ready.

And now let’s see what else is happening:


















I didn’t get around to Bill Barr, the Attorney General who thinks he is Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, and that having to wear a mask curing a pandemic is the worst violation of civil rights since slavery because I just don’t have the energy and . . .



Hey! I found some Dad jokes!











Have a great weekend, everyone. Hard as it might be, stay sane. This, too, will pass. We hope. Maybe. You never know.

And, before I forget:

Fuck Trump.











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I still get a royalty statement from my agent, every six months, for the three books I wrote. Lately, these statements have not made for good reading. The sales figures are on a time lag, so the statement I got in April 2020(which I only looked this past week) is for books that were sold in the second half of 2019. It seems that people are not buying  V. Swift books like they used to, so I was feeling poor when I got an alert that Go Daddy had taken a payment of $160 for a security certificate for my blog. Since I don’t sell anything on this blog, I figured that I didn’t need the “SSL” certificate so I took the drastic step of calling Go Daddy (wait time: 23 minutes) and cancelling the payment. $160 is what I get when 100 of my books sell, so I thought I’d made a very smart business decision and was feeling rather thrifty and $160 richer.

And then my blog disappeared for three days. So, if any Dear Readers had trouble visiting me this past week, the reason is because any interface on the world wide web needs to have a SSL certificate, or search engines will refuse to let anyone stop by. Ao, to fix this, I had to call Go Daddy again (wait time: 37 minutes) and pay them for the SSL cert, at which time I was told that it takes 48 hours to get back on track. And then, when 48 hours came and went and I was still not amongst the living, I had to call Go Daddy again (wait time: 32 minutes) to find out that someone at Go Daddy had forgotten to push the activate button.

I wish I had an IT guy to take care of this stuff for me. I also wish I had servants and a personal assistant to look after me because I don’t like having responsibilities. It still surprises me that I have to make my own dentist appointments, and it astonishes me when I do make my own appointments and actually go to the dentist on my own volition. I used to have a job where I was responsible for important historical artifacts and millions of dollars, but then I became a writer. I now sit in a room and piddle around with ideas, sometimes making a castle or two, and have zero accountability to the outside world. Basically, I don’t have to be an adult anymore.

It’s awesome.

This might explain why this is so meaningful to me:

My Korean husbands, BTS, held the #1 spot on Billboard Hot 100 for the second week in a row:

This is equally important news for the nation of South Korea:

The chyron reads: BTS Billboard Single Chart 2 weeks First Place.

BTS is headline news on KBC, the national public TV station (it’s the BBC of South Korea). BTS has raised the awareness of Korea in the world, and they are now part of their nation’s cultural patrimony. I picked a good time to be a fan. One of the best decisions of my adulthood.

In between endless streaming of BTS’s #1 song Dynamite, I did a lot of painting these past two weeks, and it’s been some of the most interesting painting I’ve ever done.

Dear Reader and Stromness Rock host Leslie, from Florida, sent me a photo of her kitty, Kitty:

Actually, Leslie emailed me a photo of a photo of Kitty, since this image is not digitized. It’s a bit blurry, and I had to email Leslie and ask her what color Kitty’s eyes were, but I thought I might be up to the challenge of painting from a photo of a photo.

Here is what I painted:

This is very bad. Bad Bad Bad Bad. BAD. Really BAD. B A D.

So I persuaded Leslie to send me the actual photo. I wanted to see how big a difference it would make, in terms of not painting something so BAD, to re-paint from a better reference.

So this is how it went:


This is a shot of the actual photo of Kitty, which shows that she has a much richer color scheme than I saw in the blurry photo-of-a-photo. It took some effort to mix the right tone of orange for her pretty face.

The trick with calico cats is to not let the colors get muddy, which is easy to do when you are using watercolor and have to let orange overlap with gray and black:


I’ve said before that the firs thing you have to do when you paints to think about your strategy. You have to be able to paint a face like this is sections, and to make blocks of color that will merge successfully once every thing is dry.








And here’s the side-by-side comparison of BAD Kitty and Better Kitty:

Thank you, Leslie, for sending me the real Kitty photo and for letting me make this experiment.

Oh my, there is so much news to get this week. Events keep happening o quickly, but let’s start with the fun story of the five boasts that sank into Lake Travis, Texas during a Trump rally on the water:




California is on fire, partly because of climate change and partly because people are fucking morons:

This is this shit happened:

Trump’s personal layer, Michael Cohen, came out with a memoir about the crap he has witnessed,including how Trump didn’t want to go to a WWI cemetery in France where American servicemen are buried because anyone who got killed in France was a “loser” and only “suckers” serve in the military.

And then, the dip shit talked to Bob Woodward for 18 hours on tape, and told him that he was going to ‘play down” the coronavirus:


In seeking to control the damage of is own words, Trump claimed that he lied about COVID during many press conferences last Spring, calling it a “hoax” that would “just disappear” because he didn’t want to alarm people:


















The notice on the Biden sign says: If you remove this sign, I will make a $36 donation to Planned Parenthood and I will replace the sign which means, in fact, YOU are supporting the Biden/Harris campaign. Think about it.














We need some puppies:









And that’s it for the week, Dear Ones.

Have a great weekend, and keep wearing masks and stay our of any boat that has a Trump flag.

That reminds me:

Fuck Trump.









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Wow, this was an eventful week in VivianWorld.

My Korean husbands . . .

. . . BTS, debuted their new single Dynamite at #1 on Billboard. They are the first Asian group to go straight to the top 100, and the first Asian musicians to have a #1 hit in America since 1963, when a Japanese-language song with the nonsense name “Sukiyaki” did it. (I wrote about “Sukiyaki” in my garden book, a digression on the thoughts about a Japanese garden on Long Island that I did not care for. “Sukiyaki” was a mournful ballad that was actually anti-American and it’s Japanese title was “I Will Walk Looking Up (So My Tears Won’t Fall)”. It was given the name “Sukiyaki” because Americans have shit for brains when it comes to Asia and sukiyaki was all that most Americans cared to know about Japan in 1963.)

This #1 hit in America is a big, huge deal in South Korea. There are nine national newspapers in South Korea, and here are the headlines of six of them:

Spoiler: They are all about BTS’s #1 hit in America.

The President of South Korea tweeted his congratulations to the boys, to quote: “It is truly amazing. It is a splendid feat that further raised pride in K-Pop. The success of BTS will bring huge consolation to Koreans suffering from the crisis brought about by COVID-19.”

President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-Sook with BTS.

In other news, Top Cat and I went strolling in a nature preserve here on the north shore of Long Island last weekend. I made a deal with Nature, that I wouldn’t be bored if She sent me a Blue jay feather. And an hour into our hike, lo, lying there in the middle of the path . . .

It’s like it was placed there just for me, moi, my own eyes:

I’m holding my face mask. Even in the 100-Acre Wood, I bring my face mask.

That’s all it takes for me to believe that life isn’t just random and pointless, a momentary blip in oblivion. Redemption By Blue Jay Feather is what I call it.

The week was also redeemed by a delightful painting session. The subject is Miss Lizzie Cosette, the Cat In The House of Dear Reader Jeanie, who hosted The Sromness Rock in Lansing, Michigan and whereabouts:

You see that Lizzie is photographed in a fetching ray of light that makes her white fur brilliant. So the trick this week will be to get her highlights, to paint her white fur in shadow and in light.

Challenge accepted.

I thought I’d give you a look at my equipment:

Lizzie has gorgeous green eyes with little golden highlights:

To paint the shadows in her white fur, I’m going to use blue paint:


Oooooooo, time for a bleed:





It wasn’t’ until I got her eye like this that I knew whether or not I’d gotten her “right”:



Now all that’s left are Lizzie’s ears. Her ears are a combination of pink and gray, and painting them so that they don’t get muddy, and painting them so that they look like they have shape and depth, is the trick.


Thank you, Miss Lizzie, for being a beautiful presence in my life this week.

In case you’re wondering what Christian America has been up to this week, they’ve been fundraising for this guy:

I checked it out, and it’s confirmed by Snopes. A Christian website called GiveSendGo has raised $314,000 for the legal defense for this little scumbag.


Let’s check in with the rest of the news:

Trump told Fox News the a plane flying from “a certain city”, heading to Washington DC during the Republican national convention, was “completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that” adding: “Here were like seven people on the plane like this person and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage.” Asked for details, Trump said: “I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation right now.”

Neither the FBI nor Homeland Security can confirm that any such investigation is taking place. But that’s not a surprise, right?




Melanoma’s former best friend wrote a tell-all book about the way the Third Wife really feels about Trump’s kids, and the former hooker had something to say about it:

And let’s not forget:

Knowing the Trumps as we all do, I’d say that Melanoma is right on brand.












In case you need to know this, when you feel like you have to stab someone, stab and orange. The are the same consistency as human flesh.

And here are a few more reminders that life, and stable humans, can, sometimes, be wonderful:








And that’s the State of Things this first week of September.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Remember that we are only stabbing oranges, not Republicans. For now.

And, let’s not forget. . .

. . . Fuck Trump.










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