Australia is a big-ass country:

This is how much of Australia is on fire (as of the morning of Thursday, Jan 9):

OK, you probably know that these maps are a bit misleading. The fires are not drawn to scale and the Mercator projection has never been accurate since it was invited in 1569. But still, a LOT of Australia is on fire.

For the record, the USA is 3.797 million square miles and Australia is 2.97 million square miles. The area that has been burned Down Under is 32,4000 square miles, about one-third the size of the American state of Oregon, which is a big-ass state.

These fires are 80% larger than the devastating 2019 California fires and 5,000 sure miles larger than the sickening Amazon fires.

A billion animals have been destroyed. This means that some insects, plants, and animals found only in teeny little bits of Australia may go extinct.

These six babies were rescued in South Australia, and brought into a home in Cudlee Creek, near Adelaide, for safekeeping while their habitat burned:

Koalas are not endangered as a species, but how can you, now that you’ve seen this photo, not want to do something to help all our dear Australian furry, feathered, horned, scaled, and slime-covered fellow creatures?

I recommend donating to fire companies, many of which are 100% staffed by volunteers. The only one that I have found that is easy to navigate for Americans is for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (Sydney is located in NSW), here. $100 Australian is a mere $68 American.

We love you, Australia.

Now for something completely different.

So I go to my gym, as usual, last Monday. WOW! The parking lot is PACKED with cars, and its a traffic jam with people heading into the Hot Yoga studio on one side of my gym and the kick-boxing workout room on the other side. I go into my gym. I have never seen the place so full of people as it was on that day. PACKED.

And then I remember, oh yeah, it’s the first regular get-back-to-normal day of 2020 and everyone who made a resolution to get fit and lose weight is showing up.

The next day, Tuesday,  I go back to my gym, as usual. I find a parking spot near the door — lucky me. I go inside.  AND THE PLACE IS NEARLY EMPTY.

To all you who did a day at the gym and said Fuck it, I’m kinda cute when I’m fluffy, You Are My People.

I get it. Top Cat and I made a pledge to do the Dryanuary this month, when you’re supposed to go the whole month of January without drinking alcohol. Why? Because:

I did Thursday, Jan 2 dry as a bone. Then it was the weekend with long-standing social obligations and I love my drinking buddies yadda yadda yadda so I put off starting Dryanuary in earnest on Monday, Jan 6.

I lasted until Tuesday, Jan 7.

 

Me and alcohol, we’re in a rut. A loving, fun, exciting rut but still, a rut.

I just realized that “rut” is one of those words the starts to sound weird the more you hear yourself say it.

It all started in 2016.

Since my last book was published, Spring of 2016, I haven’t done much writing. I’ve been farting around. Here’s the list:

I got a dog.

I took two college semesters of American Sign Language. Turns out that I don’t really like Deaf Culture so that’s why I never blogged about it.

I got a part-time job at my favorite store, Home Goods, for the holiday season. I thought it would be fun. Nope. I forget; did I blog about that?

I volunteered to run a used book store to benefit the local library here on the north shore of Long Island for two years.

I organized a huge fund-raiser to benefit the local library here on the north shore of Long Island.  Eight months of torture.

I redecorated the house.

I rescued stray cats.

I traveled.

I made castles.

I haven’t been in a good mood for about three years.

I started drinking martinis again.

I had stopped drinking martinis in 2003 for a good reason. And then, in 2018 Top Cat’s kids started having babies and I woke up one day and realized that I’m married to a grandfather.

Well, that took me by surprise.

So I started drinking more martinis.

Anyway, now I’m back on the Dryanuary bandwagon — 2 days so far. Wish me luck

I will need all the strength I have to get through January because I’m going to have my Beatles birthday next week. I turn 64 on the 16th and friends, I am pissed. But let’s discuss this next week, when I have more room to rant.

One of the reasons I had to postpone my Dryanuary this past weekend was because I had to celebrate the return of The Rock to the north shore of Long Island!

Quick recap: The Rock comes from the town of Stromness on the main island of Orkney. I found it there last May when Top Cat and I were in Scotland and if you remember, Top Cat and I pretty much hated the sight of each other the whole time but especially on Orkney.

The Rock is part of a community-wide game being played in Stromness, where painted rocks are hidden around the village and when found, the finders log it in on a Facebook page before re-hiding them. I was given permission to take The Rock home with me to photograph in Times Square and then the darling readers of this blog volunteered to take The Rock around the country.

So far it’s been to Lexington, MA; Southern New Jersey; Lansing, MI; Ann Arbor, MI; Coopersville, MI; Milwaukee, WI; Richland in eastern WA; Portland, OR; and SOCAL (Coronado, CA).

Due to my sending incorrect shipping instructions to The Rock’s wonderful host in SOCAL, Dear Reader Thea sent The Rock back to me and after this hunk of mineral from the Northern Isles and I got through all the Fàilte dhachaidh’s, we had soaked ourselves in scotch and woke up the next morning with matching tattoos and no idea how they got there.

The Rock had a great time in southern California, specifically in Coronado.

Coronado is a California resort city on a peninsula in San Diego Bay.

Hang glider? Para sail? In the talons of a ferruginous hawk making its annual migration from Canada for the Winter?

Coronado is beautiful, the surrounding area is beautiful, the weather is year-round beautiful, so The Rock got the  idea that one can become beautiful simply by being in Coronado.

Give up, Rock. You’ll never be a gem stone no matter how hard you try.

The Rock is Night Owl Rock and Coronado suited him fine..

The Rock was excited to be part of the 48th Annual Parade of Lights:

 

The grand Victorian Hotel del Coronado opened in 1888. The hotel was also home to the first outdoor electric Christmas tree in 1904.

The hotel and the hotel’s beach is where Billy Wilder filmed Some Like It Hot in 1958.

The Rock takes a selfie with Marilyn Monroe.

The Rock does a full-body squeeeeeee in the same sand!:

Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego, California, United States. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

I think The Rock is mocking me because I wrote a book about nine of the most thought-provoking greens in the world and I forgot to include the Botanical Garden in Balboa Park:

I think The Rock is taking notes for a book tentatively titled, I Am My Own Rock Garden.

The Rock contemplates the rockness of life:

The Rock is trying to be an enoghtengd Rock, so (somehow) The Rock convinced these nice people to do a seven-person Uttanasana:

The Rock would have taken a photo of the rare seven-person uttanasana, but The Rock doesn’t have fingers and could not work the iPhone camera. Sad!

Thank you, Dear Readers Thea and John in Coronado, California, for hosting The Rock:

You bring us. . .

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Australia, we love you.

P.S. BTS is releasing a new album on Feb. 21 after a seven-week rollout that includes yet-to-be-announced events in London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York. If you know a BTS fan, they are losing their minds right now. Be warned.

 

 

 

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Here’s my first great life lesson of 2020 that I want to share with you: you and your best friend can’t drink three bottles of champagne by yourselves.

Well, you can, but you shouldn’t. Also, you can’t. Because what you’ll end up with the next morning is one empty champagne bottle under the living room couch, one half-empty bottle left behind in the cat food bin when you were scooping out kibble for the kitties at some point in the evening, and another bottle that was half-full when you put it in the freezer to keep cold but forgot about so it exploded overnight and now it’s pretty much empty, but your freezer is full of champagne slurpee. It’s a waste of decent champagne, is what I’m saying.

The truth is, you can’t throw back like it’s 1993, and that’s OK.

That was Sunday when my BFF and I conducted our experiment with the bubbly time-travel juice. New Year’s Eve was Tuesday, which necessitated a follow-up investigation into the psycho-temporal effects of blanc-de-blancs fermentation, and Wednesday was New Year’s Day when we said Fuck it, let’s do bourbon shots.

Yesterday I woke up bright-eyed and full of reverence for the miracle of a morning-after without consequences and was good to go, but then our side of the street lost internet. In addition, it was raining. So I sat around and wondered if life was worth living.

In despair, I tried to read a book.

My BFF knows I’m hot for pretty much anyone anything Korean these days so she got us a novel about Korea to read together:

It begins with a 6-page prelude in the third person, then the real story begins in a first-person narration which I presume will carry us to the end of the book. By the third sentence the first-person narrator is taking a crap in a latrine in 1938. Her bowl movement goes on for seven sentences.

At that point, I wanted to personally shit on the book.

But I soldiered on for 36 more pages, and then I called my BFF and asked, Are we really going to read about turds?

She has a theory that the disgusting crapping sequence will be shown to be artistically necessary later in the plot (she has faith in literary fiction) and we agreed to keep reading, but not today. I’d had enough.

So I picked up the other book in my life:

This is a wonderful story about a woman who went to art school at age 64, eventually getting a master’s degree at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design when she was, I guess, 70. Before I continue, I want to assure you that Nell Painter is a thoughtful and deep-thinking writer and her book is a pleasure…sort of…to read.

What I dislike about her story is the stuff about art. If you ever wondered why artists have to go to art school, this book explains why; it seems that, these days, artists have to spend years in art school in order to un-learn an inherent instinct for beauty because, these days, beauty is the death of “art”.

Once you understand that beauty is banal, you then spend years learning that only wimps make figurative art, and only illustrators *sneer* care about making a gorgeous surface. If you can make something ugly, and do it poorly, then you have what it takes to make it in the Art World.

I don’t get it, but it’s instructive to have all that explained by such a smart and dedicated lady. I appreciate her sincerity and her quest to rage against the dying of the light…but her work stinks. It’s very art-schooly. Don’t tell her I said that because I’m probably wrong, and she does have an MFA.

The good thing is that I’m on page 155 and no one has taken a dump yet, so yeah, that’s a +.

Speaking of me sounding off about art, a Dear Reader emailed me last week because she remembered that, once upon a time, I did a blog post about Illustration v. Art, and could I find it for her and I said yeah, I kind of remember that. This is all I’ve found so far, and I think it’s lame, but I’ll keep looking, Vicki.

 

Have a great weekend, my fierce Dear Ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I left the house this week. In fact, I left Long Island altogether and ventured into Manhattan (the island that is to the leftof the Isle of Long, likewise adrift off the east coast of the United States).

I know. So unlike me. I would happily never leave the house, and have the world would come to me, which by the way it already does because: Internet. But I had a problem that the internet couldn’t solve within the necessary time frame, so I had to go to the city. To Koreatown.

In Koreatown, all the signs are in Korean. Also, it was a misty, dark afternoon, and with the neon lights flickering in Hangul and the cold fog, I felt as if I had become a Blade Runner. Only, instead of tracking down and killing Nexus-6 replicants, I was hunting down Korean chopsticks.

I needed Korean chopsticks, and I needed them ASAP.

Korean chopsticks are very different from Chinese or Japanese chopsticks in that they are shorter, and flat, and made of metal. They are harder to use than Chinese or Japanese chopsticks, the rumor being that this kind of chopstick is better suited to eating Korean food. But I think the real reason Korean chopsticks are so very different from anything you would be more comfortable with is because everything has to be just slightly weirder in Korea.

 

 

Korean chopsticks are usually sold along with a long-handled metal spoon, because Koreans do not use chopsticks to eat rice. They use a spoon. OK, that spoon does make life a bit easier, but it still proves my point that Koreans are the Tiggers (Winnie-the-Pooh reference) of Asia.

So I got my Korean chopsticks (수저) and then I walked half a block to meet Top Cat for the start of our date night.

We went to New York City’s only vegetarian Korean restaurant, where we had to take off our shoes and pad to our table in our socks and sit on the floor.

Then our handsome young Korean waiter knelt at my side and asked me if I wanted a soju cocktail.

The last time a man knelt to ask me a question was when Top Cat asked me to marry him, so I did what I always do when a man kneels to interrogate me: I said Hell, yes.

I ordered the spiciest Korean vegetarian dish  the menu (rice and kimchi with other plant stuff) and it came to the table sizzling in a stone bowl set inside a block of wood that served as a tray of sorts,  so not to burn the diner. The handsome waiter knelt and cautiously took one and half spoonfuls of pepper sauce from the side dish and stirred it into my stone bowl before he placed it in front of me.

When the handsome waiter left, I dumped the rest of the pepper sauce into the bowl and it was still not as spicy as I would have liked it. But it was very good, and I used my new Korean utensil the whole time (I had an alcohol wipe in my pocket to sanitize it) and yes, I did get a cramp from how tightly I had to clutch the slippery and thin chopsticks. I need to develop my 수저 muscles.

We left the restaurant and headed uptown via Herald Square and ran into a huge anti-Trump march! It was several city blocks long and it was noisy and exciting and stopped traffic, and was one of 600 protest marches from Hawaii to Maine organized by MoveOn on the eve of impeachment. Top Cat and I marched with them for a few minutes, but we had theater tickets and had to bustle to Broadway.

We proceeded to walk across town on 34th Street and came upon a throng of people on the sidewalk, taking cell phone pictures of a woman standing inside a big shop window. She was wearing a glittery gold evening gown and throwing kisses.

“Who’s that?” I shouted to one of the thongers.

“Mariah Carey”, the guy said.

And then I realized that oh yeah, she did look a lot like Mariah Carey. Her song from 1994, All I Want For Christmas Is You, is No. 1 this week and she was celebrating. Some people can’t stand that song, but I like it.

We got to the Nederlander Theater with ten minutes to spare until curtain time. I watched Bob Costas pick up his tickets at the Will Call guichet.

Harry Connick Jr. is a wonderful performer: smart and charming, and from New Orleans, our favorite American city. But this wasn’t a simple concert show — he had a solid, two-hour concept with very clever staging, and he did a “class” on Cole Porter’s compositional genius (projected onto the back wall of the stage) that made me grateful that I was only learning Korean, and not musical notation.

We took the 9:42 home and were tucked into bed by 11.

And that was our Date Night in New York City. The evening was a lot for me to process, since my life is more about crappy used books and cat care than cross-cultural experiences, political street marches, Mariah Carey, and Harry Connick Jr. taking his shirt off (Harry Connick Jr. takes his shirt off on stage). I forget how many other people there are in the world, tucked up as I am in my own little.

Maybe because of this radical departure from routine, I have been in an extremely good mood this past week and to top it all off, the merriest Winter event of the year is approaching, so I want to wish everyone a Happy ChrisHanuKwanSoltice!

ChrisHanuKwanSolstice is the holiday that I made up so us atheist could join in all the fun of the most pagan holiday of all, but I also want to send traditional greetings to all you who are more observant of the time-honored practices of the season:

 

 

And enjoy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She must have been a goddess to get cats to work?!

Have a happy weekend, all you badass goddesses. Note to Australia — it gets hot here in summer on the north shore of Long Island, but not that hot. Still, here’s my tip: take a cold shower with all your clothes on, then walk around until they are dry; repeat as often as necessary.

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It’s a very slow Saturday in the used book store that I resentfully manage out of the goodness of my heart to raise money for my local library here on the north shore of Long Island. REALLY slow. I opened at noon and the first customer didn’t show up until 1:27.

So it’s a good thing that I’ve brought my flash cards with me, and I am sitting in the corner muttering to myself:

“Ah. Ew. Yeh. Heh.  Shit! Ha. Yuh. We. Huh. Yee. Yoo. Shit! YO! Ee. Yeh.”

There was one lone browser in the store at the time and he is slowly looking through the history books but after a few minutes he walks over to me and says, “OK. I have to ask. What are you doing?

“Korean vowels,” I say.

I cleverly cut the notches into the top of my flash cards, otherwise I would not know if they were upside down or not. Some of these are regular vowels, and some of these are “down” vowels, and for the life of me, the “down” vowels are really hard to differentiate. Korean consonants are much more distinctive and it only took me a day (OK, two) to memorize them…but after a week, these vowels are still too subtle for me.

The Korean Cultural Center in Manhattan offers Korean language classes but I read the Yelp reviews and everyone who has taken the class advises that you get more out of it if you go in with a solid knowledge of Hangul (the Korean alphabet), so that’s what I’m doing with my flash cards, training my eye to “see” these lines as letters, each with a personality all their own and as easily identifiable  as A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Only, in Korean, there’s 21 of them, and half of them are some version of “Y”.

Are you surprised that Korean has an alphabet? Me too. Before 1443, the Korean language was written in classical Chinese characters, which are almost impossible to learn. But then King Sejong the Great freed the Korean language from its centuries’ long imprisonment in ideograms, and had the scholars of his nation invent an alphabet and a writing system that is read from left to right. Easy! Once you learn the alphabet, you, too,  can “read” Korean.

My Korean notebook. I marked it “K” for “Korean”, because I’m that obvious. That’s my name below, but that “down” vowel at the end is not supposed to be wavy, just so you know. My Korean handwriting is crap. P. S. In Korean, my last name is two syllables long.

Although it may be rather easy to learn to read Korean, it’s no day at the beach to learn to speak Korean. The US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute says that an adult native English speaker needs 600 classroom hours to achieve a level 3 in DLPT (a Defense Dept. scale for officer training)  for languages like Spanish or French. But it takes 2,200 hours to acquire the same level of skill in Korean.

DLPT level 3 is:

Able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations in practical, social, and professional topics. Pronunciation may be obviously foreign. The individual uses the language acceptably, but with some noticeable imperfections; yet, errors virtually never interfere with understanding and rarely disturb the native speaker. In face-to-face conversation with natives speaking the standard dialect at a normal rate of speech, comprehension is quite complete.

As of today, I can “read” Korean, but if it’s not “Vivian Swift” or the name of a K-Pop group (such as 방탄소년단) I am what they call (in America) SOL.

Also, the Hangul has to be in a very clear font, like what is used in the Korean newspaper that I “read” at the library. WordPress’s Korean font (see above) is too hard for me to read.

So the sooner I can divest myself of my book store duties, the sooner I can put in those 2,200 classroom hours that I’ll need in order to speak the language like the half-bright foreign dip shit that I am.

Remember last week? When I showed you those books about bears with all the book marks in them and I speculated that someone must have found something profound in the lives of polar bears? Some of you Dear Readers hypothesized that those book marks were left by a schoolkid doing research for a report.

Well, I didn’t tell you the whole story behind that donation. It was brought in by an older guy who told me that his wife had died the previous year and he is just now going through her things, and these are her books.

So, that’s who liked polar bears. And, as you will see, she also like Kermit the Frog. This is her book, too:

I chose some pages at random, to see what was so interesting about being green:

And once, when she ran out of stickies, she had to Macgyver a book mark:

I think this woman was definitely searching for something in the books she read. Now, if you ask me, I wouldn’t think that books about polar bears or Kermit would be the best place to find life-changing insights, but I’m the idiot who is learning Korean in order to sing along with BTS so what do I know about going (or being) “deep”?

I do have some deep thoughts I want to share today, but first let’s do the Lickety update.

I got a new rug for our front hall, and didn’t immediately remove it from its box, so Lickety colonized it?

After seeing him curled up there for a few days, I added his pink blankie to make his ew favorite napping spot more comfy.

After I had to take possession of the rug, Lickety settled onto the packing paper, so we left it on the middle of the living room floor because CATS are the MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN OUR HOUSE:

I inserted his pink blankie again for the same reason as (above).

Yesterday morning there was a very fine sunbeam streaming into the living room and I noticed that Lickety had company:

That’ Lickety’s brother, Taffy. Before he got cancer, Lickety used to be much fatter than Taffy.

Five minutes later, Bibs got in on the sun bath:

Here’s the “deep” part of today’s blog post.

I think we can all agree that TIME got it 100% right this year. Let us all hail the future president of the world:

And you all probably know, the TIME cover came out the same day in which North Korea issued a fresh threat and a House committee set the stage for Trump’s impeachment, yet the shit stain that is the current US president found time to insult the 6-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg for being named Time’s Person of the Year, an honor he has coveted for years.

In a tweet that he sent to his 67 million followers Trump wrote:

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Classy, huh? Makes you proud to be American, huh?

Now, cast your minds back a week, to the testimony of Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan to the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing, when she made a stupid little joke : “Contrary to what President Trump has said, Article 2 [of the Constitution] does not give him the power to do anything he wants. The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

And the Republicans lost their minds, with Melanoma tweeting that: “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

But those same people haven’t said a WORD about Trump trolling Greta Thunberg and I wonder why?

Because common decency would dictate that, as a society, we don’t condone an adult bullying a 16-year-old girl online. Because we know it’s wrong. Because we know if we had a daughter, we wouldn’t want her to be bullied by an adult. Much less an adult man. Much less one who is the President of the United States. (These are the words of Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor at Large)

Well, it’s just another Thursday in Trump’s America.

 

 

So let’s get to today’s deep thoughts (courtesy of YellowDogGranny and Hackwhakcers and every other website I randomly steal from):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. And remember, we’re approaching the solstice of light and love, so let’s open our hearts to each other this holiday season:

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I’m not asking about Life in Trump’s America, I’m asking about in your own, private, non-headline-news life. Because I have the least demanding life I know of (I, *cough* write for a living, at home with cats and plenty of tea, and I have zero kids so, really, I should have nothing to stress about ever) and still, I have to deal with bullshit on a daily basis.

One morning last week I stumbled into the kitchen at dawn for my wake-up cup of tea. While the water was heating up I checked my phone, which I usually leave on my desk in the den.  I discovered that someone had called and left a message the night before.

At 11:20 PM.

The message was from a woman I don’t know, calling about volunteering at the used book store that I manage out of the goodness of my heart for our local library.

I’m trying to be a better person these days. I’m trying to meditate and be compassionate and give people dignity (like it says in the book I’m reading) and to not assume everyone is an asshole whose purpose in life is to piss me off (like I do because I’m me). But who calls up a stranger at 11:20 PM to talk about becoming a volunteer bookseller?

An asshole, right?

So that pissed me off, and I hadn’t even heard the morning news about the latest Trump atrocity yet. And I hadn’t had my morning tea either. I don’t like to start the day like this, and it seems that I start a lot of days like this.

But I didn’t call this lady back and fill her in on how much I hate her, for two reasons: It takes too much effort, and I’m trying not to be a fight or flight kind of person who confronts every single instance of assholery in my life. I’m trying to send love from my heart to all those who annoy the crap out of me and thus become a more evolved and self-actualized person. Well, that’s what this meditation book promises. We’ll see.

But speaking of books, here’s this month’s most useless book that came in as a donation to the used book store that I manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island:

If you need a book in order to think of a name for your horse, maybe you aren’t smart enough to have a horse. I hear they are very intelligent animals and they require a lot of care. Naming a horse is the easiest part of having a horse.

It’s been a while since you’ve seen what a typical few days’ worth of book donations looks like. This is what I deal with every four or five days:

This pile of books was weirder than most because it contained some very specific tastes in reading. Such as:

Also, this:

Including this:

I don’t know. That seems like an awful lot of bookmarks for a book about polar bears.

In fact, all the bear books had little book marks stuck inside them, something I’ve only seen before in self-help books. Seems to me that these books about bears, mostly ones about polar bears, must have meant a lot to someone, obviously at some challenging phase in their life.

But no matter how lost you are, desperately grasping for meaning via polar bears, it would have been polite to remove those stickies before you made them my problem donated them to the library’s used book store.

Here’s a book that we in the used book store have absolutely no use for:

Not because sailboat racing rules are not a fascinating subject. It’s because, maybe as you can see in the photo, the book is, literally, filthy.

We can’t use this book (below) either (this time because the subject happens to be boring, sorry, Canada) but it had a killer cover and it made me happy, so I have to show it to you:

That’s enough of about books I can’t wait to throw out. Here’s the book about meditation that I hope will make me a better person:

This book comes highly recommended (by the Dali Lama, among others), and I’m determined to learn from it because in the near future I’m going to have a lot of free time on my hands and I can’t spend it being constantly pissed off. I need to find a way to have a spectacular Third Act, and I don’t want to read a lot of books about polar bears to find out how. I hope this one book will do it.

At this week’s board meeting of the Friends of the Library I turned in my notice. I’m closing the book store for the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice/New Year’s holiday on December 21, but I’m not coming back in January. I quit.

And it feels FANTASTIC.

In other news, our old cat, Lickety, is still with us, bless his darling little heart. I don’t know how he does it, since his cancer has made him skin and bones, but he is enjoying left over Thanksgiving turkey and, now and then, a sunbath in the back yard:
It’s hard for me, now,  to remember him as the cat he’d been for the 12 years before cancer:

Lickety is on my lap as I type this:

As weak and cancer-ridden as he is, Lickety is still as gentle and loving as he was when he was  fat and healthy . I think there is definitely something deep and meaningful about his life, and we could all learn from him.

But then, we all know that cats are deep and meaningful creatures:

Here are some more life thoughts to get you through the day”

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. And if telling us about an recent incident of bullshittery in your life helps you get the ball rolling on a joyful TGIF, please feel free to share in the Comments.

Here’s you political righteousness for the day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I miss Obama more every single damn day.

 

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Just when you think he can’t bring any more shame to the office of the President of the United States, Trump tweets a photoshopped image of his head air-brushed onto Sylvester Stallone/Rocky Balboa’s body:

So let’s see how that went over.

And then there’s this for the mic drop:

I won’t blog today because we had a big Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA and Top Cat and I had people over and I am all talked out. But I’ve been saving stuff for you.

Enjoy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dog it up this weekend, Dear Readers. See you next week.

 

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I’m so glad that so may of you Dear Readers liked the watercolor post I did a few weeks back.

This is also a painting post, but not that kind of painting post.

The story is, that with just a few days to go before Thanksgiving, I decided now was a dandy time to re-do our horrible, 100-year old staircase.

Random BEFORE and AFTER photo of someone else’s staircase. I am too embarrassed to show you how bad our stairs looked BEFORE.

Thirty-fiveyears ago, when Top Cat bought the house here on the north shore of Long Island, he ripped up old olive green carpeting that was there and slapped a coat of white paint on the steps. What I’ve come to discover, from wear and tear and exploratory chipping away at the landing, is this:

Historically, there are four coats of paint on this 100-year old staircase. From bottom to top, the archeology of these stairs is: brown paint, yellow paint, white paint, carpet, white paint.

The fine people on YouTube made it look so easy. Just buy “green” (organic) paint remover, go watch an episode of Property Brothers, and voila: your stairs are ready to be televised.

I have 12 stairs in my staircase that I need to strip down to wood. The first 4 stairs took me two days (two full work days) to do.

Then a voice, the mellifluous intonation of the Angel of Duh, spoke to me and yea, it said: Yo, Stupid, Let The Paint Stripper Do The Work.

So here’s how the next four stairs took me two hours to do:

First, squish a lot of Soy Gel, “green” paint remover made from 100% Aerican-grown soy beans so they say, onto the hideous 100-year old tread:

Soy Gel is not cheap but O-boy, is it effective if– you have patience. It’s organic, so you can use it indoors in Winter and you don’t have to rig up ventilation.

Then you take a “chip” brush that you will throw away when this adventure is over, and you spread the Soy Gel evenly over the despicable surface:

This is a trick I learned on the Advanced YouTube tutorial about not being dumb about removing paint:

You lay down a layer of cling wrap on top of the Soy Gel. You do this because you are going to let the Soy Gel do its thing for the next seven hours.

Meanwhile, if it’s OK with the Boss, you can put away the sander and clean up the mess that you made on the first four steps because you won’t need any of it (now that you know the trick with the Saran Wrap).

You can believe your eyes. Lickety took a nap on top of sand paper, sandy-side UP.

And, if it’s OK with the Boss, you can use brown paper to cover the previously stripped stairs so to keep them clean from the crud you will be excavating soon:

It’s 3 o’clock.  Time to have fun!

This is SO COOL!

The Saran Wrap does all the work!

The remaining bits of paint can be scraped up with a minimum of cursing, and still provide you with a fine work-out for your trapezius and latissimus muscles:

Next comes the horrible part. What is left on your stairs now is a thickish layer of persistently clingy goo that has the consistency of  the insides of a marshmallow.

So you need to buy the strongest “de-greaser” you can find. You spray it onto the stair, you let sit for a minute:

And then you get your wire brush and you warn your back and leg muscles that there’s some hurt coming soon. You crouch for leverage, and you put all your might into scouring away at the goo:

At this point, the “goo” becomes a finer texture, more like very sticky “crud”.

The crud wedges good and hard into the teeth of the wire brush every minute or so, so keep a bucket of water handy so you can dip the brush into it and take another instrument to gouge between the rows of wire and pry out the impacted crud. This, too, will require “effort”.

Repeat at least twice; three times if you’re really into punishing yourself for ever having started this stupid project in the first place, and then let dry.

This weekend I will be painting the stairs Espresso, because I read that dark-chocolate-colored treads are the hottest trend in staircases. I’ll be painting the trim and risers white, but I won’t strip them first since I don’t want to.

I did all this work all by myself because I got no help at all from The Rock, who was off gallivanting, as it’s been doing for over a month now, and now has made it all the way to the Great North Great West.

The Rock, from Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, is now in Washington (state).

This for Australian readers who don’t want to have to drag out an atlas.

In olden days, the Oregon Territory took up the whole huge NW corner of the continental United States. Nobody knows why it was called “Oregon”, but when that top northern bit broke away and its residents applied for statehood in the 1880s, they petitioned Congress to give them the name, “Washington, Not That Washington, The Other One.”

Then New York Congressman and general busy-body David Dudley Field went around bitching that the country already had a “Washington” (that “Washington, of D. C.”), and that a duplicate “Washington” was going to make life very difficult, especially for the U. S. Post Office. He wanted the new state to have a Native American name, and he suggested “Tacoma”.

David Dudley Field, 1805 – 1894. I wonder if he was disappointed about not living long enough to see 1900?

I’m all for having a state called “Tacoma”. Is it too late?

Well, the residents of “Washington, Not That Washington, The Other One”, argued that the dunces at the U. S. Post Office should be able to deliver mail to the correct Washington by paying attention to context and they took advantage of the fact that nobody else in Congress gave a crap about having two Washington’s so they shortened their state name and their application for statehood as  “Washington” was approved in 1889.

So, now you know where we are today.

We are in that Washington. Specifically, we are with Dear Reader Alexandra, in the fair city of Richland, located at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia Rivers. Richland is in the southeastern part of the state where, being on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains, the climate is desert-like. The area gets 7 inches of rain yearly (Seattle gets 39 inches) and there are dust storms in Summer.

Dust storms. In THE DESERT.

So, naturally, that’s where you can find The Rock hanging around the USS Triton Submarine Memorial Park:

In THE DESERT.

All that is left of the historic USS Triton is its con-tower, sticking up out of the ground. Much like the history of the nomenclature of Washington the state, the sub is here in Richland because shut up, we want the damn submarine and Congress doesn’t care either way, so shut up.

They notified the U. S. Post Office  that the sub’s new address is in THE DESERT, in that Washington.

Fun Fact: The USS Triton submarine was the first to circumnavigate around the world underwater, on its maiden voyage Feb 16 – May 11 1960, following  Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of 1519 – 1522. The con-tower stands tall at 26 feet high and 67 feet long. The sub has no logical connection to Washington, the state, but that has never stopped Washington, the state, from getting what it wants.

Here we are at the splendid used book store of the beautiful and gleaming Richland Public Library, where The Rock is trying to see if anyone will mistake him for a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  and try to read him, and they can’t because he doesn’t have any pages because he’s a rock, and then he’ll laugh and laugh and make them feel stupid.

The Rock can be a little bit of an asshole sometimes.

Lunch time, and The Rock heads for The Emerald of Siam, Richland’s oldest Thai restaurant, located in the groovy Uptown Shopping Center:

FunFact: The Upland Shopping Center was designed in 1948 and its architecture epitomizes that brief but glorious style known as Atomic Age Aqua Everywhere.

Funner Fact: The shopping center was designed by by the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States.

Why?

Because it’s Washington, the state. Shit like that happens here.

And next The Rock went bowling. Because it’s a rolling stone. Get it?

The Rock wrongly thinks this is hilarious.

Most people call this next tourist attraction The Ginnko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Wa. But The Rock calls it “Meeting the American Cousins.”

The rock drawings that are reserved here date from prehistoric (pre-white people, that is, because pre-white people there was  no history) times. Carved by the Wanapum people, who lived along the Columbia River and welcomed Lewis and Clark to the neighborhood. The Wanapum lived here in peace until 1953, when newly-built dams on the river flooded the ancestral home.

Petrified wood was discovered here in the 1930s, which led to the creation of this 7,124-acre park.

The Rock ponders, “Is this petrified cottonwood, or redwood?”

There are over 50 species of trees that are petrified here. One of those species is the ginkgo. The forest dates from the Miocene Period, 5 – 12 million years ago.

You should know that dinosaur fossils have not been found in Washington, the state. The park’s velociraptor, small brontosaurus, and pterodactyl statues came from Arizona, where there are dinosaur fossils. So, in the end, it’s completely legit.

The Rock is at it again, trying to pass itself as something’s not, in this case, a gem:

You know what else moves rocks? Tourists fromLong Island, Aer Lingus, the U. S. Post Office, and the lovely volunteer tour guides who have given The Rock memories of a lifetime.

It’s a fossil, yes, but it’s a mammoth, still not a dinosaur:

Fun Fact: Columbian mammoths (mammuthus columbi) once roamed from Alaska to Mexico and are the most common species of mammoth fossil found in this part of Washington state—so common, in fact, that the Columbian mammoth is the Washington state fossil.

You will be happy to know that The Rock barely moved the needle of this geiger counter:

Why is there a geiger counter at The Ginko Petrified Forest State Park?

Nobody’s telling.

Least of all these guys:

This is Truman and Pippin. Can you tell from his hang-dog look which one is most disappointed that The Rock is not edible?

Thank you for stopping by today and hanging out with me and The Rock.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. And if you check back later, I will have a slew of stuff to make your celebrations of the House Impeachment Hearings’ total indictment of Trump, Giuliani, and the Republicans just a little more fun. I have a lot to show you.

Oh, lordy, it was a good week to be an American, for once.

 

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Dear Reader Jeanie was in charge of The Rock from Stromness (Orkney, Scotland) last month. GUESS WHERE Jeanie took our beloved rolling stone?

From its secret hiding place at The Orkney Fisherman’s Association last Summer, you Dear Readers have hosted The Rock through Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and, now, Ta-Da:

The Rock is in Michigan, The Great Lake State, the base from which the United States launched an invasion of Canada in 1813 which, sadly, we did not quite pull off. But that is why everyone agrees that Michigan is our most Canadian state, as reflected in its almost absurdly polite state motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”.

The Rock, being Scottish, needed refreshments of a liquid nature so Jeanie took it, first, to a cider mill/Tiki Bar:

And then to a wine tasting:

And then, because drinking makes the Rock very thirsty, they went to the famous Miller Brewery in Milwaukee:

Quick: What’s the capitol of Michigan?

It’s Lansing, where Jeanie gave The Rock to a group of very Michigan protestors gathered around the capitol building. They get together every Wednesday afternoon for a little political activism and then they go to Marge’s house for cherry pie. Because they are CanadiaMichiganders. And none of their signs say, Fuck Trump.

Michigan’s unofficial state food is cherry pie. Michigan would make cherry pie its official state food, but Michiganders don’t want to hurt the feelings of the state’s official state flower, the apple blossom.

Apple Blossom be all like,  So, I’m good enough for the state flower but not good enough for the state food?? Apple pie, ever heard of it??? WTF?

No, CanadaMichiganders don’t want any hard feelings.

Since The Rock was in Lansing, it moseyed east, over to Michigan State University campus so take a wander through its 4-H Garden:

MSU is the nation’s pioneer land-grant university and has 50,000 students, known as Spartans. It is the biggest of The Big Ten universities, an athletic conference founded in 1895 which actually comprises 14 schools, mostly in the Mid-West. If you don’t like snowy winters or if you need an urban vibe for your college experience, do not go to a Big Ten university.

But if you like to be around people who know how to earn an A+ rating for their parties and academics, then you should put Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI at the top of your list.

Next, let’s go visit Lansing’s most famous native son:

Ransome Eli Olds was the son of a blacksmith and a dress-maker whose Curved Dash Oldsmobile (1901 – 1904) became the first mass-produced, low-priced American motor vehicle so take that, Henry Ford.

Fun Fact: Ransom Eli’s father was Pliny Fiske Olds; his his wife was Metta Ursula Woodward Olds. People had fabulous names back then. His gorgeous mansion, which had a turntable garage which allowed Mr. Olds to pull in at night and leave again the next morning without driving in reverse, was demolished in 1966 to make way for an interstate hi way. People had shit for brains in the 1960s.

R. E. Olds is dead, which is why The Rock is in a cemetery.

Oh, I forgot: while in Milwaukee, The Rock got to take a selfie with The Bronze Fonz:

Taking a selfie with the Bronz Fonz statue on the Milwaukee RiverWalk is practically a rite of passage for any visitor. As is a visit to the Harley Davidson HQ:

Motorcycling is very popular in Scotland and The Rock felt right at home in the gift shop:

And, lastly, The Rock had the good fortune to meet one of Michigan’s grandest dames, the lady Lizzie Cosette of the blog, The Marmalade Gypsy:

And that was Michigan.

Next stop for The Rock: Wisconsin.

Otherwise known as The State of Deja Vu:

Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of WISCONSIN. I can’t say that I had known that for sure before I got Dear Readers Susie and Tony’s photos, but I know now that I will always remember that MILWAUKEE is in WISCONSIN. Not Michigan. It’s never even been to Michigan.

Milwaukee is known for being the setting of the popular 1970s sit-com Happy Days. This explains why there’s a Bronze Fonz in MILWAUKEE, in WISCONSIN. Which is not Michigan.

And then, being that The Rock is a bit of a booze hound, it went back to the Miller Brewery, in MILWAUKEE, which is in WISCONSIN, a city that is famous for its many breweries.

Overlooking the Menomonee River, the Harley-Davidson Museum displays classic motorcycles, including one of Elvis Presley’s. The Rock also went back to the Harley Davidson museum, which I don’t have a picture of but I do have one of the stills — I mean brew kettles — at the Miller Brewery:

Yeah, The Rock is looking a little worse for wear, but that’s what happens when you drink your way through Michigan and WISCONSIN.

Fun Fact about MILWAUKEE: the city boasts a statue legendary Scots poet Robert Burns. As far as anyone knows, Burns never visited Milwaukee, mainly because Milwaukee didn’t exist in his lifetime.

But you know how it is when you’re in a foreign country and you come across a countryman and you’re all, “Hi an sin seann friend! Och, gabhamaid deoch! ” And then you’re stuck with your new best friend for the rest of the bus tour.

Fun Fact about the Saint Andrews Society of Milwaukee:

Every September they hold a Kilt Raffle.

Now, when I think of men in kilts, I think of this:

Actually, The Saint Andrews Society in Milwaukee is like this:

But let’s think a little bit longer about men in kilts, because that’s where The Rock has taken us (Thank you, Rock) :

 

 

Now, while The Rock did not don a kilt while it was in Milwaukee, it DID get to try on the famous WISCONSIN Cheese head:

WISCONSIN is known as The Cheese State because they make a lot of fondue there and because fans of its football team, the Green Bay Packers, wear bits of cheese on their heads. I think it’s because football is a dangerous game that causes concussion. Also, because of the long, hard Winters in WISCONSIN.  People go a little crazy from concussion and the cold and nothing says “crazy” more than an inordinate love of cheese.

The capitol of WISCONSIN, America’s Dairyland, is Madison, where apparently The Rock got an Uber and hit the singles’ scene:

Fun Fact: I have no idea where The Rock is (below), but then, I don’t track The Rock’s every move and if it hooked up in Madison and woke up the next day in a strange town hey, it’s not for me to judge:

Good Going, Rock.

But The Rock isn’t as young as it used to be (it’s actually from the Devonian Age, about 400 million years ago) and hop boy, the Rock needed a bucket of coffee and lots of low light when it woke up the next day.

They say nature is the best cure for a hot night out in Madison WI and there is plenty of nature in the woods around Lake Michigan:

TREES. On Orkney, The Rock never sees trees because it’s treeless environment, being too cold and windy for them to grow there. So you can imagine how spectacular this landscape was, how overcome The Rock was to see such abundance of those little things, in the billions, those things called Leaves. So, so many leaves.

Majestic Lake Michigan, from a rock’s point of view:

Fun Fact: Lake Michigan gets its name from the Ojibwe native peoples’ word michi-gami, meaning “great water”. It is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume, and is 2/3 the size of Scotland. Scotland’s largest lake (or loch) is Loch Lomand, which is about the size of a Great Lake sneeze if Lake Michigan had a nose and a cold. (Loch Lomand is 71 square miles and Lake Michigan is 22,393 sq miles.)

So. Where is The Rock now?

For that, you’ll have to meet me here next week. Spoiler: The Rock turns out to be a real stoner.

Thank you Dear Jeanie, and Dears Susie and Tony, for showing us and The Rock such a great time.

And, oh yeah, Fuck trump.

 

 

 

 

 

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As you know, my blog is not a place where I write about what I had for lunch. Lunch is a topic too mundane for my blog. No lunch here. Because my blog is all about the larger issues and the deep thoughts concerning art and life; it’s about the interpolation between fast-breaking trends in high fashion and low popular culture; it’s about being on the cutting — nay, the bleeding — edge of nuclear science and phenomenological philosophy.

Having said all that, I’m going to show you what I had for lunch last week:

This is bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish made with rice and kimchee and whatever else the chef wants to throw in there, topped with a fried egg and served with with a bowl of soy sauce and side dishes (in this case, potatoes, a veggie thing that looked suspiciously like a small slab of fish, and more kimchee). It is served sizzling hot, except for the side dishes, which are cold.

I didn’t much care for the bibimbap (sorry — I’m a very picky eater) but I was thrilled to have had Korean food for the first and probably last time in my life (sorry, kimchee) because of where I had my Korean lunch.

I was in thrilling Koreatown, in Los Angeles (California), at the thrillingly famous Koreatown Plaza’s thrilling Food Court.

Backstory: A few months ago, when my dear Top Cat told me that we were going to LA, I was not thrilled. I called up Delta Airlines to inquire what I needed to get a refund on my non-refundable plane ticket to LA and was told that either a Death Certificate or a note from a doctor on hospice letterhead would do. I was five minutes away from asking my mother to fake her own death for me.

I was ten minutes away from asking her to actually die for me. My mother is in her 80s and hasn’t been feeling all that well lately anyway.

I really did not want to go to LA.

But everything that I hated about going to LA changed when I became a pervert.

In a word, I became a K-Pop fan. Specifically (because K-Pop is weird this way) I became a Shawol. And from there it gets weirder: There are five sub-sets of Shawol and I’m the one that makes me a Blinger. I am not proud that I know this, and to me it sounds like coded language for something dirty, but I do give myself credit for finding a new hobby that isn’t about sticking pins into Republican voodoo dolls or self-harming by diving into a vat of white wine (because of Republicans).

K-Pop inspires me. I now take my iPad to the gym with me so I can watch Youtube videos while I’m on the treadmill and K-Pop makes me run 1/3 faster and 80% longer. That’s because K-Pop is has been intricately engineered to be extremely catchy and very pretty to look at. You can look it up. This stuff is made in laboratories. It is addictive. And plus, lagniappe, the boys are extraordinarily cute.

Then I found out that Los Angeles has the largest Korean population in America and that its hub is an happening place that is imaginatively called Koreatown, and I ditched all my thoughts of matricide and packed my bags.

(I also made a blog post and rescheduled it for Friday November 1, but it failed to publish on time. In case you missed it, it’s right behind this one, and it’s called As If These Were Normal Times.)

On our second day in LA I made my way to the Koreatown Plaza for lunch and a visit to one of the country’s best K-Pop music stores, where I bought authentic, imported from Korea, K-Pop CDs of my favorite group.

K-Pop boys know their way around eyeliner. South Korea is the world’s largest market for men’s beauty products (also known as make up).

The CD came with a book about the group that, upon perusal, turns out to be lots of soft-focus photos of the boys laying atop rumpled sheets and lounging across velvet armchairs while shirtless. This was c. 2010, when one of these kids was only 16 years old and the oldest two were only 20. The vibe is definitely soft-core porn.

Indignant, I showed the book to Top Cat and yes, I actually said: Is this appropriate?? Would you want your teenage daughter or son looking at this?!?  (Or, even worse, your wife???)

There are 370 K-Pop groups (someone actually counted them) and you are a knowledgable K-Pop fan if you can name 30 of them. I can name 5 and I have trouble keeping these 5 straight. K-Pop is complicated.  And I just ordered another CD off amazon. I can’t quit it.

So, OK, I admit that it’s pervvy to workout to videos of 20-year old boy groups  but in my defense two of my books were translated into Korean…

…so I think that mitigates my pervviness. Somewhat. Somehow. Because my esthetic is Korean-cute? I hope.

I was able to do a lot of other unusual things on my own in LA, including riding the subway:

I went for a 4-second ride on a glass slide on the outside of the tallest building in LA(the U. S. Bank tower), 1,00o feet up, from the 70th floor to the 69th floor:

Afterwards I admired the 360 degree views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills:

I went to a satellite version of Burning Man on Venice Beach:

Ah, Venice. Where things are always groovy:

And I witnessed virga…when rain falls from the sky but the surrounding air is so dry that it evaporates before it hits the ground.

We were not bothered by the fires burning a mere few miles north of us because for the most part the winds were blowing out to sea. All we got were spectacular sunsets:

There is so much to catch up on so be prepared for nest week, when the blog will be long-form re: The Stromness Rock’s visits with Dear Readers in Michigan and Wisconsin.

I will close now because my heart is a little sad these days. My 19-year old cat, Coco, two days after I got back from LA, and I am still seeing her shadows in every corner of the house. You know how it is.

Coco was never a “nice’ cat. She was, as Top Cat rightly said, “a pain in the ass.” She was aloof, mean to all the other cats, cranky, demanding, and had a way about her that took up a lot of room whenever she was around. I’ve had her since she was a kitten, trapped by me in a neighbor’s yard on November 3, 2000. She died on November 6, 2019.

In her honor, let’s do this:

Lickety is still with us, and he takes his daily sun bath in the back yard, bless his heart:

Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you being here.

Lagniappe:

Big Bang/Fantastic Baby.

 

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