It Looms

Check it out: my first panorama, starring that great, stupid ladder. You can’t quite get the scale of it from an ordinary shot, so here it is with my building, and the city below. See, in particular, the tall trees to the right, and how stubby they seem by comparison.

It’s such a big ladder.

You know what would be brilliant? If it somehow attracted a plague of spiders, or maybe those tent caterpillars—if they draped it in silk from the earth to the sky, and everyone complained. It would especially rule if a million tiny spiders went sailing down Kingsway, landing on people’s heads and infesting their cars. Attracting hungry birds. The whole street would be spiders and bird shit. I’d pay to see that.

I think I will set up my camera next time it thunders. I’m not sure what that ladder’s made of, how conductive it is, but it’s the tallest thing around. That’s got to make it a target.

I got out of bed today, if only briefly. I walked fifteen minutes and tried to do some yoga, but I’m terrible at yoga, so I tripped over my own feet and did every pose wrong. Maybe I’ll switch to tai chi, but experience tells me I’d mess that up too. What’s the easiest way to exercise when you’re rubbish at everything? I should probably stick to walking.

(Note to self: orange juice is never worth it. The heartburn lasts days. Yes, every time. Yes, even with bread. A pox on orange juice.)

26 thoughts on “It Looms

  1. The black and white photos really underscore the thing’s dystopian quality. It’s like a great shard on the ruins of a civilization, a defunct antenna that broadcast long ago. It belongs on the cover of a post-apoc novel.

    The vision of a street flooded with spiders and birds is glorious. Also mildly apocalyptic, but in a “cheerful mayhem” kind of way.

    We’ve been having the most dreadful weather. Clear skies and temperatures stably at 30° C and over. I don’t show my nose out before four o’clock if I can help it.

    Orange juice is never worth it, even without heartburn. It’s the worst juice, that’s why it’s everywhere (I wanted to say “It’s the *insert awful thing* of juices”, but couldn’t think of an awful thing to compare it to). You could try melon, or maybe strawberry. They’re fairly non-acidic.

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    1. I wish I shared your disdain for orange juice. I like it, and have a hard time resisting it. I don’t buy it, to avoid temptation. But every once in a while, my favourite restaurant runs out of the apple/lemon/ginger juice I like, and sends this orange/lemon/honey/ginger/cayenne thing instead. I know I shouldn’t touch it, but I always give in. I guzzle it down and get quite, quite ill, as I’ve done today. And I can’t even whine, because I knew better.

      Too bad “spiders and birds” isn’t a legitimate weather condition, eh? So much more interesting than sun or rain. Sounds like you’ve got a bit MUCH sun on your end. Don’t suppose you’re anywhere near the sea, are you? (I could Google it. I’m lazy. Sorry.)

      I wonder what kind of broadcast that ladder would send to the world…. You know, that might actually have made it an interesting piece of art, making it an antenna or power source of some sort—covering it in solar panels or sending a signal to space from it. Maybe I should suggest that to the city. Ha, ha.

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      1. Is the cayenne bit real? That would definitely account for heartburn. It’s not something that I’ve seen added to any juice mixes here. Lemon juice (with sugar) is great by the way, so is grapefruit, but orange juice has that… Rusty(?) taste? I don’t have any other way to describe it, except that it makes me think of oxidised things. That chemical, alka-seltzery edge. Maybe I’ve just had really crap orange juice.

        I love those tiny migratory spiders that float on strands of their own web and sometimes, if I remember correctly, even congregate into whole spider clouds. We don’t get them in cloud quantities, but sometimes during late summer, when it already fades away. Kind of like living dandelions. It’s generally the season of dry and wispy things and orangey colours, not quite autumn yet, but the sun mellows out and the whole thing is really nice (and unfairly short).

        The sea is actually not far away at all. Here’s a photo from the window (as panoramic as a phone can make it): https://njnasekin.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/8/

        The sea is where the horizon to the left gets blurry, the horizon to the right is occupied by an unfortunate and sprawling industrial zone (it’s not quite as bad as the ladder, it lights up like a Christmas tree at night). And up close you can see the peculiar way the streets in Haifa are staggered one above another. This is blissfully early morning. Soon that cloud cover will be gone.

        I’d like to see the ladder completely covered by ivy or some other green creeping plant. Then it would be just like an odd giant tree.

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        1. The cayenne is real, man. Oh, yes. The cayenne is real. They put cayenne and table pepper in all sorts of drinks, around here. I think it’s because of all that detox madness going around. People think anything that irritates their insides is good for them. I, on the other hand, could do without the sore throat. My liver works just fine. I do not need any type of…cayenne assistance.

          A chemical taste does, indeed, suggest shite orange juice. The proper kind should be bitter and fresh-tasting, like an orange you stuck in a blender. (Because it should BE an orange someone stuck in a blender. Non-fresh orange juice isn’t worth the pain.)

          That’s what I was thinking of, with the spiders, the ones that use a little strand of web to parachute all over the world. That’s brilliant. Epic spider exploration. I’ve heard of them crossing oceans that way. I suppose arachnophobes would hate that, as there’s nowhere you could go in the world, and be certain a spider wouldn’t follow. But, hey, it’s not like tarantulas and huntsman spiders are drifting on the breeze.

          I can’t see your window picture. It says it’s private and I don’t have permission. Stupid WordPress.

          I wonder if ivy can climb that high…it would be an interesting experiment, to see if it would.

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          1. I understand a pinch or two of black pepper in cold tomato juice, for the taste. The whole “detox” thing reminds me of those mediaeval dietary theories about hot/cold/wet/dry foods that are supposed to balance out the humours in your body and subsequently – your character. Of course, if people fervently believe something is good for them, the placebo effect might take place. Maybe.

            The orange juice you most readily get here, sans actually squeezing an orange, comes in clear plastic bottles that proclaim it to be 100 % orange and “pasteurised”. It’s not very good. I’ve read somewhere that they actually process it till its transparent and then recolour it and can still legally claim it to be 100% orange because the colouring additive also comes from oranges.

            I’m still at my grandparents’ place, and there’s a jumping spider living right above the stove. You can see him pretty much everyday and there’s something cozy about that. The occasional black widow or brown recluse though gets ceremoniously picked up and set outside, they’re very unlikely to bite you, but you don’t want to discover one inside your shoe (the neat thing about most spiders, when presented with a sufficiently large piece of cardboard they will very calmly climb on it and suffer you to carry them for quite awhile without panicked fidgeting). We have tarantulas, too. They’re definitely too hefty to float.

            I’ve changed my privacy settings so the window picture should be visible now.

            I’ve seen ivy completely cover four-five story buildings, so it should at least cover the ladder halfway. Might take time though, I have that notion at the back of my mind that ivy takes decades to grow (and I’m too lazy to check).

            By the way, I think Tai-chi might be easier than yoga. From what I’ve seen of it it’s dance like and very slow, and doesn’t seem to have the emphasis on breathing and flexibility that yoga has, just a general aerobic thing. All I remember from doing yoga back in India is that thing where you stand on one leg with the other one folded away to the side with the foot on the straight leg’s knee, you close your eyes and slowly raise your folded hands as far as you can above your head, stretching up but remaining relaxed and breathing calmly. Still can’t do it without wobbling (and not for long).

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            1. A pinch or two of pepper DOES improve tomato juice. I’m not so sure it does much for apple juice, besides making me sneeze when I open the bottle. People are mad for anything labelled “detox” over here. The local grocer sells a “detox” kale salad, which is kale, sunflower seeds, chicken, and tahini. I mean, it’s tasty enough, but I’m not sure what’s meant to be detoxifying about it. Almost every vegan/vegetarian/juice-based restaurant seems to have something including the word “detox” on the menu. Most of the time, it’s code for either “disgusting” or “boring AF.” (My favourite vegan place doesn’t have that, but it DOES have fries made from chickpeas. I’m not sure how they do that, or how healthy the end result can be, but I love them.)

              We get that sort of bottled orange juice here, as well, and it IS generally rubbish. The sort I have trouble resisting comes from a fresh juice and salad place, where they press all their juices on-site. So it’s tasty…but it’s also something I shouldn’t be having. So far, hedonism has won every time. I can’t stop myself.

              Your jumping spider reminds me of this massive garden spider I allowed to live on my windowledge for about a year. It built a huge web and ate a good number of the fruit flies that entered through the holes in my walls, but then my mother saw it and threw it out. She was all “What is THIS doing here?”, and I didn’t really have a good answer, so that was the end of my massive spider friend. Well, at least she didn’t kill it.

              I’m on the fifth floor, here, which is actually the fourth floor, because this is an Asian neighbourhood, and in some Asian countries, the fourth floor is the death floor, because “four” and “death” sound the same. The ladder, I’d say…well, it TOWERS over the sixth floor, which is really the fifth AND sixth floors, as the penthouses have two storeys. I’d say it’s, oh…nine storeys tall? (Actually, I just Googled it. The ladder is 120 feet tall, which makes it somewhere between 10 and 11 storeys, which means ivy would be unlikely to reach the top, at least through natural means. They could probably engineer it by attaching pots to the sides, every storey or so, and starting individual ivy plants in each one.)

              It’s good to live near the sea, isn’t it? You know, when my uncle Angus died, I was halfway tempted to buy out everyone else’s share of his house, rather than taking my share of the sale price to get this place. It was RIGHT by the sea, and had a conservatory that looked out on the shore. But the cost was too high. How long does it take you to get to the seashore? It looks like it might be quite a drive.

              You’re probably right about tai chi. Maybe I’ll substitute it for yoga for the next few days, see how it goes. I’m getting tired of keeling over like a tipped cow every time I change positions. (I can’t stand on one foot, anyway. My feet got quite seriously injured a long time ago, and I can’t put my full weight on the flats of them. I have to sort of, hmm, roll to the side and let the outer edges take my weight. It’s not possible to balance like that, or at least, I’ve yet to manage it. Also, you should’ve seen the shoes I had, back in art school. Everyone made fun of them because they were all worn down on the outsides, and not on the insides, and they looked utterly ridiculous. I couldn’t afford to replace them—or I could, but I had other priorities—so the mockery continued.)

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              1. If you take the “detox” thing at face value, it implies that whatever you’re eating would be either emetic or laxative, which isn’t what food should be. I suspect that people imagine that eating “detox” food would make them sweat out toxins, which is slightly less gross, but still fairly gross(in Russia, you have the same kind of thinking applied to traditional sauna, it makes you sweat all the “bad stuff” out).

                That kind of hedonism is all too relatable. Like when you compulsively overeat a particularly tasty cheese and then feel bloated and sleepy. You always have vague memories from the previous occasions, but wave them away in the secure knowledge that “today it won’t happen”, but of course it does (the one good thing about not being in Russia, not being expected to match everyone at the table shot for shot… Alcohol is all of the above, times ten).

                You could have said “my pet spider”, but that might have been just a retroactive guilt trip. My mother once made the opposite mistake, of not clearing out a pigeon nest in the living room window (wall size window with double glass panes, the nest built in the ample space between them) because there were eggs in it and she felt sorry for them, she hoped that the pigeons would quickly raise one generation and leave. But that didn’t happen, and her patience burst at the end of the second generation. Needless to say, that space required extensive cleaning… But, for the while the pigeons were there, every time you went to sleep on the couch by the window, you had a nesting pigeon boring into you with a single, fierce, orange gimlet eye. Right in front of your face, just on the other side of the glass (I was about eleven, that made for a vivid childhood memory).

                The other kind of “almost pets” you get are geckos. Unlike spiders, they’re almost universally adored* (although now that I write this, I realize that I haven’t seen any this year).

                *Recipe for adorable animal: big shiny eyes, less legs… Although slugs with big shiny eyes would probably be even creepier.

                I also thought of the multiple pots idea. You know something is bad when you stop being bothered by awkward logistics just to cover it up.

                The sea is an hour and a half away by bus (it would be shorter if Haifa streets were less loopy and Haifa buses not so slow). So it’s not much of a felt presence. It would be great to live in direct view, close enough to see the waves crashing in, but the property prices must be through the roof. One thing I’d personally prefer though, is a house surrounded by trees, with a terrace, just like we had in India. A sea of green. With the wind whispering in the branches on warm summer nights. Obviously in a rural neighbourhood, with no pesticides and no cars, so you’d have an interesting and vibrant ecosystem existing all around you.

                Foot injuries are the worst. I once pulled the tendons in both my legs at the same time and then could only hobble around for the whole week after that because any kind of speeding up immediately brought down a cripplingly painful cramp (the kind that doesn’t just affect your calves, but spreads up to the knee an thigh). Shoes though… Thoroughly worn ones are kind of romantic, a sign that you walked about far and wide, and if they’re less worn on the inside that just means that they’re well made, comfortable, and won’t fall apart at first notice. That’s kind of how shoes should be to begin with.

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                1. I mean, I think a lot of the things sold as detoxes WOULD be laxative—like, VERY laxative—at high doses. You’re not going to shit yourself after a sprinkling of cayenne, but if you do one of those “juice cleanses” where you’re having nothing but essentially sugar, water, and pepper for a week…yeah. Your arse will be glued to the toilet. No two ways about that.

                  Fortunately, I’m entirely able to resist any type of drug or alcohol-related hedonistic impulses, because I loathe the sensation of being drunk or stoned. You wouldn’t catch me drunk or on heroin, and ESPECIALLY not on cocaine, or anything that would heighten the sensation of fear. But food, yeah…certain things, I can’t help myself. I indulge where I shouldn’t, and regret it profoundly.

                  I wish we got geckos here. There’s no such thing as a Canadian house-lizard, as far as I know. You never look up and see a lizard on your ceiling, or scuttling up the wall. The best you can hope for is a non-biting spider. Apart from that, if you want a pet, you have to buy one.

                  I felt a stab of pain up my legs just THINKING about two pulled tendons. How on earth did you manage to damage both at once? That must’ve been a devil of a week. What an annoyance.

                  Worn-in clothes are almost always better, I find. Maybe not from an aesthetic perspective, but from the point of view of comfort. I keep coats, in particular, till they’re falling apart at the seams. Nothing better than an old coat that’s so soft it can double as a dressing-gown. (Unless, of course, you’re Akaky Akakievich. But even then, see what buying a new coat will get you? Robbed and dead, that’s what you get—keep your old coat. Keep it forever!)

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                  1. They could just drink coffee by the gallon. Not only would they be glued to the toilet, they would be extremely clearheaded throughout the whole process, positively lucid, maybe even enlightened… Actually scratch that, I’ve just remembered coffee enemas are a thing. Why would I remember that? A quick check up of wikipedia confirms they are a thing, and can cause “brain abscess or heart failure” (among other things). All in the name of “detox”.

                    You have moose in Canada though. We don’t have anything nearly as majestic. We used to have leopards, there were eight confirmed wild leopards in Israel back in 2004. Now, no one knows. But they’re not as majestic as the moose (also “moose” is fun to say, and am I the only one who’s strongly tempted to pluralise them as “meese”?).

                    You pull both tendons through overtraining, doing squats with weights, specifically. That was during a period when I was trying to take the fitness thing really seriously. Now I just try to run once a day and do the occasional half hearted pull up (the keyword is “try”). Every time I stop running for any appreciable amount of time, the tendency for leg cramps comes back.

                    Just a few days ago I’ve stumbled across this review on fb: “Utterly boring book. Only for grannies with post soviet trauma.” That was for “Master and Margarita”. Admittedly, it was from some dude who’s a fervent supporter of Netaniyahu, and showed more glaring prejudices than just underappreciation of Bulgakov. Anyway, your bad review impressions made me laugh. I totally do the “it’s good, but missing that special something” reaction to way too many things (that’s a sign that the reviewer is getting old, you’ve got your little pantheon of books and movies that made an indelible impression, and nothing else quite compares, or at least, gets increasingly harder to find). “Snide” and “snort” are absolutely worth overusing though.

                    Jangly bracelets are cool*. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see more of. If your prose is like your bracelet, then “elegant” and “intriguing” might be better adjectives.

                    *especially on creepy spider hands😉

                    Aren’t birds with human heads extra creepy? Sphinxes and manticores are disquieting, but there’s something about the disproportionate-ness of human head to bird body that raises it up a few notches. One thing for certain about the Trumpbird, it’s not a packbawky. For one, it can’t gather in packs since even one Trumpbird is one too many, and of course it can’t bawk. The Trumpbird’s mating song is clearly a long and rambling speech about its own apparent greatness, and its threat display consists of short, shrill outcries of “Bigly!” and “Sad!” and the puffing up of an extra messy coiffure. The Trumpbird also steals chunks of other bird’s nests and tries to build a wall out of them, nobody quite knows why.

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                    1. Coffee enemas, dear God! Why on earth would anyone…Jesus. I don’t want to know. I think I’ve actually heard about those before, but in the context of BDSM, so I thought it was a sex thing. (Rather an unpleasant sex thing, and hardly safe from the sounds of it, but people do all sorts of things in the name of orgasms.

                      You find meese majestic? (Yeah, I love to say “meese.”) I find them a bit silly-looking, with their great bulbous noses. But they ARE large and ponderous, which might lend them a certain gravitas. Maybe. (Having seen one on the Internet decked out in full leather-daddy gear, however, I have trouble taking any moose seriously. Huh. This reply has a lot of BDSM imagery, all of a sudden. Weird, that. I blame your coffee arsery.)

                      I wouldn’t have paired THAT review with “The Master and Margarita.” There were points where it rambled a bit, sure, but even those parts, I enjoyed. Bulgakov had an excellent sense of place and time. You could read along and really see what he was on about, envision the scene unfolding. I suppose you have to consider the source, when deciding how seriously to take a review. Though, even an idiot with an unpleasant political bent might identify a bad book, once in a while. (Ha…I’m surprised he didn’t say it was for SJWs. I swear, every book I see or write lately seems to get at least one review complaining about snowflakes or SJWs. I’ve had people say I made characters female for no reason, that certain characters “sounded gay,” that the whole genre I was writing in was gay, and that I was probably gay.)

                      You know, you’re right about jangly bracelets. Or at least large, conspicuous ones. For some reason, it feels less vulgar to wear a big bracelet than a big ring or a big necklace, or even big earrings. Maybe because teenagers are usually the ones wearing big bracelets, and they’re not known for flashing their money about. Or maybe it’s because your sleeves usually cover it, so people only get little glimpses.

                      You’re right about birds with human heads. They’re TOTALLY creepy. Come to think of it, almost ANY animal with a human head added is orders of magnitude worse than that animal’s head on a human body. Like, imagine an elephant with a human face. Or the ending of “The Fly.” Creep city, man!

                      I used the Twitter bird for the back end of the Trumpbird, of course, because he loves to tweet. I put a drip of shit on it because his tweets are barely literate. I put the ladder on it because, like the ladder, Trump is unsightly and unavoidable. I was originally going to do a Boris Johnson bird, but it would’ve been a winged penis with his head on it, because a) his last name is Johnson, and b) “l’uccello Padulo” is slang for cock, and it’s often depicted in cartoons as a winged willy, and Boris Johnson is a massive willy. But I didn’t do that, because it occurred to me that English-speakers don’t know that term, and Boris is harder to recognise in silhouette. Ah, well. Maybe I’ll try it some time, anyway. He DOES have terrible hair, just like Trump.

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                    2. I don’t really find meese majestic, it’s just the cliche tongue-in-cheek way of referring to them… Does anyone call anything “majestic” with a straight face anymore? It seems to be a word that has fully moved over into the realms of snidery.

                      I confess that a BDSM moose is probably weirder than a coffee enema, although not by much… Both have the capacity to inflict extreme bodily harm, both impossible to take seriously (unless you’re alone in a dark forest, stalked by a BDSM moose, that’s terrifying).

                      SJWs is one of those terms… I think it came into being once “feminist” became relatively mainstream, so (those*) people needed another term for a straw-bogey-man that sounded scary and outsider-ish enough (and acronyms are extra sinister). I love the complaint about a character being female “for no reason”, you could just reply “biology” or “genes”.

                      *everyone I met who was professedly “anti-SJW” learned it from the internet, but it never was an original idea. I sometimes wonder what people who come up with this stuff are like, but they’re probably not someone I’d enjoy meeting.

                      You know, vanity, even when it’s about wealth, is fairly touching. People just want to be liked and admired and end up grasping at straws, often the wrong ones. Of course, someone who lets their vanity run unchecked is likely to be morbidly self-absorbed and not particularly likeable or generous, but still… It’s difficult to judge people for being vulgar when there’s a huge well of insecurity beneath it.

                      Somehow, I totally missed it being the Twitter bird. Got distracted by the head, and the drip of shit, and the ladder. The funny thing about Boris Johnson is that Boris is the most naff Russian name you could have (OK, maybe not as naff as Akakiy, but that one’s archaic and out of use). It’s the kind of name that comes with a very particular stereotype, that of “uncle Boris”… Uncle Boris wouldn’t necessarily be called Boris, and he would usually be some distant relative, but he is instantly recognisable and would generally look something like this: https://njnasekin.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/11/
                      He wouldn’t necessarily be a horrible person, but almost invariably a stolid Soviet era dinosaur with a very fixed and rigid set of view on things (which would usually include something along the lines of “Stalin’s legacy was tainted by malefactors” and “Lenin did nothing wrong”).

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                    3. Uncle Boris—ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Oh, man. I think I know that guy. Of course, in the English-speaking world, he’d be Frank, or maybe Dick. Hiram or Billy, in America. Then, there’s Weird Uncle Horace, but he’s another animal entirely. He’s that odd fellow who tells long, pointless stories, and you’re never sure what you’re meant to have gathered from them, but he’s generally entertaining. (I’m a Weird Uncle Horace, I suppose. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be.)

                      Just about died at the sketch of the BDSM moose, by the way. That, I wasn’t expecting.

                      It’s a funny thing: I’m not sure what the point is, for me, when it comes to jewellery. Vanity doesn’t quite cover it. Most days, I don’t go anywhere or see anyone. I could wear thousands of dollars’ worth of gold and precious stones, and no-one would be impressed. (I don’t, most of the time. My favourite necklace is a silver bird’s foot. My favourite bracelet’s a feather to match. I wear those most of the time. But I COULD deck myself to the nines, and it wouldn’t matter to a soul.) I suppose it’s the desire to see something pretty out of the corner of my eye when I’m making tea or doing the dishes. Something interesting, to break up the monotony.

                      I suspect the people who come up with silly buzzwords like “SJW” are educated, cynical souls, who understand how to elicit a reaction with very few words. “SJW” stands for “social justice warrior,” which, even if you haven’t heard it before and aren’t sure what it means, conjures an image of somebody in an archaic role, doing something mildly foolish. You picture a sort of…political cosplayer. Somebody insincere. Somebody hysterical. Same with “sheeple,” “wingnuts,” “feminazis,” and so on. (You have no idea how badly I wish “sheeple” meant something else. It’s such a funny-sounding word, and I’d love to use it, but I can’t think of any context in which I would. Same with “butthurt.” It’s a hilarious word, but I’ve recently discovered it doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. I thought it referred to that overblown sense of injury you get when, say, you drop your breakfast on your feet or someone makes fun of you on the Internet. A major reaction to a minor annoyance. I liked to use it in reference to myself, like “I’m just butthurt because my mother made fun of me.” But, as it turns out, that’s not what it means. It’s really an undermining word, for when you want to downplay someone else’s grievances, or suggest their concerns are trivial.)

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                    4. The American tendency to give people archaic biblical names always feels so odd (especially since some of them have really melodramatic meanings if you know Hebrew, like Melkitsedek, which is literally “King of Justice”*). It’s a bit as if every third person in Britain was suddenly called Lancelot or Pellenore.

                      *The most pretentious meaning though probably belongs to the unassuming and mundane Russian name Vladimir, which literally means “Lord of the World” (though that’s not the original etymology, it was a somewhat less ambitious “Lord of Measure”, but a minor vowel shift intervened).

                      I wish my family had an Uncle Horace… The one uncle from my mother’s side fell into a deep depression, became a misogynistic internet troll and cut ties with pretty much everyone (he was the kind of person who could’ve been pretty successful in life, if not for multiple grim idée fixe that killed any joy or curiosity and an inability to apply a sense of humour to mundane situations), while the uncle from my father’s side, who’s generally nice and personable lives in a remote Russian village and is barely present.

                      In general, at family gatherings no one told interesting and rambling stories, at least, not after my parents divorced when I was five. Then there were family gatherings of my mother’s side, which were fairly stodgy affairs (it’s not a coincidence that one uncle turned out the way he did). And now there are no family gatherings at all because everyone is too scattered around the globe (well, unless I visit my father in Russia, but it’s an “once every few years” kind of thing).

                      With you there’s the feeling that you just enjoy jewellery for its own sake, because it’s beautiful (also I could guess at the bird claw and feather being mildly “totemic”/good luck charm kind of thing… But it always feels slightly intrusive to impute someone else a superstition, both because you assume them to be superstitious in the first place, and because you may be uncovering some little, but deeply private, belief).

                      “Sheeple” IS an unfairly fun word… And I aways had the same interpretation of “butthurt” – comically overblown ire. The problem is, it totally could be used innocuously, but most of the time it isn’t. Semantic drift to language is what continental drift is to geography… You think you recognise a word until suddenly it means something else entirely (this is a baaad metaphor because obviously, semantics and continents shift at wildly incommensurable timescales, but I couldn’t resist).

                      The last mysteries I’ve read and enjoyed were the Dirk Gently books, they do have murders in them but all of the fun comes from the humour and the author’s voice.

                      The game sounds brilliant by the way (and scoring systems suck).

                      I’m off to solve the mystery of “Where to Find More Caffeine to Stay Awake”. 😵

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                    5. Pellinore, eh? Wasn’t he, like, a rapist, in Arthurian lore? If so, maybe every third man in Britain SHOULD have that name. (I mean, probably not every third man, but a fair proportion of them.)

                      I had no idea Vladimir meant that. It always seemed like a bit of a scummy name, to me. Maybe because it has the whole Vlad Tepes association, so the minute you meet a Vladimir, you picture him living in a horrible old castle with people dying on spikes in the courtyard. Ah, maybe that’s just me. But history DOES ruin names. You wouldn’t call your child Adolf or Leopold, or…actually, a LOT of people call their children Joseph. Maybe Joseph was too common to fall into disrepute, even with Stalin wearing it.

                      You know, I DO enjoy jewellery for its own sake. It’s bright and it’s sparkly, and you don’t have to wash it every time you wear it. It’s the one thing you wear that you don’t have to wear, that has no purpose but adornment. It’s good to have something like that. As for the bird pieces, well, those are just because I like birds. Though—this isn’t quite superstitious, but I read somewhere that crows recognise dead birds, and it stresses them out to see one, so if a crow is looking at me and I’m wearing my bird’s foot, I cover it up in case the crow thinks it’s a real one. I don’t want to get a reputation as some sort of…bird murderer, wearing my bird trophies around my neck.

                      Once a word gets tainted, you really can’t use it any more. It’s like with swastikas. You can SAY you just like the shape, but they’re so tied in with Nazis, you can’t put a swastika anywhere without being an arse. There’s always an element of provocation, especially when it’s a white, Western person doing it.

                      I haven’t read the “Dirk Gently” books. Maybe I’ll give them a shot. I’m normally not much on mysteries, mostly because they’re ALL about murders, rapes, or kidnappings, but a bit of humour can counteract a lot of bodies.

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                    6. Most of the knights of the round table are morally suspect in some way, that’s why they don’t get the grail. Although the version I’m most familiar is “The Once and Future King”, where Pellenore is a sympathetic Monty-Pythonesque kind of character. Wouldn’t be surprised if he is much more unpleasant in “Morte d’Arthur” though. I’d like to think your statistic is wrong, but it probably isn’t.

                      Vladimir is actually almost invariably shortened into some pet form such as Volodya, Vova, e.t.c. Precisely because it’s kind of a heavy and aggressive name. Joseph, I think, is still mainly associated with the biblical character, who by the way, is one of the few who are wholly positive (solves hunger/ecological crisis, forgives his family for things most people wouldn’t, succeeds through smarts and insight rather than intimidation… Also probably the only biblical character who’s heavily implied to be gay without any condemnatory overtones). And yeah, it’s way too common… Everyone fixates on the “Stalin” bit (which was a moniker anyway – loosely translated as “Steely”). Also, if we’re talking biblical characters, both David and Samson were absolute shitbags, but somehow became really popular names.

                      I wouldn’t be surprised at all about crows, we generally give animals much less credit for contextual awareness than we should. Your mention of bird trophies reminds me of your drawing of a birdy grim reaper with a Papageno quote, that drawing (re-)introduced me to Mozart, I mean, you can’t see such a creepy quote and not listen to the song (which turned out to be not creepy, just very catchy).

                      Swastikas are still an incredibly popular good luck symbol in India, so there, specifically, you risk being an arse by assuming it has anything to do with Nazis. But that’s the only exception of this kind, and you can usually tell… Nazi swastikas look inherently hostile with sharp edges and stark colours, while Indian swastikas are in warm, vibrant colours and softer, friendlier outlines.

                      What I find much more insidious though are quasi-innocuous phrases like “it’s ok to be white” or “why can’t we have straight pride parades”. There’s such a giant wave of mockery behind them, a willful and openly telegraphed disregard for the problems other people face. That’s probably what defines prejudice in our days, a sort of deep seated infantile petulance. That’s what makes it so scary, that appeal to “just stick it to ’em at any cost” edginess that takes over miserable people and makes them reckless, on the other hand, that’s also what instills hope, because vengeful trolls can only succeed so much (and maybe, just maybe, they will grow up some day).

                      The Dirk Gently books have minimal bodycount and no traumatic scenes. They’re Douglas Adams books, and really more “inventive British humour/parody” than any kind of traditional mysteries.

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                    7. If memory serves, Pellinore is surprised by a visit to Arthur’s court by a boy named Tor, who has been raised as a farmer, but who dreams of being a knight. Tor recounts the story of his mother working in the fields, where she is raped by a “stern knight,” who leaves her pregnant. Pellinore, listening to this story, realises he is Tor’s father, and for some reason, acknowledges his guilt in front of everyone. Indeed, he doesn’t seem to feel guilty. Rather, he is pleased to meet his son.

                      Can you imagine someone calling Vladimir Putin “Volodya?” Try as I might, I can’t picture that. Even “Vlad” would be a stretch. Really, it’s hard to imagine anyone expressing any sort of affection or familiarity towards him. (I mean, I’m sure he must have friends, people who love him, but I can’t seem to picture any sort of private or tender moment involving Vladimir Putin. Even shaking his hand would feel awkward and alien, like when people grab dolphins by their fins and shake them about.)

                      Ah, did I get “Der Vogelfänger bin ich, ja” stuck in your head? It IS a bit of an earworm, isn’t it? One of those ones you can’t stop whistling. But at least it’s good, right? Most earworms aren’t. Like that stupid Vengabus song, or “Mr. Bombastic.” Mr. Bom…bom…bom…damn it. I hate that song. So MUCH, I hate that song. But Mozart is always good. I used to play him for my birds, when I wasn’t at home, hoping they’d learn to whistle more tunefully. (They didn’t.) If I ever have birds again, I’ll play them nothing but Rammstein. Let’s see if I can make them scream. (Joking, of course.)

                      Oh, I mean, anywhere a swastika traditionally means something else, anywhere you’d see them all over the place with no Nazi intention, that’s another thing entirely. But in the West, swastikas really only mean one thing. Especially when they’re turned on their sides, like the Nazis did. The ones you see in India aren’t like that.

                      Nazis also tainted black, white, and red colour schemes, which annoys me, as I love black, white, and red colour schemes. You have to be a bit careful with those, make sure you express clear non-Nazi intent. Ha, ha.

                      I wouldn’t say there’s anything innocuous about phrases like “it’s OK to be white.” Nobody says that with any sort of sincerity of intention. Those types of phrases all mean one thing: “stop looking over there. Look at me!” It’s an infantile mentality, having to be in the middle of everything, the focus of everyone’s attention. It’s like they think attention is a finite resource, and the minute people start paying attention to someone or something else, they’re losing the attention that should be on them. It’s like, if you want attention, do something interesting. Have something to say. “I’m white. Look at me” is not interesting. People, man. People.

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                    8. That’s because peasants didn’t quite count as people… That’s the ugly truth behind chivalry raising its head, but made incongruous by the one bit that is wish fulfilment, because in the real world the illegitimate son would have been kicked out of the court or made a serf. Pellinore’s acceptance of his son is the one “Hollywood touch” that the writer permits himself to glamourise what is otherwise a completely sordid story. If Pellinore shows remorse for his actions, then it tarnishes that glamour of the “social mobility fairytale”. Either way, it’s gross, both the story, and the author’s motivation for telling it.

                      Oh, people definitely call Putin Volodya, he has his little inner circle of loyal and trusted people, and being able to be on pet-name terms with him is a sign of special trust. The moment you fall out of his favour, your right to call him Volodya gets revoked. It’s an environment where affection, and the permission to display it, are the currency used to establish hierarchy. At least that’s how I imagine it all to be. His handshake probably feels reassuring and trustworthy though, he is a politician after all. You would get more real affection from a dolphin however, even if loaded with awkward fin shakes.

                      Yes, yes you did. And it is very, uh, whistle friendly. But before you congratulate yourself, I just went and listened to the Vengaboys song AND Mr. Bombastic. So much cringey 90’s nostalgia… So much… O.o But you shouldn’t worry, they probably won’t get stuck in my head. The only time it ever happens to me is when the song gets played everywhere for days… There was a period when EVERY ad played the chorus of Kesha’s Tic-Toc, and it stuck to your brain like velcro(“… On the clock/But the paaarty wooon’t stop/Oooooh Ooooooh”). And a bit later every party and bar decided to play Dudu Aharon’s Terminal 3, the most saccharine song in the already saccharine world of Middle-Eastern pop, on looping. repeat. 😐

                      But back to Mozart, the one thing that I’ve been listening to on repeat these days is “Don Giovanni, a cenar tecco”. Sturm und Drang always puts me in a good mood. Now imagining small song birds sitting on branches and emitting low (tuba frequency) and menacing “tweeeee-twee-twee tweee-twee-twee” to the rhythm of Rammstein’s “Du Hast”. Back in India, whenever I put something loud and metal on speakers instead of headphones, the song of the birds outside did intensify. So they certainly respond to heavy music (although whether that was appreciation, indignation, or just the desire to drown out a new loud sound is difficult to tell).

                      You’ve put it much more succintly than me, that idea people have that attention is a finite resource, and a place in the spotlight must inevitably come at the expense of others. It’s like those card game players who fly into a rage and flip the table the moment they’re beginning to lose. The last few years have felt like that, one giant, slow-motion, spiteful table flip.

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                    9. I believe illegitimate children were sometimes recognised, or at least supported by their parents, though not usually given their names. Though, those may have been the illegitimate children of other nobles, not those of peasants. Certainly, a scenario where the father embraces his farmer son, and the son becomes a Knight of the Round Table, seems unlikely, to say the least. I remember being utterly confused when I read the story, as I was pretty young. It seemed bizarre that Tor didn’t demand satisfaction, and that nobody seemed shocked by the rape. The whole scene read like a happy family reunion with a bit of wish-fulfillment thrown in, which shouldn’t make sense in any context.

                      I think I would only call Putin that if I wanted to insult him. You know, like when you call someone “darling” to belittle them. Does that work with pet names? I should think so. I’d be quite irritated if a stranger called me, say, Socks. (Really, I wouldn’t much like anyone calling me that, but it would be twice as annoying coming from someone who shouldn’t even be on a first-name basis.)

                      I LOATHE you for introducing me to Ke$ha, by the way. Anyone spelling their name with a dollar sign, well, that’s immediate cause for suspicion. But, augh, what an irritating voice! What a vapid song! Who’s she trying to be? No way is that her real voice. No way are those her real THOUGHTS. Nobody’s that into parties. “Terminal 3″ isn’t AS bad, especially as I can’t understand it, but I wouldn’t seek it out. It’s very, hm, soft rock. It reminds me of that song that was everywhere in the 90s, ah…”Like the Deserts Miss the Rain.” I had this job in ’96, ’97, some time in around there, and they had this tape that played on loop all day. That was on there, and it wasn’t so bad at first, but after about a thousand repetitions, I wanted to shoot the singer in the head.

                      You know, whenever I listen to “Don Giovanni,” I wish he’d ended it there, with Don Giovanni being dragged off to Hell. Everyone coming in at the end and singing “Questo è il fin di chi fa mal” is SO cheesy. So bad. It’s like someone asked them to tack on a happy ending, and Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte complied, but their hearts weren’t in it, and they scribbled down whatever. I mean, you’ve got this absolute masterpiece, not a note out of place, not a dull moment, then to finish that way! Why? Sod off. (I love the rest of the ending, though. Everything from “Già la mensa è preparata” to Don Giovanni’s dying scream is genius.

                      Who knows what birds like, eh? There’s probably some way to measure it, to test their emotional responses to various types of music. I suppose first, you’d have to figure out what a happy bird looks like, and an angry bird, and so forth. If I had a hundred birds, I’d definitely try. Ha, ha.

                      You know, approaching the end of the world—or at least, the end of our dominion over Earth—you’d hope we’d try to enjoy it. Get the most out of our final decades, sort of thing. Not waste time flipping tables, squabbling over our share of the remains. There’s that song, “When You Come to the End of the Day,” and it’s not about hanging onto what you can, trampling on heads to get at it. It’s about pleasant reflection and might-have-beens. A wistful end should trump a violent one. Maybe in a world with fewer Pellinores, eh?

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                    10. I know that feeling from childhood very well, when you encounter a wtf story that’s lauded as something good and it won’t stop bothering you. Mostly courtesy of Bible class (especially anything to do with king David, he’s supposed to be the paragon of what Judaism is all about yet nothing he does is in any shape or form good, except for loudly repenting to god after he’s done it, which makes it alright. He kills his own son, steals his general’s wife by sending him to war, and so on and so forth… And he’s supposed to be the good guy. In one episode he kills a thousand Philistines and collects their foreskins as a war trophy, that’s some serial killer level shit right there).

                      With Volodya it wouldn’t quite work, because by now it has almost replaced the full name. On the contrary, calling someone Vladimir would make you sound at the very least, cold and standoffish. Unless, maybe, you put a really mocking, familiar, inflection into Volodya, that might work. Socks is a pretty awful pet name, I mean, socks are one of those inconsequential items you lose all the time, who would want to be compared with that?

                      The funny thing about Kesha is that it takes dedication and talent to be that annoying. That song is exactly everything it wants to be, all artistic goals reached. I like the bit in the video where her mother drops the plates upon seeing her and she’s like “yeah, I’m way too cool for you, bye”, you had to have a VERY good relationship with your parents to romanticise intergenerational conflict like that (even in such a tongue-in-cheek way). “Like the Deserts Miss the Rain” doesn’t sound SO annoying either, but I can imagine how it can get worse with constant looping.

                      In the version of Don Giovanni I’ve watched “Questo” was ommitted, and I’ve read that it almost universally is. It probably something they were forced to include by the theatre management, the way movie studios today bombard directors with endless notes to aim at the stupidest common denominator in the audience. The opera itself, by the way, is surprisingly contemporary. Apropos the Pellinores of this world. Before seeing it I had this general notion that the Commendatore kills him out of some antiquated “family honor” sentiment for a consensual affair with his daughter, but it’s actually rape. And Don Giovanni keeps being insufferably slimy throughout the whole thing, and you can’t wait for the statue to get him.

                      The main challenge with birds, I think, would be dissociating from the projection of human emotions on them to some degree. Some birds, like sparrows, mostly look happy to us, simply because of the frequency to which their body language is keyed, most predatory birds look perpetually angry. You’d have to develop a really nuanced understanding of bird body language and song timbre. Get into their head, as it is. Although, with music, my guess is that if they wouldn’t like it they’d simply fly away. So anything they stay to actively respond to must at least spark their interest.

                      “When You Come to the End of the Day” is quite soothing and wistful. This the kind of song that has to play in the background in an airy, spacious house during a lazy summer afternoon. I don’t have anything to say about the end of the world though… For some reason thinking about it makes me wonder what your day has been like, and what you had for breakfast and whether the ladder looks particularly fetching in the afternoon light. These things somehow seem more important than any apocalypse.

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                    11. You know, I hardly remember any of the Bible, though I did read it. I remember the foreskins, and the bit about bashing out babies’ brains—most of the violent bits, the silly bits, the bits that were strangely translated and didn’t make much sense. The actual meat of it, though, who begat whom, what God’s supposed to want from humanity, I’ve largely forgotten. Maybe I never cared. I wasn’t raised Christian, so it was just a curiosity for me, and not nearly as entertaining as, say, Greek mythology.

                      I think, should I ever have the misfortune of meeting Vladimir Putin, I’ll just call him Ilya or Ivan, like I don’t even know who he is. That’s more insulting than anything. (Plus, with Ilya, I’d get the private delight of calling him after my annoying former neighbour, who also looked like him.)

                      I mean, it IS obvious Ke$ha meant to do exactly what she did, in that video. You’re quite right about that. I just didn’t like it, not one bit. That voice she put on, man, it sounded painful. Unpleasant to my ears, yes, but also unpleasant for the throat. Mine tightened up just listening to her. I guess if I want to listen to a song about immoderate partying, I’d be better off with “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” or “Inaffia l’ugola.” Or, hey, I could go back to “Don Giovanni” for “Fin ch’han dal vino.” Italy does all the best drinking songs.

                      I believe Don Giovanni is unsuccessful in raping Donna Anna…though, there’s no way to be sure. She does say he TRIED to “steal her honour,” but it’s quite conceivable she’d say that even if he’d succeeded, not wanting anyone to know. She’s about to get married, and her father’s just been murdered. She’s in a precarious position, socially and financially speaking. Confessing to having been raped by Don Giovanni might not be in her best interests. Either way, he’s a creepy motherfucker, and deserves exactly what he gets.

                      When I was younger, my father told me she was trying to keep Don Giovanni from abandoning her, in “Non sperar, se non m’uccidi,” but I think he just didn’t want to explain rape to me. I was eight, when he took me to see that. Nobody wants to discuss rape with an eight-year-old. (I was quite shocked by the production, anyway. It was the first time I’d seen a man in a state of undress (shirtless, pulling up his trousers.)

                      That’s true about birds. There’s a tendency to anthropomorphise, to imagine a bird that looks happy by our standards actually is. Though, to me, birds of prey look perpetually puzzled, the way their “brows” fork in, in the middle.

                      Maybe they stay to “argue” with loud music because they think it’s invading their territory…. Maybe they have bird “concerts” and you’re ruining their performance. Ha, ha.

                      As far as what I had for breakfast goes, ah, half a cold veggie taco and a bottle of Pediasure. (Running low on groceries.) The ladder looks quite dull today. It’s been cloudy, and it’s twice as boring as usual. My day…ah, well, I have more work to do than hours to do it. I’ve just finished writing, and now I have to take reference pictures for a drawing I should’ve started last week.

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                    12. The Bible never really explains what god wants from humanity. He throws out random and capricious demands and promises ample rewards for compliance, like an aging mob boss. Greek mythology is much better, unlike the OT, Greek myths address such things as heartbreak, and homesickness, and while they don’t preach any morality, they’re permeated with a strong sense of what is good in life and what can go and fuck off. And it’s interesting to live in a landscape that is pretty much identical to Greece, anemones really do look like the blood of a love goddess, redder than any ordinary oxidised liquid would be (incidentally, probably my favourite instance of red in nature, on a good summer day they positively glow), and the Argonauts and Odysseus must have surely sailed past the cliffs or Rosh Ha’Nikrah.

                      You could also resort to initals and call him Mr. P. That would be accurate, and insulting.

                      I don’t like Ke$ha’s throaty, croaky, singing in that song either. If I want some party oriented pop music I’d rather listen to someone like Sarit Hadad (more homegrown Israeli music with strong Middle-Eastern bend). Opera, oddly enough, never quite works for me as party music; just like metal, it’s too intense and dramatic. It’s something to listen to while working or staring in the window on a long bus ride (best place to listen to music).

                      I understood that Donna Anna wouldn’t really tell anyone in detail what happened because either way it would’ve been too difficult to talk about.

                      I don’t like it when adults downplay the severity of things to children, by the way, too much of that and you get people who can subconsciously justify to themselves all sorts of things as “not that bad”. About rape, it would probably be better just to say “he hurt her” and frame it in terms of bullying. That would spare the need to get into traumatic and graphic detail but get across very clearly what kind of dynamics are at play. Almost everyone had to deal with a bully that singles you out and sticks to you like a tick at one time or another.

                      Apropos bird impressions, I’ve only recently discovered the existence of the bald ibis. He has an amazing expression – quizzical, deranged, haughty. He clearly has NO time for you, and NO time to take care of his own ruffled appearance – important things are afoot. If Thoth with an ibis head is the god of wisdom and writing (measured, calm, didactic), Thoth with a bald ibis head must be the god of mad scientists.

                      Staying to argue with a rival noise IS a very bird thing to do. I’ll stick with that version,

                      Judging by the title (and the first picture) of your latest post, I fully expected the second one to be of a naked rat (rodent, frightening non sexual nudity ticks all the boxes). You don’t look like a corpse though, you look elegant and ethereal. As if you should be floating on a field of stars with a long ghostly veil trailing behind you. And yes, you do have nice prehensile extremities (you said you don’t care for compliments about appearance, but since you asked this time, I can only confirm).

                      The rat photo is really good too. It’s a very content looking rat, it knows it’s being loved and protected (and maybe even get caught up in time if the proverbial table it walks off gets too high).

                      P. S. Since you inflicted upon me (alluringly) creepy Socar nudity, I can only repay back in kind (got to upstage that shirtless dude at the opera too, men are vain creatures): https://imgur.com/a/aoPvj9E

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                    13. See, now, that’s just bad writing, a major character with no clear motivation. Boooooo, God. Boooooo, dull religions. I’m a bit envious, the way you describe Israel, by the way. I’ve never been, but I HAVE visited Greece and Italy, and I’m a fan. Getting to live somewhere like that, with the food and the sun and the sea, and the old olive trees, the architecture, everything we DON’T have in Canada…that would be good. (Britain has areas of astonishing architecture, but it also has a whole lot of rain. And now, it’s got Brexit. And Scottish independence is taking a while. I’m beginning to think we won’t get there, at all.)

                      Mr. P…ha, ha, ha! You know, I think you’ve hit on the one nickname you could use for both Putin and Trump, though with Trump, you’d have to spell it Mr. Pee. (Though, I guess I couldn’t really call him that, in the unlikely event our paths were to cross. He was in the KGB. He’d find this conversation in advance, and steel himself against my minor show of contempt.)

                      You’re right about talking to children about difficult topics. I don’t think I’d try to explain rape to an eight-year-old, beyond telling them that nobody is allowed to touch them without permission, and they must say “no” if anybody tries, and report it if they do so anyway. I wouldn’t have suggested that Donna Anna was encouraging Don Giovanni, though, or in any way responsible for his behaviour. (I’m not sure my father meant to imply that, either. He DID imply it, of course, but I’d rather assume thoughtlessness than malice. Or maybe he really saw her as a dishonest character, but there’s nothing in the text to suggest she is.)

                      I am puzzled by the bald ibis, by the way. Why is THAT the bald ibis? It has a big, feathery crest. Those Australian ibises, ah, the black-headed ones, bin chickens, those are far balder. (That’s a really good bird, though, the bald ibis. It would make for an excellent drawing, with all those feathers sticking out everywhere.)

                      Ha! Maybe I missed an opportunity, there, NOT posting a naked rat. I don’t have many pictures of those, though—only a couple, and the rat isn’t REALLY bald (she’s a double-rex, which means she has thin, patchy hair all over her body). Or, she had. She’s been dead a while.

                      I’d rather be floating in a starfield than dead. You know, you always have the most charitable interpretations of things. You see something weird-looking and find something good to say about it. You hear about the end of the world and want to know how people’s lives are going, here and now.

                      Oh, a funny thing, with that rat photo. I found a website, lately, where you upload a photo and an AI tells you how likely it is to be a good picture. It also generates a series of keywords related to your photo. I tried it with that rat, and it told me it had a 0.0% chance of being an awesome shot. I also tried it with a drawing of three sparrows (also not awesome), and one of the tags it came up with was “obsolete.” I had to laugh at that…because it was right. My style IS obsolete. Nobody draws like that any more, and there isn’t much market for it.

                      I see the suspicious butterfly has made a new appearance, there—ha, ha! I should’ve invited that giant window spider to join me when I shot that reference picture. I believe that was around the same time. (I DID once take a picture of a mummified dead rat balancing on my ribcage. But a living spider, man, that’s too much. Don’t want that on me.)

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                    14. I’d love to visit Britain precisely because it’s overcast. I like grey skies, they put me in a good mood for some reason. Whenever I see pictures of Scotland it’s usually green, expansive and overcast. You can practically smell the fresh, chill air blowing at you. Don’t get me wrong, Israel has it’s moments, but the outdoors very rarely feel refreshing. I’d love to move to some more temperate climate (if there still will be temperate climates by then).

                      The difference between Trump and Putin is that Trump has all the skin thickness of a cellular membrane, a nanosheet. You don’t have to try and insult him, it’ll happen naturally, by itself, like gravity. Putin though, gives the impression of one of those dull, bureaucratic people who seem to have no emotion. You’d have to get deep and personal to affect him, but if you do find that sore spot the emotional meltdown will be much more profound (for some reason it seems to me that the way to get at Putin is to accuse him of being selfish and petty, he seems to be one of those people who do their utmost to convince themselves that they’re acting for the greater good… In fact, everytime I see him the first the first word to flash in my mind is “inquisitor”, he has that purse lipped, fanatical look).

                      Your father probably got confused between Donna Anna and Donna Elvira, who does want to win him back. He also probably fell victim to the “Disney-fication” tendency which seems to affect some adults more than others. Very easy not to think about difficult topics if you can also convince others they don’t exist.

                      I had no idea they call ibises “bin chickens” in Australia, that’s great…)) I mean, if you’re introduced to ibises through the lens of Egyptian mythology at the age of seven, you always retain that subconscious image of them as dignified and mystical birds, you’d never think of calling them “bin chickens”*.
                      I suppose the bald ibis got its name because pink is a much more “immodest” colour, it looks naked, exposed. With the Australian ibis, you’d have to look close to realise that it’s not short black feathers, just skin. I really like your bald ibis sketch by the way, it perfectly captures that sinister conniving look.

                      *This also reminds me of the fact that you can’t say “trash panda” in Russian. Well, you can, but it loses its casual, slangy sound and acquires the same feel as “Indigenous bottlenose” in English (in other words, it sounds like a legitimate taxonomical species).

                      “Charitable” implies that you have to apply effort to find the good in something, it also sounds as if you’re being insincere… So I’m going to object, I am not charitable, I say good things only about things I like (in fact I can be downright cranky and insufferable, and condescending, and contrarian… And a lot of other things like that, the human equivalent of an unsweetened lemon). And as for the end of the world, that’s just good old fashioned avoidance, when the future looks grim you concentrate really hard on the present, like reaaally hard. It’s not a good trait.

                      Well, AI can’t make aesthetic judgments, only establish statistical correlations (and those are, well… statistical – there’s always the probability of being wrong). I love that drawing with the sparrows by the way, they look creepy and yet adorable at the same time, and you reaally have to pay attention to find the stolen cufflinks.

                      A mummified rat is way more impressive and creepy than any old spider. You should hold on to that photo for when you really want to creep the internet out.

                      The crows at the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem used to tease cats, that certainly implies a capability for contempt (cats LOOK like they experience contempt for most everyone around at least half of the time, that’s anthropomorphisation again though). Gulls? I think the only thing that goes on in their heads is a looping track of “food? food? … …food? … FOOD!!!” (and this is when they swoop down to steal your sandwich). Maybe oysters don’t have the capacity for contempt, but they have no means of showing that. So maybe they DO silently judge you, but you would never know. 😶

                      If I asked you not to drink orange juice again though, would that work? Pinky promise kind of thing.
                      Have a quick oj recovery. ❤️

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                    15. I suppose we all want what we can’t have. I’ve lived in overcast places most of my life, so I want sun, bone-white shores, sandstone villages, all that sort of thing. Not that I dislike Scotland, or Vancouver, but we do get a lot of grey skies. A lot of wind and rain. I suppose goths might like it here. Or vampires.

                      You know what’s funny? How much time we’ve devoted to thinking up ways to insult Vladimir Putin. I’d imagine the best way to annoy him would be to address him the way he addresses other people. Talk down to him, sort of thing. I like to do that to a particular sort of person, the sort who imagines themselves better-educated than I am, or more intelligent, with little evidence to back them up. I like to do the barely-restrained laughter thing, and use very small words, pretend I’m addressing a four-year-old. That approach only works on people who ARE ill-informed—or, at least, those who lack the rhetorical skills to defend their positions. But, you know, I can’t remember having had occasion to do it to anyone who knew what they were talking about. People with a genuine interest in the subject at hand seem disinclined to engage in pissing contests.

                      If you knew my father, you wouldn’t let him slide on confusing Donna Anna and Donna Elvira. That’s simply not possible. He’s like me, the sort of person who knows every line, every chorus, backwards and forwards. He brought home the score so I could learn it too, before he took me to see it. So, either his interpretation of the text was quite cynical, or he lied. My guess is he lied.

                      I love saying “bin chicken,” by the way. I first heard about it in the comments on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO-OpFjHRbE . Before I saw that, I had no idea ibises were such a nuisance in Australia. (Apparently, it’s because their natural habitats have been destroyed, and they have no choice but to eat garbage. If people don’t like them, they should probably stop ruining their wetlands.)

                      Consider me corrected, on the issue of charity versus genuine appreciation. That’s probably my own cynicism showing, this sad assumption that everyone has to make an effort to find the good in things. Me, I tend to go on visceral impressions. Something feels good, or it feels bad. I had to stare at that picture a long time, to remember I like my feet. What I kept looking at was my face, and how my nose looks all piggy from that angle. (I mean, I suppose EVERYONE’S nose looks kind of piggy, seen from underneath, but I couldn’t stop looking at it. And then I was looking at my collarbone, which was standing up in a weird way, and you could see way too much of it. Again, mostly the angle, but it’s hard to shake that first impression.)

                      I’m not sure whether I still have the mummified rat photo. Maybe I’ll look for it later. I THINK I do. It might even still be on Flickr.

                      I think there’s more to gulls than meets the eye. They’re big and unwieldy, and I’m sure they ARE preoccupied with food, but sometimes they just watch you. They stand and they look in your window, and they bob their heads, like “uh-huh; uh-huh,” and there has to be SOMETHING going on in there. Something beyond “food?”. Well, maybe. Who knows? I wish they could talk.

                      Asking me not to drink orange juice might work for a while, maybe discourage me from buying any…but I’m afraid the temptation might be too great, even with your admonishment hanging over my head. I’d probably try not to drink it for a while, but one day, I’d get thirsty, and there’d be some, and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.

                      Fucking OJ, man.

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                    16. There’s only so much mileage you can get out of unsympathetic people, or, let met correct myself – unsympathetic people in positions of power. Making fun of politicians is really gallows humour, “if you can’t change it, ridicule it” sort of thing. I don’t enjoy being contentious very much, the disdainful, supercilious thing comes too easily and threatens to become a habit (it’s actually a defence mechanism, and like all defence mechanisms hinders more than it helps), also, I’m not good at being funny while arguing, my sarcasm is pretty elephantine.

                      That video is amazing. It has been ages since anything on the internet has made me laugh, but this actually did it. There was another video I’ve stumbled on before, which was a David Attenborough parody sort of thing, but it wasn’t as funny and I didn’t send it to you because the ibises did vomit-y things in it.

                      Everyone’s nose does look piggy from that angle, but it’s always rather endearing. No one ever looks perfect and poised all the time. Actually the only problem I may have with that photo is that your face isn’t very clearly seen (but it does add atmosphere and mystery)… If you really want to hear nitpicking. And your collarbones aren’t weird at all.

                      I think with gulls, it’s their connection to the sea. Most sea animals have something cryptic and impenetrable about them (apart from seals, they’re more mammalian than most mammals)… There’s a beginning of a horror film in there somewhere, gulls staring at you through the window, creepily bobbing their heads. It will be called “The Gulls”, an edgier and splatterier remake of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. The “bodycount” of stolen sandwiches will be through the roof, ketchup and mustard will be splattered nauseatingly, unspeakable things will be regurgitated. Horror.

                      You’re right, when you ask someone not to do something they usually just get a greater temptation to do it*. However, if it will be you and me and an unclaimed glass of oj on a table, I don’t promise that I won’t snatch it up first and drink all of it. P

                      I think that the messes were your inner dirty packbawky manifesting itself. But the weeds might be a blessing in disguise, if you leave them to grow they might prove resistant to your brown thumb. Also, if I’ll develop a foot fetish, I’ll know who to blame. ; P

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                    17. That’s true. I suppose we’ve drained Putin of all conceivable entertainment value, at least for the moment. I almost laughed at Trump today, though. The whole “Prince of Whales” thing would’ve been funny, had there been ANY chance he did it on purpose. Man, I remember when Prince Philip was the worst foot-in-mouther. Trump, you can’t even laugh, because he probably has Alzheimer’s disease. That’s sad, no matter who it’s happening to. He’s probably terrified out of his mind. People in the later stages of dementia often get belligerent, as a way of deflecting questions they can’t answer. Shouting is easier than admitting you’re lost.

                      Thanks for not showing me the boaking ibises. Really, there’s nothing like vomit to ruin one’s day. I had to write about it yesterday, just a couple of paragraphs, but any explicit depiction of spewage is too much. Even after I’d written past it, it stayed on my mind.

                      I probably just think my collarbone looks weird because I don’t usually see it from that angle. You’re normally looking at it sort of straight-on, in the mirror, so it doesn’t stick out so much. Looking at it from underneath, it’s more prominent than you’d expect. Makes you look like you’re collapsing in on yourself.

                      Speaking of vomit and gulls, I once watched a gull eat and regurgitate a fish that was FAR too big for it, SEVERAL times. This other gull kept chasing it around, wanting the fish, so it couldn’t stand still long enough to digest it. The silliest part was, the second gull was a baby, with tiny, stubby wings. All the first gull had to do was fly away. But, no. It ate and re-ate that fish till its offspring lost interest.

                      An act of OJ self-sacrifice—how noble! Falling on an OJ grenade! Ha, ha, ha! Well, I’d thank you.

                      My inner dirty packbawky doesn’t need much encouragement to show its beak. Already, this morning, I’ve dropped crumbs all over the counter and squirted shampoo on the ceiling of my shower. (THAT, the cleaning lady can deal with. I can’t possibly reach.)

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