Why I Don’t Go Outside

Overheard in the lobby of my building:

“If I’m ever a porn star, hey! If I’m ever a porn star, I’m’a call myself THE DICKTATOR. Dip my schlong in potatoes and let ’em lick it off.”

Well. Bangers and mash. Really.


You know what else I was thinking? If the z-pocalypse hits, and our dead come to life, I hope they don’t make that noise. You know the one, from every zed flick ever—heurrrrrrrr! Heuuuuurrrrrrrrhhhhhhh! Fear my catarrh! I could do without that. It’d be way creepier (and less annoying) if the zedders made no sound at all. If they just shambled up with their jaws gaping wide. You’d hear their feet in the dirt and the pop of their joints, the odd slap on the concrete when their loose skin slid off, but none of this heurrrrrrrr! No breathing. No vocalising. No sign of life.

The Walking Dead is the worst for that. I put it on yesterday, to keep me company as I worked. I switched it off after twenty minutes of heurrrrrrrrr.

You’d think ghouls would be bigger in undead entertainment. Not that they’re undead, as such, but they eat the dead. And they can pass as us. All the stories of ghouls, they, like…they love you and marry you and they bear your children, then you catch them red-handed, raiding the family plot. Eating one of those kids, maybe. And they beg and they plead and invoke your devotion, but you put them to death, because, ew. Hello. Ghoul.

I don’t know, man. If I loved a ghoul that much, I might pretend I didn’t notice. I’d stop kissing it on the mouth*, but live and let live.

How would you kill a ghoul, anyway? They’re djinn, sons of Iblis. Immortal.

Yeah, I’d cosy up to that ghoul. Let it eat me once I’d gone. Think of it…a sweetheart who’d never die. Never leave you in mourning. And a ghoul’s not a vampire, so it wouldn’t drink your blood, wouldn’t touch you while you lived. And I bet it would dress nice, all fine silks and elegance. Gold bangles. Long black hair.

There should be way more ghoul stuff, if only for the puns. Ghoulfriends. Righouletto. Take the Cannoli, Leave the Gabbaghoul.



* …and NEVER eat its arse!

43 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Go Outside

  1. I’ve once heard someone on the train loudly exclaim: “It’s not a micropenis, it’s a CHIBI penis!” No idea how the rest of that conversation went.

    You made me think “this probably has prions in it” while eating leftover sausage. Here’s some nightmare fuel back at you:imgur.com/a/EnyPUaK


    1. Ha! I love tiny Slimer, there. Do ghouls have fangs, though? Every story I’ve read about them, they look entirely human, but barely eat and enjoy sneaking out at night and raiding cemeteries. I wonder where such a story got started? Fear of immigrants, maybe. It seems like one of those stories where the moral is “they look like us, but they aren’t us. Don’t forget it.”

      Laughing forever at the chibi penis. Ha, ha, ha. I once met a fellow who was well over six feet tall, with just a pencil eraser willy. He seemed oddly proud of it and liked showing it to everyone. (In the context of a brothel, I mean, where it’s entirely appropriate to show people your willy.) He’d make a big production of getting it out, and watching you very carefully for your reaction, and then he’d laugh at you and get his massage/handjob. Nice enough guy. Odd sense of humour.


      1. My first association with the word “ghoul” comes from games, where they’re usually low level enemies and look more or less like your run-of-the-mill undead. In Slavic folklore, various “vampyr” and the like are usually local peasants, either unbaptized or given an unsanctified burial, or just men who were mean and cruel throughout their lives, but very much local people (foreigners were probably more likely to get accused of being sorcerers… Devious, manipulative, and unscrupulous (and un-christened), but actual monsters usually get reserved for psychological fears about whatever unpleasantness may reside in the human soul… Centuries old vendettas, serial killers, abusive family… Things that are really much scarier than your average vampire… I suspect it’s the same for ghouls).

        That’s really the best way of dealing with any insecurity or perceived flaw. Loudly and humorously telegraphing it to everyone around – then you can’t get mocked for it, you may get genuine laughs, and overplaying it actually makes the reality look better in comparison. That guy cracked the code.)


        1. I first saw ghouls in “The Arabian Nights,” where they were usually quite sweet and affectionate, till someone managed to unmask them. Then, they fought for their lives, but were usually vanquished. Really, it seemed the only thing wrong with them was that they violated graves and ate the contents. I can’t remember any stories where they killed anyone (though there may have been some. It’s been a while.) Anyway, I always felt a bit sorry for them. They’d go out of their way to make a home with someone, only to be slaughtered or driven out for something that never struck me as all that bad. Lots of stuff eats carrion. It’s gross, but not morally corrupt.

          I think the undead are different, because they explicitly ARE us, only dead and returned. I think they represent grudges, and such. Ghouls, on the other hand, were never us. A djinn is not a human being, much as it may look like one.

          Ogres are the other thing that eats the dead, or eats people (not sure they have to be dead, for an ogre). They’re not human either. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to be. Maybe a variant of ghouls.

          Ha, guess he did crack the code. Everyone liked him. He was far less annoying than most customers, always said please and thank you, never tried anything that wasn’t allowed. Surprisingly rare.


          1. So it’s more like stories about kitsune in Japan, where a man finds out that his wife is one. If I remember right, some end sadly, while in some they do get a happily ever after despite being from different worlds. I have only a very dim idea of what the life of nomadic tribes in the desert must’ve been like, but since food was definitely scarce, you could easily imagine people turning to eating corpses out of necessity… Or small societies of outcasts subsisting on ANYthing they might find. Anyway, if you really love someone, a diet of corpses isn’t going to be an obstacle (a vegan friend had this bargaining chip, “if you clean out the cats’ toilet, I’ll buy you some corpses”…).

            You know, dealing with regular hotel customers at the register was bad enough, regular brothel customers, ah… Don’t sound much better.


            1. I haven’t read too many kitsune stories, but yes. Sounds like the same general idea: you accidentally marry something that isn’t human; maybe you accept it, maybe you don’t. I don’t remember any ghoul stories where the human partner said “okay, I can live with that,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I suppose it depends on how religious the average reader was (Iblis being a devil figure, and all, and ghouls being his offspring).

              From the stories I hear from retail workers, brothel customers have NOTHING on an angry Midwesterner at a Black Friday sale. Or, y’know, your annoying Aunt Lydia trying to use an expired coupon at the supermarket. I think the worst thing I saw a customer do was shit on the ceiling and all over the walls, and I believe he was mentally (and physically) ill. He was quite apologetic, and left when asked. I mean, sure, there were hagglers and jackasses and handsy folks, but nobody ever, say, tried to spit on me, which is apparently quite common in retail work. (WTF is wrong with people, right?)


              1. I was always sad, at the kitsune stories that ended badly, because, c’mon… Your wife is a near immortal being with superpowers that CHOSE to be with you, and all you can do is go away into the mountains to sulk?

                If there hadn’t been any stories where a ghoul partner is accepted by their spouse, by thinking of the possibility you’ve just created a parallel universe where they do exist.

                You’re right about retail. The worst I had to deal with was being shouted at for not providing enough pillows (because they already received five extra pillows and there were no more in the laundry room). Oh, and there was this guy who wanted to get into a fistfight over a parking spot that was off limits, that was also fun. No shit, thankfully.


                1. I tried searching for ghoul wife stories, to see if there WERE any happy endings, but the only one I could find online was about a man who married a woman who turned out to be a sorceress who consorted with ghouls, and who turned him into a dog when he found out. A good magician later changed him back, and also gave him the means to turn his wife into a horse. He did this and began to beat her cruelly. The Caliph caught him and reprimanded him, and told him he had already punished her enough by taking her humanity, and that he should not beat her any more. The fate of her ghoulie friend was not revealed. It’s hard to tell whether it was intended or not, but the story read as a very one-sided accounting, perhaps designed to make the man look more innocent than he was. The Caliph’s ruling seemed to suggest he thought so too. It’s hard to say, as the story wouldn’t have been in English, to begin with.

                  It’s this one here: https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/lang1k1/tale31.htm

                  Doesn’t it sound like he’s playing up the evils of his wife, rather, and downplaying what culpability he might’ve had? I could imagine a sequel where the wife stops being a horse, and comes back to tell the Caliph her husband whined incessantly about her unusual diet, wouldn’t stop taking everything she did personally, and tried to kill her in her sleep when he caught her with the ghoul. She defended herself and thought she was safe, but he came back and turned her into a horse.

                  Maybe her side wouldn’t be the whole truth either. Maybe there’d be yet ANOTHER sequel where a servant reveals the husband knew his wife was a sorceress for a while, but only acted when he discovered she was sleeping with the ghoul, and really, they both deserved what they got.

                  I think in hotels, it’s just the maids who have to deal with literal shit. I’ve heard horror stories from them, too, all sorts of nasty leavings in people’s rooms—oh, and that one guy who accidentally left his window open and a case of pepperoni in his room, and all these gulls came in and trashed the place. Classic!


                  1. That story reads, surprisingly, as a criticism of arranged marriage. It’s clearly loveless, they barely interact, have secrets from each other, e.t.c. The husband’s story may have been mostly true, and it still wouldn’t justify his treatment of her once she’s turned into a horse. They really should’ve just gotten divorced… Then she would’ve been free to hang out with her ghoulie friend, and he may have married someone he actually clicks with (maybe that sorceress who turned him back into a human…?). It’s not their fault that they were born into a society that forced them to play marriage roulette without much regard for compatibility (or consent).


                    1. You know, I was skimming and completely missed that line, but I believe you’re absolutely right. He didn’t give her much of a chance, and she clearly had her own life she didn’t want to leave behind, nor did she want to trust some stranger with it. What choice did either of them have? But, no, he still shouldn’t have beaten her once she’d been turned into a horse. The Caliph was right about that.

                      I’m not sure, but I THINK at the time those stories would’ve been written, divorce would not have been unheard-of in the Muslim world (and legally, at least, it should’ve been a fairly simple process). I don’t know how common it would’ve been, of what kind of familial or cultural pressures there might’ve been not to do it, but those two should certainly have gone their separate ways. Even if they couldn’t divorce without feeling some shame, they could perhaps have arranged to keep separate residences, or at least separate lives. I’d imagine a lot of people DO come to solutions like that, in cultures where arranged marriage is common.


                    2. I’ve just looked it up, and divorce definitely happens on several occasions in “Arabian Nights”, and isn’t even particularly looked down upon (as, say, in the Catholic church). Which makes this particular story even more odd.

                      I was pleasantly surprised that the Caliph condemned his behaviour, so many such folkloric stories are treated as “matter of fact” /”the way things are”. I’d like to think that prevention of domestic abuse is the real point of the story. The turning of people into animals cam be taken metaphorically as “treating them like animals”, and it would still make sense.


                    3. Could be there’s something we’re missing, as we don’t live in that time and place. Maybe divorce was only common in certain areas, like major urban centres, or something. Maybe these people are supposed to be from some culture where it was more frowned upon, but we don’t have the context to pick up on that.

                      In fact, the Caliph is, as far as I recall, always presented as a fair, reasonable, and thoughtful man. He often pops up to offer wisdom or some nugget of encouragement, and seems like someone invested in his kingdom and his subjects. There are a number of stories where he’s shown to have explicitly progressive views (or perhaps quite ordinary ones, for his time). Either way, he’s a sympathetic character, sort of everyone’s father figure.

                      Domestic abuse stories in “The Arabian Nights” usually end quite badly for the abuser. In this one, the man got off easily, but that may have been a show of the Caliph’s mercy, more than anything.


                    4. (I forgot to mention, he was a real person, of course—the Caliph. So it may have been awkward to represent him any other way. But it seems likely that his portrayal would’ve reflected his actual views as far as possible. Clearly, we get a flattering picture of him, but it says something that these qualities and ideas WERE considered desirable.)


                    5. ‌I’ve quickly looked up “divorce in Islam” and it said that the Quran introduced a relatively fair and easy divorce system and the general sense was that it happened quite often. What’s possible is that the tale originated in pre-Islamic times (which might explain all the sorcery going on and the presence of a good sorceress, which probably wouldn’t quite hold up in a monotheistic worldview) and that the framing story with the Caliph is a much later addition. “Arabian Nights” is the one where Shkherezade tells (another) Caliph a story with a cliffhanger every night so he won’t execute her, isn’t it? That would make it a framed story within a framed story.

                      ‌Haroun ar-Rashid is this semi legendary figure approaching the dimensions of King Arthur. In the sense of being the image of a perfect and just ruler. He did rule during a golden age of sorts. His portrayals in posterity definitely go far beyond flattering the ego of an individual monarch to rather painting an ideal of justice and wisdom that everyone should aspire to. And in general, the medieval Muslim world in many ways was fairer and more progressive than Europe. When Saladin reconquered Jerusalem from Richard Lionheart (who, if I remember correctly, comes off as a bully even in European accounts of him), he let the Christians go instead of butchering them, and agreed to allow Christian pilgrims to visit the city. This was above and beyond what was customarily done at the time (especially taking into account the conduct of the Crusaders themselves).

                      That poor little piggy encountered the farttalking* arse, didn’t he?

                      *It’s impossible to combine the two words into one in a non-awkward manner (kind of like farting and talking at the same time).

                      ‌P. S. Decided to try and document my (almost) daily grocery trip in photos (the entertainment value is questionable but the views are picturesque): https://njnasekin.wordpress.com/2019/07/02/24/


                    6. You know, it’s funny—we were talking about Arthurian legend just recently, too. When you look at fictional depictions of King Arthur, then Haroun al-Rashid, the ideals they embody are quite different. Both are legendary figures, but we have more information on Haroun al-Rashid than the actual King Arthur, who may never have existed at all. I don’t think anyone would dispute the existence of Haroun al-Rashid. (Or, hey, maybe they would. Probably the same people who think the Earth is flat.)

                      “The Arabian Nights” IS the one with Scheherazade, yes. But it’s entirely possible a lot of the stories came from other sources. I haven’t looked into it at all, but I’ve always sort of assumed “The Arabian Nights” was more a collection of fairy tales than an original work. (I could be 100% wrong about that, but I’d be surprised.)

                      You know, the way you were talking about Saladin, then the poor dead farted-upon pig, my brain didn’t quite keep up with you, and I got this vivid mental image of Saladin dead in a cloud of fart gas, with a bunch of Crusaders looking on and laughing. Those were two ideas that never needed to hang together, I think. Though, the Crusades, “The Lord of the Flies”—sure. I can see the connection.

                      That’s a really appealing grocery trip, by the way. Reminds me a bit of when I lived in Sweden—I had a similar ride to the market, past forests and fields, down the river. Fewer palm trees, though. Really, no palm trees at all, except the fake fronds in the deli section. Is that a motorbike, by the way? One of those, ah, those…what do you call them? Mopeds? I used to have a bicycle, though not a motorised one. My neighbour always stole it and parked it on the other side of the courtyard when I wasn’t looking. Borrowed it, more like, as he didn’t remove it from my reach.

                      I like the menacing pigeon, by the way. That underlighting really DOES make it look like it’s lying in wait, doesn’t it?


                    7. Arthur’s story is largely about a (not very successful) attempt to transform robber barons into superheroes who go around helping the everyman instead of oppressing and taxing him to death. Haroun ar-Rashid is about the hope for a person of authority whose brain and heart are in the right place (that’s a fitting idiom for our times, “having your brain in the right place”, to be used for someone who’s not, for example, a flat-earther). So I wouldn’t say that their ideals are diametrically opposed, but Haroun is definitely more practical and down to earth. I am always skeptical about the virtue of the real life counterparts of legendary figures… For example, in Mongolia, Genghis Khan is a national hero and father figure, which isn’t quite the picture you’d get if you ask everyone else. The real ar-Rashid, by all accounts was just an alright king who happened to rule at the very peak of a prosperous era (which ended right after him because of course he had to go and divide the empire between his two sons… And those things never go well).

                      The crusaders, by the way, had at least some respect and admiration for Saladin (that can’t even be called “grudging”). So at least some of them wouldn’t be very happy with your image of him in a fart-cloud (Saladin himself probably wouldn’t be happy to be associated in any way with pigs). Knights, by the way, probably had the same relations to ideas of chivalry as real life gangsters to the image conjured by films like “The Godfather”, neither quite fit what they were like in real life, but was still aggressively used to try and conjure a sort of image.

                      I wish that moped were mine, but it would probably cost at least three to four times my monthly rent (which is tiny, but so is my income, and I’m actually trying to accumulate some savings). I walk or take the bus everywhere.

                      That pigeon probably considers whether to shit on the head of the next passerby or not, so the sinister look is very justified. I wish I could snap a good photo of a jay or a myna, but they don’t sit in conveniently lit places like pigeons do.


                    8. Though, as we see in stories like Pellinore’s, Arthurian legend is full of instances where the knights DID go around oppressing the everyman (and Arthur didn’t have much to say about it). Though, I think some of that may have been an attempt to show that they were human and flawed, and unworthy of the Siege Perilous (and, by extension, the Grail).

                      I suppose my expectations of politicians and rulers tend to be quite low. I can’t remember much about the reign of Haroun al-Rashid, except that he was apparently quite a patron of the arts, and that he oversaw a lot of civic improvement projects in and around Baghdad. For this, I presumed he must’ve been a decent king. As for the splitting of the kingdom between his two sons, well, that sounds more like the act of a father trying to show equal love to his children than a ruler considering the welfare of his subjects. Maybe he had Alzheimer’s. It hardly seems a sound decision. Yet another argument against hereditary seats of power.

                      Oh, by the way, I intended no slight to Saladin. Really, the idea of ANYONE dead in a fart cloud is ridiculous. That particular image only leapt to mind because of the abrupt shift in subjects. (The doodle, itself, was a reference to “The Lord of the Flies,” with the broken glasses and all.)

                      I used to walk everywhere, too. I miss those days. I used to walk so much the soles came off my shoes. Nowadays, my shoes are pristine.

                      If I ever visit my parents again, I’ll get a picture of a jay for you. Their garden is FULL of jays, just…loads and loads of squawking jays. They’re all over the place in Ontario, attacking people’s cats and terrorising birdfeeders.


                    9. Oh, “decent” for any politician equals “good” to “outstanding” in any other profession. The bar is that low.

                      The story of Arthur’s court only ever works as a story of failed ideals. You aim too high, try to be too perfect, and it all comes crashing down all the worse because of the all the strain you put yourself under. That kind of thing.

                      Well, no historical figure should be above ridicule, really, you can’t hurt dead people and any kind of “sacred inviolate memory” is usually exploited by oppressive regimes to manipulate the living. And I’ve totally missed the reference to “Lord of the Flies” although I’ve read the book and remember that scene. I’ve wondered about the glasses, and decided it was some kind of private reference, and also didn’t read the pig in the doodle as dead, just aghast and distressed. I kind of like when things are ambiguous like that though, when there’s a definite intent behind something that doesn’t necessarily read clearly for everyone and may have to be explained, but doesn’t need to be to make the thing interesting. A sort of optional level of meaning that can be communicated as a neat bonus.

                      Jays have the most discordant croak, don’t they? There’s this elegant, colourful bird, and you expect tuneful whistling, and then it opens its beak and you get distorted, mocking demonic laughter that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie (unlike crows, that fully fit their own acoustics). Somehow that makes them more endearing.


                    10. I really wasn’t ridiculing Saladin, though. More the foolish workings of my own brain. You have to be careful about making sport of people from that part of the world, these days, because too many people are doing it in earnest, and with quite nasty intent. It doesn’t do to give them ideas.

                      I had assumed the “Lord of the Flies” reference would be clear, as there IS a giant red fly on the pig’s behind. Maybe the picture’s too small to see the fly clearly. Or I should’ve given the pig an X for an eye, to make it clearly deceased. Ah, well. Sometimes, things don’t come across as intended. The perils of art (though, I’d hesitate to call a doodle of a dead pig “art,” as such).

                      Jays have the absolute WORST croak. And they have the personality to match. There was this forest shortcut near my parents’ house—you could run through and save yourself a good block and a half. But in the spring and summer, it wasn’t a good idea to go in, because jays would land on your head and beat you with their wings. It was very unpleasant, and sometimes they’d shit on you too. I like my jays from a distance, not clipped to my hair.

                      I must say, though, I wish we had them in Vancouver. I like their boisterous personalities. It’s odd, not seeing them around (or hearing them).


                    11. Oh. You’re right about that. I was stuck in the rut of thinking how Eastern European dictatorships used to present their “glorious leaders and glorious heritage” (still do, they’ve put an official memorial in honor of Ivan the Terrible a year or two ago, this was the guy who introduced the concepts of secret police and executing everyone who disagrees with him to Russian politics). With relation to the Middle East, one of the more depressing realizations has been that the war in Iraq was nothing more than a messy, cruel, hysterical retaliation for 11/9. Back when it happened, I was surrounded by people whom I perceived as older and smarter than me, all nodding sagely and saying that it was all worth it for the sake of toppling Saddam’s regime, a necessary operation, that was carried out “as humanely as possible”… E.t.c. E.t.c

                      The thing is, since then I’ve gathered just the occasional snippets of information about what happened there, and those were enough to make me realise what utter bullshit that was. No high ideals were worth all the misery and loss of life that occurred.

                      Anyway, I know you weren’t ridiculing Saladin.

                      Aaaand I’ve totally missed that that was a fly. I’ve stared at that little red stain and thought that it looked like some animal, but couldn’t quite make it out. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I see that it IS a fly, spindly legs and all. Small doodles are definitely art. It doesn’t always have to be deep and laborious (I mean, I don’t like Picasso, because it always feels as if he put zero effort and thought into his abstract work, but it’s still definitely art… I am not sure about the ladder though, it probably ceases to be art if the eyesore is unavoidable… In any case, I love your doodles, they’re art*. And ambiguity is good, clear messages are overrated, insult the viewer’s intelligence, you know**…)

                      *”If someone loves it, it’s art” seems to me a good criteria.

                      **I am being facetious, you don’t insult anyone’s intelligence (unless they deserve it).

                      I had no idea jays could be that aggressive. Here you usually just see one looking at you mockingly from a branch, and he will relocate to a farther tree if you try to get close. Maybe they get bold only when in groups.


                    12. You know, I believe this conversation has revealed more about our perspectives on history than it has about “The Arabian Nights,” or the Middle East of yore. Ha, ha. I was thinking about Arthur Scargill practically dancing in the streets when Margaret Thatcher died—I believe he actually said “Ding-dong, the witch is dead,” or something to that effect. Not that he didn’t have reason. Some of my earliest memories are of his flushed, furious face on my grandma’s telly. Even in black and white, you could tell he was red as a beet. I was thinking how very few leaders are loved.

                      By the way, we know all about Ivan the Terrible, even in Canada. I had no idea he’d been given a memorial, though. Dear God, why? Had he some redeeming qualities that weren’t covered in history class? The books made him seem an absolute horror of a man.

                      You know, I remember the night they executed Saddam Hussein. I couldn’t sleep because I knew they were going to do it, and at what time, and I couldn’t stop imagining I was the one about to die. I was sitting at my computer, and a car crashed under my window—like, DIRECTLY underneath. It drove up on the kerb, probably at quite a high speed, and somehow managed to turn over on its side. It was lying there leaning on…I don’t remember what…with its wheels sticking out. It gave me quite a fright, so I went to the window to watch and make sure the driver escaped. By the time the man got out, Saddam Hussein was dead.

                      Can’t say I was a fan of the man, or of his regime, but I was no more a fan of the war. Picture me nodding along with everything you just said.

                      I almost used a different picture of a fly, one that might have been a bit clearer, but it was the wrong kind of fly. Not a housefly, but some other fly-shaped insect, with longer wings and antennae. It had to be a housefly to be “Lord of the Flies,” so I used the worse photo. Come to think of it, I could’ve just DRAWN a fly. Ha, ha, ha. I’m such a wally, sometimes. (And quite lazy.)

                      What kind of jays have you got in Haifa? In Ontario, it’s blue jays. Maybe yours are some less aggressive species, because blue jays are nightmare birds. I’m fond of them, but they’re definite bastards.


                    13. Politics make everyone unpleasant, don’t they? I do my best not to discuss them with most people here, they tend to lean heavily to the right and the authoritarian. The problem is, of course, that if you tend to get along well with anyone, they assume that your views align with theirs. And then you get to that awkward moment when you can’t refrain from stating your opinion on something (it can be a small thing, like someone sagely nodding and saying in an admiring tone “Putin, he’s a smart guy, isn’t he?”… Although usually it’s people who don’t possess the concept of “low cunning” as opposed to actual “smarts”, so there’s no use bothering to protest…)

                      That statue of Ivan the Terrible… Well, it’s a lot like statues to racist Southern generals in the US, lots of people would claim it as “part of our glorious history” and would go on to argue that “Ivan did nothing wrong” (you should see how high Stalin’s and Lenin’s approval rating is today, which is far more dismaying, considering how recent these people were). It is also likely a troll move on Putin’s part. Since everyone is calling him a dictator, it’d be just like him to put up a statue to another unlikeable ruler as a sort of “fuck you”/”because I can” gesture.

                      Eerie, anxious, sleepless nights are the worst, aren’t they? I didn’t watch Saddam’s execution or any of the ISIS execution videos that circulated later. There’s something unpleasantly participatory in the idea, as if you’re sanctioning and feeding the thing, giving your own little tacit approval (or getting a thrill out of someone else’s misery). The bit with the car is very eerie.

                      Here in Israel we have Eurasian Jays, which are clearly more timid (and also not half as pretty as Blue Jays). The real bastards here are Mynas, I’ve just heard a story about two of them attacking their own reflections in a mirror, and just witnessed another two screeching derisively at a cat from a lamppost (they usually come in pairs). Also in bird drama: there’s a completely tailless crow in the park below. Surprisingly, it can fly as well as the other crows (and generally seems to be happy and accepted).

                      P. S. By the way, I’ve mentioned that the pomegranates that you can pick here on the street are probably not edible, and that’s because they’re usually not bigger than this:https://njnasekin.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/28/


                    14. Jesus. That is one TINY pomegranate. You should open it anyway, though. See if there ARE seeds. There’ve gotta be SOME in there, at least a wee handful. Because otherwise, what’s the point? A fruit with no seeds, how would that help anyone? It wouldn’t grow. (Not that there’d be much point in going through all the bother of opening a pomegranate to eat six or seven seeds. But maybe, if you were hungry enough….)

                      Ah, yes. Eurasian jays are a completely different species. Blue jays are the arseholes of the jay world. Magpie jays are the beauty queens. Not sure what Eurasian jays are. I’ve never seen one. So many birds I haven’t seen. I HAVE seen a myna, though. It was at…maybe Birdland, I think. Someone had taught it to talk. I got in an argument with it. It kept telling me I was a naughty boy. I kept telling it I wasn’t a boy. (I was three. Obviously, I now know better than to argue with a bird.)

                      How would a crow become tailless, I wonder? Is it just missing the feathers, or has it some skeletal abnormality? If it’s just the feathers, maybe they’ll grow back.

                      I didn’t watch Saddam’s execution either (didn’t even know that was an option; wouldn’t have watched it if I had). I haven’t watched the beheading videos either. Death isn’t dignified. Watching someone at the moment of their death feels like a violation, especially if they haven’t consented to it. If it’s someone I cared about, obviously I’d sit with them if they wanted me to. That’s another thing entirely. But some stranger being murdered…no. No, no. I wouldn’t want to be seen that way. Can’t imagine too many people would.

                      You know, I went back and looked at how I described the car thing in my old blog (I found it on archive.org and downloaded it, as I’d lost it long ago), and apparently, I wasn’t alone that night. I’d completely forgotten there was someone else with me. All I remembered was the car, and my own thoughts. Wonder what that says about me…. (Probably nothing good.)

                      Oh, that’s just the worst, when you’re having a nice chat with someone, and you suddenly realise they’re a Trumpet or an anti-vaxxer or some other brand of awful, and you don’t want to get drawn into something, but all you can hear in your head is “qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit,” and you HAVE to say something. You can’t not, or you’re the second arsehole at the table. But sometimes, it would be so much easier to pretend you didn’t hear.

                      Man, I’m so tired today. What a waste of a day.


                    15. I’ve always assumed these tiny pomegranates were inedible, and I was right: https://njnasekin.wordpress.com/2019/07/05/31/
                      Well, there are seeds in it at least (you’ll forgive me for not trying to eat it, it smells kinda grassy… Like, when it’s wet and already started to decay a bit).

                      Eurasian Jays would probably be shabbily, yet elegantly, dressed Dickensian pickpockets (like the Artful Dodger in “Oliver Twist”). I’ve never actually seen them steal anything, but that’s the vibe they exude (isn’t that an awful word? Exude… It has that abrupt, somewhat “spitty” sound that invariably makes you imagine something gross, it’s almost onomatopoeic (“ex-yuuude”, it’s like that tubular thing Trump does with his lips where you can imagine the flying spit)… Things can’t exude perfume, it must be an odour*….).

                      *fun fact: in Russian, the term for “incense” is literally “bene-stinkery”.

                      Mynas look like they want to argue with you even when they don’t talk, they have that ostentatious little strut that gives the impression that they’re right about everything, and you, your opinion doesn’t matter… Every condescending suited douche in a movie is a good approximation of a myna. Wouldn’t fault an adult arguing with one out of pure inertia.

                      A crow would become tailless most likely because of a near escape from a cat. There are a lot of cats in the area. A few weeks ago I’ve actually seen one eating a pigeon, and usually you can find little birdy remains here and there, a few bones, a few feathers. Street cats are a real problem in that regard.

                      That’s exactly the thing, death isn’t dignified. If you can’t ease someone’s final moments, you shouldn’t embarrass them by intruding.

                      When things assume that fever dream quality, perception – and consequently memory, become very selective. Whole chunks of reality can just fall through your memory, including people… So it doesn’t say anything awful about you (if you really want to indulge in a bout of self deprecation though, the worst that it says about you is that you can become really self-absorbed… To the point of not noticing everyone else, running people over with your bicycle sort of thing).

                      I’ve read a mystery novel where if captured, ninjas were supposed to cut their own face off before performing seppuku, it was by Boris Akunin who’s supposedly a researcher of medieval Japan, but even then, that reads like an apocryphal detail invented for drama. People who had their face (mostly) torn off by bears did manage to stumble through a forest to get rescued… So most people probably won’t pass out from it. Still, extremely unpleasant. That’s the worst thing about serial killers, in getting back at them, they make you descend to their level. Although killing one when he tries to kill you is definitely karma…
                      All this talk of “getting back at” reminds me of this rat video (there’s no violence in it, and in fact, you may have seen it before, it’s pretty internet famous): https://youtu.be/Cc-gx1bS8yM

                      Also, here’s a cute nightjar doing nightjar things: https://youtu.be/nkjGaSpeP6s
                      This one’s for the desolateness, and limpness, and the headache. May they pass quickly.


                    16. Oh, that IS a cute nightjar. Its little waddle! Ha, ha, ha! I hardly ever see nightjars in the flesh. Then again, I’m rarely out at night. They hide themselves pretty well during the day, all those sorts of birds. I hadn’t seen the rat video before, either. That was funny. I wonder if the cat was actually afraid of the rat, or if it had played with that rat before, and arrived at an understanding with it, a sort of…mutual non-biting accord? I suppose one will never know.

                      I wouldn’t really cut anyone’s face off, by the way. Not even a serial killer’s. I doubt I’d murder anyone at all, no matter what they did to deserve it. But keeping the option open is an attractive thought, under certain circumstances. As for the ninja thing, I can’t imagine that’s true. What would be the point? To conceal their identities? Why bother? A ninja wouldn’t be all that important. His intended victim knowing his identity wouldn’t matter much.

                      I CAN be really self-absorbed, by the way, and I almost DID hit someone with a bicycle, once. Not because of self-absorption, though. Because the bicycle was too big for me, I wasn’t strong enough to operate the brakes effectively, and I was careening down a hill with no way to stop. I swerved out into traffic and hit the back of someone’s car instead, and even that didn’t stop me. I sort of…glanced off, went around the car, and kept going down the hill. At last, at the bottom, I slowed to the point I could jump down. Fortunately, the driver of the car didn’t seem to mind (or notice, perhaps). I’m pretty sure I left a scratch.

                      Oh, that tiny pomegranate is heartbreaking. The seeds are like…just the insides of seeds. The whole good part is missing, the red part. The part you want to eat. That’s a miserable pomegranate.

                      You know, there was a crow that used to come to my feeder, a few years ago, and it got hit by a car. It was in a terrible state, hardly able to fly, but still it kept coming. I thought about catching it and taking it to a vet, but fortunately, I didn’t succeed. (Fortunately, because it was a father, or perhaps a mother. It showed up a couple of weeks later with a minicrow in tow, which it fed from my feeder. The two came all summer. I’d hate to think the little one might’ve starved if I’d snatched up its father.)


                    17. I haven’t considered that the chase between the rat and the cat might’ve been a game, but now that you mentioned it, it’s the version I’m going to stick to in my head. Friendships between animals of different species always seems both a miracle and the most natural thing that should’ve happened, especially if it happens to replace prey-predator relations. That seems to give some hope that we can learn to get along too, maybe (I hate it when people appeal to “circle of life”/”nature red in tooth and claw” as justification for all kinds of nastiness… Nature is imperfect as fuck and full of mistakes, predation might have been one all along).

                      And speaking of nastiness, I don’t see you as someone who would murder (or torture) anyone either. That was just a morbid tangent. I like the idea of sitting in a living room dressed in a gown and eating grapes, and just being as nonchalant as possible, during a crime show interview. Those things always seem determined to underline the victimhood of the victims. No respect for people’s dignity at all.

                      Your bicycle story reminds me of what’s it like to cross a road in India. There, you get three/four lane highways with no explicit pedestrian crossings, with traffic that is almost constant, that the locals cross nevertheless because they’re literally attuned to traffic’s rhythm. And they do it seamlessly, in one go, picking just the right spaces between cars that will prevent them from being run over, all while the cars keep moving (they’re not used to stopping or even slowing down for you, you’re the one who’s supposed to know when to move).

                      When, you, as a foreigner, attempt to do the same thing, it becomes a ridiculous spectacle of short zig zag runs back and forth as you badly mistime your windows of opportunity and cars screeching to a halt just inches short of running you over while the driver shouts at you to get out of the way. Quite undignified.

                      That’s a really responsible crow parent. I wonder how animals perceive concepts like responsibility or loyalty. They definitely feel them, but probably can’t separate them into a tangible “thing”. Much like us, when we like someone without quite realizing it, only they’re stuck forever in that area of undefinable and fuzzy emotions. Or maybe they do have some non verbal ways of organising their feelings.

                      I like your bitey possum.


                    18. Hard to say, with animals. You know, biology class teaches you it’s hard-wired behaviour, that they do the things they do because that’s what they are, and in many cases, I’m sure that’s correct. But that doesn’t explain, say, crows leaving presents for people who feed them a lot, or birds flying over to sit with their ailing owners. There’s little enough biological reason to do that, unless, perhaps, to assure the food keeps coming. But more and more, people who study these things seem to be concluding that animals, or at least SOME animals, are capable of more than we thought. Language. Abstract thought. Affection. There’s a species of parrot, for instance, that names its young, a different squawk for each of them. Why do they need to identify each other? Who knows? But they’re doing it.

                      Thanks, by the way, re: the bitey possum. I was in rather a bitey possum mood yesterday. It seemed to fit, I thought.

                      You know, I think I missed a lot when I went to India. I spent most of my visit hiding on a rooftop to avoid people who were vomiting. Not only did I get a horrible sunburn, I never even TRIED to cross a road. Never went shopping. Never saw much in the way of countryside or architecture. All I did was sit up there and watch the street, and wish it was all over. Fear ruins everything. I was so afraid of seeing someone vomit, or catching what they had, I couldn’t even run through the house to get outside. I thought about jumping down, but I was afraid of that too.

                      I certainly wouldn’t torture anyone. There’s no excuse for that. Murder, though, maybe. I thought about it once. Got a knife. But even then, I suppose I knew I wouldn’t go through with it. Still, the idea that I MIGHT was comforting for a while. I’m not sure what it would take to push me over that edge. Maybe nothing would, short of a him-or-me situation.

                      You know, I did once do a sci-fi novel where scavenging, not predation, was the norm for carnivores (including humanoids). But that particular project got cancelled. There was some sort of issue with the market research, so it got, y’know, shelved for the foreseeable future. It’s kind of annoying, because I got paid for it and don’t hold the copyright, so I can’t do anything with it. But the publisher isn’t using it either. No-one will ever get to read it, in all likelihood. Ah, well. Them’s the breaks. It wasn’t my best work, anyway.


                    19. I think that there is a big gray area between “hard-wired” and voluntary action… Or maybe even, that the hard-wired stuff doesn’t feel hard-wired once you’re the one experiencing it, or vice versa. We’ve got our own little compulsions as opposed to voluntary actions, and we (more or less) know which are which, and even with very compulsive things (like a chemical addiction) there is a certain latitude of choice. So we don’t necessarily see ourselves as “hard-wired” to do things. But an outside observer, especially if they were from an alien planet and thus without a good idea “what’s it like” to be human, would probably categorise most of our actions as hard-wired (even those that were entirely by voluntary choice) simply because they fall into predictable patterns. I suspect that we view animals through the same lens, we see predictable patterns of behaviour, but we’re not privy to the decision-making that led to those patterns, so we err on the side of assuming that there wasn’t much decision-making involved.

                      In any case, parent-hood in particular, is probably as “hard-wired” for humans as it is for all other warm blooded animals (won’t be so sure about arthropods, some of them are surprisingly parental (like earwigs and certain spiders), some decidedly not, in any case, belonging to a species, for them, really seems to be the determining part… Same for reptiles/fish/amphibians). And you still get wildly different parenting approaches (from irresponsible and neglectful to smothering and overbearing, and sometimes even loving, thoughtful and sane). I would bet that most mammals and birds are much the same (you can definitely see that with cats and dogs).

                      In any case, I think animals engage in as much decision-making as we, they just can’t articulate it very well (maybe not even to themselves, if that makes sense).

                      I had no idea about parrots that name their young, I’ve read somewhere that we’re pretty sure that dolphins use names (much of their sonar language remains undecoded). Just goes to show that cognition is a spectrum. There was also a fairly recent article somewhere about a discovery that (in humans) the brain circuitry for language builds upon pre-existing circuitry for spatial navigation (which is also used for communication by other social animals, like rats). Which makes a lot of sense.

                      I would guess the bitey possum mood was caused by a real request for a 6000 word sample… Or just a generally frustrating day?

                      I don’t think you can enjoy exploring anything when you’re afraid, unless you get so immersed that you forget your fear… I remember walking home along a street high up the mountain, with a thunderstorm just minutes away, and picking up the pace while imagining how the lightning can hit me at any moment. Would’ve enjoyed the walk much more without that going through my mind.

                      Oddly, when people admit that, given the circumstances, they could probably kill somebody, it’s easy to trust that they most likely never will. While those that declaim that they would never ever, well… You never know. Protesting too much and all that.

                      Unfortunately, I do remember the worst joke ever (anti-joke, really), it’s in Russian, and goes like this:
                      “The hedgehog has learned to breathe through his butthole…

                      *pregnant pause*

                      He sat down on a tree stump, and suffocated.”

                      I am sure your Geraldo Rivera joke was better, much better (the hedgehog joke…? It was repeated ad nauseam in kiddy circles, and later by a cousin who stayed to visit… He didn’t find the joke itself amusing as much as how everyone hated him telling it for the umpteenth time).

                      I wish I had a good joke to tell to make up for the awfulness of the above, but I don’t remember any, alas. They’ve all… Vamoosed.

                      A purple kimono sounds cool, even if it were cheap.


                    20. With hard-wired behaviour, I was referring to something more specific, I think, than what you’re talking about. I meant only behaviours that are so much part of an organism, they exist even in individuals that have never met another of their species. Certain birds, for example, you can’t really domesticate—a kiwi, I think, is one of them—because they come into the world knowing how to be what they are, and they stick to that no matter what. You can try to teach a kiwi to behave like a domestic animal, but it will never be interested in you or your human customs. It will always be a kiwi and do kiwi things. I believe bears are similar, or some species, anyway. You can maybe get one not to attack you on sight, but you can’t properly tame one. They’ll always be bears.

                      I’m not sure what a human being would retain, never having met another human being. I’d guess there’d be a desire to communicate, even without language, as we are social animals. There might be a desire to sing, or vocalise in some way. I don’t think we have as much, y’know, built-in code as a kiwi would, though. We don’t come into the world knowing how to be human. Our parents have to teach us that, and I think that’s true for most social animals. Rats definitely learn from their parents. Cats try to teach us things, apparently, like how to hunt, which means cats must do the same.

                      When I was in university, the consensus was that we are the only sentient animals, and all others operate on instinct and innate programming. More and more, that’s being shown untrue. Really, it’s quite arrogant to assume nothing else is sentient. (And quite a lonely thought, as well, that if we died off, nothing would remain with the capacity for thought or joy or progress.)

                      I wonder how hard-wired parenthood really IS for human beings. We certainly have a sex drive, which leads to procreation, but the actual parenting part…not all of us are made for that. My parents, for instance—man, did they fuck up. Ha, ha, ha. I don’t think they wanted a family. I’m sure they regret it to this day. My mother’s admitted she wouldn’t have bothered, had she been able to see the future. (That wasn’t as cruel as it sounded. She didn’t mean, y’know, had she been able to see how I’d turn out. She meant, had she been able to see what the world would turn into.)

                      You’re right about the bitey possum mood. While I rephrased the client’s e-mail so he wouldn’t recognise it, should he stumble upon this blog, he DID request two free chapters. I ended up writing back and suggesting I submit an outline of my own for his approval, then write the first two chapters at my usual rate, with the added advantage that we could put them towards our first project together. But he couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the idea that he’d have to pay whether he liked them or not. Not even after I’d explained that the samples he’d enjoyed so much were unedited and unpublished, and entirely representative of my first drafts. It’s like, dude. That’s what samples are FOR, so you don’t have to annoy me with this nonsense.

                      That hedgehog joke is TERRIBLE, by the way. I can’t imagine the Geraldo joke was worse. Still, I hate not being able to remember it. I remember thinking it was absolutely hilarious, at the time, and the reaction it got made it even better. Ah, well. Some things just slip through one’s fingers, I suppose.

                      Now that I think about it, I had a lot of fun clothes back then. Cheap as hell, as I was poor…I’d always pretend I WANTED to dress that way, when in fact, it was all I could afford. I got everything second-hand, and I’m sure I looked like a 70s nightmare, but looking back on it, some of those clothes were great. Ha, everything’s better in hindsight.


                    21. Yes, apparently there is an age threshold beyond which humans are unable to learn how to speak, if I remember correctly all those stories about feral children. Cats patronising their owners is definitely a thing, by the way (speaking of cats specifically, some can learn to open doors and even use human toilets, but not every cat… Spatial perception in general is something a good deal of animals struggle with for some reason (all those videos of dogs trying to carry a long stick through a narrow doorway)… But in any case, some animals of the same species being smarter than others is evidence enough for thought and capability for progress… My favourite article on that theme was about honey bees’ capability to get depressed, which is not something you would expect out of an arthropod, especially one that lives in a hive socium).

                      The weather has been particularly awful these past few days, you could shower three times a day and still end up feeling like a tiny piece of swamp (sweaty, sticky, your brain undergoing slow fermentation). You procrastinate about everything (even, possibly, about procrastination), and of course it turns into one of those stretches of days when you’re “busy”, because nothing gets done.

                      I’m sorry about the hedgehog joke, I really am.

                      You know, that idea you’re trying to delete from livejournal? I bet you could use it without any trouble, because the internet, by now, has become those proverbial million monkeys with typewriters who, given infinite amount of time, produce the full works of Shakespeare through sheer chance. Everything is already out there in some form, you just haven’t encountered it. Or at least, that’s what it feels like. Besides, who reads sex chats on livejournal? Maybe many more people than I think. Maybe this is terrible advice.

                      Sex on the beach sounds terrible, although making out with a view on the sea IS memorable and romantic and all that. Cosy familiarity? That’s the secret cheatcode not to be revealed by romance novels… It’s something people ought to discover for themselves as they get older. Something to make up for all the disappointments that come with age.

                      Sincerest condolences on the butthurt.


                    22. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Thanks for the condolences on my butthurt. I’m sure I’ll recover in due course. 😉

                      The thing with the idea I’m trying to delete from Livejournal is that I made the mistake of admitting it’s there. So the publisher who likes the idea is aware of the problem, and won’t touch the idea till I get it out of there. Maybe I’ll try another publisher. I work with a few. It’s just, that particular one tends to be more receptive to my ideas than the others. Augh. What a pain. I’m such a twit, sometimes.

                      This particular sex chat was sort of legendary, in its day, because it was utterly ridiculous and spawned a lot of memes. But you’re probably right. Those “ate my balls” memes were EVERYWHERE in, what, 1996, and who remembers those? They were FAR more notorious than that sex chat, and nobody posts them any more.

                      I suppose you’re right about cosy familiarity and romance novels. I’d imagine a lot of the people who read them already HAVE that, and what they’re missing is that initial spark. I suppose I’d be writing in the wrong genre, were I catering to my own taste, but I’m not. I understand WHAT to write, if not always WHY I have to write it.

                      I hate that scummy swamp weather, by the way. Humidity is such a bane, and it’s only going to get worse with the Earth heating up. Me, I’ve been staying inside, mostly, all flattened out and feeling sick. I tried to work without sitting up, today, but it wasn’t effective. I had to get out of bed.

                      I had no idea bees could get depressed. How would you know if a bee is depressed?

                      Also, I wouldn’t want a cat using my toilet. Can you imagine getting up in the middle of the night, bumbling through in the dark and sitting on the toilet, only to find it covered in cat piss? (And we HAVE just established I’m not keen on piss. Ha, ha, ha.) I don’t know. The idea of something else using the toilet I have to use, especially something that doesn’t understand hygiene, from a human perspective, is repellent. If I ever get a cat, I’m keeping the bathroom door closed, to prevent any unauthorised, ah, deposits. Eugh.


                    23. You know what you could do? Build a sort of backrest out of several pillows, then you could lie in a propped up position, like on a dentist couch, which would allow work, but still feel comfortable and relaxing. Best setup is by the nightstand side, so you can have tea while you work (whenever I imagine getting sick, there’s always this picture in my mind of being tucked in behind an extra comfy blanket and having tea with raspberry jam… The reality, of course, never lives up to the fantasy).

                      Looking up the article again, they haven’t concluded that bees get depressed with hundred per cent certainty, but after being exposed to stressful situations bees become much less responsive to positive stimuli and the level of hormones in their brain that correlates to wellbeing drops. So if we could imagine what being a bee is like, depression would be a good analogy.

                      You’re a real internet veteran. I had no idea there were memes going back as far as the middle 90’s. I first got online in 2001, 2002? Something like that. Ancient history by now. I miss those times, everything seemed new (and shiny, the Apple aesthetic wasn’t in yet, computers were in that warm ivory/beige colour, the pixeliness of the graphics was exciting…). Of course all of this is through the lens of early teenage years. I usually don’t think about it, but whenever something prompts me to remember that period, the nostalgia bites sharply.

                      You could sneak a cosy scene into a book anyway, after all the beach/shower sex checklist’s been completed. Just a small interlude of cuddling and pillow talk. Your publisher couldn’t fault you for that.

                      And you’re right about cats and toilets, haven’t thought of that.

                      That idea definitely should be shopped around in that case. The one who’s being a twit in this situation is the publisher (if you’re ever going to be a twit, you’d still be my favourite twit).


                    24. I do that with pillows, sometimes, but they always seem to squash down pretty fast, and I end up either hunched over my computer with my legs sticking straight out or half-lying, half-sitting, squinting at the screen. There’s this big orange chair in my living room that’s better for my back, but it lacks the convenience of a nightstand. I’ve been thinking about getting a new bed, in fact, one of those ones where you can adjust the angle so you can sit up or lie down, but I’m not sure how I’d get rid of the old one. Maybe the delivery people could take it away. Large pieces of furniture are such a pain when it’s time to replace them.

                      Now, by the way, I’m wondering what being a bee would be like, in its natural state and a depressed one. You’d picture quite a fragrant and sunsoaked existence, eh?—all flowers and pollen and lazy, dusty rays. I suppose that would be a good day for a bee, and a bad day would be one where it gets stuck in a car park, and it’s all just grey and asphalt, and it gets tired and has to rest on the roof of someone’s car. That sounds pretty bleak.

                      When I first got online, it was all dialup and BBS services, slow as hell and quite a different landscape. A personal webpage was unheard-of. I can’t remember when I noticed the first memes, but really, I’d say they’ve been out there since the start. Even in my Weird Sex Stories days, there were little snippets and phrases that’d catch on and hop from post to post. Like, a “Smelsky” was an urban legend, though I don’t believe the phrase “urban legend” had, itself, been coined then. But there was this guy Smelsky, and he posted a story that’s apparently been circulating for decades (the one where they’re doing it in the bum, and the receiver shits on the giver, who then vomits on the receiver), and everyone called bullshit. It started a massive flame war, and from then on, any time somebody posted a lame or suspect story, you’d definitely get a “Smelsky!” popping up. That’d have been, oh, 1991 or so, maybe as early as 1990, so memes have been happening all along. Not picture memes, obviously, but little persistent keywords that everyone understood.

                      You know what really gets me nostalgic, though? Those old Sierra games. King’s Quest, Quest for Glory…those crappy CGA/EGA graphics make me smile. And 8-bit music. Can’t forget that.

                      I do put in scenes like that, with the cuddling and pillow talk. I mean, I might’ve given an exaggerated impression of just how much sex is in the average romance novel. Some don’t have any explicit sex. Others have quite a lot. The average is 2-3 naughty scenes in a 60,000-word book, so there’s plenty of room for other stuff. You get your conversation, your story, your character development, as in any other book. But what you won’t see is a sex scene that IS pretty much just snuggling, like when you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel like moving, so you just nudge up from behind and put your hand (or your willy), well, where you want it. You don’t get THAT in a fuckbook. I sort of wish you did.

                      As for the forbidden idea, I suppose I could go the self-publishing route, but I’m rubbish at self-promotion. I’d fail if I did that. I should just write the thing in my free time and sell it to whoever will take it.


                    25. An adjustable bed sounds like a good idea, it’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t be a luxury item but the bottomline default. With the pillows, I usually prop them against a wall and myself against them, if you arrange them just right, they shouldn’t squash much… Unless they’re really soft. An adjustable bed is definitely the way to go.

                      Bees see the ultraviolet spectrum on top of the colours that we perceive, so their picture of the world is much trippier than ours*. The sun, for them, would probably be a sort of electric, dark blue colour… So your typical cozy summer scene would look like something from a 60’s psychedelic cover, and even an overcast sky would be anything but grey. They definitely don’t enjoy rain though, and can indeed get lost and fatigued. You can sometimes find bees that are too tired to fly crawling listlessly on the pavement. If you give them sugar water to drink, they’ll be able to fly again (and will avoid a slow death by starvation). Bees probably can feel gratitude.

                      *In fact, many flowers have markings showing the way to the nectar that can be seen only in the UV spectrum. Exclusively for the bees.

                      I think I may have even encountered the original “Smelsky”, although it’s hard to tell considering how many stories like that circulate around… Our generation just might be the most desensitised one yet, though that’s a dubious claim to fame. I only ever played Quest for Glory IV, but the graphics and the music ARE nostalgic and memorable. I wonder if there are any new games like that…

                      You know, quiet, lazy intimacy just doesn’t exist in porn in general. Not much voyeur value out of people snuggling for an hour or more. It is the sort of thing you miss more than actual sex when you’re single, just warmth and presence (shared orgasms are more like a neat bonus).

                      The swampy weather continues and if possible got even swampier. Hope you’re OK and it’s not so bad at your side of the pond.

                      P. S. The racoon deserves an “emotional support” title too.


                    26. Sadly, they’re priced like a luxury item. But then, I spend thousands of dollars on idiotic things like necklaces and videogames, which have no use whatsoever. Of course I can pay a reasonable price for a bed. It’s just, boring purchases never feel quite so good, do they? You don’t get excited waiting for the delivery of a bed. (Well, in this case, I might. My current bed should’ve been replaced some time ago. It’s a box spring, and somewhat aged, and the springs poke me in the night. My mother complains about it when she visits, as the springs poke her too.)

                      I think I would hate living in the bee world. I’m more or less colourblind, and even I find the world quite visually overwhelming. Red is the only colour that really stands out to me, for some reason. It’s the only one that feels like a “real” colour, a distinct one that can’t be confused with any other. Yellow, green, and blue are all just shades of the same colour. Brown and beige don’t feel like proper colours at all. Purple and orange are just, like…contaminated reds. I would not like a trippy 1960s world, no, not one bit.

                      I’ve heard about giving bees sugar water, but the only time I seem to find bees on the ground, they’re already dead. I found one in a glass on my counter last week. I’m not sure how long it had been there, but it couldn’t have been TOO long. My housekeeper would’ve cleared it away, had it been there when she came.

                      I think that story has been around longer than either of us has been alive, by the way. One of the guys shouting it down was well into his seventies, and that was ages ago. He said he’d heard it when HE was young, and from more than one source. I think it’s one of those cautionary tales, like “don’t do anal, or you’ll end up in a horrible shit-and-barf chain reaction.” Rather unlikely, I should think. Most people are aware of the, ah, risks, if they’re going to indulge in that sort of thing, and I’d guess their stomachs are strong enough to handle it.

                      There are new games like that, including a new one that got Kickstarted a few years ago by the same people who made the original Quest for Glory series, but I haven’t played them. I don’t want to, because I’m afraid it wouldn’t be the same, and I’d just end up disappointed and bored. I’ve been finding that a lot lately, with games. Maybe I’ve just played too many, and the thrill’s worn thin. Sad, that. But I think part of it is that the music seems uninspired, lately. Like, with the recent “Final Fantasy” games, they’ve changed composers, and I’m simply not interested. Way back when, the music was a huge part of what kept me going. Like, the overworld music in “Final Fantasy VI” made it my favourite of the series. That and the opera scene. There’s nothing like that any more. “Katamari Damacy” was another one where the music just made it. Every single song on that was a winner. Made me so happy every time.

                      I guess you’re right. Despite what that recent entry might’ve suggested, I honestly don’t look at that much porn. Everyone looks at it once in a while, I suppose, but I only get curious occasionally. I’ve never tried searching for “cuddling” or “lazy sex” on Pornhub, though. Ha, ha. I usually look for something more quick and visually striking. I don’t want to watch THAT long. Not for an hour or more. That would just be weird. That would be like…actually intruding on someone’s life. You can’t get the feeling of intimacy from a purely visual medium. But in a book, I thought maybe you could. Different medium, and all.

                      Ah. I do miss the warmth of another body. I always forget about that, when I have someone, and then when I don’t, I get irritable for want of it.

                      It’s quite hot and humid here, too. I’ve had an irritating couple of days, what with heartburn and a disappointment at work (a project I was excited about ran out of money). Fortunately, it wasn’t my main employer going bankrupt, but it WAS the most interesting assignment I had, and now it’s finished. Or finished for now, at least. You never know, down the road.

                      An emotional support raccoon, eh? How about an emotional support…rhinoceros? Oh, dear. Now, that would be tragic.


                    27. Actually, I might get excited about the delivery of an adjustable bed. Anything that facilitates lazing about with a cup of tea and book sounds good. Back in India my mother had this chair, the kind where you can lounge back with your legs stretched on a footstool, half sinking into the cushions, it was the best place to read. Now that I move places every year or two, I can’t afford something like that. Of course I can’t really afford hauling around a bed either, even an adjustable one.

                      A prickly spring mattress does sound terribly uncomfortable. I’d say that’s reason enough to be moderately excited about getting a new bed.

                      I must say, I wouldn’t really want to see the world in bee vision either, no emotional attachment to weird colour schemes (although bees probably do have that). I like warm reds as opposed to cold, especially in combination with yellows and oranges (and browns). Cheerfully fiery sort of colour schemes. I like greens though too, especially citrusy bright greens that tend to yellow (come to think of it, yellow by itself is a really “meh” colour, but it combines well with all others). Red is the most emphatic colour though (if I remember correctly, red objects actually appear nearer), and the one colour where too much of it feels like a sensory overload. I also like grey, or rather specifically, grey overcast skies where you get pearly iridescence slowly shifting to solid, dark, brooding greys, with the occasional ray of sunlight breaking through like in a biblical woodcut. Much more interesting than clear blue skies (although that’s nice too, on a brisk morning).

                      I don’t get much opportunities to rescue bees, but I do make a point of letting out moths and flies who get trapped in a window.

                      Yeah, that story sound like something you’d hear in middle school, when that one kid wants to prove that he’s more “mature” than others while also shocking his audience. I don’t think I ever saw anyone vomit from disgust, by the way. I’m sure it happens, but much more rarely than people assume.

                      I haven’t played anything in ages, except for the occasional action game that I use as a ten minutes’ brain cleanser. But nothing immersive or story based. Maybe writing in games has to make a leap of quality or two to captivate an audience beyond a certain age (I had this thing with anime, where a friend recommended a bunch of titles and I couldn’t make it through a single one of them, and I’m not a snob, the writing was that bad). Had to look up the “Final Fantasy” opera scene on YouTube, which was adorable (they even made the singing kind of work in a midi format).

                      Game soundtracks actually got me into classical music. Specifically, the expansion to “Diablo 2” which had music recorded with a live orchestra and featuring direct quotations from Holst and Wagner. At the same time there was also a CD with an orchestral arrangement of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at the Exhibition” (plus “Night on the Bald Mountain”) and another of Dmitry Hvorostovsky singing “Songs and Dances of Death” (talk about macabre). Both saw constant play (together with Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”… I believe those were all the music CDs we had). We had this large stereo system with a tray that accommodated three CD’s and impressive speakers (I don’t think I see those anymore… If only I could get a house without neighbours in the immediate proximity, so music could be blasted full volume at any time of the day… ONE small luxury to aim for).

                      I don’t look at much porn either. It was exciting back in early teenage years, when sex was this new thing you’ve just discovered and you’ve never seen naked people before, or at least, not like that (and it could land you in trouble if you got caught). But once you actually get to have sex, it becomes oddly unsatisfying. And yes, once you feel as if you’re intruding on something private, it becomes kind of a turn off. Voyeurism is not my kink.

                      Just recently I realized that another thing I miss when single is going shopping together, although “shopping” might be a misleading term, because it doesn’t necessarily entail buying anything, just walking around the shop and discussing what kind of saucers or tea kettle would look best in the ideal kitchen. Usually, I’m fairly indifferent to decor, unless it’s really horrible, but the act of planning it together is really fun, especially if your partner really gets into it and geeks over a set of spoons more than you ever would, but it’s contagious.

                      If all problems could be made to go away by facebooking… Ah, bookfacing*… Life would definitely be much easier.

                      *”The Scholar’s Palmface”

                      An emotional support rhino is actually a good idea, you could hide behind it from any dangers. And speaking of cuddles, the thick skinned and wrinkly deserve love too.


                    28. Ah, yes, I have a chair like that. It’s a goony-looking thing, the exact colour and texture of a basketball. My mother calls it the Spalding chair. But she’s the one who persuaded me I needed it. I didn’t want it at all. I thought it was stupid and expensive. But she went on about how comfortable it was till I let her bring it home for a test drive, and once I sat in it, I couldn’t send it back. It’s the reason my whole apartment has that orange theme going on. When you have something like that, a great orange monstrosity in the middle of your living room, you kind of have to own it. Otherwise, it looks like a mistake.

                      Everyone should have a comfortable place to sit or lie. Really, even park benches should be made more comfy, for people who have no other options. I could picture park benches with, y’know, rounded arms and cradlesome backs, maybe with dry moss growing over them. Inviting places to lie. They should do that, I think. Make the world one big bed. Ah. I’m feeling tired and stiff. I’m craving comfort everywhere.

                      Funny you should mention grey, pearlescent skies. You have no idea how many times I’ve tried to photograph just that effect over the mountains, here, but I can’t quite catch the luminosity. Photography isn’t my forte: I can’t see without my specs, but once I put them on, it’s hard to look through the viewfinder. I don’t think that’s the problem, though. I think the camera’s “eye” doesn’t see that type of light the way the human eye does. It loses something of the subtlety. Oh, I’m sure there’s some way to catch it, but I don’t know what it is.

                      You’re right about the writing in games. Time was, just the music was enough to make them a fairly immersive experience, especially if the art was also good, but as an adult, I crave something meatier. A story that’ll grab me. I don’t want to sit through a dozen tired cutscenes about the power of friendship in the face of catastrophe.

                      Speaking of games, though, it’s funny. They were your entry into classical music, but they were mine into popular music. Growing up, I didn’t have a television in the house, and my parents always had the radio tuned to the classical station. I didn’t recognise anything post-1900 as music when I first ventured out into the world. (In hindsight, it might’ve been a bit cruel of them, not giving me a glimpse of ANYTHING other kids might be into. I had no idea what anyone was talking about, when the subject of TV or music came up.)

                      All through the ’80s, I’d hear Belinda Carlyle, y’know, or…or, ah, Guns ‘n Roses, and I’d just be confused. But playing games helped bridge the gap. A lot of them had soundtracks that were melodic with pop elements, and I slowly started working my way through the 20th century after high school. (Never got much farther than the ’60s, but I’m happiest in the years between doo-wop and rock-and-roll. And a bit of metal, here and there.)

                      Oh, did you know Dmitry Hvorostovsky died? Quite a while ago, I think. He was young, too. Cancer.

                      Here’s a funny thing about porn: when my thirteenth birthday was coming up, I kept bugging my mother, trying to find out what she’d got me. She said “a porno book,” and I assumed she said that to shut me up. But she actually HAD got me an illustrated copy of “Il Decamerone.” I believe it was her version of the talk. So the human body was never much of a mystery to me. I only really look at porn if I want to see something I wouldn’t do in real life. Otherwise, it’s, hmm…maybe because it was never forbidden, I never found it interesting, in and of itself.

                      I like that too, in a relationship. Not GOING shopping, I mean, because I can’t. But going on the Internet, looking at possibilities, Photoshopping stuff into the living room. That’s fun. Or sending someone out to shop for me and texting back and forth, though that’s less intimate. Must be that “nesting” thing people talk about. Human-sized birds feathering our nests.

                      I think an emotional support rhino would be a double-edged sword. You could hide behind it, yes…but where would you hide FROM it?


                    29. It does look good though, the orange theme (white and orange in general are a successful combination).

                      That just reminds me of those horrible park benches with partitions in the middle of the bench, all to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them. We even have them here is Israel in some places. Fully in favour of soft mossy benches.

                      The camera definitely “sees” light in a different way. I had the same problem trying to capture sunrises and sunsets, when the colours never turn out as brilliant as in real life. Part of it probably is the quality of the camera. I take a certain satisfaction in taking decent photos with the really shitty phone camera, because it does make you really pay attention to the light (I think I managed to capture some of that cloudy luminosity in this photo, but at the expense of sharpness because it was taken from a moving bus:https://njnasekin.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/35/)

                      I’d love to see a game that centers on plot and exploration (with emphasis on writing and acting over action). More like an interactive drama movie, but with the difference that you set your own pacing and level of investment in events. Games are an absurdly young medium, so the possibilities of what could be done are barely scratched. It’s not that I necessarily don’t like action, but it’s obvious, the easy way to take.

                      My familiarity with contemporary music is the other way around. A good idea of what existed from the 90’s onwards, but working back… “Pink Floyd”, “Iron Maiden”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and then just great blanks in musical knowledge… I can recognise “The Beatles”, probably, and Lewis Armstrong, and Scott Joplin, but that’s about it.

                      That puzzled feeling of “I don’t quite process it, but there’s something there” is also something that happens increasingly rarely. A friend introduced me to Schnittke’s Concerti Grossi a few years ago, and it was the first atonal music I’ve heard, and I didn’t quite like them at first, but also couldn’t shake them off, and now I do.

                      I had no idea about Hvorostovsky. A brain tumor too, which is particularly difficult to get rid of.

                      Funnily enough, my mother offhandedly recommended that I read “Il Decamerone” when I was pretty much the same age, and for exactly for the same reason. I never got around to reading it though, it was a pretty hefty book, and being a “parental recommendation” always got relegated into “I’ll read it after the next one category”.

                      I would expect an emotional support rhino to uphold the “emotional support” bit. Maybe that’s a mistaken overreliance on titles though. But I’d definitely trust the rhino you drew.


                    30. Thanks! Much as I didn’t want it, that chair HAS grown on me. Mostly because it’s the most comfortable chair I’ve ever sat in, but the colour fits better in this place than it has in any of my previous apartments. It’s like it was made to match a hardwood floor.

                      I loathe anti-homeless benches. Who the fuck thought of those? They’re anti-social benches, too, with the partition keeping you from, say, leaning against a friend or letting your dog lie across your lap. They’re the opposite of everything a public piece of furniture should be. So what if people sleep there? People get tired. Even ones WITH homes. I’ve slept outside (not generally on purpose, but I have, little naps here and there).

                      I like your moving bus sky shot, by the way. It DOES capture that sort of light. Every time I try, either the ladder’s in the way or I try to get the mountains as well, and it throws off the whole balance of the thing, messes up the sky. I end up getting these flat, murky skies, void of that fairytale quality.

                      Your game idea sounds good. I like games where you can set your own pace and explore at your leisure. “Final Fantasy XII” was a bit like that, though the plot was dull as dishwater. It tried to be a political thriller and failed to thrill, entirely. But the world was beautiful and expansive. You could visit quite a lot of areas out of order, go wandering for hours, spend forever hunting all the rare monsters and uncovering every secret. Sadly, the music was nothing special. I like the “Dragon Quest” series, as well, because it doesn’t try to be anything other than goofy. Indeed, it leans into the goofiness. It’s filled with bad puns and monsters with foolish names, and it plays up all the RPG clichés without shame. You enter a battle and it announces the monsters: “A slime appears!” “Yangus does the Underpants Dance. The lips is unimpressed.” It has over-the-top heroic fanfares and bright, bright colours, and it’s utterly charming in every incarnation.

                      You weren’t around for the ’80s, of course. CD players must’ve existed more or less all your life. I remember when they came out. I saved up my fruit picking money and bought one—man, it cost like, damn, $700ish. A princely sum, in those days. I even remember the first CD I got: the Jupiter Symphony. Before that, it was all cassettes, mostly performances from the Metropolitan Opera that I’d taped off the radio. They all had bits missing, or radio announcers butting in, where I’d pressed STOP and RECORD at the wrong moments. You don’t get that any more. Even now, when I listen to “Lucia di Lammermoor,” I sort of hold my breath at the end of “Verranno a te sull’aure,” expecting to hear “And that was Edgardo, sung by—”

                      That’s funny, your mother and mine dodging the sex talk with the same book. I read mine, mostly because it had pictures, and I took it to school and showed my friends. There was this one story that had us in stitches, all about “returning the devil to Hell,” which was quite an obvious euphemism for, well, you can guess.

                      I should think the rhino would TRY to be emotionally supportive, but it’s a rhino. It could rush to comfort you and inertia would catapult it INTO you, and it’d knock you on your ass. Then, it’d have to comfort you from its failed attempt at comfort. A bumbling creature, I think.


                    31. Thanks about the sky shot. I don’t know about quality cameras, but for bad ones with auto focus, if the ground is too dark the camera will try and compensate by lightening it up, consequently ending up with a burnt out sky, so if you want a sky picture, it better be 90 % sky.

                      I enjoyed “Morrowind” that way. The setting was very expansive and atmospheric (and often creepy). The plot was fairly generic fantasy, but the sheer size and immersion and innumerable side quests made up for it, you could even go diving and find underwater ruins, or become a vampire (one neat touch was that the big bad guy, interred in the in the volcano in the middle of the island periodically sent dust storms that you could get caught in, which made him seem much more threatening than he actually turned out to be in the final, disappointing, boss battle). The music wasn’t bad either. I love slime monsters, by the way, especially if they’re supposed to be disgusting but really look like animated fruit gello. Bright, and colourful and sort of appetising.

                      I am from a poor Russian family, so while Walkmans did exist, for most of the 90’s it was cassette tapes. I got one only in 2001-2 right before they were ‏phased away by MP3s. Throughout the 90’s there were also a lot of tapes with Russian “folk” singers like Vysotsky and Gorodnitsky. Whom I generally like but don’t really listen to, because they belong to a world with which there are few actual connections.

                      Talking about books, I just remembered the weirdest children’s book I had, which was… …wait for it… …an abridged adaptation of Rabelais’ “Gargantua and Pantagruel” with all the bawdy scenes and dirty jokes cut out (except the odd one which was deemed child friendly, like the chapter which discusses what’s best to wipe your arse with after shitting). It was very, very bizarre. Also the cover was big and colourful child book style thing, while the inside illustrations were all black and white Gustave Doré engravings. I still wonder what the logic behind it was.

                      I’ve read somewhere on the internet that rhinos, at least in zoo conditions, are actually sensitive, intelligent and friendly (it was a post by a zoo worker, and rhinos were by far his favourite animals to care for). So really, an emotional support rhino can’t be that bad. You know who’d suck at emotional support? An armadillo. Because the moment you’ll get stressed it’ll get stressed too, and roll into a ball. It would be like hugging a football. Or a ferret, because it’ll be so hyperactive that you will get stressed just trying to keep track of it. An aardvark would probably work well though, if you’d want someone unusual.


                    32. I have a dSLR and a Nikon P1000, but the only thing I really know how to photograph is birds. Anything else, I’m complete pants. The sky, forget it. I point my camera at it and hope for the best, and usually end up with a shot of that ladder.

                      You know, I couldn’t get into Morrowind—I think we talked about this before, because it was TOO 3D, and I kept getting lost and bumping into things. But I do like that general sort of game. I played all the Baldur’s Gates and Neverwinter Nights. (Also, I feel quite affectionate towards slime-type monsters, myself. Especially the Dragon Quest slimes. They’re impossibly cute, with their little red slime smiles.) Speaking of Dragon Quest, a new one just came out, “Dragon Quest Builders 2.” I started playing it last night, but I was tired, so I didn’t get very far. From what I saw, though, it’s going to be fun. Better than the first one, I think.

                      I never had a Walkman or a portable CD player. In fact, my first portable listening device was an iPod Touch. They’d already been out a few years when I got mine. I’d have loved a Walkman when I was a kid, but my parents weren’t big on luxuries, and for some reason, it never occurred to me to buy one myself. Probably because I was usually with people when I went out, so the only time I listened to music was at home.

                      That IS an odd choice, as a children’s book! Ha, ha! I just read anything I could get, which often included stuff I fished out of my parents’ basement, much of which was, though not bawdy, entirely inappropriate for children. Though, I did find these books by James Baldwin, one time. That would’ve been in high school. He was the only gay author I knew about, and though his characters were everything I’m not (male, Black, Christian, American), I read everything I could find of his. He did these stories where the characters had everything stacked against them, and they still somehow found each other. Not in a romantic way, necessarily, but more…strength in numbers, sort of thing. As far as I knew, I didn’t know anyone gay or bi, so finding those books was good.

                      Also, armadillos carry leprosy, so a hug from an armadillo would be a bad, bad thing. Nobody wants to be a leper. Thanks a lot, armadillo. Aardvarks, well, my father used to call me an aardvark, when I was a tot. It was his nickname for me. I don’t think I’d hug one, though. They have big claws.


                    33. “Dragon Quest Builders” looks good, except for the farming bit which brings up painful memories of “Farmville”. That was a game that managed to be oddly addictive and unfulfilling at the same time, and there was a period when everyone on Facebook played it. I wonder if some people still do… It must be like a little bonus circle of Dante’s Hell, where people are stuck for all eternity tending to their little virtual farms (he did kind of have a punishment for procrastinators in that very first circle where everyone just gets constantly stung by insects for not realising themselves in life, but c’mon, an eternity of playing “Farmville” is a much fitter punishment). And yes, “Dragon Quest” slimes are adorably derpy.

                      You know, for me, much of the 90’s and early 2000’s were a time when most of the people around were low-key homophobic. And so was I, during that period. Simply because that was the prevailing attitude, and it wasn’t something you examined closely. No one in your immediate vicinity was gay, it was always “those people”. And there wasn’t one specific thing that made me snap out of it, changing my circle of friends was one thing, reading people’s experiences on the internet was another, one of my cousins came out of the closet… Looking at it in retrospect, it was frighteningly easy to have a shitty attitude about something simply out of inertia and a sort of inner negligence.

                      Were the eagles in the reflection really close or just sudden? Back when we lived in India, we had that roof with a huge semi opaque window in it, and eagles landed on it quite regularly (and audibly). It could be quite startling. And speaking of shower scares, all through my childhood, whenever I closed my eyes in the shower to rinse my hair, I imagined something tentacled and slimy reaching through the drain to grab at my feet. Or at other times that the water falling on me might suddenly turn into lava. Intrusive thought kind of things. I think that paradoxically, they happened because the shower was almost too safe and comfortable (so the brain had to come up with unpleasant scenarios to compensate). And ah… Fuck that carrot.

                      I forgot about armadillos and leprosy. I would imagine though, that an “emotional support” armadillo would be a healthy individual (just as you wouldn’t have an emotional support dog with rabies). “Aardvark” is a good nickname (I have a friend who considers it her son’s totem animal, because it’s his favourite toy). They really are endearing (those ears and twitching noses), and their claws are really more like hooves (unlike, say, anteaters, who got those huge hooklike things).

                      Hope you’re feeling better.


                    34. I’m about 99% sure Farmville still exists, in some incarnation. I think I’ve seen sequels/spinoffs, at least, available on the iTunes store. I never download them, though. Those types of games are mostly microtransaction nightmares, where you have to either pay to speed this or that up, or wait increasingly unreasonable lengths of time for anything to happen at all. In “Dragon Quest Builders,” you have to build the farm, as the name suggests, but after that, your villagers run it for you. Harvesting the crops just means whacking them with your sword. You spend most of your time building houses, exploring, and getting bothered by demanding rats.

                      I’d hate to end up in Farmville hell. That sounds horrifying.

                      I suppose if you hear something all your life, it’s easy to accept it as true, even if it IS something unfortunate, like gay people being indecent. I mean, it does say something that I’d got all the way to high school, and I’d only found one author who did frank, positive portrayals of gay characters. With the number of books I stole and read, you’d expect I’d have found more, but for the longest time, it was just James Baldwin. I realise now there were a lot of books that had gay subtext I completely missed (“Moby Dick,” for instance), but a lot of those, I read when I was too young to pick up on much in the way of subtlety.

                      The eagle reflections were just sudden. They weren’t close at all, but the way they flew through my peripheral vision was a bit startling. An eagle landing on a skylight would be far more disconcerting than these. I get those intrusive thoughts, as well, but not so much in the shower. I always picture a long, horrible hand creeping up out of the toilet and touching me, uninvited, or a frog, again in the toilet, jumping up and slapping me with its froggy back. That’s a whole other level of DO NOT WANT, I suppose.

                      Aardvarks are pretty cute, yeah. Don’t they have those big digging claws, though? I’m not sure how sharp they are—they seem designed mostly for scooping and digging. Like mole feet, kind of. I’d be wary of getting too close to one, however appealing they might be.

                      I am feeling better, thanks. I can no longer feel the carrot in my lung, which probably means there IS no carrot in my lung, and I was just imagining it. I’d rather hoped that would be the case. I don’t want to be killed by a carrot. Talk about stupid ways to die.


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