Cartoon For Today

“This person we’re trying to poison, does he have any dietary restrictions?”

—The New Yorker

In The “Needs To Work Out More” File

Alleged burglar attempts to flee Tucson school, pants caught on spiked fence

Who’s The Bully?

This gem of a clip from Carol Burnett poses some deep questions and ethical dilemmas.

See if you can catch the 5 techniques of psychological abuse demonstrated in the skitūüėĄ

Israel Hayom | A bizarre attack on Israel’s legitimacy

Gorked Puppy


No, she’s not dead…just had her morning walkies, breakfast, and now…notice the green ball in her mouth, which serves as her pacifier….she’s taking her midmorning nap as she digests her delicious dog food.  What a life!

Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?

Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and many other wonderful novels and stories, is one of my major writing heroes.

She has the magic.

When her Chinese immigrant characters speak Chinese immigrant Engrish, I hear my Si-fu (Chinese martial arts master and surrogate mother for 29 years and counting) talking to me:

“Lawla!  Did you know, you reary have a velly big bottom!  How come?  We go to eat now!” 

Perhaps because of my long immersion in Chinese culture, I fall into Tan’s novels and happily drown in them.  I melt into them, I swim in them, and when they end, I find myself gasping in the thin air that lingers after the book is closed, or listening to the faint babble of rising and falling Cantonese in another room, longing to know what they are talking about.

Maybe my big bottom.  Reary.

My Si-fu’s father, known to us students as Dai Si-fu (meaning Great Teacher), always promised to teach me Chinese.  It generally went something like this:

Dai Si-fu:  “(something in Chinese), now YOU say same ting.”

Me:  “(what he said)”

Dai Si-fu:  (falling on the floor, despite his eighty-something years, laughing hysterically) “Hahaha!  You just said, ‘Rady’s vagina’! Hahaha!”

Si-fu runs down the five stairs into the taichi studio:  “Fadder!  (Indignant Chinese scolding)!”

To me:  “Lawla!  I am so solly!  He awrays do dat!”

I try to maintain composure but it doesn’t work, and I fall apart laughing.  Si-fu vibrates with semi-genuine indignity and flounces out of the room, flinging behind her:  “Ten more minutes, then we go to eat!”

As soon as she is gone, Dai Si-fu and I meet eyes and crack up until we can’t breathe.

“Ten more minutes, then we go to eat,” he flounces out of the studio.  I’m dying of conflict between betraying my Si-fu and delicious conspiracy.

To watch this video of Amy Tan explaining her muse is like having a private audience with the Chinese Five Elements: Earth, Wind, Metal, Fire, Wood.  These are the sources that make up the world we live in, our bodies and minds being a microcosm of the macrocosm.

When I read Amy Tan, I constantly see and feel these elements dancing in their natural order.  They are inseparable from any person of Chinese ancestry.  Everyone has them, but they are as clear in the Chinese aura as the color red.

To watch and listen to her, I understand.  The color red, the Five Elements.  The fact that I am “klazy.”  The simple paradox.  Paradox made simple, in no easy lessons. 

As for her personal muse…be sure to watch carefully all the way to the end.  It’s in the bag.

Packed With Wholesome Goodness

And it’s heart-healthy, Zero Everything, Good For You, and 100% Whole Grain (OK, the grain is white flour, but still).

Where have I just come from, dear readers?  Planet Claire?  Well, yes, and they also have grocery stores.

I would like to find the advertising executives who work for the companies that use this vapid copy. 

Can I write for you?  I can put together asinine slogans such as, “Filled With The Wholesome Goodness of Heart-Healthy Whole Grains.”

I actually saw a number of combinations of these exemplary examples of advertising copy, as I was cruising the aisles looking for what I really wanted, which was of course buried among the Good-For-You foods.  I don’t really like things that are Good For Me, as a rule.  I mean, I do like them, but at the moment I am too depressed to prepare them, let alone eat them; so I am making do with Heart-Healthy microwave meals, which are much too small for the calories contained.  Did I mention I’m a recovering anorexic? 

It was really terribly amusing to amble through the aisles noting the repetitive, monotonous descriptive cliches.  Any reasonably motivated blogger could make a pile of money cranking out Zero, Good For You, Wholesome Goodness, with a little Delicious and Nutritious and maybe Yummy thrown in to clinch the deal.

Since all advertising has to adhere to the Stick To Eighth Grade level of literacy rule, I guess “Scrumptious” is out of the question.  It’s ninth grade.

On a positive note, I discovered a brand of gluten free Oreo knock-offs that promise to be “Wonderously Rich.”  Splendid! 

They made it as far as the van before I took a scissors to the wrapper and sampled them.  It was my duty.

I don’t know about Wonderously Rich, but let me tell you they are CRUNCHY and DELICIOUS!  It’s very difficult to find crunchy and delicious gluten free cookies.  I ate two.

Speaking of ad speak, what’s this garbage about (fill in the blank)-free?  What are these things “free” of?  Disease?  Germs?  Lead?

Caffeine.  Gluten.  Lactose.  Fat.  Sugar.

Hell, in the olden days we used to say things like, “sugarless candy,”  or “skim milk (that’s fat-free), or even “diet pop,” which might have been sugarless, but it was never caffeine free.  What’s the point?   You want a bump, maybe you don’t want 240 calories (you want to know the caloric content of anything?  Just ask any anorexic), but decaf soda?  Ridiculous.

It was an uplifting experience, strolling down the supermarket aisles and sneering at the creme-filled, whole-grain, heart-healthy cupcakes.

Bon appetite!

Spam inside your sweat

I’m laughing fit to bust. ¬†On the inside, because I rarely laugh on the outside. ¬†But no matter.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a cliche to publish your spam. ¬†But this one is such a doozy I have to share it with you. ¬†It originates from Korea:


Magnificent website. Lots of useful information right here. I’m sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks inside your sweat!


Have a wonderful weekend, all, and I hope everyone receives all kinds of blessing inside their sweat!

Where I Live

I live on the other side of the North Toe River, facing the Penland Post Office. ¬†The Post Office, built in 1900, is on the National Historic Register. ¬†If something isn’t done about it soon, it will continue its slow yet determined process of decomposition, just like all of us, I suppose. ¬†I was pleased when Bucky the Carpenter put some new boards over the hole in the row of planks that constitutes a front porch. Now you can just walk straight into the post office, without having to be sure not to fall in the hole.

Claude (who was slow to larnin’ but hell on critters) blew that hole in the boards about twenty-five years ago, after Carlene, the previous postmistress, started hearing strange sounds emanating from under the boards; and the source of the sounds was revealed when she came out from behind the counter to close up the post office one evening and there was a great-granddaddy of a rattlesnake grinning at her from the doorway. ¬†After she got done shrieking, which could be heard all the way to Bailey’s Holler, she got on the phone and called for Claude to quick come down with his shotgun, which he was happy to oblige, and blew that hole in the post office porch. ¬†Once he had it opened up, he saw that there was a whole nest of rattlers living underneath there, so he fired off the other barrel, which pretty much took care of that problem.

Inside the post office isn’t much more sophisticated. ¬†The fifty mail boxes, vintage 1879, are¬†beautifully cast in brass, having been moved from another post office. All the original scales and equipment are still there, although since the computer has invaded the scene, it is some crowded.¬†The post office inside has plank walls and a puncheon floor. ¬†A puncheon floor is made by smoothing out some dirt and laying some boards over it. ¬†That’s it. ¬†That way you don’t have to go to the trouble of making a foundation. ¬†It is a matter of speculation what the postmistress and her clerk do about bathroom needs, as we know for sure there isn’t any over there, not even a port-a-potty like I have.

The best part is the postmistress, Becky, who is Carlene’s niece. ¬†She started out as Carlene’s clerk when she was about fifteen, and then took over as postmistress after Carlene got too sick to work. ¬†She smoked herself to death. ¬†Carlene, not Becky. ¬†Becky is as charming a mountain lady as you will ever meet. ¬†She likes to tell me about Mr. De Bell, who is the ghost who lives in the Old House, which sits on the same rock as the one I live on. ¬†In fact the two buildings are attached. ¬†Anyway, Mr. De¬†Bell, who died of a heart attack some fifty years ago, likes to come sit in the rocking chair next to the wood stove in the post office and smoke his pipe. ¬†Becky says he smokes that cherry pipe tobacco. ¬†She loves the smell of it. ¬†She maintains that Mr. De Bell is good company, and it always makes her feel safe when he’s there with her.


But you didn’t really come here to hear all this gossip about the speculative inner workings of the post office. ¬†What you’re after is the view.

2013-05-02 19.03.56

The white building on the other side of the river is the post office.

This shot is taken from the River Road, which is the road I live on. ¬† What you see here is a spray of wild Dogwood blossoms hanging out over the North Toe River. ¬†The river’s real name is North Estatoe, after a Cherokee princess named Estatoe who jumped off a rock because her parents wouldn’t let her marry a boy from another tribe. ¬†But I think the name of the river has been officially changed to the North Toe, because there is also a South Toe River.

On the other side of the river is the railroad grade.  It was once a narrow-gauge railroad, called the Clinchfield Railway, and there was once a thriving town where you see a few little buildings.  The Clinchfield had a passenger line, and Penland was a regular stop, not a whistle-stop.  A gigantic flood in 1916 wiped out the village, leaving only the post office, the general store, and a couple of houses that were fortunate enough to be above the flood line.

The flood also wiped out the narrow gauge railroad, and a standard gauge track was built to replace it. ¬†It used to be a Conrail track but now CSX has taken over, and to tell you the truth even though I hate CSX for personal reasons, they take a lot better care of the track. ¬†When Conrail had it there were derailments every five minutes, practically. ¬†Now, for the two and a half years I’ve been living with Mr. De Bell, there hasn’t been one.


Penland Post Office1

The Penland Post Office

There is a railroad crossing right next to the post office, ¬†so the trains have to blow four times every time they approach it. ¬†The standard pattern is BWAAAAAA, BWAAAAAA, BWA BWAAAAAAAA, but they like to mix it up so it could be anything as long as they get their four infernal blasts in. ¬†I hate them. ¬†I have visitors (VERY rarely–I hate visitors too) who simper, “Oh, a train, I LOVE trains! ¬†Don’t you just LOVE living near a train?” ¬†No, I don’t. ¬†They ¬†come BWAAAA-ing down here day and night, and some of them have OK voices and some of them sound like a cow in labor.

I don’t have to tell you that I don’t have indoor plumbing. ¬†Plus, if I told you, the building inspector would shut me down and I would have to move; which might be a good thing, but at least here I don’t pay rent.

But I do have to put up with Mr. De Bell, who makes an infernal racket walking around in the attic at all hours of the night. ¬†I can always tell when Becky goes home from the post office, because he starts up tromping away in the rafters. ¬†If he thinks I’m going to invite him down here, he can think again: not only do I hate visitors, but I’m asthmatic and I’m not about to put up with his damn pipe. ¬†And by the way: ¬†whoever told you that ghosts don’t cross water was WRONG. ¬†Mr. De Bell lives over here, but he crosses the ¬†North Toe River and visits Becky the Postmistress whenever he wants to, so that completely debunks that old myth. I never believed it anyway.


My Outhouse Is Frozen

I went outside today for the first time in four days. ¬†In the meantime, it has been spitting icicles, sleet, freezing rain, and something the weather-people refer to cryptically as “ice pellets.”

Yesterday I went out as far as the front porch and threw some ice-melt salt around. ¬†Today when I opened the door, I saw with satisfaction that the stairs were all melted, so I went down them to see if I could go out to my car, and perhaps get out down the dirt road that serves me for a driveway and take these stinking bags of trash that have been building up since the storm to the “recycle center” (that means the dump) ten miles away. ¬†That is what we have for “garbage pickup” here. ¬†You pick up the garbage, put it in your car, drive ten miles, and throw it in the dumpster.

But I digress.  When I stepped out onto the level gravel space that serves me for a parking lot, I very nearly fell on my arse, because the top layer of the ice had melted and refrozen.  Too bad my ice skates are in my storage building somewhere.  So I slid gingerly over to the old wooden shed, reached through the winder (pronounced WIN-der) because the glass is busted outen it, and hauled a fifty pound pag of ice-melt salt out, which had solidified from sitting around in the shed for 20 years more or less.  So I reached through the winder again and got a shovel and bashed on the bag of salt for a while, which had the double salutary effect of giving me an outlet for my frustrations and busting up the salt into more or less usable form: smaller chunks, anyway.  Then I slid around scattering salt like Mary Poppins throws bird seed, or maybe that was somebody else from some other movie.

What I’m getting around to here, is that with all that exercise I had to go to the bathroom. ¬†Everybody does, sometime or other, right? ¬†Well there it was, under the big hemlock tree

2012-10-25 09.13.51 where I asked the outhouse man to put it after its last adventure, when it fell ass over teakettle down the cliff in the last  big wind storm.

potty over the cliff

 I told them last time not to put it so close to the gosh dern cliff.  Lucky I was not in it at the time.

Somehow they managed to rescue it and clean it up, and put it right there under the tree, nice and handy.  I had not had occasion to use it since its adventure, and now seemed a perfect time, the sun shining and all.  So I opened the door and was pleased to see how very clean he had managed to make it.  He had left the lid closed, so I opened it and looked down.

The bright blue disinfectant fluid was frozen solid. ¬†I was surprised. ¬†I though they made that stuff with antifreeze or something, for just this sort of occasion, when it’s been colder than a well-digger’s arse out there, and maybe the well-digger has to use the bathroom.

So I though, nah, impossible, and got the stir-stick out from under the stairs. ¬†That’s right, the stir-stick. ¬†That’s the stick I use to stir the, well, you know, when it gets too full in there, like if I’ve had workmen building something or, well never mind. ¬†Anyway, I stuck the stir-stick in there just to see if maybe it was just the top layer that was frozen, like a skin or something; but no. Frozen solid, looked like all the way down.

Big deal, right?  Makes sense.  Temperatures hovering around the zero Fahrenheit mark for a few days, why not?

Well, it’s a good thing I have the Amazing Electric Toilet, that I have written about in a previous post. ¬†But now I’m nervous, because the whole point of the Pesky Outhouse is that it’s supposed to be a backup form of toilet-ness in case of power outage. ¬†But now I see a couple of problems: ¬†one is the ice, which is the most likely cause for power outages around here, building up as it does on trees, which then fall on power lines (you should see it some time: the transformers go up with a POW and lots of fireworks). ¬†The ice would prevent me from getting to the damn thing in the first place, unless I wanted to get there sliding on my bum. ¬†And then once I got there, there’s this issue of, you know. ¬†The ice inside, as well as outside.

Potty FAIL!