Archive for September, 2013

Things (pertaining mainly to animals).

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

1. Have you people seen this commercial? HAVE YOU? Chickens have gyroscopes in their heads. I love this commercial. I love it. It should win all the awards.


2. A lot of really stellar news headlines out there right now. You don’t have to even read the articles, the titles tell you all you need to know.

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3. Have we discussed the glorious website Animals Talking In All Caps? Because it’s really cool and we should look at it right now.

atiac2 atiac3 atiac4  atiac1


Friday, September 20th, 2013

It’s my 600th post everyone! Six-effin-hundred. That’s a lot of words. I will now celebrate by shimmying in chair while listening to “Hey Ya.”

Now that’s that completed, it was Fashion Week in New York. I try very hard not to pay attention to Fashion Week because a fine fine sliver of fashion is cool and interesting but the majority of it is either boring as all get-out or freakish with no other intent other than to be freakish. See picture below for clarity.

Fabien Verriest

What is that? The flowers and grass clippings stuck to the face, fine, but the shirt has a hole in it and the weird shoulder fabric and sleeve on one side, there’s no need for any of this. Stop that. You’re making me sleepy.

It’s probably for the best I stay away from the world of fashion because look what I saw today! YIP YIP YIP LEGGINGS. OMG I WANT SOME.

If you don’t know why those are super-great, here is a clip from Sesame Street for you featuring the martians:


Something vaguely fashionable that I bought recently is some pieces of Fordite. What is Fordite you ask? Fordite, or Detroit Agate, is from when cars were hand-sprayed with paint and then baked in an oven to seal in the color. The overspray would build up on the apparatus and the workers would break the paint off as it got too much. Someone noticed that, hey, it was kind of beautiful, all those different colors, so they polished them like rocks and made them into jewelry. Now a different technique is used to paint cars with almost no overspray so Fordite is a relatively rare commodity. A woman on Etsy is selling pieces, so I bought a few. I’ll see how big they are when I get them and I’ll make myself some nice pendants with it.

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You know what I’m not good at?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Taxidermy. The answer to that question is taxidermy. I have a totally new-found respect for taxidermists. It does not all “come together” at the end or something. You need to know what you’re doing. By the way, warning, some gross pics in this post. If you’re a squeamish person, maybe skip this one. Look at some nice charts.

I saw this article in Gothamist and it sounded interesting, so I asked Cricket if he was interested in going as a romantic 11-year anniversary present. He said yes so I signed us up. Cricket and I arrived outside the appointed place the class was being held. Neenernator (she of the glorious fishtank fame) joined us and we went into the first floor of a stunning brownstone apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Whoever lives there, I guess to supplement their income, lets people hold classes in their front two rooms. There were three lunch tables set up, covered with plastic tablecloths and ten place settings with tools, a paper plate and an oddly-shaped frozen chipmunk covered in salt.


The teacher, a lovely woman named Divya (watch this video about her!), knew a taxidermist who was moving and cleaning out his freezer and had these ten chipmunks so she offered to take them off his hands so he didn’t just throw the little guys out. They had been in sandwich bags and that’s why they were shaped like burritos. I guess if all your muscles go squishy you take on the shape of the vessel you are placed in. I grew very attached to my little guy. Look at him now. This is the best he’s going to look. After I’m done with him, he’s going to get very very unattractive.


After all ten students had arrived, Divya gave us gloves and had us warm up our chipmunks in our hands. I gently caressed my new friend until he unfroze a bit and we could finagle his arms and legs out so he was lying face-down splayed out. Like this. That expression I am rocking is the look of, “I… don’t know if I can do this.”


“Okay,” said Divya. “We’re going to make a dorsal cut, meaning down the spine from the base of the neck to the base of the tail. All the way down. Figure out how much pressure it takes to cut through the skin and use short strokes.” You may be wondering why we didn’t make a cut down the front of the chipmunk. That is because when you slice down the back, you bump into the spine and can’t cut too deep. If you slice down the front and you screw up, you open the sac that holds the internal organs and Satan’s demons are released in the form of smell and everyone has to leave. Speaking of smell, as our chipmunks thawed I noticed a distinct funk in the air. Chipmunks smell unbelievably gamey, like mutton or certain types of lamb. I mouth-breathed for five hours. I could smell that freaky stink on me for hours after I left. It only started to dissipate the next day. Stupid adorable stanky-ass chipmunk.

I made my dorsal cut like a brave soldier and then was told to use my fingers to slide the skin off of him “like taking off a jacket.” Lemme tell you, that jacket does not come off easy. There’s such a fine line between tugging the skin off and ripping it. We were told to pull the skin off up to the wrists and ankles and I accidentally ended up yanking off my chipmunk’s hand. This is a photo of me skinning my chipmunk. I made this face for the entire class, I couldn’t help it.


After we unskinned our friends, Divya had us cut the joints at the wrists and ankles so the hands and feet were still attached to the skin. “That’s the easy part,” she said. “Now comes the hard parts.” We had to pull the face-skin down to the end of the snout. I kinda ripped the eyelids. A part of my childhood died, never to return. “My chipmunk is bleeding from his butthole,” I said. “That’s not a problem,” said Divya. “He has limited blood flow, it’ll stop momentarily.” We were told to pick up our scalpels and cut right behind the skull to separate the head from the body. So many crunchy noises. Now we had to clean all the flesh off of and from within the skull. Getting the eyeballs and brain out was easy. As it said in the Gothamist article:

Using our sharp needle tool, we scooped out the cerebral matter. It came out in gobs roughly the color and consistency of raspberry sherbet.

Yep. Same for me. We had to clean out the cheek pouches of any seeds that might be in there, get the tongue out and pull all the cheek flesh off. It took forever. Seriously. It’s a tiny skull and those bits of flesh that hold that muscle on is tough. It required copious scoring with the X-Acto knife, then pick-pick-picking with the tweezers. When we were done, it looked like the chipmunk had thrown up so hard he had flipped inside out and barfed up his own skull.


Then came fleshing. You lay the skin furry side down, take a dull curved blade and scrape all the remaining fat and muscle off the inside of skin. Moisture is the enemy of taxidermy, so you need to get everything that isn’t skin and bone out of there. Fleshing is hard and time-consuming, especially on something so small. You have to go everywhere – in the armpits, where the tail attaches, etc. Then, finally, we gave all our tools to Divya and went to wash our chipmunk skin n’ skull thoroughly in the sink with soap and water. We didn’t throw out our leftover pink chipmunk bodies because we were going to use them as guides to measure the internal forms we would be making.

Divya said that since we were done with the gross bits and we had scrubbed our chipmunks, we could take our gloves off and work with bare hands from that point on, which we all did. BUT WAIT, it gets more disturbing! It had been many hours by then, so one of the other guys in the class went out for a smoke and came back with cookies for all of us, so we put our skins down and had cookie-time. With our naked hands! This happened! The plate in front of me has Neenernator’s and my chipmunk interiors. The runny red stuff around the edges is brain. The black blob is an eyeball. Seriously, it is astonishing how quickly you become immune to this level of gross. If you had shown me this picture the day before, I would have dry-heaved in the backyard for twenty minutes. All I’m thinking in that picture is how I’m going to get that skin over that wood-wool and twine form sitting in front of me.


The first step after washing is patting dry (remember, moisture = rot = fail), sprinkling some kind of preserving / drying powder all up in them, then putting air-drying clay all over the skull to replicate the fullness of the cheeks and to hold the glass eyeballs in place. I used tiger-eye beads that gave his expression a jaunty shimmer. Neenernator’s chipmunk was turning out quite good, as opposed to Cricket’s and mine, which looked like extras from the set of The Walking Dead. Here’s Neenerator’s with the wood-wool form and eyeballs in and additional clay for bulk.


Using thick florist’s wire, we slid them down the back from inside the skull down to the tail so we could position our chipmunks how we wanted them and then sew them up. I cannot express this enough, taxidermy is not easy. No matter how much wire I used or how I mushed the clay in the face, this thing looked terrible. Just horrible. The arm stump and jacked-up eyelids did him no favors, but he looked pretty darn bad all over.


Cricket’s didn’t look much better.


See Neenernator’s chipmunk in the background there? Aside from having an exceptionally long neck, I thought it was a great job especially since this was her first time. She took to this like a dead duck to water.

Once Cricket and I had gotten our sad mangy friends into the position we wanted, Divya came over with a syringe filled with non-toxic embalming fluid. Non-toxic isn’t the right thing to call it, it would be very much toxic if you ate it, but it had no fumes and if you got it on your skin you could wash it off without it burning you or anything. She injected this embalming fluid in the hands, feet and snout since they still had meat in them. Then we had to put stick pins in the chipmunk so when the skin dried and tightened, it would tighten in the shape we wanted. For example, if you don’t card the ears they will shrivel up. Same with the hands. Divya pinned our atrocities against nature the best she could. Then the final step, blow-drying and brushing. It helps get the fur to lay straight, or so they say. Our fur was beyond repair. Cricket tried, bless his heart, but to no avail. Because apparently I hadn’t insulted my chipmunk enough, during the brushing process a chunk of his tail fur came off, leaving a substantial bald spot.


He put both our guys on a piece of balsa wood, propped up on an empty seltzer can, wrapped them in wire and we said thank you so much and left.


Divya could not have been nicer or more helpful. Right now our rodent horrors are drying in Cricket’s garage (not in the house, because that stink is powerful) and maybe the taxidermy fairies will visit in the night and magically fix all of our sucky work with a swish of their wands (made from the femurs of mice). I hope. Neenernator ordered a small Luke Skywalker doll and she plans to take the outfit off of him and put it on her chipmunk. Chip Skywalker, she calls him. “These are not the seeds you are looking for.” If I can get pictures of that when it’s done, I will put it up here.

New York. It is indeed a helluva town.

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Hello y’all! It’s been a while. I’ve been working. And sleeping at work, which is a bummer, because the couch here is a smidge too short for my body. But that is not important! What is important is that on Saturday a week ago I had a day of excitement. First I rode the double-decker tourist bus around New York for almost five hours. Every time I go to a city I make a point to take a double-decker bus tour of said city. London, Paris, Barcelona, you name it. I like them. I see things I want to check out in more detail from the top deck and I learn fun facts, it’s the greatest. I’ve never done it for Manhattan, though. And I learned so many things! Here’s a sampler platter.

  • “Manhattan” is a Native-American word meaning “Island of Many Hills”, and Manhattan used to be very lumpy. Down at the bottom of the island where everyone settled in the beginning, an effort was made to flatten out the landscape so some of the hills were dumped in the water and one of them is Ellis Island. However, when you go to Harlem it is still hilly.
  • Broadway is one of the longest streets in the world. It runs 13 miles through Manhattan.
  • Washington Square Park has a mass grave under it. 20,000 people just chucked in there.
  • There’s a restaurant in one of the two towers comprising the Time Warner buildings in Columbus Circle (Columbus Circle is the only circus left in NYC). The restaurant is Japanese and dinner for one person costs $600. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS. I’ve eaten some good meals in my life, but that seems psycho to me. What the hell are they serving, sashimi on a solid gold plate using the Shroud of Turin as a tablecloth? Six hundred dollars. I mean, really.
  • Bellevue is most well-known for its mental health facilities, but it also has an excellent micro-surgery department where they re-attach fingers and the like. Also, Bellevue did the first transplant of a kidney from a dead person. They made organ donors a thing! Good job Bellevue.
  • Speaking of Bellevue, there are a ton of hospitals and medical facilities in the same place, giving First Avenue in that area the nickname “Bedpan Alley”.
  • There are nine Chinatowns in the New York area – one in Long Island, three in Queens and Brooklyn, etc. If you add the populations of all those Chinatowns together it is the largest group of Chinese people outside of Mainland China. There are two types of Chinese people who make up the Chinatowns. Originally it was all Cantonese, and now there’s a influx of Fuzhou people. The Cantonese and Fuzhou speak different languages, so when they talk to each other they use the lingua franca of China, which is Mandarin.
  • Originally all the entries to the subways were going to be all pretty, but after a few were built everyone got tired and now we just descend into a hole in the sidewalk. Three of the pretty subway entrance buildings still exist.
    There’s one on 72nd Street:×384.jpg
    One in Bowling Green downtown:
    And one on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

So much knowledge! That was during the daylight part of the day. Then, in the evening, I met up with Snorth and her husband Speeb to watch Gotham Burlesque! I was psyched. Gotham puts on a mighty fine show, so even though I didn’t know the MC for the evening I had high hopes. And they were met, big time. The MC was Shelly Watson who is an amazing performer. She studied opera at Juilliard, but she also does Broadway classics and she had great banter with the audience. She sang songs to us and they were all flawless. If I could be reincarnated as someone, Shelly would be on my short list.

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There were some stellar burlesque performers and I was most happy with the whole situation, but then Shelly told us a dude was going to come out and perform. I won’t lie, I was not expecting much. I mean, how was he going to twirl his nipple tassels with no boobies? I was wrong. Mr. Gorgeous was the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of things. That flight at Kitty Hawk is a distant second to Mr. Gorgeous. He came onstage, all 6’7″ of him, dressed as a hermit crab. I was smitten. Then, he seductively removed his claw and licked his antennae. His penultimate act was to remove his shell, pull out a bottle of sunscreen, and smear it all over his chest. I think at that moment I exploded. I screamed so much I thought I’d bust a blood vessel in my eye. Mr. Gorgeous ended with a small bedazzled scallop shell on his nethers. If he asked me to marry him right then and there I would have, Cricket be damned.

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Originally I was like, “Mr. Gorgeous? Really? That’s the name you picked?” But then I looked up information on him and the reason he picked it, like him, is ADORABLE. From a Village Voice article:

When [Eric Gorsuch] briefly taught art a few years ago, some of the kids couldn’t pronounce “Mr. Gorsuch” and started calling him “Mr. Gorgeous” by mistake. That turned into a running gag at the school, and it eventually became his stage name.

AWWWWW. Turns out Mr. Gorgeous is a trapeze artist and circus performer in addition to being gigantic and super-cute. AND he makes all of his own costumes. Total swoon. I loves him like kitties.

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I saw documentaries. Let’s talk about them.

Monday, September 2nd, 2013
I’ve had a busy week at my jobbie-job so while I was working on Keynote decks I opened up Netflix on the side of my screen and watched a bunch of documentaries.First, I saw After Porn Ends, which is about the life and times of several porn actors. It pretty much is like any other career in that some people really hate what they did and have massive regrets and other performers are fine with it and enjoyed the sex and the spotlight. I did not know that porn actors worked so little. I assumed that it was like a five-days-a-week, 9-5 type job, but it’s totally not. The lower-end folk work about one day a week and if they get famous enough they film as infrequently as seven or eight times a year. They do other stuff on the other days, like signings and appearances and headlining in strip clubs, but they have surprisingly little “interpersonal relations”. I mean, what the actors do in their free time is their business, but if work is the only time they have sex, they’re not having a whole lotta sex. The other thing I noticed in the film but was not surprised by is the men seem to deal with the life much better than the women. To be a male who has worked in porn is to be a stud, but to be a woman who has worked in porn is to be a whore. That’s a bit of a disappointment to me since they did the same exact job. I hope in the future that if a woman is a former porn worker, after she retires and becomes a regular-job-owner she is treated like a person, not a social outcast.

Then, to balance it out, I watched (A)Sexual, which is about people who don’t have any sexual attraction to anyone or anything. As with any sexual preference there are all kinds and types, but the majority of them are friendly and want to be in relationships with people. Humans are drawn to herds and companionship, and the asexuals are no different, they just don’t want to engage in any sexual behavior. It’s a fairly new movement and is different than celibacy. Celibacy means you want to hook up, but choose not to. Asexuality means you don’t want to, so you don’t. One thing I realized while watching this documentary is how snotty sexual people are to the asexuals. All I could think was, “They aren’t infringing on anything you do, if anything they’re removing themselves from the dating pool so you have more options, so shut the hell up and leave them alone.” I imagine that if I was asexual I would feel like a total outsider in our culture because so so much of what we see and what we encounter is driven by the desire to be with another person, or be seen as attractive by a specific person.

Finally I watched Bully, about kids who get bullied. This is a hot-button issue for me because I was bullied mercilessly as a kid. Here’s what I realized after watching this program: there are two types of kids who get bullied. One are the kids who have no control over their predicament (an ethnicity different from everyone else in the school, short, funny-looking, mentally-challenged, poor, etc.) and there are the kids who bring it upon themselves by saying or doing epically dorky things. I was both, predominantly the latter. I dressed like a weird artsy person. I spoke before I thought. I didn’t understand social cues and made people uncomfortable. If I could give kids in school one piece of advice, it would be BLEND IN. BLEND IN REALLY HARD OR BE VERY QUIET, and then when you get to college do your thing. Don’t fly your freak flag until after you leave high school unless you’re okay with people shunning you or mocking you. People stop being as mean in college and especially after college, and there’s a reason for that. I saw a play called Well and one of the lines that I loved was, “The good thing about being an adult is you can leave.” There’s one scene in Bully where the kids are all lined up on the playground and it looks like a shot from prison. If you’re grown up and people are mean to you in your job, you quit. At a party, you go home. In your town, you move. If you’re a kid, you can’t do anything. You HAVE to go to this place and do stuff you don’t want to do all day, otherwise you get in trouble with the government. That makes school a jail-like environment, with gangs and hierarchy and bribery and blackmail, all that stuff. Two things to look for if you watch this movie:

  • The opening credits scene where the kid is alone on the bus and The Scala Choir sings Teenage Dirtbag, which is one of my favorite songs. Beautiful.
  • The well-wishing but astonishingly inept Vice Principal and her handling of two specific bullying situations. I gasped and put my hand over my mouth during one of them, it was so shocking how poorly she dealt with it. It’s got to be a gift to be that dense.