Tag Archives: Humor

Pets Allowed

Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be?

By Patricia Marx

Photograph: Robin Siegel

What a wonderful time it is for the scammer, the conniver, and the cheat: the underage drinkers who flash fake I.D.s, the able-bodied adults who drive cars with handicapped license plates, the parents who use a phony address so that their child can attend a more desirable public school, the customers with eleven items who stand in the express lane. The latest group to bend the law is pet owners.

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So This Is How They Do It! Zebras Getting Stripes

By Robert Krulwich


How did it happen? How’d the zebra get its stripes?

In Rudyard Kipling’s version, a gray, horsey-looking beast went into “a great forest ‘sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-batchy shadows,” stayed there awhile, and after a “long time”… got stripy.

OK. Not bad.

Here’s another notion, this one from Ricardo Solis, an artist working in Guadalajara, Mexico. He says a team of highly intelligent, “mini-me” creatures got itself a roll of black ribbon. Using giant scissors, the mini-me’s cut themselves long slivers, which, dropped from a blimp, they pasted on a horse.

This is such a satisfying explanation. No waiting eons and eons. No random mutations. No molecular biology. Just a team of itty-bitty designers doing, well … almost intelligent design. They’re not precise. Life should be accidental, which is why it feels right that a flamingo gets its pink from teeny buckets of paint, randomly poured. And why the mini-me’s down below have to protect themselves with small umbrellas.


Plus, creature-building should be hard work. In making a giraffe, a team of designers had to draw, manufacture and stock each golden-brown blotch, and ship them to the studio, where this monster-sized animal, tethered by a handful of mini-me’s, is patiently waiting to be accessorized. It’s a paint-by-numbers job, each blotch must be fitted to its pre-figured spot, and if they take too long and the giraffe gets restless? I’m not even going to think about that.


In the Bible, genesis happens super-fast, as befits an all-powerful being. Creation is a six-day effort, from “let there be light” all the way through zebra-striping, giraffe pigmentation and flamingo pinks. Then, on the seventh day, God rests. He gives Himself a single day off. One.

Giraffe Production Bottlenecks

Not the mini-me creatures. Ricardo Solis doesn’t say, being an artist, but I’m figuring those little guys needed two, three full days to paint in each giraffe. Multiply that by the number of giraffes on order, and creation is a labor-intensive nightmare. Figuring regular weekends, summer vacations, holidays and medical leave for paint-poisoning, giraffe gestation is going to be very, very slow — which is why, if Ricardo Solis ever visits Africa and gets to see 50, 60 giraffes ambling together across the plain, he — more than the rest of us — will blink, smile and say, “That? That is a miracle!”

There are many routes to appreciating the bounty about us.

To see more Ricardo Solis drawings – of hippos being inflated, armadillos getting armored — you can find his latest work collected here.

The New Yorker / Krulwich Wonders / Published: April 19, 2014

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Little Friends

I can hardly handle how awesome these images by Seth Casteel are.


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by Hendrik Herzberg

The Disney Channel showed “Ratatouille” last night, as if in rebuke to the New York City Health Department’s recent decision to humiliate restaurants that value taste over tidiness by forcing them to post letter grades evaluating them for cleanliness—a fine quality no doubt, but one whose traditional place next to godliness might be better occupied by gastronomy.

What with so many awful things happening as we sink into the twenty-tens (global heating, murderous fundamentalisms, chronic warfare, Tea Partisanship, poisoned oceans, media “platforms” that function as scaffolds for journalism), that delicious movie is a reminder of one of the consolations of twenty-first-century American life: the ever-expanding culture of good food and good cooking.

Foodism, as it might be called, won’t cure any global disasters, and its direct beneficiaries are mostly the relatively privileged and comparatively well-educated—the sort of people who shop at Whole Foods, support farmers’ markets, and patronize restaurants that have “executive chefs.” But the benefits have trickled down, as a visit to any midrange chain supermarket will confirm. Compared to the Grand Unions and A&P’s of a generation or two ago, the ShopRites and Safeways of today are a gourmet’s paradise. And at McDonald’s you can now get a salad with that. Let us count our blessings while we can.

By the way, I don’t actually object to the Health Department’s move. Yes, Homo sapiens and Rattus norvegicus have lived together for a long time, and if we ever succeed in getting rid of them entirely we might discover to our regret that in some unforeseen way they had been a vital link in the ecology of urban life. Nevertheless, and “Ratatouille” notwithstanding, it’s probably a good idea to discourage rodents from frequenting restaurant kitchens. Cleanliness in general is a good thing, too, as long as it’s not taken to extremes. (If it weren’t for “germs,” i.e., bacteria, we wouldn’t have cheese.) The evidence is clear: in Los Angeles, which has been rating restaurants for cleanliness since 1998, substantially fewer people end up in the hospital after a nice dinner out.

Like Mayor Bloomberg’s trans-fats bans, smoking bans, and posted calorie counts, awarding A’s, B’s, and C’s for hygiene is an emanation of the liberal Nanny State so scorned by libertarians and conservatives—who, it seems, would prefer a Neglectful/Abusive Parent State and a Tyrannical Stepfather State, respectively. Don’t they know that nanny knows best, and is nicer besides? If the candidates in the next mayoral election are Mary Poppins (Dem.-W.F.P.), Pap Finn (Libertarian), and Mr. Murdstone (Rep.-Cons.), I’m voting for the carpetbagger with the umbrella. Spit spot! ♦

The New Yorker / Good Stuff / Published: July 13, 2010

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Confessions of a Pilgrim Shopaholic

by Paul Rudnick


I am Rebecca, the wife of Mister Jonathan Harnsill. We arrived in the New World in 1626 and took up residence in a small cabin in the Plymouth Colony. Toward the end of our first January, I travelled to Boston to purchase a thimbleful of salt. And now, five years later, I have travelled to Boston for a second thimbleful. I am out of control.

During our first winter, I sewed two simple black woollen dresses, which I have alternated wearing in the years since. And yet this morning I find myself thinking about patching the frayed collar on one of the dresses. Have I no shame? My mind has been consumed with nothing but thoughts of spending, purchasing, and the wanton enjoyment of unnecessary goods. On many nights I dream of acquiring a tin milk pail, like our neighbor’s. I picture myself strolling through the town as strangers whisper, “There she goes, the proud lady with the pail.” I imagine myself attending a fancy-dress ball with the pail on my arm, filled with pinecones and soil. I fear that I shall speak these dreams aloud, and beg my husband to bludgeon me.

I have heard tales of another woman, much like myself, in the Virginia colony. It is said that she bartered her second child to a local tradesman for a wooden button. The following Sunday, the preacher railed against the need for additional buttons, calling the woman a spendthrift and a profligate. She then stood and raised her arm high, opening her hand to reveal the button. It is said that the other women surrounded her, staring at the button in adoration, and then they ripped her limbs from her torso and ate them.

I tremble for my influence upon my children. Just this morning, young Abigail came to me and said, “Mother, look. I have made a doll from a small rock. I will call my doll Rockelle.” Of course, I struck her and grabbed the rock from her hand, saying, “Be ye the Queen of the Nile, with such gilded pleasures?” I will confess only to this diary that I have kept the rock for myself, and married it to an acorn, which I have named Mister Joseph Elmsford. Has my evil no limits?

Today I entered the lion’s den, as I went to market. I was dazzled, as if dancing before the Golden Calf! To one side, there was a tray of one-inch straight pins, and beside them a spool of pale-white thread! I was drowning! I turned away, only to see a cart piled with at least three wilted leeks, along with a rusted spoon! Was I at the French court? My mind reeled—I wanted everything! The box of damp matches; the single moth-eaten stocking, removed from a corpse; the tiny empty vial that had once held extract of vanilla! In my mind, I was naked, demanding to be draped in finery, in brittle cornhusks and crumbling bark and the splintering nub of a pencil!

My fever has broken. When I awoke, I was in our minister’s home, surrounded by all the women of our village, who were on their knees in fervent prayer at my bedside. It seems that I have been possessed by the Devil himself, and that I was found in the apothecary shop, speaking in tongues and babbling about something which no colonist has ever heard of: “guest soaps.” Pastor Witherspoon has suggested that I might be hosting a demon from some future century, and he has arranged for an exorcism. I am so grateful, as I was told that, in my frenzy, I had also approached our blacksmith and demanded to know which horseshoes were on sale. I am an abomination.

At the exorcism, I was taken to the barn and placed upon a rough blanket; various plasters and poultices were applied to my flesh. Pastor Witherspoon raised his Bible high over my head and demanded, “Satan, leave this good woman! She is a simple, pious soul, with no wont for luxury goods!” At first, I responded by shrieking in an unearthly wail, “Shoes! More buckled shoes!” As all the villagers began to repeat the Lord’s Prayer, I howled, “Tallow! Scented tallow and beeswax! Tied with a decorative ribbon!” Then, as the people laid their hands upon me, my demon cackled and swore: “A bonnet! Bring me another bonnet! A peaked black bonnet as fine as any widow’s!”

“Satan, begone!” Pastor Witherspoon shouted, and then I lost consciousness.

Now, a day later, as I return to life, I know that my demon is vanished, gone back into his fetid underworld. I am able to walk through the village, with my head bowed modestly, without even a thought of a turnip or the cobbler’s wares. This morning, I almost picked up a pretty yellow leaf from the ground, to press in my hymnal, but then I thought, I have so many leaves, and I returned it to the tall grass.

While I am wholly myself again, I am concerned for my dear husband, who I fear has been o’ertaken by his own demon. Last March, we had intimate relations, and now, although it is only November, he desires them again. ♦

The New Yorker / Shouts & Murmurs / Published: March 16, 2009

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It’s amazing what comes of a creative mind, random resources, and a slight nostalgia for the world’s greatest city.

[click on any image for the whole story]





The New York Times / Abstract City / Published: February 2, 2009

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Do the Green Thing


  1. You get from A to B without any C when you Walk The Walk
  2. It’s delicious but it causes more CO2 than cars so go Easy On The Meat
  3. Resist the urge to buy the latest and Stick With What You Got
  4. Turn down the central heating and turn up the Human Heat
  5. The art of wasting nothing and using up everything: All-Consuming
  6. Instead of jetting your way around the world, Stay Grounded
  7. Don’t leave it on or even put it on, Plug Out

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