Sun, greenish sprigs, a puppy

Meanwhile, Ariel ponders the universe.


The Ups and Downs of 21st Century urban living.



(Ariel listens attentively to her calm, devilishly well-informed master)


To be blunt, I was asked by a group of unlettered dwarfs to write a neoglacial article on the subject of pent-up emotions. My initial response was–go jump in the Urubamba, as my Aztec grandmother used to recommend when someone got her dander up–and I was comfortable in that decision, till I became enraged at the lack of a sensible protocol for those of you who routinely box themselves into elevators.


For instance, you enter the elevator facing, let’s say, east. Why in Tarzan’s name do you immediately turn to face west? If you can take two mincing steps forward, why can’t you take two mincing steps back? Oh, there are those black-hearted people who insist that it’s because the floor-selection buttons are on the other side, forcing busy people (coiffed nicely, holding a briefcase or wrestling with an untidy stack of paper while still appearing to be intelligent) to turn around and select a floor (presuming they weren’t there just for the ride–which is unlikely as business people generally have the same amount of free spirit as unconscionably cold slabs of granite).


But couldn’t the controls have just as easily been installed on the opposite wall–so that the buttons (usually silver–but why not peach or rose or pond-scum green?) greet the elevator pimp (a technical term–as defined in the Human Rights Charter) instantly, without ever forcing them to turn around? Turning around for people with pierced eardrums, for instance, could be dangerous, as they could easily lose their balance, fall, upset the delicate elevator machinery, and send the quaking box down the shaft at Formula One speed, causing injury.


Bad designs always makes me so angry. If I had my way, I’d claw my way to the top [metaphorically–otherwise I’d use the elevator], become president of the Otis Corporation, and fire the whole design team. Fire them, and retroactively garner their wages. I’d be doing the world a public service.

Now don’t get me started on escalators.

Advice for writers


My advice to writers:

Write what you know.

Unfortunately, this has not worked in my case (read the DSM 5 for tantalizing clues).

So, here is my personal directive on writing: learn the difference between advice and advise, for starters, and never forget to take your medications. There are so many underutilized forms of psychosis, so much untapped potential. Add to this the fact that there are thousands of medications out there (the drug companies, your friends, have a wonderful assortment of pills for you; just ask your doctor if such and such is right for you, as if your own physician, Dr. Sugar, can’t determine what you should take!)  just waiting for a chance to get in the door–and you can soon see the scope of the problem. It’s an inequity that needs redress. Watch television, pay attention to the commercials, get ideas.  I am asking you to do something about this–you’ll be a better writer for it (and, concurrently, the drug companies will have better balance sheets, which makes for prettier graphs, rendered beautifully in prescription pill colors such as sucked-you-in red and loser-you’re-hooked yellow, in their annual report, a tradition among business people, which is, sadly never read, as sleeping in broad daylight can be dangerous, particularly in skyscrapers, where business people tend to cocoon in and can, quite easily, after a bout of somnambulism, result in  people falling out of windows, which can be painful.

Oh, one other thing. Exercise your brain. And no I don’t mean to put it on a treadmill. That’s silly. Brains don’t have a means of locomotion (a brain might swim though, so there may be some benefit to dropping it into a bucket of water and letting it do some laps–flailing about trying the butterfly stroke, the dog paddle… whatever. ) No, I mean exercise the body, such as performing a galliard with cinque-pace leaps, in the hopes that some motes of oxygen produced during the exertion may actually reach your gelatinous brain and do wonderful things.

For more writing tips please consult an actual writing guide (which can, in a pinch, be used as a paperweight, or as fuel–if things ever get as bad as I predict they will.

Of course you could get a butterfly dog (to do the butterfly stroke) simply for the beauty of the thing. No special advice or grammar required here.

“There was a farmer who had a dog. And Bingo was his name”… an old ditty, and a brilliant writerly segue to this–



In January, I participated in a challenge organized by The idea was to write one 101 word story each day–for 30 days. ‘Dad,’ a story written during the challenge, won the Issue 12 Writing Contest. Surely receiving the Man Booker Prize is next?

Writing Contest Issue 12 – Winner


My puppy



Papillon breed

Prospero Dae Drabble

Myths and better myths


The ancient Greeks and the old-time Romans were great at inventing tepid mythical beings: think half-horse-half-man or, quiveringly, three-headed puppy dogs, but this lack of imagination is probably the product of bad wine or, respectively, a demonstration of the deleterious effects of having gotten rabies from one of Hercules’ pets (which are not necessarily from the animal kingdom, but that’s another subject) .

And yet what I am about to advance is no more imaginative, probably less so. But still, you are a captive audience and have little choice but to hear of how floriferous trees sometimes shred their ambassadors of color, making a rainbowy carpet for the downtrodden to rest upon. But what if these flowers did not come from a tree? What if they weren’t even dropped out of a florist’s van (oh those hairpin turns)? What if they grew straight out of the terra firma? That would be mythical, don’t you think?

So consider Kaempferia rotunda, a lovely ginger that flowers directly from the ground. Who needs the jaundiced mythology of the Greeks and the Romans? Incidentally, the species is native to China–just like the Papillon.


Marie Antoinette’ s puppy dog

Ariel the papillon

Some say the butterfly-dog breed originated in France, but I have my doubts. An arbiter of good taste and fashion, Marie Antoinette had, throughout her merry life, a bevy of Papillons, and I am not disputing this claim (except the part about her happy life). And, on a sun-clad afternoon, amid the singsong of peasants, she was paraded, merrily (see what I mean), on a squeaky-wheeled tumbril heading to the guillotine clutching a small dog, though this little nugget is only extant in the highly sanitized version of events: she cared not a whit about her own life, so it went, but made certain the boisterous little pooch wouldn’t lose his head over the pomp and circumstance of the festivities at Place de la Concorde, and so she had, clandestinely, lovingly, made meticulous arrangements for the cossetted canine to be housed indefinitely in palatial comfort, where he would forever convalesce after becoming aware of her bloody and untimely death. But historical accounts are unreliable, and facts are as malleable as clay in the hands of good writers–and but unruly gelatin in the hands of novices–yet unmistakably, history is written by the victors, leaving the vanquished in a bit of a spot, as usual.

But important evidence is being omitted. Marie Antoinette’s Papillon, as well as those depicted in paintings of the old masters, was an Epagneul Nain, a cute as a button, drop-eared progenitor of the butterfly-eared Papillon. But, in the good and revered name of science, try to offer a modern day Papillon the choice between Ratatouille, Quiche Lorraine, and Escargots–or Chop Suey, and you will learn something. The breed is most likely Chinese in origin. My experiments have consistently proven this point.


Personality, the scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind.

DSC_3827 crop 3

The thing about personality is that either you have it or you don’t. And if there’s one thing I learned about weighing a modest five pounds (when I haven’t just eaten half a lemon meringue pie, as that tends to skew the result) it’s that you have to have personality, the scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind. In my case I reckon my plumage accounts for most of the measurable mass, and that I’d very nearly be massless without it, which has dire implications for the expansion/contraction of the universe argument. But these measurements, like life itself, are all very speculative—for instance, just how much can a bit of cartilage weigh? And bones the size of toothpicks certainly don’t register on any scale I know of—let’s face it, I don’t live at CERN (and the particle accelerator next to my water bowl is made of cheap plastic and probably a fake); I just live in a plain dog house, equipped with a sauna, two large screen televisions, and Mr. Frisky, a megalomanic armadillo, stuffed lovingly by Chinese factory hands with the plushest gossamer, bearing a chewed-off ear, like a cross, probably the result of some guerrilla war, most likely the brutal campaign fought against toy store owners in the 1980s—you must recall it. I wasn’t yet born at the time, but then again who was?

Rainforest Plum Jam


PART I (For those of you following along, Part II will be available in approximately fifteen years (anyway, I’m keeping my mud-spattered fingers crossed). I will at the time refresh your memory since I don’t expect you to recall with vivid precision the minute details to follow, and I know all too well that chronic, purblind anticipation can sometimes force the hippocampus to scamper and wind up at a sister campus clear across town–if I may use a metaphor from the dreary world of academia–and spoil the whole thing.

Meanwhile I’m preparing to make my first batch of Rainforest Plum jam (trademark pending). I’ve scrubbed the counter top, lined up my glass jars, little hexagonal affairs with a rounded top, and excitedly ripped open a bag of white sugar, which I do not have in the house, and so you must now be prepared to accept the preposterous notion that this is all a fantasy. And it is. Table sugar! In my house! It’s not that I wouldn’t have a modest quantity of these heavenly grains ( beautifully chiseled by cherubs) somewhere in the unplumbed depths my cupboards–it’s that I never make desserts or jam (the very notion is incompatible with the life of an ascetic). But there’s a first time for everything. However, there are still a few little details to iron out. For instance, the ‘plum’ seeds have not germinated yet; and that small aggravation is easily dwarfed by the fact that I never have held the near-fabled seeds in my grubby hands, and this is further complicated by the embarrassing niggle that I have been unable to locate a vendor that has even heard of the darned things. Still, I persist. Purply-red jam, lip-smacking goodness—isn’t that right, Ariel? Wake me, please.

Eugenia candolleana is the little number I must have. If this is sounding like an obsession, let me assure you that it isn’t. I don’t even know if the fruit would make a fetching jam (though I’ve heard told that copious amounts of sugar can educe jam-like qualities from the most recalcitrant sources). Call it a Hyblean hunch because obsession, in my experience, is a horse of a different color. Purple, probably—if that’s not putting too fine a point on it. And there you see, we have taken a circuitous path back to the delectable, unabashedly purple berry. My God, it is an obsession! But the beauty of those long hours spent in counseling is that tiny trifles, even those with a purplish hue, are stopped from metastasizing into a monstrous, all-consuming haze. Devising incredibly malefic, scarcely feasible plans to deter mice from eating your tiny seedlings (should they germinate) is, and I’m parroting my counselor, not an appropriate way to occupy a botanist’s time (little does she know that most botanist’s have plenty of time on their hands owing to the present state of the economy).

This post is dedicated to the Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, not so much for being an enterprising botanist (at the very least he was always able to reliably find work) but for having such a great name.

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