Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Classics

There are a lot of great Halloween Classics. They don't all get the appreciation they deserve. For example, look at this Picasso.
[Click on ALL pictures for close-ups.]



Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) "Old Woman," at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection

Why doesn't this picture grace the cover of more Halloween cards?

Here are some retro cards I have. I like them!



Here's a "devil mask" from Mexico in some museum. I wonder if it's the inspiration for the famous Bat Boy?



Here are some more Halloween classics. Probably you have seen some version of this by now. I love this idea!



Here are three of the best classics in the world. My three beloved ferrets, Dipsy (top left), Milkdud (top right), and Dipsy (below).



Here are two Halloween cards I got in the past that I liked so much I kept.



Halloween can be funny and irreverent, or just cute as hell!



Skeletons and skulls are Halloween classics. The first is a bone grave from Hallstadt, Germany. And a more modern version of skeletons--irreverent (sort of, not really), and cute!



Spend some cool time looking at pictures of the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic.



The link to the Sedlec Ossuary is below, at the END of my blog: I don't want you to miss a thing!

I love this bat joke:



My hand-painted Halloween art (available on eBay):



Happy Halloween!

click here to see the Sedlec Ossuary, but NOT until you're done reading MY blog!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween at the Otter's Holt



Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love to decorate my yard for the event. I love to give candy and treats to the trick-or-treaters and enjoy all their costumes.




My yard is some version of a Creepy Graveyard every year: The Kilmore Street Cemetery (I live on Gilmore Street). (Thanks again for that great pun, Tim!)



Here are some skeletons along the walkway.



My mums always bloom for this season and make the graveyard look great.

The above mums above are my favorite color. Incidentally, they originally came from my Mum's garden.



Don't they look great with the gravestones?

Here are close-ups of the gravestones. I have hand-cut (well, with my scroll saw) gravestones I made from wood and painted with jokey gravestone names. I think they are very amusing! (click on picture for enlargement)



Here they are, from left to right.

Barry D'Alive, Stupid (Smoker) and I'm With Stupid, Rick Amortis, Justin Pieces, Willy B. Back, Ted N. Buried, and Manny Bones.

And the rest (click on picture for enlargement):




Ben Dover, and Myra Mains, one of my favorites; I think my fellow nurses can empathize with the sentiment on that stone.
Fester N. Rott, M. T. Tomb, Imus B. Goewin, Ima Spook and the one that's my top favorite: "Anita Transfusion." Another nurse-themed grave. ("Nurses don't die; they just float away.")

Here are my favorite Scary Rubber Dolls. Cute and scary. Just like me:



And what yard would be complete without severed limbs sticking out of doors?:



Here is the Jack-o-Lantern Totem Pole:



A girl can never have enough plastic rats!



THE SNAKE STORY
The last few years I've been including a trick-or-treat (depending on your point of view) with my candy. I take a pet (corn) snake and put it in the big plastic cauldron with the candy! Then I say, "Are you brave enough to snatch your candy from the Snake of Doom?"
I get a wide variety of reactions. All the kids seem impressed, and some think it's cool and want to pet the snake. Some are scared and take their candy from the other side of the cauldron where they think the snake's not looking. Some are so scared they ask their friends to get a piece for them, or if they are really wimps, they don't get any chocolate and can take a lame pixie stick or Halloween pencil from a different container.
Sometimes the kids are brave and the parents are chicken! And vice-versa. And I can hear them going down the street, saying to their friends,
"The lady in that house has a real SNAKE!!" I think this whole idea is pure genius. I wish I could take credit for it, but I have to admit, my boyfriend Grumpet thought of this snake-in-the-cauldron joke.

Now, if you want to try this yourself, here's a tip: give your snake a warm bath one or two days before the event. It'll stimulate his bowels and then for Halloween he'll have no poop to poop. Because if you don't, he will poop in your candy bowl, I guarantee it! And snake poop is pretty slimy and stinky.


I love to dress up my animals. Here are my cats, and one of my ferrets.



Speaking of cats:

THE CAT LITTER PAN PRANK
Now as long as I'm writing about great ideas from someone other than myself, I'm going to include what I think is the greatest practical joke in the world. This is by the ex-boyfriend of someone close to me. He went over some people's house who had a cat and kept their cat's litter pan in the bathroom. He went to the bathroom, and had to take a dump. Well, he took it IN THE CAT PAN!!! Can you imagine!! I'm laughing even as I type this, and I laugh every time I tell the story. Can you just imagine those people, making the discovery of the huge dump in their cat pan, scratching their heads and asking, perhaps even worriedly, "WHAT the heck is this? WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY CAT???"



Can you find the last rat?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Transpennsylvania Newt Lab of Dr. Frankenshrom

Newt keepers and salamander hobbyists around the world are are familiar with the work of Dr. Frankenshrom from Transpennsylvania, Captive Breeder Extraordinaire and Purveyor of Newts and Springtail Cultures. (1)

So they are all jealous of the privilege which was mine, to drop in on his home last year to pick up some newts on my way back from a trip to Harrisburg PA.

When I arrived, he was just in the middle of boiling up a vat of marbled newts.



"Would you like to see how it's done?"
Always on the lookout for helpful newt tips, "Boy and how," I replied.

He showed me the mosh pit in the back yard where he cultivates the softest and smoothest mud around.

"The smoother the mud, the smoother the newts, that's one of my secrets. I have my clay imported from the Red Sea."

We progressed into the kitchen, where he had been in the process of mixing his special mud with toothpaste and some kind of olive oil salad dressing ("IT MUST BE ORGANIC", he stressed, "that's why my animals are Above Average"). (2)



He showed me some starter mixes he keeps (in the kitchen cabinet-- where else!; they keep their peanut butter, cornflakes, and spaghetti noodles in the bathroom closet. Yes, Michael, I was snooping).
"This is your basic recipe, and then I add specific ingredients for different species. I call it 'NewtMix'®."

He tossed in this and that, in proportions he would not reveal, along with a few other secret ingredients, though I caught a glimpse of "fenugreek" on the label of something in the spice rack.

"This is how I churn the stuffing. My wife sews the casings from the leaves of clivia plants, and at night after supper we sit in the kitchen and color them. Quality family time, and all that..."



We moved along the table. "The last thing we attach are the tails. These we make out of ribbons." Then he started to tie one on.
"Wow, that's some pretty fancy knotting," I admired.
"Thanks for noticing. When I was 14 I ran away from the Boy Scouts during a camping trip, just didn't fit in, you know, and I fell in with some fly fisherman...the things they taught me come in real handy when I'm fastening these."

Lastly, I had to ask, "And the eyes? what do you make them out of?"
"Funny you should ask..That's the hardest part. There's a shooting range a couple miles from here...if you look around, you can find
a lot of old pieces of shot and BBs in the grass and dirt...they work perfectly, though they are hell to gather. But once I have a bucketful or so, they last quite a while. I pop 'em right in, and they work great. Luckily I only need two per newt."
He paused, and then changed the subject. "So, would you like to see my stock?"
"Lead on, boss!", I cried.

He opened what looked like a regular basement door. Down, down we climbed, around and around a dank, secret stone spiral staircase. When we got to the bottom, I discretely looked away as he dialed the numbers on a combination lock,
allowing a final door to be opened. We entered a room that struck me with awe: tanks, tanks, and more tanks, everywhere.



Hanging from the ceiling, dug into the floor, sitting on racks, growing from the walls. In between the tanks and under the tanks, were more tanks.
Here and there were buckets of various objects. He saw me looking at them with a puzzled expression and explained:
"I do have to occasionally procure odd ingredients for specific species, like the gross of marbles I needed for today, the brick of uranium I needed for those recent batch of GFP -- the green fluorescent protein-- axolotls."(3) He nodded in the direction of a glowing green pool. "I had to gather buckets and buckets of morning glory blossoms for last year's two barrels of dobrogicus."



"Blossoms? What do you need them for?" "Have you ever seen one in full breeding dress? There is nothing so colorful and delicate as a dobrogicus breeding crest. These don't have them glued on yet."

"Rough-skinned newts require a little bit of kitty litter injected under the skins, and it ABSOLUTELY has to be the non-clumping kind", he added.
"And, as you would expect, I use mayonnaise instead of salad dressing for the albino axolotls."



Then he concluded: "This year the local sofa factory went belly-up and I lucked out with a whole lot of discount upholstery needles. You know, the arched needles that curve around for sewing furniture edges. I'm fortunate that it's been a rainy summer with lots of lightning; business has been good. And with all the needles , it's been a bumper year for Sharp-Ribbed newts." And indeed, it seemed every other tank was full of Pleurodeles waltl. I was fortunate; these are what I had come to get. But still I looked around.

"I don't see many Alpine newts. What's up with that?", I asked.

"Well, Alpine newts are available only every few years, as Edelweiss imports are sporadic and they are a vital ingredient for that species."

"You've got a lot of Fire Salamanders. I've never seen such a collection!"
"Well, my son is a volunteer for the local fire company and he brings them home from work. See here, this one is still covered with ashes."



"Didn't you say something about having a rare kind of crayfish?", I asked. "Oh yeah! You've got to meet him."



He stuck his fingers into his beard and pulled out his monster crayfish. "That's where I keep him. He likes it in there, though he got lost for a month last year. After that, the wife made me trim the beard some."

"I have a package to prepare. Do you mind?" We went back up the spiral staircase and he took me into the yard to his Shed Full of Boxes Lined with Styrofoam.



"I started with two, and left them for a while, and they bred themselves! Sure saves money."
"Don't feel bad. At home, I have a whole room lined with padded foam rubber."

"Now come out into the side yard, and I'll show you my most secret of secrets. Just promise not to tell anyone, or publicize it in any way.
And for god's sake, keep me out of that silly blog of yours."
"Word of honor, boss."




"Inside this tree is a huge metal rod. It attracts and focuses lightening. After the newts are all stirred, stitched and stuffed, I hold off until the weather is right.
Then when there's a thunderstorm, I put the latest batch into this concrete cauldron, attach one end of these jumper cables to the tree, and the other I stick into the water. Then the magic happens, and the toothpaste and salad dressing stuffed clivia leaves crawl to life as Frankenshrom's Amazing Newts!"

And with that, the tour was over.

No one can deny that he does good work. My own beloved Eddie and Elektra (Himalayan crocodile newts) were created in his lab. I met their grandparents!



As he escorted me to my car he politely asked, "And how are their larvae (babies) getting on? I haven't checked the salamander forum recently for your five-minute updates and I'm dying to know how many worms Elektra ate today."
"Getting bigger every day, and growing like weeds," I replied.

"Here, take these, you'll be needing them soon," and he tossed me a glittery bag. "Orange rhinestones! Wow!", I exclaimed.

"You glue them on after the larvae turn brown and their gills get shorter by half. Make sure you don't use Krazy Glue, it affects their personalities".

I shook his hand, and was sad to go. "Thanks", I managed in wonder, and packed it in.

"Come on," you might ask, "do you really expect us to believe that Michael is really a mad scientist who has a lab in subterranean tunnels?"

OK, OK, I'll come clean. The truth of the matter is, as a moderator on Caudata.org, it is my privilege to completely abuse the considerable power of my position as I see fit, and to extort favors and merchandise wherever I can.
I had to go to Harrisburg last year, and so I thought I would call Mr. Shrom and tell him I'd be passing through the area, and if he wanted to remain a forum member in good standing, he would give me a tour and maybe throw in a couple of newts as well.

So I called him up and spent a few minutes notifiying him that

"It is time for your first ever annual caudata.org inspection....yes, I am authorized...no, you don't need to check with the Administrators on the forum..."

Pretty good haul, don't you think? Who should I inspect next?

Here are a couple more pictures from my visit.



This is a rare and valuable "Iranian Harlequin Newt." Look, you can see a gilled larva in the foreground, in the same tank with the adult.

Michael is a man who loves his crayfish:




I guess they kind of grow on you....get it? Get it?



~The End~

Footnotes:
(1) Springtails are tiny bugs that we feed to baby newts and salamanders.

(2) The name of his business is "Above Average Amphibians."

(3) GFP axolotls glow in the dark.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kitty Litter Cake -- Another Halloween MUST

I'm not much of a cook, and here is my recipe for bake-less Kitty Litter Cake.

I make one for my birthday every year, and bring it in to work, and anyone who pretends to be my friend has to have some whether they want or not, if they want to stay in my good graces.



Ingredients: 1 marble pound cake , 1 chocolate pound cake (I use Entenmann's), some vanilla pudding, powdered sugar, tootsie rolls.

So here's the recipe...I crumble up a regular pound cake
and crumble up chocolate pound cake, mixing it with some vanilla pudding.

Then I put it in the black pan. It's supposed to look like a litter pan.

Then I sprinkle it with powdered sugar, to make it look more authentic.

Then the best part, I get some tootsie rolls, warm them up a bit in the microwave, and shape them to "taste".



I adorn the top with them. And finally, I have a kitty litter scooper reserved only for serving the cake! Isn't it awesome!

Serving this cake has been very educational in the past. I learned that some people, in fact many people, just have no sense of humor.

Including Grumpet. This one even stretches the tolerance of my own siblings, who know me well and usually are happy to indulge me.

But Twinkie likes it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How To Attract Bats!

I wanted a bat house. I wanted to help save the bats. I wanted
a bat sanctuary. I wanted to have bats on my property. So I
made Grumpet get me a bat house for my birthday last year.

I patiently waited until spring, and carefully hung my bat house
according to the parameters they suggested.



Meanwhile, at Grumpet's house, bats come.
With no effort on his part. Where?



See that patio umbrella? Look inside!



It's a little brown bat!



Isn't it cute???



Isn't it fuzzy??



Don't you want one too???