Friday, September 30, 2005

The Dark Side of Donkey Rehab

I'm doing the donkeys and their benefactors a disservice by focusing on the picturesque and anthropomorphic. The story deserves more than funny fuzzy faces.

Earlier this year, the people who run Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holyland decided to extend a helping hoof beyond the borders of their shelter and to reach out to the donkeys and horses working in the fields and villages. So two months ago, SHADH built a shelter in Tayibeh, a nearby Arab village, and they started showing up every Tuesday with a vet, a farrier, and volunteers. The locals were invited to bring their donkeys and horses for medicine, vitamins, hoof treatment/reshoeing, and harness repair or replacement — all free. Hay and clean water were freely available. The simple but sturdy shelter featured signage in Arabic and English, three bathtubs for drinking water, and a bulletin board with photos of local kids and Koran passages about kindness to animals. Though each week they'd return to find the tubs filled with sand and the decorations torn down, their vet, Pierre, says the problems he treats have become less severe and traumatic.

Last Sunday, someone demolished the shelter with a bulldozer. Evidence points strongly to the local Arab vet, who was offended that he'd been cut out of the deal and had threatened before a crowd of witnesses to destroy the shelter. The razing was so thorough that of all the construction materials, only the tubs are salvageable. The family living across the street from the former shelter site was receiving $100 a week for general cleanup and oversight, but they claim not to have seen the destruction.

Two days later, the Safe Haven crew showed up again anyway, hay and water and volunteers and French vet in tow, and they treated eight or nine animals -- down from the usual dozen. Instead of gathering under the shelter's shade, they treated the animals in the shade of olive and ficus trees throughout the adjacent lot. Injuries ranged from minor inflammation of the fetlock to a stomach-churning abrasion at the crown of a horse’s back, where a poorly fitted saddle has worn away all the skin and exposed the fat layer.

Note the dark area behind the shoulders and the dark grease stains running down the fur. An injury of this magnitude would land a human in an emergency ward. Yet the owner is still riding and working the horse, which by the way doesn’t have much fat to comprise a layer. Note ribs.

Hobbling the horse to immobilize him for medical treatment. When the revolted vet had finished applying a salve to the area, he handed the rest of the tube to the owner (seen at left in baseball cap), who hefted it and said, "It's empty!"

This is not the horse. This donkey, however bloody and brutalized, is in great shape compared to the horse. Most of the donkeys had bloody sores and a general lack of spirits, but only this one showed an entire spine rubbed raw by, again, ill-fitting gear.

At the very least, they all spent some time in the shade eating hay and not working. It's a far cry from the bucolic playground at SHADH, but it's something.

So now the story of the Tayibeh outreach is no longer a simple heart-warming tale of crazy foreigners obsessed with animals. There’s intrigue and police reports, good guys and bad guys, and an animal-loving local who’s offered his side-yard to replace the demolition site.

Muhammad, a kindly man with a face very like a sheep's, wears a typically Israeli "tembel" hat. He raises rabbits and doves in adjacent hutches, half a dozen sheep, numberless exotic chickens, and a small flock of black turkeys in an enormous yard shaded by tropical fruit trees. He raises the sheep for fun, he says, but then slaughters them: "What else would I do?" He says he never eats anything he's grown himself. In a shady corner of the yard where chickens and sheep gambol all the live long day, he keeps a small nervous dog in a cage that would be confining for a rabbit, because "he makes trouble." The skinny little thing, all of six months old, was happy to lean against my hand and feel a pulse. Muhammad says he lets the dog out at night.

Muhammad and his prized doomed sheep.

Earlier, Muhammad's neighbor had promenaded over to the Shadh site to show off his very personable exotic goat. It was distinguished by a complicated udder and a nose that might be called comically aquiline. He was so proud of her, it pained him to see me photographing her attached to a common rope. Someone had made off with her more attractive leash, so he finally set his quarter-Syrian beauty free to ensure the photos presented her with becoming dignity. She was very attached to him and didn't wander far.

I offered to email him some images, but getting the email address was incredibly difficult. For starters, only Muhammad has email, which is okay because they're neighbors. But then Muhammad handed me the phone to speak with his daughter, who kept saying "M" -- or was it "N"? The simple "M as in Mary or N as in Nancy" routine we do in English-speaking countries only complicated matters. Maybe because I kept saying "N as in Natz-ret [Nazareth] or M as in Muhammad?" It took five minutes to get the email. Mercifully, it's a Hotmail address. I don't know if I could have handled any more challenges on the right side of the "streudel." (Streudel: a rolled-up pastry (@).)

There is no simple resolution to the Tayibeh situation, or to the problem of animal cruelty, especially in a poor society, or beyond that, to the problem of Arabs and Jews working (or not) together. SHADH's Tayibeh outreach might seem like a model for cooperation, but deepset distrust, entitlement, and cultural differences undermine progress. Given free vet care, the locals want a landscaped park like the one Coca-Cola recently built. Meanwhile, SHADH employs two Arabs and a Thai worker, and they're soldiering on to improve life for the animals ... whether the bipeds help or not.


Behold the Heroic Donkey

Okay, I confess. I've been spending time with the donkeys at Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holyland again. People here think I've lost my mind. Maybe you do too. Maybe I have. If loving donkeys is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Donkeys are a lot like big dogs. They love attention. Predictably, some donkeys also love the camera. And the camera, as they say, loves them. Like this one. Note how he goes from forlorn ...

... to supercilious with total ease. Eye makeup like that makes anything possible.

Note how I shamelessly anthropomorphize. Hang onto your saddle horn; it's about to get worse.

Eventually, this donkey became very interested in the camera itself, probably because of the flash. When I finally stopped taking pictures and petting him and stepped over the fence to leave, he kept an eye on me. I tried to come back a few minutes later, but he trotted a few feet away again.

I tried to approach again, and he moved away once again. Then I walked right at him and he galloped off down the field, gimp leg and all.

It really makes me wonder about the donkey sensibility. Sounds crazy, I know, but he seemed genuinely offended that after our photo session I was just, well, done with him. I guess I should expect his invoice and maybe a recriminating note in the mail. If you're reading this, baby, you're beautiful. Don't ever change.


How to Update an Ancient Language

Flogging that parve hemi-semi-demi-notoriety (see previous post), I have yet to tell my aunt about it, though it was she who originally used the word in our interview. Given her unrelenting attention to Hebrew etymology, particularly in reference to those English-language words forever being sucked into this evolving new/old language's maw, I think she'll be tickled by her contribution to reversing the current. I say unrelenting, because having invested a few hours in my language education, she now happily interrupts conversations to point out examples of the two main rules she's taught me.

And they go like this. Modern words (i.e., those not found in the Bible or related works), are generally created or adapted for Hebrew use in one of two ways.

1. The word may be derived by stretching an existing word/word family; e.g., from lakhshov (to think) we get makhshev (computer). Note that the same root may have long ago been extended to a related meaning, such as khashoov (important, or worth thinking about).

2. The word may be adapted by recasting an English word; e.g., nah-vee-gaht-see-ya (navigation) or psee-kho-lo-gee-ya (psychology) or (and this one throws people) ee-air-ar-shee-ya (hierarchy). I heard a neck-snapper today: teh-rah-poi-tee-ka (note the German pronunciation of the "eu" in therapeutic).

In many cases, a word derived from a Hebrew root exists but people just ignore it and use the adaptation. One of my favorite indigenous words for a modern concept is mootag, which means brand, as in consumer brand. My aunt thinks it comes from meteg, the word for electric switch, but she's not sure. I guess I could look up that meelah in a meelon or dictionary, which is itself a fairly recent invention with an easily derived name.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Word of the Day: Parve

I discovered a very interesting website today, because it discovered me first. Owing to my aunt Bilha's colorful choice of words, my recent Gaza disengagement story and I have been inducted to Double-Tongued Word Wrester, a site by and for people who like words.

May I present the term "parve".

And I'll amplify the definition cited with the following insight to modern Israeli usage: When it's not referring to a type of food, "parve" typically describes a spineless person. One might note that my aunt's usage included that definition, though you could argue the point. With her.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Uber Roach

The cell phone antenna just quivered near my leg here on the bed and I nearly jumped off. Why so jittery, you ask? Only the biggest fastest cockroach in Israel, that's why. While most of you were busy watching a game or ordering grande decaf mocha lattes, yours truly was engaged in a high-speed battle of midnight wits with the largest, lowest, swiftest arthropod ever. Fucking roach was flying across the carpet -- but that was only after we faced off in the tiled bathroom. I had a vague notion he might fling himself down the drain if urged in that direction, but no, this hexa-legged individual wanted the territories, the wide open spaces. So when I made the mistake of getting between him and the door, he charged.

OK. I've lived in New York. I've seen the littlest Gothamites scuttling across sidewalks with impunity. I've watched with amazement as herds of roaches swarmed darkly across the kitchen walls of an apartment once occupied by He Who Shall Remain Nameless. My point is that I have seen big bugs before. But even those tough Harlem roaches knew better than to charge me. Is it the climate? Something in the fertilizer? The natural bellicosity of Middle Easterners? Maybe he could see I was barefoot and squeamish. The screaming and wild dancing probably tipped him off.

Oh, so you think I'm a sissy, tough guy? He raced directly at me, antennae waving, six barbed legs flailing away, hitting land speeds unimaginable by the North American Domestic Roach. And that's the problem. This was a big outdoor bug bringing his desert survival skills to bear on an urban biped. I truly thought he was going to run up my leg and into my mouth. Or something. That's how determined he looked.

The funny thing is that I was on the phone with my dad at the time, while I was overreacting. As readers of the AZ Lexico must know, aSWQ2 --

Jesus Christ! Flying beetle just landed on my leg. A smaller beetle. Do I need to set up smudgepots and flypaper? Why there aren't screens on all the windows here I'll never know. I'm expecting a millipede procession to come through here with a brass band and firecrackers any minute now. For the record: I usually don't mind a few bugs in the house. I welcome spiders. And I reside here at the pleasure of several tiny translucent lizards. They're skittish but charming, and they typically stick to the upper reaches of the walls. I guess I'd be skittish too if I had to look these Cadillac-sized cockroaches in the eye on a regular basis. But reptile or insect -- too much of even a good thing is still too much.

(aSWQ2 is not code or geekspeak -- it's what happens when I leap off the bed and fling away the laptop.)

As I was saying, as readers of the AZ Lexico must surmise, my dad is not given to literary references, but after I got done yelling about the first bug, he immediately started talking about "Metamorphosis" and how it scared the hell out of him 40 years ago. "Changed my life," he said. "I haven't killed a cockroach since. He's my brother!"

So that's how the bug got in. He has his own key. Silly me. Next time I'll put out a platter of rotting flesh and some magazines. Meanwhile, the smaller flying roach keeps landing on the bed and trying to appear inconspicuous. Maybe I should go sleep in the fridge. Maybe I should get over my aversion to killing. Maybe this is where suicide bombers go instead of heaven and 72 virgins: They have to buzz bug-shy insomniacs until swatted into the next hereafter.

A third and new kind of flying roach just landed on the bed and got tangled up in the topsheet before I flapped it free. It then did a high-speed perp-walk across my bed and over the edge. I've figured out why this is happening. I'm turning off the overhead light.

And now for the thrilling conclusion of our tempest in a teapot: I watched the Big Bug scuttle into the tiled living room at 45mph and hoped that would be the last we see of each other. But now he's probably done hoovering up crumbs from the kitchen floor, has doubled in size, and is ready to rumble. I'm going to set up a police blockade and apply supertoxic bug repellent like Bathsheba slathered goo all over the King of Siam. Or whoever. Enjoy your latte. My entourage and I are going to sleep.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fish Cow Robot: Nature Contained

My little contretemps with water (see previous post) has only led to more swimming. Swam in a spectacular indoor pool two nights ago, and yesterday I visited a spring-fed pond set amid grassy banks, volcanic rock, and mature trees. It’s actually three pools, the first two separated by a waterfall and the second and third by a defunct flour mill. Though I’ve visited Gan HaShelosha (Garden of the Three) dozens of times, it's been years since I ventured past the first pond, which is about as long as an Olympic pool but holds a lot more fish. I swam the length of the first pool and decided to venture ... beyond.

The second starts with a wall of water: hundreds of gallons a second tumbling 15 feet off the lip of a 30-foot wide concrete shelf. I stepped in a few feet from the torrent and swam into it completely submerged. Late afternoon sunlight slanted into the water suffusing it a bright creamsicle blue. Under the cascade billions of exploding bubbles bobbled itty-bitty to the surface and there, barely beyond the effervescence, hovered thousands of tiny fish. Watching me. Treading water. Doing fish things. Like nibbling at my feet. I hovered there beneath the surface, goggling at the wildlife and resurfacing sparingly, until my lungs couldn't take any more, and then I swam the length of that pool. It's strange to swim among fish, to watch them dart away from your hands as you cut through the water.

Dairy King Live

An hour later, at Kibbutz Sheluhot, a religious farming collective, I communed with young dairy cows, who are so hungry they'll suck on anything, including hands ...

thanks to early separation from their working moms.

As one calf slimed my hand most grievously, I felt his rough tongue and new molars. Very strange. A lot of suction. The younger calves were very friendly, kind of like big dogs (which is what cloistered urbanites always say).

The next age group up had already learned fear -- probably when the numbers were seared onto their backs -- but curiosity eventually overcame apprehension, and some realized they liked having their knobby heads scratched.

What I learned about calves from my uncle Jack, who used to work in the dairy: From three days on, the calves have unlimited access to grain and hay but only see their moms three times a day -- after the automatic milking machines have extracted 30-40 liters of milk (each day). Within a short time they stop getting real milk and are put on formula. Other dairy trivia: barcodes on the cows' hooves help track their productivity and even consumption.

Israel has one "Robotic Cowshed," which allows cows to disgorge their udders at will. Robot-milked cows generally come in for milking five times a day, which makes them more productive and theoretically more content than cows that have to wait for humans to milk them just three times a day. Robotic cowsheds are popular in Europe.

Temp Solution

The labor situation at kibbutzim has changed radically in the past 10 years, thanks in large part to the Intifadeh, which both scared off the traditionally European and American "summer in Israel" volunteers and led to the rejection of Arab workers, who were deemed an unsafe risk. Now East Asia provides cheap, reliable labor to keep the kibbutzim and old folks' homes and restaurants humming. At Sheluhot, where my aunt and uncle have lived their entire adult lives, a group of Thai men live wholly apart from their employers in a U-shaped cluster of trailers. Imported farm hands. Their presence is symptomatic of the sickness of the kibbutz system, once a powerful and exemplary component of Israel's labor-driven society, now a splintering relic riven by diverse new economic and societal pressures in a country where high-tech has replaced agriculture as the key to a better tomorrow.

Kibbutzim hold little interest for ambitious youth, and so the average age of the kibbutz-dwellers is rising. Theoretically, and this is a wild excursion, in a near future some kibbutzim could be operated by old men and women pushing buttons and barking orders to crews of Asian workers. This is the secular humanist in me going off, but I think the complete segregation of foreign workers from the community's social fabric compounds the sickness of the kibbutz system. I also think turning cows into machines is another form of sickness, but this denaturing is far worse in the U.S., where Mad Cow Disease is nature's revenge.

But the Thai workers probably don't know they're symptomatic of anything beyond globalization, if that. Meanwhile, their employers are very happy with them; my uncle said they're like "robots" -- they really get the job done. I stumbled upon them while photographing a sun-splashed tower of palletts near their trailers.

When I tried to approach, they waved me away. I thought to regale them with tales of Hollywood Blvd.'s Thai ex-pats -- well, no, but I was willing to play any card I had for a plate of whatever they had for dinner. But they professed to speak neither English nor Hebrew and just kept waving and smiling and shaking their heads. Sent me surfing out of there on a wave of liberal guilt and frustration. Walking away, I was amazed to see a small but lush patch of Thai greenery, bright with small spiky peppers, spherical striped eggplants, lemongrass, basil, mint, and other herbs, all under the care of a sophisticated combination of drip and spray irrigation (a technology Israel pioneered).

This is where the Thai workers talk to their loved ones back home.

That you can swim with fish in a natural pool just 10 minutes from a place where people and animals have been turned into robots is part of what makes Israel so strange and contradictory. That, and
Arab vs. Jew,
Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi,
Labor vs. Likud,
far left vs. center left
far right vs. center right,
religious vs. secular,
religious vs. ultra-religious,
city vs. country,
North vs. South,
old vs. new,
rich vs. poor,
new rich vs. old rich,
new immigrant vs. old immigrant,


Monday, September 12, 2005

Swimming Lesson After Dark

After a week of lying in bed sick or recovering on unsteady feet, I slipped back into my running shoes for the first time in seven days and headed out to meet the setting sun on the sand. The run itself was uneventful. I invented a few crises just to keep my speed up -- won’t let those guys catch up! There's someone chasing me! -- but it was basically the usual plodding slog up to the Arab fishing village and back down to the southernmost rocks and then back again to the lifeguard station. What's new is that, now that I know sea turtles choke and die on plastic bags they mistake for jellyfish, every unnatural glimmer in the sand is an interruption. I stop, stoop, scoop, and soon enough have a handful of wet sandy sacks, which I have to carry the length of the beach to a trash bag at one end or the other. It's a pain and the odds are unlikely, but what if I save one turtle's life? I skip plastic cups and bottles, because turtles probably can't swallow those, and I'm hoping that plasti-foil popsicle and chips wrappers look too unnatural to be tempting.

So I had my 45-minute run, and when it was done the sun was long gone. A few lights twinkled on the beach and at the power station, but the water and beach were dark. I left my shoes, socks, and glasses by the unmanned lifeguard tower, and sallied into the drink. A week ago, as I'd walked into the water at much the same time, unnaturally morbid thoughts had swarmed heavily around me, provoking a sense of finality, of solitude, of my last walk into an ocean ever. It was like living my own Joy Division song. But the swim had gone well, and I'd emerged more because of boredom than anything else. That was a week ago.

Tonight, the dark thoughts hovered again as I walked into black water under a deep purple sky, but I brushed them aside. The waves were stronger than usual, even aggressive. One slammed into my crotch, which didn't hurt, but hey, fella -- what's the big idea? I hadn't ever swum here at so high a tide, and because of the sand's steep angle, high tide seems to strengthen the waves more than it does at the shallow-approach Santa Monica beaches where I grew up.

Another difference: The water is so warm here that diving in requires no fortitude at all. I used to resent the tub-like easiness, but now I'm used to it. You just dunk in like a dolphin, no jaw-clenching required, and start frolicking or swimming. Which I did. I swam submerged for a half-minute or so and felt three waves suck me sharply upward as they passed. Then I surfaced, did a lazy breast stroke out to sea for a few minutes, and finally stopped to see where I'd ended up.

Far away. The silhouetted lifeguard station was much smaller than I wanted it to be. Imprudent to remain so far from shore, I thought. Time for a real breast stroke back, just to stay within a comfortable distance, and set to work at a moderate pace. I expected to close the gap with ease. But when I paused again to check my progress, there seemed to be none. I tried to gauge my relationship to the illuminated power station chimneys on my right versus the half moon just above them, but wouldn't you know it -- I'd left the sextant on shore with my tennies. So I started swimming again, with more conviction this time, and after a minute or so paused again to see how far I'd gone. Still no visible progress. I mulled the possibility of panicking. Talked myself out of it and went back to swimming. Stories about recent drownings at this very beach swam up to greet me in the turbid waters, and I put more muscle into my stroke. Kept it up for two or three minutes, all the while wondering how exactly one drowns: Does water suddenly flood into your nose when a wave hits just as you're inhaling, thus provoking a coughing fit that floods the lungs? Does fatigue take you down after the tide has taken you out? How mediocre a swimmer do you have to be to lose it in a non-stormy ocean? How mediocre a swimmer am I? What about sharks? Motivational thoughts like these kept me stroking away as a series of big, loud waves crested around me. When I finally dared to stop again, my feet still didn't touch bottom. OK to panic now? I mean, WTF? This doesn't happen to me. I'm a good swimmer ... aren't I?

Started swimming again. I didn't want to put all my strength into it, just in case the tide was so strong that it was truly pulling me out and would force me to maintain strength-conserving survival strokes for hours. So, panic rising, I swam at an easy pace for three or four minutes straight and then looked up to see, finally, the station looming a comfortable distance away. Panic subsiding, I swam to where I could touch the bottom, swam a little further, and then walked right out of the water. Not shaking. On my way out, a freakishly strong little wave, like a midget wrestler, slammed into my back in a jovial, obnoxious way. Same to you. I was glad to be out. It’s been a long time since I felt anything like real fear in the water.

I was nine or ten the last time I felt true terror at the beach. Though I spent every weekend of my childhood at Santa Monica beaches, one afternoon a wave or three swept me out farther than I was used to going. I started flailing and yelling and thinking I was dying, and just as my young life seemed to be drawing to a watery close, someone materialized to hoist me up and restore my footing. The lifeguard forbade me to go in deeper than my waist for the rest of the day. I disobeyed, of course.

Acting as my own lifeguard tonight, I went straight home.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lights, Camera, Roadside Attraction

A content-free post, featuring nothing but eye candy shot while driving home on the mighty, privately financed toll Highway 6. Images are bigger than usual and may be slower to load. No post-exposure enhancements or alterations.






Name Game

1. Crouching Insect, Hidden Rorschach
2. Nahshonim Interchange 1500
3. Bit Torrent
4. Square Egg
5. Local Dialect


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Rah Rah, Sis Boom Bah Humbug!

In this time of catastrophe, when even w. cuts short a vacation, his mom, she of the tasteful pearls and imposing George Washington looks, had the minor misfortune to be interviewed on the unfortunates of New Orleans:

"So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this -- this is working very well for them."
You can hear her here.   

At some point, they decided not to let Reagan out in public any more.


Thursday, September 01, 2005


Tippy here rules the barnyard. And she knows how to hold a pose.

Tippy and friends vying for carrots.

Just like giant rabbits. They'd much rather be hand-fed than have to scrounge the sandy floor for carrots, though they have plenty of hay at all times.

A framing device. And it gets excellent TV reception. Who knew donkeys were so photogenic?

I spent Tuesday afternoon with donkeys and the Mother Teresa of Donkeys, Lucy Fensom. She founded Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land in response to the widespread abuse and neglect visited upon these solid little citizens whose primary offense lies in costing so little that they have no perceived value. One of Lucy's goals is to change attitudes and behaviors. She also wants to save every donkey she can from beatings, burnings, mutilations, and death perpetrated by angry mobs, bored kids, and other stupid cruel people.

As someone said to me last week, "Donkeys aren't stubborn ... they're just patient." And they lack options.

Donkey got soul.

Donkey got back.

With 85 well-cared-for donkeys at the farm and an impish toddler underfoot, Lucy and husband Adi nevertheless steal away for three to four hours every Tuesday to run a donkey and horse outreach clinic deep in a small Arab village. The vet, farrier, and volunteers provide basic medical care ...

hoof trimming ...

and harness adjustments for donkeys and for horses, which may cost a lot more but still get a hell of a lot of abuse. As one horse owner told me while accepting free hoof care and reshoeing, a donkey can pull 200 lbs. but a horse can pull 600 lbs. Both numbers are too high, which helps explain why his horse was such a wreck.

All the working animals we saw had sores and open wounds from poorly fitted, borderline medieval harnesses.

The antiseptic spray isn't designed to blend in.

This little donkey came in with a big iron cart and an ancient Arab driver.

Thanks to an ill-fitting strap, he had a big open wound behind his right foreleg. A volunteer tried to pad it with moleskin, but it didn't look good. As grievous as the donkey's condition was, the old guy who owns him has very few teeth left and probably not many years on tap either, so it was (a little) tough to fault him for his donkey's woes. Life is hard here. All things considered, he probably treats his donkey as well as he can, because it's his livelihood. That's what I'd like to believe, sores notwithstanding.

On the other hand, another guy showed up for the second week in a row demanding Lucy take in his weak, old, sick donkey and replace it with one of her healthy ones. No reason. That's just what he wants. He refused to pose for a picture, but hung around smoking and chatting for hours as his donkey stood in the sun waiting. Lucy gave it water, shots, and superficial first aid, but she won't serve as a donkey exchange, taking in the sick and giving away the healthy. Once a donkey's gone to heaven, she won't send it back to hell.

This is the freeloader's sad, weak donkey, below ...

waiting patiently in full harness with a big iron cart secured to its back. That's a little boy from around the way who came up and petted the donkey's nose for a moment and then smacked it for no apparent reason. He received a stern talking to, with instructions on proper donkey interaction. In addition to ministering to donkey wounds, the clinic seeks to educate current and future donkey masters. There are a lot of ingrained bad behaviors and attitudes to undo.

This is the wounded donkey seen above, unharnessed. Left no better options, donkeys will eat ficus leaves. And look picturesque.

SHADH survives on donations from abroad, mostly the UK and US. At the site, you can read more, meet Lucy and the donkeys, and even "adopt" individual creatures such as Tippy, Chico, Primrose, Shrek, and Jake.

You! Who Are You?

Who's reading this blog in Vermont, Arizona, DC, OK City, and Santa Rosa? Happy to have you here, but how did you find Lord Zim, and have we met? Special prize for the first two people to respond.

This violation of the fourth wall is probably a massive faux pas in blogiquette, but what are you gonna do about it? You can't disturb me any more than the giant winged beetles already do.

BTW, vanilla soy milk + Fernet Branca = White Russian with a mothball twist.


Last One Out Update the Website

When K and I visited New Orleans a couple years ago for NYE, we had a tremendous dinner at NOLA, a restaurant so good it didn't matter that TV chef Emeril owned it. In a very vain attempt to personalize the disaster, I looked at NOLA's website just now and saw this sadly glib scrap of verbiage:

"With a hurricane swirl..........the strength of the storm by which Emeril Lagasse has taken New Orleans......... with a whirlwind of fresh adaptations of classic Creole cuisine."

Oops. Ouch.

Speaking of oops and ouch, my uncle here in Israel, who is responsible for getting Gaza settlers relocated into new homes throughout this tiny, poor country, is shocked by the way America left so many poor people behind just to suffer and die in a decrepit stadium. I explained that America's ruling powers don’t care about poor people. Some lives are cheap.

Two scenes from "Fahrenheit 911" come to mind: w sitting dazed and ineffectual with a children's book upside down in his lap upon hearing about jets hitting the towers, and when he tells a roomful of wealthy donors, "Some people call you the elites; I call you my base." Much better to have our poverty-drafted National Guard defending Chevron’s interests in the Gulf than at home doing what they signed up to do: preserve domestic peace in times of extremity.

OK, plenty of bloggers are doing similar rants with greater erudition and effect than I. New Orleans was a sitting duck and now, in his impervious, oblivious way, so is w.