Puppies For Everyone… Puppies All Around… PUPPIES PUPPIES PUPPIES

August 19, 2014 § 14 Comments

This is nothing but a bunch of squishy, delicious puppy pictures.

For context on who this little one is and where he came from, you can get the full story in my column today for The New York Times. Then you can wallow in some more fuzzy goodness here:


First, let us all take a moment of silence for Phoebe. She was so quiet and weird and wonderful and stubborn and blind and deaf and old and crotchety and sweet, and she can never be replaced. We love you, Pheebs.

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Next, let’s just acknowledge that yes, I am of the “Jump Right Back In” school of coping. And to everyone who asked, “Is this REALLY the best time for you to get a new puppy?” let me say: There is never a wrong time for me to have a puppy. All puppies, all the time.


Introducing Eleanor Roosevelt to her new pal, Woodstock.

Looks like it might take some time for them to become friends.


Or… maybe it’ll take no time at all.


I mean, seriously.

If Russian spies wanted to kill me, all they’d have to do is send in a spy-assassin-puppy.

Photo on 8-16-14 at 2.34 PM

I’ll take a drumstick.


No clue what breed he is.

There’s some yellow lab in there, but other than that, who knows? We’re going with “blended heritage.”


“This is my baby brother. Now I shall squash him.”


Hard to tell who’s more grateful for the other.

If you really want to go nuts with puppy goodness, the article at the NYT has video, too. 

Oh, and I just want to holler some thanks at the good folks at the shelter and animal hospital where Woodstock lived before we met him. They took mighty good care of the little guy, and we’re glad.

11 Conversation Starters For Your Next Social Event With Strangers

August 11, 2014 § 13 Comments

Have you seen this Town & Country piece about how to start a conversation with someone you don’t know?

no fail, you say?



The article begins, “We’ve all been there, you’re at a party, wedding, or formal dinner, and barely know a soul.” Comma splice aside (I mean, seriously), it offers a mixed bag of suggestions from various experts (?) on how to start up a chat with a stranger.

Some of them are great, if perhaps a bit obvious: ask about the person’s work, compliment their outfit, ask if they’ve read anything good lately. Others seem a little heavy for breaking the ice at a party — for example, “What do you think is the driving force in your life?” If someone walked up to me at a party and asked what my driving force was, I would have NO CHOICE but to say, “The voices. All the voices.” And then I’d pop a meatball in my mouth and chew it verrrrry slowly while holding eye contact with the person until they walked away.

Anyway, my friend who sent me the link to the article suggested I might have some conversation starters of my own to offer, and I said, challenge accepted. Just for the sake of consistency, I applied them to the same photo from the article. So here you go — 11 ways to strike up a conversation:

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 (click any image to see it larger)


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Happy chatting!

So You Want to Join a Jellyfish Gang?

August 1, 2014 § 60 Comments

I’ve noticed something this summer: There’s never just a single jellyfish on the beach. Either you see none, or you see a whole bunch. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that jellyfish travel in gangs.

It makes sense, if you think about it. The ocean is a big place, and it would be easy to feel lost and lonely if you weren’t a part of something bigger than yourself. Regular fish can be a bit cliquish, what with their elitist “schools” and such. Maybe jellyfish just want to feel like they belong to something.

And maybe you do, too. But before you go and sign up to join a jellyfish gang, there are some things you should know.



At first glance, jellyfish really seem to have it all figured out.



You see all these jellies, lounging around on the beach like, We own this club, and you think, “You know, that *does* look like fun.”



On the plus side, gangs offer a sense of belonging. If you’ve ever felt insecure about what makes you different, joining a gang can make you feel included for the first time. That’s a nice feeling. This jelly, for example, is super-mangled on one side and also appears to have an oozing head sore, but he’s a part of the group just the same. That’s pretty cool, for him.



The hierarchy within gangs also lends itself to the development of an intricate chain of command. Maybe you’ve never been in charge of anything before, but now there’s potential for you to rise to the top and show yourself to be a mentor and a boss.



Gang members have their own language, including phrases and symbols that outsiders don’t understand. Using these forms of communication makes you feel like you’re part of a family.



Plus, all your fellow gangsters look like big gummi bears.



But there’s a dark side, too. For one thing, gangs are recruiting younger and younger members, robbing them of their youth and introducing them to questionable behavior at a very young age. That’s sad.



Also, gang life is full of risks. For example, disagreements within the gang often fester and are not always resolved peacefully. It is common for disgruntled gangsters to use nearby items as objects of force on others.



The outcomes can be tragic.



And while it is sometimes possible for an outsider — like this clear straw wrapper — to gain access to the inner circle if he or she is similar enough to the other members…



… jelly gangs are notoriously bigoted and are known to ostracize those they see as outsiders, often puffing up defensively at the sight of anyone who is not sufficiently translucent…



… such as this guy, who was lured away from his friends and then abandoned on the hot sand in a cruel initiation ritual. He thought he was joining the gang, but in reality, he never had a chance.



So if you’re tempted to join a jellyfish gang, just make sure you’re going into it with your eyes open. If you look close enough, you may see that gang life isn’t all cookouts and street dancing. There’s a dark side, too.

And that’s science.*

(* It is not science.)

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A big high-five to WordPress for featuring this on their homepage — it is always fun to be Freshly Pressed, and I’m so grateful for the support — THANK YOU.

If this is your first visit here, you can click over there –> or up there ^ to subscribe and get more of this stuff, if you want. If you enjoyed this gang of anthropomorphized jellyfish, you might also enjoy The Random Penguins / Penguins with People Problems, which will soon be a book you can own and put on your coffee table. Or you might not. Who am I to say? 

If this strikes you as entirely silly, that’s probably a sign of your hale mental health, so good for you. You might prefer some of my more normal work, like the column I’m writing for The New York Times.

Either way, hello and thanks. -MLP  (online: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram)

How to Entertain Your Movers

July 21, 2014 § 38 Comments

Whew. Moving is hard.

Doing hard things is a shitload easier if you have the help of lots of other people, including hired professionals who may or may not have been professional bodybuilders in a past career and are therefore qualified to lift extremely heavy things. But even if you’re the one who needs help, you can’t just take, take, take. You have to give back a little, too. I’m a big believer in giving everyone I have a meaningful interaction with something — if not an actual thing, then a gesture, a feeling, a thought. Kind of like how my mama taught me that when you return somebody’s dish, you don’t return it empty; you put something of your own making back into it. (Thank you for the delicious casserole. Here is your pan back, along with some drawings I made of a giraffe smoking a cigarette.)

But what on earth could I offer a bunch of big, burly movers?

I decided I would give the gift of making their work a wee bit more interesting, and I would do it by labeling my moving boxes for them.

I mean, don’t you think it gets old, looking at all those brown boxes every day? They’re probably pretty similar in every house. “Kitchen… upstairs bath… dishes… books… roller skates…” I bet sometimes it feels like the same old job just repeating itself day after day. Well, not anymore. I would make these boxes different, keep the job entertaining. That’s what I could give.

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It occurred to me at one point that there was potential for this whole thing to go wrong. What if the boss guy saw one of my boxes, thought one of his packers labeled it, and said, “WTF, Carl — why is this box labeled, ‘socks for dragons’?  YOU’RE FIRED, CARL,” and then one of the really nice packer guys got canned? So I stopped, and instead of the spiritual gift of laughter, I got everyone some pizzas.

(In reality: If they even noticed, the boss guy was probably just like, “Oh, sheezus. Look, Carl, we got another jokester.”)

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PS: Are you having a nice summer? I hope so. As you may have noticed, I’m not posting here quite so much this month. But it’s for a bunch of good reasons. For one thing, I’m working on the book. For another, my day-job is jammin’ lately. But then also, it’s summer. And I just moved. And I can’t even find the box that has clean bras in it, and I don’t have a washing machine yet, so I’m spending a lot of time hand-washing these same two bras and hanging them up outside to dry, which is why I’ll probably be getting a LOT of dinner invitations from my new neighbors pretty soon, so I guess I’ll be staying quite busy for a while. But I’ll be back. Promise.

Penguins With People Problems: The Book

June 13, 2014 § 45 Comments

I guess I was always sort of afraid someone from Penguin Random House might call.

I figured it would be a lawyer with some sort of cease-and-desist message.

But when the call came, it was not a lawyer. It was an editor. And she did not want the birds to cease (or desist).

I’m beyond insanely excited to share the news that The Random Penguins will be waddling into the real world as a book in the summer of 2015. Penguins With People Problems will be published by Perigee Books, an imprint of — I swear I’m not making this up — Penguin Random House.

a book


So that’s the news. If you like stories, here’s the tale of how it all went down:

One day back in February, I got an email from a person I’d never met. Her name was Meg, and she said she was an executive editor at Perigee and wanted to talk. I love to talk, so I said OK and made a list of conversation topics and called her.

Meg did not want to discuss my hair or Downton Abbey or baby goats or that bitch I don’t like — or any of the other subjects I was ready to chat about. She wanted to know if I’d ever thought of turning The Random Penguins into a book. I said: Well sure, but life is busy and I just haven’t had time to pursue it. She said: Why don’t you think about it now, and then let’s talk again. And I said: OK, cool.

Then I hung up and hyperventilated.

Anyway — blah blah blah — lots of stuff happened between then and now. Conference calls; contracts; negotiations on the penguins’ behalf by my agent, Kristyn, who is awesome and understands how little I like to deal with math. But the gist is, there’s going to be a penguin book, published by the same company that published Lord of the Flies. It’s ALSO the company that published Color Me Swooooon, the activity book where you color pictures of Channing Tatum and Benedict Cumberbatch — so there’s obviously no place the penguins could possibly fit in better.

it takes all kinds

All this party needs are some penguins.

So. That’s that.  The book will be roughly half brand-new, never-seen-before penguins and half greatest hits of the online bunch (re-drawn with better technology). Manuscript and illustration due in August . . . which, if you know me in real life, means you know I’m writing and illustrating a book at the same time my people and I are living out of boxes, having just moved. I have no idea what day it is or which end is up. Please pardon me if I seem scattered. It’s all very exciting, though, and I’m super-crazypants grateful for the support of everyone who’s been around from the start.

Meanwhile, new penguins will still continue to go up on tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. AND, starting now, they’ll be on WordPress as well. (Many thanks to Michelle on the WordPress team for helping me click a few buttons and, beep-bop-boop, make that happen.) Head on over and click to follow if you want.

Thank you!

David Sedaris Interview

June 12, 2014 § 8 Comments

If you’ll pardon a little work-related cross posting today… Thought some of you might enjoy this one. It’s an interview I did with David Sedaris for Musing.

He has some great comments here about writing, editing, and publishing, if you’re into that sort of thing. And also he’s just funny as all hell — not to mention a real gentleman and a thoughtful guy. Click the pic and follow it over to the interview if you like:

"Readers often assume that I have no boundaries, but in fact I go out of my way not to reveal other people’s secrets." <-- And that's just one reason to love the guy.

“Readers often assume that I have no boundaries, but in fact I go out of my way not to reveal other people’s secrets.” That’s a good guy right there.

Bonus: If you prefer not to blow your disposable income on hardbacks, his latest book is now out in paperback.



If the Fashion Industry Gave a Commencement Speech

May 23, 2014 § 16 Comments

Graduates, parents, faculty, friends: Welcome.

The beginning of summer is a special time for both endings and beginnings. You’ve no doubt been surrounded by packaged wisdom lately: greeting cards; career advice via Dr. Seuss books; the words of famous dead people quoted back to you in stale coffee breath by old people. But let’s get real, darlings. None of it means a thing.

All you need to know to win at adult life can be found on the glossy pages of your favorite magazines. Specifically, in the ads. That’s where the fashion industry conveys essential truths. Behold the 10 key pieces of stylish wisdom you need to succeed:

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1. Always Act Swiftly & Boldly bold Let’s talk about where shy little mush-mouthed baby-people get in life: nowhere. You want success? You gotta grab every opportunity. Don’t sit there listing pros and cons; don’t get down on your knees and ask the cosmos what to do; don’t line up the pencils on your desk in neat rows before you begin. Just GO. Do. In professional terms, this trait is known as “bias for action.” Like this gal here – see? Someone told her there was a 2-for-1 crabcake happy hour special on the next island starting in 10 minutes. Did she call a water taxi? No. She didn’t even change clothes. She waded right out into the sea in the snappy pants outfit she wore to a networking lunch earlier. And you know who’s going to get all the crabcakes? She is.

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2. Attitude Is Everything wheee bikes are fun Can you guess what’ll really set you apart from all the other wide-eyed newbies out there? That’s right. Confidence. Hold your head high and take pride in your work. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. We all do. But don’t cower in shame about it when it happens – get up and show everyone what you’ve learned. Take Michelle and her bold choices, for instance. Could you tuck a cocktail top into some high-waisted briefs, hop on a bike you borrowed from Ann of Green Gables, and take your grandmother’s train case on a ride? YES, you could. You just have to believe in yourself. No shoes. No helmet. No fear. All confidence and a baller haircut.

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3. New Trumps Old look out olds The blossoming of summer signals fresh growth. In the fashion world, a new season also means it’s time to replace what you’ve been wearing with new outfits that are better, more current, and more expensive. This is not only a style fact, but also a professional metaphor. You see, this time next year, you could be replaced in that (practically unpaid) internship by someone younger, cheaper, and more naïve. So work your hardest, do your best, and always have something new to bring to the table – or before you know it, those juicy youngsters will be coming for your job, and you’ll be left sitting on your desk, all wan and confused, wondering what the hell just happened.

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4. Do Everything 100% robocop At this stage of life, it’s natural not to be totally sure who you are. Are you kind of artsy? Sort of corporate? Lots of fun but sometimes serious? No. Forget that “everything in moderation” bullshit. Whatever you are, be ALL that. Like Kate Moss here. She could have dipped a toe into futuristic fashion with just a touch of metallic eyeshadow and maybe a single titanium bicep cuff. But no. She went full LEATHER ROBOT WARRIOR in all f’ing caps. And who do you think is going to get picked for the space army when the time comes? She is. Because she and her magical babydoll totally own that look.

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5. Remember: You Are a Precious Gift giftwrap THIS One of the bummer things about going out into the big world from your safe little cocoon is that humanity at large hasn’t been vetted by an admissions committee. Unfortunately, there are assholes and psychos mixed in with regular people everywhere you go, and they’re not labeled as such, so you can’t identify them by sight. Want to be sure you’re sharing your heart and mind with only the most truly awesome people? Take a tip from this look: Draw ribbons all over your naked body and rest a giant bottle of perfume on your crotch, then hang onto your face until someone comes along who says, “Hey, I love presents. I think you’re the greatest gift ever!” That’s probably a quality person – or at least someone as crazy as you are, which is just as good. The point is: Don’t waste time on people who don’t value you for who you really are.

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6. Be Different unique snowflakes It’s easy to get sucked into mob mentality, especially when you’re always hanging out with people who are at your same life-stage. You know, how everybody’s got to hang out at the same bar, and everybody’s got to do their hair the same way, and everybody’s got to carry this purse with a face on it. Be the one who stands out. Like these ladies, for example – four distinct individuals, each with her own vibe. Look how different each of them is. NONE of them are wearing the same color glasses. So bold.

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7. Openly Express Your Emotions meh In this age of emojis and hashtags, the art of communicating feelings has been reduced to electronic symbols, and that’s a real shame. Let your generation be the one that reconnects with the people around you through authentic gestures and expressions. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re angry, throw a glass of wine at the wall. And if you’re tired of applying sea kelp lotion to your neck and your heavy designer bracelets are making your arms tired and some dumbass wiped their inky blue hands all over your nice ecru smock and you don’t even feel like putting on your Adele wig even though you already slicked your real hair back into a nice tight pre-wig bun, go ahead and make your sad face for all to see. Slouch it out, girl. Your feelings are real.

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8. Never Let Down Your Guard bang Look, this is a sad fact, but it’s a fact of life nonetheless: Danger is everywhere. Do you have to be on edge all the time? No. But you should keep your eyes open, be aware of your surroundings, and know a few basic self-defense moves. No one wants to think it could happen to them, but the truth is that finger-gun purse snatchers are out there, and the tattooed ones are really bold. Don’t be a victim.

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9. Sisters, Have Each Other’s Backs this beach is sad This advice is especially for the ladies: Support one another. Don’t let competition for work, status, or dudes pit you against each other and drain all your smarts and energy into petty woman-vs-woman wars. To illustrate how that kind of behavior turns out, these ladies have acted out a scene in which Miley Cyrus gets super-mad at Dakota Fanning for wearing strappy athletic sandals to a formal bonfire, so she kills her and then props her up on a sand dune to look like she’s just napping with her eyes open. But as you can see, that sort of lady-warfare doesn’t work out for either party. Everyone ends up sad. Or dead.

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10. Don’t Forget What Really Counts skipping en francais So to sum up, remember what the fashion industry has taught you as you go, oh, the places you’ll go: Your degree matters some. Your professional performance matters more. Your outfit matters the most.

Go forth and dress like you mean it, kids.

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In other news: Enormous gratitude to BlogHer for naming I Miss You When I Blink a Humor Voice of the Year for the second year in a row, and also to WordPress for featuring this site again on Freshly Pressed. Holy smokes. Thank you!

(More fashion posts here.)


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