Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's A Cat Thing: But It's Also A Psychological And Gender-Bias Discussion, Really. And There's A Short Film!


A few truths about Cat Ownership:
1. There is no such thing as a Free Cat.
2. Anything and Everything becomes a Cat Toy...
3. Yet, cat owners will still browse the aisles of and purchase Cat Toys.
4. There is a strenuous and pervasive bias in favour of dogs over cats.
5. No one wants to hear your Cat Story.
6. Cat hair and Cat yak: goes without saying.

Let's take these Realities one by one and shine the Harsh Light Of Truth upon them.

1. Unless you are an eight-year-old who has a paper route and finds a stray in a vacant lot and then "makes a little house for it" and brings it scraps from your school lunch every day and pretends it is "Your Very Own Cat", then responsibly adopting a cat means getting it checked out by a vet, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and giving it regular meals of decent chow and taking it to the vet when it inevitably needs medical care (and it will). Piper and Marlowe were adopted at the end of May from a no-kill rescue shelter. They were already fixed and had their first round of shots. As of today, the bill on my Deed Of Kindness is up to about $1200. This is only as of May. OF THIS YEAR.

2. Cats will play with boxes, paper bags, milk lids, crumpled paper, string, and Marlowe's all-time favourite, the twist-tie, which she will play endless games of Fetch with. Also strewn about the Dept. are plastic spoons, a Matchbox car, prescription bottle lids, a stick-on bow, a tiny stuffed animal, a large button, some ribbons I tied onto a plastic scarf ring, and some plastic pull-rings from Coffeemate. If I use Aveda shampoo, Piper plays with my hair.

3. This does not stop me from dillydallying in the Cat Toy Aisle at any store that has one. Why? Because I am an idiot, apparently. How many balls can they lose down the basement? "As many as they can bat under the huge, heavy furniture" would be the answer to that. Jared is infinitely amused by the fact that I say that the kittens are "playing soccer" or "playing tennis" merely because that is what the ball is made to look like. The "game" is always the same: they bat the ball around until it goes someplace where they cannot get to it. Sigh. And Piper always carries his fake mouse directly to the water dish where he deposits it to decompose into a sodden, unmouselike mess.

4. How many sinister Urban Legends about dogs are there? When you open up a Sunday advert, count how many more ads there are for Dog Things vs. Cat Things. Does Brian Williams ever praise cats the way he smiles and lauds, "Now that's a good dog!" about a story? Did he cover this great Cat Story? Even President Clinton knew he had to adopt a dog in order to appear more American and stereotypically Family Man-esque. How many men do you see in cat food commercials? In a nutshell, using Studentspeak: Why all the Hating On Cats? or Why Cats can't get No Love?

5. Because of this bias, no one wants to hear your Cat Story. Really. Women who talk about their cats get the polite smiles and then, later, the listeners nod and tsk about how she is Becoming, Perhaps, A Cat Lady. Or, if she is young, she is One Of Those Single Girls Alone With Just Her Cat. You know. One Of Those. Now, if the same person waxes enthusiastically about a beagle or German shepherd, then of course, that is different. Perhaps it has to do with going outdoors to clean up the animal shit. No idea. In one case, you follow along with a little bag in public, and, like a postal carrier, must do it in rain or snow or dead of night. In the other, you stay nice and warm and can do it in the privacy of your own home. Hmmm....

6. Part of The Territory, yet so unwelcome. Honestly, in the case of the hair at least, can they not...hold it in? At least Marlowe, in an incredible display of Innate Politeness, vomits only on linoleum. You cannot teach that. That is just inbred. This trait balances out her persistent and annoying proclivity for leaping onto the counter, despite repeated admonition.

One final note: Last night in an attempt to avoid watching the Cleveland Cavaliers get decimated by the San Antonio Spurs, I happened across a television show on Animal Planet entitled "America's Cutest Cat." It turned out to be a mind-numbing parade of a bunch of kitten/cat YouTube videos, so I abandoned it pretty quickly, even though my kittens started watching it, drawn by the sound of the meowing. One video stood out, though, merely because the kitten was so perfectly named. I'm embedding it here so that you can catch a glimpse of Allen the tabby kitten enjoying his food. (His name is absolutely right for him, isn't it? And it's obvious the owner is a Poe fan; Allen's brother is Edgar. I've decided to overlook the misspelling because it's a touching tribute.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

teaparty Prodigy Of The Week: Pot, Meet Kettle

And this guy has the nerve to look askance at the other person's sign?

Buddy, that sign epitomizes "intoleable acts." To paraphrase an old axiom: Idiot, heal thyself.

(And while you're at it, put the missing syllable back into Constitution, that document you teapartiers pretend to know so well and revere so highly. Maybe that beer you're holding has something to do with your inept spelling and lack of basic subject-verb agreement, but I doubt it.)

photo found here

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Letters From The Front (But Don't Get Used To It)

I'm not writing about work very much, as you may have noticed. Things are...well, let's just say it's One Of Those Years. For a Variety Of Reasons. But when you teach at a huge (enrollment, 2000) urban high school, it's hard to overlook such a rich source of blog fodder.

Just a couple of pebbles from The Rock:

This, from a student essay: John Proctor's character has changed dramastically from Act I.

And another mystifying response, also describing John Proctor, the hero of The Crucible: One of his faults that will cause him problems later in the play is that he can't keep his mouth shut when he is speaking.

Add this to the Lame Excuses File:

Jessica: Mrs. D., I'm here to make up my two missing quizzes.
Mrs. D.: Jessica, those quizzes were given over two weeks ago. You're no longer eligible to make them up. Why have you waited until now? You have only two days after each quiz is given. That's standard make-up policy.
Jessica: But I just now got off my crutches!

And this, which was related to me by my buddy Teresa, who teaches Spanish:

Teresa: Okay, class, now that we all know our numbers in Spanish, we're going to learn how to tell time!
Student: What? Why?
Teresa: Because you need to be able to tell time in Spanish.
Student: No, I mean what do numbers got to do with tellin' the time? Numbers don't got nothin' to do with tellin' the time.

But it's not all Desperate. Creative Writing usually brings me back. Here's a nugget from one of my writers, who hit me with this observation the other day:

Gifted Writer: You know, if Irrelevance were money, the United States would be the richest country in the world.

I can think of at least 10 reality show "stars" alone to illustrate that theory.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

So, I Get This Email, And Now You Can Buy Brian Williams' Ties. And They're Autographed!

The Dept. of Nance is pleased and proud to host this guest post today. The interwebs have allowed me to use my powers for Good, and they have brought to me, via The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives, the opportunity to help promote a very worthy cause. If you've ever wanted to own a Bri Tie, or have his autograph for your Celebrity Collection, or if you've lost anyone to cancer, please read with interest the post below about a silent auction benefit for lung cancer research. Who knew that writing little fluffs of frivolity about cravats would put me on such a Kevin Baconesque odyssey?

In a gesture that illustrates his respect and care for his colleagues, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams is donating six of his ties--to be auctioned off as one lot--to this November’s silent auction to benefit Joan’s Legacy: Uniting Against Lung Cancer. The ties – all worn on air and signed on the back – will raise money for innovative lung cancer research in memory of Joan Scarangello, a Nightly writer who died of lung cancer in 2001 at 47 and a never-smoker.

Brian, along with Tom Brokaw, will co-chair the foundation’s benefit on November 17 at New York’s Gotham Hall. The party, called the “Strolling Supper with Blues & News” will also feature a performance by blues great Delbert McClinton, the awarding of 14 new lung cancer research grants, the announcement of the winner of the foundation’s journalism award (the “Joanie”) and a remarkable silent auction. Tickets for the benefit start at $300 and can be purchased at and by calling 212-627-5500. Bids on Brian’s ties and all other silent auction items can also be made online or by phone up until November 17 at noon.

Joan’s Legacy: Uniting Against Lung Cancer is the largest private funder of lung cancer research grants. The non-profit has given more than $7.5 million in individual $100,000 grants to more than 60 institutions in 22 states. In addition, the foundation has committed an addition $5 million to North America’s premier early detection research “dream team” project, Canary Lung.

Lung cancer kills more Americans than any other cancer – and more women every year than breast, uterine and ovarian cancers combined. Yet it receives less funding than any other major cancer because of the stigma of smoking. Today, 60 percent of all lung cancer patients never smoked or had already quit smoking before their diagnosis – and only 1 in 9 of them is likely to live five years or more from the day they find out.

Brian’s donation to Uniting Against Lung Cancer includes the cravat he wore on the October 8 broadcast of Nightly News from Los Angeles, reviewed by The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives as “A Misbegotten Choice from the Underbelly of Fashion.” He is choosing the others more carefully!

Brian’s ties are just one of the amazing silent auction lots. Others include:

· Having your name as a character in the next David Baldacchi best-seller
· Guitars autographed by Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Counting Crows and the Black Crowes
· Front row seats at any Times Square concert from “Good Morning America”
· In-Studio viewing of any NBC “Meet the Press” broadcast in the network’s Washington, DC closed set
· Set visits and cast meetings at “House” and “Two and A Half Men” and “Parenthood” in LA
· Tickets to the “Daily Show” “Colbert Report” “Saturday Night Live” and “The View”
· Fantastic seats for Jets, Giants, Yankees, Mets and Nets games
· Vacations (Napa, Italy, Palm Beach, Nantucket, New York)

...and much more

To see the full list of silent auction items, please visit
TO BID ON BRI'S TIES--call Uniting Against Lung Cancer at 212-627-5500
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