Monday, October 11, 2010


Charles, our next-door neighbor of 16 years, is moving. Almost moved, in fact - visiting him tonight, taking 4 pieces of artwork he's not inclined to take to his new apartment, I saw that his house is largely empty. All that remains are large pieces: his Steinway piano, some chairs, his computer, and a few things in the kitchen.

It occurs to me only now that I always used to be able to see him when looking out our kitchen window - not a direct view, but a reflection of him in the corner of his living room, reading, mirrored in the large dining room mirror directly across from us. He would sit there for hours, reading, but his family helped him move the chair to his apartment, so I won't see his reflection there any more.

Melancholy and loss. I am tired today, and my feelings have been wreaking havoc on me all day.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

White Screen of Death

I'm going to try to force myself to write more frequently, and may as well use this woefully-malnourished blog to do so. I miss writing, and while I do some at work, it's not nearly enough. An increasing frequency of typos and grammatical gaffes suggests that I can use the practice if only to improve the basic mechanics of my prose and poesy and whatever else I spew forth.

So. Enough for now. I will leave this tab open forever. I will write something every day. Yes.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Taming the victim

Reading Nancy Graham Holm's recent article, "Prejudiced Danes provoke fanaticism", I'm tempted to chalk it up as another case of blaming the victim, but I think this is far worse. Normally when blaming the victim, one traces the victimization directly to the victim's actions, innocent though they may be.

Holm, however, blames outbreaks of Islamofascist violence against one set of victims on the defensible actions of an entirely different set. And the blame isn't on specific actions which may have placed the victim in a worse situation - instead, it's on expression.

She writes:

Muslims failed to see Westergaard's cartoon as satire. Instead, they saw in it a defamatory and humiliating message: Muslims are terrorists. Humiliation is a devastating feeling. But most people who are insulted will accept an apology.

Humiliation (at least of the sort inflicted by seeing a cartoon) isn't even in the spiral arm of the same galaxy as the effects of lethal violence, which can produce not only the aforementioned humiliation but persistent and recurring pain for the victim and his or her family.

Most people who are insulted do not plan and execute violence against the offender or nearby proxies.

Most people are not "humiliated" by images not directly addressed to them. Most of those "humiliated" by an image do not take violent action which conforms to that image. Apparently Islam will continue the assault until we're all convinced it's a religion of peace.

Intentional humiliation is an aggressive act. As a journalist now living in the same town as Westergaard, I thought some at Jyllands-Posten had acted like petulant adolescents.

Intentional humiliation may be "aggressive," but again, aggression nowhere close to the Offended Ones - the aggression of the militant Islam the cartoons parodied.

"Petulant adolescents?"I suppose Holm deems Old Testament punishments suitable for un-spoiling the child - a la Leviticus 20:9? "For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him."

Danes fail to perceive the fact that they have developed a society deeply suspicious of religion. This is the real issue between Denmark and Muslim extremists, not freedom of speech.

How does Holm derived that this is "the real issue?" Does such a distinction explain the violent outbursts of Muslims around the world - including those who probably know little of Danish society? Are the imams simply educating Muslims about Denmark, and the violence is merely the natural outgrowth of that knowledge?

Since when is fanatical violence a rational or even permissible response to suspicion?

The free society precept is merely an attempt to give the perpetrators the moral high ground when actually it is a smokescreen for a deeply rooted prejudice, not against Muslims, but against religion per se.

"Free society precept?" Nonsense. If it were a smoke screen for prejudice, what of it? No one is charging Denmark with legal, financial, or any other sort of prejudice against Muslims; this is a fanatical response to cartoons.

Where are the Jewish fanatics? Where are the Christian ones? Hindu? Buddhist? Holm is attempting here to paint Denmark's cartoons as an attack on all religions, when every symptom impugns Islam and its innate violence and fascism.

Muslims are in love with their faith. And many Danes are suspicious of anyone who loves religion.

Love does not generally drive one to violence; it's mostly the angry, hotheaded man who avenges an insult to loved ones with immediate violence. If Islam is a religion which, unlike the others, inspires violent defensiveness, then what good does the love do anyone but the converted?

Holm's headline is a lie: little or nothing is needed to provoke fanatics. The religions centered on the God of the Desert, Yahwah, are about obedience, as always - the cartoons violate some nonsense about the image of their prophet.

Christians and Jews at least have had the good sense and good fortune to secularize themselves. Here's hoping Muslims, with their far more militant "holy book," find a path to the same.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Goodnight, Simon

It's been two weeks since we had little Simon put to sleep, and I think I can finally write about it. (I say "little Simon" not because that was his nickname, but because the phrase is stuck in my head: our neighbors Charles and Jane used to watch our cats when we went away, and while it was usually Charles who came over to feed and water them, on at least one occasion Jane came over. When we got back she reported that "little Simon came out to see me!", and I can still hear her charming, musical voice saying it. Somewhere we still have her voice on an old answering machine cassette tape - she died while Simon was still a kitten, so I guess he really was little at that time.)

While Kringle has been very friendly in the mornings, I miss the old routine with Simon, however annoying it could be. Once we started feeding him soft food in the morning (to keep his weight up), he made a habit of waking us by scraping at the windowshades, usually around 4:15 AM or so. Doing so involved leaping to a fairly high dresser loaded with much stuff (keys, change, DVD boxes, socks, etc.). If that failed, he'd jump down and start scraping at the corner of the box spring, until one of us finally got up to feed him. It was far less cute at 4:15 AM than it reads now.

Our friend Mary took excellent care of him - she's a cat-lover who's tended many sick animals, both hers and others' - but he didn't eat well for her. He'd been eating less even for us, and I'll feel forever guilty that we went to the film festival at all, but he'd held on for so long that perhaps I didn't accord proper weight to the signs of his decline: reduced appetite, unsteady gait, inability to fend off or run from Kringle's relentless play. At Mary's, he just stayed in a clothes closet rather than joining the other cats; Mary did encourage him to get up on the windowsill to watch birds, but other than that he was inactive.

We'd warned Mary that Simon was a digger, but her initial response to his digging: "OMFG". Apparently he emptied nearly the entire small litter box we left him onto the floor. (He was the main reason we switched to hooded litter boxes; he would dig mindlessly, looking around at other things, in both the litter and the cat food. The texture of granulated gritty-bits between his toes must've been fascinating to him.)

He ate rather poorly the first night back, Monday. We thought some of it might be the adjustment and post-abandonment shock, but he ate very little Tuesday, and by Tuesday night he just wanted to sit around, lifting his head to observe, but clearly too tired to move his body.

Wednesday was worse; he ate almost nothing in the morning, and I went to work but came back early when Charlotte called and said he wasn't doing well. He wouldn't eat, drink, or use the litter box; he laid in his bed, and when we moved him around, trying to think of something he'd like to look at, he would remain wherever we put him. When we finally took him to the vet late that afternoon, he was down below 7 pounds.

I miss him. I truly can't complain, because we had him through the holidays and knowing what was coming gave us the chance to treat him specially, enjoy him, savor the time with him. But it's still a constant dull ache that he's gone. I feel somewhat ashamed not to have written earlier, but have been trying to spend the last two weeks persistently distracted, not really dealing with it.

As I said, we had him longer than we had any right to, given the severity and aggressiveness of his cancer. But it still wasn't enough.

I'm going to miss his tunneling, the way he'd scrape at the sheets until we lifted them, so he could burrow down near our knees and then more often than not decide he didn't like it and come right back out again. But the times he stayed, beneath the sheets between us, oddly content, I slept well indeed. At least until 4:15 AM.

And I'm going to miss all the things I wrote about you when you first got sick, and all the countless things I've forgotten and will be kicking myself for forgetting to write.

Bye, buddy. I'm sorry we couldn't do more for you, but glad you stayed as long as you did.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sweet Pea

Charlotte gave our cat Simon the nickname Sweet Pea while he was still a kitten, and it stuck. He's a sweet cat, passive and needy and shy and forgiving. His meow is soft, high-pitched, and thin, almost sad. He's my little buddy, and likes to follow me around, in the morning and at other times when he knows he has me all to himself.

I remember when he was a kitten and could fit comfortably in the palm of my hand, or easily in the crook of my elbow - he'd lay on his back, and when I stroked his belly with my hands, all four of his paws would bicycle as he purred, the incredibly soft, soothing purr that never really changed as he got older.

Simon is sick; renal carcinoma, which has metastatized and spread to surrounding tissue (the aorta and vena cava and the lungs), a fast-moving disease for which he exhibited no obvious symptoms. Finding it was a fluke, as we'd taken him in for weight loss which is probably a result of inflammatory bowel disease, though that doesn't really matter much anymore. We only had him see when we did because of a cancellation; otherwise we'd have been waiting until January, just to get the initial scans.

We'll have him for a little while longer - though the doctor says it's probably a matter of weeks, and we don't want to prolong his life beyond the point where he can possibly enjoy it, he's a tough little cookie and could make it longer. We just don't know, but are grateful to have him with us a little while longer, as we are grateful for his whole life with us.

I love the way he sits with me in the bathroom when I shave, laying behind me on the bathroom rug, and sometimes sprawling out on his side and massaging my feet and ankles with his paws (and sometimes claws). He did that yesterday, and I suspect he'll do it again this morning, the way he's been following me around.

I love the way he'll occasionally get up on the toilet seat, and paw at me while I shave, wanting nothing more than for me to touch him.

I love the trusting way he sprawls out on the dining room table next to the computer, exposing his belly and purring a little more loudly than his normal when I rub him, maybe reminded of being a kitten, but no longer bicycling his paws as he did then.

Although it was sometimes exasperating when I planned to sit right back down, and although I almost crushed him a few times, I love the way he waits for me to get up off the left side of the couch; the moment I stand he jumps up to where my butt was, and by the time I turn around to look, he's already sprawled out on his back for a belly rub.

He loves a full-head rub, one hand on either side of his head, thumbs on top and behind his ears, four fingers scratching his neck and chin. Any other way annoyed him, but in that position, he submits for however long you want him.

Like our other cats, he understands to stay out of the kitchen, but never how to keep his front paws out. His front paws always land on the kitchen linoleum, and his back paws on the wood floor of the dining room.

Simon loves his Santa hat - a red fabric-covered conical spring with a white pom pon on top - and gets his head caught in there when we sprinkle it with catnip. He had a few frantic moments trying to extricate himself while under the influence.

He has a funny running-away trot which looks as if he wants to walk quickly and nonchalantly without admitting he's scared.

When he purrs, soft and gentle, it's as if he means it only for you, and for no one else.

He loves to dig: to tunnel beneath sheets, to dig in his food and throw it out of the bowl, and of course in his litter box.

He has a hard time jumping up onto the table, but does it to be near us. Especially as he's gotten weaker, it's a bit of a daredevil move, and when he lands, he almost seems a little surprised that he made it.

Yesterday he was in front of his food, turned and meowed at me; when I started petting him, he started eating. Little hedonist.

I'm trying to pull it together, so that he has a happy home, not one filled with blubbering, catatonic parent cats (Charlotte and I). It's difficult. Monday, the day we found out the results of the exploratory surgery, was horrible. Tuesday the crying caused less pain in my gut than it did Monday, and my eyes have recovered a bit. I didn't think it was possible for one's tear ducts to ache, but mine did.

But for now, Charlotte and I are at the dining room table on our computers; Simon sits at the edge of the kitchen, looking into it; Kringle meows in the background, trying to stir up some excitement; and Sonja is probably laying on the bed upstairs.

However long we have with him won't be nearly enough, but I'll take it.