Monthly Archives: September 2005

Friday Cat Blogging: The Invitations

Jinx's Trick Fer Treat 2005 Halloween Party Hot off the press: Invitations for the 2005 Halloween party!!! Posing for the invitations is our very own Jinx. The image was drawn from a photo Kathy captured of Jinx giving us the “scary cat” treatment. This image will appear on a couple of door-prizes at this year’s festivities. If, by some reason, you suspect that you’re not on my mailing list, but you want an invite to the party, send me an email. This edition of Friday Cat Blogging is dedicated to the memory of Annie. Sadly, she was struck by a car on Wednesday. She was 16 years old, if I’m not mistaken, but looked like a 7 month-old, since she was so tiny. If I can get a photo from Michele this weekend, I’ll post Annie next week. She was a sweet, little cat and will be missed. UPDATE: Here’s the original photo of Jinx: Jinx gives us the spooky cat treatment

Hysteria

October gets me in the mood for Halloween, my favorite holiday mostly because it parades its own meaninglessness. Despite the fears of certain moral traditionalists, Halloween doesn’t really stand for anything. It’s just a autumn harvest celebration that got overshadowed by Thanksgiving. Sure, it has an official Catholic designation as the day before All Saints’ Day, but any of the pagan imagery associated with Halloween is just the influx of thousands of cultures and their various death holidays. It’s all a mishmash now, and very few people take it seriously. And that makes it all the more fun. Especially for kids, getting to do on that one day which they dream of all year long: Taking candy from strangers. Every other day of the year, kids are specifically verboten from taking candy from strangers, which makes perfectly good sense, even if that’s all that kids want from anyone. But Halloween, the trick becomes the treat, and the only perverts in the neighborhood are those that give out pennies or fruit. And it was ever thus, until the early eighties when news reports came in telling every parent that apples were found all over the place with razor blades stuck in them, and kids were not safe to eat the candy (or the fruit) that they got for Halloween. The holiday took quite a beating then, which it has never really recovered from, except that those children of the eighties, like me, like to throw parties now, and we keep the Halloween industry alive. But every October, when thoughts run to Halloween, I think of the sadness and fear that brewed over twenty years ago. We gave into a hysteria that had no rational basis. There were verified razor blades stuck in apples, for sure, but each one led back to the person (usually a pre-teen) who found it there in the first place. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of supposed injuries, but always in some other town or state or nation, and without the Internets, it was difficult to research the truth. What triggers these fears? In the case of the razor bladed apples, which was a rumor bubbling beneath the surface of mass hysteria for years, it was probably the cyanide-laced Tylenol that blew it all out of proportion. But there are other less-explainable bubbles of fear and irrationality that burst into the national psyche, like spitting on Vietnam Vets, or spider eggs in chewing gum, or needles in soda cans, or fingers in fast food. Once these things are seized by a certain percentage of the media, the whole nation reacts as if society is going to collapse. We hear these things that sound plausible, but disturbing, and assume that they must be true, and that some nefarious agent (usually a lawyer or the Government) is trying to keep the truth from us, and once some brave, smiling hairpiece on the six o’clock news confirms our fears, all rational thought is out the window. A razor blade in an apple? Look a the goddamn fruit before you bite into it. See that 2 inch long slice and the brown oxidation on the skin? That’s bad. Cut that part out. Or one could just assume that every single person is a child molester and apple-spiker and go from there. It is frighteningly obvious to me that we don’t like to actually think about anything. We get most of our information from authorities that are authorities only by dint of looking good in front of a camera (or by writing angrily enough on the Internets). We do not trust ourselves or our fellow non-sparkling humans. Everyone by now has heard of the massive mugging, raping, and murdering that went on in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but this was hysteria in it’s finest form. It took a group of three time losers (they were poor, black, and then displaced) and turned them into something we could deal with, with baser emotions (they became evil criminals). Instead of feeling compassion for people experiencing an upheaval completely unexpected, and unnecessary, in postwar America, we could hate them for not acting like Jesus or Ghandi or whomever else we would expect to just rise over it all. Even better when we could turn the reality of overflowing plumbing and unsanitary conditions into a fantasy picture of animals shitting all over each other. See, then we could feel superior again: We wouldn’t spit on vets. We wouldn’t spike the candy bar. We wouldn’t shit on the floor of the Superdome. We are not the animals. Those other people are. But maybe hysteria does prove that we’re different from animals. It must be a completely human affliction. No other species would go apeshit crazy when it found a finger in its collective chili.

Friday Cat Blogging: The Curtain

Jinx looks at camera twisting her head from behind a curtain Melba Honeybee accused me of getting a new camera, which is why I’ve posted “a thousand photos of Jinx” on my site. Well, Miss Melba, the camera is 3 years old and the cat is a little over a year, so my recent joining of the pack on Cat Blogging Fridays is only because I wanted to share Jinx’s beauty with the three or four people who read my blog. (Hey Kathy! Andrew! Rich! and, of course, Miss Melba!) Some may be confusing Jinx with the cat that graces the Ephemeral Exclamation page, but that particular feline is not Jinx, but Sleepycat, another black and white kitty. I wrote a poem for her some time ago.

Idiots' letters to Newsday 2

Uh oh! Our first isolationist moron decided to write to Newsday to complain that no one helps the big ol’ America when we’re in trouble, but we’re the first to respond when another nation needs help:

When a tsunami strikes in Southeast Asia, the United States is one of the first countries to offer aid. When an earthquake hits in the Mideast, the United States is one of the first countries to offer aid. When a typhoon devastates a far-off country, the United States is one of the first to offer aid.

Now a terrible natural disaster has hit our country. Where is the outpouring of aid from other countries?

Robert L. Sass Brilliant. Mr. Sass, I think the important question to ask is, “Where was the United States when the people in three states were devastated by Katrina?” But in response to your blind accusations, maybe if you checked, you’d see that several nations were offering aid, and Canada had attempted to offer aid before our own National Guard was finally on the scene. There were rumors to the effect that US officials denied entry to these Canadians, since we obviously could handle it all ourselves. Said our brave president: I’m not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn’t asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country’s going to rise up and take care of it. Now that our wonderful secretary of state has returned from her shopping spree in NYC, our government is actually considering foreign assistance, but why these other nations want to help foreign-hating xenophobes like Robert Sass is beyond me. P.S. That far-off country getting hit by a typhoon is spelled C-H-I-N-A.

A third-world response to an American crisis

Jack Cafferty used to be a newscaster on the local NBC affiliate out here in New York, and he was a likable enough guy. He, briefly, went to work for the more local WPIX which would soon become the WB11, and Cafferty was out. It was plain to see he didn’t like it there at the WB, and presented the news pretty gruffly. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and then he shows up on CNN a couple of years ago, and I think to myself, huh, I wonder if that is going to be a good match. He was still pretty gruff, and they put him on the morning show, which I was positive was not a good idea, but he stayed there until CNN started that stupid Situation Room. Anyway, that’s all just meandering memories. The point is Jack Cafferty, a pretty professional and long time New York newscaster, has that olde tyme gravitas, a kind of no-nonsense approach to news–nothing flashy. “This is the news and that’s how you’ll like it,” sort of thing. He’s been a reliable marker for what level of shenanigans the press is willing to put up with, before they call out “bullshit.” He said this, yesterday:

…I’m 62, I remember the riots in Watts, I remember the earthquake in San Francisco, I remember a lot of things–I have never, ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans. Where the hell is the water for these people? Why can’t sandwiches be dropped to those people in that Superdome down there? This is Thursday! This is Thursday! This storm happened five days ago. It’s a disgrace, and don’t think the world isn’t watching. This is the government the taxpayers are paying for and it’s fallen right flat on its face, in the way its handled this thing. He’s not the only member of the elite press corps declairing shenanigans on the team sitting in the White House. Some of us believe that a government’s responsibility is to its people, but Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu believes the first business of government is patting itself on the back for a job well done. Anderson Cooper, also of CNN, doesn’t buy it. It seems he gets upset when he sees Americans lying dead in city streets being eaten by rats. Ted Koppel, of Nightline, can’t understand why thousands of people starving and dehydrating at the New Orleans Convention Center are still without food and water, and Michael Brown of FEMA tells an incredulous Koppel that the federal government just learned that people were at the convention center that day–FIVE DAYS after the hurricane. Koppel, too, calls bullshit. And the point is made: The press is getting antsy. A part of me wonders why this tragedy, of all things, is making the pressmen stand up and shake their fists at this pathetic disgrace of an administration and the miserable failure that is our president. And I think it is the shock to these men and women who have reported overseas and watched death and war and famine strike in dozens of places on Earth, but never, ever for a moment thought that the United States could ever get that bad. A single act of nature displaced half a million people, crippled our energy infrastructure, and created a breakdown of law and order that threatens to spread into three states. And while the hurricane could not have been prevented, it was a knowable danger, and for four days our federal government sat blithely on the sidelines while thousands of American lives were destroyed. As quick as the destruction was on September 11, 2001, this one unfolded over days, and it will not end for months. And when the enormity of it hit the airwaves, our president played guitar in California, our vice-president was keeping silent somewhere in the wilderness of Wyoming, and our secretary of state was vacationing in New York city, buying thousand dollar shoes and playing tennis with pretty people. Who are these people, and where is their compassion? I think, maybe, that’s what’s getting the press all flustered, because they are there with their cameras and reporters, and they cannot believe the enormity of it, and they know that much of the destruction could have, and should have, been prevented.

Give to the Red Cross

Sheila Dixon and 18 month daughter in New Orleans A vibrant, historical American city is no more. It will be rebuilt, but until it is, a half of a million Americans have been displaced. Many of these people are don’t have the resources to secure any sort of necessities such as shelter, medicine, clean water, or food. A small donation to the Red Cross will help hundreds of people. This is a shocking and disturbing catastrophe. That it takes place in the richest nation in the world, and that we still lack the infrastructure to manage it, is more disturbing. No one could have prevented a hurricane, but we had plenty of warning that one would do such damage. We must do what our government would not and apparently cannot do, and help the people of the Gulf Coast.