Sunday, August 31, 2008


Sometimes I lose track of life for a bit...I stop caring about productivity or improvement -- let alone cleaning my environment -- and just settle in with a bunch of movies and totally vegetate on my couch.

This can happen due to depression, or several days of poor blood sugar, or because of a series of misfortunes. In this case, however, my total lack of production -- and therefore the absence of blog posts -- has been caused by an uncomfortable, low-level anxiety about life in general.

My life is good, really! When TERRIBLE things happen around me I tend to get motivated and I go around and fix whatever needs fixing. But in these cases when stuff is just SORT of bad, my childish response is to drop everything, stop answering email, hole up in my apartment, eat junk food, and do nothing.

Which is exactly what I've been doing up until yesterday, when I think my funk finally broke. I made some progress on a piece of music called "Roadbird" that I've been playing with for a while, and went to see the Rollerderby grudge match in New Hamburg (I decided to root for the Venus Fly Tramps BEFORE I realized they were winning!)

This morning I pulled a four-inch roundworm out of my cat, which has actually been a bit of a motivator: now I have a tangible indication of what's wrong with her and how to tackle it. I'm actually looking forward to getting stuff done today, which is a much nicer feeling than just passively floating around and keeping my head down.

So here's to smooth production and a glorious sense of purpose, and those inevitable periods of down-time which make the better moments feel so darn good!

Monday, August 25, 2008

New EP By Andy Prieboy

More interesting than Halley's Comet and nearly as rare, Andy Prieboy has quietly released a new EP.

My love and admiration for brilliant artists ranges across a pretty wide spectrum, but Prieboy is at the top of the list. I can honestly say he is my All-Time Favourite Musician.

You can preview and buy the songs on his sparse and suddenly-active website. Meanwhile, somebody has made a surprisingly engaging independent video for one of the songs, "Bands," which I suspect is from his as-yet unreleased musical "White Trash Wins Lotto."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Meeses to Pieces

After Zsa Zsa devoured a mouse from head to tail a few weeks ago, I did some research and discovered that mice are a wonderful type of cat food. I'm worried that she'll get tapeworms from eating them, but since there's no way to stop her I've decided to make the best of it.

We know that the mice prefer to enter my apartment through a vent under my kitchen table, so I built a special "mouse blind" for Zsa Zsa to hide behind while hunting. Five minutes ago she trotted into the computer room, dropped a mouse at my feet, and proceeded to eat it.

I knew you'd want to see this so I took lots of pictures -- and even a video -- but I'm afraid that they're just too disgusting. Instead of swallowing this one whole, she chewed bits and pieces off from various places, and while I'm amazed at the total lack of blood I am less surprised at the reverse-flow through the mouse's digestive tract...something you don't want to see.

So I'm afraid you'll need to take my word for it. Zsa Zsa is accepting congratulations for a job well done, and also soliciting tips for preparing tasty mouse treats.

The Gay-Musician-Love-Dog Disconnect

Today I bought a copy of Erasure's "Hits!" DVD. The word "campy" isn't sufficient to describe it, so I have coined a much more extreme term: "bivouwacky."

Particularly bivouwacky is the video for "Heavenly Action," in which Andy Bell plays a spaceman who runs afoul of a nosferatu-styled villain played by Vince Clark.

I was initially distracted by all the creepy cherubs, but then I twigged to the way the song's lyrics had been realized. "Heavenly Action" was a straight-forward love song, and it was an open secret even then that Bell was gay -- his space-suit ensemble in the video included ruby high heels, for goodness sake -- so it really would have been strange to show him falling in love with a WOMAN.

To get around this they portrayed him falling in love with a DOG.

You just weren't going to see same-sex love on MTV in 1985 -- I suppose bestiality was more acceptable -- so this puts me in mind of OTHER popular love songs written by the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell musicians of the time. Freddie Mercury wrote some eternal love songs ("Love of My Life" etc.) which any sane person assumed were actually about men, but Queen's videos -- as far as I remember -- didn't ever show the objects of his affection (though by the time of the EXTREMELY biviouwacky "I Want To Break Free" he was a John Waters-style, mustachioed hair-hopper pushing a vacuum).

We were too busy looking at Elton John's hair implants to notice his music video partners, you simply couldn't think of Fred Schneider as a sexual human being, and it seemed to me that Jimmy Somerville wrote more about oppression than love. Marc Almond skirted around the issue by simply being sleezy-kinky, though there was a strange disconnect between him being a flaming, somewhat chipmunky homosexual AND a sex symbol for teenage girls at the same time.

So I wonder what Andy Bell and Vince Clark thought about the "dog-lover" concept in "Heavenly Action." Chances are they enjoyed the ridiculousness of it all, but it must have sucked to have a heartfelt love song treated that way.

Friday, August 22, 2008

To Whom Will You Entrust Your Trees?

When you're hiring a tree surgeon, according to the March 23'29 New Yorker, you don't want to hire some lazy guy from the want a man who can do this:

They're members of the Davey Institute of Tree Surgery "Tumbling Team," of course! Because the Davey Institute knows that tree surgeons must have "physical energy," and I guess they might want to go into Vaudeville if the tree thing doesn't work out.

It amazes me that there ever WERE tree surgeons, and I'm almost as amazed to discover that they still exist. I assumed from watching cartoons that the tree surgeons rushed around and pressed stethoscopes against the trunks of sick trees, but apparently their job is more sedate than all that, despite the existence of the Davey Institute Tumbling Team. I think they basically go around and write reports.

The massive two-page advertisement in this New Yorker, however, makes me think that tree surgeons back then would work for either rich landowners or for people who ran orchards. The advertisement doesn't describe what the tree surgeons actually DID -- referring to their actions as simply "the work" -- but it must have been a huge business, considering this was the Davey Institute class of 1929:

That's a lot of tree surgeons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alas, Beckzy, We Hardly Knew Ye

I decided to drive to work this morning so I could pick up cat supplies on the way home. At the corner of Erb and Caroline, however, Beckzy stalled...and just wouldn't start again.

That intersection is a bit of a zoo during rush-hour and people were honking and waving at me, so I put on the hazard lights, got out of the car, and locked the door. For the first time I was acutely aware of not having a cel phone. I was alarmed to see tiny wisps of smoke coming out from under Beckzy's hood.

Just as I'd decided to walk to the nearby police station, a sweet guy named Ian pulled over and offered to call a tow truck for me. While we were debating who to call, Beckzy made up our minds by releasing an enormous plume of smoke, so Ian called 911 and asked for a fire truck; we stood and watched as Beckzy became obscured by a black, evil-smelling cloud, and then we backed up another twenty feet when the undercarriage began to burn.

So there I was, at nine in the morning, watching my beloved car catch fire with a sweet stranger who was kind enough to stick around. Policemen arrived and they blocked off the road. Firemen came with gas masks and smashed the hood open, spraying water everywhere. It was the most surreal moment of my life.

Once the fire was out I asked the fireman why it happened. "It just happened," he said, and gestured at the melted mess that was once the front of my car. Then he laughed. "You'll never know now!" The policemen were delighted because they'd never seen a burning car before. Ian remarked quietly that the policewomen were very pretty.

I felt a strange giddiness. While waiting for the tow truck we stood around and talked about mundane things, one of the policewomen occasionally running off to chase people who were trying to run the barricade. I learned that Wednesdays are quiet days for crime until 10am, when house thieves traditionally break into homes vacated by the 9-5 crowd. I learned that the police station is too small and that they send their criminals to the holding tanks in Kitchener. I became intimately familiar with the smell of burning toxic chemicals.

Then the old people started to arrive. Nothing makes an old man happier than a melted car. "It just burned up!" they'd say, peering through the windows and poking around underneath. "You won't be driving this one again!" Women brought their children to look. "What a car!" they'd say, and the children would stare, terrified.

The Practical Side of Things

A company came and towed my car to the pound for $269. Since they'd charge an extra $25 for each day the bill was unpaid, my boss was sweet enough to drive me to Breslau and settle the account. They told me to go to a scrap dealer and sign the car over to them, and my boss drove me there too. It was an amazingly cramped and greasy building full of "Beware of Dog" signs, where you have to sign in and wear workboots if you want to go past the counter. Lots of stubble in that place. They had their names embroidered on their overalls. They gave me $150.

I had declined the non-liability portions of my car insurance so I was unable to get any other money for Beckzy's burned-out carcass.

What I Think About the Situation

Thank goodness this didn't happen on a highway during a snowstorm with me in drag. And thank goodness for the kindness of strangers, the cheerful professionalism of the police and firemen, and the guy who ran over with a tiny extinguisher and volunteered to fight the fire singlehandedly. Thank goodness for the instinct that makes humans huddle up when something freaky happens. Thanks most of all to Ian, who calmly directed the situation until the police showed up, and then stood around to shoot the shit, and THEN called my work to tell them I'd be late.

I'm sad because I bought the car and then barely drove it...but the point IS that I didn't drive it very much. I bought it to take me to family functions and drag shows -- which rarely happen -- and to take me to bars, which I decided never to do. I also wanted to drive to remote places and perhaps go camping, but I was never totally confident that Beckzy could take me that far (with reason, it turns out).

I liked knowing that Beckzy was there in case of an emergency, and it was also nice to know that she could take me to places I otherwise couldn't go.

One group of people are now telling me to lease or buy a new-ish car...then I could feel confident driving it, and it would be more comfortable, and I wouldn't worry about people making fun of it or denigrating it. Another group are encouraging me to check out a car share instead...that way I could still get to out-of-town events when an emergency I could always take a cab.

In a way, Beckzy's sudden end is a relief because I no longer have to worry about her; I lost enough money to make me sad, but I am no longer faced with thoughts of euthanasia; she can't be repaired, she's already scrap, she's gone. I will no longer sit here on weekends thinking "I should go out and USE the car but I just don't FEEL like it."

I like to think that Beckzy decided to go out with a bang. Instead of whimpering and stalling and dragging along, she burst into flame and created a fiery spectacle. It's how she wanted to die.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Singing Accent

When I was in grade three I noticed that the children around me sang with a subtle British accent. This was strange because none of us had British accents otherwise, but somehow, when we sang in music class, our vowels would warp until we became distinctly...British.

I was probably sensitized to this because I was listening to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" at the time, which contains that "Hey teacher" children's chorus on "Another Brick in the Wall." THOSE kids sounded British too, but they actually WERE British, and I'd somehow picked up on the fact that when WE sang, WE sounded like THEM.

Around this time my father started insisting that us Southern Ontario people didn't HAVE accents; he believed -- and still believes -- that we have become the lowest common denominator of English speech, a mix of all possible accents together until we don't HAVE one anymore. He justifies this by claiming that when people sing they always sound like US, and therefore singing must somehow REMOVE accents, resulting (I suppose) in some sort of pure, undiluted English.

As a child I could never put my objections to this theory into words, but now I suspect that my father was analyzing a certain subset of music, probably bands subsequent to the British Invasion. And it's true, when you listen to bands from England during that period -- Led Zeppelin, say -- many of them DON'T sound British.

But something I realized while listening to my classmates sing was that singing is not something "pure" that releases us from our speech the very least it is just another type of affectation. If Julie Andrews could sing in a Cockney accent during "My Fair Lady" even though she wasn't actually British, it's obvious that a British singer could sound North American in exactly the same way...which stands to reason, considering many of those British Invasion bands were emulating American blues and skiffle musicians, and many of them craved acceptance on the Billboard charts.

If you listen to a British band that is NOT trying to be self-consciously American, however, you hear a very thick accent. It might not sound EXACTLY regional -- because, as I said, singing involves affectation and imitation just as much as any other activity does -- but a band like "The Pipettes" certainly doesn't sound like they come from Southern Ontario, that's for sure.

None of this explains why us little Canadian kids sounded British when we sang, however, but I've noticed that it isn't just children who do this...a subset of Canadian artists sound self-consciously British when they sing. Maybe, as kids, we were imitating British new wave bands? Maybe it just seemed like the best way to sing? Or maybe there's some germ of British inflection that comes out when we let our guard down?

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Crash" Again

I seem to remember that I saw "Crash" in the theatre, and that I was completely underwhelmed; I thought it was boring and repetative. But since it was LESS boring and repetitive than the book -- while still being an uncompromising adaptation -- I thought Cronenberg had probably done his job.

I just watched the movie again, and after 45 minutes I actually started enjoying myself.

It's amusing to watch the movie's desperate trailer, which outlines exactly what "Crash" ISN'T. By no stretch of the imagination is it a sexy thriller about people who get seduced into some sort of swinger's club, an idea that's so totally off the mark that it's hilarious.

Instead, "Crash" is simply emotionally dead. It has no soul. But since the book was pretty much about soulless human cyphers wandering around an impossible physical/spiritual world -- which may, in fact, be intended to say something about our own world by extension -- that is, I suppose, the entire point of Cronenberg's film.

And that's what makes it such a perfect match for Cronenberg, who for the first half of his career (which many of us consider "the best half") made movies about equally soulless, sexually-frightening people wandering around the impossible physical/spiritual world of...Toronto. In Cronenberg's films there always seems to be a thick, opaque fabric pulled over the eyes of the people, not because the director didn't UNDERSTAND people but because...

...well, I can only speculate WHY he made movies like that, but I think at its root it's one segment of a Canadian aesthetic. A coldness. A repression. People who function and live and produce but who are, on the inside, unknowable and just a little scary.

What made "Crash" most interesting to me this time around was trying to untangle the bundled-up strands of Cronenberg and Ballard, since -- in my experience -- Ballard ALSO tended to write about Cronenberg-ish people, though in a way that's never particularly engaged me.

So now, while I recognize that "Crash" is in some small way deliberately excessive, its "audaciousness" is that it treated its excesses with such INDIFFERENCE. If you enjoy the sex in "Crash" then I don't believe you're really watching the movie...or maybe you have a fetish for cars, or one of the actors. But note that none of the actors -- all of whom are beautiful -- are presented as "porn star beautiful" at all...they look spotty, haggard, and in need to a good sleep.

I think the sexiest part of "Crash" is the Gardiner Expressway. And I'm pretty sure that Cronenberg intended it to be that way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"The Ruins" Exclusive Reenactment (And Other Photos Too!)

Due to this year's constant rain, the foliage in front of my apartment has grown so huge as to completely cover my living room window. In the process my view has changed; I don't see cars or people anymore, instead I see insects eating each other.

Inspired by this monstrous plant I decided to stage a reenactment of "The Ruins," as performed by The Little Lemuria Players (that's me and my cat). Here it is on Flickr.

In addition, I put up some miscellaneous pictures from the last few months. I haven't been in much of a picture-taking mood but I have a feeling that's going to change...

PS: See that spot on my leg? It's the scar from that car that hit me in July. Just an example of the reconfiguration of human biology by technology...

Hank and Lily at The Starlight

After two weeks of crappiness -- heretofore known as "The Terrible Fortnight of Terrible Half-Living" -- what better way to celebrate my return to health than to see Hank and Lily at The Starlight...yes, just a few blocks from my house!

I first stumbled across Hank and Lily's music in an otherwise not-so-great compilation called "The Aaargh! Annual Year Two." I ordered their debut double CD and was blown away by the enthusiasm and eclectic WHOOMF that is a Hank and Lily concept. I love that they're doing their own thing, they're doing it well, and they seem to absolutely ADORE what they do. How could I not be captivated?

On Saturday night I lost my live "Hank and Lily Show" virginity. The crowd was sparse -- it was an early show with little publicity, after all -- but they immediately put us at ease by moving our tables and chairs to the's frustrating to feel like you're SUPPOSED to dance in order to encourage a performance, whereas H&L seemed to understand that simply WATCHING is fun enough!

I recorded four of their songs, which you can see on YouTube here. My favourite by far was "Alligator Boy," which brought out all the energy of the spunky duo:

After the show they were marvelously available at the swag table. I have difficulty being coherent around performers I adore, but even after I asked them when they were coming back to Waterloo -- a silly, premature question considering they were JUST LEAVING -- they still consented to pose with me:

Stuck Between Brilliance!

Unfortunately the show ended FAR too quickly since the club needed to accommodate its regular "Global Warming" DJs, but sometimes the shortest things are the sweetest, and we at least have copies of their new CD ("North America") to keep us going. Plus I also got one-of-a-kind rendering called "Hank Punches a Werewolf," in which a relatively sad-looking monster is -- indeed -- being punched by Hank. Bliss!

PS: Jenny Whiteley shared the stage for most of the set. It was difficult to get a feel for the sort of thing she does, but workmate Reg says she's fab.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Because It's Friday (Morning): "Mother of Pearl"

Do you ever feel like you have a "theme song," a song that resonates at exactly the same frequency that your soul does, and when you hear it you simply fall apart?

If you do...write about it in the comments! Here are two of mine.

First, Roxy Music's "Mother of Pearl." Forget about the first ninety seconds -- I've always been baffled by the so-called "red" portion of the song -- it's all about the strange, seemingly endless conveyor belt of lyrics and call/response that makes up the bulk of it. Never has someone so well summed up the sublime emptiness of a night on the town, and written about it in words that make you feel both post-coital AND sad.

Then, a song that goes back to my disaffected high school years, Talk Talk's "Living In Another World." It's remarkably similar to "Mother of Pearl" with its seemingly non-stop thumping groove and its underlying alienation, but it's mixed in with so much BOMBAST. Whenever I hear it I want to hug Mark Hollis and tell him that I understand. The "video version" is tragically cut by two minutes or more, but it's still wonderful, and it contains one of my favourite "musical moments" -- the transition from the over-the-top, instrument-heavy first chorus to the simple, fat, thumping bassline of the second verse.

It's sort of a strange approach to the video...I assume that the band members were already tiring of the music industry and were just trying to make the best of it. There's something almost creepy about the juxtaposition of a thoughtful song with goofy images.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh! Oh! Oh! Aren't they CUTE!

I now present "Best's New Brevities" for 1929!

Apparently these "brevities" were "like those the professional dancers wear," though you have to wonder WHICH kind of professional dancers, since the ones in the picture know...dancing in underwear and high heels.

This March 16th, 1929 advertisement from Best & Co. says that a "bareleg vogue" was approaching, presumably meaning that women would stop wearing stockings. In few months many women would no longer be able to AFFORD stockings, but that would have been more of a financial prediction than a fashion one.

It's worth noting that four of these women have typical '20s hairstyles, but the one on the left is edging into '30s territory. I bet SHE was the first one to lower her skirts, too...or at least she would have done if she weren't a cartoon.

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "Harem Plus Cat"

Dr. Seuss fulfills every man's true fantasy: having a lot of harem girls fall on his neck...maybe simultaneously! That one woman looks like she's ALREADY falling, though maybe she's supposed to be dancing.

There are two more interesting things in this cartoon. First, notice that the Sultan is wearing a robe with a star-and-crescent symbol, presumably to evoke Islam but for some reason looking more like one of Merlin's cast-offs.

Second, who's that standing behind the Sultan? Why, it's the famous Cat In The Turban!

Scrutable Poetry Corner: "Thoughts While Looking in the Window of a Shoe Store"

Another poem by Ruth Brown, this time from the March 9, 1929 issue of The New Yorker.
In blue shoes I am sure I'd be
A great deal more than merely me,
I'd be urbane and nonchalant--
Une femme du monde--une élégante.

With snakeskin shoes upon my feet
I might not always be discreet,
In fact it's likely I'd believe
Myself to be a bit like Eve.

In shoes with flippant crimson heels
I think I might learn how it feels,
While staying safely in Manhattan,
To go quite wholly, madly Latin.

But since I'm neither rich nor bold,
I think I'll have my brogues re-soled.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

To Gentlemen Who Occasionally Want to Kick the Cat

So yes, I'm still alive, but I've had "one of those weeks." Not only was I spectacularly sick, dealing with money troubles, canceling all my social appointments, and taking my car into the shop...but through all this my cat was urinating on the basement floor.

You might know what stale cat pee smells like: sharp, evil, headache-y. If the Wicked Witch of the West ever got over her hydrophobia and took a pee, I bet it would smell like that.

Feverish, snotty, and exhausted, I kept on scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing...and then, a few hours later, the pee was back with its attendant odour. Things reached a head when, on Saturday night, I brought a person into my apartment who physically FLINCHED at the front door, and then suggested we "open a window and turn on the fan." And not just because I'm so damn hot.

The next day I scrubbed the basement floor again, and I bought baking soda and spread it around. Then -- in a moment of inspiration -- I put a deep ceramic saucer on the ground where she tends to pee. Lately she's been urinating directly in that saucer, which I quickly empty -- the smell isn't NEARLY so bad when it's fresh and unable to ooze into anything.

Why has she started doing this? I suppose it began with her bladder infection; maybe she associates the litter box with stress and pain now. It's time to buy her a new box anyway.

As for the infection itself, I've been sticking pills down her throat twice a day for almost two weeks, so supposedly the problem is gone. Once I have vacuumed and cleaned up the detritus of The Cloistered Sickly Muffy, my apartment will once again be safe for visiting.

PS: Why does that guy in the picture want to kick his cat? "It usually isn't any antipathy to Tabby's furry's just that you're out of sorts...brain groggy...nerves jumpy...every man has had such days. Possibly you're smoking the wrong cigars."

The advertisement says that Muriel cigars will NEVER get on your nerves, and will "fetch you up at the end of the day with a smile as sweet as a baby's." Shiver.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Yet Another "Andromeda Strain"

I spent four hours watching the 2008 version of "Andromeda Strain," not because I LIKED it, but because it was a brilliant case-study in hack scriptwriting.

Do YOU want to write a script that is guaranteed to be filmed but will be disliked by everybody?

First you should go through your files and find a script you've already written, but which you didn't like much, or maybe it got rejected. This script could be about -- for example -- a deadly organism sent through a wormhole in space, and a bunch of scientists who try to unravel the mystery of how and why it arrived.

Then, when you're reading this mediocre script to your wife, maybe she could say "Hey, that sounds a bit like this book I read once...what was it called...The Gemini Strain? The Sirius Strain? Sort of like that, but less interesting."

Brood. Feel sorry for yourself. But when you hear that some producers want to remake Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain," jump in and say "I'll do it!" and then just grab the set-pieces from Crichton's novel and mix them with your old script. It doesn't matter if none of them fit together. It doesn't even matter if doing so waters down (or completely removes) any of the interesting bits of Crichton's book, such as the actual BIOLOGY of the organism or the blatant "if it can go wrong, it will" theme. Get rid of that stuff and replace it with up-to-date science, like computers you can converse with in plain English and hilarious "ePaper." Don't forget the Buckyballs.

Suddenly you find out that this is going to be a FOUR HOUR MINISERIES! Open your textbook of American Character Archetypes and assign one to each person in the script (stuff like "father is too busy but still loves his son anyway" and "would do anything for her country EXCEPT sacrifice her family" and "no-nonsense, brilliant female surgeon waiting for a man of her caliber"). You need to do this to replace all that science stuff you took out. Make everybody twenty years younger, and cute. Because the best scientific minds are always young and cute, you know. Make them fall in love.

Having done all this, choose to make the story TOPICAL, whether it wants to be or not. Throw in everything that you read about in yesterday's newspaper, especially terrorism and offshore drilling (errr, "mining undersea vents," rather). Make the script exceptionally critical of all the illegalities and excesses of the Bush administration, but because you don't want to end up defending yourself against Ann Coulter on a talk show, replace President Bush with a likable man who says things like:
AIDE: We can evacuate your wife and child immediately, sir.

PRESIDENT: And what about all the OTHER wives and children? Huh? What about them? GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!
Oh! And don't forget to Always Support The Troops. should it end? You need a climax. Better yet, you need four climaxes simultaneously! One of these climaxes should involve an acrophobic who has to catch the severed thumb of a closet homosexual war-monger, which was cut off and thrown to him by a man who is epileptic and dying in a pool of radioactive water. Because it's that kind of movie.

Finally, at the bottom of your script, write "Crap CGI only!" and underline it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Harpo Marx Talks At Last!

I admit it without shame: I'm a Marx Brothers fan. It's a real delight for me to read occasional Marx-related news in The New Yorker, particularly during 1929 when their star was on the rise. Reviews! Goofy letters! Gossip!

But whenever I run across a Marx Brothers tidbit I usually curb my enthusiasm, assuming that readers of this blog wouldn't give a damn. Usually their New Yorker stuff is pretty dumb anyway.

This advertisement from Rosoff's, however, is just fun enough to deserve mention.

Described as "The Broadway Night Club dedicated to good food," Rosoff's was apparently a popular eatery in its day, but it closed in 1981 and has left few internet footprints. Perhaps trying to imitate the "celebrity spy" advertisements from Reuben's, here's Harpo Marx giving a ringing Rosoff's endorsement.
"You needn't think that just because I play the harp I'm an angel. Nor even that I'm stringing you. After the performance of 'Animal Crackers' every other pay day I let the blondes take me over to your restaurant. I have one of your club steaks à la Rosoff, and after that I'm ready to be all four of the Three Muskateers.

"And I want you to know that if Groucho ever kills me for charging these feeds up on the swindle sheet, you can have him hanged for Harpocide.

"Yours for more clubbing and staking,"


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Scrutable Poetry Corner: "Glimpses of the Magnificent"

In the March 2, 1929 issue of The New Yorker, Don Muir Strouse provided some nice capsule sketches of the prominent band leaders in town. These tell you more about the people than long-winded reviews ever would.

Pan in a top hat
Shrieks defiance
To the world
On a laughing clarinet.


A corpulent
Overgrown cherub
Dangles a little stick
To the rhythm
Of the perfect jazz band.


Unction oozing
From an animated
Dress suit
That reeks
With smugness
And makes crackling sounds.


The Crown Prince
Rebels from
And leads
The insurgents


Perennial sophomores
From Altoona
Cashing in grandly
On a couple
Of rah rahs.
PS: Like many of the people whose poetry appeared in the early New Yorker, Don Muir Strouse has been completely forgotten. These band leaders, however, are still widely considered to be some of the best.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No Sleep

You should never sit up late at night reading a scary book, especially not one you know will escalate from "spooky" to "gruesome" to "utterly horrifying," without relent.

You shouldn't do this after a day when you've just rushed your cat to the emergency clinic. Then, later in the evening, you shouldn't read the book immediately before and after your cat does something gory and grotesque.

None of this should happen when you're recovering from a bad cold, when you have a slight cough that threatens to keep you awake anyway.

Downstairs, Zsa Zsa is keeping silent watch over the kitchen vent, hoping for more mice.

There is no way I'm going to fall asleep. This is a much needed Gravol night.

Doctor Domestic and Missus Mouser

My cat has suddenly gotten SO WEIRD.

Tonight I noticed that she was hanging around a certain vent in the kitchen, one that I'm aware the mice occasionally use. Zsa Zsa caught one of these mice a few months ago, and since then she's been staring ominously at that vent, but I haven't seen any mouse traces since then.

I was sitting in the living room reading when suddenly -- Bang! Slam! Squeak! -- Zsa Zsa came running past me with a little mouse in her mouth. She sat down and looked at me, and the mouse looked at me was still alive.

She dropped the mouse, it began to run away, and she dived low and scooped it into her mouth again. The mouse was squeaking. I prepared myself to force her to drop it and I wondered if I'd have the guts to put it out of its misery. What would I do?

Then -- before I could move -- she CHOMPED. Crackle! Mouse bones breaking. Staring at me as though daring me to try to stop her, she chomped again...and again...and again. I reached out to take the mangled thing away from her but she moved away and then, suddenly...

Gulp. The mouse was gone. She'd SWALLOWED IT WHOLE.

Granted the mouse was pretty small, but Zsa Zsa is also small, and she subsists on kibble and occasional Pounce treats. This mouse...she just ATE IT UP, barely dead, like some sort of monster cobra, as though to prove that even after the indignity of a trip to the vet and a finger up her butt she was still a wild animal.

The truly amazing thing? She didn't leave a spot of blood on the carpet.

The Pee Scream

After three days of force-feeding laxatives to my cat, I am delighted to come home and see both pee AND poop in her litterbox. "Wonderful!" I say to myself, "Zsa Zsa's feeling better!"

Then, at 7pm, I hear it again: "the poo scream." She's walking around her litterbox with her tail raised, straining and crying. After a while she starts doing this in various rooms of the apartment: the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom. I'm hoping that she'll finally succeed, even if it means getting poop inside my Mary-Janes.

But it's not to be. After an hour of this I can't take it anymore and I call the emergency clinic. They're cheerful and tell me to come on by, with a warning that they're more expensive than a regular vet. I don't cat's in pain.

So I bundle her into her catbox and begin driving in the general direction of the clinic, which is far off in a bizarre industrial park that I've never driven to. Sometime during the last fourteen years when I wasn't driving, some city planner had stepped in and moved all the streets around. I'm driving through the rain, desperately trying to figure out where I'm going, while beside me my cat howls and howls.

Then, while we're on the Expressway, her howls escalate a notch and the most terrible poopy smell fills the car. I'm glad that she's finally cleared her obstruction but I don't like the thought of her sitting in her own feces, plus the smell is really, really awful. I drive faster.

Much later, at the clinic, I pull her out of her box and...there's nothing inside. She pee'd a bit, but nothing more. "Must have been gas," explains the receptionist.

The vet is a no-nonsense sort of lady, she's not going to take any guff from MY puss. She squeezes Zsa Zsa's lady-parts until a tiny bit of urine comes out, which she sends off for testing. Then -- to pass the time I guess -- she sticks a thermometer up Zsa Zsa's butt, followed by a finger which she twists around as Zsa Zsa hisses and bites. "Not much feces in there at all," she says, taking a cursory look at what she's managed to scrape out.

After all this -- the laxatives, the thermometer, the rubber finger -- it turns out that Zsa Zsa has a bladder infection, and she's straining to pee because her irritated bladder THINKS it's full. Pushing my quivering, traumatized pussy-cat down on the table she demonstrates the fine art of "pilling." I hold my bleeding wrist and watch carefully; this will be my life for the next ten days.

The price for all this joy: $200. Fortunately this elevates my money anxiety out of the "vaguely anxious" category into "oh hell, just roll with it."

Seriously, the vet was wonderful and the money was worth it; I couldn't sit at home and listen to the poor girl howl like that. Of course she'll have to go to her regular vet to get her kidneys checked out, and this is a sign that my previously-robust Zsa Zsa is definitely in decline. That's sad, but at least I know she'll pee easier on the way down.

More From The Pittsburgh Press

The 1920's New Yorker was glutted with full-page advertisements from The Pittsburgh Press. These advertisements were meant to prove...errr...something, and took the strangest logical detours in order to prove...errr...whatever it was they were proving.

I give you this baby. He looks like he's saying "Hey, screw you, lady!"

Why all this Pittsburgh-boosting? Why the babies? "Why is the man pounding the table?" We may never know.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sick Long Weekend Catch-Up

Since I am too ill to spend my night dancing and my head is too foggy for bloggin', here's a quick update.
  1. My cat has not pooped as of yet.
  2. One nice thing about having a spiffy new computer is that the old games -- which I could barely play on their lowest settings -- can now be played with maximum eye-candy. So "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" looks particularly good. I just have to remember that it's more effective to shoot enemies in the head instead of the groin.
  3. Want to see a great scary movie? I highly recommend "The Ruins." Holy vegetable-infested cow!
  4. Yesterday I decided I wanted to drive to a lake. I looked on the map for the one closest to me, then drove all the way to Floradale to find it. And guess what...there's no lake there! There's a tiny one, but the enormous one depicted on the map just didn't seem to exist.
  5. I did NOT receive the "Record Save and Sell" this Friday, which is a good sign.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Lost Girl

This has been a very strange day.

A few hours ago I heard a man saying "Where's your mommy? Where do you live?" I wandered outside and saw a middle-aged man wandering around my parking lot, trying simultaneously to corral a little girl and attract attention to his problem.

"Is she yours?" He asked me. "I saw her crossing Union Boulevard. She won't talk."

Union is right around the corner from my house, and it is a very busy street with limited visibility; the thought of this two-year old tottering her way across it made my skin crawl.

So we quizzed the girl. She refused to say anything and kept diving toward the street. Meanwhile my neighbour across the fence was shouting "A little girl and you don't know who she belongs to? CALL THE POLICE!"

It was my theory that the toddler couldn't have travelled far, so I ran inside to put on my shoes and do a house-to-house canvass. By the time I came back outside the child's parents were running across Union Boulevard, terrified and shell-shocked, as the old guy half-heartedly berated them.

I suppose this story is only REALLY scary if you're familiar with Union Boulevard. *I* get nervous crossing it.

The Poo Scream

This afternoon my cat began making her "poo scream."

I've only heard this a few times, and it has always happened when I've shamefully neglected cleaning her litterbox. Her "poo scream" sounds like a regular yowl, but instead of having a clean tone it actually "breaks up" at its peak, as though to say "Before I was only kidding but NOW I REALLY MEAN IT!"

An awful humidity has been playing havoc with the litter -- twenty seconds after she pees, the entire apartment stinks for hours -- so I thought maybe the smell in there was too much for her. I cleaned the litterbox -- it was pretty clean to begin with, really -- and she went down to use it...and started to scream again.

So I went through all the usual distractions -- gave her fresh water, gave her treats, took her outside -- but to no avail; it became obvious that Zsa Zsa really wanted to do SOMETHING in her litterbox, but was for some reason unable.

I called the vet and she told me that Zsa Zsa was probably constipated, and she sent me down to the pharmacy for some Lactulose ("You've got a CONSTIPATED CAT?!?" yelled the pharmacist) and I also bought one of those plastic syringes made for babies. Then, apologetically, I propped poor Zsa Zsa in my lap and squirted one milliliter of bitter-tasting medication down her throat.

She coughed, sneezed, then crawled to the middle of the floor and began to gulp spasmodically. She continued to do this for half and hour -- sort of hiccuping, really -- and then gradually stopped. An hour later she was willing to accept my company again. I can't blame her for being angry; it can't be nice to be both constipated AND hiccuping at the same time.

Unfortunately she still hasn't gone to the bathroom, though she's no longer complaining about it. I'm supposed to give her three doses of Lactulose each day until she finally lets loose, and I'm happy to report that our second session went much smoother than the first; Zsa Zsa's a pretty easy-going cat.

If you have ever had a pet -- or even a pre-verbal child, God forbid -- you know how awful it is to see them suffer, and to know that the only way to help them is to make them suffer MORE, often by betraying their trust in you. I can only hope that, when Zsa Zsa is finally spraying the inside of her litterbox with Lactulose-inspired diarrhea, she understands I'M the one who made it all happen for her.