Posts Tagged ‘cats’
April 9, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Yesterday, a dog raced a Metro-North train from the South Bronx into Manhattan. The train slowed down at several points so the dog, an adorable shepherd/collie mix, would not risk injury. Passengers feared for her safety during the mad dash—and cheered lustily as she was collected by two transit cops, who took her to animal control to treat her injured paw.
We love to see pets going to great lengths for our companionship, or whatever it is they’re doing. It’s hard enough to know what your dog or cat is thinking as it goes from room to room—and no one can divine the thoughts of these heroic specimens who follow their masters across continents, Incredible Journey–style. We usually choose to regard this as proof of pure devotion. But in other cases, we see these antics—especially by cats—as slightly sinister. Consider the case of “The Cat Came Back.”
Written in 1893 as a minstrel song with a very different title, “The Cat Came Back” tells of a malevolent cat who won’t stay away—until he’s killed. It’s not the sort of enlightened fare we usually associate with modern elementary education. And yet, a sanitized version of the song is a staple of nursery schools and day camps, where it’s seen as a useful tool for teaching young children about rhythm and harmony. For whatever reason, kids love the minor-key tune and the story of the grim, Mephistophelean cat.
There’s a G-rated modern version in which the owner tries to pawn the cat off on Santa Claus and an air balloon; and then there’s an earlier iteration, in which said owner clearly wants to see the feline dead. Kids laugh at both, because this cat will not be ruled by man. He defies adult authority—to say nothing of the laws of physics and geography—and this is as reassuring as it is terrifying. He “couldn’t” stay away, we are told—but not because he so loves the beleaguered Mr. Johnson, or Wilson, or whatever the owner’s name happens to be. He is a law unto himself. And the glee in telling his story has little to do with affection, and much to do with things dark and unexplained.
If no owner claims that train-loving dog, animal control is going to put her up for adoption, even though her heart is clearly wild and free and her thoughts inscrutable. But maybe for someone, that will be an adventure. Maybe they’ll like the minor key of its small mysteries. And why take on another life, if not for that?
March 17, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
“I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency,” begins James Joyce’s The Cat and the Devil, first published in 1965. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on this book as a child, you know that the illustrations, by Richard Erdoes, haunt your nightmares for years, and that it’s quite impossible ever to think of James Joyce without visualizing the Mephistophilean entity pictured therein.
The story is based on an old French folktale: the desperate mayor of Beaugency makes a deal with the devil in order to get a bridge across the Loire. In exchange for the supernatural structure, the devil may claim the soul of whoever crosses it first. In the event, the townspeople foil the plot by sending over a hapless cat instead, and in the grand tradition of diabolical law, the devil is forced to abide by their reading of the contract. Read More »
February 20, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Why can some people remember their dreams while others can’t?
- And a note to perennial dreamers: positive thinking makes you less successful. In a two-year study of undergraduates, “those who harbored positive fantasies put in fewer job applications, received fewer job offers, and ultimately earned lower salaries.” And those were German students—not a people given to excessive sunniness. You can imagine what this means for Americans.
- The authors of old weather proverbs, on the other hand, were deeply pessimistic, especially about the omens of cats: “When cats sneeze it is a sign of rain. When cats lie on their head with mouth turned up expect a storm. When cats are snoring, foul weather follows.”
- One reason to attend your son’s football games: you may meet John Grisham there, and he may offer to be your mentor.
- “Italy’s relationship to modernity is very complicated … [The Futurists] try to do something new and not repeat what’s already been done, but in the end you can’t shake off 2,000+ years of art and culture.” On the Guggenheim’s new Italian Futurism exhibit.
January 22, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
The girl and the boy stood in the doorway of the crosstown bus as we crossed the park. She was dressed all in black, her lank hair streaked with crimson, eyes circled with heavy kohl, wrists crisscrossed with black rubber bracelets. Her backpack bore an “Emily the Strange” badge.
Her companion, plump and pale, in an oversized trench coat, turned toward her with a coy tilt of his head.
“Mee-ow,” he purred, extending and then curling his fingers one by one in what was clearly intended to be a cat-like manner.
His companion did not respond.
“Mee-ow,” he said more loudly.
“I’m so fucked on this test. Let’s get some pizza,” she said impatiently, pulling the stop bell.
There was a brief silence. Then,
“Purrrr-fect,” said the boy.
She ignored him.
They got off at the next stop, after a very slow old lady.
December 19, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“I was realistic about the book’s marketing … it was, after all, a memoir about some cats, and no state-of-the-nation literary epic. Nonetheless, Simon & Schuster’s birthday-cardish cover—an anonymous actor kitten sitting in a pair of jeans, against a sky-blue background—seemed a curious choice.” —Tom Cox