Sugar boy, whatcha tryin’ to do

17 01 2010

Jasper is an odd cat.

When I pour my cereal in the morning, he hops on to the table and rubs himself all over the boxes and me in a kind of ecstasy. He then closely inspects the poured cereal.

He seems particularly to like Grape Nuts.

(For all of you non-critter owning folk who are now gagging at the thought of a cat on a table or a whisker in a bowl of cereal, hell, you’re probably right: it is unsanitary. I also think it’s funny.)

(This may be among the reasons that you don’t have critters and I do.)

And no, excepting the just-poured  pre-milk cereal, I don’t let him stick his face in my food. As I tell him, that’s just rude.

He does generally like to lounge on the table—which I wash off before I prep any food. My tolerance for kitty dirt does have its limits.

Whaddya mean this isn't a kitty bed?

He also has this thing with the litter box: He climbs halfway inside and pushes the litter around with some vigor.

He then perches on the edge of the box to do his business.

Then, back inside for more vigorous litter-shovelling. Which leads to litter all over the floor.

Which explains the broom in the bathroom.

C. wondered if he doesn’t like the lid. Possible, but given that he has no problem crawling all the way inside to scratch at every last bit on the box—minutes, he does this, honest to pete—I think it’s more about Jasper than the box.

Oh, and have I mentioned how well he’s training me? In addition to lulling me into thinking the breakfast routine in endearing, he’s also learned how to sucker me into comforting him—even when I don’t think he’s really all that upset:

The steam pipe in the bathroom knocks like hell, which makes Jasper squeak out a pathetic little cry, which leads me to say ‘C’mere Jasper. It’s okay. C’mere. . . .’ So he’ll squeak a little more, then jump into my lap for a round of head scratching. (And if I stop before he’s done, he’ll shove his head under my hand and wriggle it a bit.)

I gotta admit, I doubt he cries when I’m not home. I bet he just rolls over on whatever surface he’s snoozing and dreams of new ways of manipulating me.

That is, unless he falls off. Boy has no edge-sense whatsoever.

Well. Given that this is his first winter, I thought I’d introduce him to snow. It started promisingly:

But any attempt to lure him on to the fire escape ended at the sash:

Jasper was not impressed with snow.

Bean, of course, is still unimpressed with Jasper.

She’s tolerant enough of his presence, but I have seen them lying next to one another—briefly, it must be said—only twice.

He’s very interested in her, but he can’t seem to figure out that her unwillingness to hang out with him might just be related to his penchant to pouncing on her back or swiping at her with his paw or chomping on her neck.

Bean don’t like it.

In any case, as successful as he’s been in charming me, he’s not yet achieved that Zen state in which he can simply claim any space as his own.

Such as the middle of my bed.

Yes, Jasper may be the Odd Prince of Prospect-Lefferts Garden, but Bean remains Queen.





The year of the cat

31 12 2009

My attitude toward 2009?

Don’t let the calendar hit your ass on the way out the clock.

I don’t usually care much one way or the other for end of year/beginning of year ruminations; my biggest issue is remember to write the correct year on any documents I have to date.

But two things happened this year which affected the absurd household.

One (tho’ the second thing, if you insist on chronological correctness):

Yes, the Odd Boy, Mr. Jasper himself, came to live with Bean and me. He’s been a sweet pain in the ass and a darling demon. I’m glad he’s here.

Bean continues to withhold judgment on the issue.

The second, of course, is the first:

My beautiful Chelsea died.

It was time. She’d been in a slow decline for years, but the end came quickly. She was in no obvious pain, and she purred to the last.

Still, even a good death is a death, and this was the end of a remarkable creature.

I miss you, Sweet Pea.

~~~

There would be no Jasper without Chelsea, of course, no entrance without the exit.

It’s not that Jasper replaces her (duh), but that the space left by Chelsea opened a space for another.

Would I rather have Chelsea than Jasper? I’d rather that Chelsea had stayed healthy for a few more years, that she had continued to fill her own space. Had she done so, I’d have never gone to Animal Control, never met that smelly little critter chomping on my fingers (shoulda been a clue) through the cage bars.

In other words, there’s no comparison between the two. One departed, the other entered. What was Chelsea’s will remain so; Jasper is creating his own way.

My sorrow at Chelsea’s death coexists with my pleasure at Jasper’s presence.

Time falls away, and leaves Chelsea, Bean, and Jasper. They all came, they will all go; they are all here, always.





There is power in a union

23 10 2009

Jasper’s apprenticeship is proceeding on schedule. I expect he’ll have earned full membership by the time he turns one.

Cats, in case you don’t know, have a union—global, strong, and utterly unbreakable. It is, of course, mandatory, but I’ve met to meet a cat who objects to the basic obligations of the union. And no wildcat strikes, either: the duties are immanent in all cat activities, such that there is no space or contradiction between the feline condition and the union.

Marx could have learned a thing or two from cats.

(It is also important to note the union is basically syndicalist, owing in large part to cats’  anarchist predispositions. No vanguard parties, here.)

There are various tasks which all cats must perform prior to initiation into the union (Indoor or Outdoor Division)—in Jasper’s case, Feline Union Local 226, ID (Brooklyn-East Flatbush)—as well as a selection of electives (to establish a speciality).

Jasper has mastered the following:

  • bag-diving
  • sink exploration
  • tub exploration (*note: extra points are earned if cat jumps into the litter box immediately following tub or sink exploration, thereby allowing for dirty paw-prints to be tracked about the dwelling)
  • toilet flushing inspection (*note: given the noise and generally bowl agitation, it often requires a build-up to the actual inspection, ranging from remaining in the room while toilet flushes, to jumping on lid, to actual inspection)
  • pushing pencils and/or other items from desk or table to floor
  • attacking bits of paper, fluff, or anything which might otherwise be considered garbage
  • garbage diving
  • walking across and/or standing on sensitive regions of body
  • laying in clean clothes
  • disrupting bed-making
  • jumping into chair to which human plans to return
  • batting at ankles from a hiding place
  • shoelace attacks
  • sock attacks
  • chasing string
  • chasing insects
  • poking head in refrigerator
  • jumping into open cabinet doors
  • knocking over at least one plant
  • laying in lap so as to interfere with human’s task (e.g., grading papers, completing crossword puzzle)
  • laying on book/magazine and/or otherwise interfering with reading
  • purring loudly in ear while trying to talk on phone
  • window dozing
  • successful jumps to high places
  • scooting between human’s legs to run out door
  • spewing liquid medicines over floor
  • behaving perfectly in the presences of guests
  • behaving horribly in the presence of guests
  • bogarting other cat’s food (a necessary task, but subject to punishment by other cat)
  • waking the human less than a hour before her alarm goes off
  • leaping on human’s blanket-covered feet
  • crawling into human’s lap on the hottest day of the year
  • spinning 180 degrees in air when surprised
Disrupting bed-making

Disrupting bed-making

Among tasks to be completed:

  • unsuccessful leaps into high places, preferably followed by a crash
  • mauling human when she attempts to place in cat carrier [#need has not yet arisen]
  • howling while in transit [#first trips don’t count; need for other trips has not yet arisen]
  • spitting out pills [#need has not yet arisen]
  • interrupting sex [#situation has not yet arisen]
  • singeing whiskers in candle
  • spazzing at presence of sticky item on fur
  • growling
  • breaking at least one item of human
  • laying on back, spread-eagled, in presence of guests

#While apprentices cannot be held responsible for failure of humans, they are nonetheless encouraged to manipulate humans so that tasks may be completed.

Jasper has shown a particular ability in the specialty of Technology Disruption:

  • walking across and/or standing on keyboard
  • blocking monitor from human’s view
  • rendering keyboard dysfunctional through the stomping on a particular combinations of keys
  • pulling cord(s) out of computer
  • attacking mouse
  • hitting mute button on keyboard
  • sending computer into sleep mode
  • inspecting printer output

To complete certification in his specialty, however, he’ll have to

  • turn computer on
  • turn computer off
  • jam printer

Once he achieves full membership, he may not only pursue as many specialties (including but not limited to  Nighttime Disruption, Meal Disruption, Theft & Disappearance) as he wishes, he is free to innovate in the development of new specialties.

Bean became an emeritus member (Feline Union At-Large, ID)  upon reaching her 15th year this past fall. Any participation in paper-blocking and bag-diving is therefore strictly voluntary and meant solely for her enjoyment.

We humans, of course, have zero control over and only limited bargaining power with this union. They are united and strong, and we, weak and scattered.

Which means they’ll win every time.





Down to me, the change has come

29 07 2009

My new best friend:

Because of him/her/it, I am now able to sleep (mostly) in peace, and Jasper has been downgraded from Vampire Kitty to Hyperactive Kitty.

And no, this teddy bear is not stuffed full of catnip or some other contraband. He is simply soft and floppy and about Jasper’s size.

Backstory: Jasper bit, as all kitties do, and I did the whole withdraw-attention thing to get him to stop. He did not.

I’d lift him off the desk or bed, place him close to the ground, and drop him. He’d jump back on and resume biting.

I advanced to the water bottle. He didn’t like the squirt, but it provided only a temporary deterrent. At times, it only meant that I’d have a damp cat leaping toward my face. Repeatedly. In the middle of the night.

What to do, what to do. He’s a kitten, kittens bite. But, shees, so much? Every moment he’s awake?

So I did what any semi-sane and extremely tired kitty-owner would do: I searched online for solutions.

Many opinions: Just say No! Tap his nose. Don’t tap his nose. Blow in his face. Don’t blow in his face. Squirt him. Don’t squirt him. Confine him. Wait it out. Put your finger in his mouth and hold his tongue down [honest!]. Distract him.

Ah. I’d been trying aversive operant conditioning, trying to get him to associate bad things (shouts of No! physical removal from the bed and desk, water squirts) with biting, but all it was doing was pissing him off.

And, of course, pissing me off, because while I would never ever ever throw the kitty across the room, when said kitty is raking his tiny and sharp incisors across my skull at 4 in the morning, I am sorely tempted to do so.

But, distraction. I could give that a whirl.

I had held off from doing so, not wanting Jasper to associate something benign (play, a toy) with biting, but, as numerous commentators pointed out, this is what kittens do.

They’re also not the brightest of creatures, so any concerns I might have about Jasper associating biting with positive feedback is, well, overestimating the intellectual capacities of a months-old id.

That night, then, when Jasper launched his attack, I removed him from whatever appendage he was gnawing on and stuffed the teddy bear into him. He immediately transferred all his tooth-and-claw energy into teddy, and left me alone.

Sweet honey on the rock, he left me alone.

Granted, he still wakes me up, and sometimes I have to push the teddy toward him a couple of times, but thus far he’s more than willing to beat the shit out of the stuffed animal rather than me.

(Bean still prefers to beat the shit out of him if he dares even to paw at her tail. I figure that’s for the two of them to work out.)

During the day, I distract him with various toys (mice, plastic rings, wine corks, etc.), and while he still jumps all over my keyboard and likes to chew on books, his taste for my flesh has waned.

He’s more relaxed, I’m more relaxed, and, most importantly, I can actually enjoy him.

A gentle, positive approach. Thanks be to teddy, it works.

Who knew?





Everybody do like a monkey

25 07 2009

Jasper is a-growin’ along, getting into the plants and such:

And, of course, he has to chew everything he can get his mouth around:

I love his little pink tongue slipping out amongst the black.

Wait. What? These photos don’t really look like Jasper?

Oh, but they do! They do look like Jasper. They’re just. . .  not, mm, him.

Yes, it occurred to me this past week how much the Vampire Kitty looks like a lemur. Especially when he’s all riled up and his eyes are wide and round:

(Sorry, it’s a lousy shot: I was futzing with the exposure. And he’s tough to shoot when he’s riled up.)

Well, take my word for it, he does look like a lemur.

It’s only fitting: I used to call Chelsea (among other things) my monkey kitty. She was agile in her leaps and incredibly dexterous with both her paws and her mouth.

Bean, well, Bean is not so dexterous. She gets called Panda Bean with some regularity, along with all the other varieties of bean: lima Bean, navy Bean, kidney Bean, garbanzo Bean. . . .

Anyway, since one of Chelsea’s other names was Sweet Pea, I had a whole legume theme going.

How will Jasper fit in all of this? Well, his paw-pads do look like black beans, but, given his temprement, I think I’ll go with a bastardized ‘Gonzo bean’.

(And yeah, that’s Gonzo from The Gone-Away World. What, you haven’t read it yet? Why not? Go, go now! Read that book! And if you can’t find it at the library and you don’t want to shell out for the hardcover, it’s coming out in paperback in August or September. You’ll have no excuses, then!)

Christ, where was I? Oh, yeah, in need of a life.

Okay, I’ll go take a bike ride now. Get out of the house, do me some good. . . .

(Top photo by Jaromir Kaderabek, found thru Bing. Here’s the post from his website; Polish, I’d guess. Wait: maybe Czech. Anyway. The second photo was also found thru Bing, and was taken from a post at k-punk.)

(By the way, I’m finding Bing a hell of a lot easier to use than Google. Yeah, I know it’s Microsoft, a big-bad-corporation, but I think Google is a big-bad-corporation, too.  Anyway, using Bing fits my motto of ‘No brand loyalty!’, i.e., always be willing to switch to something better.)

Bike. Yeah. Okay, then.





We’ve got Trouble

9 07 2009

He’s lucky he’s cute.

Little bastard bit me on the nose this morning.

Perhaps I should have named him ‘Trouble’. Or ‘No’. Or ‘NoBiting!’ or ‘NoGoddammit!’

(Bean’s name for a time was BeanGoddamit!)

My entire body is apparently a chew toy, and everything in the apartment can be pressed into service for play.

Except, of course, Bean. Bean puts up with nothing.

Perhaps I should develop a convincing yowl and hiss.





Wait, what was that?

5 07 2009

Re: the soon-to-be-former governor of Alaska. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Some Freepers are peddling the line that she’s too good for politics, and her decision to ditch is evidence of her superior character—as opposed to, say, an inability either to govern or to develop the skills necessary for political leadership.

And as to complaints about Everybody Being So Mean To Her: If she can’t handle Katie Couric and David Letterman, how the hell could she handle Netanyahu, Putin, Mubarak—or Pelosi or Reid, for that matter?

Fair, unfair: Neither of these matters in political campaigns. Read some Machiavelli, fer cryin’ out loud—and if that’s too much to ask, remember Vince Lombardi.

Shees.

————————-

I know I have issues with community. It’s less that I’m enthusiastic about CAPITAL-I! individualism than I am suspicious of the group—especially a group which claims special status based on its group-ness.

Yeah, I have a past with cliques, the push-pull of wanting to belong and wanting to tell others to fuck off, but I don’t want to reduce this to psychology.

No, I want to reduce this to principle: Don’t tell me [who’s not a member of your group] that I’m less worthy [because I’m not a member of your group]. As a political matter, don’t claim rights based on your group which are denied those not members of the group.

In practice, of course, groups are often religious communities, and the rights claimed are based on the freedom of religion, not on the rights of the group.

All kinds of ways to take off from here, but, after my friend E. called me out on my bias yesterday, I think I need to stay right here, and consider what is principle and what is, simply, prejudice.

Background: I’ve mentioned previously encounters with religious folk which I’ve considered insulting. In one case, two women wouldn’t take an item from my hand, but asked that I set it down before they would touch it. In the second case, a man responded to my outstretched hand with a mumbled request that I withdraw it, out of respect for him and his religious beliefs.

In both cases, I took their reactions to me to be based on their religious beliefs, and further inferred that they thought I was lesser or would somehow taint them with my touch. In both cases, I (behaviorally) respected their expressed wishes, but I was also offended.

E. was puzzled by my response, especially to the situation with the two young women (religion unknown; from their dress, either Christian or Muslim was a possibility). Why do you think that has anything to do with you, she asked?

Because I was there!

Yeah, but they weren’t asking you to do anything offensive.

Huh.

As to the second case, with the no-handshake man, she focused on his explanation for why I should respect him. Why would he assume you’d know about his religious beliefs?

Another good question. I assumed he was Hasidic, although he wasn’t wearing a fedora and it was so dark that I couldn’t tell if he had peyos, but, as E. pointed out, Orthodox men will wear the shawl—and Orthodox men will shake a woman’s hand.

Yes, I agreed, I’ve shaken hands with Orthodox men, and, come to think of it, I don’t know for sure if he was hasidim.

Given my skepticism toward groups and my disdain for patriarchy, I bundled together a few pieces of information about this guy into an unmerited heap of a conclusion. I thought it was about the group and the group’s beliefs about women and his expectation that I alter my behavior to suit him—and I was offended.

But maybe it wasn’t really about me. Maybe, as E. pointed out, his English just wasn’t that great, that he didn’t know a more polite way to make his request.

Well, dammit, E., what are ya doin’, making me rethink these things? I was so comfortable in my anti-fundamentalist stance and here you go redirecting my attention. What the hell kind of friend are you, anyway?

Hmpf.

I’m fine with my skepticisms and criticisms, but I’d rather not be reactionary. So I’ll follow this redirection, see where it takes me—and try to keep my biases out of my way.

Thanks, E.

————————-

Inspired by a segment I heard on WNYC about members of They Might Be Giants banning certain phrases, I humble ask for the retirement of the following (I direct this to myself, as well):

  • Meh
  • Wow. Just wow.
  • Batshit crazy (I do like this one, but, Enough.)
  • Just sayin’
  • teh gay/s
  • ZOMG! WTF?! ROTFL, et. al.
  • Meme (I have always hated this term. Always. Goddamned genetic reductionists.)

I probably should ban ‘heh’, as well, but no need to get all Puritan, here.

———————-

Jasper update: He is on,

or off.

No in-between.

A little less smelly (gave him a washcloth rinse yesterday), but still in need of a dunking. With soap.

Very friendly, and eager for a lap. Good purr.

Ten week-old kittens have really tiny heads. Tiny teeth, too, but sharp.

Still working on the biting. No biting.

Working on the staying off of computer keyboard, too. He’s logged me out of Firefox a couple of times, opened about fifteen help windows, and at one point sent my computer into hibernation. Fancy feet on that boy.

Not so much in the litter box, however. Jasper has no litter skills. Yes, he uses his wee box (a cereal box with the back cut out, lined with a plastic bag), but he’s a bit fuzzy on the whole covering-one’s-leaving concept: He’ll scratch at the air, at the floor outside of the box, on the wall next to the box, but actually in the box? Not so much. [I know, I should retire this one, too, but it’s too good to lose!]

I hope his skills improve when he moves to the big box.

He has gotten within a foot of Bean, who has responded with hisses and yowling. At one point she swiped at him, but, as he was a good foot-and-a-half away, nothing happened.

Still, at some point there will be contact, and he will learn that Bean is Queen.