Benny and the Cat Club

One of my summer projects was to find a little brother or sister for Doc, badly in need of a playmate after the loss of Sophie, an incomprehensible divorce, and the I-Want-to-Be-an-Only-Kitty truculence of his older sister Phoebe.
So here is Lord Tony Benn, formerly 2nd Viscount of Stansgate, known as Benny, a graduate of Kalamazoo Animal Rescue. By the second day of his arrival, he and Doc were practicing cat-fu and grooming each other. Even Phoebe is willing to let the kitten share one corner of the bed or walk past her in the hall without hysterics-- some of the time. Benny is a sunny little guy who litter trained instantly and taught himself (and me) to play fetch. He's still enough of a kitten to suckle noisily on a paw or a blanket and knead my tender flesh when he naps by my side, purring and oblivious to my screams. Most wonderfully, he has Sophie's talent for making me laugh at least once a day.

I was amazed to hear from Kalamazoo Animal Rescue that it's more difficult to place black cats; I would've thought they were everyone's first choice. My cat vet, Dr. Seeley Rotigel, put me in touch with KAR and they really are a bargain in addition to their virtues as animal rescuers: Benny arrived already neutered, wormed, de-flead twice and with all his vaccinations, at a cost much lower than I could have managed adopting on my own.

Benn (two n's please, in keeping with his namesake, the great British Labour MP Tony Benn) is shown here only after some difficulty, as he insisted on coming closer and blocking the lens every time I took out the camera. For the uninitiated, the other Tony Benn is shown here below, and in spite of his inability to jump five times his own height from a crouch, he talks beautifully about democracy, the health of the citizen, and the ways of the world in general. Ees a life-ah changer.

Wayne Sallee Haunts the City

Drumming up some readers for my buddy Wayne's blog here, Frankenstein 1959, which lately has been full of oddly charming (that's our clan's cri de guerre, "odd but charming") posts about what it's like getting around a major city with cerebral palsy, only enough money for a bookstore or to buy a friend a drink, and a humanist's eye for the people he shares the bus stop with, the ones on their way home to a cardboard box. Wayne's primarily a horror writer by trade (Fiends by Torchlight, Horror in the Heartland and others)but this stuff is a purer gold. It reminds me of Nelson Algren's Chicago, City on the Make crossed with John Callahan's Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot with the weather eye of the son of a Chicago cop (I mean, cahp) if they'd gone to school with the crew of Mystery Science Theater. I'm hoping his journal entries-- taking a wrong turn on foot in the cul de sac of a gated community designed to keep poor people out and being unable to hop the fence through which he can see the relative freedom of the streets-- will turn into a book someday.

"Going back to my post about the Wow! Signal and Elvis going home, HEF commented that the static from space was really a dinner bell. One night, he, I, Jeff, and Andrew smoked pot in his basement and I exclaimed "I am Emily Dickinson!" to which the other men choked down the goodness and of course I meant to say that I was Spartacus. And to this day I am reminded of this event....
"Tonight was the Printers Ball, a yearly thing. This time around it was at the MCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. The photo above is from last year's event in Bridgeport in which the police were called because Bridgeport is full of @$$holes. I can type those words about Mayor Daley's old neighborhood and get away with it because NOBODY in Bridgeport is smart enough to use Google and type in Bridgeport Is Full Of @$$holes. So there, you Irish hillbillies. It was a neat little event and I soon realized that most everybody there was half my age....
"I was wearing a kind of tealish Hawaiian shirt, but I'd look pretty silly wearing my jeans and just the jacket and my three chest hairs. Silly there, but fashionable in Wrigleyville. I also got a whatever kind of look girls give guys twice their age from this Claire Danesish gal as I refilled my water bottle. She was by herself but I had nothing to say because I AM AN IDIOT. I could be with her right now, holding hands over deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's before sneaking out the back way because I only have $22.37 and a giant Pope coin to my name. ...
"The Man in this case being the SS/Disability Board. I am STILL filling out the online form, mostly because I keep getting pages where I am repeating the same thing. Where I am repeating the same thing. I'm better today, as the evening has worn on. I'm in fighting mode again. But, I tell you, this damn form--now I'm up to my employment history, Christ knows if they want info from 1977 as they did with my medical info, I think I was a night dishwasher at a Golden Bear off State Road--this form, this THING, its as if Charles has ordered me at gunpoint to transcribe the history of the Green Lantern Corps. ...
"NFM Mike and I discussed porn while waiting for the Red Line and a young waif flipping through a magazine moved ever further away as I discussed such grand titles as THE NEIGHBORS SUCK AND SO DO WE, and the book I swear I will one day find again and one day own, I can see the cover as if it was 1979 all over again, MY DACHSHUND, MY LOVER. (I know if I keep mentioning the book, it will come to be in my possession.) And that was my last, oh, 18 hours or so. One more week of summer. I felt sooo old at that party tonight."

Waynes blog here and website with books for sale here

I Am John McCain Fudd, Millionaire. I Own a Mansion an a Yacht.

After weeks of Rovian distortions trying to make the adjective "elitist" stick to Barack Obama, the Obama campaign whacked McCain upside the head with simple fact: an ad describing McCain's more than 12 million dollars worth of houses and condos. More on the Italian shoes later.
And then wonderfully, John McCain couldn't remember how many houses he owns. McCain could still win this election, with the electorate getting exactly what they deserve, but today, at least, Obama's kung fu is strong.
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.
"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."
The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.
And a Politico analysis later in the day found McCain's family owns at least eight properties, according to property and tax records, as well as interviews. "

Nathan Ndjiharine

Sad to hear that Nathan Ndjiharine, lead guitarist of Zion Lion, my favorite live band in Kalamazoo, drowned last week while tubing with his family in the Muskegon River when he was swept under by the current.

Spiritual Comfort from a Dog and Merrill Markoe: PICK UP THE BIG FLAT WET THING

Tank and June, shown here, live with my friends Pat and Bill, all of whom have done the most to insist on my survival through the end of my marriage. The only good that I can see is that any bad karma I might have accumulated through causing pain to others has now been visited on my head threefold, balancing out any karmic debt outstanding.
This American Life broadcast an episode on "breakups" today, and although I meant not to listen, the radio was still on while I was weeping in the next room, and so I heard Merrill Markoe read the following story, which made me think of Tank and June (the cats at home being just as puzzled and confused as I) and contains the best of all the well-meaning advice I've heard from strangers and friends alike:

"Today our friend Paul came to the house in a near dissociative state of panic. Suddenly and without warning it appeared his marriage was unraveling.
He sat down on the big red couch in my living room , I offered him some vodka and he cautiously began to detail his anguish.
“Up until yesterday if you had asked me if my marriage was a happy one, I would have said yes, “ he said, choking back tears, his voice quivering with emotion,” and then last night, out of the blue, my wife comes in and tells me she wants a divorce.”
As Paul spoke , his voice full of shock and misery, our dog Puppyboy, a skinny brown and black Tijuana Shepherd, approached him. It appeared to be one of those moments of poignant intuitive empathy that people and animals sometimes share…right up until the moment I noticed that Puppyboy’s mouth was full of a large black completely deflated soccer ball. To Puppyboy, a ball is still a ball whether or not it is currently filled with air. And any occasion, even one that involves tears, is as good as any other to begin a game of “Fetch.” So he placed the flat wet piece of rubber gently on Paul’s knee, where it balanced like a rock at Stonehenge, then sat down right in front of Paul to wait for the games to begin. Paul, however, was too upset to notice....

"Hello, new seated person. I am Puppyboy and I can see that you are very upset for some reason. But I have something on my mind.
It is an idea so big that I can hardly hold my head up from the enormous weight of it. It is more than an idea. It is an urgent message. I am going out on a limb here and tell you that It is the most important thing I have ever had to say. And it is this: I have placed a thing on you that you must throw....
The only other possible explanation for your puzzling lack of interest is that you are purposefully ignoring me. And why would you do that? That doesn’t make any sense.
Especially since you are really hurting yourself more than you are hurting me. Because let’s face it…you’re the one who is passing up a great opportunity.
And by a great opportunity I am referring to the chance to have the kind of fun that everyone dreams of having. I speak of the chance to throw a big flat stretchy wet thing....
I don’t want to be preachy, but In life there are certain moments that may never come again. This, I believe, is one of those moments for you. Throw it now or live a life of regret.
I mean I can’t stop you if you’d rather just listen to yourself talk. Wife wife wife, she did this, she did that, really fascinating.
Pick up the big flat wet thing.
Pick up the big flat wet thing.
Pick up the big flat wet thing. PICK IT UP.PICK IT UP. PICK UP THE BIG FLAT WET THING?
Are you even listening? You know, Maybe if you had LISTENED A LITTLE BETTER DURING YOUR MARRIAGE your wife wouldn’t want a divorce. DID you ever think of that? IT WOULDN’T SURPRISE ME IF YOU NEVER THREW THE THINGS THAT SHE BROUGHT YOU EITHER!"

Full text, by Merrill Markoe, at her website here

Monkey Puzzle

Monkey is the great trickster hero of Asia, kin to Coyote and Odysseus, Brer Rabbit, Mouse Deer and the rest. Monkey is always wandering, bragging, grabbing at everything and never shutting up, showing off, asking questions, and getting in and out of trouble. They call him "the animal with a hundred hands" because he's always grabbing at things, like the mind that won't stay still but gets itself into unnecessary trouble: the mind, the Zen masters tell us, IS a monkey.
I made this drawing some years ago as part of a long abandoned project. The monkey bodies spell out his name. There's a big painted version in color as well, with the word MONKEY arranged vertically, a blue-green background and the monkeys in red and yellow. An art lover paid me good money for that one (now will I believe that there are unicorns), so it either hangs on some wall or in a rummage sale somewhere.
Monkey: Journey to the West is a classic Buddhist novel of Monkey's adventures traveling with a Buddhist monk in search of enlightenment, faced with 80 impossible tasks 100 chapters and demons and temptations galore-- even pissing on Buddha's hand-- and despite all his character flaws, Monkey finally achieves enlightenment, hope for the silliest.

Now I'm pleased that Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl and the Gorillaz) has combined Monkey's adventures with the Olympics as an intro for BBC Sports. It's a connection that was hanging there waiting for someone to grab it, so I'm glad it was them and not Disney or some other corporate thief of other people's dreams. Carlo Collodi invented Pinocchio and James Barrie created Peter Pan. Felix Salten wrote Bambi and Hans Christian Anderson dreamed the Little Mermaid (with an unhappy ending) and Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Books" is ten times more profound than that jazz-track abomination. Walt Disney may have been the Thomas Edison of idea factories, but that's scarcely a recommendation.

Japan's Longest Day: Wishful Thinking, and Mass Murder from a Plane Named After the Pilot's Mother

It's the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I've little to add to the library of meditation on what it all means-- except that if you've never read Japan's Longest Day the English translation of research done by Kazutoshi Hando and The Pacific War Research Society, it will remove any hope that the Japanese government would have surrendered without the bombing. Indeed, the book makes clear that the hawks in control of the Japanese government had no intention of stopping even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even when they themselves admitted that the war was lost.
The people of the United States have a knack of forgetting our own talent for mass murder while scolding other nations for their bestial habits, and it may be that shame over the treatment of Africans and the aboriginals creates a chink in our mental armor when it comes to thinking about World War Two. It's an easy hit to make Americans flinch when playing poker over the development of nuclear weapons.
It was the hope of Leo Szilard and others at the time that Japan would surrender if the power of the weapon was demonstrated on an abandoned island. Truman-- funny how he never pretended that his "advisors" were somehow responsible for anything more than advice in making his decision-- was working with the facts of what had just happened on Okinawa (more people died on Okinawa than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and appeared certain to happen on the mainland. Szilard and a generation of physicists after him moved into biology and peace activism after the bombs were dropped, and now biology and recombinant DNA are on the brink of creating an extinction-level weapon just as splitting the atom did.
This is going to call for more sophistication than the wishful thinking shown by doves and hawks, who seem to recite two extremes: that we can force everyone to love us by bombing people who don't love us, or that we make everyone love us by appealing to their higher nature even if they wish us harm. But technology outruns social evolution. "We are as gods," as Stewart Brand said, "and we might as well get good at it."