Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Re-Appropriation of Art

Unfortunately, I don't know the names of the artists, or even the title of their artwork... only that I was fairly impressed with this outdoor sculpture park.

I also felt that the position of a particular piece, in terms of its environs, added to the display. A statue of a Native American raising his arms to the sky is one thing, for example. A statue of a Native American raising his arms to the sky — with a park bench behind him in the distance — is something else altogether.

This was not my first sculpture park experience. But I've not seen many of these around, which I suspect has something to do with artists not wanting their artwork exposed to the elements. Wind, rain, spider webs, lightning... these things can ruin a perfectly good work of art. But they also add to it.

And the thing that struck me most, in all of this, was the realization that every photograph I take is really just a catalogue — or even appropriation of — someone else's creation. Whether it's my reflection in a "Push to Go" button at a crosswalk (see left), a snapshot of my nephew playing like he's the Lone Ranger (see wall in my apartment) or a photograph of a Weeping Willow tree behind a statue of a man suspended by heart-strings (see below).

I so wish I actually knew how to take pictures. I mean, really take pictures. With every close of the shutter, I feel like I'm doing the world a tremendous injustice by failing to catalogue things precisely as I see them.

Study of a Fallen Bird

Monday, August 28, 2006

Anchorman (Movie Review)

I've been a tad pressed for time since the return from vacation. So pressed, in fact, that I'm not sure when/how I've even managed to find the time to post my last few entries (not to mention, the time to watch the movies I've reviewed). Though I suspect it has something to do with only watching movies while I workout and/or eat. At times, a single movie is watched over the course of 3-4 days. And reviews have been hastily thrown together on (now rare) lunch breaks, sometimes days after I actually watched the film.

This is just my way of explaining the less-than-grand quality of my last several entries... including this one.

[And, if asked, I'm sure I can craft another excuse for the lacking quality of prior entries, too.]

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) was perhaps the funniest movie I've seen since Elf (2003). And while I'd still say that unusual Christmas gem is the more entertaining of the two, I was nevertheless sorry that it took me so long to get around to watching this other Will Ferrell masterpiece.

OK, so perhaps "masterpiece" is too strong of a word. But in a film with lines such as "Look, Ron, I'm riding a furry tractor!" and "When there's weather to report... I report the weather" an oddball like me is laughing long after the credits roll. While I certainly wouldn't recommend this film for everyone, I do think it's quite a treat for those with a softspot for Ralph Wiggum (whose crazy one-liners always crack me up on the The Simpsons) or even Monty Python skits.

By this design, the humor makes little sense; and yet, it's so cleverly crafted and flawlessly delivered (kudos to Ferrell and Steve Carell especially) that, on more than one occasion, I had to pause the film until the laughter subsided. It draws from a sort of absurdism that — while not as refined or existentially aware as something like Waiting for Godot — underscores life's inanities.

This humor functioned as the ligament holding together an otherwise weak plot. While I suspect people who like Monty Python, as I mentioned above, are more likely to enjoy Anchorman, I certainly find the former to be the better crafted of the two. That is to say, Anchorman is not without its weaknesses... but, for me, the strong points more than make up for any shortcomings.

In short: Anchorman has a niche audience. If you're not open to humor that's as mindless as it is clever... best to leave Ron Burgundy on the shelf.

Otherwise, take it home and enjoy. It's far better than the awful "comedy," Benchwarmers, and it's even better than Ferrell's newest, Talladega Nights.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Study of a Cheap Motel

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Alas, Poor Pluto...

Bye, bye ROY G. BIV.
So long, My Very Educated Mother...

Just when you get the mnemonic down, the rules change. A color disappears, and a planet drops off the solar system. What's next? A taxonomy rift that will keep King Phillip from Coming Over? Will musicians drop the D note off the scale, so that Good Boys will never again Deserve Fudge?

It bothers me at times that I've forgotten so much of what I've learned. And then to find out that what I remember has been changed?

My cranial database of information feels hopelessly out of date.

Daily it seems new particles are discovered, old theories are debunked and "impossible" problems are solved. I'm immediately drawn back into my old elementary school days, where fact was not a malleable metal and only "theories" were refutable.

Rather, what I learned was FACT — plain and simple. It was something solid that I studied, memorized and regurgitated for all of my teachers to see.

Indigo was firmly planted between blue and violet. Pluto, however small, was suspended somewhere behind Neptune, victim to the sun's own gravitational pull.

Strange how something as simple as revoking a planet's status can shake the foundation of old school paradigms.

I feel a shift coming on...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Squid and the Whale (Movie Review)

Much like the last film I reviewed, I would not — under any circumstances — recommend The Squid and the Whale (2005) to my mother. I would, however, recommend it to friends. Though I'd offer the disclaimer (as I am now) that it, too, has the tendency to disturb.

Essentially, it's another semi-dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. This group consists of two parents (both of whom have PhDs in English lit) on the verge of a divorce, and their two sons (one a teenager with mild sociopathic tendencies; the other an 11 or 12-year old boy with a peculiar habit that helps beef up the film's "ew, gross" ante).

But I don't think what "Carl" does is necessarily out of character for a boy on the verge of his teenage years, coping with a significant increase in parental-induced stress. But knowing that didn't cause my nose to crinkle any less.

I actually found this younger son to be the more appealing of the two, though the thing that annoyed me most about his older brother, Walt — who relied heavily on his father's approval — was also fairly typical of an older teen in search of an identity. Apparently, Walt is modeled after writer/director Noah Baumbach himself, as this film catalogues his parent's divorce in the 1980s.

But Walt's alignment with his father — which compares to Carl's preference for their mother — also underscores much of the film's sentiment. The father, played by Jeff Daniels, dishes out terrible advice, recommending his son never commit to one women because "That didn't work with your mom" and, in a paraphrased nutshell, he missed out on a load of fun as a result. But Carl laps up this advice, and even develops a preference for unlikely physical pursuits, over a relationship with a girl who clearly cares for him. We realize the psychological trauma runs even deeper than that, however, as Carl attempts to engage in intellectual conversation about books he's heard his father discuss... but never read himself (though he claims otherwise).

But that's not to say Baumbuch demonizes either parent in this film. Rather, even as the viewing audience can see the parent's faults (the mother, played by Laura Linney, cheated on the father multiple times), it's difficult to blame either party for the marriage's collapse. Daniel's character was initially obsessed with work, and unattentive. He becomes jealous and bitter when his wife starts to succeed. Etc. But both appear to care deeply for their kids, even as they "overshare" the intimate details of their crumbled relationship.

Two things really annoyed me about this film: William Baldwin's hair was laughably distracting (a la Jake Gyllenhaal's moustache in Brokeback Mountain), and the special features on the DVD were a waste of time (avoid the mindless interview at all costs — I wouldn't say Baumbach is at fault for that disaster, however... the HBO bigshot asking the questions was awful).

So if you

  1. Avoid the special features
  2. Can get over Baldwin's annoying mane and
  3. Won't let a couple "gross" scenes ruin a film for you
...then Squid is worth a shot.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Slums of Beverly Hills (Movie Review)

I once caught my fairly conservative Christian mother watching Boogie Nights, under the pretense that it starred Burt Reynolds. Later, I also found her watching Striptease, a film she explained as watching because she "always loved Demi Moore."

In both instances, she walked away [claiming to be] appalled that her beloved stars had resorted to such "smut" to further their careers. I resolved at that time that my mother either had a fetish she wasn't talking about... or she really needed to read the video box before she whipped out her rental card.

For simplicity's sake, let's say it's the latter. In which case... I would not recommend The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) to my mother. Though I would, yes, recommend that my mother watch Slums with my good friend, XOXO...

[Long inside joke concerning how I tend to leave XOXO alone with my mother during racy movie scenes.]

And though I didn't enjoy Slums as much as I enjoyed other "sensually disturbing" comedies about dysfunctional families (a la Welcome to the Dollhouse), I didn't hate it. Though, for the record, my movie-watching companion lost interest midway through the film.

In short: it's a bildungsroman about a teenaged girl (well played by Natasha Lyonne) growing up in the "slums" of Beverly Hills. She's learning to adjust to her adult body, all the while dealing with an immature older brother, a well-intentioned 65-year-old father who can't hold a steady job, and a few other coming-of-age traumas.

And while I wouldn't term this a "chick flick" — it's too dark and raunchy for that — I do think females are more likely to relate to Lyonne's trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, this same group may also be turned off by scenes that didn't wind up on the cutting room floor.

Little Miss Sunshine (Movie Review)

Suicide. Drugs. Nietzche. Divorce.

How could you not love this movie?

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) isn't without its weaknesses, but that doesn't make the film any less enjoyable. I even found myself laughing at the most unlikely of moments, insofar as this film doesn't rely on your usual one-liners or even joke-ridden dialogue. Rather, much of the humor derives from everyday life events that generally frustrate us so much that we fail to appreciate the absurdist, comical aspects.

[Think: toilet paper stuck to your shoe while delivering a very important farewell address.]

Beyond this, the film does rely on situations and events that go beyond our everyday reality. In this regard the film requires a sort of suspension of disbelief that didn't always work for me.

Example: the seven-year-old daughter in the movie Olive (Abigail Breslin) is cute enough. But she's not — as her big brother later expresses — exactly beauty queen material. So just how did she wind up being runner-up in a pageant that eventually led to her competing in the state finals against an array of anorexics who looked more like full-grown dwarves than they did little girls?

[For the record, Olive's terrible taste in clothing — and her potbelly — reminded me a little of a prepubescent yours truly.]

Her journey to the final competition is the whole reason for the family's road trip, and — though I appreciated it as a plot device — it seemed to serve little purpose other than to satirize the way in which society pressures little girls to look older (and older women to look younger). Believe me, I certainly appreciated this message. But it bothered me to suspend so much disbelief to digest the plot.

Ditto with some of the other connections between character and character traits. This was really strange for me, in that I thought "that's out of character" at some point for each of the six family members — though I otherwise found them to each be very well developed. And while I found these breeches of character to be in error, I found their general dynamic to be rather appealing.

As such, the characters worked well together. From the family members themselves, to the actors who played them. It seems wrong to highlight particular members of this ensemble cast, since I enjoyed each of their performances.

Overall, an enjoyable film that could've used the occasional tweak.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The United States of Leland (Movie Review)

The United States of Leland (2003) isn't a great film. And though I don't share in the disgust that so many other reviewers had for this Kevin Spacey production... I certainly think it could've been better.

I'd lump it in with Saved! (2004) in that regard — another art house wannabee that doesn't quite make the cut. And though it wasn't as brutal or scathing in its criticism of its subject matter (which was my main beef with Saved!), I was nevertheless annoyed to find unsolicited life advice coming from the film's central character (Leland, played by Ryan Gosling).

I certainly empathized with Leland, and I understood his character more than I care to admit (anyone familiar with my more melodramatic prose knows how disheartening I find life — or rather, the way people fail to enjoy life — to be). In fact, some of the observations Leland makes about people are observations I've made myself. I found myself increasingly drawn to him, as a result, though Leland's "keen" understanding of the universe causes him to do something inexcusable.

In short: he murders a mentally handicapped teenager. Much of the film tries to explain what drove Leland to commit this crime, and even apotheosizes him as a martyr.

So why didn't I thoroughly enjoy a film in which the central character spouted compelling philosophical insights?

Because much of the framework for these conversations was contrived. Because Leland was a mere mouthpiece for whatever the director wanted to say, and most other elements of the film were poorly designed around these diatribes. And because Leland's teacher at the county jail, Pearl (played by Don Cheadle), grew to empathize with Leland in such a way that the audience has little choice but to assume that writer/director Matthew Ryan Hoge intended Leland to emerge as a martyr... and not just an otherwise phenomenal kid with keen insights and spotty judgement.

But I'm not being entirely fair: I didn't despise this film. And, insofar as I did share in some of Leland's insights... I did, at times, enjoy it.

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXXIII)

when i grow up i want to be like my nephew

how old were you he
reconsiders how old were
you when you were young

tips on using a public restroom at work - part v of a series
(or "urine, an uncomfortable situation")

please refrain from cell
phone use while in the restroom
it makes things awkward
first my shoes and now this
(or "i'm glad the plot was thwarted, but...)

pretty soon they won't
allow passengers on planes
[for your protection]
but seriously folks
(or "all i'm asking for is increased beverage service... and maybe some booties at security checkpoints")

doesn't it bother
you that we're still taking off shoes?
share your foot fungus!
athletes foot: the silent weapon
(or "i smell a subplot")

have the infidels
remove their shoes at checkpoints
too itchy to fight
second grade mentality meets big boy weapons
(or "on hearing that hezbellah guy declare victory")

stop hitting yourself
you're the rubber to my glue
heads i win, tails you...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Batman Begins (Movie Review)

While it's true I haven't seen previous Batman movies in years — and I was just a kid when most of them were released — I don't feel unjustified in declaring this newest installment, Batman Begins (2005), to be the best in the series.

And this, despite the fact that it contains many of the same elements that typically annoy me in comic book films (including moments of contrived dialogue, which I generally have no patience for). But it also does a lot that previous Batman films didn't do: it digs more into the psychological motivation that drove billionaire Bruce Wayne to assume his crime-fighting alter ego. And it's not as simple as "seeking revenge" on those who killed his parents when he was a kid: it's much more complex than that. "Fear" (and, yes, "fear itself") is the catalyst that drives the plot. In short: this is one pretty dark movie.

Batman Begins also attempts to explain Wayne's Achilles heel: his general refusal to kill even his greatest enemies. He prefers to chase them down and then hand them over the authorities, which (naturally) leads to their return in future episodes. This trait is another element that frequently annoys me in comic book movies... and though I appreciated the attempted explanation in this film, I find its presence to be nevertheless annoying.

I was also frustrated by Wayne's post-Princeton (and pre-Batman) travels abroad, as the feasibility of his adventures there didn't quite cut it with me — though I'll admit this trip is vital to Wayne's transformation into Batman.

And so a mortal hero emerges, frightening criminals and inspiring citizens by donning a mask of immortality... all the while returning home with various bumps and bruises. I loved this contrast: at long last, Bruce Wayne and Batman really felt like they were the same person. And though I'm hesitant to say Christian Bale is a better Batman than was Michael Keaton, he certainly has Val Kilmer and George Clooney beat.

I also enjoyed seeing Gary Oldman as the soon-to-be-commissioner-Gordon (Oldman was scarcely recognizable), and though Michael Caine is more able-bodied than Alfred has previously been portrayed, I enjoyed seeing Caine take on that character. Even Katie Holmes surprised me.

And what better city to serve as the backdrop for Gotham than the Midwest's own Chicago, a city in which corruption is so inexorably tied to everyday operations that natives worry the city couldn't function without it (or to quote a recent story on NPR: "When I die, bury me in Chicago... so that I can continue to vote").

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

No Autographs, Please

I've never really met anyone famous. Sure, as a reporter I interviewed the occasional state governor. And I once had a ten minute conversation with guy who bore an uncanny resemblance to Ted Kennedy. But other than that, my unusual life experiences seldom involve brushes with celebrity (and when they have, I've generally relied on someone else to assign a name to the familiar face).

Perhaps my lack of experience is thus to blame for the surreal nature of tonight's bike ride.

I hadn't been out for a ride in over two weeks... in part because of vacation, in part because I've been tending to a not-so-bright cat. My temperament and energy levels require regular exercise (and sleep), and this lapse in both has made me rather cranky. And yet, for whatever reason, I was averaging speeds that are normally difficult for me to maintain in this (often crowded) bike path. I think I was trying to prove to myself that I could "go fast" despite my "recent laziness."

I was more than halfway done with my ride when I entered into a particularly busy patch of people. I slowed down a bit and kept my head up, weaving around one group of walkers and then coming up behind another cyclist when someone in the southbound lane caught my attention.

Is that... Hey, I think that's...

"SHAKE N BAKE!" I hear the cyclist in front of me yell, altogether confirming my suspicions.

(Shake 'n Bake is a reference to Talladega Nights, for those of you who haven't seen the move.)

"So that is who I thought," I said to the cyclist as I approached him.

"Yeah, I went to high school with 'em," the guy responded.

"Cool," I said, eyeing the clearing ahead and regaining enough speed to pass the-guy-who-went-to-school-with-John-C-Reilly.

As I continued on, I spent much of the remaining ride home thinking about who I'd just seen. My thought process went a little like this:

John C doesn't wear a helmet! Was he wearing jeans? He sure looked tired! I think that was a mountain bike, but I'm not sure. Man, what an actor. What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Magnolia. Good Girl. Yes! Good Girl. This guy's been in some of my favorite movies. Heck, he's a big reason I've enjoyed some films. I can't believe he hasn't won an Oscar yet. I wonder if he'd get mugged for autographs if he stopped his bike to rest, if only for a minute... Is he that famous yet?

And then, for the same reason I was initially excited to have just ridden my bike past one of my favorite actors... I started to feel a bit sorry for him.

Can he stop for a break? What's it like trying to work out in a city that isn't Hollywood (and so, isn't a place where people are surrounded by celebrities)? Sure, he doesn't draw the same attention as folks like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and the like... but I suspect he has the occasional dinner interrupted. I mean, someone did yell at him while he was in the middle of the ride. Does he appreciate the recognition? Or resent that he can't ride in peace?

And then I started to think about a book I read a couple years ago that presents an honest view of man's daily existence. I consider this to be the shorthand version. In other words: much of what we do with ourselves — raise families, work, own cars, fight wars — is just our way of denying our mortality. Ditto with going to the movies, and obsessing over celebrity magazines. Sometimes when we fail to be great, we live vicariously through those that have... be they criminals, athletes, politicians, artists, writers or even... actors.

And that's when complete and total shame hit.

I was excited about the fact that I'd just ridden my bike past a man I recognized, though we've never met. What does that say about me? That I'm normal, sure. But also that I haven't really done anything great.

Will I ever finish that script? Publish a novel? See my photographs displayed at an art gallery? Probably not. I'm too... distracted... with work and the like to really focus on any of these things. But I also realize that if I shuffle off of this mortal coil having accomplished none of the above, I have only myself to blame.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Six Movies in Search of a Reviewer
(Junebug, Searchers, Beckham, Talladega, Clerks & Benchwarmers)

Films haphazardly ordered according to overall level of enjoyment.

Junebug (2005)
Simply an excellent film. So good, in fact, that I'll likely add this semi-sweet, semi-dark comedy to my DVD collection. Set primarily in the South, Junebug catalogs the return of a country boy (and his new, sophisticated wife) to his roots after spending several years in the big city. This movie does everything Saved! should have: it shows the sweet side to religious folks, which gives it more leeway in satirizing the same. Every character felt real to me, no matter how absurd or outlandishly saccharine. The biggest downside: though the "wife" (Embeth Davidsz) is the main character, Junebug does such a good job exploring everyone that you sometimes aren't sure where to focus. Otherwise, my biggest complaint is that the DVD didn't have English subtitles. I wish I weren't so far behind on just about everything... I'd love to give this film a full review with all of the appropriate accolades (particularly to Amy Adams, who does an amazing job playing the naive — but genuinely goodhearted — young Christian wife).

The Searchers (1956)
Let me say first that I generally don't like Westerns. Never have. And while I certainly appreciated the cinematography of this one, and even the cool bravado with which John Wayne repeatedly utters "That'll be the day..." I still have a difficult time accepting the premise upon which so many Westerns are based: Injuns bad. Settlers good. Demonize former; victimize latter. The Searchers relies on that old standard though it does, at least, complicate the matter by having one of the leads (Martin, played by Jeffrey Hunter) be a 1/4 Cherokee. Wayne's character is likewise a mixed breed: 1/3 bigot; 1/3 crazy; and 100% cowboy. Still, when Martin was an infant, Ethan "reluctantly" rescued him and, no matter how tough he talks, you know he likes Martin. I appreciated that director John Ford threw this monkey wrench into an otherwise formulaic western. Apparently, this is one of the top 250 films on IMDB and is considered to be one of "the best" Westerns of all time. And since I enjoyed it despite my usual Western prejudice... I'm starting to think I despised Westerns as a kid precisely because I identified so strongly with the Native Americans. This hasn't changed, but as an adult I'm able to revisit that genre and appreciate subtle messages I may have missed.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
The Indian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding — a clean comedy that's fun to watch and fairly well-written (even if it is easy to see where it's going). I liked this movie a little better than Wedding, in part because I found the characters and storyline to be more compelling.

Talladega Nights (2006)
A local reviewer termed this "the best comedy so far this year." If that is, in fact, true I'd say that's because there haven't really been any great comedies this year. Talladega Nights isn't bad, per se, but it wasn't a barrel of laughs, either. Rather, there were moments of laughter, followed by periods of silence. Still, a genuinely entertaining film over all that, while derivative in parts, is still nevertheless clever in others. And, heh, who doesn't get a kick out of seeing Will Ferrell running around a race track in tightie-whities? I know I do!

Clerks II (2006)
To give you a point of comparison, Dogma (1999) is my favorite film in Kevin Smith's repertoire. The original Clerks (1994) and Mallrats tie for a lukewarm second. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) was OK. Chasing Amy (1997) didn't do much for me (though, to the film's credit, the circumstances in which I watched this film weren't exactly ideal). This newest installment could've rallied with Beckham and The Searchers for second — it had all of the right jokes and silly interludes and wasn't without a genuine "it's time to grow up" message — but then Smith simply goes too far in one 15-minute scene (he seems intent on "topping himself" in this regard with every subsequent film). I was disgusted enough that it soured my taste for the film altogether. But what does Smith care? He got my money, regardless. Also of note, I often feel like his actors are on stage, rather than on screen. There's something about scenes with Randal (Jeff Anderson) especially where dialogue seems choppy and unnatural (or even "over-acted").

Benchwarmers (2006)
This movie is awful. Simply awful. I did get a couple laughs out of it, but for the sake of comparison, Talladega Nights was MUCH more entertaining than Benchwarmers. I sat incredulous through much of this film, literally writhing in my seat to think of how many better things I could've been doing with my time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Maude Rides the Short Bus

For as long as I can remember, whenever I share a story of moderate misfortune / infinite craziness, friends and family generally respond with some variation of the following:

"Only you."

I hear it everytime I talk about someone who ran into me on the train; every unusual illness or life-altering traffic jam. Essentially, my life goes a little like this: if it's weird. And it's unlikely to happen (though not entirely impossible)... there's a good chance it will happen to me. I've long accepted this fact, and little by little I've also come to realize that, whenever I bemoan a situation... it gets worse.

It's as if there's some cosmic force out there that demands I handle the punches with a smile; and while this is generally the case, karma bites me in the derriere if I register the least bit of a complaint.

Example: the first day/night of camping, Washington and I were rather displeased with our neighbors: the hyperactive 9-year-old and the screaming infant didn't make for good "peace and quiet." We didn't think it could get any worse.

The next night, we battled with a group of drunks who spoke at the top of their lungs just a few feet away from our tent. We were miserable... much more so than we had been the previous night.

In short: I acknowledged on night one that we couldn't possibly have worse neighbors. But on day two... we did. And as if to further validate my status as a bad luck charm: a 20 minute walk revealed to us that every other section of the campground was completely quiet.

This happens often, and you'd think I'd learn my lesson... But I don't. So when I returned home from vacation with a hideously long "To Do" list, I barely knew where to begin. Laundry. Buy car. Shop for car. Sleep. Call about auto insurance. Maude's distemper booster. Sleep. Upload photos. Edit photos. Pay bills. Groceries. Sleep. Transfer title of old car. Update blogger. Catch up on e-mail. Balance check book.

The list went on. And on. And on. And when I went to work, I discovered that rather than have someone step in during my absence, a backlog of work was left on my desk. So the stress level at work has been on a similar climb.

But I knew one thing, at least: this past weekend was to be dedicated to car shopping. For reasons too boring to explain, I needed to get a new car this weekend... or take care of a load of paperwork on my old one. I'd saved up the money for a decent down payment, and a few car companies were offering 0% financing (all set to expire July 31, of course). So this was to be *the* weekend where I upgraded to a car with air conditionining AND windows that actually worked.

The cosmos had different plans. And I suspect it had something to do with me stressing about how, on earth, I'd ever get everything done.

Suffice it to say my weekend centered around Maude. Or, to put it more simply:



Yes, that's right. Maude had emergency surgery this past weekend. Sometime Friday afternoon she decided, for reason's I'll never understand, that it'd be a good idea to eat a ponytail holder. Now, prior to this, I'd never heard of cats eating non-food items (not to mention, I don't even know where she found the holder!). But, to quote Maude's vet: "Most cats don't chew things. Some cats do. Yours does."

Maude is like a dog in this regard; I even had to spray "Bitter Yuck" on electrical cords to keep her away from those. But there are some benefits to having a cat-dog, as well: Maude is always waiting on me when I get home from work. She wants to be picked up and held for a bit, in fact, before she'll start playing. She's definitely not the distant sort of cat that views humans solely as food-givers.

That's why I knew something was wrong Friday when I returned home from work, and Maude cried pitifully when I picked her up. Several minutes later, and she was vomiting half a hair band on the floor.

Which begged the question: where was the other half?

But rather than bore you with the details of my Friday... my Saturday... and my Sunday, here's the Cliff Notes version:

Friday night was spent at an emergency animal hospital. Saturday was spent at Maude's actual vet (I got two hours of car shopping in before the vet called with the dreaded news). Sunday was spent at Maude's bed side, tending to a cat who was so sore, she couldn't move to go to the litter box.

And so I say again:



Or to put it more simply:



And as frustrated as that makes me, when I was driving home in 110 F weather today in my 10-year-old car — in a car whose air conditioner hasn't worked for years, and whose passenger side window no longer rolls down — I laughed as my sweat-drenched shirt clung desperately to my back.

Nearly everything remained on my initial "To Do" list — it had gotten much longer, in fact. And yet — as miserable as I was breathing in the uncomfortably hot air, worrying about getting home to Maude in time to give her the scheduled kitty morphine fix — I couldn't help but find solace in those universal words of comfort:

"It could've been worse."

I'm posting this entry four days after I began writing it; in that time, I've since learned that one of Maude's brothers was hospitalized this week for eating some sort of cat toy / carpet contraption. Apparently, this unfortunate eating "habit" is genetic. No word yet as to whether or not he'll also require surgery.

Also, a shout-out to Washington, who spent much of last weekend helping me look after Maude.

Photo of Honda Civic, while manipulated by me, was borrowed from Edmunds.