Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Greatest Story Endlessly Retold

The Tall Lady and I stayed home for Christmas this year. Because the holiday was so far off, we didn't bother planning anything. We kept putting things off and putting things off until suddenly, it was December 23, and we still didn't have a single decoration unpacked. Having four cats, two of them kittens and the others simply loopy, the Christmas tree was out of the question again. We tried it for about fifteen minutes two years ago, but our tree was packed up again after we caught Raja nibbling on the electrical cords, Darcy eating the sparkly songbirds and the Flying Fellini Sisters up at the top, trying to peek up the angel's dress.

This year, Sheral's family have gone up to The Cabin for a few days, and we have volunteered to feed a friend's cats while she is out of town. Our plan for the day finally comes down to roasting a chicken, popping the cap on a bottle of sparkling cider and spending a quiet day at home with our four little furry girls.

Shisan and Bianca, as the elected spokescats for the sorority, woke me at six o'clock to get their breakfast ready. All of our cats have a tendency to the workaholic, and have never taken a day off in their lives. The Tall Lady doesn't take many days off either, so the girls and I agreed that she had earned a bit of a lie-in this morning.

Sunday mornings, silence and I don't do terribly well together as a rule, so it wasn't too long before I'd turned on the TV, and was flipping through the higher channels. I stopped when I reached Turner Classic Movies. Today, they were showing a selection of big, epic, widescreen spectaculars featuring Birthday Boy, Jesus Christ. By the time Sheral had finished her shower, she discovered her five movie buffs well into the chariot race sequence of Ben Hur.

Next up was the magnificent, star-studded, technicolor theology of The Greatest Story Ever Told, starring Max von Sydow as a messiah who is only marginally less wooden, upright and rigid than his cross. We amused ourselves for three more hours, making up new dialogue that was just slightly sillier that the screenwriters themselves had written for the movie.

We had only made it through half of King of Kings when Sheral snapped. It may have been something that I said. It was just after my commentary about star Jeffery Hunter's sparse, blond beard which went something like: "It's Jesus the Nazarene, fer gawd's sake - not Jesus the Nectarine!"

"These are EASTER movies", she protested, "they're not Christmas films!" She pointed out that every single one of these pictures concluded with a pretty graphic and gory crucifixion. These were hardly an invitation to a Holly, Jolly Christmas, she harrumphed!

I realised that we were long past the point at which I could remind her that most of the movies that TCM airs on Lincoln's Birthday end with Honest Abe getting shot in the box seat. No, the moment, or rather, the nine hours had gone, and she prised the remote from my still warm hand to change channels to the Doctor Who marathon on Space.

Hollywood has been making biblical epics for as long as there has been a Hollywood. Ben Hur was first filmed in 1925 with Ramon Novarro in the title role, and King of Kings was made in 1927 with HB Warner as Jesus, the Christ. After all this time, you'd think they'd hit the mark just once.

Maybe next year, we'll just just watch The Life of Brian again.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and remember - the book is always better.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sometimes Silent Be a Crime

I consider myself lucky to have Ayda Aly as one of my FaceBook buddies. Because of the distance between our homes and our cultural differences, it's unlikely that she and I could have any other sort of contact. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, and Ayda lives in Alexandria, Egypt.

She is a young, devout, muslim woman, and I am none of those things. I have never met her, and I don't ever recall seeing her photograph, but she is my friend.

Ayda rescues cats. I don't know if she is the Egyptian Maria Soroski, or if Maria is the Canadian Ayda Aly, but I don't think that either would be offended by comparison with the other.

Yesterday, Ayda posted a photograph of the painting shown at the right of this post. She found it hanging in the window of a shop in Alexandria. It is by a renowned Lebanese artist, and Ayda was certainly impressed with its price tag. "How much?", she challenged her readers before answering her own question. It would be enough, she said, to spay, neuter and feed about two hundred of her street cats.

I like her priorities.

Mostly, Ayda posts stories and pictures of her rescued cats. Some of them have made me laugh until the tears run down my cheeks. Sometimes, her stories bring only the tears. She rescues sick cats as well as healthy ones, and lately, a number of her little ones have died in her care. She forgets that they would have died sooner without her, and is devastated by their loss.

Every day, she takes a long walk to feed her street cats, and she shares photos of them, some crowding close to her, hungry and grateful; others still keeping their distance, starving and suspicious. On her way, she takes pictures of her beautiful Alexandria, and she likes to share those too.

Egypt is unsettled these days. Demonstrators march in the streets, demanding that people have more say in the running of their country. That happens in Canada too, but here the police don't shoot them. The Egyptian government claims that forty people have died by violence in these protests; Ayda believes that it's over a thousand. She shares that news as well.

"Some times silent...", she explains, "be a crime..."

People are much the same the world over. I've never met anyone who is entirely good, and I don't think that anybody is completely evil. Most of us exist in the uneasy twilight between the two.We live our lives as best we can, and hope that we've made a difference.

People like Ayda are the difference. Thank you, my friend.

أنت نعمة.

To donate to Ayda's street cats

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Submission Hold

I received some exciting emails from several of my VOKRA friends earlier in the week. It seems that the Animal Rescue Site has a story contest running now, and a number of them suggested that I submit my blog post about Kenny Pawgers to be published on their page.

If there is enough positive response, the story could win VOKRA a grant of as much as five thousand dollars. It seemed like an easy task. I'd already written the piece, after all. It would simply be a matter of cut, paste and publish.

Nothing at all to it...right?

I followed their links to the entry page, read through the rules and stopped cold when I got to the part that said:  

"We recommend that you write and save your story of up to 300 words in a document on your own computer before copying and pasting it onto our site."

Those of you who have visited here before already know that I'm sometimes profligate with my words. I doubt that I could put three hundred or fewer onto a Post-It Note. Kenny's story weighed in at a respectable five hundred and eighty-four words - and, no, it's not fat, it's just big-boned!

Another thing that you may have noticed is this - I HATE EDITING! - and I do it badly. Editing has no flow, no essence, no soul. You simply chop, count, chop, count, chop, count, until finally, all of your feckin' adjectives have disappeared, like the Anasazi or corporate responsibility, and your beloved piece reads like Fun With Dick and Jane.

Notwithstanding this, I had made the pact, and was prepared to do the bloody deed. The first thing to go was the paragraph I had lifted from Maria's FaceBook posts, heartbreaking really. She had given me some fine material to work with, and I loved the flow of her narrative. After that, I found places where I thought that my prose sagged, so I spent some time tightening it up and trimming my excesses away. Fine, but still too long. I was into the muscle now, but surely a little of that could be spared. Fortunately, the edit was finished before I had to justify amputating appendages.

I was done in the wee hours of the morning, the Tall Lady and the cats long since abed. I pasted my story into the text field, chose my photo and submitted the whole lot to the contest. The site sent me a link, which I shared with my friends on FaceBook, and in two days we had scored over a hundred "likes".

On the third day, however, the story had vanished. It seems that I had left in a plea for the reader to donate to the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, and this was a clear violation of the rules which I thought I'd read. In my defense, it was two o'clock in the morning when I finished.

So, back to the heavy hand and the bloody broad-axe. I submitted the new post today, and I'm delighted to say that it hasn't been pulled yet. Forty-three people have "liked" it so far, including Karen Duncan, Maria Soroski and me. Of course, I'm biased, and they might be lying to spare my feelings.

Kenny himself remains silent on the issue, accepting this too, with his usual serenity. He seems well, happy and unspoiled by his sudden celebrity. Perhaps his is the best perspective at all. In a world of chicken breast, goat's milk and wet, sloppy kisses, what could possibly be amiss?


Ah well, goodnight, all.

To "Like" Kenny's Story

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fostering Community

There is a morning ritual among the bipedal hominids in our house that we refer to as making the bed. Our cats are of two opinions regarding this practice, and the schools of thought on the matter seem evenly divided.

On the one hand, there are those who see the exercise as an interruption of their morning routine; even vandalism of a sort. They have just settled into the warm, comfortable nest of bedding that their silly humans have vacated, and now those same foolish creatures return to rearrange the comfortable jumble which they themselves were no longer enjoying. In the process of doing so, they disturb the tranquility of any and all felines invested therein. This is the assessment of the older cats, who abhor the making of the bed.
On the other side of the argument are the kittens, who have infiltrated the same tangled pile of linen, but do not sleep. Bright-eyed and quivering, like children on Christmas Morning, fur bristling and tails a-wag, they slip crazily into the hollows and out of the caverns formed of the sheets, throws and comforters. Their excitement and anticipation are electric. They are waiting for the Blanket Ride.

Cats are not pack animals like dogs, but neither are they solitary, hermetic creatures. When food, safety and reproduction are not in dispute, they are quite sociable, and they will form into colonies. In a territory as small and crowded as our two-bedroom apartment, they have no choice. Here, community is imposed upon them.

Of course, there is the matter of hierarchy. When kittens are born, their mother's will is their law. As they grow, they play and squabble until they have established their own proper stations. So it is in the homes that they will come to share with us monkeys. We too have rules, doctrines and practices that the sensible cat or kitten must learn to respect, or, at least, to violate surreptitiously.

The Tall Lady and I would like to believe that the hierarchy in our home issues from us, but in point of fact, it begins with our four year-old adopted cats, the Flying Fellini Sisters. Xena is our big, perfect cat and her sister Gabrielle is the little, odd one. They accept the burden of foster kittens under the strongest of protests, and have become notorious as the kittens' grumpy aunties. They have despised and terrorized every kitten we have brought into our home. Surprisingly enough, all of the kittens love Brie - she of the snarl, the hiss and the heavy paw - but they worship Xena. They will follow her everywhere, braving her haughty disdain and trying to prove themselves worthy to learn her secrets.

This time, though, the balance is shifted. Our new foster cats do not live merely in the terrible shadow of Aunt Nasty and Auntie Grouchy. Sumi and her babies are learning about community under the gentle, kind and patient tutelage of seven month-old Bianca. All four have come to love and trust her, and she adores all of them. She is Sumi's little sister, and the smaller kittens' other mother.

Still, the kittens are little, and mistakes are made. After she had enjoyed the Blanket Ride yesterday morning, Bianca settled down at the foot of our newly-made bed for her early nap. Little, sleepy Sachi, with eyes hardly open yet, stumbled down to join her and nuzzled into the long, silky fur of the bigger kitten's neck.

As I left the bedroom, there was a loud, surprised squawk behind me. I turned to see poor, shocked Bianca struggling to pry loose the four month-old foster sister, who had latched on to one of her nipples, and was trying in vain to pull a pint.

Another lesson learned, I suppose. You get to choose your friends, but with family, y'gotta take what you're given.

To donate to
the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fostering Satisfaction

Saturday, June 5, 2010
There is a loud, resounding crash from the living room. The Flying Fellini Sisters growl, spit and snarl as they try, in vain, to avoid the amiable calamity that is thudding toward our bedroom, cutting its wide, misguided swath down the hallway.  I hear a ripping sound, as long, thick, razor claws struggle to pull a small, muscular body up the Tall Lady's tattered handmade quilt to the top of our bed. Closing my eyes tighter, feigning a sound sleep, I ask myself "heads or tails?".

If it's tails, my eyes will open to a long, striped bottle-brush tail swishing back and forth across my face, accompanied by a thunderous, triumphant purr. Heads is a different matter altogether. I feel a small, heavy burden on my chest, and I look up to see the handsome, smiling, yellow kitten teetering unsteadily on top of me. Heads it is then, I think, as the hard, little skull smashes between my eyes like a small, orange rock.

A few seconds after I have been awakened by this unpremeditated Glasgow Kiss, the bedside alarm also informs me that it is six o'clock in the morning, and time for Lemon's breakfast. Whatever other problems our boy may have, there is nothing wrong with his internal clock.

Lemon has cerebellar hypoplasia; he is a wobbler, and he is our tenth foster kitten. People have come to meet him, but when they see how severe his condition is, and hear about his occasional litter-box miscalculations, they decide that he will be too much trouble for them to adopt. I'm beginning to think that he will live with us forever, and that's very much all right with me. He is one of the nicest kittens who's ever stayed with us.

The first three kittens VOKRA placed with us in October 2009 were a perfect delight; pretty, friendly, well-mannered. Mickey Carrington told me later that she had selected the fun kittens for our first batch so that we wouldn't be frightened off by a litter of their ferocious ferals.  We have had the ferals since then; we have had the kitten with a physical disability, we have had the mom with the four new babies - we have had a blast.

There is a great satisfaction to this fostering thing. Either your home is graced with an abundance of tame, good-natured kittens, who bring nothing but their trust and curiosity with them, or you are given frightened, savage, manic little balls of claw and fang, and you get to watch them turn into pets.

Our friends ask us if it's hard giving them up to strangers, after having them live with us for so many months. The answer is always yes - tears fall every single time. But it's always worth it. The strangers are always decent and loving, and, the kittens, like my buddy Lemon, leave a great, warm spot in our home long after they've gone.

If you have the time and the space, please consider fostering for VOKRA. We have a great many cats and kittens, and all of our homes are starting to feel pretty small these days. You might get the fun kittens, you might get the new moms and babies, you might get the kitten who needs a bit of special attention - or you may get the poor, sad, old-timer who wasn't allowed to come along when his mom and dad had to move.

Who knows - if you're really lucky, you might just get a Lemon!

To donate to
the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dark Science

At some point in almost all of our endeavours, science rears its head.

Just this morning, I conducted a chemistry experiment, in which I created a  nonenzymatic reaction between a nucleophylic amino acid and a reactive carbonyl by the application of radiant heat.

This procedure, which people have been performing for millennia, was first described by French chemist, Louis-Camille Maillard in the early 1900's. He was attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis, and in his honour, the result is known as the Maillard Reaction.

To make a long story short, which rarely happens here, I was making toast.

Six thousand or so years ago the process would have involved placing your piece of baked bread onto a hot, flat rock, or by securing it, in some manner, in the proximity of an open flame. Usually, you did this because your bread had become stale and unpleasant to taste. Toasting made it into a different sort of thing altogether, and people found that they liked the flavour. In time, they even stopped waiting for their bread to go stale before toasting it.

I prefer whole wheat toast spread with butter and a smear of coarse-shredded orange marmalade. Some of the cats have expressed an interest in this culinary delight, but will usually retreat once they have seen me holding the bread steadfast between my teeth and heard me growling. The Tall Lady is an easier mark, and sometimes they get a share of her white toast with its Smucker's flavour of the week. This, however, is where my line has been drawn.

You can toast all manner of baked goods, from sliced bread to bagels to scones to frozen waffles - I'm told that at some weddings, the guests have even been know to toast the happy couple, but I would hope that's apocryphal.

There are several schools of opinion regarding the proper Making of Toast. At one end of the spectrum are those who place their bread onto the plate and turn up the room thermostat for a moment. Then there are those who hold that the toast is done only when their smoke detector screams in agony. Even they will concede that it might be overdone when the fire engines arrive. I maintain that when it is properly toasted, the colour of the bread will have been transformed to a dark, rich caramel, its aroma will be smoky and a little bit intoxicating. The pat of butter which is dropped onto its surface will spread, top to bottom and left to right, of its own will and volition. Anything less is mere heresy.

But you decide for yourselves - it isn't rocket science.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


"The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself. "
George Bernard Shaw

Normally, people don't get to take photos of me. I am the one hiding behind the camera, and they need to be both fleet of foot and quick of eye to get around my defenses.

It's not that I think my features are unusually absurd or particularly grotesque, but over the years I've developed a dislike for others' lenses, and a tendency to mug for their cameras. This serves to frustrate their endeavours, and it accounts for the great volume of horrible pictures of me on file. Oliver Cromwell is reported to have said "My image is a poor one but mine own; you must paint me as you find me, wart and all"

When I was smaller, I became quite fascinated by the lines and creases that developed in people's faces over the course of time. I even spent long hours looking into the bathroom mirror, experimenting with different expressions, trying to impress the lines I wanted into the pale, unformed lump of dough that was my own undistinguished map. 

As you can see, it worked! I believe that we grow into the faces we deserve. Heredity, health and hazard play their parts, but mostly we wear the faces of our unique experience, and frequently, they betray our character.

My friend, Caer Weber, has a new camera and last week, she asked a number of friends to pose for her. She lined us up in front of the wall of a building where we meet on occasion, gave us a few simple directions, and snapped away. These two pictures are her result for me.

The black and white image at the top of the page is the one that she likes best. She says, " I think it's a really nice one of you. The kindness in you comes through your eyes so well." Well, I suppose that, like the rest of my face, is something that I'll have to learn to live with. 

Thank you, Caer - I am very pleased with your work. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

But the Greatest of These

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
I Corinthians 13:13 (King James Bible)

One evening last month, our friend, Maria Soroski, called us to ask for our help. She was on her way down to the Grandview Cut, where trains run occasionally through the East Side of Vancouver, to try to trap a small, black cat who had been spotted wandering along the track-bed. Maria wanted us to stay up on the bridge above the tracks with our binoculars and one of her walkie-talkies, to warn her of any approaching rail traffic, while she and another friend set their traps below. We were official train-spotters.

People being what they are - social and curious - the exercise attracted a number of passersby. One young woman stopped to ask what we were doing, and the Tall Lady told her the story.

"Why don't you worry about homeless people," the woman snapped, "instead of wasting all of your time and money on useless, fucking cats!" At the best of times, Sheral is not confrontational, so she just stood, open-mouthed and silent, as the woman stalked away, emitting streams of indignant smoke from her lug-'oles.

A few months before, I read a column in one of our national newspapers. The correspondent eloquently derided the the work of those ubiquitous animal rescue groups (all of which, incidentally, are exclusively comprised of psychotic, lonely, single women of middle age, each of whom hoards hundreds of sick, fertile, feral cats in her single-wide trailer), which are funneling away resources that would be better used in caring for sick children.

There is drought in Africa. Crops fail, and famine is the result. Surely that is a more reasonable direction for our compassion!

 Sometimes, we believe that things are either/or. There are two choices, and we are in or out, on or off, pro or or white. This is most especially true when we are measuring the actions of others. If they embrace one cause, they must, of necessity, reject all others.

By the same logic, the carrot sticks I ate last night would make me a vegan, and the milk I poured over my Rice Krispees this morning makes me a hypocrite. I hope that neither is true.

I am proud of my friends involved in VOKRA, as I am proud of all of you who try to give until the hurting stops. Our capacity for charity is not limited to any one arena, it goes as generously as we can afford, and as deeply as we can care. And I'm not trying to disorient your moral compass - you know best who is in need and how deep to reach.

I'm only saying that this is one of my concerns, and asking that you consider adding it to your long list.

Thank you again, friends - be well.

To donate to
The Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Gambler

Maria Soroski, aka the Mad Trapper, aka Cat Angel, aka Queen of the Night, takes a day off every now and again. This is what her last one was like:

August 29, 2011:

"Murphy's Law: My one and only day to have off and go to the PNE to see Kenny Rogers. I get a call in the am, kittens in a warehouse, gotta go get 'em, bottle feed 'em, take 'em to a foster to pet-sit so I can go to PNE and then set a trap for the mom. I go to the PNE, get dozens of calls on my cell re rescue. Finally get home after PNE (waiting for a bus forever, feet swollen and back hurts from sitting for hours to get a good seat to see Kenny), and get a call that the stray in an alley is there, so get in my van and go get him. Back home 12 midnight. Drop into bed"

The stray in the back alley was an old-timer with dirty, white fur and a few rotten molars who had been drinking from muddy puddles. It may be that Maria has a soft spot for unkempt, old guys who drink in the wrong places - maybe that's why she and I get along so well. In any case, the old boy needed a name, and Maria didn't need to think about it very long. He is now christened "Kenny Pawgers".

Kenny is an old street cat who likes people. Obviously, he had a home once, and he'd like to have one again. He is also a bit of a gambler. It seems that he was trying to sneak into apartments on the East Side and sleep in the occupants' beds, possibly thinking they wouldn't notice or wouldn't care; maybe hoping that they'd like him and let him stay. Nobody did. So poor, skinny Kenny slept in lawn chairs, drank from puddles and got by as best he could. Then, he met Maria.

He spent the next day with his head in his food bowl, coming up once in awhile to catch a breath and smile his toothless smile. When Maria let him out of his cage, he would leap into her arms without much encouragement and cover her face with wet, sloppy kisses. He is, she says, the most affectionate cat she has ever known. That's pretty high praise from someone who's known as many cats as she has.

When Maria got home last night, Kenny was sick. He was vomiting foam, dehydrated, lethargic and even thinner than usual. She rushed him to emergency, where he was put on IV fluids. This morning, he had emergency surgery. The vet removed a tumor about the size of a golf ball from his twisted stomach. Later today, he was moved to Maria's vet and is eating, smiling and giving wet, sloppy kisses again.

Kenny is doing much better today, but his surgery will cost VOKRA about two thousand dollars. Once again, it's money that VOKRA hasn't got to spare; once again, I'm shaking the tambourine, hoping you've got a few more of those rolled pennies in the bottom of your drawer.

I know that all of you are stretched pretty thin these days, and I know that I ask for your help a lot. 

If you're wondering what's in it for you, I've heard about this nice, old, toothless guy who gives great kisses. And no, it's not me!

Thanks again - be well, friends. 

To donate to
The Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association


A few months ago, I applied for the Peer Support Workers' training program through Vancouver Coastal Health. This is the second time that I've made the same application. Last year they had sixty applicants for their twenty places, and I was not selected. This time, there were only forty candidates, but I still missed the cut. I was beginning to feel as though there could have been twenty-one candidates, and I would not have been picked.

I got over it - after all, I did have a Plan B, which involved taking a course in Community Counselling at Vancouver Community College. I'm almost certain that my application package is under one of the big litter boxes, so as you can see, I am prepared to explore other options.

Fortunately, I didn't need to find my compass and sextant this time. I got a call three weeks ago from one of the co-ordinators of the PSW program, telling me that she had two withdrawals from this year's group, and asking if I would like one of the vacancies. 

I said "yes, please!".

I got the call on a Friday afternoon, and she advised me that she would mail the acceptance package to me on the following Tuesday. It still hadn't arrived by the next Friday, nor the next, nor the next...

Now, all of us make jokes about how slowly Canada Post moves our mail, but they aren't that bad! I called VCH last Friday afternoon to ask if my package might not have been sent. The two people I wanted to talk to are away from the office until September 20th. The woman who is filling in for them offered to find me a replacement package and mail it to me. I enquired if I might pick it up instead.

Yesterday, I dropped by their office, and picked up a single page letter of congratulation, marked with an apology from my new friend, telling me that it was the only relevant document that she could find. Since it listed the date and time of the first class, along with the address, I was pretty certain that it was all that I would require for the moment. But it also advised me that I would need to go to the Vancouver Police Department and complete a Criminal Record check before the class began.

I have had Criminal Record checks completed before, and I know that they take two to three weeks. I need to have mine in nine days! Of course, I have a good excuse, and I can always ask for a deferral for the first lesson - I may not get it, but I can ask!

And so it was, armed with my letter of acceptance, the purity of my heart and my kindly, honest face, that I followed the Road Paved with Good Intentions to the doors of 2120 Cambie Street.

Not too long ago, VPD would accept CRC applications at 312 Main Street, but that's just one of the things that's changed. Now, you enter the New, Improved Police Station, and speak to the young woman at the reception wicket. She examines your two pieces of identification, asks a couple of pertinent questions and issues a number tag to you. My tag said "45", and the sign on the wall read "35". I picked up a clipboard, a request for investigation form and sat down feeling a bit like Arlo Guthrie at Whitehall Street. I filled my form out quickly and carefully, making sure that I'd signed where I needed to sign, ensuring that I'd ticked all of the right boxes.

I was still waiting forty-five minutes later when one of my FaceBook buddies and known associates walked in the door to take her turn at the same process. The sign on the wall now said "41".

After just a few minutes more, it was my turn, and I was beckoned over by another pleasant, young woman, who took my letter, my application and my two pieces of ID. She asked me a few more pertinent questions, filled in the spaces that she was supposed to fill in, and told me that the cost of the application would be seventy dollars - which I'd expected - that my CRC would be completed in three to four months, and that the fingerprints would cost me twenty-five dollars more!

I have never been fingerprinted. Somehow, it's been an event that I've managed to avoid in the course of the misadventures that comprise my life story (the reader and all of the cats yawn). But, I asked myself, how bad can it be? After all, it's only ink to skin to paper - right? It can't be all that traumatic, can it? The pleasant, young woman took me into a room that was roughly the size of a toilet cubicle in a public washroom, inked a board on the counter, and tried to roll my fingers onto it, telling me to "just relax". Several attempts later, yet a third pleasant, young woman informed me that I had marred and defaced enough of her ten-cards, and I was free to leave the building. Honestly - I was trying my very best! It's not like I smeared the ink on my face and did my Al Jolson impression.

Since I had no urgent appointments this afternoon, I stayed behind to wait for my friend. I'd spent two hours at this little exercise, but I could have gone on for two or three more - I'm not proud...or tired. As it happened, she was through just a few minutes after me. She'd come in with the same letter for the same course, filled in the same application, but had been processed by a different clerk.

It cost her twenty-five dollars, and her CRC will be completed in two or three weeks. 

And Hell, she didn't even get to fingerpaint!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Memo to the Foster Cats

Good evening, all.

While our living arrangement has been excellent in general, there are a few minor issues that we wish to bring to your attention. They are as follows:

Firstly, we would like to address the individual who has been conducting experiments in hydrodynamics in the kitchen. While this seems to be a laudable pursuit of itself, the Flying Fellini Sisters have asked that we remind all of you that the older, grouchier cats are seldom amused or entertained by being splashed with the contents of your water bowl.

Judging from the number of broken threads that the Tall Lady has found on the warp of her loom project, it appears that several of you have been playing Tarzan again. She would like you to desist from this practice forthwith. She also requests the immediate return of her yarn bag and knitting needles - no questions will be asked.

You are also asked to refrain from making kissy marks on the Fat Bastard's camera lenses, and to return all missing laundry items in the clean and folded condition in which they were found. 

Finally, we have noted that some four-footed, furry felon has recently soiled the bathroom scale. While this may be a justifiable criticism of the instrument's accuracy, it is not an acceptable avenue of commentary.

Thank you all for your attention and co-operation,

The Management.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Though the Heavens Fall

Dr Martin Luther King Jr once observed that "the moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice". Or perhaps, he observed it more than once, and I wasn't paying attention. When I found this quote today, I was struck by an amazing image of a powerful, kinetic arm that can be flexed or extended to draw something right and fair into the realm of the normal and accepted.

In 1771, James Sommersett, a Boston slave escaped from his master, Charles Stewart, while the two were in England. Sommersett was captured and put aboard a ship bound for Jamaica. An application was made before the Court of King's Bench for a writ of Habeus Corpus, and the ship's captain was ordered to produce Sommesett before the court to determine whether or not his imprisonment was legal.

Chief Justice Lord Mansfield set a date for the hearing, and in February of 1772, Sommersett's Case was brought to trial. His Lordship was fully aware of the possible political, social and economic ramifications of his final decision, but determined not to let them influence him. Quoting the Roman statesman, Piso, Lord Mansfield declared: "Let Justice be done, though the Heavens may fall." The quote must have impressed him as much as it does me, since he used it again, years later, while trying another notorious case.

It is with this long, tortuous prologue that I bring us now to the subject of this post. It concerns the much smaller matter of a far lesser injustice. On Monday, August 10, our friend, Maria Soroski, telephoned to wish the Tall Lady a Happy Birthday. Of itself, this probably seems unremarkable, but most of our contact with her is made through our respective FaceBook accounts.

On Monday, Maria could not post a birthday greeting on Sheral's page. In fact, FaceBook has suspended Maria's posting privileges for fifteen days. VOKRA, the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, will be holding its Second Annual Festival and Walk for Kitties on Sunday, August 21 at Jericho Beach, beginning at 10:00 am. Maria has been reminding her friends of this event at great length and with frequent repetition, as have I.

In her case, though, FaceBook has deemed that she is advertising the event, and has imposed the suspension as a cuff on her naughty little wrist. Because I believe the suspension is arbitrary and unfair, I have placed my tongue (kinda) firmly into my cheek and created a new FaceBook page, the stated intention of which is to Free Maria Soroski.

Maria doesn't much need my help here. She is free as a matter of course, and sometimes, she is even a bit of a loose cannon - as anyone who has gotten in her way can attest. It is a fact, though, that I am offended by this treatment of my respected and valued friend, and to that degree, my campaign is quite serious.

While I was playing around on Free Maria this morning, I discovered something very interesting. My good friends at FaceBook offered to advertise my new community page for me at the modest cost of fifty dollars a day. This has caused me to wonder if they expected Maria to pay the same to advertise the Kitty Walk on Sunday, but of course, I have a suspicious and cynical nature...

This then, is my call to arms, my cry for justice, petty and pitiful though the corporate offenders may be. Please visit my Free Maria Soroski page and click on the like button. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

Let's bend an elbow together.

 Fiat justitia, ruat caelum
Lucius Calpernius Piso Caesoninus 
(circa 43 BC)

Let justice be done, though the heavens fall
William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield
(Sommersett's Case, 1772)