Thursday, January 28, 2010

Black Cats and the Fear Gene

Prozac cat

Our black cat, not at all like this one, was a stray who wandered into a church lunch one Sunday afternoon and has been at our house ever since. That must have been seven or eight years ago since the future Baron was the one who carried her in the car while I drove home.

Lulu has always been a scaredy cat. Company comes and she’s under the bed. To her way of thinking (and I use that word loosely), men are less trustworthy than women. She makes an exception for the fB, but then most cats do. They seem to be able to read the big sign he wears: PUSHOVER FOR CATS.

A few years ago, in an effort to calm her terror, I began experimenting with low doses of clonazepam. At first it was a half milligram a night. We could see a difference in her demeanor; definitely less jumpy but not exactly laid back. So I upped her dose to one mg. with her supper. That has made for quieter times at 3:00 a.m. when she’s decided I’ve abandoned her because she can’t find her way back to her cushion. Now just calling her permits her to aim in the direction of the sound and soon she’s settled down and snoring again. Yes, she does snore.

Of course those distress signals don’t resemble at all the guttural, half-purrs she makes when some mouse wanders across her path in, say, the closet. There is much scrabbling, strange squeaks and squeals. Then the lights go on, the Baron is forced to find the creature in whatever state of extremis he happens to be and heave him out the front door. Lulu doesn’t seem to mind the loss; she was only going to get up on the bed and present him as a gift anyway.

A few years ago I was talking to the substitute vet at our clinic about our scaredy cat. She explained to me that Lulu had inherited a fear gene on her Y chromosome. Only the daddies pass this trait along; it affects some more severely than others, depending on the level of genetic involvement.

This vet thought my clonazepam treatment plan was a great idea and even suggested raising the dosage. I wouldn’t mind doing that, but vet meds are too expensive.

When he heard about it, the main vet was skeptical of the whole thing. Or at least he was up until Lulu’s last office visit. I hadn’t dosed her beforehand (forgot to). When the fB brought her into the treatment room and opened the door of the carrier, the doc was treated to a vision of bare, naked Lulu. Evidently it wasn’t a pleasant encounter. On the directions sent home with her he’d written: “whatever it was you said you’d put her on, increase it. Please.”

Nothing like a fearful experience to make one a believer, hmm?

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Death of Walt Whitman's Dreams for America

Poem Hunter is a site that offers to send a daily (more or less) poetic selection to your email address. They don’t spam and they don’t appear to distribute your address to all and sundry. While many of the selections don’t appeal to me (save me from "Trees"), some are just right. They remind me to go back and look at a poet I’ve not read in a while.

In this case, Walt Whitman.

Way back when we first met, the Baron used to recite or read sections of "Leaves of Grass" to me. Until that point, I hadn’t cared much for Whitman. He was too…sprawling, perhaps, too loud and boisterous. Things changed; over the years I’ve come to appreciate his special voice.

The Poem Hunter is a grab bag of good and bad selections. Today's choice, A Song, brings you up short. You realize that Whitman's expansive hope for America was in vain. “Comrade” has been so contaminated by events that lay in the future beyond Whitman's brief span, that we, the inheritors of his work, cannot use the word anymore without irony. Amazing to contemplate the evil done in the name of comradeship in the 20th century.

I hope, I pray that the 21st century will be less bloody, that fewer people will die at the hands of those wielding yet another sword in the name of yet another Utopia.

That hope may be in vain. Already I hear otherwise normal, kind people talking about the need for “population control” in this country but they don’t talk about the methods to be employed in this endeavor. They don’t say it out loud because it means abortion on one end of life and euthanasia on the other. Do they think that these ideas will have no effect on them or on the ones they love? Do they think the many deaths already accomplished have made our nation a better place?

The best revolution would be the realization that all of us are connected at some level. Our individual selves are necessary, but they aren’t sufficient for living in the fullness of reality.

The old Catholic idea has been lost, the one which proposes the idea there is no private morality, we are always either building up or destroying by our behavior or our thoughts, public or private. None of us want to consider being so closely monitored. It interferes in the extreme with our idea of individual liberty. But what if the larger reality revealed individuals connected to one another by various webs of belonging (as Teilhard de Chardin believed)?

That view, of connections to one another, could have begun in the ancient Jewish belief of blessings and cursings. The translators of Christ’s words may have been a bit leery of the idea of cursing someone. “Blessed are the meek” was fine. But cursing the un-meek? Did they change the words so that we read now the easier-to-digest “woe unto him”? As in, perhaps, “woe unto him who hurts the least of these, the children…” . Sounds safe enough until you realize this may be an example of the Jewish belief in cursing someone, in proclaiming your hope in his receiving his just desserts for a particular behavior. Pedophilia, anyone?

We are modern now. We don’t believe in blessing people, and we certainly don’t discuss cursing them. Jung probably wrote about this somewhere, or perhaps the Italian Freudian, Roberto Assagioli, who wrote about the concept of the will. This lack of belief is the price we are willing to pay for our faith in science and our belief in its priests who reduce life to those things which can be expressed as provable hypotheses. We live inside this religion; thus we may not consider the webs of connections that might exist between and among us all. This notion cannot be proved, therefore it not to be considered, contemplated or discussed, much less researched! Heaven forefend!

But back to Whitman’s America. What a robust, finely drawn contemplation! What a blessing he made:

A Song

Come, I will make the continent indissoluble;
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever yet shone upon;
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of
America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over
the prairies;
I will make inseparable cities, with their arms about each other’s
By the love of comrades,

By the manly love of comrades.
For you these, from me, O Democracy, to serve you, ma femme!
For you! for you, I am trilling these songs,
In the love of comrades,
In the high-towering love of comrades.

Those towers crumbled long ago, beaten down by the hammers and sickles of utopians. Though their stated aims use different terms now, the name of the game is the same: Destruction of all who are not exactly like us.

As for Whitman’s “inseparable cities”, if we really cared, we would treat the destruction of Detroit by greed and corruption (look at the photos on that site) as we attempted to treat the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Detroit did not, does not, deserve the terrible pestilence of greed visited upon it any more than New Orleans "deserved" the wrath of Katrina. The latter is different only in that it was an unavoidable act of nature(unless you stop to ask why New Orleans continues to exist where it does).

Detroit is becoming known as The Feral City due to generations of soul-rotted "leaders" that bled her dry and left her corpse to rot, her people to scrabble for their bread.

The corrupters moved on, safe from the stench of their works. I do wonder sometimes if they are safe from the curses of those they left behind.

Is this the price we pay for killing our not-yet children and our old people? Is there a web of connections we cannot see, stuck as we are inside the limits of our faith in Scientism?

If that is not the case, then tell me, oh American, where did our love go?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Resolutions, Twitter and Cacciatore

From Rasmussen:

It's 2010, and 39% of Americans say they plan to make a New Year's resolution.

According to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, 54% will pass on a first-of-the-year resolution this time out, but seven percent (7%) haven't made up their minds yet.

Among those who are making resolutions, 93% say they are at least somewhat likely to keep it. Fifty-three percent (53%) insist they are very likely to do so.
Although women are slightly more likely to make resolutions, men claim to be more likely to keep them.

Men don't lack self-confidence, but I do wonder how closely reality aligns with their claims. The Baron doesn't make New Year's resolutions...that I know of. On the other hand, I never met anyone who can calmly point out all his own faults, uh, I mean character traits, without being defensive about them. He laughingly told me opnce that a friend of his had been appalled to see a picture of the Baron in which he was wearing two different kinds of plaids. Unlike the Future Baron, clohting is neither an interest nor a skill. Thus, he still has me check his ties to make sure they pass muster before he enters the Hive of Scum and Villany for a meeting or conference.

New Year's resolution: my technophobe self and I have decided to acquire Twitter skills. It will be a good way to check on blogs that fall through the cracks. No need to do anything as outré as actually remembering them anymore; now I just add favorites to my list and check in occasionally to see who is blogging about what. Easy peasy...though I can see the tweets becoming long pages in no time. Still..better than what I'm not doing now with one foot nailed to the floor. I guess I'll just have to figure out how to delete the old history.

CacciatoreThe future Baron is coming home for the evening. Time to scrounge up a few things and teach him to make chicken cacciatore. He's becoming tired of his limited menu maybe? It's fun to teach old tricks to young dogs. It's especially nice to have a young person around who is motivated to learn to cook cheaply.

Of course he will be bringing some red wine I never heard of; then he and the Baron will whinge about the fact that I will steal a small glass to use in the tomato sauce...along with capers, lemon, green peppers, pesto, and mushrooms. Oh, and my secret ingredient.

One time an Italian woman showed me how to "dress" pasta. It's simple, but truly wonderful. Drain the pasta but not too well. Rub butter on the surfaces of the hot pasta pot before putting the pasta back into it. Toss the hot pasta with the juice of at least one lemon and one tablespoon or more of sweet butter. Then, using a coarse setting on the pepper mill, grind lots and lots of pepper, tossing the pasta at intervals.

You can serve the pasta plain or with whatever sauce you've prepared. If plain, use some parmesan and a bit more butter on individual servings.

The fB also making the trip home so he can learn to iron handkerchiefs correctly. For some reason, he's taken a liking to linen handkerchiefs. This may have started during his bout with pneumonia and swine flu. Paper kleenex weren't up to the job, plus they leave lint on everthing.

Fortunately, I had a stash of his father's and grandfather's handkerchief collection in the ironing bag (a place I normally avoid). In addition, I found an attractive wooden box in his father's top bureau drawer that fits the handkerchiefs perfectly. All in all, a nice Christmas present, especially since I found a tiny ironing board he can store in his closet and use on the kitchen table or his bureau.

It's a lot of work to be a bon vivant when you're poor and you don't have a valet. His great-grandfather had one but those days are long gone in our family. Sure wouldn't mind a ladies' maid meself. Perferably one who was patient and liked to read aloud and didn't mind my truly awful strew. I'd have to call her Saint Something-or-Other for all of those virtues.