A Libelous Display / Blissfully Astray

It’s that day today, one of my favorite days, of budding trees and fecundity, of celebrating work and celebrating play. My lawn is already overgrown, the daffodils in the back yard come and gone with the crocus and bluebells and now the tulips in full bloom, the first sprigs of green on the grape vine.

There are, as you might expect, stirrings among the cadets, as well. Classroom discussions bubble over easily into jokes or teasing or just into that uncontainable energy, and today, I let it go. How could I not? I had an observer in the classroom, evaluating my teaching, and my lesson plan called for small group work in the second half of class, and the groups got loud and excited and sometimes off-topic — but it’s May! How can you not let that energy go?

It’s May, the lusty month of May
That darling month when everyone throws self-control away
It’s time to do a wretched thing or two
And try to make each precious day one you’ll always rue

It was a good class, however blissfully astray we might have gone.

It was also my morning at the shelter for the week, and the cats are as wound up as the cadets, full of impulsiveness and energy, fat and noisy Clark making the rounds of the room for the first time and falling into the tub, little megasophagus Willie climbing up top to bat at cross-eyed Laverne, and Sean and Joey and Ben performing their alpha-male drama on the reduced stage of the counter by the sink with no one else paying attention.

It’s May. It’s May.

And Tink and Zeugma are five years old today.

Tink: Striker; Zeugma: Grappler

When they mock-fight, Zeugma always goes to the ground. If my dining room’s the Octagon, Zeugma’s my Hoyce Gracie. Tink, while more tentative, has her own moves, and she’s good about cornering and using those front paws in conjunction with her weight: she’ll get in close to put Zeugma down, which Zeugma’s willing to do and go to work with the hind legs, but then she’ll break contact and go for the high ground, usually the arm of the chair, and whap Zeugma around the face from the stand-off distance.

Bad Day at the Shelter

So of the sixty-odd cats at the shelter, Ebony and Mr. Pokey have been fighting, to the point where they can’t come out of their cages at the same time. Nobody knows why.

Other shelter things continue apace: Willie, with his enlarged esophagus, still has trouble keeping food down, as does Clark. We lost hypothyroid Agatha a couple weeks ago, after she was down to three pounds. Laverne and cross-eyed Shirley lost their cage to two very tentative unnamed new arrivals. Maine Coon Sean is still the alpha male trying to take Joey’s place, Jezebel’s temper has improved, Rocky is as stolid and affectionate as ever, and Buster needs lots and lots of attention, and digs in his cage if he doesn’t get it.

Agatha was a blow, because we all knew it was coming. She was spoiled, and we made a big deal out of her. But at some point: a three-pound cat. You know what’s going to happen.

That’s the thing about shelter work, I guess. You start to love the ones who you know won’t get adopted. They’re the ones you come back to every week: the sick ones, the spastic, the angry, the timid, the fearful.

So K. and I are cleaning out cages this morning, and Mr. Pokey’s got his eye on Ebony. Mr. Pokey’s one of those water cats, always wanting to play with the stream of water in the sink or the tub when we’re cleaning up, and always wanting to wait by the door to the dog room. Only today he’s prowling around, growling up at Ebony in her cage, and she growling back down at him, until they’re totally locked into each others’ attention and we don’t even realize it, and K. is doing the cages on that side and I’m on the other side, and she tries to shoo him, and in so doing comes between him and Ebony, and that’s it: he’s all of a sudden wrapped around K.’s wrist and arm, teeth and claws, and he’s hurting her, and she doesn’t want to hurt him and can’t get him off.

She gets him off once and then he’s on her ankle and I take way too long grabbing the big padded gloves and stuffing him into the nearest empty cage.

It was bad. Like, bad bad. He drew some blood, tooth and claw both, deep, and we got K. out to the quiet part of the dog room, and L. patched her up. She went home early.

Cats are fighting, you don’t get between them. I guess that’s one lesson. There’s another one, but I don’t know how much I feel like thinking about it.

LOLcats in a New Home

After lots of investigating, emails, and phone calls, I finally found a no-kill shelter with slots for the two kittens, and as of tonight, they’re hanging out with other cats and in no immediate danger of being euthanized, tormented, run over, or eaten. It took some doing, and I’m relieved: I couldn’t rightly conscience letting two young beings I’d had in my care chance easy harm or death. Tink and Zeugma don’t miss them — well, maybe Tink, a little — but I do.

Especially with kittenish behavior like this wonder at the glories of the carousel microwave:

LOLcat with microwave

OMG!! It has soundz AND movez AND foodz! WANT!!!1!!1!

And I’ll be volunteering for a few hours a week at that no-kill shelter, starting tomorrow morning.

Learning LOLKitteh

The Ratliff compels, and one obeys.

Well, OK: Clancy wrote, “Mike, you HAVE to do an I Can Has Cheezburger? image,” but while I can read and parody LOLKitteh, I’m far from being a native or even adequate speaker.

I’m doing my best to learn LOLKitteh, certainly, particularly given its recent emergence as one of the fundamental philosophical discourses of modernity. My efforts, however, yield slight return. Tink and Zeugma regard me indulgently as I practice the tense-shifts and contractions, but when I attempt to engage them in LOLKitteh, they flee to the litterboxen.

As Clancy has demonstrated, though, LOLKitteh allows us to speak of that which other discourses and other interlocutors (our friend and colleague Joanna Howard comes immediately to mind) forbid. There is, for example, the practice of interrogating so-called ‘flavor’ as sociocultural and affective construct.

Two cats, Tink and Zeugma, interacting

However, my lack of LOLKitteh fluency has stymied attempts at adequately describing the above interaction.

Your captions are welcomed.

My Assistant Grader

She’s more holistic than me in her approach to assessment.

The orange cat smiles.

But she always likes it when students manage to work the words “hermeneutic,” “reflexivity,” and “halibut” into their essays.

Cat Class

The [no longer] last line in my “about” description, “I like cats,” is a bit of a private joke that may merit some explanation. Several years ago, I was taking a seminar called “Writing and Emerging Technologies” and working on a paper that talked about various generic qualities of Web pages when someone — it may have been me — made a reference to “I like cats” home pages. It seemed an apt description of those pages many of us in the seminar were familiar with: usually hosted on GeoCities or Tripod, #FF99CC or #CCCCFF background colors, white-haloed animated .gifs, various badges and hit-counters at the bottom, blink tags, lots of exclamation points, and lots of pictures of the page author’s cat in various poses, accompanied by descriptions of the cat’s activities, the page author’s favorite books and hobbies and other favorite things, all described in breathless prose. In this context, the declaration “I like cats” is a tool of rhetorical ethos: it positions the author in relation to two groups of people, those who like cats and those who don’t. (The male geek equivalent to the “I like cats” page that most of us in the seminar were familiar with was the “I like Pam Anderson and Deep Space Nine” page.) In using the phrase “I like cats” to describe these pages, there was an unfortunate rhetorical sneer, at least on my part. I was engaging in snobbery, constructing the “I like cats” authors as real life versions of Jean Teasdale. In that sense, for me, “I like cats” became a class marker.
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