Monday, June 24, 2013

A love only a mother could face

Via Flickr:
This is Ally. She's not exactly cuddly. She can be sweet, but only on her own terms. I like her fiestiness; it makes her an interesting character. But she makes my arms ache to hug Bonnie again. And I never will.

New dreams

A couple of interesting dreams this weekend I think I can comment on, just for myself.

Saturday I nearly bought a little squirt gun to dissuade Ally and Seth from picking at the carpet, when there are perfectly good scratching posts around (changed my mind; too much about having fun at their expense rather than a real solution). This seemed to come out in a dream. For a moment, at the start of the dream, I thought it was Bonnie, but it was Twinkle. She was creeping around, trying to entice me to chase her around with the squirt gun. I know this was something she absolutely would not have done in real life. :)

This morning I had a strange one I really can't account for at all in which the Borg (of Star Trek fame) arrived on Earth in the 1960s and turned Andy and Oppie from The Andy Griffith Show into Borgs. Not all at once; it was happening slowly, with just little bits here and there like Seven of Nine had through most of the series ST:Voyager. But I remember them stoically packing up to leave to join the collective, with Aunt Bea tearfully making them sack lunches for the trip, and other Mayberry folks coming around sadly to wish them a safe journey. It was more like they'd been drafted than infected with something that was going to turn them into zombies. Anyway, weird... but kind of interesting.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Don't made me mad, Mr. Snuffleupagus

Went to Target. My buddy put this mask on the display. :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

I had a series of strange dreams last night. I'm only really aware of the last three, and only really remember the last two. Two of them involved executions. The last one was a dream about waking up and blogging the two execution dreams. In that dream, I only said a few sketchy things on the blog and was too tired to really write anything. Too bad. I've consequently forgotten what one of the execution dreams was about... though I seem to have a vague sense it had something to do with the American Revolution.

The other execution dream was really odd. It was like some art film from the 1970s. It was set in the kitchen of a house I lived in in the 70s, with everything enamel white. There was a group of Japanese people. The condemned was a young man, about 20, in a suit and tie. He was extremely calm and composed. There was a young woman tending to him, an executioner with a sword, and a few other people there officiating, observing, reporting.

The condemned man was bidden to lie down on a counter with a black block for his neck. When I realized what was about to happen, I ran out of the room. I had some kind of sense it was a dream and I told my brain I don't want to see this, but even though I was out of the room in the dream I was still subjected to an over-the-shoulder view of the first sword strike; the neck opening like a ham steak. I say first because, as I huddled in the stairs that led to the second floor, I could hear the sword fall five or six times. I was appalled at the cruelty of procedure. Despite being where I was, some blood still spattered into the stairwell and a bit onto me. I was wearing a white t-shirt with some kind of Canadian flag logo on it... all red, of course... and I was disturbed by the speckles of blood sullying the shirt.

When the execution was over I went back to the kitchen. Everyone, including the body of the executed man, had moved into the living room, so I was there with just the young Japanese woman, who was just finishing cleaning up. I complained about my shirt and she hurried to wash it before the blood could set in. I asked her why the man had been executed. She told me he'd ordered some tea or coffee, and had stubbornly insisted he didn't like it. He wouldn't change his mind, so they executed him.

Though the dream wasn't at all funny, I'm suddenly now reminded of this...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seth sitting

Seth sitting, originally uploaded by Lone Primate.

He actually struck this pose himself this morning. I was lucky enough to have the camera ready and he didn't get startled by the sound of it coming on or taking pictures. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013


I find myself particularly missing Bonnie today. The song Bright Eyes from Watership Down haunts me and I keep seeing in my mind that video of her trying so hard to please me with the box in the bedroom. If it wasn't sinking in deeply before just what's bled out of my life forever with her passing, it's beginning to today. It's like a leaf, spiraling down, has finally landed on the surface of a pond, sending out its sad little ripples in silence.

I think part of it is that it's really been a month now, and it's increasingly at night that it tells. For half my life I've had one cat or another follow me to bed and take her place on the pillow beside me; first Jenny, and after she passed, Bonnie took her place. I'm not sure how long that took but I'm pretty sure even before Jenny died, Bonnie had her place on the bed, somewhere. Max, even Twinkle had their places, though they weren't so insistent about being there, and they didn't follow me to bed as faithfully as Bonnie.

But Seth and Ally... not much. Ally has drifted in a few times as stayed for a bit, but she leaves pretty quickly. Seth seems to think he has no place there, and it saddens me. For years, more often than not, when I woke up, I could reach for Bonnie, and she'd be there. Now she's not, and no one's filing the gap. Despite living with me for a year and a half, Ally is still completely disinclined to take a place on one of the chairs beside me. I knew I had it good with Bonnie, really good, but I always hoped when the time came the others would grow into the space left by her absence. Maybe they will, but right now, it's really not happening.

Seth will sit with me. Ally likes me, I think; she shows it mostly by rubbing against me; something none of the other cats I've ever had was ever into at all. She shows it in her own way, I guess. I can't help wanting it shown in ways I'm familiar with, I guess.

Part of me wants to the take the song Bright Eyes and create a production of photos and videos, mostly of Bonnie, but also of Max and Twinkle and what little I have of Jenny. But I know that would just gut me. As lovely as it might be, it would be deeply lonely and like worrying a sore in my mouth. Wish I hadn't remembered the song today.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The weighting game

I've had a weight problem pretty much since I was seven. I like carbs, and I eat when I'm bored, and I eat for comfort. Not too long after I moved out on my own, one of the guys where I was working, the French-Canadian guy who was running our IT department, started making serious headway on Atkin's. He got me on board and over the next seven or eight months, I shed about fifty pounds... not quite half what I needed to lose at the time, but it was the first time in my life I made real progress on losing weight instead of just slowly gaining it. I remember "inheriting" his pants as he shrank in size. That pretty nice all around... a narrower waist, and free clothes.

It didn't last, but just as I was falling off that and gaining weight again, another friend having success in another plan dropped by. This was a big guy, in every sense. He was a head taller than me, and had been about to cross 400 lbs. when started. When I saw him, he was closing in on 300, with a goal to halve his weight, to something just under 200. This was a men's weight loss program in the west end, meeting on Sunday mornings. It was expensive, too. As I recall, over $2000 for the year. But it was a good program. I started in October of 2001 and by August of 2002, I weighed less than 200 pounds for the first time in decades. I literally weighed less at 33 than I did at 14. I remember it was weekend just after Jenny died that I broke 200. By September, I'd reached my goal of 190, and I even managed to chip that down to 185.

I've lived on that success for ten years. But I only really managed to maintain it for a year or two. Since then, I've been putting weight back on. If I look back at my blog here, I can see early entries where I'm sweating hitting 215 and stuff. I wish I'd really taken it in hand back then. But there were just too many treats and I didn't say no nearly enough. I managed to keep it to around a chubby 230 for a long time, but particularly since Twinkle died, I've really let myself go. I'm pushing 270 again, and I'm not happy to report that. It's embarrassing. I let myself down over the years, but it's so easy to do, one little thing at a time.

Anyway, as usual, it's meeting with a friend that's started a new phase. My real estate agent is on a weight loss and management plan that's run by doctors and covered by OHIP. He started it in late March and by mid-May when I saw him, he'd shed 50 pounds (again, we're taking a really big guy here, height and weight). So, I've spent the last week jumping through the hoops to get into it. First, you need to be referred by another physician. Check. And you need blood work done. Check. The upshot of all this was the pleasant surprise of having confirmed, twice in the past week, that my blood pressure is normal (at my age and weight, I'm surprised), and that ever single blood indicator they checked also falls in the normal range. I'm not diabetic or prediabetic; my cholesterol levels are all fine. I suppose I can congratulate myself in that if I've gained weight, I've done it while for the most part eating sensible foods. Just too much of them.

I used to think it was my metabolism. That was my excuse. But I took a test yesterday that measures the output of your breathing at rest over ten minutes and my results were such that my metabolism comes right up the middle; just slightly higher than the centre mark. And that's at 45, when presumably my metabolism has slowed from what it was when I was 30, 20, 15. So much for blaming the plane. My weight problem has always been pilot error. :(

The new plan is rather like Atkin's. It's about limiting carbohydrate intake (really, really limiting it initially) to induce ketosis, and then watching carbs on maintenance. Rough for me, because that's where all my "ohhh yes" foods really are. But I want to lose the weight. I want those sweet days back where I can just wander into a store, see something I like, and buy it. Try things on just for fun again, rather than to be sure I'm buying something that fits. I had that for a few years and it was grand; something new for me.

I should start now, but I have some social things going on between now and Sunday and I'm looking forward to them, uncomplicated. So I've set a deadline for Monday. It starts Monday.  Oddly enough, you're supposed to lay off alcohol on the plan, so I'll be back on the wagon I jumped off of around New Year's after two years of basically nothing. If I'd known that, I would have just stayed on it. :) So, I think I'll draw the line on alcohol right now, today, but eat the stuff I was going to eat till Monday. And then, well... lifestyle change.

Wish me luck. :)


Well, by the calendar, it's a month today since Bonnie died (though, really, four weeks passed on Monday). Right around now a month ago, I was gearing up to call Dr. Banks. Funny to think I still had the option at that time. I knew I was obliged by Bonnie's condition to do it. But I still had the choice. I'm pretty sure that by now, no matter what I did, she'd be gone. If she couldn't figure out how to drink anymore, that was going to be a pretty awful end over the next week or two.

It's also nine years ago, tomorrow, that Jody died; June 7, 2004. I knew Jody, via the 'net, not quite ten years; about nine years and eight months, give or take. So the next time the anniversary of his death comes around, he'll have been out of my life again for longer than he was in it. Boy, the years are really slipping away. Twenty years ago it still seemed like a basketful of anything. It occurs to me now that, odds are, the basket's more than half empty now.

I'm left wondering now if there'll be anyone counting anniversaries for me after I'm gone. I guess it doesn't matter much in itself; I'll be dead; I won't care. I guess it's the implication that if no one cares after you're gone it's because there was no one left who cared in the years at the end of your life.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The weekend that was

I know it's already Wednesday but if I don't do this, it won't get done. I've spent most of the past month talking about my feelings in the wake of losing Bonnie, and that's probably not completely over—the blog is, to a large extent, a sort of a diary for me—there are still, of course, other things going on in my life, and some of them are fine things and worth sharing with those who pass by, and myself down the road (ha! inside joke there).

Saturday was fun. We headed out to Stratford. P-Doug was holding forth on something so we missed our exit and after that, the exits get kind of sparse, so we had to drive another ten minutes or more into Oxford County to exit at Woodstock and double back on side roads. We arrived in plenty of time for the lecture, which was a really interesting one on Elizabethan pronunciation and how they've pieced it together with about an 80-90% certainty. North American English has actually been more conservative than most British accents and you can hear where the basis of the language here comes from. To me, it sounded most like the way people speak today around Bristol. A lot of the rhymes in Shakespeare's work, and puns based on them, have been lost because of changes in pronunciation. Bawdy jokes, and apparently there were a lot of them, have been lost due to that (hour and whore were once pronounced the same, for example) and the fact that we reverence the works and have lifted them out of the context of plays for the masses. Amazing presentation. We had a stage director from Manchester who's currently working over here at Stratford, three actors from the company, a linguist adviser, and a TV over which an Englishman teaching at the University of Kansas skyped in to address us. At one point he emailed a handout to one of the organizers, who printed it and distributed it... the kind of stuff they said, back in the 50s, the classroom of the future would be like. We got to hear one of the meetings between Romeo, Friar Lawrence, and the Nurse as it probably originally sounded, and it actually wasn't all that hard to follow. Back then, accent was regional, but did not then represent class distinctions; that didn't happen till the 18th century, and became most pronounced in the 20th, oddly enough.

We went to a native art store just around the corner. Been there before. Gorgeous stuff, all of it with federal identifiers to attest to its authenticity. The stuff's expensive. I ended up buying a beautiful print of a cormorant for $125; I need to get it framed.

We hung around at a perfect, perfect pub called Molly Bloom's, and it turns out they have about a half a dozen locations, and the furthest east is Toronto, down on College Street. Everything about the place was just perfect. The food, the ambiance, the music (and its volume level). It was really terrific.

In the evening we saw Fiddler on the Roof at the Festival Theatre. I've never seen it performed live before, though I've seen the movie dozens and dozens of times. It was slightly different from the movie... for instance, there's a song between Perchik and Hodel in the play that's not in the movie, and I don't think the movie suffers for its lack. It was great to see it performed live. P-Doug knew the movie was one of my lifelong top ten, so at the last minute last week he bought tickets. :) Didn't get home till 1:30, though, and I was the one driving.

...Because! at 7 on Friday night, I got a call from P-Doug. He had a flat (right here... lovely spot, though, don't you think?), and his spare, 14 years unused, was also flat. So off I went into countryside in Durham Region, about 45 minutes from home. Picked him up; we drove south to a service station for a tow truck. While we were there, it occurred to me that we could have just brought the spare and filled it. So, back up. Spare off the car. Back down. Fill the spare. Back up. Put the spare on. Then I followed him into town along Steeles Avenue. Whole thing took about three and a half hours, and, of course, meant we'd be using my car to get back and forth to Stratford. :)

And there you have it.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Trench and The Brotherhood of War

Somehow a movie about a few days in the life of British soldiers in middle of World War I called The Trench escaped my notice for about 14 years, despite the fact that it stars a pre-Bond Daniel Craig. It's a trenchant, mercilessly honest feature about a small group of guys, accents from all over the British Isles, on the lead up to going over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The movie ends with that moment of tactical stupidity, with the results needless for me to say.

In the course of the movie, these young men show everything you would honestly expect to see in these conditions... homesickness, comradery, cruelty, stupidity, cowardice, bravery, and, of course, a fatalistic resignation. There are some good, solid performances here, particularly Craig's tough but fatherly Sgt. Winter. A modern audience, post-WWII and Vietnam, is left to sit watching in anger and outrage as pigheaded orders we know will send thousands needlessly and stupidly to their deaths are blithely issued. Most of the men know it too but hope against hope it won't be as bad as they imagine. Of course, it was.

The movie has a particular resonance for me because my great-grandfather died in the Battle of the Somme. He was a corporal, a little older than most of the recruits because he was a career soldier. He was in the Hampshire Regiment that was massacred at the Battle of Albert, one of the first actions in the larger Battle of the Somme; he died that day, July 1, 1916, leaving behind a widow and two infant daughters, one of them my Irish-born grandmother. Though it would have meant nothing to him, it was Canada's 49th birthday as nation-state.


Another movie I discovered recently was the Korean-filmed (and English-subbed) The Brotherhood of War, which is about the Korean War. The story is told from the point of view of two ordinary young men from Seoul, who are brothers; Lee Jin-tae and Lee Jin-seok... principally, from the perspective of the latter. Like Saving Private Ryan, it opens in the present day at a dig in a battlefield in South Korea. An artifact is found and a phone call is made to an elderly man, who is invited to come around and make an identification. The movie segues back to 1950. Just prior to the start of the war, Jin-tae is a cobbler and shoe-shiner making a living to support his widowed mother, his fiancee and her little sisters, and his own slightly younger brother Jin-seok.

The war begins abruptly and in the course of feeling Seoul, the family encounters an army shanghai gang, and Jin-seok is drafted on the spot and put on a troop train. In trying to rescue him, Jin-tae also ends up drafted. The movie goes on to tell the tale of Jin-tae's heroism in his efforts to earn Jin-seok an exemption from service, and how his heroism degenerates into pure vicious cruelty by degrees. [Spoiler alert! Select text to view] At one point, Jin-tae, who feels betrayed by his South Korean comrades due to the killing of his fiancee, is captured by the North Koreans and turns coat, becoming their celebrated killing machine instead. While I suppose this is strictly possible, it seemed highly unlikely to me and robbed the movie of some of its credibility. It seemed more like a device to force the brothers into actual combat, which it does, before a Luke-and-Darth Vader moment at the end of the film. The movie loses something in making too literal a point about fighting between actual brothers, and faintly insults its audience by suggestion that otherwise, we won't see the metaphoric irony in Koreans savagely murdering other Koreans simply because someone took advantage of the fact that a line was drawn between one group and the other a couple of years before. Still, the somewhat naive twist in the tail towards the end notwithstanding, it's an excellent view of a truly pointless and vicious civil war—one that's technically still on—and a commentary on the dreams and rationalities of mid-20th century Korea. It's also one of those rare opportunities to see an approachable story told from the point of view of a different culture, with slightly different emphases and outlooks, while at the same time experiencing their common humanity. It's worth seeing.

At the time of writing, you can find both of these films on YouTube.

Rechargeable memory

About a week before Bonnie died, my Canon S100 did. Unlike her, it could be resurrected. Two days before she died, I took it in to have that done. It was a lens error problem, which Canon had a policy of repairing out of warranty because the problem was so common. I got the camera back this afternoon.

Bonnie's passing highlighted a couple of things for me, because I spent much of my spare time last week roaming through literally hundreds of thousands of digital photos, looking for good shots of the cats I've lost to bank into the digital frame I bought. Towards the end I came to the S100 shots. I was astonished at the quality of them; a clarity unrivaled by pretty much anything else in my collection except some of the really choice Rebel XT photos. If I'd gotten to regretting the purchase a year and a half ago as essentially pointless, those beautiful photos of her and Max straightened me out. I'm glad I had it fixed, and even more glad I bought it in the first place.

Another thing was the change in Bonnie herself. I kept the SDHC card out of the camera when I took it in, but oddly enough, in that whole month, I never bothered looking at the photos on it. Some were recent enough they weren't stored or backed up, and I saw them for the first time today. For most of thirteen years, I knew Bonnie as a robust, even faintly plump, cat. It was really only in the last two months of her life she was noticeably thin. I spent most of last week re-enforcing my standard memory of her with shots from the bulk of her life, pretty much overwriting my recent perception of her.

Then I saw the shots I took of her in mid-April. I was shocked at the sight of her. This came on gradually, but seeing it this way was like having it happen literally overnight. Here are two shots of Bonnie, both taken with the S100. The one on the left was taken February of 2012, not long after I bought the camera. The second is from April 19th, the Friday before the Monday she went in for surgery, and just a bit over two weeks before she died. Look how loosely her collar hangs on her. That's the exact same collar. The vet techs must have noticed too because when she came back from surgery, it had been shorted to hug closer to her neck again... something I would never have been able to do, because it was like admitting she'd never fill that collar out again. Part of me resents them for doing that, but most of me loves them for making that caring gesture. It was facing the obvious... something I had to do looking through the images on the card today.

Digital photograph was once just a happy lark. It was a way to keep neat things I saw; take possession of them. Share them. Increasingly, though, as the years turn now into decades, it's becoming external memory; a record of things and people (human and otherwise)  I've had and lost. It's still fun, but not the simple pure fun it once was. I forgot, when I started, that time would move on, and imbue these photos with a meaning I never intended, or ever hoped for, back then.