Saturday, January 28, 2006

Magenta Catelinet, 1993-2006

I'm saddened to report that Magenta passed away last night at the vet hospital. He had rallied a little in the past few days, but took a turn for the worse yesterday afternoon. The vet called to warn me that he might not live through the night, and that he was prepared to put Magenta to sleep if he was suffering. Thankfully, Magenta died in his sleep, so he wasn't in pain in his final moments. I'm sorry that I couldn't be with him at the end, but I'm glad his struggle is over and that he's in a better place now.

Liz and I first met Magenta in 1999, when we moved to New York. He was seven years old and belonged to our upstairs neighbor, who used to let him out to play in the courtyard of our apartment building. Apparently he'd gotten fat because the other neighbors used to feed him table scraps. He met our cat Vladi right away, and soon Magenta was scratching at our door to be let in to wrestle with Vladi. When our neighbor moved to San Francisco, she asked us to keep Magenta until she got settled. But she never collected him from us, so we kept him. Even when she moved back to New York, she decided he was better off with our cats (we'd gotten Mr. Starlite from the shelter by that time) than with her.

Magenta (AKA Tubby, Fatty, Fat Bastard, Tubby Bitch, Fat Ass, etc. [he didn't seem to mind these nicknames]) was the fat cat in the household, constantly running into the kitchen to feast on whatever was in his bowl or on the floor as a result of my cooking. More than once, he climbed onto the kitchen counter and ate fresh vegetables I'd been saving for dinner. During a party, he ate leftover chicken out of an unsuspecting party guest's bag. Another time, he fought me over a pork chop bone and nearly took it from me. He also loved to attack smelly feet, sweaty socks, or any other dirty clothes we left out for him. Many mornings, we'd wake up to the sound of him yowling with pleasure as he humped a pair of sweatpants around the living room floor. And we had to stop giving him catnip because when he got some, he turned into the feline version of an angry drunk. He wasn't the friendliest cat in the house, but if you had food or smelled like food, he might decide to like you. He had had diabetes and eye problems, but he didn't let those things stop him from enjoying the good life of a cat. I'm really going to miss him. I already miss him when I pour water from my Brita pitcher -- he used to come running into the kitchen when I did that, and I'd pour some into his bowl. But I know he's better off now, free of his pain and suffering. And I still have two cats, Vladi and Starlite, who love me and need lots of attention in return. They're going to miss their fat friend too.

I've uploaded some photos of Magenta taken over the past four or five years. You can see them in
this Flickr set.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Clarification and explanation

Yes, Tuesday was a bad day. Wednesday wasn't any better. However, today has been looking up.

Without giving out too much personal information, on Tuesday I had to deal with two highly serious personal crises at the same time. Both of them continued into Wednesday afternoon. One of them is mostly resolved, or at least my direct involvement in it is finished.

The other crisis is my seriously ill cat, Magenta, who has a history of diabetes, irritable bowels, eye problems, and generally being a fat ass. He's been at the vet for a week (actually two different vets) and until yesterday was near death. When I saw him on Tuesday evening, he was in such poor condition that I was preparing myself for the worst. He's doing better today, although he's still in bad shape, but today's report from the doctor indicates that his health is moving in the right direction. I'm hoping that I can bring him home this weekend. So everyone please think good thoughts about my cat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I still can't believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to the Super Bowl. I've waited ten years to see them go all the way, since they played the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX and lost. But ten years ago the NFC was the tougher conference and the Steelers had squeaked by the Indianapolis Colts to get to the championship. This time around, the AFC is the better conference, though that doesn't necessarily mean anything. The Steelers are hot right now, having won seven straight games and beaten the top three seeds in the AFC on the road to get to the Super Bowl. I hope that the two-week layoff and all the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl doesn't do anything to blunt their effectiveness. They're playing an excellent Seattle team, with a coach who's been to two championships before and won one. But I'm cautiously optimistic about the Steelers' chances in the Super Bowl.

At least it should be a good party this year: I'm hosting it. The past two years the party has been in Brooklyn at James' place and we've had a great time, but with my new big TV and my team in the game I'm having the party at my place. I'll have to get some Steelers decorations, I might have to track down some Iron City beer, and we toyed with the idea of serving something resembling a Primanti Bros. sandwich. Instead, we'll stick to chili, nachos or dagwoods, and I'll wear the same clothes and follow the same pregame rituals as the past two weeks. I'm not superstitious, but I'm also not messing with success.

Near the end of today's game, I searched in vain for a cassette of Steelers fight songs that my mom sent me the last time the Steelers went to the Super Bowl. When I couldn't find it, I went to the Internet, where I easily found a site where I could get the "Steelers Polka" and a variety of other Steelers songs. The polka's lyrics are from the 1970s, but it's still the best of the many Steeler songs out there. I also like the 2005 version of "Here We Go Steelers," where the writer tries to find rhymes for "Roethlisberger" and work in the names of all the teams offensive and defensive stars. But it's better than the "Super Bowl Shuffle."

The highs and lows of entertainment

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the Metropolitan Opera's season premiere of Mozart's Die Zauberflote, directed by Julie Taymor (who directed The Lion King on Broadway, among other things). The production was amazing -- it had puppets, a revolving stage, and set design the likes of which I've never seen before. Musically the show was equally impressive. Papageno, Sarastro, and the Queen of the Night were all fantastic singers and actors. I've now see five operas at the Met, and this one was by far my favorite. It's also the last one I'm likely to see for a while, as it was the final production in my four-opera subscription and I'm not sure I'll renew it for next season. But it was a fantastic way to go out if it has to be the last one.

Later that evening, I met a group of friends for a showing of Underworld: Evolution. The outing was organized as a way to help one of our friends through a rough time in his life. I figured I'd go along and see if I could pick up any residual support that he didn't need. I hadn't seen the first Underworld, so I watched it on Friday night. It looked cool, but it seemed to be vampires and werewolves mixed with The Matrix. But at least I had some idea what the sequel would be about. The group convened at the theater at the appointed time, but there was no sign of the friend who had proposed this movie in the first place. As none of the rest of us were not Underworld fans, we were particularly concerned that the guest of honor would miss his own event. Sure enough, when we dialed his home number, he was still there, out of touch due to technical issues on his end, and clearly not going to make it to the theater in time. So, stalwart ticket-holders and movie-goers all, we resolved to see the movie anyway in spite of his absence.

I fully understand why the studio didn't screen it for critics. It wasn't a complete mess, but anyone who hadn't seen the first film would have no idea what was going on in the sequel. Fight sequences seemed to have been inserted at random, the love story is completely unbelievable, and the story is barely comprehensible. Derek Jacobi plays some sort of immortal, though whether he was a vampire, a werewolf, or something else entirely was left unexplained. I think he must have needed the money, because I can't understand how or why an actor of his stature was in this thing. Kate Beckinsale was easy on the eyes, and at least she wasn't doing her horrible Transylvanian accent from Van Helsing, but otherwise there's not much she can do to help this movie. It doesn't end with a cliffhanger per se, but the ending narration hints at more Underworld movies to come. I think I'll skip the next one. All I know is that I need to see a good movie now to get this claptrap out of my head.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Steeler heart attack

Folks, I was just kidding about the Steelers giving me a heart attack. As we all know, it's only funny until it happens to you. It's still funny, but slightly less so when it happens to someone else. If there were any play from any football game I've seen in the past five years that could possibly give someone a heart attack, it would have to be Jerome Bettis' fumble at the 2-yard line. I was just lucky I didn't choke on my drink on that play.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Pittsburgh Steelers play on

I'm now convinced that I'm going to suffer a heart attack and die while watching a Steeler game. Not anytime soon, I hope, as I think I'm in good physical shape, but eventually, this team's going to kill me. During the 4th quarter of Sunday's playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, when the Steelers had the ball on the Colts' 2-yard line with less than two minutes to go, I turned to James and asked him if next week would be the first AFC championship game under Bill Cowher that the Steelers didn't play at home. A few seconds later, Jerome Bettis fumbled, Nate Harris picked it up, and it looked like a sure victory was about to become defeat. I screamed at the TV, threw my Steelers cap, and nearly choked on my drink. I even wondered if Bettis would come back next season and play again if that fumble ended up as his last play. But the Colts' comeback ended when Mike Vanderjagt missed a field goal that would have tied the game, and the Steelers move on to play the Denver Broncos next week for the conference title and a trip to the Super Bowl. And my heart goes on beating for another week.

Once again, I am forced to consider why I invest so much emotion and energy in football. It's one of those irrational things that I just don't understand, no matter how many times I suffer along with the team. Every season, I say I'm not going to get emotionally involved, but I let it happen every year anyway. If this were a relationship with a woman, I'd break up with her. But the Steelers are different, and I think I'm comfortable with that. One thing is different this season: with so many other larger issues on my mind, whatever happens with my team seems much less consequential than in previous years. I'm just going to continue to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

my new TV

I got my new TV on Sunday. It's a 27-inch standard definition TV (no HD for me yet), and it fits perfectly in my old Ikea entertainment center. It's not "new" new, but it's new to me. My father got it from his office several years ago, and it languished in a corner of his house during that time. He already had a big CRT at home, so he didn't need a second one. But he wouldn't let my stepmother throw away the spare, which I appreciated, as I had a sudden need for a new TV. James and I went to my dad's house this weekend and brought back the TV along with some other things my father had been storing for me for many years. Once we'd hauled the TV up two flights of stairs and I heaved it into place, at last I was able to enjoy TV as it's supposed to be in that entertainment center and in my living room. My old TV was fine, but it was a 20-inch screen, too small for the room it's in. This TV is the perfect size for the room. The Steelers-Bengals game looked spectacular on it, as have the rest of my usual shows. I watched a few minutes of a Star Wars DVD on it last night, and that looked so good I might have to curtail my practice of watching effects-laden movies on my computer instead of the TV (the PC monitor has better resolution that the TV). My only regret is that I didn't get this TV from him two years ago when I first moved to this apartment. Because I'm planning to replace my entire home entertainment system with HD components in a year or two (probably two). I'm waiting for flat-panel prices to fall even further, below $1000 for a 32-inch TV if possible. I'll also need to get a surround-sound audio system at that point, a HD DVD player (in whichever format wins the coming war), and a new low table or entertainment center to hold everything. I'm also thinking about how I'm going to pay for everything, as even in 2008 I'm looking at spending $2000 or more for everything. Maybe another book project? Or possibly a little white-collar crime, not the kind that would get me thrown into a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Raise your hand if you're NOT sick

I've got a cold. I might have gotten it from some friends, who were both sick when we toured the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Or from any one of dozens of sick, coughing, sneezing kids nipping about my ankles and touching the same exhibits I was touching (the sign "touch here to feel the dinosaur bone" was clearly an invitation to all manner of horrible diseases). Or I might have gotten it from someone at work. Everyone I know is either sick now or has been sick in the past two weeks. People on the subways are coughing and sneezing all over. Some people I know got sick, got better, and are now sick again. I'm feeling better today than I did yesterday, so I think I've seen the worst of this virus. I feel well enough right now that I'm enjoying my first cup of coffee since Monday morning, and for those who know what a coffee freak I am, that's an eternity. But if this round of colds is an indication of what this winter's flu season will look like, I can't wait to see what happens when the bird flu arrives.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Larry David on Brokeback Mountain

The creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm writes in Sunday's New York Times about the gay cowboy movie. The ending made me laugh out loud.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's resolutions

Last night's party turned out to be a better time than I expected, although I was a little tired from spending most of the day at the natural history museum. My peanut butter rice krispie treats with butterscotch topping were a hit, as they were all gone by the time I left. I was trying to recreate a recipe that I lost many years ago. When I left Georgetown, a co-worker gave me some of these rice krispie treats and then the recipe, which I promptly lost. My version came close to his, but I missed something or did something wrong. At least mine were good, and apparently popular, so I've got something to shoot for with the next batch.

When someone asked me last night what my New Year's resolution was, I panicked and said "get to work on time." It's not bad, but it's hardly the life-altering resolution I'd want for 2006. Besides, that was my resolution for 2005 and it worked out well. My real resolution for 2006 is to be more optimistic. I could be negative about many things in my life in the coming year, but it's not going to do me much good if I dwell on the bad stuff. There are also many ways to look positively at the same changes, and enjoy what's good about my situation. So that's what I'm going to try to do. 2006 will be a difficult year, no question, but if I try to be optimistic it can also be fun and exciting. I've got a clean slate this year, and that's a good thing.