Friday, November 30, 2007

My daemon(s)


Zyrxy is his name. Modest, shy, fickle, assertive, and softly spoken. He's a lion, in case he doesn't prance out there for you. I took the quiz twice, and the other time I got an Ocelot... also with the description modest, shy, fickle, assertive and softly spoken. His name was Pyrrheus. I guess my soul is a big wild cat, with a cool name, in either case.

I just started the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Subtle Knife). With the Church all riled up over it, how could I resist? MrB just started The Golden Compass, and I want him to finish it before we see it on the big screen (hope it's still playing in the theaters by then... HINT HINT MrB... not rushing you... much)

Click on the graphic to visit the movie site and get your own daemon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Purrsday Night - Legs: He knows how to use them, Part One


Jax is a leg man. This is Week 1 of Jax's Leg Gallery. (and I'm sure Henry will interject here and there, if only to put his foot down)

Tags and links: Friday Ark - Carnival of the Cats - This week's carnival is at This That and the Other Thing on Sunday - -

robertplantalisonkrauss.com

robertplantalisonkrauss.com

Well, there's a URL I'll bet none of us thought we'd ever see! I've really been enjoying this best-selling album, and that's another rarity. I love them both separately, but when they go together it really leaps out of the box -- and when it doesn't leap, it just purrs.



I'm pretty fussy about celebrity duets. Sometimes I think they are painful to hear, even if I really like both people (I won't mention any names, that always riles people up and makes them want to fling me a lighted poop bomb) but it's more like their voices are battling each other for dominance -- and that's not harmony. Like fighting cats, it makes me want to separate them. This pairing is sooo not like that. If you haven't already heard it playing in all the stores you visit, have more of a listen at these Raising Sand links:
Official website
MySpace

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yardblogging


Working like a fiend this week, got some stuff I want to post but will have to wait until I get a break. In the meantime, enjoy this pic from the backyard. It's a late Autumn bloomer called Copper Canyon Daisy, and there's a pretty good patch of it back there now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bear Bullies

[LINK] Teacher arrested for letting children name a teddy bear "Muhammad". She could be punished with 40 lashes or six months in jail. You can't make up this crazy crap.

(I am confused. Why is it that people can be named Muhammad but not stuffed bears? If your name is Muhammad, don't you have to write that name on things from time to time?)

EDIT Dec 8: The saga continues.

Aahhh! Life in a theocracy. And we both know it gets much worse than this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

1 turkey, some cream, and a few crazy crackers

The long holiday is over and we kept it low-key -- not-food-oriented at all -- mostly movie-oriented. The weather was rainy and chilly and made my nose run, so we nixed the late-night stuff like music clubs. (a glass of wine and a couple of benedryls make an excellent sleeping aid).

Thursday we went to the new Alamo Drafthouse downtown at the Ritz (had pizza and beer for Thanksgiving) and saw No Country For Old Men, which is very, very intense. I was white-knuckled holding the armrests. Recommended. It's a modern-day Western (set in the 80s, but close enough to modern), the characters are interesting, and the movie will stir up discussions afterward over the ending.

[This paragraph contains a spoiler for the movie "Performance". That's your spoiler alert]
Friday we settled in with DVDs, starting with Stoned. I was interested in this one because of being a Stones fan, and especially of the group's founder, Brian Jones. First of all, not a good movie. The acting is marginal, there wasn't Rolling Stones music in it, and resemblances to the real characters are not good enough. The portrayals of the rest of the band are completely flat and forgettable (tell me that Mick Jagger or Keith Richards in the 60s can be forgettable, or Anita Pallenberg), and the main character is not good-looking enough to be Brian and didn't look like him... but... I will say this... the wardrobe dept. was perfect! They had his clothes down to a "T". Brian's story needs to be better told, probably in a documentary with a good filmmaker. It's a good story. One thing that struck a chord with me about Brian's story is the coincidental parallels between Brian's story and the one told in the movie Performance, which starred Mick Jagger and Brian's main love of his life, Anita Pallenberg: aging (and/or) retired (and/or) out-of-it rock god has life invaded by non-rockstar guy, who envies (and/or) resents (and/or) hates (and/or) want-to-be-him-but-can't so he ends up killing him. Performance is rather surrealistic, but I imagine that Brian's world was too. (I am not putting down Performance. In fact, I love that movie AND the music in it.)

Next was a documentary about local music phenom Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators) called You're Gonna Miss Me. Roky has sufffered over the years from schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness, but that's not what makes you want to tear your hair out when watching this... it's his mother. Bad crazy, dysfunctional, OMFG it's a wonder any of those kids turned out sane -- and they did -- just not Roky. You can't blame drugs alone for real mental illness, and the fact that she didn't believe in giving him his prescribed drugs (she told the court she thought yoga would be more helpful, and... it gets worse!! much worse) -- between nature, nurture and other factors the whole thing was a trainwreck. If you are looking for a pair of flicks on flipped out Austin musicians, pick up this one along with The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Both are really good films and will make you shudder at the crap that real people go through and put their loved ones through, whether intentionally or not.

Saturday we opted to stay in again with a hobbitty fire, cozy blankies and kitties, and watch one of our extended disks of Lord of The Rings. These things are long and require a time commitment. Always a pleasure and I never get tired of them.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Spare change?

[LINK] "Sadly, you have to mix at a certain level of people to raise the level of funds you need to bring about the greater good, because people are very snobby. These people who have lots of money, they're either snobby or they're stingy. If you have lots of money, you have to be stingy — because why would you want that amount of money?" -- Heather Mills McCartney

Not catty remarks made at a cocktail party, this was part of a speech delivered at Trinity College Dublin.

Ms. MM said that rich people are misers and snobs, and that she was reluctantly obliged to befriend the world's wealthy because that was the only way to maximize her power as an agent for change.

Apparently quite a bit of "change" will be needed, as she is trying to get from Paul twice the amount he's offered her in the settlement. He has offered $50 million, according to the British press.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Purrsday Night and Black Friday


Henry would like to remind you that it's Snuggle Time, in fact, it's half-past Snuggle Time, so come a little closer... prrrrrrr... and Jax just wants to mention that if you are going out for "Black Friday" in the shops, don't forget about him. (pssst... he likes flannel... and food).

Speaking of two cats, and we always are around this place, here is a really funny vid featuring a couple of talkers. I just it found via Cute Overload.


Tags and links: Friday Ark - Carnival of the Cats - This week's carnival is at This That and the Other Thing - -

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Non-traditional traditions

I am not one who enjoys following traditions, not other people's anyway. For Thanksgiving, it is traditional to get together with family (maybe travel), eat a HUUUUGE meal consisting of lots of turkey, gravy, stuffing, pies, mashed potatoes, and drinks (hard or soft, depending on the prevailing religion). Then, it's customary to sit on the couch, watch football, fall asleep, take a little walk, eat some more turkey, gravy, stuffing, pies, mashed potatoes, and drinks, then maybe go out to the movies in a group. Friday starts the big power-shopping push as the stores open at 5 a.m. (these days, some retailers are starting it on Thursday). If the house is not already decorated for Christmas, then it's time to do that.

My own family gatherings growing up were highly dysfunctional, unpleasant and weird in a bad way (but not as bad a Christmas). Spending the holiday with in-laws or other people's families was usually very much like the above, pretty forgettable, except for MrB's brother-in-law's brother was a realtor, and after we'd all had some wine (except for him), he'd pile us in the van and go lookie-loos around some vacant houses. The wine would go with with us (yeah, we bad), and it was a lot of fun, especially looking at those really pricey places.

Now we don't live close to either of our families, so we can do whatever the hell we want, especially since we can't afford travel anyway. I prefer not to do any cooking, so we go out. The Alamo Drafthouse is where we go (this time it will be the new Ritz location). Dinner and a movie all in one, they do the cooking and cleaning and serving. We are vegetarians and they have lots of food we can eat, lots of good beers too... coffee, whatever. If you must insist on the bird, they have all that stuff on the menu for T-day too. So the Alamo is part of our new tradition. There is lots of music in the clubs, as always, and we will take in some of that. Friday we will go to Waterloo Records and get our copy of KGSR's new Broadcasts CD (it's a tradition!). I'm sure that DVDs will be rented as well.

What are you doing this weekend?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I must be missing something.

[NEWS LINK] I understand that the previous owner of this cat along with 27 other seized cats is going to be undergoing psychological counseling and promising not to bring any more animals into her home.

What I don't understand is the judge allowing this woman to continue to keep 3 of the cats in her "care".
Video shot by the Austin Police Department showed signs of animal cruelty and malnourishment. The animals were living without proper food, water, shelter and medical care. One cat was found dead in upstairs closet, autopsies at Town Lake Animal Center later revealed that it had been dead for several months.

I just sent a small donation (about all I can spare) to the Humane Society of Austin, it's going to be tough and $$$ for them to handle that many new cats. This Humane Society is no-kill. Town Lake Animal Center, where they were originally taken, is a kill shelter. I know that even 3 more cats would be an impossible burden on the Humane Society, but I don't know how to excuse the judge allowing them to be left in the possession of a proven abuser.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Inflatable Jesus. Sheep included.


We were at Home Depot buying a new toilet and saw this irresistable manger scene. Now, Home Depot is one of the "naughty" places on the list mentioned earlier. Here's the sin:
Home Depot: Web site: Everything is red and green, but its the Holiday Gift Center, Holiday Decorations, Home for the Holidays, Artificial Trees, not Christmas trees. No mention of Christmas.

Well, they must be trying to get back on somebody's good side with this offering. But look at the face of baby Jesus! Who drew that? The South Park people? Is that a beard? I would have expected more from someone who came up with a sheep as cute as this. -------->

If the Wise Men showed up at this, they probably brought Beef Jerky, Velveeta, and a pack of Marlboros.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nickel Creek, Farewell (For Now)

Listen in the background: Full concert streamed via NPR -- Live from Washington D.C.

The big event this weekend was the Nickel Creek show at Stubb's. My favorite band since early 2001. Last summer they issued an announcement that the band would break up at the end of 2007, so here it is. They had just 3 shows to do after Stubb's -- 2 at the Ryman in Nashville. For the breakup they went with a scheduled demolition instead of letting attrition wear them down -- possibly postponing the inevitable for years -- hanging on for way too long like those last seasons of The X-Files. I was really bummed about it at first, and although I still feel sad, I can see that it's necessary. These guys have been in a band together since a couple of them were 8 and the other 12. They spent 18 years in that band... they've grown up and are growing out. It happens.

It was a fantastic show, and one of the highlights was that our young friend Sarah Jarosz was called up onto the stage during the last encore (she was in the crowd and had to be lifted up over the rail to the stage), so that she even got to take the final final bow with the band!! We met her and her parents waiting in the Nickel Creek line a few years ago. Her dad told us later that although she has shared the stage with Chris Thile a lot (along with every other mandolin god you can think of and a few fiddle, guitar, and songwriter gods as well -- see the pics on her MySpace at the link) (I took one of those shots!), she had never gotten to play on stage with Nickel Creek before. It was AWESOME! I think she is about 16 by now, maybe 17? Not sure. They are really nice people. In fact, all the NC hard-core fans I've met are extremely nice folks. Most of the ones we've met are also musicians. Maybe being in Austin has something to do with that (seems like most people I meet are either musicians or photographers... guitar-playing photographers)

NC has called this last tour "Farewell (For Now)", and I really hope that if they ever do get back together as a band for touring or recording, it will be because of the music, and not just because they need money. I realize that it's a livelihood and everybody's gotta make a living and all, but as sad as the breakup is -- if they get back together just for money and not passion for the music, that situation will be a lot sadder.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nice long list of naughties

Pam's House Blend has posted about the "One News Network's" list of stores that they view as participating in The War on Christmas by not openly mentioning the word Christmas in their store advertising (calls them "naughty") ONN Source here.

I find it interesting that all these nuts who think they are fighting The War on The War on Christmas really DO seem to think that the true meaning of it is all about shopping, otherwise why would they care WHAT retailers are doing!?! They want to make laws to force retail stores to commit to a certain religion? [fascists]

I am glad that there is such a long list of major chains who have at least stopped promoting a particular religion. That doesn't mean I will shop at them any more than usual. I do pick up an item here and there but really prefer buying local or second-hand. And if I see the word "Christmas" emblazoned on any store's display or advertising, it will definitely keep me out of there.

I have a theory that we are reaching a tipping point in this holiday shopping frenzy. Even people I know who are christians and loooove christmas are getting sick and tired of the shopping push being so extreme and starting earlier and earlier every year. I saw full rows of xmas decorations in Target in mid-October!! I remember that even 20 years ago things were not this bad, and xmas didn't go into full swing until Thanksgiving at the earliest... [full Old Blevins boring you on a barstool mode on] and when I was a kid... back when 'toys" consisted of a tin can found at the dump and some old pieces of rope... and you didn't put up your crappy silver foil tree until Christmas Eve. [/Old Blevins off]

I have my own personal War on Christmas Depression. Is there a christmas-free planet? Can I move there for a couple of months?

Song "Old Blevins" from The Austin Lounge Lizards

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Purrsday Night - Swheat Treats


This is Jax. Jax loves to eat. This has given him a big round belly. He thinks his belly is delicious and keeps the hair licked off of it. He is always hungry.

Here he is, begging to be let onto the screened porch where there have been delicious lizards lurking. He's not allowed to pounce lizards or any other thing that's still alive.

"Mmmmmmmm.... tasty crunchy lizards..."

Recently we have been attempting to switch our cat litter from evil clumping clay over to something less dusty and less chemical. Our tabby cat, Henry, has mild asthma so we are trying to improve things for him. We tried the Feline Pine but is was really a big texture difference (they wouldn't use it), so we tried the Swheat Scoop. It's made out of wheat, and not sure what else. So lately, I have been catching Jax trying to eat the Swheat! I think he has eaten some of it (clean litter, not used!!). I called Swheat, and they said that sometimes the cat will eat it for a few days, but it won't swell in their bellies or hurt them. I am always skeptical, and this guy doesn't need a bigger belly, we know that. I've read some things about the corn litter, and sometimes the cats will eat that too.

We just need a cat litter that is non-toxic, non-dusty, good for the environment, organic and hopefully not delicious. Maybe it's low-calorie. It's definitely high in fiber!


Tags and links: Friday Ark - Carnival of the Cats - This week's carnival is at Pet's Garden Blog - - -

Egg heads

[LINK] A group in Colorado is trying to get fertilized eggs classified as "people".

Would this mean that:

  1. these folks will not only be born again, but born 3 times?
  2. Jesus's birthday will have to changed to make Christmas come in March?
  3. the picture to the right is now that of a "chicken"?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Most common reaction: Who??

OK, boys and girls, men and women, here's the link for People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive 2007 in case you need to see the pics. I guess I definitely need to be watching more crap TV or chick-flicks or something, because I drew a blank on lots of the names.
  1. Matt Damon. I've said many times that Matt would never get this little honor, just because his Ocean's 11-12-13 cast buddies (many of whom have won it... some more than once) keep teasing him about it. A little young for me but I do love him as Bourne.
  2. Patrick Dempsey. Can't remember if he's McDreamy or McSteamy or McRib, don't watch Grey's Anatomy, but McDreamy and McSteamy are both on my list of Most Annoying Pop Culture Words.
  3. Ryan Reynolds. Not familiar with this guy.
  4. Brad Pitt. Ryan Reynolds must be puffing his chest out a bit to have edged out Brad Pitt. Brad has definitely got it, but I don't drool over him unless he's Achilles.
  5. James McAvoy. Don't remember seeing him in anything, but if he has a Scottish accent it's a definite plus. Actually, it's almost enough by itself. Just talk, I don't care what you look like.
  6. Johnny Depp. My choice. Every year. Impossibly good looking and unconceited. prrrr.
  7. Dave Annable. Another one I don't know.
  8. Will Smith. Love Will, he's adorable and a good actor. I will see him in almost anything.
  9. Javier Bardem. Don't know him yet, but will be seeing him in No Country For Old Men.
  10. Shemar Moore. Another blank on my pop culture radar.
  11. Ben Affleck. Makes a comeback after the whole Bennifer effect wears off. Really not appealing to me though.
  12. Adrian Grenier. Don't know who he is. Cute kid, nice hair. Too young for me to take a glance at, with exception to the age rule made for Legolas in LOTR... but then Legolas is not young, he's a couple of thousand years old at least, right? Riiiight.
  13. Will Yun Lee. Another blank here.
  14. Justin Timberlake. Yeah, I can see this one. Not really my type though. A bit young.

My list would be Johnny Depp, plus a few old coots like Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Harrison Ford, Peter Coyote, Michael York (in the 60s), Mick Jagger, and some not so old like Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale, Clive Owen, Naveen Andrews, Liam Neeson (has he achieved cootdom yet?). Bruce Willis and George Clooney are edging on there too. Clooney... I just like HIM, it doesn't matter what he looks like.

So what's it about? Smile? Hair? Butt? Abs? Eyes? Personality? Humor?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Davidson got political in his Sunday talk*, (ALWAYS delightful) which was titled "Our Soldiers: Armed Corporate Mercenaries?" With a title like that, and it being Davidson, you know it's going to be volatile and controversial. He cried near the end of this one, and so did I. So did a good number of people listening.

He quotes heavily from the books of John Perkins, who used to be a part of the mechanism of Corporate world domination, and decided to write about it rather than take his secrets to his grave as so many do who are involved in "black" political/business affairs. I have read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and found it to be fascinating. Here are links to the books referenced in the talk, the text of which follows:
The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Bakan)
Confessions of an Ecomomic Hit Man (Perkins)
A Game as Old as Empire (Perkins, Hiatt)
The Secret History of the American Empire (Perkins)

Our Soldiers: Armed Corporate Mercenaries? This contentious sermon title was inspired by the words of a remarkable soldier of 75 years ago. A Marine Corps General named Smedley Butler, he was one of only seven men ever to win the Medal of Honor twice, and one of only two to win it for two different occasions (the other five were given two medals for the same action – the feeling being that they were exceptionally courageous. After WWI the rules were changes, so that the Medal of Honor could be awarded only once per soldier. So General Smedley Butler will forever be one of only two men who were awarded the Medal of Honor on two separate occasions.) I’ve read that he was one of the most respected veterans by other soldiers, which was partly due to his courage both on and off the battlefield. It’s his courage off the battlefield that interests me today. On August 21, 1931, General Butler stunned an audience at an American Legion convention in Connecticut when he had said:

“I spent 33 years... being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism... “I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1916. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City [Bank] boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street... “In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. I had... a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotions... I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three cities. The Marines operated on three continents.” (Joel Bakan, The Corporation, p. 93)

Now I’m a veteran of the Vietnam War, and I would never want to think of myself as a corporate mercenary. Our dangerous private army of Blackwater today has plenty of people who seem proud to be corporate mercenaries in Iraq, but I suspect nearly all of our real soldiers would be appalled at the idea, as I would be.

Still, General Butler certainly didn’t hate soldiers, and he didn’t hate America. In a story we should all have learned in school but didn’t, he was approached in 1934 by a messenger from a consortium of wealthy men, offered a suitcase full of $1,000 bills as a down payment if he would assemble an army, take over the White House, and install himself as America’s first fascist dictator. Instead, he went before Congress to tell the story. That testimony was filmed, and I’ve watched part of it. He was a genuine American hero. Yet in spite of his public testimony, the group of wealthy corporate men were powerful enough that not even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt could have them prosecuted, and influential enough that as far as I know, the story has been kept out of history texts for all high school and almost all college courses, to this day. So maybe there is something to what he said. A second person whose writing has both irritated and persuaded me is John Perkins. I read his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man two years ago, and it made me feel like I’d been a naïve and gullible child for decades — though I also thought he had eagerly worked at a slimy job only a sociopath could love, for a whole decade. But he too talked about how our soldiers are routinely used as pawns of some of our most powerful corporate and political interests in a game of American Empire, against the high ideals for which our country supposedly stands.

So on this Veterans Day, I want to take our soldiers seriously enough to explore this story of American empire, the role soldiers have been used to play in it, and the role we all play in it. The hope is that the truth can help make us more free, though I have no idea how, in the real world, to change a story that’s been part of us for so long. Our country was begun by the Puritans as a nation chosen by God with a “manifest destiny” to rule the world. John Winthrop used the concept of “manifest destiny,” without using the specific words, in his 1630 speech “A Model of Christian Charity,” written while aboard the flagship Arbella on his way to this country. His phrasing was that we shall be “as a city on a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us.” Carried in this was the belief that God had set us apart and above others. The phrase “manifest destiny” wasn’t coined until 1839 by John L. O’Sullivan, but the seeds of the concept go back to our very beginnings. So the dream of a worldwide empire – and a Christian empire – goes back nearly four hundred years. Eventually, such a dream would have to require soldiers as the weapons and as the cost. As Gen. Smedley Butler said, war is a racket in which the profits are counted in dollars and the losses are counted in lives.

The Monroe Doctrine of 1823, was used to take Manifest Destiny a step further when, in the 1850s and 1860s, it was used to assert that the US had special rights all over the hemisphere, including the right to use our soldiers to invade any nation in Central or South America that refused to back our economic demands – usually referred to as our “vital interests.” President Theodore Roosevelt invoked the Monroe Doctrine to justify US intervention in the Dominican Republic, in Venezuela, and stealing Panama from Colombia. A string of subsequent US presidents relied on it to expand Washington’s Pan-American activities through the end of WWII. And during the latter half of the 20th century, the US used the Communist threat to claim the right of invading countries around the world, including Vietnam and Indonesia. (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. 61)

The 20th century was fueled by oil, as this one still is. As our own oil fields began running out, we became dependent on Middle Eastern oil. But since we needed it, we believed — as we always have — that we had a right to it. This bi-partisan greed was stated very dramatically by President Jimmy Carter in his 1980 State of the Union address, when he said, “Let our position be absolutely clear. An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” Although he referred to “outside force,” the policy has equally applied to actors within the Middle East itself – as was seen in the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq invasion of 2003 – and it is playing out now in the crisis over Iran. (A Game as Old as Empire, p. 140) These are insights and patterns from John Perkins, who is for me the most important and readable author for understanding how our American empire works, what’s going on behind the scenes, and the role our soldiers are assigned in the grand scheme. Perkins worked for a decade as one of a group of people known among themselves as Economic Hit Men. Here’s what he says about them, and I’ll quote him because some of his persuasiveness comes from his confessional (and arrogant) style:

“We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to [those who run] our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. “Like our counterparts in the Mafia, we provide favors [to those whose cooperation we are buying]. (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. xvii) “However – and this is a very large caveat – if we fail, an even more sinister breed steps in, ones we refer to as the jackals (professional assassins). The jackals are always there, lurking in the shadows. When they emerge, heads of state are overthrown or die in violent “accidents.” And if by chance the jackals fail, as they failed in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq, then young Americans are sent in to kill and to die. (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. xxi) Perkins says they channeled funds from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and their sister organizations into schemes that appeared to empower developing countries and serve the poor while primarily benefiting a few wealthy people. They would identify a developing country that had resources our corporations wanted (such as oil), arrange a huge loan for that country, and then direct most of the money to our own engineering and construction companies – and a few collaborators in the developing country. Infrastructure projects, such as power plants, airports, and industrial parks, sprang up; however, they seldom helped the poor, who were not connected to electrical grids, never used airports, and lacked the skills required for employment in industrial parks. (The Secret History of the American Empire, p. 3)

“At some point we returned to the indebted country and demanded our pound of flesh: cheap oil, votes on critical United Nations issues, or troops to support ours someplace in the world, like Iraq.” (The Secret History of the American Empire, p. 3) The loans were used as a tool for enslaving these countries, not empowering them. If they wouldn’t bite at the bait of loans, jackals – assassins – were sent into replace uncooperative leaders with cooperative ones. And as Perkins says, world leaders understand that whenever other measures fail, the military will step in — as it did in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. (The Secret History of the American Empire, p. 5) The most dramatic instance of this before our two invasions of Iraq happened in Panama, a story that seems not to have been covered or understood very well.

We had trained General Manuel Noriega at our School of the Americas, in the methods of terror and violence, so we saw him as an easy mark. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter had signed a treaty with Panama giving control back to the Panamanians after 1999 as originally agreed. And when Noriega became president of Panama, he refused to bow to Reagan administration demands that the Panama Canal Treaty be renegotiated giving the US control. Instead, Noreiga negotiated with Japanese to see about rebuilding the canal with Japanese money. This was, of course, their legal right. But it would frustrate our dream of empire — the dream to which we’ve felt so singularly entitled. So on December 20, 1989, the first President Bush had our soldiers attack Panama with what was reported to be the largest airborne assault on a city since WWII. It was an unprovoked attack on a civilian population which killed between 2,000 and 3,000, and injured an estimated 25,000. Panama and her people posed absolutely no threat to the US or to any other country. Politicians, governments, and press around the world denounced the unilateral US action as a clear violation of international law. (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, pp. 175-176) We even kidnapped the president of Panama and put him in American jail as our only “prisoner of war” for frustrating our economic ambitions. You can’t make this stuff up. And you can’t spin it around enough times to clean it up. It was illegal, immoral and murderous. We killed people because we wanted to steal from them. In this country, that crime is called “homicide in the commission of a felony.” And in Texas, it’s a capital offense. Our soldiers were used in this invasion, not to serve freedom or democracy, but simply to serve the economic interests that brought great profit to quite a small number of wealthy investors, which is one dimension of our American empire, our “manifest destiny.” Then came our first invasion of Iraq, also done under the first President Bush. Why Iraq? It had nothing to do with 9-11, of course – those lies have all been exposed and aired too often to need repeating.

We know the current Bush administration had talked about wanting to invade Iraq since the first week they were in power in January of 2001. But the West has been trying to grab Iraq’s oil since 1918. Contrary to common public opinion, Iraq is not just about oil. It is also about water and geopolitics. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq; so, of all the countries in that part of the world, Iraq controls the most important sources of increasingly critical water resources. During the 1980s, the importance of water – politically and economically – was becoming obvious to us... (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. 183) Also, Iraq is in a very strategic location. It borders Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, and has a coastline on the Persian Gulf. It is within easy missile-striking distance of both Israel and Russia. Military strategists equate modern Iraq to the Hudson River valley during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. In the eighteenth century, the French, British and Americans knew that whoever controlled the Hudson River valley controlled the continent. Today, it is common knowledge that whoever controls Iraq holds the key to controlling the Middle East. (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. 184)

By the late 1980s, it was apparent that Saddam was not buying into the Economic Hit Man scenario. This was a major frustration and a great embarrassment to the first Bush administration. Like Panama, Iraq contributed to George HW Bush’s wimp image. As Bush searched for a way out, Saddam played into his hands. On 25 July 1990, Saddam invited US Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, to a meeting, and sounded her out about Kuwait. Here’s part of her response, from a transcript of their meeting: “We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60’s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.” (NY Times International, Sunday September 23, 1990, p. 19)

A week later, on August 2nd, Saddam invaded Kuwait. Bush, incredibly, responded with a denunciation of Saddam for violating international law, even though it had been less than a year since Bush himself had staged the illegal and unilateral invasion of Panama. (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. 184) The Economic Hit Men tried to convince Saddam to accept a deal similar to the deal we had made with Saudi Arabia. But Saddam kept refusing. If he had complied, like the Saudis, he would have received our guarantees of protection as well as more US-supplied chemical plants and weapons. When it became obvious that he was entrenched in his independent ways, Washington sent in the jackals. Assassinations of men like Saddam usually have to involve collusion by bodyguards... Saddam understood jackals and their techniques. He had been hired by the CIA in the sixties to assassinate a predecessor, Qasim, and had learned from us, his ally, during the eighties. He screened his men rigorously. He also hired look-alike doubles. His bodyguards were never sure if they were protecting him or an actor. (The Secret History of the American Empire, p. 211) So the first President Bush sent in the US military. At this point the White House did not want to take Saddam out. He was, after all, our type of leader: a strongman who could control his people and act as a deterrent against Iran — as well as controlling the religious factions in Iraq, which we’ve never been able to do. The Pentagon assumed that by destroying his army, they had chastised him; now he would come around. The Economic Hit Men went back to work on him during the nineties. Bill Clinton imposed sanctions to remain in effect until Saddam agreed to US terms of ownership of their oil. Clinton’s sanctions killed an estimated one million Iraqis – half of them children: this remains a completely bipartisan American imperialism. (Many will remember the chilling interview with Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, where she was asked about our sanctions causing the deaths of over half a million children. She said, “We think it’s worth the price.”) But Saddam wouldn’t give control of Iraqi oil to American or other foreign corporations. Assassinations were attempted, and once more they failed. So in 2003, a second President Bush deployed the military. Saddam was deposed and executed. (A Secret History of the American Empire, p. 211)

Then Halliburton, Bechtel and other well-connected corporations got billions of dollars in unbid contracts, just as they had in so many other countries. When this happened, John Perkins finally decided to write his book exposing the game he had once been a part of. Twenty-six publishers refused to touch it. Finally, a small publisher in San Francisco took it. The book was an almost immediate best-seller. Perkins then contacted twelve other people who had worked in the empire game, had them each write a chapter, and brought out a second book called A Game as Old as Empire. Then he wrote a sequel to Confessions of an Economic Hit Man which he brought out this year, under the title A Secret History of the American Empire. I recommend all three books to anyone interested in these issues. Our game of empire always has the same three steps. First, we try to use heavy-handed persuasion — mostly economic — to bring a country’s assets under our control. If that fails, we try to assassinate its leader – a tactic which has worked in many countries for us. If that fails, we send in our soldiers. So this seems to be how our dream of manifest destiny works today, and how both assassins and our soldiers are used not just to make those who run a few US corporations rich — that’s too clean to be realistic — but also to give us the benefits we call the American Way of Life.

See how this picture Perkins draws brings together a lot more data than our mainstream political and news stories, and ties them into a scheme that has a simple clear plot that makes, I think, far more real-world sense than the spin we’ve been fed? It isn’t a picture I’d ever had or wanted, any more than I’d thought of war as a racket or soldiers as pawns. But so many other people are affected, I think we owe it to them, to our soldiers and to ourselves to consider this darker picture and become far better-informed about it.

We are complicit in so many things we don’t want to think about because it feels like it pollutes our life. But then I remember the 4,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, the tens of thousands who have been wounded, and the estimated two million Iraqis we have killed since 1991, in order to take their oil and to start taking control, we hope, of the Middle East and, through controlling the world’s oil supply, to dictate terms to the world. It sounds like a very bad movie script written by very arrogant and immoral people within our government, a script in which our soldiers are being assigned key roles, but not noble roles.

John Perkins goes into many more details in other areas of what our American empire looks like in and to the rest of the world, and I’ll revisit him in two weeks. But war and imperialism, no matter how awful they may be, just aren’t what life is mostly about. Life is mostly about its healthy parts: living, loving, hoping and trusting, making things of meaning and beauty, and learning to enjoy being with one another and giving thanks for being alive. Some of you may know of this story from Will Durant. Durant was the historian whose life work was writing about a dozen-volume “Story of Civilization,” an ultra-ambitious task for one man and his wife. After writing those millions of words, he wrote a 100-page book called The Lessons of History, to sum up the giant set. And late in his life, he was asked to sum up civilization in half an hour. He did it in less than a minute, this way: “Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting, and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry, and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”

We’ve been wading in the river here. Nobody can live that way, and nobody should live that way. It’s being defeated by the tragedies that are often the background against which we are challenged to live our lives. This always reminds me of another story, one I experienced in Vietnam. We had shelled a small hamlet by mistake, taking out about two of the half dozen huts. Driving by a day or two later, we could see some of the damage. In one family the father had been killed, the wife wounded, a young daughter had part of her arm blown off and was wearing bandages covering both eyes. It was heart-wrenching and shameful to us. About three weeks later we drove by those huts again. The thatched roofs had been repaired. And out in the yard were the injured mother, her young son, and her one-armed blind daughter. They were laughing and dancing, playing and singing. Some of us wept bitterly. They were living on the banks; we were caught in the river. The challenge of life is to know the river, but not to let it poison our life on the banks. So next week, for Thanksgiving, Dina and I will each share a homily, and I’ll share some very optimistic, hands-on, actual real-world things we can do in a lot of different ways to help those serving the high ideals we prefer.

For now, thank you again for your service, veterans. And something more. I know that when you served, you believed, as I also did, that we really were serving high ideals and noble causes, not just imperialistic greed and sociopathic empire-building. It may seem hard to fathom, but as a combat photographer and Press Officer in Vietnam forty years ago, I believed what I was told. I attended briefings by General Westmoreland, and thought I had heard the word straight from the top. I believed we were there to serve high ideals, though the violence and blood confused and eventually kind of paralyzed me. Most of us believed what we were told. It’s how we served with pride and integrity. It was those high ideals and noble causes that made our service memorable to us — sometimes even sacred, as mine was to me. And I believe, as I think you do, that if we can find a way to convert our nation back to high and noble ideals, it can transform our nation’s soul back to something noble, perhaps even sacred. [Source Link]

*I referred to it as a "talk". It's actually a sermon. Yessss. I'm a church-going atheist, a UU, described by the following sentence on their website:
"Unitarian Universalists include people who identify as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and others. As there is no official Unitarian Universalist creed, Unitarian Universalists are free to search for truth on many paths".
Mostly, I go to hear Davidson.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Silly Sighting

Someone riding a bicycle while holding a chainsaw.

Hmmmm... hope it was not a gas-powered chainsaw because using it would negate all the eco-benefits of riding the bicycle... and then some.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Roots. Hillbillies part 1.


This is a picture of my Great-Uncle and Great-Aunt. They have been dead for about 20 years now and lived to be pretty old. His name was Otis, always pronounced "OUGHT-iss", and his nickname was "Tater". He was a hard-core Pentacostal fundamentalist... one of those folks who wouldn't go to the doctor... he'd just trust God to heal him up. He broke his leg and didn't go to the doctor. He'd walk near a beehive and let bees sting him all over his body... praying the whole time... ended up scarred and limping but that was OK by him. He'd take his Bible and go down to the main drag in the college town, and he'd preach fire and brimstone right there on the sidewalk. It was amusing to most people, but not to me because he was related to me. Nobody can embarrass you like family. Otis was the brother of my grandfather, Arch, and they were from rural Mississippi. There were 10 siblings in my grandfather's family -- 9 boys and 1 girl.

His wife, Hester (who always went by the nickname "Hess"), was the first cousin of Arch's wife Cora (my grandmother, who went by her middle name, Lee) -- so Hess was related to me in two ways -- one of those hillbilly titles, Aunt-Cousin. Hess and Lee were from rural Oklahoma. Aunt Hess was also a fundamentalist Christian but not as whacked as her husband. She made really good pie.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekend roundup

We're having a really nice weekend, some great music, and getting to visit with people we haven't seen in awhile. The Greencards (who might as well be called "Two Aussies and a Brit" as often as it's used in the media to describe them) were in town on Thursday, playing at the Saxon Pub. Seeing them now is a rare delight since they haven't been playing as much in Austin. We took this video, which is missing the first couple of seconds, but no matter -- it is just some amazing playing! That's Robbie Gjersoe on guitar.

Warren Hood opened for them (with Willie Pipkin, ex-Jug Band), and also sat in with them for a few numbers. He tells us that The Greencards are going to be on the Waybacks record that's being made right now -- and sure enough, if you go to the Waybacks site there are pics of the recording session that includes not only The Greencards but The Infamous Stringdusters as well -- all fueled up with brew and singing at the same time. It must have been a real harmonic convergence. I'm sure it will sound great and not anything like what we used to do at parties when I was in my 20s -- tape ourselves in a big group singing while drunk. Usually not a good idea if you aren't musically talented while sober, the booze only makes you think you sound good. Not the case with these guys, they are top-notch musicians to the last man and woman.

We hung around afterward to visit a little (actually it was about an hour), and also got to say Hi to a few others hanging around that we are more or less acquainted with, like Kara Grainger (another Austin-centric Aussie who we've met a couple of times -- very up-and-coming, you should definitely check her out... think 20-something Bonnie Raitt) and Kevin Connor from ME Television and KUT radio (previously KGSR radio). We have crossed paths with Kevin on quite a few occasions and for many reasons. We also saw lots of people we know at the shows, just big Greencards fans -- mostly ones who go back a few years back like us. An evening of great music, hugs, and rousing conversation.

Friday we were wiped out from going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5 for work, so we recovered that day (we are old, and require more repair time than some of you youngins). Not really soaring with the eagles on Friday.

Saturday evening there was a nice house party at Van Wilks' house. Lots of musicians at that one too, several that we know. It's great to hear the stories, sit around little "campfires" on a nice cool evening, great snacks, good jams on the stage and elsewhere. The stories are always priceless. So another evening of music, hugs and good conversation.

I am still buried in work, and working every day, but making an effort to fit in more personal time. I am turning down work left and right, and it breaks my heart because I really want to do some of these projects, but I've really got to step back for awhile. Life is too important.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Running Behind in Catblogging

Where has the time gone? After a late night we are dragging our tails. Next time we will be caught up and ready to "face" the day.


Tags and links: Friday Ark - Carnival of the Cats - This week's carnival is at Justin's Random Thoughts - -

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I have set several world records in that bathtub.

"I have set several world records in that bathtub". I was going to use that as an "out-of-context" quote, but the context is too interesting. First of all, nice hat, and how do you put it on?

Jackie Bibby calls himself the Texas Snake Man, and he just broke his own World Record by spending 45 minutes in a bathtub with 87 rattlesnakes (previous record: 75 snakes). Not sure why he'd want to break his own record, and my other question is who else is trying for that record.

More crazy crap at the LINK, including this:
Bibby also claims numerous movie, TV and theater credits, playing such roles as Hostage on Plane, Hillbilly, Liquor Store Owner and Irate Bar Patron.

I like this pic below, it has a Mister Bill look (Oh Nooooooo!!!), and wondering if the snakes are intimidated by that belt and buckle.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Waterboardin' USA

Harry Shearer's (SNL, The Simpsons, This is Spinal Tap and more) video has been nominated for an Online Video Award. Maybe it will help enlighten the new AG-designate about the procedure.


Found at Raw Story.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Another Saturday in Austin


My favorite pic from Saturday above, which was one of those perfect Austin days. The weather was perfect, high 70s, warm and pleasant, and dry. We went to the Texas Book Festival to see Joe Ely. Behind me in the picture is the State Capitol of Texas building, a structure that is 15 ft. taller than the Nation's Capitol and the stage is the steps of that building. There it is on the right, with goats on the lawn (thinking about Dubya's "The Pet Goat" and wondering if it was one of the books available at the festival). Not sure why there are goats roaming the lawn of the Capitol during a book festival, but who cares, right?

The perfect day consisted of being able to sit in a nice theatre room in the Capitol to see and hear Joe Ely's multimedia show that surrounds his book/CD "Bonfire of Roadmaps". There's a film and some storytelling as only Joe can do, and some live songs. It was stunning, it was so good. Butch Hancock (his Flatlanders bandmate) was there with his family and sat next to us. The show was held in the same room as, and right after Jenna Bush gave her little book-talk, but we didn't have enough morbid curiousity (or were not bored enough) to show up earlier to see her (I was busy buying a new tea kettle anyway).

Then later in the afternoon, there was great live music on the Capitol steps. Joe has one of the best live shows around. The Book Festival and music show were free, by the way, and so was parking. After the show we had dinner at our favorite Asian place, Koriente, and got home at a decent hour. Right next to the Capitol, at Waterloo Park, there was a big Music Festival going on called Fun, Fun, Fun Fest. We could hear it from the parking garage. I surely do love this town.

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Panned pots

The wok (a Teflon-type) has had the surface eroding for awhile, so after looking into problems that might be associated with that, I ended up flooding my head with cookware paranoia. Teflon... let's see... well, the fumes from heated Teflon have been known to kill birds. WHAT?!?!? Here I was, just worrying about eating the stuff, not breathing it. After an inventory, I realize that most of my daily cookware is Teflon, with a few items in aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, etc., and with Henry recently being diagnosed with asthma it was worrisome.

Well, what about aluminum? I've been eating food cooked in a couple of these old aluminum pots most of my life (durable!!). Aluminum is fine except for the fact that it MIGHT be contributing to the spread of Alzheimer's. AAACK!

Cast iron? Well, that seems to be generally approved as long as you don't mind a little extra iron in your diet, and you don't clean it with soap, and you "season" it properly, and don't let it stand with water in it because iron is good for you but rust isn't.

We've been heating our water for making coffee in the coffee press in this "camping pot", one of those steel things with the blue speckled enamel coating -- but it's had serious hard-water deposits on the inside for a long time. Well duh, I guess you're not supposed to use it every day of your life, stupid!

So I was on a mission to replace everything! That is until I started shopping and realized just how much this could cost. It made me think that maybe my Teflon won't be soooo bad as long as I don't super-heat it and make sure it's in good condition -- so it stays. The wok had to be replaced because of the pitted surface, so I got this great anodized aluminum thing - not so much a wok as a beast of a saucepan. They say that the anodized aluminum does not leach into the food so much, and I believe what the FDA and the corporations tell me (heh heh) so I'm not going to worry about that one. Replaced the camping saucepan with an actual tea kettle -- a beautiful stainless steel whistler. So come on over for coffee and stir-fry. I promise not to overheat the Teflon. Everything will be just fine. Everything will be just fine. Keep repeating...

Friday, November 02, 2007

This Week in the Yard

Beautiful almost solid orange butterfly (called a Dryas Julia) enjoying the end of the Orange Cosmos flowers' season. Lots of butterflies everywhere!

Hollow egg of a House Sparrow. Looks like maybe a predator got this one. There was a hole poked in it and nothing inside. It was just just sitting on the edge of this chimenea until a light breeze blew it down.

Butterflies like these gather on this tree. Must be delicious sap. What good camo, except for that orange spot, which might be good camo too if our leaves were turning...

Not quite good enough for this one though... either that or this "preying" mantis knows where they hang out.

Out-of-context Quote for the Day

"When you're in the zoo business, poo and pee is our bread and butter."

[LINK to story]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Purrsday - Dia De Los Muertos para los gatos


(Please pardon my Spanish, I am relying on Babel-Fish)
The picture above is the resting place of the ashes of our cats who died this year. Duncan passed in April and is represented by the metal Leaf. Alex passed in July, and he has got the fierce-looking lizard which we are going to call a Dragon for his sake. Today was Dia De Los Muertos, The Day of the Dead, and Nov. 2 is All Souls, a Catholic holiday with Pagan roots, but all have basically the same purpose: take time to honor and celebrate those who have died.

I visited MaryAnn Johanson's personal blog (which had been inactive for awhile), to discover that she had just lost her Sam. Sam was ~18, overweight and had been sick for awhile, but it was very sad to hear. Then I went over to Ptelea's blog to read the very sad news that Wiskerz had died. Wiskerz was an "only cat", and I think it is really hard on the surviving human to lose that "only pet". I will never really get over losing my little Jewell, a sweet tabby, who lived to be 14. That was nearly 20 years ago and it still hurts. I'm not one who believes in a "rainbow bridge" or "heaven", or an afterlife in the sense it's usually defined. I believe that what remains of you are the memories and minds of others... plus photos, stories, things that are left behind for the rest of us.


Here's an excellent essay from the NYT about the love of our animal companions, what it's like living without them, and the nature of our bonds and grief.

The Ambivalent Bond With a Ball of Fur
By NATALIE ANGIER
Published: October 2, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, while I was out of town on business, our cat, Cleo, died of liver failure. My husband and daughter buried her in the backyard, not far from the grave of our other cat, Manny, who had died just a few months earlier of mouth cancer.

Cleo was almost 16 years old, she’d been sick, and her death was no surprise. Still, when I returned to a home without cats, without pets of any sort, I was startled by my grief — not so much its intensity as its specificity.

It was very different from the catastrophic grief I’d felt when I was 19 and my father died, and all sense, color and flooring dropped from my days. This was a sorrow of details, of minor rhythms and assumptions that I hadn’t really been aware of until, suddenly, they were disrupted or unmet. Hey, I’m opening the door to the unfinished attic now. Doesn’t a cat want to try dashing inside to roll around in the loose wads of insulation while I yell at it to get out of there?

I’ve just dumped a pile of clean laundry on the bed and I’m starting to fold it. Why aren’t the cats jumping up for a quick sit? Don’t they know everything is still warm?

We expect the bonds between children and parents, or between lovers or close friends, to be fierce and complex, and that makes them easy to understand. We expect the bonds between people and their pets to be simple and innocent, an antidote to human judgment and the fog of human speech, and that can make the bond paradoxically harder to track or explain. How do we feel about the nonhuman animals whose company we crave? We think we know. Our pet is our “best friend,” a “member of the family,” a surrogate child for the adults, in loco parentis for the kids and the best possible pillow for whoever has first dibs.

Pets are growing ever more popular. In 1988, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 56 percent of American households had a pet. By 2006, that figure had climbed to 63 percent, which works out to a national census of 88 million owned cats, 75 million dogs, 16 million birds, 14 million horses, 142 million fish, assorted small mammals and the occasional leopard or Madagascan hissing cockroach.

We love our pets and we love the idea of pets, of reaching beyond the parochial barriers of the human race to commune with other species. When Alex the African gray parrot, renowned for his ability to communicate, do simple arithmetic and describe objects by their color, size, shape and material, died last month of cardiovascular disease at the age of 31, his obituary appeared everywhere, and Irene Pepperberg, the scientist who had trained Alex since 1977, was flooded with condolences.

“Alex touched so many people,” Dr. Pepperberg, a lecturer and research associate at Harvard University, said in a telephone interview. “He broke all preconceived notions of what it means to be a bird brain.” She admitted to feeling devastated. “There’s a parrot-size hole in my life,” she said.

Yet part of the reason Alex’s death attracted so much sympathy, and why Dr. Pepperberg’s grief seems normal rather than excessive, is that Alex, in the public eye, was neither pet nor ordinary parrot. He was Pinocchio, striving to realize his full potential — his humanity. Importantly, Alex didn’t merely nuzzle his affection for Dr. Pepperberg. He had genuine dying words, the fine four-hanky phrase, “I love you.”

By contrast, when Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate who died in August, specified in her will that she was leaving $12 million to her pet dog, Trouble, while stiffing two of her grandchildren, there was scant talk of dogs as best friends. There were hoots, clucks and growls, with one reader on The New York Times Web site advising the grandchildren to “go kill that stupid dog.”

Marc Hauser, professor of psychology at Harvard and author of “Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think,” says ambivalence and tension have long been woven into our feelings about animals. “On the one hand, we feel a connection to other animals and we can’t imagine a world where we’re the only species on the planet,” he said. “On the other hand, we’re always trying to show that we’re not animals. We’re like them, yet we don’t want to be like them.”

Dr. Hauser traces this tension to self-defense. We use animals, and we want to feel justified in using animals. We eat their muscles for meat, flay their hides for shoes and accessories, inject them with experimental vaccines, genetically engineer them into grotesque morphologies to study human diseases. This requires a certain mental distance.

So we adore our pets and lavish time and money on them. Annual pet expenditures in this country have doubled in the last decade and are now more than $40 billion a year. And then we scold ourselves for our foolish fiscal priorities.

We adore our pets and can come to identify with them so deeply that we attribute to them some truly daffy notions, like the radio listener who called in a comment to Colin Allen, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at Indiana University’s Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. “She wanted to tell me about how her cat had very gingerly brought in an injured bird to show her, as though to say, It’s hurt, please take care of it,” Dr. Allen said. “I suggested there might be other interpretations for her cat’s behavior.”

Yes, we love our pets and anthropomorphize them to the point where we think our cat might enjoy wearing the mouse hat Halloween costume now on sale at Petsmart.com. And still we abandon difficult pets, and shelters euthanize some 10 million pets a year.

I understand the ambivalence of the human-animal bond. I loved my cats, and I miss them, but I resent them, too, for showing me what a creature of small habits I am, and for reminding me that even love is not enough. Life, like the laundry, will always cool down.


Tags and links: Friday Ark - Carnival of the Cats - This week's carnival is at CatSynth on Sunday - -