Sunday, March 9, 2008


(Dinah struggles with boredom as I type)

Last night I went in the kitchen, where I have a rolling chair so I can cook without pain, and made myself such a yummy dinner (baked tuna croquettes, garlic mashed potatoes, and crunchy coleslaw) that I wound up starting to eat there, instead of taking it elsewhere. You can do that when you live alone and not feel guilty about it. When I was done, I fell into a reverie, thinking about -- well, stuff that will probably go into a future essay. Anyhow, I was still and silent for a long time.

Dinah, my Domestic Shorthair Wackjob cat, had been asleep in her bolthole in my closet. She woke up and, as is her wont, climbed the cat scratch pedestal next to my bed and gave a wake-up mew. I always answer her when she vocalizes, and she does the same for me; we chat back and forth a fair amount. But I was in my reverie, and although I dimly noticed her meow, I didn't move or make a sound.

She crossed the bed, meowing every second or so, and came to the vantage point in the hall where she can see all of the living room and my study area. No sign of me. Now the tone of her cries changed, with a strong note of concern. I seldom leave the house, and when I do, it sends her into a panic. Had I somehow gotten out the door without her hearing it?

The only place left I could possibly be was the kitchen, so she began trotting that way, chirruping her worries with every footfall. The breakfast bar blocks me from line of sight when I'm sitting on my chair until you come around it into the kitchen proper. I expected to see her skid around the corner, and by this time I was fighting to keep my laughter from exploding out of me. It's not often I can trick Dinah.

Instead, she leaped onto the breakfast bar, sending a couple of items flying onto the counter, a wild expression on her face. She screamed when she saw me, there's no other word for it. I said "Hi", trying to be casual, but of course she could see that was I was laughing. She came over and demanded a head rub. After that, for about half an hour, she stuck pretty close to me. Eventually, however, my temporary disappearance left her short-term memory.

I'm not sure how long the attention span of cats is, when there's no predator instinct activated. And Dinah's would likely be shorter than average, anyhow. She's sharp enough, she just doesn't care a lot about anything outside her catly ken. Not like my Cat of Cats, Alice, whose name I cannot say aloud in front of Dinah because it makes her jealous. Alice was a student of human behavior, and a problem-solver. She was already that way when she came into my life at around age five weeks, so I'm guessing she was born that way. What makes some animals interested in crossing the species barrier, in terms of connection, and others (most, I think) completely uninterested?

Here, I'll ask Dinah. I just said it out loud. Her answer is "weow". Translate that however you wish.


I believe in paying it forward, not to mention bleeding heart generosity. I have loved the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition since it began, and I'm a fan of Oprah Winfrey. So you'd think I'd be set to enjoy Oprah's Big Give™, wouldn't you?

But it's bugging me enough to where I can only watch five minutes of it. I think if you stripped away the ego (all those people on mood elevators raving about how "GOOOOOOD it feels to help the needy"®) and the product placement (I mean, would anybody buy a Ford Edge on their own?), it would be/could be a lesson in community outreach. But it ain't, mah friends©.

I've been worried about Oprah ever since I found out she's a major advocate of The Secret, which I think goes beyond self-empowerment right into blaming the victim. As part of g*d's plan, no less.

My dad used to make a big deal about Carnegie libraries in the numerous small towns we lived in or passed through on our endless migrations when I was a kid. He loved to tell the story of Andrew Carnegie, how he started off with zip-ola, made it big, and gave it all away. I, too, was caught up in the legend until I was around ten, when my mother, in a bad mood one day, snapped at me "Where the hell do you think he got all his money? Screwing over the people who worked shit labor in his steel mills, that's how."

My freshwoman year in college, I had the Marxian view of the labor theory of value explained to me by an enthusiastic pinko professor such that I grokked it utterly. I drove back to my mother's trailer that evening in a fever of excitement. We postponed dinner so I could, using a yellow legal pad and sitting next to her on the couch, explain it to her so she Got It, too. At the end, she wept about the education I was receiving.

So now I'm leery of philanthropy with built-in extraction beforehand, with judgment and strings in its bestowal. It's better than nothing -- government cheese makes decent mac'n'cheese if you know how to flavor it with grilled onions and tomatoes from the garden, Mama taught me that. (The education I got from her was far superior to anything else I've received in this life, you hear that, Mama?) But it's not my mission in life to be someone else's mission.


Having revealed myself as an Oprah Apostate, at least in this instance, I'm nervous about admitting I have utterly fallen for the show Dexter. It is creepy and disturbed -- but incredible writing. It's only being shown on non-cable TV because the writer's strike created a shortage of usable material. For those of you who've not heard of it (and I had not -- I watched the first episode unprepared), the premise is that a boy with an abusive, if not horrific, past named Dexter is adopted by a man who recognizes, as he grows older, that he is irreparably damaged. He cannot feel normal human emotion and connection, and is destined to become a serial killer. The foster father trains the boy how to channel it: Instead of preying on the innocent, he must go find and kill those who are themselves violent murderers. Dexter works for a Florida police department as a blood analyst, which partly meets his need for gore and gives him access to other discovered killers.

Folks, this man is SERIOUSLY fucked up. But, unbelievably, you care about him and his struggle to keep his illness within channels. At least, I did in the past two episodes.

Dinah, with her penchant for slaughtering anything smaller than herself, preferably in a drawn-out and agonizing manner -- Dinah would understand.


letsdance said...

it's a happy day when you have a new post, Maggie.

Blue said...

I won't go near Oprah's show. "This is to teach America the value of giving! Oh, and you might win a million dollars, if you do." Uh, Oprah? ...oh, never mind.

shadocat said...

I stopped watching Lady O after the first "Favorite Things" show she did. All that conspicuous consumption just makes me wanna hurl. Don't get me wrong, I want nice, new things as much as the next woman, but geez...

When Oprah started her school in South Africa, she was asked why not do something for children in the USA. Her answer was that all children in this country wanted were material things, i-pods, clothes, flashy cars. She seemed at a loss as to why this was so. Maybe she should try watching some of her own programs.

kat said...

yeah, I dunno, I watch Oprah sometimes, but a lot of it seems really self-serving to me. She can seem so proud of her own endeavors.

Today's show, though, featured Charlize Theron going back to South Africa (where she's from) and working with some poor, rural kids, many of whose parents had died of AIDS.

I felt like it was much more significant for a South African to be doing that, rather than Oprah. Especially a white South African to be acknowledging the disparity in quality of life. I know 2 people who are (Afrikaans) South African and have a lot of unchanneled guilt. For someone to go from that to a position of being able to contribute is important.

Maggie Jochild said...

Excellent insights, ya'll. Shado, several months ago some comment you made about how many shows were reverting to flashy giveaways made me sit up and take notice: It's a serious trend, and does not in any way address how the economy is tanking. Thanks for being ahead of the curve, there.

And I hadn't thought of the inherent contradiction, Blue, of "the inherent value of giving" being "rewarded with a prize" -- yikes. What a failed concept.

I know what you mean, Kat, about the importance of seeing white South Africans dealing with their legacy. Wish we were doing more of that in this country. And Oprah does command incredible influence, a lot of which she uses well. But some not, I guess we're all saying.

Jan, I so appreciate your consistent feedback. I so do.

Dinah was very excited today when Jeopardy had a category called "Cats". We shouted out the answers together. She came unglued when the $600 question was about what tortie was short for: TORTOISESHELL! we both screamed. But then the next clue, the $800 one, was about Manxes. Alice (her hated predecessor cat) was a Manx. Dinah left the room at that point.

little gator said...

The whole attitude of deserving a prize is seen in lots of credit ads. Bewildered people dont' understand why *they* cab't get aloan, even though they describe themsleevs as "good people."

I know why my credit is as good and bad as it is. It's all about how I can be expected to make loan payments and nothing about my level of goodness.

Sometimes I shoulght "they don't care if you're good people, they just want to get money form you!"

kat said...

So true, Gator.
Entightlement (I'm not even gonna try to spell that correctly) seems to be everywhere.

I even overheard a mom once, while playing with kids in the park, try to comfort a kid who didn't do well in a game by saying "Well, maybe we'll change the rules so that whoever gets the LEAST wins, instead."


I think, though, that in some cases it's possible that people really don't understand how credit and credit ratings work. It's not as if credit card companies are willing to actually explain things before you run up a huge bill....