I was shocked and surprised last night around 3:00 a.m. when I went outside to take up the food I’d put out at about 1:00 a.m. (was late getting home — had to wait for a drawbridge).  Usually take water out with me to refresh the water I put out earlier, in case raccoons have upset/fouled the water, and as I walked around a bush to the water bowl, saw — THE ORANGE KITTEN!

YES, he is alive!  Almost 1 week to the day after I had his mama put to sleep and hadn’t seen him for several days before that (so about 9 days since I’ve laid eyes on him).  She must have taught him well, that sweet little 1-year old tortoiseshell mommie, because he looked fine – not too skinny.  He was hunched over, drinking water, with his back to me, and I guess he didn’t hear me until I walked right up behind him (about 5′ away). He scampered into the hostas quick, quick, quick!  I shined my flashlight on him because I was so surprised to see him and wanted to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, but it was definitely him.  He also must have been coming to eat late over the past 9 nights, as she taught him, and I just hadn’t caught a glimpse of him until last night.  He’s so careful.  I feel he must be missing his mama, though, as he’s on his own.  Have never spotted a sibling.

As I walked back around the bush (towards the hostas) he took off towards the cars and hid under one of them.  I collected the cat food, all except one plate, went into the house, and got out a can of soft food.  Divided it in half, then took it outside and deposited the half portion onto the plate, and put it under my car, where I’d fed him and mama last week (in their separate, later meal).  I hope he ate it.  He wouldn’t come out for me (not that I was expecting that), but am hoping, since he was the only cat over there, that he eventually made it to my car and got his extra ration.

I will be figuring out some way to trap him, since I feel he’s way too small to leave on his own at this point.  One of the other cats was near him when I went outside but she ran off when she saw me.  She’s a small tortoiseshell, too, but was in the litter that we got fixed last summer.  The mama tortoiseshell showed up about a week after we got all the kittens spayed/neutered, and she was on her own (and was a kitten when she showed up).  This tortoiseshell who was near the little orange guy last night has a few of her littermates still around, even now (there’s a beautiful black male and a torbie [girl]).  I tend to think they do better in a group when they’re very young.  But little Mr. Orange-Boy is all alone, just like his mama was last year when she appeared.

I’m thinking of bringing this little one inside, although it’s not a perfect idea.  Since Nijinsky was put to sleep last year I only have 2 indoor cats, but one of them, my favorite, a black and white named Lulu, really hates other cats.  She loves people, though.  Still, I don’t feel good about his chances if he’s left outside, and think I owe it to his mama to rescue and bring up her baby, since she isn’t able to be with him any more.

They are a little difficult to catch, but I think if I put a trap out (Have-A-Heart trap) w/ food he will go inside.  I might catch some of the other cats, too, but will just release them.  They were all trapped last summer, but many times they forget, especially if smelly, nummy food is inside!  I also found last year that it’s imperative to cover the trap with a big towel so (a) a smart cat can’t fish the food out through the back of the trap and (b) a cat will tend to go into darkness, rather than an open-ended-looking trap.

I don’t have a place in my apartment to isolate him, either, so will have to get him to a vet ASAP and have him cleaned up (I’m sure he’ll have fleas) and tested (FeLV and Feline AIDS), but I think it’s the right thing to do.  Wish me luck!  Will keep you posted if/when I am able to trap him.  Have to start thinking of a name . . . I prefer mythology or opera names, and if anyone has a suggestion, feel free to leave it.  No “color” names or common names.  He’s an orange tabby, so nothing like “Red”, or “Stripey”, or anything like that.  I love exotic names for cats.  And he’s a “HE”, I’m relatively sure, so male names, please!

You may imagine how happy I was when I went inside. I had a giant grin on my face and a warm feeling in my heart chakra — I felt so very pleased to see him and know he hadn’t died. I feel that sense of hope again, and want to do my best for him since I had to take his mama in and end her life.

I had to have one of the outdoor cats I feed put to sleep yesterday. She had an abcess (which I hadn’t noticed, because she is a dark-colored tortoiseshell and I only see most of the cats at night when I feed them) on her neck which had burst and was open, about the size of a quarter (which is very large for a small cat).

I hadn’t seen this cat for months and she reappeared in my yard a little over a week ago with a small, orange kitten. Obviously she’d had kittens, and clearly this one was the only one who survived. I suspect he was about 3 months old, since the feral mama cats who have kittens are very cautious about bringing them out in the open until they get old enough to run away. This kitten was very fast, but he stuck close to her. She brought him with her to eat for a few nights, and both of them seemed to be eating well. He hid in some hostas near the house, and she would settle in very close to where he was hiding. When I came out to feed all the cats she would eat and he followed after I went inside. I began going out about 2 hours after the initial feeding to bring them a plate of canned food, which I placed near her, so she and the kitten could have extra food. This entailed policing some of the other cats who linger in the yard, but after 2 nights she and the kitten knew the drill.

This past Saturday night (the one right before Labor Day) when I called the cats to eat, she came up to me and meowed and rubbed against my leg, which had never happened. She had definitely been hungry and gotten close to me when I brought the food out on previous nights, but had not rubbed up against me before, so I was surprised. I thought perhaps she was extremely hungry, since she was nursing the orange kitten. Although she wasn’t super-feral — she’d begun to be friendly with me last year and allowed me to touch her (she first showed up in my yard, all by herself, as a kitten, a little over a year ago), over the winter I hadn’t had as much contact with her and she had become more distant. Since my landlord won’t allow me to put out shelters for the cats, in the colder months I am unable to stay outside for very long to interact with them, but continue feeding them every night.

On Sunday night she meowed and rubbed my leg again and I thought something might be wrong, but reached down to pet her because I thought maybe she wanted some loving. I felt something on her neck and went back inside, got a flashlight and saw a wound, which didn’t look good. It was at least the size of a quarter, very wet looking and crater-shaped. No vets were open on Monday (Labor Day) and she seemed o.k. otherwise (she was eating and walking/running around), so I decided to monitor her. On Tuesday I got an email from an upstairs neighbor who said he’d seen her and there were maggots in the wound (which I hadn’t noticed). When I looked more closely at the wound on Tuesday night I saw the maggots — the entire wound was writhing with them. It made me almost sick to my stomach — I’ve never seen anything like that. She drank a lot of water but also ate pretty heartily. Later, after all the cats were finished eating, I tried getting her into a carrier, but she fought me and I couldn’t get her inside, and then she got skittish when I tried later to approach her, so decided to try again on Wednesday morning. Didn’t see the kitten Monday or Tuesday night, but assumed he was hiding and I just hadn’t noticed him.

I got up early on Wednesday (I work until midnight, so getting up at 10:30 is early for me) and called in my “kitty, kitty” feeding voice, and she came out from whereever she had been hiding and drank quite a lot of water, but wouldn’t eat. She walked over to a tree and settled at the base, and when I approached her she didn’t move. I was able to pick her up and get her into the carrier with no problem. She didn’t seem to have much energy.

Thankfully, the vet I went to was not busy Wednesday morning and there was no one other than me in the waiting room (with the cat). We didn’t have to wait long, either. After we got into the examining room the vet tech took her out of the carrier (with a towel to protect him in case she tried to scratch or bite, which she didn’t) and looked her over. He pointed out the skin in her ears was yellowish, which meant some sort of liver failure. I asked if that meant the infection was septic and he said probably. The vet came in and recoiled when he saw the wound. The vet immediately asked me if I wanted to have her euthanized. I said no, I wanted to know if he could help her and clean out the wound. He said he could, but there were no guarantees and it would be expensive. I asked how much and he said around $7-800. And then he said she would have to be anesthetized and might not make it.

The vet left the room and the vet tech told me he’d seen cats recover from worse injuries, but not with such a massive infection. He told me he didn’t think she would pull through the anesthetic. I asked he thought putting her down was the best thing to do, and he said yes. I decided to have her euthanized, to the tune of $269.00. Can someone tell me why it costs so much? I couldn’t leave her outside to die. It would have been slow and painful, and she was clearly already in pain. I felt terrible. She was only over a year old, and this is a sad but typical end for feral cats. Injury and death within less than 2 years.

I had to fill out paperwork for the euthanization (and by then I felt like a walking zombie — it was all I could do to keep it together and not start sobbing uncontrollably). I went back into the examination room after paying for the procedure, and was able to stroke her head (which is amazing, since they usually won’t let you touch them, but she her energy was very low, which was why I was able to get her into the carrier earlier) and tell her I was sorry. The vet tech was holding her and her head was showing, but her body was covered by the towel, so I couldn’t see the wound. My face was very close to hers and I looked into her eyes — she looked right into mine and hers seemed tired, but understanding. There was no fear or anxiety, and she seemed to be saying that she accepted what was happening and was ready. I don’t know why it felt that way, but that’s how it seemed to me. I told her I was sorry again, and then said, “But you will feel much better soon,” and left. Of course I cried all the way home, as well as off and on all day. The guilt I feel every time I’ve had to make this decision (to put a cat to sleep) is overwhelming, even when I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s hard and painful to have to make such a decision for any living being.

I couldn’t do very much for her except feed her, since my landlord won’t let me put out shelters. With the help of the neighbor who emailed me, we got all the cats spayed and neutered last summer, but she showed up in the yard after that, so she was not spayed. My guess is she must have gotten into a fight with an intact cat, probably after she had kittens. I imagine she was trying to defend them. Of course there are other cats outside besides the ones I feed and she must have run into one who was aggressive and not fixed. It may seem odd, but I feel very upset every time I lose a backyard cat. I don’t name them unless they’ve been around for years, because it seems like whenever I do and become attached they either die or disappear. She didn’t have a name, but I will remember her. I wish she’d had a better life.

With my schedule, I feed them once a day, at around 12:45 a.m. I feel sad there isn’t even a picture of her, but it’s hard to get a shot of a dark cat at night! She lived in the yard for a while last year after first showing up, but moved on after that and only came around for feedings — I don’t know where she ended up hanging out or sleeping, but it wasn’t in my backyard. Since I never got a photo of her, she will only be remembered in my mind.

I wish I could do more for the feral cats and that’s big reason I want a backyard of my own, to have a place to put a nice shelter/building in which to house the cats. That way I could see them more often, in better light, and they could come in to the building when the weather is bad and I could keep better track of them. Also, if they get hurt I’d notice it much sooner because I’d be seeing them better. Right now I have to feed them under my upstairs neighbor’s SUV, because the across-the-hall-neighbor who moved in two years ago told me to move the food from where I’d been feeding them for 6 years because it was under her kitchen window. She thought her dog was getting fleas from the cats and if I moved the food the dog wouldn’t get fleas. I told her some of the cats hung out in the yard and moving the food wouldn’t help, but she insisted, so instead of being able to see them in the light (there is a light on the wall) and stand near them when they eat (which is about as close as some of the cats will let me come), I now have catch a glimpse of them under my neighbor’s SUV. Not ideal. I have much less contact with the cats since this woman moved in and made me move the food. I detest this neighbor. She blamed her dog’s inability to pee on the fleas and gave me more agita about the fleas in the yard, although I’d already moved the food, but she later discovered her dog had kidney stones (not flea related, of course).

When my husband and I move (we are in the process of looking at houses to find one to buy), I plan to put a building in our backyard for the outdoor/feral cats, and when I trap a cat to have it spayed/neutered, will have a place to hold it overnight while it recovers, which I am unable to do now. I hate it when they get an injury that results in my having to have them euthanized, or they just disappear and I never know what happens. If they had a shelter on my property they’d stick closer and perhaps I could prevent something like this from happening again.

Worse yet, I haven’t seen the orange kitten at all since Sunday night. I think he’s gone. I was so hopeful after seeing him — even though I wasn’t happy she’d had kitten(s) (I assume more than one, and that he was the only one who survived), seeing a new kitten always fills me with happiness and hope. These are small dramas in my backyard that no one else is party to, but for me it’s both a responsibility and a privilege to help these animals that very few other people are even aware of. I hope this little tortoiseshell mama is in kitty heaven with her little orange kitten — if he is indeed gone from this world — and they are frolicking in a sunny meadow, with plenty of food, water, love and shelter. I wish they’d gotten all that in this life, but perhaps they have it now.

World War ZI enjoyed this movie from start to finish!  I have become enamored of zombies, mainly because a friend of mine invited me to tag along to a zombie fest a few years ago, and I saw “Night of the Living Dead” on a large movie screen, met George Romero and Russ Streiner, and heard a panel of actors/directors, etc., from the movie discuss both the movie and the genre.  All very nice people, and I got interested in and started watching zombie movies after that.  There are a ton of them on Hulu and Netflix.  From then to now (I’m hooked on “The Walking Dead” on AMC), I’ve become a bit of a zombie-file.  When I heard about “World War Z” there was no question I would be seeing it when it came out.

The zombies are great, very realistic.  They’re “fast zombies”, and quite unnerving because of their speed and voraciousness.  The special effects are excellent and you are always “with” Pitt — he never knows more than you do, and you discover everything exactly when he does, so it feels as if you’re in it with him.  I loved the ending, and had read in Vanity Fair the original ending was scrapped, rewritten, and reshot, at considerable expense.  It works.  My husband really enjoyed the movie and so did I.  For anyone who wants a kind of zombie-thriller hybrid, an adrenaline rush, along with a LOT of Brad Pitt, go see this.  It’s fun and engaging and the time flies by.

The movie was engrossing and I never lost interest.  I was surprised when it was over, because it just didn’t seem like 2 hours had passed.  There was no boredom, no moments of, “when is something going to happen?”  There was just enough time for my heart rate to recover before the next exciting part started.  I found the construct believable, and Brad Pitt carries the movie admirably.  He’s barely ever off-screen, and I liked him throughout and felt he was believable.  Although he may not be quite as sexy as he used to be (I still remember him in “Thelma and Louise” — yum!), he’s acquired a realness that works.  He’s so natural with kids, and a very believable father; I’m guessing it’s because he’s had a lot of real-life practice.  I found the poster funny:  it’s the only one I could find with him in it, and all we see is his back and face turned 3/4 away, yet he’s in nearly every frame of the movie.  He may seem incidental on the poster, but let me assure you his character is the lynchpin for the entire movie.

The plot seemed pretty cohesive to me, which is a miracle, considering how many writers they had.  It’s based on the book by Max Brooks (Mel Brooks’ son), but from what I’ve read doesn’t much resemble the book any more.  The movie itself is very visceral.  We (my husband and I) didn’t see it in 3D (we didn’t want to wait 2 hours) and I can’t say I would have enjoyed it any more in 3D.  In fact, it might have been too overwhelming if the zombies had been coming at me, which is saying a lot, because I have a high fear tolerance.  The 2D movie was plenty for me.  Of course, if you really want to scare yourself sh*tless, go see it in 3D.  I may go back to see it in 3D for fun, but it’s not for the faint of heart the first time around.  I think Brad Pitt achieved his blockbuster movie and believe they’ll easily recoup the rumored $250 million spent.  Based on my experience, it is a well deserved success for Pitt et al.

World's Worst TenantsWorld’s Worst Tenants, on SPIKE TV, is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.  You cannot make up the stuff they walk into.  It’s simply impossible to imagine how bad/strange/weird some of the goings ons in people’s apartments are.  You have to see it to believe it.

Here’s a link to the show:  http://www.spike.com/shows/worlds-worst-tenants/

The premise is these 3 are eviction specialists and go to tenants’ apartments/homes to serve them with eviction notices, cease and desist orders, etc.  Todd is an ex-Marine, and he looks like a body-builder.  He is very aggressive, while his partner, Rick, is a bit more mellow and reasonable.  Then there’s Randye, Todd’s wife, who often goes out with them on tenant visits and calls the police, when necessary, while the guys do the more physical work.  There is some kicking in of doors, and physical confrontations do happen.  Todd often says to Randye, “Stay there” while he and Rick handle the confrontations.  She is blond and busty, natch.  Gotta have some eye candy, right?

When I first watched it was just a “let’s see what this is” foray.  I figured it would end up being dumb or boring.  Oh boy, was I wrong!  The first episode I saw had Todd and Rick going to an apartment complex because there had been a noise complaint from some tenants, and they were trying to find out what the problem was.  They traced the noise to a utility room, but could not find the source.  Then they knocked on the adjacent apartment door and discovered this guy was a keeping bees, and he had a beehive in his apartment!  What’s more, many of the bees had escaped and went through some sort of gap in the wall, which led to the utility room, which is why there was a loud, humming noise coming from inside.  They were living inside the wall!  Oh My!

The other night I watched a couple of episodes, thinking maybe the show would be less fun than the first time.  Nope.  It got better.   The guys went out to a small house in the country to evict the woman who lived there.  The owner had been ordered by the county to remediate some flood damage, which necessitated razing the house, and he’d served her with every legal notice, but she hadn’t moved out.  Todd and Rick went to talk to her to find out why, and asked if they could come inside.  She was adament she wouldn’t move out, but let them in.  They walked into her (small) living room, and there was a big sheet over the door into the next room.  One of the guys pulled it aside and there was a full-grown horse standing in the room, grazing on hay that was spread all over the floor!  A HORSE!  She couldn’t get the horse out because it was too big to go through the door!  AND I guess she was thinking, “It’s not likely they’ll notice a full grown horse in the next room”?!!!  They had to pull a wall down in order to get the horse out!  She told them when she’d gotten the horse she’d been told it was a pygmy horse.  Um, guess not.  This horse had not been outside since he was full grown, and when they led him out, he started nibbling on the grass.   This was the reason she hadn’t moved out, because she didn’t know how to get the horse out.  I was screaming at the t.v.,  “A HORSE!  She has a HORSE in her BEDROOM!”  Oh My Goodness!

But my favorite episode featured this Appalachian family living in a rather nice, seaside apartment.  Apparently, the relative who rented the apartment had died and his family decided to camp out in the apartment — about 10-20 of them.  The owner couldn’t get them to vacate (they hadn’t been paying rent).   Howard and Rick were dispatched to talk to them and knocked on the sliding glass door.  A kind of psuedo bad-ass, youngish man came to the door and gave them some posturing bullshit, but Howard, when he wants to, can be nice, and said they’d just come over to try to work things out and asked to come in for 5 minutes.  He offered the guy $5,000 to move out, so the guy said, “Only for 5 minutes”, and in they went.  Inside we see grandpa, wearing a big, floppy hat (like Jed Clampitt’s), with a white beard hanging down to his chest, and various and sundry other folks all seated in a circle in the living room.  Big ol’ Confederate flag hanging on the wall, and the “bad ass” guy was saying, “We don’t want to move because we have children.”  I didn’t see any kids, but Howard (in an aside) tells the camera they must know what they’re doing because the courts don’t like to move families when they have children living in a dwelling.

While Howard was talking to Mr. Badass and some of the other kinfolk, Rick asked ol’ grandaddy if he could use the bathroom.  This was just an excuse to look around, but ol’ grandaddy wasn’t too bright and gave him directions.  Off Rick goes.  He opens the toilet lid and sees the water is brown, and then turns on the faucet and no water comes out.  It’s clear the water has been shut off.  He tells the camera if he can find any violations, they can evict for those reasons, and that’s what he’s looking for.  He starts off down the hall and opens a bedroom door.  There is a STILL in the bedroom, working away!  I’m saying it had an open flame underneath it, a propane tank off to the side (with a hose connecting it to the thing under the still providing the flames), and the still itself looked like the textbook copper still you’d see in the Appalachian mountains!  In fact, there is a t.v. show about moonshining, and this one looked just like some of the stills the backwoods moonshiners are using!

A still in a regular apartment, in an apartment complex!  I loved it and about fell off my couch laughing.  Howard amended his offer to the Moonshiners down to $500 and a moving van.  They took the deal.

If you want a huge laugh, and an eye opener about what people do in their rental units, please give this show a gander.  It is hysterical.  I swear if you saw this stuff in a movie you’d say it could never happen in real life, but it IS happening.  Oh My Goodness Gracious!

identitythief-ps-26[1]I was shocked to find on imdb.com that this movie was only rated 5.8 out of 10.  Wonder where these folks’ funny bones were hiding?  I laughed frequently throughout “Identity Thief” and found it thoroughly funny and enjoyable.

Originally I wanted to see it because I saw Melissa McCarthy on a talk show and she seemed so funny that I felt it would be a good bet.  She is a white, overweight, youngish woman, a profile you rarely, if ever, see in movies.  She mentioned that originally the role was written for a man and they changed it for her.  Another tired “buddy” movie with 2 men?  Would have skipped it if that had been the premise.

Turns out Melissa McCarthy is the cousin of Jenny McCarthy!  If you look at her face you can see that same prettiness.  I’m sure she’s one of those fat women to whom people have commented,  “You’re so pretty, if you’d only lose a few pounds!”  I think she’s pretty as-is, and frankly, it was rather wonderful to see a woman in a movie who doesn’t look like she came straight out of “Models-R-Us”.

She is hysterical in the movie, and believable, as well.  There are a couple of sub-plots, and I kept forgetting these other folks would be showing up again.  Maybe because Melissa McCarthy is so frikkin’ funny and I was very focused on her and Jason Bateman.  When the other characters popped in from time to time I was always surprised, which in itself surprised me because I can usually see plot points being set up and coming a mile away.  For some reason this movie felt very fresh to me, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

McCarthy’s comedic ability is amazing.  She’s physically and facially funny, and her line delivery is hysterical.  Her rapport with Jason Bateman is very credible.  Her character goes through a transformation, and her relationship with Jason Bateman’s character changes, and it all makes sense.  At least, to me it did.

Jason Bateman is someone whose acting is always substantial.  I feel like his characters come from the inside out.  Saw him recently in “Horrible Bosses” (on cable) and his character was very low-key — almost flat — but he was able to give it dimension.  Here his character is pretty low-key, as he is essentially the straight man in the movie, but as the movie progresses he gets some very funny lines.  Melissa McCarthy’s character helps him loosen up, and he helps her to understand she has real value as a person.  There is a moral at the end of the story, but it stays funny right up to the end and they don’t whack you over the head with it, thankfully.  She still retains enough of her bad-girl attitude to make it seem like she’s still got some crazy left!

Amanda Peet, as Jason Bateman’s wife, in the unenviable role of being a generic mom, doesn’t have that much screen time, so the character is almost extraneous, except to establish that Jason Bateman loves his family very much and would never do any of the terrible things the police think he’s done (when his identity gets stolen by Melissa McCarthy).  Kept thinking how pretty Amanda Peet is, what a waste this role was, is this really what happens when a pretty actress reaches a certain age, isn’t being cast as the romantic lead lead any more and hasn’t established herself as a comic actress (like Melissa McCarthy)?  She is consigned to boring “Mom” roles?  How thankless.

Paid full price to see this movie and didn’t regret the expense at all.  Went with a girlfriend, but honestly think men would like this movie, too.  It’s all-around funny.  Don’t know who was voting on imdb, but my friend and I enjoyed the movie and I’d recommend it to anyone if they want an extended laugh fest that doesn’t feel done to death.  Well worth watching.

Nijinsky in "his" chair

Nijinsky in “his” chair

I didn’t want to post this and have been avoiding doing so, but feel like I need to post an update.  We had to put Nijinsky to sleep a couple of months ago. He was not doing well. However, looking back on my posts I realize he lived 8 months longer than I’d initially expected, and for a lot of that time he was coddled, ate as much as he wanted, snoozed in “his” chair, and generally had a pretty good quality of life.

In the last few months he began needing to be fed more often and it finally got to the point where I was feeding him every 2-3 hours. He didn’t eat a lot, but he yowled when he got hungry and you couldn’t ignore it — the yowling was loud. Then he began yowling when we were alseep, and I was getting up 3-4 times a night to feed him, which was not good for my sleep.

Soon he started yowling even when he wasn’t hungry. He’d just yowl. He could still walk but sometimes he would not (he seemed confused about getting down out of the chair), and I would pick him up and take him into the kitchen to try feeding him, but often in the last weeks he refused to eat.

We finally came to the conclusion (my husband and I) that he was yowling because he was in pain. That seemed to be the only explanation. Nijinsky had lost even more weight and was so thin that you could feel every single bump in his spine, and all his ribs clearly showed through his fur. Plus, he was throwing up a lot and did not seem to be keeping most of his food down or digesting it very well (there was a lot of runny/smelly poop in the cat litter boxes that stopped happening after we had him put to sleep, as did the excessive cat cack).

We took him to the vet and had him put to sleep.  I’d really been hoping he would pass at home, but he just hung on and hung on.  It was a difficult decision, as he was still mobile, but really seemed to be the most compassionate decision. As was his way, he didn’t make it easy to decide.  My other cat, Peleas, made it clear the day he had to be taken to the vet (11 years ago).  He stopped walking and his hind legs wouldn’t work.  But with Nijinsky, while it wasn’t 100% clear, there didn’t seem to be another decision to make except to put up with yowling all the time and to get no sleep.  And since it seemed he was yowling for reasons other than hunger, we had to think it was because he was not feeling good.

The other cats didn’t sleep in his chair for a couple months after we had him put to sleep, and even now only one of them has slept on the arm of the chair once. So his chair seems to be regarded as “his” even now.  I can’t say that the other two seem to miss him, because Nijinsky was something of a bully with Lulu, and with Isadora, he stopped letting her sleep with him once he went blind.  It scared him when she jumped up and he would hiss and freak out, so she stopped sleeping with him.  By the time we took him in to the vet, I think Isadora didn’t miss sleeping with him any more, and for Lulu, it was a relief when he went blind because he no longer attacked her, so she didn’t care that he was gone.

Nijinsky lived to be 14, and while that’s not super old, it’s better than the alternative. When I took him he was going to be taken to the pound because his owners hadn’t found a home for him and he was about 9 months old by then. Initially I wanted him because he looked like my older cat (Peleas), and I thought he would be sweet like him (not!), so I saved from going to the pound and likely being put to sleep.

He had a good life, lived in a warm home with plenty of food and love, and never wanted for anything. I hope he’s in cat heaven. He used to love to watch men work (when they came into my apartment to fix things) and I have always sworn that when he comes back in his next life, if he is a human being, he’ll be a handyman. If you see a handyman who reminds you of a cranky cat, call him “Nijinsky” and see if he answers!

Les Miserables Movie PosterSaw it on Christmas (opening) day, thanks to a kind lawyer at my firm who gave me movie tickets as a gift!  See – there are a few good lawyers, after all!  I looked forward to seeing it because I’d caught the buzz about Anne Hathaway’s performance, and since I like her as an actress, was interested in seeing what she did.  Have never seen the staged musical, so went in without preconceptions, although of course I’d heard “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Bring Him Home” before, as well as “Master of the House”.

Had read a review prior to seeing the movie that mentioned Hugh Jackman’s singing as being very good, and Russell Crowe’s as not, but I beg to differ.  Hugh Jackman’s singing sounded strained to me, and became more so as the movie progressed.  I looked up the voice types for the show and realized Valjean (Jackman’s character) is supposed to be a dramatic tenor.  It’s a rare voice type that’s genuinely hard to find even for opera (for which the term was coined), so finding one for musical theater strikes me as absurdly difficult.  Valjean is in nearly every scene of the movie, and a long movie at that, so if you don’t enjoy his singing you’re stuck because everything is sung, and his singing began to grate on me early on.  “Bring Him Home” was particularly disturbing because it is so high, and he has to sustain that genuinely difficult, high tessitura in the most emotional part of the movie (near the end), which took away, slightly, from the performance, in my opinion.  They couldn’t find a tenor for this role?  Or adjust the key for him?  I just don’t understand it, because acting-wise he was right on the money.  I don’t agree with talk of an Oscar nomination for this particular performance.

My feeling is the main problem for Hugh Jackman is he has a baritone voice (he played Curly in “Oklahoma” on Broadway and won a Tony), and the tessitura for Valjean is extremely high, even for a tenor.  It would be challenging for an experienced tenor to handle this tessitura, and I think in Jackman’s case, although he tried valiantly, it sounded much of the time like he was almost screaming.  Not particularly pleasant.  His voice tended to sound ragged, and when he came down (out of the stratosphere) he was often a little flat.  Also, it was so annoyingly nasal (probably in order to nail that high tessitura) that I found it whiny, and the vibrato was frequently WAY too wide.  It seemed to me his support was not always properly engaged.  When I start breathing for a singer and supporting from the diaphragm while they sing, I know there’s trouble.

However, as I mentioned, his acting is excellent.  In fact, all the acting in the movie is good.  None of the singers are weak actors.  Enjolras (the head of the revolutionaries) has a polished singing technique and, as a light tenor, an exceptionally lovely voice to listen to; his acting is convincing, as well, and he never sacrificed acting for singing.  No one did.  The casting in that respect was exemplary.

Colm Wilkinson, who was renowned for his portrayal of Valjean on Broadway, appears in a cameo as the Bishop of Digne.  I didn’t know his work or face at all, but deduced he was Colm Wilkinson (the original Valjean) because his vocal work in the film, even as an older singer, was so good.  Even though this is supposed to be a baritone role, and he is obviously a tenor, his singing is grounded in an outstanding singing technique, and I could tell he had a great deal of training even though he didn’t have a large role or do much singing.  Reading the credits at the end of the movie validated my guess that the Bishop was, indeed, the original Valjean (on Broadway).

Anne Hathaway’s voice is surprisingly pleasant and musical.  I didn’t realize Fantine’s role is so small — she appears for maybe 1/2 hour in the beginning of the movie and then dies, so you don’t see that much of her.  It is hard to overestimate how affecting her appearance is, though.  Dramatically and musically she gives a seamless, acutely emotional and exceptionally moving performance.  Neither does she sacrifice drama for singing, nor is her singing disconnected from the drama.  She manages to scream/emote and then get back on track to actual singing and made the transition seem quite easy, but as someone with a background in opera and a knowledge of vocal technique, I can’t begin to explain how difficult what she did is to pull off.  It’s likely I won’t see the other movies in which actresses are nominated for an Oscar in her category, but I’d be hard pressed to think of another performance in recent memory that was as transcendent.  She was for me the undisputed standout of the movie.  I read somewhere that her mother played this role on tour and wondered if she’d helped her daughter prepare, musically.  I saw Anne Hathaway in an interview about the role, but this question was not asked and I’d love to know the answer.  Wouldn’t it be a fabulous continuum from mother to daughter to create the definitive film (musical) version of Fantine?

Russell Crowe was well cast and I didn’t agree at all that his voice was not strong enough for the character (the one review I read prior to seeing the movie mentioned this).  His certainly has a more mellow and less Broadway-style voice, and although it is clearly not well-trained, I thought he handled the singing just fine, and his acting is outstanding.  My discomfort came in that he was a bit stiff in some of the scenes, physically, when he just stood and sang, but whether he was directed that way (he stands atop a parapet and sings several times, and the camera focuses on him just standing there) or if he sort of stiffened up when he sang, which is a common problem for opera singers, I don’t know.  In any case, his singing didn’t bother me the way Hugh Jackman’s did and I thought he was very effective as Javert.  He certainly has the commanding voice (when he spoke/sang) and persona of a dogmatic police inspector.

Samantha Barks as Eponine is a Broadway veteran in the role, and she was excellent.  Her singing and acting was as seamless as Anne Hathaway’s, although her role is somewhat less emotionally intense.  She certainly deserved to be cast and is a marvelous addition to the movie.  Eddie Redmayne as Marius is outstanding.  I first saw and loved him in a television mini series, “Pillars of the Earth”, and was happily looking forward to his performance as Cosette’s love interest.  He did not disappoint.  While his singing is not particularly exceptional, he can definitely sing, and his acting is so splendid that I barely noticed his singing at all.  He just seemed to be the character.  He has an uncommon acting gift and I believe will be one of the actors I look forward to seeing in anything he does

Generally I do not consider myself a big Sacha Baron Cohen fan, but I liked him in “Sweeney Todd”, and enjoyed him in “Les Miserables”, for similar reasons.  In fact, the two movies remind me of each other with their acting singers and unrelenting darkness and depravity.  Cohen really has a surprisingly good singing voice, and as the exceedingly unsavory Thenardier, is unmatchably smarmy and funny.  His foil, Helena Bonham Carter, as Madame Thenardier, was less successful for me.  She mugs so much, it seemed less a character and more of a caricature.  Interestingly, this is supposed to be a mezzo soprano role, but she has a light, high soprano voice, and her singing doesn’t have much meat to it, although she uses it well in a dramatic sense (she is able to sing/talk when necessary to bring more heft to the voice).  She and SBC worked well together, and as a team I think HBC’s performance was enhanced by her pairing with SBC.  She has the ability, as all British actors seem to, of being able to flip off a light, sarcastic remark in such a way as to be both funny and sarcastic, but w/out a heaviness that makes it seem mean spirited.  She and Cohen are adept at this, and it keeps their loathsome characters from being too oppressive.  “Master of the House” is much-needed comic-relief and enjoyably done.

I must say the singing I liked least of all was Amanda Seyfried’s (Cosette).  Her voice is especially light, high and thin, and has a fast, nervous vibrato.  The very high notes (and this is also an extremely high role) were pinched and thin, and I just did not enjoy her singing at all.  Since everything is sung, it’s hard to embrace a character whose voice you dislike.  Her acting, as was everyone’s, is solid, and she is an extraordinarily pretty girl, but I wish they’d looked harder for an actress with more vocal training and a more pleasant singing voice.  She’s the only person I would have replaced, because her singing distracted and bothered me so much.  Even Hugh Jackman, whose singing was not always pleasant, was still unquestionably effective as an actor.  I just wanted to shoot this girl to put me out of the misery of listening to her.

Isabelle Allen as the poor orphan and mistreated ward of the Thenardiers, (young) Cosette, was excellent.  Her singing is childlike, which worked well, and her acting was quite good.  The little boy (Daniel Huttlestone), as Gavroche, was equally effective as the guttersnipe thief turned revolutionary.  His wonderful cockney accent was very entertaining.

Much like “Sweeny Todd”, the filmmaker captures the squalor, darkness, and despair of the Paris and the common folk of the 19th century.  The cinematography and sets perfectly capture the misery of the era, and even though the revolutionaries are doomed, one can imagine why it seemed well worth it to stage a revolt against their treatment and situation during that time.

The end of the film is, thankfully, uplifting and I was grateful because if it had not been, I would have left feeling pretty depressed by all the destitution and misery depicted.  Unless you simply hate musicals, go see this.  It’s well worth the ticket and will transport you to another place and time.  While I will likely see it again when it comes out on cable, the big screen is probably how you want to experience this movie first.  Also, although the movie is longer than most, I was never bored and the time flew by.

He’s doing pretty well.  Although still very, very thin, he’s eating quite heartily and regularly.  For a while he was eating 8 meals a day!  I thought he would burst, but he seemed to be keeping it all down.  It was a little much, because every time I went into the kitchen he seemed to be there, waiting by his food plate.  Or if he heard me walk past his chair he’d get up and jump down to go into the kitchen (to be fed).  Not that he was eating a tremendous amount per meal, just that he seemed to want to eat very frequently.  Lately he’s down to around 6 meals a day, and is sometimes eating more per meal, which is easier on us.

One day last week he actually ventured beyond his chair in the bedroom to the next room where my husband and I have desks/computers, and flopped down in the middle of the rug, right in the path of anyone walking in or out.  I had to move him because I was afraid my husband would step on him (inadvertently), but I was encouraged that Nijinsky decided to go walkabout.

He still sleeps a lot and I guess he’ll never gain weight again, but his health seems to have stabilized and he is very much in the land of the living.  Who knows for how long, but at least Nijinsky doesn’t seem to be at (or near) death’s door any more.

Cherry Blossoms close-up in Branchbrook Park, Newark, NJ 3-17-2012

Can anyone believe the cherry blossoms are in bloom already? I took all these on March 17, 2012, in Newark, NJ, in Branchbrook Park. St. Patrick was in the pink this year! Click on the bottom of the slideshow frame (on the middle square) to stop the show, or on the arrows to go from picture to picture at your own pace.

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Will wonders never cease?  A good friend of mine, a truly sweet and caring woman, says Nijinsky in always in her prayers, and it might be working! 

Two nights ago he was standing by the water bowl right after I fed him, and I tried giving him more food but he didn’t want it.  I had a weird intuition he might want to jump into “his chair” in the kitchen, which he hasn’t used for many months.  It’s a small table with only 2 chairs, both torn to hell (the seats) because of the cats, but he liked, in particular, to sleep in one of them.  So I cleared my husband’s two pair of shoes away from the chair (he won’t wear his outside shoes inside, and this table is near the door), and thought maybe that would help.  Nijinsky had been a bit confused about where he was going lately, so I wasn’t 100% sure this is what he wanted to do, but on Tuesday morning I got up and didn’t see him in “his chair” in the bedroom, and went to see if he was standing by the water bowl hoping to be fed.  Nope.  He was curled up in “his chair” in the kitchen, sound asleep! 

Then last night he meowed to be fed.  (He had lately mostly been standing silently by the water bowl waiting for someone to come in and feed him.)  And this morning he got up and came into the bathroom when he heard me go through the kitchen (he slept in “his chair” in the kitchen again last night), and meowed at me to feed him.  He’s going back to being annoying, which is very “Nijinsky”. 

But the real kicker is:  when I tried to get out of the bathroom today he went in front of me, then stopped and kept me waiting!  That was true, pure Nijinsky, getting in my way.  And I had to nudge him along to get him out of the way!  So he seems to be feeling much better, if ‘normal’ behavior for him is an indication.  He’s continuing to eat quite a bit.  Now I’m feeling sort of foolish for being so dramatic when I said he was dying, but I honestly thought that was what was happening.  He has proven me wrong, and I’m glad.

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