Drogon is not amused at his human’s constant absence.
Just returned from a week in Korea, the land of K-Pop, Koreanovelas, kimchi and general kookiness, where the toilets have settings that never occurred to me and everything is good for you (They’re not just stairs, they’re the Stairs of Longevity leading to the Gift Shop of Good Fortune).
The travel show Trippies premieres on CNN Philippines next month.
I was just talking about the street cats and dogs of Istanbul. We were interviewing the director of Hagia Sophia for the travel show when a very self-possessed cat walked over and sat between my co-host and myself, to remind us who the real boss was. Now there’s a documentary about the Turkish felines.
Update: It turns out that the interrupting cat was the same one who had greeted Barack Obama on his visit to Hagia Sophia. His name is Gli and he has a very memorable face.
If you love something, you let it go. Cat people understand this intuitively. You never quite possess a cat, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the better. Cats will chase the tinfoil ball, if they are in the mood, but they will almost certainly not bring it back. We forgive them for this because there is no other option.
I have no trouble linking cats to the divine. Chris Marker’s transcendent short film of a sleeping cat is nothing if not an image of Nirvana, pure being, whatever you want to call it. The look in a cat’s eye guides us toward an idea of freedom, as Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested. Having spent a lifetime studying the structures of ancient societies, the French anthropologist understood well the prison cell into which technological man had locked himself. Only at rare moments, Lévi-Strauss posits near the end of Tristes Tropiques, do we see beyond this cell. One of those is “in the brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat.”
Books. The Best American Science-Fiction and Fantasy 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler. A fine selection which I enjoyed while I was reading it, but now all I can remember is the final story, The Great Silence by Ted Chiang. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, the Booker winner from some years ago, about three friends pondering Jewishness comically and seriously, often at the same time.
The real Bob and Bowen
Movie. A Street Cat Named Bob is the true story of a homeless junkie in London whose life gets radically better after he is adopted by the ginger tomcat of the title. I’m the target market for this movie, and I expected it to be sappy, wringing tears out of every other scene, and putting the audience through all sorts of emotional blackmail. To my surprise it’s a solid, fairly realistic tale of a man close to rock bottom who finds the strength to climb out. Not because the cat gives him magical powers—although Bob the cat is so calm he has to be a Zen master—but because having to take care of another creature forces him to get out of his own head and think of somebody else for a change. If he can’t get his act together, how can he look after the cat?
The movie directed by Roger Spottiswoode from the books by James Bowen gets a vital fact about cats right: the cat chooses you. Cats are genetically the same as their alpha predator cousins the lions and tigers, but they now use their formidable hunting skills to zero in on the humans who can feed and shelter them.
The movie Bob, played mostly by the real Bob
A movie about a cat is by nature cute, but this one refrains from piling on the cuteness. When we first meet Bowen, played with empathy and charm by Luke Treadaway (not Frankenstein from Penny Dreadful but his twin), his life is genuinely horrible. He’s filthy, hungry, sleeping on the street, competing with rats for food from the dumpster. You can feel his shame at the indignities he must endure. He could disappear any minute, and no one would care. (Fortunately the junkie does not live in the Philippines.)
A social worker (Joanne Froggatt from Downton Abbey) puts him in supported housing, which is where he encounters Bob. He also meets an attractive neighbor (Ruta Gedmintas from The Strain) who is, conveniently, a volunteer at an animal welfare clinic. But they are all minor characters next to Bob, played mostly by the actual Bob. Bowen’s life doesn’t improve instantly, he still has a lot of crap to deal with, but we watch him gain a sense of purpose and then the strength to meet that purpose. A Street Cat Named Bob works because it makes us believe that a man and a cat can save each other.
Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
is not art.
Translated by Robert Hass
Despite the name there is nothing sinister about the Byzantine church carved into the soft rock. The church is called that because it’s not exposed to direct light, sparing the frescoes from serious damage.
I was wearing four layers of clothes and an overcoat. This cat was taking a stroll in the snow. He accepted some cheese and cold cuts, and a hug.
My feline housemates granted an interview to the distributors of their favorite kibble, Taste of the Wild.
Hi Saffy, Drogon, how are you?
Saffy: Who wants to know?
Drogon: I love everybody!
We’re curious, how did you “meet” Jessica?
Saffy: I was born in her friend’s house and she brought me home.
Drogon: I adopted her! When she opened the door I just ran in.
What do you do everyday? What are your favorite activities?
Saffy: I like to do yoga, take naps, and ponder the nature of reality.
Drogon: I like to explore the house and sit at the window.
Why do you like weird spaces like boxes and nooks and crannies?
Saffy: Because they are snug and cozy.
Drogon: And you can launch a stealth attack.
What’s your favorite flavor of kibble?
Drogon: I prefer Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline® Formula with Roasted Venison & Smoked Salmon. It has deer in it so I feel like a hunter.
Saffy: For me, Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline® Formula with Trout & Smoked Salmon, because I love a good nosh.
What flavor would you like to try if they can put it in dry kibble?
Taste of the Wild Feline Formula is available at Petwarehouse.ph. You can buy your cat food online and have it delivered straight to your house. Get better nutrition for your cat family, and greater convenience for their humans.
Photos of the library, building and cafe from themorgan.org.
Carmen invited me to a three-martini lunch at the Morgan Library. A year like this calls for regular doses of alcohol as a survival mechanism, so I said yes.
The Morgan Library houses the impressive collection of Pierpont Morgan. Listen, if you’re going to be a robber baron, the least you can do is leave a spectacular library.
The library is pretty much the way it was in Morgan’s time, but the building has been renovated by Renzo Piano.
It feels a little jarring to step out of the exhibit of Charlotte Bronte’s papers and into this. One is expecting Thornfield Hall, mud and howling wind.
Carmen, a tech consultant, started Whisky and Books, which pairs books with whisky and meets every month to discuss. This month’s pairing: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Bruichladdich X4+3. What a great idea, we should do this in Manila. Noel and I have long planned a Silence of the Lambs dinner with a good chianti (and fava beans).
I associate martini lunches with this scene from Mad Men. (Coincidentally, I have a ticket to The Front Page starring Nathan Lane and John Slattery.) We did not remake this, probably because I did not eat a bucket of oysters.
As long as we were pleasantly tipsy we visited an altar to literature and drink: The Algonquin Hotel, where Dorothy Parker et al held court at the Round Table.
The Algonquin is now ruled by the imperious Matilda, third of her name.