Sunday, September 9, 2012

Scary Times...

 Sophie, as she was then

Now that my short stint as a movie blogger has ended I need to get back to the reason I created this blog in the first place, my kitties.

 Star, always my good big girl

First the good news. Star is as always, my bestest girl. She is so sweet and so loveable. She always has a chirp and a purr for you (and a mouth full of hair if you give her a kiss with lip gloss on  :-) I love her so and do not know what I would do without her. 

Cosmo, 20 lbs of love, and breaking Mommy's back

Cosmo is pretty good right now too. After 8 months of largely useless therapy (and excessive spending) his Indolent Ulcer seems to be under some control. After trying everything his vets could think of down here we took him up to East Amherst to the Veterinary Dermatologist Dr. Karyn Beningo who after extensive testing discovered his has some serious seasonal allergies. To get the ulceration under control he was prescribed Clavamox, Atopica (Cyclosporin), and after VARL testing he now gets specific allergy shots every three weeks (administered by me) . This may not sound like "good" news but it is. Cosmo has gained back a pound of weight (he's up to 20) and is feeling better than he has for over a year. The allergy shots will not really take effect for four months (he needs to slowly build up immunity) so it may be a bit up and down until they do, but at least there is great hope now where there was none before. Plus it's likely not a food allergy so I don't have to be a cat food Nazi anymore :-) (he and Star both now eat EVO, Sophie eats.....well the Sophie story comes up next)

So, in case you've been wondering there is some "bad news". Well it started out badly but ended well, at least I hope it's ended well.

Sophie, as she is now. "Lionized"

 Sophie my little waif girl has after living with us for 2 years come to trust and accept us. She has "good" relations with the other two kitties, and is loving and sweet, if not a bit hard to handle, thus part of her problem. Sophie literally panics when groomed, so I go slowly and comb what I can while trying to keep her calm. This would not be a huge problem with most cats, it would be a matter of just keeping them tidy, but Sophie is of course long haired and is a compulsive  groomer. She grooms far more than do either Star or Cosmo and is thus prone to hairball problems. Stress seems to be the likely cause of her over groomng  and Sophie is an intense cat. She does not like the high fiber foods we have tried to help her hairball issues with (and it's hard to get the loose surface hair off when an animal refuses to be well combed) but we have managed to keep up with it with only a few very "interesting" regurgitated hair balls the result. Two weeks ago though we came home from a day at the endodontist and beach and noticed that Sophie had not eaten. She was quiet, and seemed uncomfortable. I tried getting her to drink, but she could not keep even water down, and what came up had an alarming odor. I called our  vet who had us come right in. She examined Sophie, didn't like what she felt, and decided to keep her overnight for  x-rays and observation. A mere two hours later however a call came from the Dr who felt emergency surgery for the removal of an intestinal obstruction was imperative. We got another call after an agonizing 45 minuet  wait that Sophie was doing fine and the obstruction had been successfully removed. Then the Dr  asked me, since Sophie was still under, if I wanted some hair removed. I said sure, thinking that her "arm pits" and "britches" would be buzzed as I've had them done before to prevent matting. See the pictures for the result. When we visited her next day unaware of the extent of hair removal  I admit I cried when I saw her.  There she was in a cage with an IV in her little arm and no hair!! (well almost no hair) . It was a simple misunderstanding and is probably for the best when you consider her ample coat and compulsive grooming are the cause of her dangerous problem. But after the hot weather seems to have left us she is cold, and I look forward to her getting some of her lovely Blue Smoke coat back. 

The most important news is she seems to have healed very well. (though she was very quiet for a week and was kept isolated from her two rough and tumble playmates) She is eating lots too, probably in part an effort to keep warm. I don't know what the future will bring for this little one, but we will do our best to keep anything like this from happening again, that includes a yearly buzz cut if needed. 

As you can see, still absolutely gorgeous!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Broken Blossoms

To me Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl is a horror film, and I don't know if I can adequately say how important a film I believe this is in an article such as this. (for a scholarly take on the film read this excellent 1981 piece by Julia Lessage)  In our time people love zombies, vampires, aliens, and buckets of blood.  Films containing those things are classified as "horror" films, but they are really just roller coaster amusement rides in false fear. Broken Blossoms with its utter brutality, a brutality that exists for far too many children in this world, is real horror. That the film with all of its unvarnished issues was even made in 1919 seems unusual and may be the reason the film still has such impact some ninety-three years later. That and the sad reality that much of what is portrayed in the film has not substantially changed. I often wonder what people from the more "sheltered" parts of the United States thought when they saw this film way back then.

Lucy, finding joy at first and at last

Even today with our jaded life view Broken Blossoms can be a difficult film to view. The ugliness that people perpetrate upon the innocent is always hard to watch. It's the kind of thing that makes us shudder, and makes some of us turn away. Lucy (Lillian Gish, featured today August 15th in TCM's Summer Under the Stars) is a child of London's slums who has lost her mother. She finds herself caring for a boxing father, Battling Burrows (Donald Crisp), who is not only unappreciative but completely brutal in the treatment of his daughter. He terrorizes her both physically and emotionally leaving her unable to even smile of her own accord. Yet incredibly this film examines not only child abuse, but also racial prejudice, and the differing roles "masculinity" plays in Western society. In contrast to the misogynistic Battling is "The Yellow Man"  (portrayed by Richard Barthelmess) a genteel Chinese Buddhist who comes from the Orient to spread kindness and peace to the "civilized" west. (the debate about the propriety of a while man portraying a Chinese man must wait for another time). What ensues is the life and death struggle for decency and joy in the life of Lucy between her loutish father and her Oriental admirer. You'll find no sappy Hollywood ending here.

Watch this D W Griffith masterpiece, even when what you see makes you want to look away, because the film is so utterly visually stunning. Some of the scenes were hand tinted to enhance the mood Griffith wanted to viewer to experience (some of these effects were even created by the burning of gauze on the camera lenses) I could obviously go on at great length about this film but this blog is just a tease to give you the motivation to watch a silent film, perhaps for the first time.

Finally a genuine thank you to TCM for showing Broken Blossoms, the first silent film I ever saw and the one which caused my silent "love affair". Don't expect to see it and file it in the back of your mind though. Its images and the tale it tells will be with you for days.

Little Lucy, lost in unfathomable thought

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not Cats, Mata Hari

How lucky can I be? I have been given the opportunity to write about something I love almost as much as I love my kitties, classic film. This month Turner Classic Movies repeats its annually anticipated event "Summer Under the Stars" (also known as SUTS). I have chosen two films to write about in the SUTS  Blogathon which is generously hosted by Michael Nazarewycz (Michael's blog is here) and Jill Blake (and you can find Jill's blog here.) Be sure to check them both out! Today's entry in the blogathon is the MGM Greta Garbo vehicle Mata Hari  (1931) which is on TCM  Friday August 10th at 8:45AM EDT (a day dedicated to the films of the illustrious Lionel Barrymore who also stars).

  Greta Garbo as the seductive spy Mata Hari

Hollywood has often take liberties in its treatment of historical figures, this is something that is actually made easier in the case of Mata Hari  (Indonesian for "eye of the day") since much of that exotic dancer's life is veiled in mystery and misinformation. What is known about Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" Zelle's life is that she was born in the Netherlands and studied to become a teacher. When she was harassed by the headmaster of her school she was removed to the home of her uncle where she answered a newspaper advert for a wife placed by Rudolph MacLeod, an officer in the Dutch Colonial army. They were married and moved to Java where the marriage proved to be no bargain for the young Margreet. Bored and disillusioned she  began studies of the native culture which included exotic dancing lessons. After many alleged affairs, syphilis, and disaffection from her husband and children she moved to Paris which is where her storied life began in earnest. (you can read more about the life of Mata Hari by clicking the link on her name)

 The real "Mata Hari" dressed scantily in jeweled brassiere  and little else

The movie Mata Hari starring Greta Garbo was not the first, nor the last, treatment of the glamorous spy's life. What she and Garbo have in common is an almost animal eroticism. Garbo was of course beautiful, which few would say about the real Mata, but they shared that ability to become the only person one sees in the room. That the real Mata was executed for "spying" is certain, that she had affairs with many officers during WW1 is certain as well, but the circumstances of her fall and redemption in the MGM movie are purely speculative. Still, to see virginal nuns weep for the heroic Mata as she is led away to her demise is almost poignant. It is nearly as moving, though in a completely opposite way,  as the world weary and dominating Mata's soul stealing seduction of Ramon Navarro in front of a Russian icon of the Virgin Mary, a scene which was censored/altered in some quarters.

 Mata (Garbo) manipulates a hapless General Shubin (Barrymore)

Be sure to be on the lookout for Garbo's scenes with frequent dependable co-star  Lewis Stone who is the "master of spies". But, perhaps the real treat of the movie is the over the top portrayal by Lionel Barrymore as Mata's tortured and obsessed Russian officer lover. His jealousy over her serious infatuation with heroic Russian pilot Navarro (and Mata's love for the pilot) prove to be both of their undoings.

Not to be taken too seriously this movie is a complete pleasure from Garbo's erotic dancing (allegedly done by a stand in) to her ultimate and courageous end. (one in which she tries to spare the unlucky Navarro as much pain as is possible) Once this movie starts you cannot take your eyes from it. From the incredible designs of Adrian to the naive depictions of Parisian intrigue during WW1 it's a perfect over the top 1930s melodrama. It will suck you in and have you dancing too. Enjoy!

Mata's (Garbo) touching farewell to the blinded Lt. Rosanoff (Navarro)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cosmo Update

Cosmo, so brave and such a good boy about all he has gone through!

Hello everyone! I know it's been forever since I've written about the babies, but life and work often get in the way of doing the things we do for sheer joy. Everyone is fine, generally speaking, though Cosmo is still plagued with his ECG. Sophie continues to thrive, in her own special way, and actually allows some grooming. I love her dearly and she alone sleeps with us each night (with the two "big cats" downstairs as they have been since we got them in 2008) And Star (aka "Sissy") is as always, my good big girl. She is kind, fun, loving, and sweet.

Sophie, my little "wild child" She's such a joy!

But, back to Cosmo and his rodent ulcer. One major setback we have had is that we lost our vet Dr. Derby who moved south to be with her husband. Sh
e was wonderful with us as we began this journey with Cosmo last October and I feel her absence keenly. As of now we will take Cosmo to Dr Coburn who, as luck would have it, owns a cat who also gets rodent ulcers. Her cat gets over them with shots of prenisolone though, I sure wish our Cosmo did. It's hard for me to look at his disfigured little lip, and I know that this at the very least bothers him as well. I hate to think that it causes him any real pain, that is too hard for me to imagine. So, next week we take him in to have blood drawn and to have what is called a "Heska" test done . This test may determine any allergies he might have and best case would allow us to have a serum created that we could give him (via injection) to control his allergic reactions. I am hopeful, but only reservedly so.

Sissy takes good care of her baby brother.

If the testing doesn't reveal anything specific then what I may do is find a temporary home
for him with someone and see how he reacts in another environment. In a few cases rodent ulcers have quickly resolved when a cats' location was changed, and I guess if this happened with Cosmo we would have to seriously consider finding him a new, and for him, healthier place to live. I pray it never comes to that, but I cannot simply watch his lip erode away. I feel completely helpless sometimes, but never hopeless!

I'll try to keep you all updated on this continuing "saga".

The three "babies" on the stairs in a rare moment together :-)