October 2010 Archives

a fond farewell

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On a snowy day in January, 1997, a tiny grey face peered up at me from underneath our front porch and meowed. It was love at first sight.

When Heidi moved into our home, she was Cat #4, and, as it turned out, was carrying Cats #5, 6, 7 and 8 in her furry belly. I called her “Heidi” because half the time we had no idea where she was, a habit that became even more evident when she got close to giving birth.

At first, she was skittish, and although she clearly appreciated being inside, warm and fed, she was not a cuddler. I was determined, though, and I wore her down – and when she went into labour, she sought me out, following me around all day and sticking to me like glue. She gave birth (to four kittens that seemed impossibly large for such a petite mother) in our bedroom closet… I was pregnant myself at the time, and Dr. T was away, and this tiny grey ball of pain and fury looked straight at me and screamed as each huge kitten emerged.

One by one, her kittens went to their new homes, and one by one, our original trio of cats left us, and eventually Heidi was Cat #1, a status that she enjoyed for almost a decade. She curled up next to my babies when they slept on the couch, and tolerated toddlers testing to see is her fur came off.

heidi

She was the tiniest cat with the biggest purr. She brought me mice. She sat on my lap as I wrote blog posts and sat on my students’ essays when I marked papers. She “helped” the boys with their homework, and kept Dr. T company when he sat up too late watching TV.

She used to follow me to the Metro and follow the boys to the playground (and she even got it when I suggested that other parents might frown upon a cat in the sandbox). Once, she followed us about six blocks when we went to vote – apparently she was very civic-minded.

Heidi has been the other female in the house, making me feel a little less outnumbered. She’s snuggled with me in bed and on the couch, and enjoyed the laps of many friends over the years (particular favourites being Terence and Erin, and one memorable, almost pornographic moment with Kevin B.).

Earlier this year, it became clear that Heidi was in decline. Over the past few months, we’ve been monitoring her condition with the world’s best vet, so we knew that the end was coming – her kidneys were showing signs of failure. In the past couple of weeks, things have gone downhill quickly. We don’t think that she’s in any pain, yet, but she’s stopped eating – even Fancy Feast – and is almost literally a shadow of her former self.

This evening, our vet will come to our home, so Heidi can be at home, with her family, and we’ll say goodbye to the best cat we’ve ever known. She’s had, I like to think, a good life, and she’s made our lives better, immeasurably.

I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss her.

Ignatieff is Russian for "scapegoat"

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Lawrence Cannon would have us believe that it is Michael Ignatieff's fault that, for the first time since the UN was created, Canada failed to win its bid for one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

According to Cannon, Ignatieff's musings about whether or not Canada actually deserved a seat on the council were taken to heart by the voting members, which means that although actual Canadians don't appear to pay any attention to Ignatieff, international organizations take him very seriously.

The Harper government also plans to release documentation proving that Ignatieff is in fact responsible for many other disappointments and disasters affecting our once-united nation, including the decline in the polar bear population, traffic problems in and around Toronto, and diver Eric Sehn's 4th place finish in Delhi.

After all, Ignatieff, with his book learning and unkempt eyebrows, is clearly hell-bent on destroying our national image. Not like Stephen Harper, whose collection of cowboy hats, leather vests and flak jackets prove he is all man, and whose international policies have nothing to do with today's vote. Why wouldn't the UN voters decide, en masse, to vote for Portugal, unless Ignatieff's inflamatory remarks swayed them?

Obviously, the vote does not reflect anything else, such as Harper's all-too-blatant pro-American stance, or his rather lopsided approach to the Middle East, or his government's repeated fumbling of allegations of abuse and torture in Afghanistan, or his decision to stop for coffee instead of participating in an international world leaders' meeting at the UN last year. Nor does the vote reflect global distaste for recent Canadian policy decisions, such as our moralizing about maternal health in developing nations, our backpedalling on climate change, our turning a blind eye to the tar sands problem, or our lavish and hypocritical overspending on the G8 summit.

Maybe Ignatieff should embrace the thought that his remarks were to blame - after all, perhaps he can parlay his apparently global influence into some voter recognition where it really counts... and if all else fails, he can always roll up the rim.

What ever happened to "what ever happened to?"?

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After I finally caved and joined Facebook, I spent about two months in a state of perpetual excitement, as every day seemed to bring a new friend request from some long-lost soulmate. It was wonderful, and I was thrilled with each and every new reconnection. The experience made me question my hitherto-held stance on my high school reunion, i.e., there's no way I am deliberately going to subject myself to dinner and dancing with those people. Anyone that meant anything to me, I reasoned, was still part of my life, and all I would get from a reunion was confirmation that everyone else was as horrible as I remembered.

Facebook changed my mind, and I am very glad I've been reminded of all the really great people I went to high school with, and of all the wonderful workmates I've had the pleasure of working with over the years.

I recently created a separate Facebook "persona" for interaction with students, and for some reason I started reflecting on the impact of Facebook, and its various social networking counterparts, on human relationships. I'm not talking about the dire predictions of the technophobes, who seem to believe that one cannot be an active member of society and own a cellphone/computer/MP3 player; I'm actually talking about the phenomenon I experienced as a new Facebooker.

Some of my students, less than two decades old, already have more than 500 'friends', and unless the Aztecs were right, all of these people will presumably still be in constant communication, at least electronically, for the next seven decades (give or take).

What happens in 2030? Will high school alumni groups bother with reunions? Will alumni groups even continue to exist, or will Stu Dent simply "like" first his high school, then college, then university, then job #1, ad infinitum?

This line of questioning then led me to wonder whether or not anyone will ever again slide into obscurity. Once upon a time, it was the exclusive bailiwick of cheap paper tabloids to expose in salacious detail what "happened" to the once-famous or infamous - a name or face you hadn't though of in years suddenly splashed across lurid newsprint at the grocery store checkout, "tragically" lost in a haze of alcohol/drugs/sex/performance art. Remember the child actors from "Different Strokes"? How sad...

Well, first of all, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and Myspace, no star need ever fade again. You can make one movie or guest star in one episode - or, heaven forbid, get your own "reality" show - and immediately have thousands of people who are apparently willing to spend the rest of their lives reading about your life in 140 characters or fewer. If your tweets are good enough, you might never need to do anything else again - you'll still be famous.

If that's not enough, thanks to the Internet, you can have your own web site, and use it to prolong what might otherwise have been a much shorter career. When I started thinking about this blog post, I happened to be listening to hits from the 80s, and thought to myself, "I wonder whatever happened to Howard Jones, anyway?" You know what happened to Mr. Jones? Nothing. He is still touring and recording, albeit with significantly less embarassing hair. Thomas Dolby? Not permanently blinded by science, as it turns out, but rather, once again, still touring and recording, and, it seems, entertaining TED audiences to boot.

Don't get me wrong - I certainly do not begrudge Messrs. Jones and Dolby their continued success. I am merely observing that the level of that success is directly related to their presence on the Internet. Before the advent of the Internet, and triple-w marketing, artists like these would have either moved on to other careers, or, perhaps, in the style of Jimmy Buffet, cashed in on their moderate success and started a chain of seedy bars ("Thomas Dolby's Science Lab"?).

Finally, thanks to the miracle of Google, not to mention all the sites actually devoted to tracking the famous and the notorious, you need never again lay awake at night wondering whatever happened to Jan from the Brady Bunch.

Regular readers will know that I am enamoured of the Internet and the possibilities it offers. I truly believe the technological revolution is a good thing, and I, like many of my peers, can't remember how we functioned before we had e-mail and cellphones. But sometimes I wonder if we're losing some things, too, like the mystery of tabloid celebrity or the joy of reconnecting with someone we'd forgotten we loved...

...and don't even get me started on textspeak. :P

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