My cousin Bonnie

She’s not even a year old, but my look-alike Bonnie has already made it through at least four different homes. The first one, she ran away from — barely three months old. No idea where she thought she was heading to, but she was running around on this busy street; maybe she wanted to hitch a ride, more likely she was getting herself run over by a car in no time. Well, a kind soul took pity on her and took her in, after many fruitless attempts to find her owners.

Like many homeless creatures, Bonnie had to live in a car for a while. Only for a short while though, until her rescuers found what seemed like the perfect home for her. This person had a Best Friend and she was looking for a companion for him. Seemed like the perfect deal; Bonnie went to check it out, got along fabulously with the dog and was hoping to become the other Best Friend, and everything was going just fine for about a month, until the person decided she’d rather have a brown dog. Maybe Bonnie didn’t match the furniture. But back she was, homeless once more…

Me and my big sister Mieze

Change, adventure, excitement — maybe some creatures actually like this. Me, not so much. At the tender age of eight weeks, some cruel person tore me away from my Mom and my brothers and sisters and dumped me in this vast empty lot. Luckily, my pitiful cries alerted the right person and ever since then the adventures in my life are restricted to the fun variety. My sister Mieze taught me all kinds of useful stuff, how to escape for example. We used to live in a house with a fence around, and you should have seen her jumping over it, no matter how high our human would build it. Me, I was too small for this, so I wriggled through the space underneath the gate and I got out too. Lots if fun.

These days, I love to dress up — like a cow, for example.
I bet you can’t tell which one is me!

Oh yes, about Bonnie. They even tried to add her to our family, but me and my sister Mieze soon made it very clear that we didn’t want any newcomers, no way. What really got on my nerves was that everybody always said how much she looked like me. “It’s amazing! She looks just like Stella!” Again and again. Now you have to know that I’m also known as Stella-Bella, and not without reason. I AM rather pretty, if I may say so. Can you imagine Natalie Portman or Angelina Jolie — not that I care much for them, but I’m making a point here — if people would say that so-and-so looked just like them? Don’t you think they’d be a bit miffed? Well, there you go.

Stella and MiezeUh, back to Bonnie. I have nothing against her (as long as she doesn’t move in with us) and I do wish her well, really.

My cousin Bonnie

So I was glad to hear that she’s become the Best Friend of a young couple who don’t have any kids and who pamper and adore her. Let’s hope she’ll go with their interior decorating! Actually, they’re Russians; maybe she’ll learn to bark in a foreign language! Sounds like fun; I still can’t say “Moo”, and I have no idea what it means…

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The name’s Tamino

Tamino You’d think that nine lives would be quite enough, thank you very much, even for an adventurous cat like me. I don’t think I have many left, however, if any… With luck, what’s left will last me until ripe old age, now that I’ve found my home. It wasn’t easy, though — but let me tell you:

I don’t remember much of my early days, and this story begins with the time when I found myself in prison.  No idea how I got there, and not so bad as far as prisons are concerned — decent food at regular hours, and fairly clean, all things considered — but prison, nonetheless. I was locked in a cage, and could hear lots of other four-legged furries, locked up as well. Sometimes, a fur-less two-legged creature would pay some ransom money and walk away with one of the prisoners.  So, when I heard a human creature ask for a barn cat, I swallowed my pride and prayed he’d take me…

Sure enough, next thing I knew I was taken out of my cage and put into an even smaller box, which was made out of some stuff that reminded me of paper and seemed less sturdy than my former prison. As soon as I felt the box put down, I set to work and clawed and scratched and ripped and scraped until I made a hole. The box was shaking and wobbling all the time which freaked me out, but I kept going and after a while I was able to squeeze through the hole. Oh boy. I found myself on the open back of a pick-up truck, going so fast that the side of the road was a total blur. Later, I heard one of my new Moms say that this was one of the most dangerous highways in the country, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I took one of my lives in my paws, closed my eyes and jumped. I hit the ground hard and tumbled around like a rag doll, but apart from some bruises I landed on my feet all in one piece. And started what I now call the endless death march. The smell of too many dangerous creatures was all around me, trucks and cars were zooming past at breathtaking speed, the merciless sun made me desperately thirsty, and still I kept trudging along, one paw in front of the other. Where to? I had no idea. Just had to keep going.

Tamino's new homeAfter what seemed like an eternity but was actually 8.3 miles as I learned later, something seemed to lift up my head and my spirits. I saw a tall, sturdy, long chain-link fence, and I don’t know what compelled me to climb across it — some sense of security, safety, even belonging, I guess.

Was I ever wrong, it seemed at first. Right after I found some shady spot underneath some bushes, I was being attacked by two vicious monsters and I thought my last hour had surely come. They bared their huge fangs and confused me with deafening barks so I couldn’t even get my claws out. One caught me between her teeth and was going to break my neck when I heard a human voice screaming and felt the nasty brute being pulled off me — in the nick of time. I couldn’t move and was hurting badly, my heart was racing, and then a soft blanket was wrapped around me and somebody picked me up and gently carried me to safety.

The next few days are a hazy blur. I have vague memories of an animal hospital, a bill of over $700, and of being called an unsocial critter because I hissed at somebody — what did they expect, with me being in pain and badly shaken? In the picture up there, you can see the fur growing back, but they were serious wounds, let me tell you.

Well, my luck finally turned and whatever is left of my nine lives should be enough. My rescuer saw beneath my ill-deserved reputation and adopted me. I have two wonderful moms now who adore me, and there are some other furry creatures who welcomed me and want to be friends. I totally hit the jackpot — how many cats do you know with a hot-tub? So far, I only use it with the cover on, but one of these days…

Tamino hot-tub

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Why isn’t this considered torture?

I’ve written several times here about the case of Troy Davis. I believe the first time was in 2007, when a date for his execution had been set and his supporters and advocates worked hard to stop this. I read extensively about his alleged crime: the murder of a Savannah police officer in 1989 who was shot when he tried to help a homeless man. Nobody was arrested at the crime scene, but the following day somebody told the police that Troy Davis had been the shooter. The police procured a number of witnesses (nine) who testified that they had seen Davis, and at the following trial the jury convicted him of murder, and sentenced him to death. There was no physical evidence, no murder weapon that could link Davis to the crime, and yet — the witness accounts convinced the jury that he was guilty beyond a doubt.

After three dates for his execution had been overturned at the very last minute, the U.S.Supreme Court declined to hear Davis’s appeals on March 28, 2011 — setting the stage for the fourth try to execute him. All but two of the initial witnesses had recanted or altered their earlier testimonies. Many have confirmed in sworn affidavits that they had been coerced and pressured by the police to incriminate Davis. One of the two witnesses who adamantly sticks to his original story is Sylvester “Redd” Coles, the man who first implicated Davis and who has been identified as main alternative suspect by a number of witnesses.

This TIME article from July 2007 provides a good summary of the legal technicalities and financial difficulties that posed grave hurdles for Troy’s lawyers. Another strike against Davis is the fact that his many supporters (amongst them former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) are pictured as people ideologically opposed to the death penalty, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused. And it is tragically ironic that his appeals have been thrown out because the (now recanting) witnesses are considered to be unreliable — but not the first time they made their statements in court; oh no, at that time they were sufficiently reliable for a man to be sentenced to death.

Nobody should be executed as long as there’s some doubt about guilt. I happen to be one of those “radical liberals” who feel strongly that there shouldn’t be any executions, period. But apart from this, I find it deeply shocking that somebody can be given a date for his execution, again and again. Just think about it for a moment: you’re being given the exact date when you’ll die. Not a comfortable thought, is it. No matter whether you’re an agnostic or atheist, no matter what religion you believe in, death and its finality isn’t something to be brushed aside easily. So you go through who-knows-what deep emotions and ups and downs, and then: “We changed our minds. It’s been postponed — for the time being”. And this happens not once, not twice, but THREE times — and I sincerely hope this will happen once more. But this time, given the mental anguish Troy Davis has been put through repeatedly, he should be granted clemency — even if he should be guilty.

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Breakfast on Pluto

Imagine an infant born to an unwed mother in a small, provincial town in Ireland, in the early 1950s. Imagine the tiny baby being left at the doorsteps of the Parish priest who finds a dutiful, but hardly loving foster family to raise the child. Imagine this child, around the age of eight or nine, discovering his predilection for girls’ clothes and make-up — and it wouldn’t surprise you to find a deeply troubled, depressed, distrustful, and confused boy. Not so our foundling Patrick Braden, who prefers to be called Kitten. He, or rather she — that’s how Kitten feels and thinks about herself — accepts that she is different, doesn’t try to fit in with the ordinary crowd, and stays true to herself even when this results in more difficult, rather than easier, circumstances.

Kitten stubbornly refuses to get bogged down by the seriousness of the “real world”. However, she’s not a mindless party-girl with a head full of fluff, not at all. She’s more like a wise Chinese sage, smiling detachedly at the follies everywhere around, while at the same time fearlessly jumping right into the thick of it. Or she is like a saint; early on, she warns us: “Not many people can take the tale of Patrick Braden, aka St. Kitten, who strutted the catwalks, face lit by a halo of flashbulbs as ‘oh!’ she shrieks, ‘I told you, from my best side darlings.’ ”

If you can take his/her tale, you’ll follow Kitten’s many adventures, both dangerous and funny, as she travels to London on the search for her mother. I’ll mention just one: she gets picked up by a distinguished-looking gentleman in a Mercedes who turns out to be a psychopathic murderer trying to strangle her (Brian Ferry in a cameo role). But she gets away. She always does.

If I had anything to do with Oscars, Cillian Murphy most certainly would have won one for his portrayal of Patrick/Kitten Brady. He is simply terrific, looking very feminine and glamorous while maintaining an awkward innocence that makes Kitten so unique. Murphy is quickly turning into one of my most highly regarded contemporary actors. We just saw him in Perrier’s Bounty, another excellent Irish movie with a superb cast.

A quick tip: unless you’re quite familiar with the Irish dialect, you might want to have the subtitles running. English isn’t my native language, and without the subtitles, I’d be seriously lost.

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Just before the end of the day…

BBC News has come up with the most hilarious April Fool hoaxes. Remember the Spaghetti Tree?

And how about flying penguins?

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It’s April Fool’s Day…

Do you need a job? Maybe you can try out as a Google autocompleter…

Zookeepers have been scratching their heads about keeping gorillas stimulated and happy. Answer to their prayers: Give them iPads!

The British Metro Reporter has a story about the discovery of the remains of a unicorn at the Tower of London, and they offer a chewable version of today’s newspaper.

Happy April Fool’s!

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Great Irish films

Actually, this will review only two of the many outstanding Irish movies of the last decade, two that I watched recently.

First, there’s Disco Pigs, a deeply touching tale reminiscent of classic Greek tragedies. Two babies, a boy and a girl, born almost the same minute in the same hospital, grow up next door to each other, separated only by a thin wall with a possibly imaginary hole through which they can hold hands when falling asleep at night. Both have parents/families with their own problems, and the two children form a bond so deep, so exclusive, that it sets them apart from the outside world, from other people, from what commonly is considered reality. They’re always together, make up a language of their own, call each other Pig and Runt (their real names are Darren and Sinead), and develop an almost psychic awareness for the other.

As strongly as they’re tuned into each other’s feelings, as little sensitivity do they demonstrate when it comes to other people. They are each other’s world, complete, without anything missing. Other people are like objects, easily manipulated, and irrelevant at best.

When they become teenagers, Pig in particular develops a predilection for violence which Runt goes along with and finds amusing. It’s almost as if every single shred of feeling he’s capable of is reserved for her; his love and devotion and affection for her is so absolute that there’s nothing left for others.

Shortly before their 17th birthday the innocence of their relationship shifts. Pig experiences a new kind of attraction to Runt that she’s not quite ready for. A small crack becomes noticeable in their bond allowing a twisted darkness to enter, a slight tremor at first which inexorably grows into a full-blown earthquake, relentlessly pushing them towards a tragic outcome. And yet, they’re still one in the end.

Words can’t really bring this film to life. If this is an unforgettable masterpiece, it is so first and foremost because of the stellar performances by the two lead actors, Cillian Murphy (Pig/Darren) and Elaine Cassidy (Runt/Sinead). Pig’s vulnerability and loneliness, his destructive violence, his almost desperate devotion to Runt and his boundless, painfully excessive, love for her become a multi-faceted and many-dimensional character because of Cillian Murphy’s nuanced and powerful performance. I’d count him among one of the best, easily outshining most of the current Hollywood celebrities. Elaine Cassidy beautifully complements him with her quiet radiance, giving a subtle strength and a budding independence to her character which helps build the tension and trajectory of the storyline. Add to this an exceptional director — Kirsten Sheridan’s feature debut –, stunning cinematography, and a fantastic soundtrack, and one gets a truly memorable, albeit haunting, experience.

The next review (Breakfast on Pluto) will have to wait a few days…

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