Friday, September 30, 2011

RIP Ringo Stu Kitty, Esq.

It's a sad day here at Old Maid HQ.  Ringo Stu Kitty, beloved cat of Monica of 5 Cats Shy, brother of the dearly departed Seamus Patrick O'Kitty and excellent roadtrip buddy crossed the Rainbow Bridge last night.

Ringo Stu was a six-pound cat with a lion-sized personality.  He always greeted guests at the door like the gentleman he was.  Ringo was an excellent conversationalist  who enjoyed talking on the phone with his grandma Kathleen and expressing himself on many topics.  He was also a talented singer who enjoyed xylophone music and would sing along with Buddy Holly's "Every Day" and the Beastie Boys' "Girls."  His cow impersonations were legendary.

Ringo was a very cuddly cat who would by means of stealth get onto his mother's lap at any opportunity.  He loved his mother very much, and he also had love to share with others.  When we were traveling across the country, I woke up many times with Ringo curled up on my belly.  Ringo was a lot of love in a very small package.

Ringo is survived by his mother Monica, his grandma Kathleen, his aunt Michelle, his aunt Maria, and his cousins Huckleberry and Daphne Clementine Katz.  Godspeed, "Ringo Stulio down at the schoolyard."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Words of Wisdom: The Army Dude on "The Secret"

"If you're stuck in a concentration camp, you can hang out with the group who wants to pretend that it's all sunshine and fun at Disneyland, or you can hang out with the group who says 'this sucks' and are working on a way to escape.  Sticking with the second group is probably going to be a lot more work, but there is a much better chance that you will actually achieve results -- like getting out."


Friday, September 23, 2011

Skip This Book

Pride and Prejudice recently rose to the top of my DVD queue.  While I was watching it (and swooning over Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy), I became interested in reading about Jane Austen.  Why not?  She was an old maid who liked to write; I'm an old maid who likes to write.  Leaving aside her literary genius and shocking lack of cats, and ignoring my obscurity and occasional F-bomb, we are practically twins.

Out of a fairly hefty shelf devoted to Jane at my local library, I selected Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart by Valerie Grosvenor Myer.  It promised to tell me about the woman behind the novels.  All it did was confuse me.

The book starts with a chapter on Jane's early life, which contains the names of every person remotely related to Jane who was alive during her lifetime.  While it represents an impressive amount of posthumous Janestalking, it only serves to confuse the reader -- partly because many of the people named are not very important to the story at hand, and partly because every other woman in the extended Austen family was named Jane or Cassandra, and every other man was named James, Edward, James-Edward, or Edward-James.

The following chapter is a quick trot through the Possible Loves of Jane.  We get Jane's entire romantic history in almost a bullet-point format.  Does the author think we are that uninterested in why Jane never married at a time when marriage was the ticket to financial security?  Apparently she does.

The book then settles down to a more or less linear format, beginning with Jane's move in her early twenties to Bath with her family.  And then, I don't know, a bunch of stuff happens and Jane is annoyed by most of it (I feel her pain).  It's all places and dates and lists of relatives Jane visits.  I lost interest in the book around the time the author tells us that at a certain point, Jane had two novels finished but unpublished.  I wondered when did that happen and why wasn't I told?  When did she start the novels and why?  What were her days like?  Did she set the novels wherever she happened to be living?  WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, MS. MYERS?

At which point, I gave it up and returned the book to the library.  My blood pressure couldn't take any more.  It was all too confusing -- although I'll admit it's possible that the source of my confusion has its roots in my intemperate youth.  But based on the reviews I read at, though, I think the blame lies squarely with the author.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sunset Boulevard

I saw Sunset Boulevard for the first time last week.  Oh. My. God. What a great movie!  In case anyone in the Western world isn't familiar with it, the story centers around Norma Desmond (played by silent film legend Gloria Swanson) , a washed-up silent film star who dreams of a big Hollywood comback, and Joe Gillis (played by William Holden), a screenwriter whose career has never taken off and who is pretty much down to his last few bucks.  Fate brings Joe to Norma's crumbling mansion when he hides in her driveway to avoid reposession of his car.  Joe is drawn into Norma's demented world of faded glory like a fly stepping into a spiderweb.

In other hands, this could have been a very different movie -- but the actors give the characters dimension. Watching it, we believe that Joe isn't just a gigolo who enjoys expensive gifts and a lavish lifestyle paid for by a rich older woman.  We believe he really cares about Norma, who is lonely and lost as well as demented and living in the past.

Billy Wilder's directing is done with a very deft hand -- two parts film noir, one part monster movie.  There is a montage where Norma undergoes a series of bizarre youth-regaining treatments that can't help but make the viewer think of Frankenstein's monster. In heavily shadowed scenes, the character of Max von Mayerling (played by Erich von Stroheim) is gradually revealed as a sort of Dr. Frankenstein.  He is Norma's servant, but he also has an unhealthy amount of control over her.  We begin to wonder what payoff he is getting by lying to her and playing along with her crazy fantasies.

Part of what made this movie so great for me is that I've seen a few silent movies, as well as the early talkie The Taming of the Shrew (with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, both of whom had also been silent movie stars).  In The Taming of the Shrew, Fairbanks and Pickford absolutely chew the scenery.  Never before had I seen such heavy-handed overacting, but it showed that the very talents that made great silent films did not translate well to talking pictures.  It made Norma's plight more understandable and her devotion to dramatic facial expressions and gestures sad instead of laughable.  Gloria Swanson gives a tour de force performance as a woman who is like a screen image instead of a human being.

Edith Head did a great job with the costumes.  Most of the characters wear everyday clothes that were fashionable at the time. Norma's clothes, like her personality, are larger than life. They are based on fashionable looks of 1950, but Edith Head added scarves and head wraps, fur stoles and pounds of diamond jewelry -- Norma never completely lets go of the fashions of her glory days. Max is creepy as a manservant in a quasi-military uniform. Norma and Max's clothes reflect that they are living in a world of their own, for the most part oblivious to the fact that life has gone on without them outside the walls of the mansion.

Sunset Boulevard.  I absolutely loved it.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Will James

"To my way of thinking there's something wrong, or missing, with any person who hasn't got a soft spot in their heart for an animal of some kind. With most folks the dog stands highest as man's friend, then comes the horse, with others the cat is liked best as a pet, or a monkey is fussed over; but whatever kind of animal it is a person likes, it's all hunkydory so long as there's a place in the heart for one or a few of them."

Smoky, The Cow Horse (1929)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pet Peeve

Dear Veterinary Clinic Staff:

This is a cone.


This is an Elizabethan collar.  Please update your terminology accordingly.  Thank you.


[Gentle readers, my cat had some routine surgery to remove benign growths on her ear and cheek.  In person she looks like she's gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson on a day when he was in a biting mood, but rest assured, she is fine.]

Friday, September 09, 2011

Dept. Of Home Economics: Organization

I love a clean and organized home, don't you?  Mary Agnes up there always kept her home spotless and tidy.  Me? I try.  In general, I enjoy organizing more than I enjoy using the system I set up, so things tend to slide gradually into a state of disarray.  Then I get to have the fun of organizing again, so at least that's something.

This week, with kids going back to school and a hint of Fall in the air, I've been in the mood for a clean start, so to speak.  I've been cleaning and organizing like a madwoman, starting with my bedroom closet.  After reading some organizing tips online and drooling over fancy closet makeovers by companies like California Closets, I realized that part of my problem has been working with the existing closet setup instead of taking a couple of facts into account: that my tiny walk-in closet has to store more than clothes, and that I need more space for folded items than I do hanging items.  The double dresser I already have is full to bursting; however, a California Closet makeover isn't in the budget.

So I went to Walmart, and for six bucks and change I got one of these babies to increase the space for things like tee shirts now and turtlenecks later on.  (I already have a small dresser for lingerie in the closet, as well as a free-standing shelf unit that holds folded jeans.)  What I like about this new shelf is the fact that I can slide it across the bar as the seasons change and I need to hang different things.  Essentially, I created a coat closet on one side of it -- which will require more space once the wool coats come out of their storage bins.

Then I hung a tension rod (available in the aisle where shower curtains are sold) under a shelf that is at a right-angle to the existing rod, creating about 2.5 feet of extra hanging space for blouses and short skirts.  In a tiny Newport closet, that's a LOT of real estate.

I also came to the conclusion that despite my best efforts, keeping a shelf that is above my head organized is difficult at best.  I bought four or five plastic shoe storage boxes -- available in-store for $1 each -- to corral things by category: products for cleaning the upstairs bathroom in one, wardrobe maintenance items (shoe polish, mending kit, etc.) in another, and so on.  Now I can find the Static Guard when I need it without having to go downstairs for a stepstool.

I suppose the truly organized (or, ahem, obsessive-compulsive) would put a lid on each box and then label the front with a fancy printed label.  I used the boxes more like baskets so they could hold more and things with oddball shapes would fit in them. has a lot of organizational products available.  So does Target.comThe Container Store has more stylish options than were in my budget at the moment, as does The Pottery also has some great options.

An important thing to keep in mind is that items designed for one area of the home can often be used in another.  For example, a wire mesh pencil cup would make a cute makeup brush holder.  I use a pair of pretty drinking glasses.  It's called "repurposing" and Mary Agnes was a master at it. Because really, the thriftiest way to keep things organized is to use what you already have.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

One Badass Teddy

Yes, that's a Harley-Davidson do-rag.  Henry's cool like that.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Things were fun this weekend around the old HQ because my sister Rachel visited from Chicago.  It's always fun to spend time with her.  We look a lot alike, we laugh at the same things, and also, I get to tease her about sounding like a cartoon character.  In true big sister fashion, gentle readers, I have her convinced that I think her voice is squeaky but mine isn't -- even though in reality I know we sound exactly the same.

The question in my mind is "am I a genius or what?" but I'm sure the question in your mind is "why do they sound like cartoon characters?"  The answer is, I don't know.  Our other sister sounds perfectly normal and sings like an angel.  I suspect neither Rachel nor I paid attention when announcements were made in heaven about where the lines were forming to choose adult voices, so we got stuck with kid voices forever.

Yesterday morning I woke up with a sore throat, which has since developed into some kind of a virus.  I'm assuming this is because I spent all day Saturday with the little petri dishes my beloved nieces and nephew.  Now I sound like a cartoon character who's been a little too free with the whiskey and cigarettes.  It is not an improvement.