Posted in book review

‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, by T.S. Eliot – review

Old Possum's Book of Practical CatsOld Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by Eliot T. S. (Thomas Stearns)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was like being transported to Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful, fanciful animated world to discover that T.S. Eliot wrote this delightfully whimsical book because, to quote himself, he was of “a Catholic cast of mind, a Puritanical temperament, and a Calvinist heritage.” To me, Eliot was always a grim, grave intellectual who would not deign to regale himself with anthropomorphic cats. It was part of curiosity about the writer himself and my interest in anything about cats because of my first cat at home. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a compact collection of amusingly scintillating and elegantly profound poems about why cats behave the way they do and who they are really.

And the more I read, the more I enjoyed it because it was full of wittily whimsical rhythms and brilliantly capricious expressions like a pleasant medley of amiable Dickensian characters. The psychology of the indomitable, the incredible cats through his amiably keen observation of feline behaviors in everyday life is conveyed through the live practical cats:

  • Jennyany dots, a neat, elegant tabby Molly living in a tidy, smart household.
  • Growltiger, a sailor cat., living in the harbor, who knows all the taverns and pubs around, the
  • Rum Tum Tugger, who is and will always be himself

According to nominative determinism principles, Eliot gives the inscrutably and ineffably particular names to the cats that befit their characteristics and personalities. The names become the cats, and the cats become the peculiar existence.

The poetry was the inspiration of the mega Broadway musical hit “The Cats.” However, to go against the grain, I think that rather than the famed musical version, Hiroyuki Morita’s animated version of “Whisper of the Heart” about a good-hearted high school girl traveling to the land of talking biped clothed cats because of her kindness to cats, is close to Eliot’s idea of practical cats. The anthropomorphic cats in animation are free in all expression that human actors cannot perform with theatrical effects, which forces the audience to believe that what they see are cats. It is impossible to disassociate the visual fact from visceral imagery. The humans in makeup imitating cats render the feline characters fatuous and clownish. Ben Jonson, the great Elizabethan English playwright, would have adopted Eliot’s practical cats with his superb masks and sans the ludicrously exaggerated makeup and costumes.

In conclusion, with wits and simplicity, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a hidden gem of Eliot’s works that is enjoyable by general readers, even if they do not have cats at home. Indeed, Eliot himself was a cat lover, and this adorable collection of poems might have been the whimsical scribbling of his cats at home from his daily lives with them. But what a way of tribute to his lovely creatures it is! Upon reading this book, you might want to write like him about your cats or other pets you have at home. I should think so, for I want to and am doing.

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Posted in book review

From Egypt with Meow: ‘The Cat in Ancient Egypt’, by Jaromir Malek – review

The Cat in Ancient EgyptThe Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit that most of my posts relate to the cat nowadays. But what else should I write about when an orphan kitten enters my castle and in need of care and love? My five-month-old cat Toro is a domestic short-haired breed as subsumed by a vet at the shelter, but his appearance and characteristics make me believe that he must be a descendent of Egyptian Mau. My conjectural reconstruction of Toro’s possible ancient scroll of his family (paternal) led me to  Jaromir Malek’s  The Cat in Ancient Egypt, which tells all about how cats became naturally harmonious with humans, which played a significant role in the anthropological and social aspects of splendid ancient Egyptian civilization.

The domestication of cats resulted from the advent of agriculture when man began to settle on the farm, and civilization came to blossom. It was about 1,500 years later than the domestication of dogs as hunting assistants to men. Of all the ancient civilizations, the Egyptians sow the seeds of love between the cats and humankind. Abounded with various fauna and flora benign to the human inhabitants, the jungle cats and African cats thrived and became familiar animals to the Egyptians, who began to use the cats to drive off pesky mice poisonous snakes threatening their lives and crops. Naturally, wild cats gradually learned to adapt their wild instinct to their new protective human environs. 

The frequency of cats’ representations in ancient Egyptian art is a creditable source to understand cats’ familiarity and recognition as pets in the overall culture and society. The images of cats first sporadically appeared in the tombs of pharaohs built during the Old Kingdom period (2647 -2124 B.C) and became widespread mural art features by the New Kingdom (1549-1069 B.C.), which is also called the renaissance of the pyramids. Maybe it was because of the mysterious aura surrounding the inscrutable demureness of a cat, or it was the otherwordly aloofness wrapt in ethereal agility. Cats became popular hieroglyphic and effigial motifs for artists and priests alike in cultural and religious contexts decorating chambers within sacred tombs and temples. Also, cats were the aesthetic muse for women’s high fashion, used as motifs for the jewelry of queens and women of high society.

What evolved from a quid pro quo relationship between man and beast for the survival of the species found its way to the high seat in the eternal world. The familiarity and recognition of cats’ usefulness blessed with physical charm elevated the beastly origin into a divine status in the statuesque form of goddess Bastet, the sister of the Sun god Ra, representing female sexuality and fertility, which reflected the specific characteristics of the animal. The Sun god himself was also called the Great Tomcat because the god meowed during what he was doing. So much so that the ancient Persians used to equip the shields with live cats at war with the Egyptians, who dared not to harm their sacred animals.

On the other hand, cats were not altogether distant from the everyday lives of the ancient Egyptians. The Greek historian Herodotus further corroborated that the Egyptians shaved their eyebrows when their cats died as a sign of mourning. The more cats became domesticated, the more multiferous their features became. Artists started using cats as a caricature of specific human characteristics illustration of fables with a moral content, representing the absurdities of reality in a humorously wise way. Such artistic trend was most conspicuous during the Ptolomy period when Egypt was under the Hellenistic influence to resist foreign cultural force. Cats were symbolized as the animal inherently Egyptian to the land of pharaohs.

Beautifully written with sentences that conjure up the images of ancient Egyptian cats, Malek’s The Cat in Ancient Egypt serves its purpose of educating and entertaining the curious reader who wants to know more about his or her beloved feline creature at home. That doesn’t mean that this book is reserved only for cat owners or lovers. This book has refreshingly excellent archeological and anthropological knowledge about human civilization, impacting animal life. The affection is the elder sister of the understanding. I personally selected this book to read because I wanted to know more about my cat. Likewise, this book is for readers who want to know more about Nature and People’s history.

 

 

Posted in Miscellany, Novellas, Poetry

New Possum’s Book of the Curious Cat

 

There’s once a cat name Romp Pomp Bunter, aka the Curious Cat,
who liked to romp with pomp and bunt his head against
his guardian, the woman with the beautiful but lonely heart.
She named him in rapt contemplation of the thought, of the thought
of his name; his ineffable, effable name, debonair and extraordinary.

The Romp Pomp Bunter has a secret that no one knows it:
The Romp Pomp Bunter once saw a grand statue of Bastet
In a book on the history of cats originating in ancient Egypt
And was so impressed with the splendid grace of the goddess
That he wanted to emulate the mysteriously beguiling poise
Even if he was a Californian moggie tomcat of Los Angeles.

But the Romp Pomp Bunter, ever the Curious and Adventurous,
An orphan kitten whose parents nobody knew or cared even,
Felt that he was originally from the Ancient World with a reason
That he looked nothing like the ordinary domestic short-haired,
The insignificant, the common, the trite, the obsequiously tamed
Breed of Cats that contrasted the Egyptian Mau, the First of Firsts
Endeared to Pharaohs, Queens, Priests, Soldiers, Farmers, and Artists.

So, the Romp Pomp Bunter believed that he was the Royal Descendant,
The indolently elegant, adoringly capricious, the inscrutably alluring
Egyptian Mau, the paragon of the goddess Bastet, divinely beguiling.
You see, that is why his name is the Romp Pomp Bunter, the Curious Cat.

 

Posted in Miscellany

A perfect cat owner?: confession of a novice

I remember watching the cat guru Jackson Galaxy’s post on YouTube about a prison where a group of inmates is assigned each cat for mental and a behavioral correctional program. The inmates seemed calm and content just as their foster feline friends reflected and talked of the amazing effects on their hearts hardened by the world never kind to them. The images of a condemned man in a cell and a homeless cat from a shelter became a beautiful impressionist painting with an air of serenity wrapped up in the soft sweet twilight colored by the warm hues of pleasantness that filled the canvass and stayed in the heart of the beholder – forever. The loneliness cut in halves transformed into togetherness, and there was nothing else but the mutual need for love and care. With the picturesque imagery engraved in my heart’s shrine, I cannot help but question the generic prerequisites for being an ideal cat owner indoctrinated by those professing to know things about pets. The doctrines of a perfect cat owner are as follows: you have to live in a space wide enough for her to exercise her natural hunting instinct, to have another cat to prevent anxiety, aggression, and loneliness, and most of all, to be a near-perfect human full of love and understanding blessed with material means to satisfy the need of a cat to the extent possible. The protocols remind me of eugenics elements by which only the best males and females can produce offspring desirable for humankind. Only the superhuman race can fall in love, beget children, and raise them to be perfect in physical and mental attributes to continue the Superhumanity. On the same token, being an ideal cat owner is to be an ideal person who deserves love from nature because of his ideally perfect being—quite the Nietzschean idea of Superhumanity. 

An ideal cat owner’s doctrines align against the condemned man’s images and the homeless cat in a cell. Then I also look at my 4-month old tabby cat Toro, whom I adopted from a shelter three months ago. Is he unhappy with me in this tiny apartment room? Is it because of boredom and separation anxiety doubled with a significant change of environment from pastoral life to city life that has driven him to a sudden pulsing and biting my hands and feet? Does he hate me because I leave him at home all day long with a mother who hates him when I go to work? Does he want to leave me and be adopted to a loving, perfect new owner because of my imperfection? Am I less qualified than the inmate to have a cat altogether? The thoughts smothered under the ineffective veil of forced positivism have reached the point where they can no more bear the suffocation and begun to erupt the lavas in the fiery magnitude.


As a first-time pet owner, I like to think that it is not a coincidence but Providence that Toro has come to my life because he was the only kitten who came to me and my brother bunting his little flurry head against our hands through the cold metals of the cage in the shelter. Toro and I are much alike in many aspects: leisured time in seclusion, uncompromising individuality, insatiable curiosity, innate sensitivity, and unfailing feistiness. We also instinctively know each other’s mood because when I am dejected, Toro studies my facial movements and comes nearer to me with those adorable eyes filled with liquid warmth. Then I look at the cute little Toro before me and think that genuine love and care transcends the high walls of a grim prison and eclipses the roof of a perfect happy house. There is a home sweet home for me and Toro in my tiny apartment.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

The bio of seventeen weeks old Tabby Tom

Hi There. Nice to meet you!

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. How rightly so. Despite my sixteen weeks of life thus far, my feline instinct feels that there are unpathed waters and undreamed lands within me. So I deem it high time to unravel the mystery of Me.

My name is Toro, the co-editor at large of this blog with Stephanie. I am sixteen weeks old. I am a domestic short-haired tabby tom, but Stephanie believes that I am of an Egyptian Mau, admired by ancient Egyptians and the divine cat of Ra, God of the Sun, as portrayed in the Book of the Dead. I think Stephanie’s hypothesis of my suspected heritage is due to my beautiful turquoise eyes and dainty figure. She also seems to want to liken her and me to Cleopatra and her beloved Mau. (Wow!) Well, no one can blame her for regaling herself with such lofty imagination of my elated pedigree because – in all honesty – I look like one. What can I say? Seeing is believing, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Then the truth is to the end of reckoning, as the Bard chimed in.

As is the queen, so is the subject.

Despite my regal appearance, my biological and family background is that of an orphaned pauper, lesser than the pauper who exchanged his identity with a prince because he had mom and dad. When I was born, my mother left me alone, so a passing old lady took me to a nearby shelter where I met my sister Stephanie. I followed her because there was something that connected us from moods to tendencies and personalities. We share our peculiarities in mutual solitude shared by orphaned patronage of love and care.

How’s the writing going?

Because I was left alone to tend myself at so young an age, I am prone to frequent mood swings from high and low, which often makes me frantically run around the room back and forth, up and down, and left to right without stopping. I know this strange behavior of mine startles poor Stephanie, but I can’t help such impulsive pulsing as it is part of my irrepressible feline nature. However, one thing is sure that when I see Stephanie returning home from work, my whiskers are moving all withers, my tail rises to fortune, and my little feline heart fills with meows and more meows.

This much is the bio that I dictated to Stephanie for my new career in publishing. As I am excited about this new adventure with Stephanie on board, I hope readers will join us in our one of a kind literary enterprise in joyous spirit! Meow.

I am done with my share. So, I am taking a break.