Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to remove matted fur from your howling, scratching, biting cat. Last night I was in despair about what to do about Graham's increasingly matted fur. I was afraid people would think I neglected him, whereas the real difficulty was how to keep Graham still for long enough to groom him.

I consulted lots of internet resources, from pet websites to that and eHow rubbish that is cut-and-pasted by some poor sod who earns $5 for 'writing' those things. But here is the technique that is working for me. It also gets a better aesthetic result than the widespread advice to just shave your cat.

1. Clip your cat's claws. IMPORTANT FIRST STEP.

2. Get a fine-toothed comb and a pair of nail scissors or other small, narrow-bladed scissors.

3. Sit the cat on your lap with one arm looped around his chest so he can't escape. Talk nonsense to the cat in that psychotically calm voice you use to soothe him on the way to and from the vet.

4. Isolate a fur mat and put your fingers between the root of the mat and the cat's skin. This is important so you don't accidentally cut the cat.

5. Work one blade of your scissors through the mat close to the bottom and snip vertically, away from the skin. Your aim should be to divide the mat into smaller clumps. Not only does this make them easier to remove, it also hurts the cat less.

6. Gently tease apart the small mats. They should come apart relatively easily.

7. Very gently comb out the cat's fur, being careful not to tug at it. Don't be worried if lots of fur comes out. If you've cut the mat vertically, you minimise the amount of fur the cat loses. I learned this lesson by trial and error, so poor Graham is currently missing a clump of fur because my early approach was to excise the mat by cutting it off close to the skin.

I wouldn't be a bona fide cat lady unless I pondered what to do with all the fur I have removed from Graham – most of it the downy undercoat. There is some nutcase who makes jewellery with cat fur and sells it on Etsy, and I have considered that. But because I am trying to be normal, I regretfully threw away the fur.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Exorcism flashback. When I was a kid I had a black cat. Her name was Bap, because my brother Lina couldn't say "Black", but she was mainly known as Bappily. She was a great cat and I loved her dearly. She would knock at the front door by flipping the door knocker, and there is a family photo of the pair of us asleep in bed with her head next to mine on the pillow.

In a shameful episode, I once 'exorcised the devil' from her. I did this by sprinkling her with flour so her coat wasn't so 'evil'-coloured. I think I also chanted some stuff and waved a burning sprig of herbs around. I was too young to actually watch The Exorcist to see how it was really done, but on the other hand I had read a lot of fantasy fiction.

Then I shut her in my parents' wardrobe until her growling and hissing died down. When she started to purr again, I considered her exorcised.

I thought about this tonight, because I decided to try to clean Graham's coat by sprinkling cornflour in it.

It started when I petted him earlier tonight and felt that his fur was clumping across his back. This raised the challenge of how I was going to get the clumps out. In yet another instance that Maru is better than my cat, Graham hates being brushed. I keep the brushes near his food, because pretty much the only time he will submit to being brushed is while he is eating. Otherwise he rolls onto his back to avoid the brushing.

I have two cat brushes: a rubber one with nubs for bristles that slips over my hand so I basically brush Graham while petting him, and a more traditional bristle brush. The rubber one I use to get rid of debris in the fur – leaves, sticks, burrs, et cetera. The bristle one I use to get rid of loose fur.

Neither of them really made an impact on the clumps, so I decided to ambush Graham with a fine-toothed comb while he was lying on the couch. He did not care for this, and attacked the comb with his triple-threat attack.

I will do whatever it takes to avoid having to bathe Graham. I have done it twice and the triple-threat attack is like gentle tickles compared to the vicious gouges he takes out of my arms when water is involved. He once ripped a pair of rubber gloves to shreds.

So I read on the internet that you can clean a cat with cornflour. So tonight I got a jar of cornflour, lured Graham over to his food bowl, and while he was distracted with eating, I threw a handful of cornflour across his back.

Of course, Graham immediately flipped over onto his back, releasing most of the flour onto the kitchen floor. I tried to rub what was left into his fur, but you have to imagine me doing this while chasing Graham around the house. Eventually he ran away and hid, and now I have cornflour all down my front and Graham has this grey patch of fur on his back.

Maybe I should have tried burning a sprig of herbs or something.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Freezer Tetris. Here's how to play this fun game. You arrive home from the shops with a loaf of bread, or a pack of meat, fruit or vegetables, that you'd like to preserve through the magic of ice. But you have no way of knowing what your housemate will have also purchased and put in the freezer in the interim.

So your challenge is to somehow make room for your new purchases in the freezer. However, unlike real Tetris, a row of food doesn't magically vanish when you put it together. You have to make it vanish more slowly, by consuming it.

Sorry about these blurry photos; I have a hard enough time taking in-focus pics with my stupid shaky hands, let alone when one hand is holding the freezer door open.

You can see the immediate problem – the genius who designed our fridge thought it'd be a great idea to waste a shitload of freezer space with this nifty built-in ice dispenser thing. (You fill the upper trays with water and then when they're frozen, you twist the knob and the cubes fall into the lower tray.)

Certain things sit in our freezer forever and never seem to be used. These include my leg of lamb (in that foil container) which is now at least a couple of years old. I bought it with the idea of having people over for dinner, but since I am a Shit Cook™I was worried about embarrassing myself.

Perhaps I should still try to cook it to see if it's okay. In this respect I am my dad's daughter; he has a history of cooking with meat that has been in the freezer an audaciously long time.

Other longstanding tenants of the freezer are Paul's assorted flavoured milks. He must have them in there for a reason, but I am afraid of mentioning them and hence opening up discussion of my frozen lamb leg.

The right-hand drawer is also stuffed with random muffins and bread crusts that I have been hoarding to make into croutons, breadcrumbs or bread and butter pudding. It used to be worse; I recently threw out a bunch of crusts.

And the final thing is that bag of chicken wings. I don't know whose it is, but its irregular shape makes it a frustrating item to play Freezer Tetris with.

My first Freezer Tetris strategy is to stack the relatively flat, rectangular objects up the back. I freed up room for this today by removing some half-used frozen berries from their outer packaging and stuffing them in the door shelf. The right-hand drawer is a good place for also half-used packs of things that are too wide for the door.

The irregular-shaped objects are best right up the front. If you can shut the freezer door and it stays shut, you've won!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I am the queen of time. Well, that's how I feel with one timepiece around my neck and another one now on the wall in my living room.

Yes, I put Il Modernissimo on the wall. Irritatingly, it seems to have that common problem with cheap quartz clocks: the second hand gets stuck at ten to. Oh well, at least I only paid $4 for it. I can't tell if this problem is because the hands are loose or because it needs a new quartz movement; if I take it off the wall and shake it, it usually starts back up. New movements are available online for about a dollar, plus about three dollars postage, but it does erode the pleasure of a bargain to realise that you will need to spend more money to make it work.

On the other hand, I have never had any trouble from the Beckoning Cat alarm clock that I bought a couple of years ago as a Christmas present for my brother Matt, and then ended up keeping because Matt spent Christmas overseas with his girlfriend. It keeps great time and hasn't even needed a new battery. Of course I haven't used the alarm since it gave me the fright of my life the first time I heard it. It sounds like exuberant J-pop with a cat as the lead vocalist.

Beckoning Cat has brought the soothing sound of a ticking clock back into my life. Il Modernissimo has quite a loud ticking mechanism; Graham noticed the sound straight away when I first put the clock up, and I realised the second hand was getting stuck when the room felt quieter all of a sudden.

It's easy to forget, given that most clocks these days are digital. Perhaps because you can only hear it when the room is very quiet, it always evokes peace for me. This is because I am constantly struggling to stuff work into my days and nights; I remember when a ticking clock meant agonising boredom in school, or the sound of authority being exerted on me in a principal's, boss's or doctor's office. On the other hand, when I catch the very quiet ticking of my necklace, it feels a little unnerving, like I have a time bomb around my neck.

On Friday night I had a pleasant pub dinner with my brother Lina, and we were discussing the Justin Timberlake film In Time. Writer/director Andrew Niccol is trying for more of the speculative magic he made with Gattaca, but the story seemed to replace the human dramas of the earlier film with bombast and cornball dialogue. Gattaca could wring nail-biting thrills from Jude Law dragging himself up a staircase, but Justin Timberlake and Cillian Murphy have to do absurd parkour and car chases.

But what annoyed me was that Niccol filled In Time with dialogue in which money was literally replaced with time in a gimmicky, obvious way. "Have you got a minute?" says a child beggar; "Here, take five…" says good-hearted Timberlake. Later, as he lives it large thanks to a windfall of time, he's asked if he "comes from time" or if he's "fast" – which is this universe's way of policing socioeconomic class.

In Time does seem preoccupied with class divisions, and I was telling Lina about a great review  I'd read of the film, which picks up on the way it uses the visual language we associate with the America of the 1920s and 1930s – both periods of class conflict. The glamorous, near-immortal elite of New Greenwich seem to be living in a Roaring Twenties utopia – complete with ladies in gloves, furs and bobbed hair – while in working-class Dayton, where everyone literally lives from day to day, it's more like the Depression. And when rich girl Amanda Seyfried goes on the run with Justin Timberlake, they're like Bonnie and Clyde, or even like Patty Hearst and the SLA – folk heroes who want to overthrow plutocracy.

But really this 'time is money' idea wasn't completely fleshed out. Fur coats, for instance, should only be status symbols if it took ages and ages to produce them. Hand-knitted jumpers ought to be the height of sophisticated chic because of the effort that they use, and crappy Etsy crafters would be venerated as master artists. Diamonds, however, are still a valuable commodity because they are produced over millennia. Anything that reeked of speed would be seriously trashy. The Concorde and the Shinkansen would be the RyanAir of this world, whereas the super-rich would travel by ocean liner and ferry, and boast about getting in traffic jams.

Oh well, lest I fall into another blogging reverie and waste another entire day, I had better eat something. Time, time, time… see what's become of me…

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My fruitful visit to Savers Mill Park. Normally I would write about clothes on Footpath Zeitgeist, but then I would have to write something thoughtful, whereas right now I basically want to be like most fashion bloggers and boast about my latest bargains, amply illustrated with gratuitous photos of me modelling them and posing like an absolute goon.

So get ready because I am about to boast and pose like nobody's business!

I am still in the trough of an appalling months-long streak of poverty, but I did not let that deter me from going to Savers Mill Park. It's the newest Savers in Melbourne. After my first visit there, where I found it practically deserted, full of fantastic stock and absurdly cheap compared to Savers Brunswick, Savers Mill Park has acquired a legendary status in my mind. But I can only go there on weekends because that's when my monthly Metcard allows me to travel in all zones. Mill Park is in zone 2.

Today I wanted to see if they had a small, cheap clock that I could use as a base to DIY into a midcentury-style starburst/sunburst wall clock. I've recently rearranged my kitchen so the microwave is on the bench in the corner, hidden by the fridge, so I can no longer glance at the microwave to tell the time.

This one recently sold on eBay for $147.50. I really like the black and gold (the gold would match my coffee table), and the two lengths of starburst, but as for the price… Get farked!

I like the little balls decorating this one. (That said, I HATE the chunky hands on the George Nelson ball clock.) It's still being auctioned but has already attracted six bids, so I don't expect it will end up being affordable.

So I've been investigating DIY versions online. They mainly involve a small round clock with dowel rods or BBQ skewers hot-glued to the back and spray-painted to the desired colour. I think I could improve on that by using wooden chopsticks, which have the width of dowel but taper to a point. However, I also like the wider, 3D triangular pieces. The ideal material to make these from would be a broken, discarded metal venetian blind – I would cut out the triangle to the desired length, then gently fold it over a ruler to create the centre ridge. Sadly, all my venetian blinds are in working order.

I made a beeline for the Savers clock section and was quite disappointed by the selection. But I did find this clock for $3.99, which I kinda like as is – it's rather Il Modernissimo:

The clock is held together with screws in the back; when I unscrewed it, turns out the face is mounted on the back sheet of perspex. My main problem would be how to cut out the face from the surrounding plastic. Until I can figure that out, I can't proceed any further. But look what else I found at Savers:

These are promotional swizzle sticks for Absolut Mandrin. If I roughed them up a bit with sandpaper then spray-painted them, they are perfect for the clock.

Having procured these clock materials, I turned my attention to the rest of the store, even though I had said to myself earlier, "Just the clock! You don't have the money for anything else…" Well, I was lying to myself… but I made a fresh bargain with myself – I would only buy stuff that looked genuinely awesome and was very good value.

I think this '70s chiffon dress is handmade – I couldn't find a tag on it. It's a little motheaten – I wonder if I could attempt to fix the worst holes – but the dress is so diaphanous you don't really notice. It didn't come with a slip, so I am wearing a pale apricot petticoat I already own (purchased on a previous visit to Mill Park Savers; the gold sandals you can glimpse in the pic also came from that trip).

There is a certain magic when you try on a garment and it not only fits but also flatters and you look genuinely awesome. Boo-hoo, I tried on an amazing handmade Kelly-green '60s wiggle dress – total Joanie Harris stuff – but I couldn't zip it up, and there was another '60s hot-pink dress that I didn't even bother trying on because I could see it was too narrow in the hips.

I also discarded a few other dresses that technically fitted me but didn't look quite right. There was a lovely cotton print dress with sequins sewn to the print (perfect for summer weddings) that was just a little bit too big in the bust, a '70s dress in a gorgeous bright blue that was too baggy and shapeless, and another '70s shirtwaist dress (with matching belt) in an excellent Marimekko-style red poppy print but it had darts and tucks in weird places, and really far-apart buttons that gaped.

But then I put on the yellow dress and it was super-glamorous and some breeze somewhere in Savers puffed out the skirt… and best of all, it was $2.99! I would also like to draw your attention to this excellent watch pendant I also picked up… for $6.99!

The watch winds up (no batteries!) and it's upside down so I can check the time and admire my boobs at once. It's been so long since I owned a mechanical watch (I haven't worn a watch at all since 2005) that I had to look up how to wind it properly.

It's by Swiss watchmaker Buler, which was popular in the '60s and '70s. I can't find the precise one I have online, but judging from its similarity to this model, it might date from the '60s. I'm just so chuffed about this, as just recently I was enviously checking out a pendant watch my book club buddy Helen bought on Etsy.

But as you can tell from the dickhead look on my face, I wasn't done bargain-hunting! I also got this cotton Hawaiian-print shift dress that was actually made in Hawaii… for $5.99! All I need is more height in my hair and a flower behind one ear and I will be the very image of one of those 'retro ladies'.

This is a better indication of the colour. The dress is a little loose, but I figure that in the height of summer I will prefer it that way. The hem sits just above my knees. Look at my hilariously pasty, un-Hawaiian legs.

Also purchased and not photographed:

There were so many other books I was tempted to buy as well. The shithouse novelisation of The Terminator which I felt I ought to buy as a franchise completist, but honestly the writing was just so bad. Both Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. Various books-that-have-been-turned-into-films-so-people-bought-the-book-then-gave-it-away-because-they-really-preferred-the-film. Chiefly The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. (I know. That one doesn't make me proud.) But honestly, my house is stuffed with books already.

Wow. I sat down to quickly boast about my excellent haul at Savers Mill Park before I made dinner, and now it turns out I have spent most of Saturday night writing this blog post. What a rich life I lead.

Birds 1: Graham 0. My poor cat. He lusts after the birds in the backyard, crouching ever so still to watch them, and making his little chirruping sounds, but so far in his almost three years living here, he has never caught one. (His Bad Influence Friend Charlie has, though.)

This afternoon he came very close, chasing a bird into the laundry shed. But then the bird's mates swooped to the rescue, squawking loudly, which created the necessary diversion for Graham's quarry to escape. Graham was left to crouch on the ground looking comically bewildered. I have never seen birds be so proactive outside an Alfred Hitchcock film. I wished I had a camera.

While I am talking about my cat, Stupid Cat Songs has reached a new low with the advent of 'Come On Grahamleen' in the style of Dexy's Midnight Runners. Yeah, you heard right. Grahamleen. "Mew-ra mew-ra mew-ra mew-ra-yay…"

Here is a bonus picture of Graham asleep on the couch the other night, looking as if he is dreaming of pew pew pew. He looks very fat but that is partly a combination of fluffiness and foreshortening. Partly.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Horrible Coughing postscript. Today I heard the unmistakable sounds of coughing down the street and realised that because I hadn't yet gone out to get the paper off the front porch, I had an opportunity to catch and hence deter the Horrible Coughing Man from pausing outside my house.

I went outside all nonchalant, just in time to catch the Horrible Coughing Man walking past. He kept walking but turned to stare at me over his shoulder. He turned several more times to look back at me before he got to the end of the street.

Worse, he was wearing the same colour T-shirt as me (aqua blue), although I do not have my T-shirt tucked into my faded navy tracksuit pants. I am wearing it with a lavender cotton skirt thank you very much.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

My Ryan Gosling dream last night. For some weeks now I have been 'researching' a story about people who dream about Ryan Gosling. But then there's always some more pressing deadline and I never get round to it. I'm basically really sick of my crappy life, earning my living by scrabbling away in a collection of low-stakes, high-turnover gigs for 16 hours a day, and invoicing for $30 or $100 or $200 or $300 at a time. In an all-time lifestyle low, yesterday I bought Home Brand fish fingers.

However, I decided to collect all my Ryan Gosling dream research into a Tumblr – because, where else, LOL? I put it on BuzzFeed and it went voooooooiral.

Last night I had a Ryan Gosling dream of my own. If you know anything about my struggles with a cat who likes to poo on the floor next to his perfectly clean litter box, you will perhaps find it more understandable.

I was in a very fancy hotel suite getting drunk with some of my friends and suddenly there was a knock on the door. My co-worker Kane answered and it was Ryan Gosling!

He sat down at the table and poured himself a scotch like he'd been there all night. I realised he was already very drunk – well, drunker than me, at any rate – and looked very dishevelled.

But what was annoying me was that Kane was clearly trying very hard to impress Gosling because he was acting way more bro-like than usual, cracking jokes, addressing conversation only to Gosling, et cetera. In the dream I found this infuriating.

Then Gosling got up from the table, went into a corner, pulled down his pants and, with zero shame, pooed on the floor. I was disgusted and said to Kane, "You clean that up – you've been brown-nosing him all night."

Kane refused to clean up Gosling's poo, so I had to get some paper towels and do it myself. My feeling of disappointment and resentment was almost intolerable.

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