Writing 101: A sense of place (or, as Liz Lemon says, I want to go to there)

I can feel the heat from the sun blazing down on me, and I know my surroundings feel it too.  The top of my head is burning, and my dark hair does nothing to reflect the heat, but only absorbs the constant rays, unobstructed by clouds or rain, at least in this season.  There is a breeze, which I welcome on my skin; it is cool when it rushes across the thin sheen of sweat on my face and arms.  It is a welcome cool.  The breeze brings me dust from the road I am standing on, a dirt road, cracked under the sun with layers of clay crumbling up towards the atmosphere as particles are swept into the air.  They tickle my nose and I sneeze.  I can smell the earth, but I can also smell and almost taste the grasses – it is the sweet scent of dried grasses, uncut, waving in the wind.  I can hear the grasses brushing together as they sway in waves with each breath of air that chases the next across the savannah.  With that wave I hear more sounds.

There are birds chirping in the distance.  Perhaps a loud squawk of a corvid defending its food from another large bird, or the song-like chirps of smaller birds hidden in the leaves of a grove of nearby acacia trees.  I can also hear other animals, larger animals, many animals.  Herds of them, grazing slowly under the heat that surely affects them as much as it affects me.  Their dainty hooves trample the crisp dried grasses that brush up against long legs that slowly move from one patch of grass to another.  Their hooves also make a dull thud on the dusty earth where there is no vegetation, where they are crossing the road in which I stand.  Their mouths make a slow grumble as they tear plants from the ground or leaves from the trees, masticating the tough fibrous materials between their grinding teeth, lazily, up and down, back and forth, before they swallow.  I can smell the salty-sweet excrement they leave behind, that is already drying into chips under the sun.  Insects scurry towards them, clicking their wings and legs as they go, humming as they fly towards their destination.

More intermittently, I hear other noises, those of animals I must be wary of.  Animals that I have come to meet, to encounter from a distance.  At this time of day they sleep in the shade, unless disturbed by their young who play and climb and tug on their fur demanding attention.  I hear the chirpy mews of the cubs, and every once in a while a rumbling growl from one of the adults followed by a quick scamper of paws in the grass as a cub runs from the scene.  I would like a nap too, in the shade.  I can hear tails slapping flies away from backsides covered with fur, paws scratching at something itching underneath a heavy mane.  In the distance, the far away distance, I hear a trumpet-like calling…and another one answering…a family, checking in and letting each other know where they are.

Do you know where I am? What do I see?  Can you see it too?


This is Day 2 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?  And the twist:  organize your post around the description of a setting.

I really want to go to Africa to see all those fascinating creatures of the plains.  I’m especially interested in the cats, but all of the animals there call to me.  Africa is at the top of my bucket list, and I can’t wait to start planning that adventure when I am able to go!  I wanted to write a description of the place without using the sense of sight, just information that I could get from touch, sound, smell, and taste (to a lesser extent).  Did you feel it?  Could you see what I was describing?  Let me know how I did in the comments below, and tell me where you would go if you could drop everything and zoom off right now!

Savannah, from Simon at www.GoodFon.su

Savannah, from Simon at http://www.GoodFon.su

 

Fine Art Felines Friday: Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Today’s Fine Art Felines artwork is “Woman with Cat” by Pablo Picasso.  This impressionist pastel sketch was completed in 1900, which is considered Picasso’s early years (Picasso lived from 1881 – 1973).  What I really like about this work is that it is not typically what I picture when I think about Picasso, with whom I associate abstract, cubist art.  There’s a lot of subtle movement in this sketch (e.g., the woman’s hand petting the cat), with muted emotion connecting these two naptime snugglers.  My favorite thing about this sketch, however, is not really the subject, but the picture of the person in the background.  I can just hear an art instructor telling Picasso how to shape and shadow the woman, but then I can also hear Picasso whispering to himself, “screw that, I’m gonna draw this funky little cartoon person right back here just to bring a little bit of myself to this piece”.  It almost looks like a woman with a mustache drawn her…was Picasso a cartoonist or comedian at heart?  I don’t know.

This is a sketch that uses my favorite colors, and I love the layering, the softness, and of course the cat in this piece.  I hope you like it too!  Muah!

Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Fine Art Felines Funday: Slim Woman with a Cat by Geza Farago

Slim Woman with a Cat by Geza FaragoI’ll admit I’ve been slacking.  I’m supposed to post Fine Art Felines on Fridays, but since I was being lazy (owning it!), I didn’t get around to writing this post until today.  However, today’s painting is one that I really love.

“Slim Woman with a Cat” was painted by Hungarian artist Geza Farago (1877 – 1928) in 1913.  Farago worked in Budapest as a theatrical costume designer, poster artist, and (my favorite) a cartoonist.  What I love about this painting is the art-deco style of the lines (especially with the cat – it reminds me of Le Chat Noir), and the combination of flat colors used on the cat, dress and sandy background in conjunction with the shaded areas of the woman’s neck, face and hands.  The combination makes a 2-dimensional painting pop, turning geometric shapes into a 3-D illusion full of depth and texture.  I also really like the colors that were used, with the blue and green details on the dress echoed in the night sky and water.  I hope you like it, too!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Ladies I Love: L is for Lioness, badass hunter and watchful guardian!

http://avaxhome.ws/blogs/igor_lvIt may come to you as no surprise that I am a cat person.  I LOVE cats, big and small.  So today, for this installment of the A to Z Challenge, the Ladies I Love are Lionesses.  Lions as a species (Panthera leo) are incredibly majestic creatures and they are interesting in a number of ways.  Aside from Sumatran tigers, lions are the largest cats on Earth, with males weighing up to 500 pounds, and females weighing up to 300 pounds.  One of the most interesting things about lions is that they live in groups of 3-40 individuals called “prides”, whereas almost all other cats live solitary lives.  While the male lions’ primary role is to defend the pride’s territory and father cubs (and sleeping, ahem, up to 20 hours per day…lazy bums…), the female lion plays a much different role.  Here are a few reasons why I think female lions are such admirable and fascinating creatures:

Hunting.  Female lions do the majority of the hunting for the pride.  However, because they are so muscular and large, they are not well suited for long sprints (like cheetahs, for example).  Lions live in environments that are fairly open, and it is thought that one of the reasons they evolved to live in groups was so that they could hunt prey that would otherwise see them coming and outrun their would-be predators.  However, lionesses are skilled in trickery and found ways of outsmarting their prey by hunting in groups!  While lions hunting by themselves capture prey only about 17% of the time, hunting cooperatively nearly doubles the chances of successfully capturing prey.  Using a cooperative strategy, a few lionesses will sneak behind the targeted prey (whether its an individual or herd), crouching in the grass so as not to be seen.  Then, a couple of other lionesses will run at the prey, chasing them towards the ladies in hiding…but it’s a trap!  And even though lions may not be the swiftest predators, they can jump up to 35 feet in one leap, so look out!  It’s no surprise that lions working together using this scheme are more successful in their hunts than lions working by themselves.

Lioness 2But after the ladies have managed to capture and kill a prey animal, who do you think gets to eat first?  You guessed it – the male lions.  They’ll move in on the downed meal, chasing the females away from the kill.  Only after the male lions have fed do the females and cubs get to eat, and sometimes there’s not much left.  But with a good kill, large lions can eat up to 40 pounds of meat in a single sitting.

Raising Cubs.  Besides hunting, another important job of the females is to raise the pride’s cubs.  Females will often stay behind from hunting to watch over young cubs, making sure they are safe from potential predators.  In fact, lionesses will help raise each others’ cubs, ensuring higher rates of survival among youngsters.  Since cooperative hunting results in more frequent and bigger meals, having many mothers to watch over the cubs increases health and growth rates.

Lions are amazing creatures.  Unfortunately, habitat loss and an increasing human population is putting them at risk.  Lions were once found over most of Africa, southern Europe, and into Asia.  Today, however, they are limited to some areas in Africa and a very small game preserve in India’s Gir Forest, which contains only about 250 lions.  Lions need a large enough territory to support ample prey to eat, and protection from humans.  As human populations encroach on land closer to lion territory, prey populations decrease and lions find themselves having to hunt domesticated animals, which often results in humans killing “problem” lions to protect their livestock.  One of the best ways we can protect lions is to preserve and maintain national parks and other refuges that give lions what they need to survive; otherwise, these magnificent animals may continue to decline until they are simply pictures in books that our children read.

Ladies I Love: G is for Grumpy Cat! Meow!

Today we have another non-human A to Z Challenge Ladies I Love-themed post for the letter G.  Let us return to the year 2012.  April 4, 2012, to be exact.  Events that occurred on this day in the little town of Morristown, Arizona, resulted in the world being forever changed: a little bit furrier, a little bit cuter, and a whole lot grumpier.  On April 4, 2012, Tardar Sauce (a.k.a. Grumpy Cat) and her brother, Pokey, were born.

Tardar and Pokey

Original Grumpy Cat photo that swept the world up in a fit of crabbiness!

The original grumpy cat photo that unleashed unprecedented crabbiness into the world!

According to Grumpy Cat’s head minion (and yes, Grumpy Cat *is* a female), Tabatha Bundesen, Tardar’s features are permanently grumpified as a result of feline dwarfism, which has also left her back legs somewhat out of proportion to the rest of her body.  But her vet has given her a clean bill of health, and Tardar has the green light to spread curmudgeonly crankiness to her heart’s content.  But truth be told, as grumpy as Tardar Sauce looks, she’s actually the more friendly of the two, with Pokey being the grouchier of the siblings.

The Grumpy Cat phenomenon all started when Tabatha’s brother uploaded an excessively grumpy photo of Tardar Sauce to Reddit (back in September of 2012), and the world has reveled in the glow of a cat that is both adorably cute and excessively grumpy ever since.  Some of Grumpy Cat’s favorite phrases, built into popular memes that have circled the Interwebs thousands of times over, include “…it was awful”, “…I hate it”, and the classic “NO.”  Grumpy has an official website (The Daily Grump, where you can purchase Grumpy Cat Odor Eliminator and Grumppuccino), a Grumpy Book, and more awards than you can shake a stick at, including the Lifetime Achievement Award that she received at the 2013 Friskies.  And she deserves it – with a face like hers, she’s impossible to ignore, especially when she’s throwing insults around like nobody’s business!  Here are some of my favorites:

And speaking of Friskies, Tardar Sauce has done several commercials with Friskies in the “Will Kitty Play With It?” series!  They are grumpy and adorable!  But, in honor of Tardar’s second birthday (she’s entering the Terrible Two’s, everyone!!!), here’s a special Friskies birthday video (no, I’m not a sales rep for Friskies…they just do great Grumpy Cat videos!).  Long live Grumpy Cat!!!

Fine Art Felines Friday: A Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry Couldery

I chose today’s painting, A Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry Couldery, for Fine Art Felines Friday because when I came across it I was struck by how even way back in the 19th century, when this was painted, cats were still obviously major pains in the asses delightfully mischievous furballs, as evidenced by these two shredding up a letter and making a mess with the ink.  Which I find hil-ar-i-ous, <sarcasm> because I don’t know ANY cats (ahem, I’m looking at you, Samantha, Jesse, Abbey, Momo and ESPECIALLY OLIVER) who would be involved in these types of activities today </sarcasm>.  Anyway, back to this particular painting and a little about this artist.  Horatio Henry Coulder (1832–1918) was an English artist who emphasized cats, kittens and dogs in his subject matter (just image-google his name and you’ll see why I dare you to not call him a crazy cat guy).  I couldn’t find the year that “A Fiver in the Kitty” was painted, but if anyone can tell me what the title means, I will give you a virtual kitten squidgle behind one of your ears.  Deal?

Oh – and PS – Fine Art Felines Friday will be taking a break during the month of April because I will be maniacally busy with the A to Z Challenge.  But we’ll be back in May!  See you then!

A Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry CoulderyA Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry Couldery

 

Alone in a Room Full of *GULP* Dog People

This past weekend I started on my path to doing pet therapy work on a volunteer basis.  This means that I took an all-day class on the human component of a therapy animal team.  The class is offered by Pet Partners and is the first step in becoming registered to do animal therapy with your pet – you know, visiting people in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, schools, prisons, and other places where people can benefit from having a visit from animals.  I’m SOOOO looking forward to being a part of this!

But did you know that the vast majority of therapy animals are dogs???  The course instructor had never taught anyone who wanted to use their cat as a therapy animal, but Pet Partners certainly supports it.  To the instructor’s credit, he did his best to answer my cat questions and even invited me to attend a cat evaluation the next day, which was also very informative.

Please don’t get me wrong – I really do like dogs, but obviously I am a cat person.  And I like dog people too, but obviously, I am a cat person.  I was a little nervous about being trapped with hanging out with a bunch of dog people for the entire day, but they really were friendly and nice, just as I expected them to be; I just didn’t know how much I would have in common with them.  And to be fair, cat people can be kind of weird, too.  But man, they sure do get passionate about various breeds and talking about the differences between all the various types of doggies!  This made me think, just as there are personality differences between breeds, surely there are personality differences between dog people and cat people.  So I did a little investigating.  And here’s what I found:

JESS3 Mindjet Dichotomy Cat and Dog People

Interesting, yes?  And for those of you who want a little more detail, I found these stats from DeathandTaxesMag.com:

DeathandTaxesMag.com
I don’t know how true these figures are, but they sound about right to me.  Perhaps this can be best illustrated by the following video, which has been floating around for a while, but I love it:

Hmmmm…on second thought, perhaps using cats as therapy animals might be a bit more challenging than I was expecting.  So, if you have any hints or advice for me, feel free to let me know.  Anyone?  Anyone???

Fine Art Felines Friday: Gato De Los Muertos by Laura Barbosa

I’m starting a new Fuzzy Undertones feature today: Fine Art Felines Friday!  Every other Friday (my “extra” day off of work, coincidentally), I’ll be posting a piece of fine art that features a cat in some way or another, and tell you a little about the artist.  I stumbled upon today’s featured painting just by googling around the Interwebs, and what made it stand out in the crowd was its bright colors and style.  I LOVE Day of the Dead art, so this painting, Gato De Los Muertos by Laura Barbosa, really caught my eye.  In browsing through Laura’s work online, I found her art to be colorful, abstract, emotional and very textural, and I really connected with her style.  Check out her website if you’d like to see more!

Gato De Los Muertos by Laura Barbosa

Kitty Derps

You might not believe this, but my cats are not always completely photogenic.  I’d say, that on average, it requires about 10 derpy photos to get one good photo of any one of my cats.  So here’s my gift to you: a gallery of my kitty derps.  Don’t tell Jesse, Sam, Momo, Oliver or Abbey, because 1) they will be very embarrassed; 2) they might exact revenge by posting a gallery of Marci derps (and there are many, I tell you); and 3) they might kill me in my sleep.  They have tried before; I am lucky to be here.