Monday, September 22, 2014

Fables about Black Cats

       Set aside the fables and fallacies about black cats. It’s time to focus on the reality of these engaging, fun loving felines. Earlier in my life I always wanted one, but kept coming up with grays. No complaint:  my first gray was Star, who adopted me. My second was Ari Mithral Shannonn, who was almost a blue Oriental colorpoint. (His mom was a gray and buff calico, and I never figured out how she managed to birth a kitten of his coloration, unless his father had a major recessive gene somewhere.) Finally black Canth Starshadow, son of a barn cat, came into my life. He was followed by two other rescued black cats, Tabirika Black Onyx (Brika for short), and Syrannis Moonstone (Syri). Along with a gray tabby named Bastjun Amaranth, these midnight darlings have made up my feline family over the last 25 years. And after adopting Canth, I vowed never to be without a black cat again. They’re special.
    I’ve always had a certain fascination concerning the stories that accompany the sometimes horrible history of these beautiful animals. People whisper them to one another as if they were great secrets, looking askance at black cats on the streets and in cages at adoption agencies as if they might carry plague. Most of these tales are fiction, such as a black cat walking across one’s path gives bad luck. I know people who go out of their way to pet an ebony feline when they see one. None of them has had unusual difficulties afterward. I’ve had a bigger problem with my 25-pound unabridged dictionary (buff and gold), which gets into an argument with my feet occasionally because it by necessity lives on my office floor. The situation can become dangerous when I try to move quickly in its vicinity. The dictionary obviously lies in wait for my unsuspecting feet. So far, that score stands with the weighty tome causing two broken little toes in the last four years. My black cats claim no comparable accidents. They’re both too soft and yielding to cause such damage.
    Another fiction is that they’re difficult to see in the dark. Truth is, black cats are no more stealthy than gray cats. I tripped over gray tabby Bastjun Amaranth many more times than I have Canth, Brika, and Syri in total. Brika presents the only current tripping possibility:  because she’s the Princess of the World, she enjoys a stately procession from room to room on a regular basis. These parades usually occur in daylight and impede any traffic behind her. And of course, she MUST be exactly in front of me. At night, Brika is vocal enough she announces herself wherever she is, and also purrs loudly, so her location is seldom in question.
Syri does not normally invite tripping because she has a tendency to stay in one place for extended periods. She does, however, like to lay behind me on the kitchen floor while I’m cooking without letting me know she’s there. A sudden turn on my part sometimes results in a surprised yelp from me, accompanied by a quick two-step to avoid collision with the unexpected furry rug with big gold eyes. These encounters also occur mostly in daylight, in what my apartment owners consider a “well-lit area”. I differ with their description, but it’s never tough to see a black cat on a pale kitchen floor.
    They’re evil. How can a natural color connote inherent evil? If this is true, it means every black sheep, goat, dog, horse, water buffalo, wooly worm, and any other animal (ok, and some insects) producing plenty of melanin belongs to a peculiar category that causes everything bad on this planet, including (perhaps especially) global warming. If any of my black cats have ever practiced dark rituals, they’re doing it in their sleep. Syri is a Chantilly-Tiffany, a gorgeous rare breed renowned for their sweet natures and deep affection for a certain human of their choice. Sometimes she does talk during dreams, but in the almost 16 years I’ve lived with her, she’s never cast a hurtful spell or uttered a spiteful word. Any black cat having her very soulful and spiritual gaze can’t be bad. She’s seems able to look into the next dimension when she gazes fixedly at the corner behind the couch.
    When fed a good diet not based on corn, black cats have glossy, soft coats. It’s a pleasure to help them groom, or just pet them. And the longer cats are studied by scientists and medical professionals, the more benefits are discovered for their owners:  lessened tension and blood pressure, better healing and rest because of purring, unconditional love, fostering a sense of responsibility with minimal demands, and the support of another consciousness during times of grief or depression. Then there’s a cat’s unique sense of fun. I don’t think anyone can resist smiling when watching an exploring kitten, or empathize with an adult cat pouncing on a ball or chasing string. Inventive felines like Brika occasionally plop into a few inches of warm shower water draining from the tub to warm her feet.
    Another thing I don’t understand is the cruelty of some people against black creatures, in particular cats and chickens. Many animal shelters ban the adoption of cats with midnight and sable coats from sometime in September through Halloween, just because of possible feline mistreatment. I adopted Brika in September 1997, and had to fight hard against the assumption that I might want to inflict horrible retribution on a four-pound cat whose only crime was being clad in black fur. I laud the adoption agencies for doing this, but decry the necessity. There are always reports about such viciousness in the news around the end of October. Apparently, the pathological cruelty of some individuals does not stop with animals. Mistreating pets has been proven to escalate into crimes against humans in forensic profiling.
    So forget about the stupid stories and bad reports. Put away the shadows left by the Inquisition and other organizations born of hate to foster hate regarding a color or a type of animal. Black cats are gorgeous, loving creatures who, like any other cat, want to be a special part of our lives.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Featured Author: Clive Cussler

Clive Eric Cussler, known as “the Grand Master of Adventure”, was born July 15, 1931 in Aurora, Illinois.  His family soon moved to Alhambra, California, where he grew up.  Clive became an Eagle Scout at age 14.  After attending Pasadena City College for two years, Cussler joined the US Air Force, serving as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer in Korea.  Returning to the States, he worked as a copywriter, then as creative director for two of the country’s most successful advertising agencies.  Clive married Barbara Knight in 1955:  the two lived almost 50 years together until her death in 2003.  Their children Teri, Dirk, and Davna have delighted their parents with four grandchildren.

Clive wrote and produced radio and television commercials:  many won awards, including the top prize from the prestigious Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.  He started writing fiction in 1965 when Barbara worked nights for a local police department.  There was nothing to do and no one to talk to after Cussler made dinner for himself and the children, ascertained their homework was done, and put them to bed.  Larger-than-life character Dirk Pitt leaped from his imagination, but sidekick Al Giordano was based upon a war buddy who is still a good friend. Clive’s first book was published in 1973—his novels have since been translated in more than 40 languages and appear in over 100 countries. He has been on The New York Times Bestseller List 17 times.  Cussler’s first nonfiction work The Sea Hunters was accepted in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis by the State University of New York Maritime College in 1997.  He has also written more non-fiction and children’s works.

Clive is fascinated by undersea exploration.  After becoming a success, he founded the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit company instrumental in discovering over 60 historically significant wreck sites, including the C.S.S. Hunley (the first submarine to sink a ship during battle), and the U-20 (the submarine that sank the Lusitania).  Cussler is a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, also a member of the Royal Geographic Society in London.  He collects classic autos, some of which are featured on the backs of his book’s dust covers. 
Author Quote   Cussler’s advice to writers: “Study authors who write in your genre, and who are successful…Ernest Hemingway studied and used the style of Tolstoy.  Thomas Wolfe delved into James Joyce.  I used Alistair MacLean when I started out, eventually moving into my own writing style which is now copied by other authors.” 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Featured Author: Patricia Cornwell

She was born to Marilyn and Sam Daniels in Miami, Florida June 9, 1956.  Her father was a highly-regarded appellate lawyer who claimed  abolitionist writer Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and other works) as an ancestor.  Patricia and her two brothers were moved by their mother to Montreat, North Carolina in 1961 after being abandoned by Sam, who was dying.  Patricia attended King College in Tennessee, then transferred to Davidson College.  She graduated with a B. A. in English and began working as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer in 1979.  Her first book, the award-winning A Time for Remembering, was published in 1983.

Patricia’s literary focus changed when she landed jobs as a technical writer, then a computer analyst, at the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia.  She later volunteered with the Richmond Police Department before her first Scarpetta book was published in 1990.

Her popular novels involve a great deal of forensic science, and are believed to have influenced such television series as “Crime Scene Investigation” and “Cold Case Files”.  Patricia’s first novel Postmortem won the Sherlock Award for best detective written by an American author.  In 2011, she was presented the prestigious French Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.  She has a handful of other writing awards from all over the world as well.  Her books, now translated into 36 languages, are known for her meticulous research and accuracy.

Patricia became intrigued with Jack the Ripper in the 1990s, and spent considerable time and her own money researching the forensic evidence.  She wrote Portrait of a Killer:  Jack the Ripper—Case Closed in 2002.  Her findings are controversial.

Patricia appears often as a forensic consultant on television, and is an active member of forensic organizations from New York City to Virginia.  She is also a well-known philanthropist.

Author Quote:  Among other feats, Patricia has become a licensed helicopter pilot, a certified scuba diver, and has also qualified for a motorcycle license.  “It is important to me to live in the world I write about.  If I want a character to do or know something, I want to do or know the same thing.”