Pages

14 August 2013

THEATER REVIEW: William Shakespeare’s King John

There’s an acting troupe called Shakespeare by the Sea here in Southern California that puts on Shakespeare plays by - naturally enough - the beach. Usually. In their 15+ years of existence, they’ve enlarged their range to play in venues across the Southland. This year I attended the final performance of King John at their home, Point Fermin Park in San Pedro. It wasn’t a bad performance but there wasn’t anything great about it. Its chief weakness was the actor playing John. He was all wrong in both body language and voice. But I’ll get a bit more into that below.

The Point Fermin venue is a beautiful spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean, though it’s much smaller than my imagination had pictured it. It’s a small stage fronted by 20 rows or so of benches and a wide lawn where people can set up chairs, blankets, or sit at strategically placed picnic tables (as I did) to watch the show. The stage, despite its size, was well used (I’ll opine about the blocking a bit more below, as well). The problems, viewing-wise, were several people who stood behind the benches but in front of the lawn. Fortunately, this only bothered me during the first 10-15 minutes of the play. Having to stand and – I’d like to think – a realization of their obstructiveness soon thinned this impolite herd to nothing, and I had no further difficulties seeing the stage.

A brief summary of the play may be in order since King John is not one of the Bard’s better known works. The play opens with the French and English armies before the walls of Angier (in France). France is backing Arthur, Geoffrey’s son. (Those who remember The Lion in Winter or who know the history of the period, will know that Geoffrey was the third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and John’s brother. Geoffrey died before Henry but his son had been made Duke of Brittany and – as primogeniture had not been firmly established – he was as eligible as John to assume the throne upon Richard’s death. It helped that John was an awful politician and very unpopular with his barons.) John, of course, is there with his mother (Eleanor) to back his claim. Shakespeare also injects a fictitious bastard of Richard the Lion-hearted who becomes John’s chief lieutenant once his identity is established. And – if that weren’t enough – the Pope also makes an appearance in the person of Pandulph, his legate, who plays both sides in order to secure Rome’s advantage. (In another historical aside: John, during the Elizabethan era, did not enjoy the same reputation as he does in most 21st century minds. To many Protestants of that era, he was something of a hero for his opposition to Rome and considered a proto-Protestant. Thus, his character in this play is more nuanced than one might expect.)

The play proceeds through the political machinations of the two sides, from the initial confrontation, to a marriage between the Dauphin and Blanche, John’s niece, to a breakdown in the alliance, the capture and death of Arthur, and the Dauphin’s invasion of England.

Despite some memorable scenes and speeches, King John lacks the intensity of Shakespeare’s best work. None of the characters are as developed as human beings as are Cordelia, Lear, Othello or Macbeth and his wife, and – in the end – the play is not much more than propaganda: England will bow down to none, whether French or Roman, and as long as it remains true to itself will never be conquered. Potent fare for late 16th and early 17th century audiences; less significant for moderns.

What follows are brief thoughts on the major characters and then a few last thoughts on other aspects of the production. I’m not going to identify the characters. If you’re familiar with the play, you’ll know who I’m talking about; and – if not – there are any number of summaries you can consult.

Chris Aron, as Hubert, was one of the better actors. I thought he flubbed the scene where he realizes John is ordering him to murder Arthur but, otherwise, his voice and presence were good. His scene with Arthur when he obeys his conscience and not the king was well played.

Cylan Brown did a decent job as the Bastard, though his delivery was at times too fast and breathless. Contemplating the production, I think his portrayal was symptomatic of another weakness – the pacing. The play moved too fast. I’m not sure I would have been able to follow what was going on if I hadn’t read/listened to the play several times. But back to the Bastard: More often than not he did a fine job.

Garrett Replogle played Lewis, the Dauphin, and pre-intermission was unimpressive. Post-intermission, though, his portrayal gained zeal and energy. I didn’t believe him anent his love for Blanche in the first acts of the play; but Replogle brought an intensity to his role in the second half that elevated the performance above the average. Which may have been deliberate – contrasting the Dauphin’s pro forma passion for Blanche with his real passion for taking the English throne.

Bridget Garwood, who played Eleanor, like the actor portraying John, was off. Neither her body language nor voice fit the role. (In my opinion. I’m perfectly aware that someone else in the audience may have swooned over her performance). In King John, Eleanor is the agéd mother of John but Garwood carried herself and looked and sounded far too young. I might like her better in younger roles. In the program bio, it says she’s played Calpurnia (Julius Caesar) and the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia), and I can see her in those roles.

Angela Gulner played Blanche. While gorgeous, she didn’t have much stage presence here. Her big scene where she laments Blanche’s position vis-à-vis John, Philip, Lewis and Eleanor fell flat: “Each army hath a hand, / And in their rage, I have hold of both, / They whirl asunder and dismember me.”

Patrick Vest as John was seriously miscast. Physically, Vest could carry off John but his voice and body language were all wrong. It was too light and frivolous. John needs a darker, more somber interpretation. For me, this mischaracterization was most disadvantageously in view in the scene with Hubert when he purposes Arthur’s death. He doubled as the fight choreographer, and there I can’t fault him. One of the strengths of the production were the fight scenes.

Kristina Teves played Constance, Arthur’s mother. She was by far the best in the cast. Particularly in Constance’s grieving scene, which can so easily slip into campy melodrama. She masterfully conveyed Constance’s overwhelming grief without chewing the scenery. I would have liked to have seen her in some of the other roles mentioned in the program bio: Lady Macbeth and Hamlet.

I’ll mention two points where the company mixed up the scenes. The first I have mixed feelings about. The director moved the last part of Constance’s lament over Arthur to his actual death scene (he throws himself from a parapet), where she appears as a ghost over Arthur’s body (having died herself earlier). While there’s precedent for this in the tragedies (cf., Hamlet), I’m not convinced it’s appropriate in a history. It was effective, however, which is why I’m on the fence. The second case is more easily dismissed as a bad call. It’s the unfortunate decision to not give the Bastard the last word in his impassioned and patriotic speech about England. It robbed the play of its patriotic punch and left the ending a bit flat.

O, let us pay the time but needful woe,
Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs.
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true.

Some final thoughts. Lighting, music and blocking were all good. The music was present but not intrusive (as it should be). It reminded me of the incredible integration of music and movie in the first Star Wars film. The blocking wasn’t perfect but the director did well with both the advantages and limitations of her stage.

I fear this review may come across as a rant. It is not. It’s not a rave but I enjoyed the production and will be returning to Shakespeare by the Sea in the future (depending upon what’s playing).

10 June 2013

The year's saddest photo?


The photo (Sanjeev Gupta) above is from an issue of the Guardian Weekly and can be found on their website here. Is it the "saddest photo" of the year? Probably not. I'm sure images from Syria or Iraq or Egypt or Pakistan or poor communities here in the U.S. or scenes of domestic violence from anywhere could be contenders for "saddest photo" but this is the photo I saw and it continues to haunt me.

The scene is from a group wedding at the Akshaya Tritiya festival. Look at the faces of every woman in this photo. There are no smiles, no signs of joy or happiness at what - ideally - should be a happy day. Instead all I see is resignation and even fear in some.

I hope the lives of these women* turn out reasonably well. That their husbands (and in-laws) treat them with respect and compassion, and that they find a measure of fulfillment.

* Women? Just how old is that child in the middle of the first row? She doesn't look much older than my 12-year-old niece.

31 December 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hobbit


For me, the modern movie-going experience is hideous so it’s quite the occasion when I visit my neighborhood theater. In this case a number of factors conspired to bring it about. First, of course, it’s The Hobbit. I’ve been a Tolkien fan for 35+ years, since my father bought The Two Towers for me one weekend. (I was a bit clueless at the time so hadn’t realized that the book was the second in a trilogy. The opening threw me for a bit until I realized my mistake, which was soon rectified.) By the time I was 11, I had read The Silmarillion and now I have a bookshelf dedicated to Tolkieniana – including at least seven volumes of Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth. Second, I had a free-movie pass (no expiration date) that a friend had given me several years ago. Third, my theater is only two blocks north of where I live. Fourth, I’ve been on vacation for the last week and so had copious free time on my hands and could go to the matinee. And, fifth, a friend had gone to see the film and e-mailed me with his impressions about it.

My going was inevitable.

Overall, I would give Jackson’s Hobbit a moderately positive thumb’s up.

Among the good points:

  1. Without a doubt, the best thing about the movie was the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Once you’ve seen him acting, you realize that there could have been no other actor to play the part.
  2. The Dwarves. I was impressed that Jackson managed to make many of Thorin’s Company reasonably distinct. I can’t claim to be able to identify all thirteen but I did know who Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin and Bofur were by the end of the film. (I exclude Thorin, for obvious reasons, and Bombur, since he’s always been “the fat one.”)
  3. I liked the fact that Jackson was able to shoehorn “Blunt the Knives” and the lament for lost Erebor into the “Unexpected Party” scenes. But I was disappointed that he didn’t include the Elvish ditty “Down in the Valley” when the Dwarves reach Rivendell. Though considering how the Elves are presented here and in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, I can see why he didn’t (I’ll have more about my dissatisfaction with Jackson’s Elves in the “bad points” section of this review below).
  4. I liked the Troll scene. Again, there was a certain amount of disappointment that Jackson excised the part where Gandalf bamboozles them with ventriloquism but his solution – Bilbo distracting them until morning – was OK.
  5. I wasn’t bothered by the Thorin/Azog thread Jackson introduced since there is some basis for it in the books. Azog does kill Thror and mutilate the body; however, that sets off the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs, it doesn’t happen at the final battle. Azog is killed at the final battle (by Dain, not Thorin) and it’s his son, Bolg, who leads the Goblin army at the end of the novel. But that may be too complicated for movie-going audiences to follow, so I’m OK with streamlining it.
  6. I interpret the character and appearance of the Great Goblin as an homage to the character and appearance of same in the Rankin/Bass animated version from 1977. Now, if only Jackson could have shoehorned the “Down, down to Goblin Town” song into that scene.
  7. The riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum is terrific. Not much more to say, except that it captures what happens in the book perfectly.
  8. There’s a scene when the Dwarves have escaped from Goblin Town and Bilbo has caught up with them (having eluded Gollum). Thorin asks Bilbo why he came back since he has a home to return to and no reason to continue on with the quest, and Bilbo says (I paraphrase): “I have a home where – indeed – I should be; but you don’t, and I would be a poor Hobbit if I didn’t help you recover yours.” It’s not from the book but it’s certainly Tolkien, and whichever scriptwriter is responsible for it deserves kudos.
Among the bad points:

  1. Radagast. This was probably the biggest mistake of the entire film – at least as far as characterizations go. He’s not made up out of whole cloth. Radagast does make a brief appearance in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as the unwitting messenger of Saruman to Gandalf. Even in that fleeting encounter, however, the reader can see that this is a real person with real wisdom. In Jackson’s hands, he becomes a cartoonish caricature covered in bird shit. It’s similar to what he did to Denethor’s character in LotR, who was so much more believable and complex in Tolkien’s hands.
  2. Elves. Elves are not metrosexual vegetarians. Somehow, in the years since Tolkien wrote, vulgar fandom, most role-playing games and now Jackson have turned the Professor’s complex and unique creatures into sexless, tee-totaling, arrogant, obnoxious jerks. Elves, like Men and Dwarves, are not just creatures of spirit but of flesh and they are capable of all the desires and evils the latter two races exhibit. In The Silmarillion they’re rapists (Eöl/Aredhel), attempted rapists (Celegorm/Luthien), murderers (the sons of Fëanor), and – yes – even hunters (Beleg Strongbow), i.e., people who kill animals for food. And in Tolkien’s Hobbit, Bilbo manages to free the Dwarves from the Wood-elf king’s dungeons because the wardens get drunk! Here and in LotR, Jackson mischaracterizes them shamefully.
  3. The fight scenes. This may be a paradox, but the fight scenes needed to be more realistic. It was better in LotR, but every fight in this movie lasts too long and is so over the top as to descend into the realms of the cartoon or the wuxia flick. In the latter genres, the viewer expects to see outrageous feats of derring-do and utterly unbelievable fighting but that style just doesn’t work in this genre. It’s a tired cliché, but in this case “less is more.”
There’ve been discussions on the internets about the “padding” Jackson has resorted to, to make a three-film epic. Based on this first film, I found the extras and the background info reasonable. It didn’t detract from the story too much, and it’s probably necessary to make sure non-Tolkien geeks can follow what’s going on. I reserve final judgment until I see what Jackson does with the rest of the series.

So, I imagine that – in the end – my relationship to Jackson’s Hobbit will mirror that of my relationship with his Lord of the Rings – A love/hate situation. There’s so much Jackson can get right in translating Tolkien to the screen but – oh, boy – when he gets it wrong (which he does often enough), he really gets it wrong.

Books: The Year in Review


I have been unforgivably negligent in maintaining my nearly-a-traditional mid-year and end-of-year “best of” book surveys but I am atoning with the following:
Overall, my impression is that 2012 was a relatively disappointing year in books for me. I didn’t find as many new and/or interesting works and authors as in the past. Part of that, is that 2012 was a year of rereading. I found myself harking back to a lot of authors who I hadn’t read in years.

But here’s my list of the books and/or authors who really made an impression on me (in the order read):

Religion in Human Evolution by Robert Bellah: This is a fascinating look at religion as it relates to human biological and cultural evolution. Bellah dismisses the idea that there is a “religion” gene or congeries of genes but he does postulate that there are biologically based behaviors that express themselves in the cultural meme of “religion.” I should have written a review for my GoodReads account but I had notes for nearly every page (of an 800+ page book) and the task was too daunting. This was, however, most assuredly a four-stars-out-of-five book and strongly recommended.

Erasure and Assumption by Percival Everett. Here is my opening from the GoodRead’s review: “If Erasure is about anything, it’s about identity. Ones we invent for ourselves, ones we invent for others, ones that are forced on us, and ones that we lose.

Assumption is a very different novel in style, voice and ostensible subject than Erasure. But it is at least as good, if not better, in my opinion. It's made up of three novella-length stories tied together by the character of Ogden Walker, a deputy sheriff in a rural New Mexico county, and the problem of finding out who we are.

Everett is a welcome new find this year.

Ragnarök by A.S. Byatt. I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of the Norse apocalypse, not least because she stripped it of its Christian accretions.

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I finally got around to reading this SF classic and was well rewarded. The final book, Titus Alone, wasn’t as good as the first two but overall the trilogy deserves its reputation.

Medea and Cassandra by Christa Wolf. These were a couple of the rereads I mentioned above but it had been nearly 20 years since I had originally read them so it was as if I were discovering Wolf for the first time. Again from my GoodReads review of the first book: “It’s a critique of modern, capitalist (and, yes, male-dominated) culture, and – on a personal and the more important level – it’s an argument for the importance of retaining one’s integrity as a person in the face of enormous pressure to conform and submit. And that’s why I’ve revised my rating to four stars – it spoke to me more powerfully now than it did 15 years ago when I was – unfortunately – a less discerning reader.

Red Emma Speaks, ed. by Alix Kates Shulman. This is a collection of some of Emma Goldman’s more famous writings. It too is a reread and it further solidified my admiration for this woman and her philosophy.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. This is a post-apocalyptic novel that deals with themes raised by authors like Walter Miller in A Canticle for Leibowitz or Edgar Pangborn in Davy and Still I Persist in Wondering – Is there an essential core of goodness in humanity? Are we condemned to repeat our follies? The struggle to remain an individual against the pressures to conform and obey.

Waiting for the Barbarians by Daniel Mendelsohn. This is the second collection of his reviews I’ve read (the first was How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken) and it is just as good as that first one. He covers low- and high-brow culture in its many forms and does it with an extraordinary insight that consistently amazes me.

And that’s about it for 2012, though I will make four honorable mentions:

Kameron Hurley’s Bel Dame Apocrypha series – God’s War, Infidel, Rapture. (Technically, I haven’t read Rapture yet but I include it in anticipation.) Hurley is a new voice in the SF field and I am looking forward to reading more of her stuff.

Lindsey Davis’ Falco series. This is a mystery series set in Vespasian’s Rome. I’m enjoying it because Vespasian is one of my favorite Roman emperors; the series has a Rockford Files vibe, one of my favorite TV shows; and Davis writes well.

Iain Bank’s Hydrogen Sonata. This is the latest Culture novel and it’s the best one he’s written in years though it still can’t compare to the first three – Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons and Player of Games.

Based on an essay in the Mendelsohn book mentioned above, I picked up a copy of Stephen Mitchell’s new translation of the Iliad. I had hoped to finish it before the New Year but have only made it to Book 19 (as of the 31st). It is everything Mendelsohn promised and I would recommend it both to people who have read other translations and as a good place to start if you would like to read it but have been agonizing over whose version to attempt (assuming you weren’t going to go with the original Homeric Greek).

Happy reading in 2013!

28 December 2012

Dianne Feinstein is an idiot!

I know that it's not kosher to call someone an idiot but you must forgive me a moment of sophomoric ill manners.

For the past few days I've been listening to stories about Senate Democrats' efforts to amend the unconstitutional FISA Act, which will extend the government's claim to unlimited powers to spy on its citizens into the indefinite future (efforts which have failed miserably - the Senate voted to extend the act without amendment 73-23). In her response to efforts to hold the government to even a fig leaf of due process, Ms. Feinstein claimed that we need not fear that the government would abuse its police powers and that we shouldn't concern ourselves with the patent loss of our civil rights.

Right.

Because, you know, our police forces have never - never - abused their authority.

And that's just from the last week.

This is why I wrote that I loathed this woman in my last post.

04 November 2012

Mr Monika's 2012 Election Guide

The United States' winner-take-all elections tend to make this voter schizophrenic. In nearly every election I'm torn between voting my conscience and voting pragmatically. And this campaign season is no exception.

A Romney win would be an unmitigated disaster for not only the U.S. but the planet in general. Yet an Obama win would be but a mitigated disaster - We'd only slow but not stop the continued rape of the environment ("clean coal," anyone?), we'd continue the march toward the militarization of domestic police and the liberties lost under the PATRIOT Act will still be lost, we'd continue to let the financial sector dictate how our economy is run, and we'd continue to operate under the delusion that American can control the planet for its benefit (an impossibility, even if it were morally justifiable). With Obama, though, we can win marginal victories. When Occupy erupted in 2010, the conversation moved away from the deficit and toward figuring out how to change things so that the collapse of 2008 wouldn't happen again (the conversation has moved back, alas, toward deficit reduction and austerity). When more than a 1,000 people protested in front of the White House, we managed to delay (though, again, not stop) the Keystone X-L pipeline. Perhaps too slowly, a movement is growing to stop fracking and mountain-top removal schemes have been slowed down as well. Tiny, dispiriting, often Pyrrhic victories but victories that would be unthinkable if Romney were president.

And let's not forget the Supreme Court. It's already locked into a 19th century, Gilded-Age mode for the next decade if not longer. Under Romney, we can basically forget any limits placed on corporations or government power to spy and oppress its own citizenry.

So I've decided to assuage the idealist and the pragmatist in me thus:

President/vice president: Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala (Green)
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein (Democrat)
US Representative: Grace Napolitano (Democrat)

Even if I were in a so-called swing state, I couldn't bring myself to vote for Obama so I will cast my presidential vote for the most intelligent, far-sighted and humane candidate on the ticket. Regardless of who becomes president, he's going to need a Congress that he can work with (Obama) or one that will block him at every turn (Romney). In either case, that means we need to send as many Democrats back as possible and depose as many Republicans as we can. So, though I loathe Feinstein, I choose her over the Republican Elizabeth Emken; and Napolitano over David Miller.

State Assembly: Roger Hernandez (Democrat)

This is an interesting race. Hernandez is under investigation for domestic abuse (just today I got a flyer - presumably from the opposition - explaining this in great detail). Now, I'm not in favor of electing men who beat up their partners to any elected office but when Hernandez resigns in disgrace and/or is indicted, his replacement will be a Democrat and we won't have lost anything.

District Attorney (LA County): Jackie Lacey

I heard an interview with Lacey on KPFK several weeks ago and she impressed me with her opinions and intentions as DA. I haven't heard much from her opponent, Alan Jackson, but from what I've read on his site and in the various voter guides, he doesn't sound like someone I can support.

State Ballot Measures - 

30: Yes. A mixed bag since it makes the state tax structure marginally more progressive but also raises the viciously regressive sales tax by 0.25 cents but without it, draconian cuts are going to gut school funding and a whole bunch of other programs.

31: No. The big change this proposition would impose is a two-year budgeting cycle. I was on the fence with this one until I heard a debate between a proponent and an opponent (again on KPFK). The anti didn't impress me too much but the pro refused to answer the radio host's questions directly, which always should raise a red flag. For example, the pro claimed that several states had successfully implemented similar measures but when asked to name these states he obfuscated. I still don't know which states are operating happily under two-year budgets. (The only state I know of that has a multi-year budget cycle is Texas, which is an economic basket case and certainly nothing to emulate.)

32: No. A union-smashing measure.

33: No. A measure funded by the insurance companies (primarily Mercury) to screw the consumer for more money.

34: Yes. Repeals the death penalty in California. The alternative - life without parole - is not a perfect solution but it's a step toward creating a more humane, effective criminal justice system.

35: No. No sane person can be for human trafficking or child pornography but this measure to increase penalties and other measures to curb such practices sounds well meaning but ill conceived. It's another measure that would be better taken up by the legislature because the details are simply too complex to distill into a popular referendum. It seems to me that if you think the current law is too lenient, then you should organize and tell your representatives.

36: Yes. This measure would modify the current Three-Strikes Law so that only serious, violent felonies would be considered. The original law is pretty stupid (in my opinion) and should be fully repealed but (like Prop 34 re the death penalty) this is a step in the right direction (a "small victory," as I mentioned in my discussion of why Obama needs to be re-elected above).

37: Yes. This would label foods made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

38: No. This measure is similar to Prop 30 but it would raise taxes on every income level (because - you know - the middle class and working poor haven't been bearing a fair share of the burden), wouldn't raise the sales tax, and all funds would go toward education.

39: Yes. Thirty-nine would close a loop hole in the corporate tax structure.

40: Yes. Forty is an obscure ballot that would approve the commission-delineated redistricting plan. At this point it's moot as the state courts upheld the commission's legitimacy but as an expression of the electorate's opinion, you should still make your voice heard.

County Ballot Measures -

A: Yes. This measure is a sense-of-the-electorate, nonbinding resolution that asks the legislature and the city council to change the constitution and charter, respectively, so that the County Assessor becomes an appointed position. I looked into the recent history of the office. The last Assessor is being tried for corruption, and the history of his predecessors is little better. It seems to be a post that attracts the worst, most easily corrupted politicians. Not surprising since the Assessor controls how much businesses and developers pay for their properties. I'm not saying an appointed Assessor would do much better but I'm not opposed to trying it.

B: Yes. Another case of schizophrenia: Measure B would require porn actors wear condoms. The libertarian anarchist in me says this is an unwarranted invasion. Porn actors are reasoning individuals and they should make the decision to work with or without a net (so to speak). The person who lives in the real world, however, recognizes the enormous pressure porn actors are under to not wear condoms, and there's the very real health danger. (I saw a story recently that porn actors have a much higher incidence of STDs than brothel workers in Nevada. The difference? Brothel workers (or their customers) are required to wear condoms and they're tested on a weekly basis.)

J: Yes. This would extend a tax we're already paying for upgrading our traffic infrastructure to 2069 (from 2039).

CC: Yes. Raises money for upgrading our schools.

District Offices -

Just one this cycle - Member, MWD board: William Brown.

If you can't trust me about any of these measures, I'd recommend checking out Tara Lohan's article at Alternet.org.

22 April 2012

The Monkey - RIP

Cassandra (aka, The Monkey) 1996 - 21 April 2012

The year 2012 is turning out to be a difficult year for The Clan. First, Malcolm was taken from us; then Calvin passed away; and now we've lost The Monkey.

Despite her age, Monkey's passing was a complete shock. She had always been the "iron lady" of the group, never being seriously ill a day in her life. The worst affliction she suffered was a bout of scabies about six years ago. But a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that she had started to lose weight. She was still eating and still active, and - as I was taking Emma in for a check up soon - I figured I would let her tag along and see what was the matter. However, a week ago, the weight loss began getting worse and she began having trouble breathing. She wasn't gasping for breath, but her sides went in and out like a bellows, even when she was sleeping. Monday last (4/16/12), I got her an appointment at the vet (it's one of the things I like about Covina Animal Hospital, there are four doctors there and I can usually get a same-day appointment, even if it's not our "family physician," Dr. Dais).

Dr. Ortemayer did a chest X-ray and discovered that The Monkey's right lung was full of fluid. She managed to extract some of the fluid, and sent it off to be tested. Tuesday, she called to tell me that it looked cancerous. Because of the type of cancer, it wasn't very treatable, even if I had wanted to go that route, and that it was only a matter of time - a short time - before Cassie wouldn't be with us anymore.

I thought about putting her to sleep then and there but she didn't appear to be suffering too much at that point. Her stertorous breathing spells came and went, and most of the time didn't act too affected. Up through Wednesday, she was still wandering around the apartment and even managed to climb up on the kitchen counter and complain about not getting treats a few times. I decided to keep her at home and let her die quietly and with her family. If she had reached a point where she was suffering too much or became too weak, I'd have taken her in.

But she didn't. She did get weaker and weaker as the week progressed. By Saturday, she would plop down somewhere in the apartment for a little while, then stagger up and plop down somewhere else. Her breathing was pretty heavy and it was obvious she was having trouble getting comfortable anywhere. Toward 9:00 pm or so, it was getting very hard for her to move at all and she had begun to gasp for breath. Sometime between 10:00 and 10:30, she staggered toward the bathroom, nosed around the dirty clothes pile, and then moved out into the hallway, where she collapsed. By this point her sides were moving in and out like a bellows and she was gasping for breath. The end was mercifully quick after that, and I'm glad we were together at the end.

The Monkey was a great cat. She couldn't do tricks and her MRRAAOWL'ing could be annoying but she was never in a bad mood and always affectionate. And I loved watching her with her sister, Emma. It's only been a day, and I don't know if Emms realizes her sister's gone but I'll be watching to see if there's any change in her behavior as they were pretty inseperable as this picture shows:

Siamese Twins?

Here's a link to a video I managed to take on The Monkey's last day.