Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bad Answers to Unasked Questions

A Primer for Sociopaths

In 1985, Alice M. Brock wrote "How to Massage Your Cat," a short illustrated book for people who hate cats or wish to lose the use of significant bodily appendages. Or both. Three days ago, I bought that book, because I make the kind of money that allows me to just buy books without thinking twice about it. Book money. There is literally around $23 in hard cash in my wallet at this very moment. And I didn't stop at an ATM or nothing---that's just how I roll. But the economy has been tough on many people who don't have my mad skillz, so I thought I would share the book with you so that you, too, can learn how to permanently damage your relationship with any cat you might ever meet. Sadly, I can't share the illustrations with you, because that would require effort on my part. Instead, I'll just share the text of the book, along with some cogent observations.

Right out of the box, the book lets you know how it's gonna be. The first sentence: "Arrange the cat nicely on a clean towel and press firmly into place." Yes, there is a drawing of a hand mashing a cat onto a table that has a towel on it. So, by page 2, you know: the author either has never met a cat in her entire life, or has a deep-seated hatred of felines, such that she hopes to create a zombie army of cat-torturing book buyers. If the author had ever so much as touched a cat, she would know that the next sentence needs to be "Find the cat, corner it, pick it up again, put it back on the towel and try again to press firmly into place." Except that, if those were the instructions, no reader would ever get beyond the first page. Wash, rinse, repeat.

After some advice on picking hairballs off your cat, the book continues with this wisdom: "Pinch lips shut and thrust fingers under ribcage. An audible intake of breath will signal proper respiration has begun." Yes, those are the cat's lips you're supposed to pinch shut. Here, Ms. Brock, let me fix that for you: "Pinch lips shut and thrust fingers under ribcage. An audible intake of breath, followed by a bloodcurdling scream will signal that the cat has sunk the entire length of its fangs into the back of your hand."

Sometimes, the book reads like a manual for silently assassinating politically important cats: "Place thumbs behind ears [the illustration makes it clear you are standing behind the cat] and lock fingers securely under chin. Raise cat 8 to 9 inches above table and shake energetically." Just so we're clear, take your hands, touch the tips of your thumbs together, and now interlace your fingers. Now picture a cat head with its chin resting on the top of your index fingers. Now imagine shaking the cat "energetically" while holding it up in the air in this position. This advice is followed by the comment "The cat should feel completely loosened. Allow cat to rest a minute." Yeah, dead animals DO go limp, Ms. Brock. You have a point there. And you probably should tell your children that Mr. Whiskers IS just "resting" on the table.

But now it's time for the real massage. Apparently working from the assumption that any massage a human would love, a cat would love too, Ms. Brock shows us a cat laying stomach down on a towel and advises us to "Being at the rear and work your way around the cat using a vigorous kneading motion, bunching it up and spreading it out." Yes, the latter part is accompanied by an illustration that looks like someone is trying to make a pizza cat. I would make a joke, but....why?

"Stand squarely in front of cat and grasp it by both ears. Press firmly back till you hear the click." Potential next sentences include:
  • "Your cat is now loaded and ready to fire."
  • "The click is the sound of the cat's canines scratching across the bone in your thumb."
  • "Toss the cat over the sofa, and duck and cover."
Up to this point, one potential explanation is that Ms. Brock owns what might be the most patient, or slow-moving, cat that history has ever known. But right about now is where the book takes a turn, including suggestions like "Grip the tail tightly and turn slowly counterclockwise." I'm not sure what the depth of thread IS on a cat, but be sure not to pull it all the way out. At least with a counterclockwise twist, you don't have to worry about over-tightening. You might want to use a torque gauge, because the guys at the factory tell me the tail is only rated to 35 footpounds.

Now, it's cool-down time, so "Gently flip cat over onto its back [stomach up] and direct a volley of rapid slaps to the midriff." The cat in the illustrations is always the same cat, which strikes me as unrealistic. I cannot imagine that Ms. Brock has ever seen the same cat twice, and the book offers no suggestions on how to drag the cat out from under a bed.

Once again, the end suggests that the author may know more than she is letting on: "At this point your cat should be entirely relaxed. Cover the face briefly with a tea towel to prolong calm. A well massaged cat may remain in this position for some time." I can add an epilogue: "And may begin to smell."

I wish I could somehow offer an explanation for all this. Like, that Alice M. Brock is somehow related to Simon Bond and is just trying to throw some business his way. The dust jacket flaps suggest that the book is a "hilarious spoof." I can tell you for absolute certain that sentence is at least 50% wrong. The same description ends by stating "Instructions accompany 27 strange and charming illustrations sure to inspire delight in anyone, be it feline friend or foe." I did the punctuation exactly as they had it: "feline friend or foe." Maybe better stated: "friend or feline foe." Plus, the book was for sale at a store in Chinatown. Draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My take on L.A. Noire

I just posted my thoughts on L.A. Noire over at TL;DR. If you're interested in the game, feel free to have a look for yourself....