The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: life

House of Small Cubes (La Maison en Petits Cubes)

A beautiful allegory about growing old and the layers of memories we build.

Animated by Kunio Katō. Among other awards, it was the winner of the 2008 Oscar for short animation.

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The Lion Sleeps Tonite

Five years ago a young lady decided she wanted another dog. Sensitive to the plight of hundreds of thousands of abandoned and unwanted animals she began her search at the pounds and shelters of our metropolitan area.

And Miz Liz came home with a cat.

An old, cranky biddy, floppy belly from litters of kittens, black with white points and striking green eyes. Jazmine was 8 or 9 years old and had an attitude that gave no quarter to those that didn’t understand that all she surveyed was indeed hers. She didn’t play well with others and demanded to be the only feline within any given domain. Female cats are termed “Queens” and she lived up to the title, if not defined it.

A 9-pound cat with a half-ton personality.

When Miz Liz moved to the Rose City, Jazmine came to live with Aunt Bee and I. Without missing a beat she took over our house and our lives – and we loved every minute of it.


At 9:30pm, any night of the week, Jaz and Aunt Bee pursued parallel naps in front of the tv.

Better than any alarm clock, she insured we got up by 7am daily. Her food dish wasn’t going to fill itself and she needed the use of an opposable thumb and we had the only ones in the house. At 5pm she began stalking the wild Friskies can, also called “The Food Dance” as her steps were fairly ritualized: around the table, between my feet and the chair – be sure to tail whip the legs so I know she’s made a circuit – climb Mt Aunt Bee, and do it all again until one of us silly ‘hoomans’ goes to the food room and makes that “skritch” sound right before food appears in the shiny thing at proper cat height.

An exclusively indoor cat, she still took her role as protector very seriously. A cat shows up on the patio? Jazmine would climb the screen door in our defense. (I haven’t been able to find my hooman-cat dictionary, but I’m pretty sure that old Queen had one heckuva potty mouth on her.)

Jaz in the bedroom windowShe ran a tight and secure ship. When the late-show monologues came on she was ready for her handful of dry food and then escorted us to bed – on point. Once in bed, she’d tuck us in, drape across Aunt Bee for a few seconds (to fix her in place, probably) then scoot off to see if The Z was still up. If he was, Jaz would loudly request access to his room from the hallway. She had an uncanny time-sense to wait that 10 to 15 minutes until you’re in that sweet spot on the edge of sleep to come back into our bedroom and complain about being denied access to The Z’s room, or tell us how boring we were when we slept all those good hours away.

Yesterday, to use the parlance of Erin Hunter (all three authors who use the pseudonym), she went to hunt with Starclan. A battle with hyperthyroidism and kidney failure, both common in older cats, had reduced her to a slip of her former self.

The decision to put her to sleep was, and still is, stunningly devastating. What gave us the right to make that decision for her? I should have been able to fix it for her. What should I have done? How could I have failed Miz Liz so miserably by not keeping Jaz healthy? How could I have failed Jazmine so completely?

Aunt Bee is being so much more well adjusted about this than I am, the rock that she is, and reasonably I know she’s right. It was for the best, no matter our pain. But the questions still nag at me and probably always will. It’s just how I’m made and that’s just life. What isn’t in question, though, is the importance she had to our lives and in our family.

Trotting through the house, her belly flopping to and fro. Head butts and cat butts. Schedules and rituals. The little “I’m here” brrr you hear when walking into a room and the “goodnight-sleep tight” brrr’d conversation we’d have as we got ready for bed. Such little things. Such important things. So missed and so treasured.

So, thank you Miz Jaz-cat, for everything. It was a privilege to be your minion. Hunt well.

(Jaz Cat flickr pics can be found here)

If Life Begins at 50, Then What Have I Been Doing?

I can’t quite say I’ve been waiting my whole life for this birthday, nor can I admit to dreading it too awfully – it just kind of happened and here we are.

It’s a wonderfully roundish number, a theoretical mid-point sort of place where the past stretches back farther than the aging eye can quite see and the future remains of uncertain enough length to lend a mushy credence to the title ‘middle-aged’.

Pushing 50

I expect to start getting hails and howdys from AARP very soon if not on this very day. They already know who I am – Aunt Bee became a member of proper standing 5 years ago – but now it’s officially my turn. I now qualify for a special rate on my car insurance and may even get discounts from some of my favorite (selected) merchants. Admittedly that does take a bit of the sting out of membership in an Association of Retired Persons about 15 years before I’ll even be able to afford retiring myself.

Elsewise, I’ve been going gray since my early 20’s, always had a fondness for older women, and like to drive Cadillacs, so I pretty much fit in already.

What concerns me more than anything is that I’m transitioning to a new demographic.

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Putting the ‘In’ into Incompetence

The term “Peter Principle” has been around forever – one rises to the level of their incompetence – but I think there is more at work than merely putting the “In” in Ineptitude. The Dunning-Kruger Effect may explain it; our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence. (download the paper here)

From the wiki:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

Now please, don’t try the old “They’re just pushing their limits/boundaries/safety zones and failure is a learning experience”.

That idea just allows people the practice to fail even more spectacularly at some critical moment in the future. One isn’t always able to learn the right lesson from any given failure, especially if one can not understand their own complicity. I think the main driver to the highly skilled person’s feeling of inferiority is that they do see and understand that.

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