52 Albums, Week 22: Lost Souls (Doves)
52 Albums, Week 23: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles and George Martin)

Sunday Night Journal, June 4, 2017

If you've been reading the Sunday Night Journal since its early days (2004(!)), you may remember that from time to time I mentioned "the dogs": walking the dogs, feeding the dogs, being amused or annoyed by the dogs. I also mentioned cats. At the time we had two dogs and three cats. Since then the ranks have thinned out considerably, and we are now down to one dog and one cat, Andy and Meme (pronounced "Mimi"). 


Of all these animals, only Meme was deliberately acquired by the people who had the care of them for the past ten years or so, i.e. my wife and me. Like many parents, we came to have pets which were either requested (begged for) by one of the children, or bequeathed to us by an out-of-the-nest child who was moving to a place where he/she couldn't take the animal along. Andy was a sort of accident. Someone my wife worked with was trying to give him away, and my wife was the intermediary for the dog to be given to our nieces (her brother's children). It turned out that the girls were allergic to the dog and wanted to give him back. But the original owner didn't want him. So we were stuck with him. 

Andy is a bichon. He was so cute that he even charmed my wife, who is not a dog lover. Of course all puppies are cute, but he was especially so--a little ball of white fluff. Full-grown, he looks something like an animated teddy bear. The other dog was Lucy. She died in 2015, more or less of old age, as she was about the same age as the century. She was only a little older than Andy, but she was a big(ger) dog, and apparently small dogs live longer. (The two cats also died more or less of old age--more in one case, as she was over twenty.) We aren't sure exactly how old Andy is but we think he's about sixteen. I know we had him in 2002, but I think not very much earlier than that, maybe a year, so he was probably born in 2001.

Age is really catching up with him now. Something or other I read about bichons years ago described them as "merry," and it's a good word. They are very attached to people, very affectionate, and lively without being hyperactive, as so many small dogs are. I'm one of those (probably a majority of the human race) who dislike, if not detest, small dogs that exercise their high-pitched yap with hysterical frequency and intensity. Happily, Andy is not like that. In spite of his twelve-pound size, his bark is not gratingly squeaky, and he doesn't bark any more, or any more frantically, than any other dog. Until recently he was sometimes subject to what is known as the "bichon buzz," in which he would run around the house at top speed, leaping wildly over any obstacle, flying up, over, and down the furniture. It's a funny sight. 

He hasn't buzzed for a long time now. Once in a while he still gets a little playful, but it doesn't last very long. His eyesight is going. He's not blind, and I can't tell for sure (of course) exactly how well he can see, but it's obviously not very well: he walks into things. And he apparently doesn't hear as well, either. If someone, for instance a 5-year-old grandchild, comes within a foot or two of him and then makes a loud noise, Andy is violently startled, and afraid--he hasn't seen or heard it coming and doesn't know what it is. He's often afraid in general, trembling violently in any stressful situation, such as getting a bath or going to the vet. He and Lucy used to start barking when someone walked down our street even before they came into sight, and long before I heard or saw them. Now Andy apparently doesn't hear this at all, or perhaps he just doesn't care anymore. At any rate he goes for days at a time never barking at all, even when a UPS driver comes to the front porch. 

In his prime he was something of an alpha dog. He generally seemed to be the boss with Lucy, in spite of the fact that she outweighed him five to one. And he was feisty and even commanding with other dogs, no matter how big they were. Once two poodles, fifty or sixty pounds each, were loose down at the bay where I was letting Andy run around, and in no time at all he was the boss. He seemed to have no idea of the disparity in size, or that they could have dispatched him with a few snaps of the jaws. Now he quails at the approach of any other dog.

His attachment to us has a sort of neurotic edge now. He gets a little frantic when I walk away, because he seems to have trouble following me, and he can't settle down until I do. When both my wife and I are here, it upsets him for us to be in different rooms, and he hurries back and forth between us, making worried little sounds.

I think he's arthritic. Sometimes his back legs seem to just go out from under him. He's always been a little skittish about steps, but now I have to give him a little push to start him down the front steps, and others he won't attempt at all, so I just pick him up and take him up or down.

Worse, he's losing some control over his bladder. I have to remember to take him out every hour or two if I don't want to find a puddle somewhere. Fortunately we don't have a lot of rugs and carpeting in the house. And when he gets upset about something--for instance, being stuck with a flight of stairs between him and the people, and unable to get to us--he's liable to lose it even if it hasn't been all that long since he went out. If you're wondering why I don't just make him stay outside most of the time, it's because it would make him crazy, and because he would be thoroughly flea-infested, and when he has flea bites, or any other skin irritation, it becomes a major problem, as he chews and licks on himself until he creates bloody ulcers.

In short, he's a lot of trouble. Always has been, really, but more now. Oh yeah, one more thing: we can't travel anywhere that involves one or more nights away without boarding him--and the cat if it's more than one night--because there's no one close by who can come and feed them. So why do we have them? I'm fond of Andy, and will miss him when he's gone, but I won't be heartbroken. How decrepit would he have to get before we decided to "put him to sleep"? The only answer I can give you is "Much worse." And as to the "why," well, partly it's just the way I am--soft-hearted. But lately there's a little more to it than that.

I was in my mid-fifties when I started the Sunday Night Journal. I'm now in my late sixties. Victor Hugo once said that "Fifty is the youth of old age." I amended that to sixty, because we tend to live longer now. But I'm nearing the end of that youth and feeling a little alarmed at the approach of actual old age. Fortunately I'm in good health overall, so I don't have much cause for serious complaint, but it seems that every few months there is a new addition to the list of Things That Hurt or Things That Don't Work Right Anymore.

And in my mind there is a semi-superstitious connection between my old age and Andy's. I feel as if there's some sort of do-as-you-would-be-done-by principle involved, as if my treatment of him is somehow going to affect the way I'm treated if I live long enough to get pretty decrepit. Or then again maybe it's just sympathy for one old creature for another. I see him anxious and struggling to figure out, in dog terms, what's going on around him, or afraid to go down a flight of stairs because he's feeble and he can't see clearly, and I think "That may be me in five or ten years." And I feel more patient. 


Obviously I like animals, and am perhaps a bit unusual in being neither a dog person nor a cat person, but liking both. But I'm a little horrified by the recent tendency of people to talk of their pets as if they were their children. I was shocked once when someone referred to me as "Lucy and Andy's dad." NO! 



Sometimes a guest appropriates your favorite chair and good manners dictate that you just have to accept it. This is my daughter's dog. 


I've never read Anne of Green Gables. I don't know if it's a good book or not. But I gather it doesn't merit the "dark" and/or "gritty" TV adaptation that's recently been released. At Dappled Things, Michael Rennier has a good discussion of the odd trend of which this is only one example: the impulse to take some kind of beloved and relatively innocent classic and give it the dark-'n'-gritty treatment. 

This darkening of the classics to achieve modern relevance is an ongoing problem (I’m looking at you, Brideshead Revisited) because it seems as though our storytelling has lost confidence in the fact that there is actual goodness to be found in the world, actual, real-life goodness buried deep in the marrow of creation.

I don't disagree with that, and no doubt it's part of the story. But I think there's also something more fundamental and worse at work: an actual desire to sully or even defile the good and innocent simply because it is good and innocent, and the one doing the sullying knows that he is not. Anyway it makes me think of Dylan's lines:

While one who sang with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat-race choir
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he's in
--from "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"

Movies started getting dark-'n'-gritty at the end of the 1960s; I think Bonnie and Clyde, in 1968, was one of the first examples. Some of that was a desire to break out of the Hollywood tendency toward sentimentality and idealization and general un-reality, and it produced some good work. But at this point dark-'n'-gritty has become its own form of sentimentality.


Speaking of movies, I notice that a Wonder Woman movie (called Wonder Woman, if I'm not mistaken) is a big hit. I know it's the latest in a long line of movies about comic-book superheroes, of which I've seen only a few. I saw the first Spiderman movie, which I enjoyed, and the second one, which I didn't much like. And I watched one of the Batman "Dark Knight" movies on TV, the one with the very creepy Joker, and didn't much like it. I don't have any interest in seeing more of this type of thing. Big noisy action movies featuring heroes (or heroines) with more or less magical powers actually tend to bore me.  There's not much real dramatic tension because the more-or-less magical things that happen just seem arbitrary, like Wile E. Coyote falling a thousand feet, making a hole in the ground, climbing out of it, and getting after the Road Runner again.

Batman, Superman, and other superhero comics were very popular when I was growing up (I was twelve in 1960), in what I have just learned from Wikipedia is considered the Silver Age of comics (1956-1970). I read them and enjoyed them when I ran across them, usually at a friend's house, but I wasn't really an enthusiast and didn't go much out of my way to get hold of them. It seems to me that self-conscious and obsessive comic-book fandom developed sometime after the mid-1960s. Obviously a lot of people are very much into it, and serious critics are writing seriously about the movies. Well, it's lost on me, and in fact I'm a little puzzled by the whole phenomenon. Maybe it's just because I'm old.


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I absolutely hated it when people call me my my dogs mother or mom or mommy. But simply all dog owners do it now and now I've given up. I've thrown in the towel so completely that I refer to myself as a dog mommy. At the dog park, at the office - everywhere they say to Olivier, my dog, go to your mommy. So it is inescapable. I can rationalize my throwing in the towel in two ways other than just I gave up because it was nothing else I could do. The first is it as many of you know I was a cat owner for 20 years before I owned this dog and it was simply ridiculous when people insinuated that I had cats instead of children. Because cats are not like children at all. They are independent erotic creatures. Now owning a dog for the first time as an adult I have to confess that it is much more like having a child. So it's less insane and in that sense more sensible to call me Olivier's mom. Because one has much more of an interactive relationship with the dog and the dog does behave in some ways like one's child. Like pleading to be taken out for a walk or pleading for a game. Comparatively speaking I am the dogs mother. And secondly dogs are not functional in the way they once were. The dog we had when I was a child was supposed to be a Guard dog. I don't think anymore anyone would say that they had bought a dog is a Guard or for some other working purpose. So then the dog really is in a kind of way a member of the family. So in short if you cannot beat them join them because they do have some good points of reason

Maybe cats are more like adult children.

I love my cats very dearly but I never felt the least bit maternal towards them. They are not pals. They are beautiful, sensuous and very jealous creatures.

I hate all these superhero movies. One of the great things is identifying with a hero. And you can't identify with someone who can fly through the air at the speed of a flying bullet. Cannot identify with somebody wearing a stupid costume including a leotard and tights and a cape. You cannot identify with the comic book character

True. I could when I was 10 or 12, but not now. Maybe that's part of what puzzles me about the enthusiasm on the part of adults. I wonder if that's partly nostalgia, and maybe partly ironic.

There is a cat hassling me to get between me and the keyboard at this moment.

Yes Stan did that when he was older. Stan was needy in just the way you say Andy is needy in the last few years of his life. I feel guilty about not having him put down sooner. But the problem was that he kept defesting the expectations of the vets so we never really knew if he might do it just one more time

The other thing is that I cannot see the drama or the thrill when the hero essentially cannot be defeated.

Like the Star Wars phenomenon I think the super hero stuff depends a lot on whether you grew up with it or not. I was never much into comic books even when I was young, so this whole thing pretty much leaves me cold. Yet I have a couple friends roughly the same age as me who are very much "into" it.

As far as the "dark 'n' gritty" goes, I think you are right in that there is some active perversity going on there. A lot of the stuff seems purposely subversive of the good and the innocent, which is something in the arts and media that I totally despise.

So do I.

Do you mean growing up with the movies? I grew up with the comics but didn't develop this attachment. I wonder how many people over fifty or so are into the movies.

"I cannot see the drama or the thrill when the hero essentially cannot be defeated"

Right. Though they can layer on some drama by presenting the hero with moral dilemmas, endangering his/her loved ones, and such. But still, just not my cup of tea.

Meme has always been *extremely* needy, which I assume is because she was taken away from her mother and abandoned when only a few weeks old. Someone left her and her siblings in a basked on a shelf in a pet store, and someone my wife knew rescued the kittens and fed them with an eye dropper for weeks. She would walk around the pet store with one of the kittens clinging to her collar, nestled between neck and shoulder. Meme still wants to do that. Preventing her is a struggle, and getting her to let go if she ever gets there even more of one.

Lucy went very quickly, going from sickly to unable to move in the space of a day or so. The vet said there was nothing to be done. So that was pretty easy. I hope there's not a long drawn-out thing with Andy like you had with Stan.

Yes, your rationale for going along with the "dog mommy" thing is reasonable. And it's true that there is a childlike quality about dogs that isn't there with cats. But I think you have your ideas clear in a way that a lot of these people don't seem to. When they say their dog is "our baby" I get the feeling that they really don't mean "like a baby." I'm not around people like that often enough for it to take over with me in the same way.

"Do you mean growing up with the movies? I grew up with the comics but didn't develop this attachment. I wonder how many people over fifty or so are into the movies."

The guys I'm speaking of grew up with the comics, continued to follow them into adulthood, and have now transferred their like of the comics to the movies.

Of course for some folks the superhero movies are just the new "go-to" for action movies, like we had westerns and war movies when we were young. Still, I find the whole thing vaguely juvenile in a way that I didn't find the old war movies and cowboy flicks.

The expression 'Crazy cat lady' is well known. But I honestly think the dog lovers are crazier. And for just the same reason that the dogs are more easily turned into peoples little babies.

I tried all kinds of dogs schools when Olivier was a puppy. There was one I tried called school for dogs in the East Village. I'm still on the emailing list and I get offers of things like therapy for dog parents who are depressed because the dog is disobedient. I never saw anything is crazy is that as a cat owner. Because cats are not a Beadiant or disobedient they are just superficially donesticated

Agreed. The "crazy" in "crazy cat lady" describes going overboard about one thing to the point of eccentricity or worse. The dog owner crazy is more like a delusion. I believe I would have trouble not laughing in the face of someone who was getting therapy over her disobedient dog. Ever see that movie about the dog show fanatics?...what was it called?...by the same guy who did A Mighty Wind and other similar satires. Best In Show, I think.

"I find the whole thing vaguely juvenile"

Definitely. Not at all like, for instance, avidly reading a book filling in the backstory of Twin Peaks. ;-)

I kind of like action movies, at least in theory. But the superhero ones don't appeal much to me for the reasons we've given. I watched the original Die Hard a couple of years ago when we were getting some of the movie channels. It's really quite good for its type. Then I watched one of the later ones and it was just ludicrous--the action feats so over-the-top impossible that I couldn't take it seriously at all.

A lot of originally good action movies were cartoonized over time and sewuels. The first Bourne and the original Diehard wereexcellent

Is the problem that CGI has taken over? They just showed three Iron Man movies over the last week here on New Zealand TV. I spent about half an hour on each one, and they seemed to me to consist mostly of fighting scenes between really big, complicated gizmos, all thanks to CGI.

That's probably part of it. That makes the cartoonizing easier, no doubt, but that can be done without it. I don't think there was any CGI in that other Die Hard movie I saw.

Have you noticed you can get Filmstruck on Roku now?


Got an email announcing that earlier today. Just in time for them. I was about to cancel it. I think I've watched one movie on it, and that was just to see if it worked. I may cancel anyway. I don't watch movies very much these days, just tv shows with episodes of an hour or less.

Our family has had Bichons for years; a few have suffered sad ends, owing to the proximity of coyotes in the wilds of Alberta, but we keep returning to the breed, which, as you say, is a nice blend of good-tempered and pint-sized. And they don't shed! Great little dogs.

Like you, I'm largely immune to the superhero movie mania. I think the last one I saw was the first Captain America movie (2011), but I saw only the first half. The movie studios have invested heavily in these "universes", spinning out long sequences of films with interconnections between them. I suppose it's a marketing strategy that works -- else they wouldn't do it -- but it's rather forbidding to those of us who haven't been keeping up. Not that I want to keep up.

I hadn't heard about the new, dark Anne of Green Gables. What a dumb idea. The original movie was a favourite in our family when I was growing up. Prince Edward Island (where Green Gables is located) has for a long time made hay on the sweet, likeable, and inoffensive tales of Anne. I can't imagine they are too keen on her becoming "edgy".

Did your bichons have skin problems? Andy has sort of driven us crazy with that. I wonder if our hot and humid climate has something to do with that.

The "universes" of those movies seem to account for a lot of their appeal to some people, as with Star Wars. And Tolkien to some degree. Well, maybe to the same degree, but I think for fewer people.

"The movie studios have invested heavily in these "universes", spinning out long sequences of films with interconnections between them. I suppose it's a marketing strategy that works"

I read something recently that talked about the fact that much of today's big budget filmmaking -- sequels, reboots, remakes, etc. -- is based on data rather than on any "abstract" concerns. Apparently the studios actually run algorithms based on viewer demographics and such, then tailor the films based on the algorithmic data. Thus the movies are not really artistically created, or even crafted, but cranked out according to formula.

This is true for pop ('top 40') music too, by the way. One writer said that he wondered how all the pop music fans would react if they knew that all these songs were being churned out by groups of middle-aged Scandinavian men?

Marianne - i'm sure CGI Has a big effect. But its not the sole cause. If you look at the hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies, they are cartoon like but not I guess much dependent on CGI. Some of the best movies of our time are actual cartoons and some of the worst are 'cartoons' with human actors.

I had to add that if Wonder Woman had been available on the plane to London I would've watched it and I was hoping that it would be showing on the plane. That is because I would never watch it in the cinema or rent the DVD and I like usung opportunities for doing things which I would never otherwise have done

"I had to add that if Wonder Woman had been available on the plane to London I would've watched it and I was hoping that it would be showing on the plane. That is because I would never watch it in the cinema or rent the DVD and I like usung opportunities for doing things which I would never otherwise have done"

That's exactly what I thought about La La Land, and it was showing, but I had a screaming headache and had to turn it off.


I'm only a little surprised at hearing that about movie-designing algorithms. And not at all surprised that it's true in pop music. Proves my often-made observation that it's the musical equivalent of Cheez-Whiz--not actually music, but processed auditory product.

I listened to part of an Ariana Grande track after the Manchester bombing. Never mind what's said to be the gross sexual explicitness (what all our 12-year-old girls need to hear), I find the sound literally unbearable.

"Ha ha, you prude, they thought Elvis was shocking, too." That's one of the most irritating stock comebacks I know. That's like telling the relatives of a murdered teen-ager "Oh, that's just kids. We had fist fights when I was in school, you know."

Re Wonder Woman or La La Land on the plane--I used to do more or less the same kind of thing when going to work-related conferences and such and staying in a hotel with cable tv. That's how I first saw an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. And The Sopranos.

On Sunday night I was at a bar with a couple friends. No one was playing the digital jukebox, so they had a Top 40 playlist going. After about five or six songs in a row that sounded almost exactly the same, I asked, what is this, the all-female auto-tune station? Every song featured a female singer with a whiney, little-girl voice, very obviously auto-tuned, the same simplistic chord progressions repeated over and over, the same semi-electronic arrangement and the same beat. It was utter garbage -- cynical corporate-produced trash.

This is the boring generation. I guess you know, or maybe you don't, that the current fashion color for everything is gray. Please.


I realized that a year or so ago when I was visiting in California. It was December and I was in a Whole Foods or some similar place and kept feeling like there was an oddly somber, almost gloomy air about it. Finally it dawned on me that almost everybody in the place was wearing a combination of gray and black.

"Every song featured a female singer with a whiney, little-girl voice, very obviously auto-tuned, the same simplistic chord progressions repeated over and over, the same semi-electronic arrangement and the same beat."

Yes, that describes the Ariana Grande track I was talking about. Add to that pornographic lyrics. In addition to all the other reasons for hating that stuff, that auto-tune warble is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

I say "no accounting for taste" etc doesn't really apply to this. Objectively it's garbage.

Sorry about Janet's headache! When I came back from Spain last year I was flying Turkish Air because they had the cheapest tickets. They had a choice of 10 or 15 different movies all of them being some kind of Batman or Superman movie. The array was so depressing that I didn't watch a movie between Istanbul and Chicago. If there had been an actual choice I might've watched. But the feeling of being trapped inside this Ssuperman Batman world was so claustrophobic that I couldn't watch. Turkish Airlines must have bought the entire franchise

The Asterix comic books were brilliant. The films are rubbish though.

Grumpy, CGI is used on the Pirate movies -- see these photos of some of the characters before and after CGI.

That is interesting Marianne. I do think there's a lot of truth in your CGI idea. Because movies are probably being made to fit CGI rather than CGI being Used for movies.

I don't want to sound too Grumpy but I saw the second Pirates movie and thought it was a big yawn.

More grumpily, I thought the first one was.

I watched it until Jack Sparrow showed up, then I lost interest.

I don't remember enough to say anything specific, only that it was tiresome.

At the request of friends I accompanied them to the theatre for both the first Pirates movie and the first 'new' Mummy movie. Hated both and have not watched one of either franchise since. If anything, this newer new Mummy movie with Tom Cruise looks to be even dumber than the old new one.

Hm. I didn't even know there was a Mummie movie franchise.

"I didn't even know there was a Mummie movie franchise."

Consider yourself blessed!

I listened to another chapter of Out of Ashes this afternoon, and Esolen uses the one-room schoolhouse of Anne of Green Gables as a contrast to the horribleness of public schools today. I've read enough about the new series to be determined not to watch it, especially as the 1985 mini-series is one of the best film adaptations of a book that I have ever seen (second only to Brideshead and the A&E Pride & Prejudice). The casting is just about perfect and the series retains the innocence of the books along with a great beauty.

Although I detest the sullying of older books and the perverse darkness of just about anything that's available to watch nowadays, I found myself having a sort of reverse reaction to the new Fr. Brown series which I'm sure would disgust GKC. The atmosphere of the Fr. Brown books is consistently dark and brooding, and this series "based on" the mysteries is like Poirot with a priest instead of a Belgian detective only not so good.


Oh dear. It's been a while since I did that. Sorry.


:-) Fixed. I'll comment later (tomorrow).

I think the beauty of the landscape might be enough to make me watch the old Anne of Green Gables.

I guess the Fr. Brown series you're talking about is the one on Netflix, with Mark Williams as Fr. Brown? We've watched a few of them. I haven't disliked them but haven't been very enthused, either. Sort of on the bland side. Makes me wonder if dark-'n'-gritty stuff is ruining my taste.

It's not so much that it's bad--tepid maybe--but it's not Fr. Brown. Make up your own durn detective folks.

Ruining something.

I was looking at the films, etc. that Netflix has added recently and almost everything was dark and nasty, and I started thinking about how I like the crime dramas but I'm not sure a steady diet of murder, child abuse and human trafficking fits in very well with Paul's admonition to think about whatever is pure, admirable, lovely, etc. I'm just going to take a vacation from that stuff.

I probably won't have anything to say here now. ;-)


I've been thinking along those lines, too (Paul's admonition) but haven't done anything in particular about it. I just started another of those series and now I want to finish it (see next SNJ).

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