Tag Archives: New York Times

Friday Random 10: Killer Pigs Edition

Pax Arcana

Free range pigs are better for people because modern industrial agricultural practices that shove dozens of animals into tiny cages only breed disease and unhealthy meat.

Or not, according to Texas State University professor James McWilliams — who says allowing pigs to roam happily before slaughter will actually lead to less healthy pork chops:

killer_pigThe study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease that brought these findings to light last year sampled more than 600 pigs in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. It discovered not only higher rates of salmonella in free-range pigs (54 percent versus 39 percent) but also greater levels of the pathogen toxoplasma (6.8 percent versus 1.1 percent) and, most alarming, two free-range pigs that carried the parasite trichina (as opposed to zero for confined pigs). For many years, the pork industry has been assuring cooks that a little pink in the pork is fine. Trichinosis, which can be deadly, was assumed to be history.

The reason, he says, is that free range pigs come in contact with rodents, cats, and other things that carry diseases that are carefully controlled within the industrial pig piles that produce most of our pork. Furthermore, the idea that free range=natural is fairly easily debunked — as free range animals are generally kept in managed containment areas designed to produce a particular blend of characteristics from the final product:

Free range is ultimately an arbitrary point between the wild and the domesticated. That this arbitrary point is tricky business should come as no surprise. The long history of animal husbandry has been a fervent quest toward intensified control. Free-range pork boldly countered this quest, throwing it into partial reverse. The problem was that it went far enough to expose animals to diseases but not far enough to render the flesh truly wild. What people taste when they eat free range is a result not so much of nature but of human decision.

I think these arguments make a lot of sense. But then he ruins it with this:

After all, if clean and humane methods of production cannot be developed, there’s only one ethical choice left for the conscientious consumer: a pork-free diet.


The Songs:

Sea Legs — The Shins
Finer Feelings — Spoon
El Scorcho — Weezer
Every Picture Tells a Story — Rod Stewart
Anytime — My Morning Jacket
Come Together — The Beatles
Watch the Tapes — LCD Soundsystem
Fame and Fortune — Mission of Burma
Seen Your Video — The Replacements
Blitzkreig Bop — The Ramones

Bonus Video:

Woodfriend — Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (Live)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Virginia Heffernan may be retarded

Pax Arcana

apple_iphoneDespite my affection for the light saber application, watching Arrested Development on planes, and the other 8 million fun things to play with on my iPhone — I really don’t care if other people find the thing as awesome as I do.

For example, I can see why people who have to type a lot — or edit Microsoft Office documents — would prefer the BlackBerry. Or the Pre. Whatthefuckever.

But Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times has taken criticism of the iPhone to a whole new level of awesome with her recent piece “I hate my iPhone.” Heffernan used to be the TV critic for the Times, but is now heading up The Medium — a blog/beat about the full spectrum of digital media consumption.

Clearly, she is up to the task.

Wait, that’s not right. Clearly she is not up to the task. That’s what I meant. Anyway, here is why she hates her iPhone:

I was late to get one — and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe my hopes for the iPhone curdled in the time it took for my perfectly good T-Mobile plan to expire so I could switch to balky AT&T and purchase one. But I had bided my time. And, really, my enthusiasm survived right up to the moment at the AT&T counter, post-sale, when a saleswoman transferred my address book from my battered BlackBerry to the sweetie-pie iPhone.

“Can you set up my e-mail too?” I asked. She handed me the phone and told me what to type. Pressing her good nature, I asked if she’d do that part too, since I wasn’t yet handy with the iPhone’s character-entry system — the 2D screen-based simulation of the qwerty keyboard.

She gave me a hard look. Truly, as if she was supposed to be on the lookout for people like me. “It’s your phone,” she replied briskly. “It’s time you started typing on it.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this person — hired by the New York Times to produce high-minded analysis about how the digital age informs modern life — should not have to devote the 30 seconds necessary to learn how to operate the devices that deliver that media. That kind of work is for counter folk.

And you’re right.

In fact, I can sympathize with Ms. Heffernan. The last time I bought a car, the salesperson refused to drive me home in it. Then there was that time I went to see Memento and the usher refused to sit next to me and explain what was happening. Or that time I went to clear the snow off the sidewalk and the shovel just sat there like it expected me to do all the work.

I hate my shovel!

I hate my iPhone [NYT]

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Breaking News: People Argue Over Shit

Pax Arcana

Living the life of an reclusive eccentric billionaire has its advantages, to be sure. But spending my days secure in a (extradition-free) mountain redoubt also leaves me regrettably isolated from the rest of society.

That’s why I turn to the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times to keep me abreast of how the lesser classes (that would be you) spend their days. For example, yesterday I learned that the high tech movie rental service Netflix is driving a wedge betwixt married people everywhere.

No, really. That’s what it says:

leonardBut for many couples, the queue — the computer list of which films will arrive next in the mail, after those at home are returned — is as important as everything else that spouses and other varieties of significant others share, from pet names to closet space to the bathroom. For some, this is fine. For others, the queue is the new toilet seat that somebody left up.

The article then quotes a gentleman whose wife refused to watch The English Patient for a full six months. The couple — by now almost certainly on the verge of divorce — finally returned the DVD unwatched.

And somewhere in heaven, an cherub was born with AIDS.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned rift is not the only one. According to the article, acrimony over the Netflix queue is in a giant tie for first place on the list of stupid ass shit husbands and wives argue over:

Mr. Marino and Ms. Miller are not alone. Far from it. Men and women from perfectly happy partnerships report their own dysfunctional cohabitation within the confines of the queue. Once upon a time, these sorts of disagreements were sorted out in the aisles of a video store, before a movie was selected. Now, when the conversation begins, it’s already too late.


This is why I simply trade from my DVD collection with Kim Jong Il. His taste is surprisingly girlish, but at least he returns things on time.

Hey, Who Ordered ‘Gigli’? [NYT]

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An open letter to AIG

Pax Arcana

Dear Masterful Lords of Capitalism:

businessman11Recently, as I was perusing the latest printed issue of the New York Times newspaper, I stumbled across an Op-Ed piece that republished, for the entire world to see, the resignation letter of one Mr. Jake DeSantis.

As you may recall, Mr. DeSantis was formerly an executive vice president of financial products at your company. He resigned in part because he believes AIG did not do enough to defend executives from the rampaging masses and their henchmen in the treacherous organization known as “the Congress,” leaving him with a paltry bonus amount of $742,000 (after taxes) and plenty of bad feelings:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

Unbelievable as it may seem, there are some who have criticized Mr. DeSantis’ letter — calling it “self-righteous.” One such outlet, a Web-based purveyor of something called “snark” called Gawker, even went so far as to accuse Mr. DeSantis of missing the entire point:

What he doesn’t understand is that the blood-boiling rage that’s been aimed at him and his colleagues isn’t just about the money and the failure—it’s about the vast and bottomless sense of entitlement that well-heeled Wall Streeters can’t seem to shake. When he describes the AIG retention contracts as “ethical and useful,” and when he compares himself to a “plumber” being “cheated” of his payment because an electrician burned down the house, he seems to be discovering for the first time that life is not fair. Also, he fails to understand that in this case, the humble plumber works for the electrician who burned down our house.

My opinion is that Mr. DeSantis is suffering from an unfortunate attack of the bitch squeals, and has wilted under the pressure. What your company needs is an executive who possesses not only a “vast and bottomless sense of entitlement,” but also the strong moral constitution required to stand up and accept bonus checks of just under a million dollars with a stiff upper lip and snug-fitting jockey shorts that barely mask a healthy capitalism erection.

As a primary figure in the continuing war against zombies, robots, science, and komodo dragons, I am just the man to fill that role.

As your new executive vice president for financial products, I would devote myself to my work — sometimes even staying at the office beyond the 14 hours DeSantis mentioned (assuming there is comp time built into our arrangement by mutual agreement).

I further promise that I, your new executive for producting finances, will not shrink away from public outrage. Instead I will attack it head on — by swinging socks filled with gold bullion (to be provided by AIG) at the gathering hordes.

For the price of just one Jake DeSantis’ bonus check, I will do that and so, so much more.

You know where to find me.


Pax Arcana

Dear AIG: I Quit [NYT]
Shut Up, AIG [Gawker]

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Put rice in your cell phone

Pax Arcana

diyAs we tumble screaming and red faced into our new Great Depression, we’re all going to need to learn to do a few things for ourselves. No more taking the car into the shop because you can’t figure out how to put wiper fluid in it. No more asking your Hungarian manservant to pick all the carraway seeds out of your loaf of rye bread (really, the essence of carraway is enough, am I right?).

Thankfully, the New York Times is here to the rescue with a series of tips for solving complicated technical issues with simple solutions. Warning — some of these solutions will make you look very, very foolish.

For example, consider the grave problem of not being able to unlock your Prius from a half mile away:

Suppose your remote car door opener does not have the range to reach your car across the parking lot. Hold the metal key part of your key fob against your chin, then push the unlock button. The trick turns your head into an antenna, says Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley radio engineer.

Mr. Pozar explains, “You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works.” Using your head can extend the key’s wireless range by a few car lengths.

Unfortunately the same trick applied to your spouse does not unlock the eternal mysteries of womanhood. Trust me.

The Times also says you can rescue data from a seized hard drive by freezing it overnight — which is true — and that you can milk your printer’s ink cartridge for a few extra drops by warming it up with a hairdryer. If your cell phone drops in the toilet, take out the battery and fill it with rice. Then steam for 20 minutes and serve garnished with parsley and black olives.

Oh there’s more.

Dirty CD’s can be cleaned with vodka, which is a waste of good vodka when you’re unemployed and reduced to cleaning your copy of The Low End Theory to remember what good times feel like. Your home Wi-Fi reach can be extended by placing a rounded cookie sheet behind the router. This little trick will also nicely complement your feathered mullet and brown bomber jacket, MacGyver.

I have a few of my own suggestions to add. For example, an empty milk jug with the bottom removed makes an excellent megaphone. Old newspapers (who doesn’t have a bunch of those lying around?) can easily be folded into attractive hats that keep the rain out of your eyes when you’re panhandling in inclement weather. You can line your hat with aluminum foil for increased durability, but be aware — this may interfere with your remote car door opener.

Low-Tech Fixes for High-Tech Problems [NYT]

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Forgetful man dies

Pax Arcana

hmThe New York Times has a pretty interesting obituary of Henry Gustav Molaison, who died yesterday. For most of his life, Molaison was known publicly only as H.M. and was the most important test subject in the history of brain science (until I came along, natch).

H.M. suffered from profound amnesia, the result of an experimental brain surgery to cure his seizures. He remembered his name and where he grew up, but completely lost the ability to form new memories after the incident:

“He was a very gracious man, very patient, always willing to try these tasks I would give him,” Dr. Milner, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University, said in a recent interview. “And yet every time I walked in the room, it was like we’d never met.”

Among H.M.’s contributions to science were expirements that showed that the brain stores memories in at least two completely separate systems (one for names and faces and such, and another for subconscious learning, such as motor skills).

hmIn other news, The New York Times has a pretty interesting obituary of Henry Gustav Molaison, who died yesterday. For most of his life, Molaison was known publicly only as H.M. and was the most important test subject in the history of brain science (until I came along, natch).

H.M. suffered from profound amnesia, the result of an experimental brain surgery to cure his seizures. He remembered his name and where he grew up, but completely lost the ability to form new memories after the incident:

“He was a very gracious man, very patient, always willing to try these tasks I would give him,” Dr. Milner, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University, said in a recent interview. “And yet every time I walked in the room, it was like we’d never met.”

Among H.M.’s contributions to science were expirements that showed that the brain stores memories in at least two completely separate systems (one for names and faces and such, and another for subconscious learning, such as motor skills).

H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82  [New York Times]

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That’s a stretch

Pax Arcana

It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a disciplined training regimen, as each new day seemingly brings news of some new way of exercising.

First I was forced to give up my vibrating belt machine, despite its proven track record of success (my grandfather used it to vault himself to preeminence in the Svalbard eastern district herring fling 5 years straight). Next I was forced to quit smoking Chesterfield brand cigarettes, when it turned out they were actually no healthier than other brands — despite what a respected study had reported.

Now it appears that I may have to abandon my stretching routine, as modern science has deemed it outdated.

From the Times:

The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

A better way to warm up, kineseologists say, is to do some light jogging for 5-10 minutes, followed by a routine designed not only to prime your muscles, but also to convince your opponent that he will soon do battle with a crazy person:

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion. Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get what McHugh calls “an excitatory message” to perform.

Dynamic stretching is at its most effective when it’s relatively sports specific … For runners, an ideal warm-up might include squats, lunges and “form drills” like kicking your buttocks with your heels. Athletes who need to move rapidly in different directions, like soccer, tennis or basketball players, should do dynamic stretches that involve many parts of the body. “Spider-Man” is a particularly good drill: drop onto all fours and crawl the width of the court, as if you were climbing a wall.

Modern science also recommends dynamic stretches with names like the “Scorpion,” the “Straight Leg March,” and “Handwalks.” Pax Arcana recommends the “Sprinkler,” the “Lawnmower,” and the “Whack-a-Mole,” but those are technically dance moves and not stretching exercises. So I guess you could say I’m the next generation’s Billy Blanks.

Stretching: The Truth [NYT]

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The hot stove

Pax Arcana

I may be a jealous dipshit who fucken sucks at life, but I do have one thing going for me — my pots and pans are awesome.

Thanks to my goofy interest in cooking — and my gala 2005 wedding — I am the proud owner of a pantry stocked with enough top-tier equipment to make even the most devoted fan of the Williams-Sonoma catalog jealous.

The base set is All-Clad Copper Core: three fry pans, a large saute, a large stockpot, two sauce pans, and a butter warmer. I also have small and large All-Clad nonstick stainless fry pans for eggs and other foods requiring a gentle touch.

Beyond the basics, I have a 12″ cast iron skillet for high-heat searing and oven use, a 10″ square cast-iron grill pan, an 8-quart Le Creuset stockpot, and a kick-ass carbon steel wok for stir frying.

But is it all worth it? Does my arsenal of expensive (except the cast-iron and the wok) weaponry make me a better cook? Would I be better off with the cheap-o sets available at Macy’s?

That’s what Harold McGee wondered also. In this article for the New York Times, McGee buys up a ton of cheap and expensive pans and does his own tests to see what you get for your money.

He found that for some types of cooking, it really doesn’t matter:

I started by timing how long it took the pans to bring a cup of water to a boil over the maximum gas flame on my stovetop. The copper and the cast iron each took 3 minutes, the aluminum-stainless combination 2.5, and the thin nonstick aluminum just 2 minutes. Light and cheap win for speed.

This makes sense, because more expensive pans are typically heavier. This means they heat up more slowly but distribute heat more evenly and retain it longer. My All-Clad Copper Core pans boast a 5-ply bonded construction of steel and copper.

In a good conductor, heat will flow quickly throughout the pan; with a poor conductor, the heat should build up into a hot spot in the metal just above the burner. To make the pans’ heat landscapes visible, I put a round of parchment paper into each pan, weighed it down with pie weights and put the pan on a medium-high burner. When I saw or smelled the paper browning, I removed the parchment.

The heavy copper and the light aluminum pans produced evenly toasted heat maps. The stainless-clad aluminum did pretty well, too. But the cast-iron pan scorched a small area, and the pattern was familiar. For years I made risotto every week or two in my favorite enameled cast-iron pot, and always found a solid brown ring of stuck rice grains right above the flame.

From there, McGee goes off on a tangent about butter, oil, and other elements that cause food to stick to untreated surfaces. He also discovers, to his surprise, that the less vigorously the pans are cleaned, the more likely they are to allow you to flip your eggs or fish. In this way, the best pans often have less to do with cost or construction than with how frequently you use them:

So what to do about getting pots and pans that work best? Choose the ones that you like, for their heft or their lightness, for cachet or economy, for finickiness or ease. Mind the rippling oil. And cook with them often.

What’s Hot, What’s Not, in Pots and Pans [NYT]


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Now that’s a trend story

Pax Arcana

While the rest of the New York Times staff is busy convincing us that cat-loving men are the new black, some on the Gray Lady’s staff actually seem to have uncovered trend stories backed by — hang on to your motherfucking hats — verifiable facts!

In today’s edition, reporter Winnie the Poo Hu asserts that Latin is all the rage among the youngs:

The resurgence of a language once rejected as outdated and irrelevant is reflected across the country as Latin is embraced by a new generation of students like Xavier who seek to increase SAT scores or stand out from their friends, or simply harbor a fascination for the ancient language after reading Harry Potter’s Latin-based chanting spells.

But where you’d expect the next paragraph to start with “While there is no hard evidence to prove there are more students studying Latin, educators from Naples (Florida) to Venice (California) say they’ve seen an increased interest in the language among high school students,” Hu takes your jaded anticipation, drops it to the mat in a figure-four leg lock and makes it scream for mercy.

Check it:

The number of students in the United States taking the National Latin Exam has risen steadily to more than 134,000 students in each of the past two years, from 124,000 in 2003 and 101,000 in 1998, with large increases in remote parts of the country like New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont. The number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Latin, meanwhile, has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, to 8,654 in 2007.

The rest of the article speculates on possible reasons for the upswing — including the popularity of Latin-ish phrases in the Harry Potter books and simple cultural cycles. But the point is that Winnie Hu was able, in less than 100 words, to support the point of the article. It ain’t proof in the scientific sense, but it’s genuine journalism.

I say lorem ipsum, Winnie Hu. Lorem ipsum to you in all your future endeavors.

A Dead Language That’s Very Much Alive [NYT]

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The greatest news story ever written

Pax Arcana


[taps the microphone]

May I have your attention, please?

Pax Arcana regrets to inform you that the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes have been canceled. While the committee is certain that your submissions would have been sterling examples of journalism, the decision has been made that this New York Times story is the finest piece of writing to ever grace the pages of any periodical, and deserves the Pulitzer in every available category.

It is, quite simply, the greatest news story ever written.

Sorry, Fido, It’s Just a Guy Thing

by Abby Ellin

IF you ask Adam Fulrath who is the love of his life, he will barely blink an eye before responding: Parappa.

I tried to barely blink an eye just after reading this, and it hurt like a bitch. This is an amazing feat for any human being. Tell me more about this man with the superhuman eyelid control…

Mr. Fulrath, a 37-year-old design director at Time Out New York, keeps five photographs of Parappa, a shorthaired, bicolored, mixed-breed cat, on his desktop. He knows that it might be considered a little weird that a grown man would be so enamored with his kitty, but Mr. Fulrath, who is into video games and comic books and calls himself a “straight, geeky guy,” doesn’t care.

“She’s my primary relationship,” he said.

I’m not really sure what the cat has to do with this guy’s superior ocular manipulation skills, but I haven’t given up yet. I mean, it’s not like this story is going to be about men liking cats.

Mr. Fulrath is one of a growing number of single — and yes, heterosexual — men who seem to be coming out of the cat closet and unabashedly embracing their feline side. To that end, they are posting photographs and videos of their little buddies on YouTube and on Web sites like menandcats.com, and Twittering about them to anyone who will listen.

See, I told you. This story isn’t about men liking cats. It’s about men liking cats and then posting pictures of them on the Internet.




I just checked it out, and it’s true! There are men who like cats, and they do put pictures of them on the Internet!

If I were an idiot, I’d probably say that this was a “trend” and was evidence that cats were overtaking dogs as the pet of choice for penis-having humans. And I’d say something completely irrelevant about some dickhead killing a cat and try to shoehorn it into my ridiculous theory.

Indeed, it seems that man’s best friend is no longer a golden retriever, but a cuddly cat named Fluffy. This movement, such as it is, is in direct contrast to the most notable in the recent spate of reports about the relationship between a man and a cat, which were far darker; they focused on a young actor who was recently on trial in New York City for killing his girlfriend’s cat — he said it attacked him — only to have a jury decide after several days that it could not reach a verdict.

If it had been a little less violent, that case might have been more in line with what the world seems to expect of men and cats.

Of course, a story this profound just isn’t complete without expert commentary.

The image of the crazy spinster cat lady persists, and plenty of people do wonder about a guy with a cat. As a writer on adventuresofacitygirl.blogspot.com put it: “Single men and cats are like a burger and broccoli. Separately they are okay, but together it just seems off.”

[puts down broccoli burger, drops head in shame, hopes the next sentence is so convoluted it will need to be read twice]

But those who see a growing link between men and cats see that attitude (not to mention the cat slaying) as old-fashioned.


Clea Simon, who wrote “The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats,” said: “I do think it has become more acceptable for men to own cats — partly for practical reasons, like the growing realization that they’re better city pets, and partly the whole acceptance of our cross-gender traits that men crave intimacy, too.”

Now we’re getting somewhere. You see, according to someone who wrote what must be the most awesomest book ever on mysterious connections between humans of one gender and an entire species of domesticated animal, more men like cats now because they’re more accepting of their feminine sides. Wait — maybe she’s saying it’s because more men are willing to admit that they crave the kind of intimacy one can only achieve with a feline pet. Or maybe she just hacked up and expectorated a soggy snarl of words and hair that our writer included in the article despite the fact that it makes no fucking sense whatsoever but seems vaguely akin to something that would support the absurd thesis of this article.

Stacy Mantle, the founder of Petsweekly.com, a magazine for pet lovers, said that men are becoming more “cat literate” because they themselves are evolving.

“It’s the unevolved members of the species who tend toward abuse of cats — and oftentimes, women and children,” said Ms. Mantle, who owns 18 cats.

Stacy Mantle: Internet entrepreneur, cat lover, evolutionary psychologist.

Although there are no hard (or soft) statistics (it is rare to find an owner, man or woman, walking a cat in public), it seems that single, heterosexual male cat owners are on the rise. Over the last few years Sandra DeFeo, an executive director at the Humane Society of New York, said she had seen an increase in the number of single, straight men who are adopting cats.

Carole Wilbourn, a cat therapist (yes, really) in Manhattan, said that the number of her single, straight male clients has risen about 25 percent over the last five years.

This is the strategy that really blew the Pulitzer committee away. First you say there are no statistics to back up your farkakte theory, then you tap into a deep well of uncheckable facts. Then you spray them all over your readers like they were Kentucky college girls at a wet T-shirt contest.

But still, where are the online polls?

When the Web site PetPlace.com asked its readers, “Do Real Men Own Cats?” almost 84 percent of respondents said “yes.” “Only intelligent, aware, caring men love cats,” one reader said. And in a 2005 survey by Cats Protection, an animal welfare agency in the United Kingdom, the majority of the 790 people who responded said it was cool for a guy to own cats.

Who would ever have guessed that men who own cats and frequent pet-focused Web sites would say that it’s cool for men to own cats? I just did my own online survey, and it turns out a majority of Red Sox fans say Alex Rodriguez is gay. So case closed, I guess.

This line of thinking does not surprise cat lovers, many of whom believe that only pillars of virility and masculinity would dare to own one. They are quick to point out other well-known macho cat owners: Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo and Marlon Brando, who reportedly found a stray cat on the set of “The Godfather” and incorporated it into a scene.

John Scalzi, 39, an author in Bradford, Ohio, has been a cat guy his entire life. In September 2006, he posted a picture of a piece of bacon taped to his cat, Ghlaghghee (pronounced Fluffy — an ode to George Bernard Shaw), on his Web site http://www.scalzi.com/whatever. Thousands of viewers apparently found this hilarious.

This just in — there are thousands of people who desperately need to rent season one of “Arrested Development.” Won’t someone pleeeease help them?

Mr. Scalzi, who is now married and has a daughter, blames Hollywood for the continual bad rap that has befallen the male cat owner. Originally, he said, only strong men like Don Corleone, or the villains in a James Bond film, had cats.

“But then in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, Hollywood decided that we need to have the token gay man as the witty sidekick friend of the main female protagonist,” he said. “ ‘What kind of signature thing can we give him to convey that he is not an entirely masculine being? I know! We’ll give him a big fluffy cat!’ ”

For example, that one movie with the gay guy and the cat, and there was that other movie with a gay guy and a cat, and honestly, who could forget that other time they made a movie and there was this gay man and he also had a cat.

In fact, Mr. Scalzi thinks that dogs are for the weaker of spirit, since the dog is, in effect, “your wingman.”

“If you’re feeling insecure about your space in the world, you get a dog because he will always back you up,” he said. “He’s the insecure man’s best friend.”

A man with a cat, on the other hand, “is secure with himself,” he said. “He’s sharing his space with a predator.”

John Scalzi eats cats? Is that what the bacon was for?

Many women agree that guys with cats are extra special.

Oh for fuck’s sake we’re still talking about this shit?

“They make the best boyfriends because they’re totally cool with staying home and watching a movie,” said Elizabeth Daza, 28, a video producer in Manhattan, who dated a cat-owning man for eight years. “Straight men with cats seem to be really secure and stable. They don’t need to be running around the park and proving their masculinity like the dog guys.”

She has a point. If I were single and had a dog, I’d run around the park with him with my balls out while curling 25-pound weights in either hand. Then I’d eat a cat, just like John Scalzi does.

On a practical level, cats are easier, male owners say — especially if they (the men) travel a lot. They can leave the cat alone for days on end, and the cat will survive.

“I would feel guilty if I had a dog and was out of the country for three weeks,” said Mark Fletcher, 38, an entrepreneur in Redwood City, Calif. who has two cats, Einstein and Babe (as in Ruth).

Cats are better than dogs because they’re more adept at not dying when you neglect them.

What’s more, cats are relatively low maintenance.

“A dog is a lot of work,” said Nader Ali-Hassan, 29, an account executive with a digital marketing firm in Cleveland.

Cats: Perfect for people who hate having to think about things like feeding and caring for a pet.

SOME guys are even using their cats as vehicles to celebrity, like Paul Klusman, 39, a Wichita, Kan., engineer who catapulted to Internet fame after posting “An Engineer’s Guide to Cats” on YouTube in April.

The film, which features his three cats, Oscar, Ginger and Zoey, garnered about 3 million views. Mr. Klusman said he received about 300 marriage proposals from “lonely cat ladies from all over the world,” in addition to more risqué propositions.

“Any single, straight man who has the slightest bit of insecurity about his own sexuality will probably find it difficult to admit to owning or even appreciating cats” he said, echoing Mr. Scalzi’s sentiments.

I thought there was an echo in here. To me it sounds like this:

“DUUUURRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!…   DUUURRRGGHH!!…  DUUrrrgh!…   Durrgh!… durrgh…   durgh”

Of course, it can become tricky, like when the cat gets in the way of a relationship.

The Cats Protection study found that single male cat owners were more likely than their female counterparts to have made, or consider making, a sacrifice for their cat — including giving up a holiday or going into debt for their cat if necessary.

Single men were also almost as likely as single women to break a friendship rather than lose their cat, and would consider choosing their cat over their partner.

I don’t live in the real world, but if I did, I bet I’d know tons of guys that have had to choose between their cats and their women. I’m sure it happens all the time.

This happened to Mr. Fulrath, who dated a woman who was allergic to cats.


“I thought, ‘This is never going to work,’ ” he recalled. “My cat takes priority over the new relationship. Realistically, unless there’s something absolutely amazing about her, he wins.”

I’m betting it’s that kind of realism and commitment to avoiding women that has made Mr. Fulrath the world’s most successful almost-blinker.

Sorry, Fido, It’s Just a Guy Thing [NYT]


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