Friday, May 30, 2008

The Last Repetitive Stress Injury Ever

I am proud at the beginning of this 2008-2009 pageant season to announce that, despite comments from critics calling it "sexist," "degrading," "unappealing" & "imaginary," Miss Self Help Radio 2009 is accepting entries! Yes, before I & the show depart for the comforting wilds of Durham, North Carolina, we'll have one last Miss Self Help Radio pageant in Austin, Texas.

Rules are the same as always: contestants must have listened to at least ten (10) Self Help Radio shows during the previous year. Packets for each show will be handed out. A score of 60% or better will need to be achieved or the contestant is liable to be condescended to. Contestants must also be of the relatively female persuasion or otherwise not object to being called "Miss." The entry fee will be waived for most everyone who makes a fuss. No one under eighteen is allowed to enter, & don't blame me, blame the sponsors of the Junior Miss Self Help Radio contest, who refused to let me drink while I was judging. Christ! It's not like I was giving it to the kids!

More details on the contest can be found on tomorrow's podcast of Self Help Radio, available some time in the mid-afternoon at Do listen for lots of songs about beauty pageants & their contestants as well as an interview with someone who knows more than I do about less than it seems.

The Miss Self Help Radio Pageant is sponsored, as always, by Bloat. Bloat, since 1972, America's original & only.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

At The End Of May, A Mix Is Born

Hey! That's right! I managed despite my grief to put together a mix for you what I call "Self Help Radio Extra"! You can find it for downloading on the Self Help Radio Extra page. Where it always is. Once a month.

I'll try to make the next one in a more timely fashion. I am a bit of a procrastinator. Once a month shouldn't mean "at the end of every month." Perhaps I should do two a month. It would keep me on my toes.

You can see what's on this uninterrupted seventy-six minute mix (suitable for burning onto a CD & then crushing under a stiletto heel) by visiting the Self Help Radio Extra page. Do have a listen. I enjoy the putting together of music, although I fear I am not very good at it.

Have fun!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Whither Beauty Pageants?

Confession time: I've never sat through any televised (or live) beauty pageant, & that includes ones that I might have been present for. I have seen a few movies about them - "Little Miss Sunshine" probably being the best - how many movies have been made about them, you might wonder - well, here's a list - but in general, I haven't had a whole lot of interest in what seemed a weirdly staged - lots of standing around for the "contestants" - & mostly formal exercise in shallowness.

I probably conceived of the notion of the show around the time the video for the Miss Teen USA pageant started making the rounds - you know, this one - because it most likely started a process in my brain that could have gone something like this:

1) This is sad. She's nervous but she's also kinda stupid.
2) It's also sad that people think this is funny.
3) I guess people think it's funny because they probably hate the idea of a competition for "the prettiest."
4) It's natural to want to think the most generically beautiful people are the dumbest.
5) That sure is a big stage she's standing on.
6) If it's Miss Teen USA, does that mean there are fifty contestants?
7) Maybe more, with Guam & Puerto Rico & Iraq & all our other provinces?
8) This is a weird idea.
9) I bet beauty contests started in America.
10) Do you think there are a lot of songs about beauty contests?

That all happened within a few seconds, most likely while I was drunk, & I probably created a folder on my computer & noticed it some time later. Because chances are I put the folder not in the place where I keep show ideas (that would be a folder called "show_ideas"), but in something completely irrelevant, like "taxes" or "embarrassing photographs of monkeys" or "recipes that are mainly excuses for eating lots of cheese."

Now the chickens have come home to roost. But they are beauty chickens.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Preface To Beauty Pageant: What Horrible Memories This Show Will Bring Back

I actually thought instead of trying to be funny & talking about the show today, I'd post some more pictures of Buster. I hope you don't mind.

I have tried to arrange them like so: Buster alone, a snap of Buster & Blue Boy, then pictures of Buster with Beatrice & with Bolan. They're not chronological. They're just some of the few snapshots I & Magda, neither of whom are really picture takers, have collected over the years.

Buster & Blue Boy
Buster & Beatrice
Buster & Beatrice
Buster & Beatrice
Buster & Beatrice
Buster & Bolan
Buster & Bolan
Buster & Bolan
Buster & Bolan

Monday, May 26, 2008



I lost a dear friend, my child, on Friday. My cat Buster, at the very young feline age of ten, died very suddenly from a viral infection called FIP. You can read about it at the Wikipedia link there. It was treacherous & awful & my girlfriend Magda & I did everything in our power to try to help him. But it came too fast & now he's no longer with us. It's been a horrible weekend, with feelings of anger & regret, torturous dreams & sad awakenings, & of course the fear of it happening to our other two cats. Mostly, though, I miss him being around. I loved him so.

I adopted Buster when he was a kitten about ten years ago. He was part of the litter of a cat that lived around my sister's house in Garland. He would probably have been a feral cat & lived only a few years (if that) had I not fallen in love with his gray tabbiness & that round, stone face. I brought him back to Austin & named him Buster, after Buster Keaton, someone else I love dearly. (Buster Kitten, get it?) I brought him home to be with me & my cat Blue Boy, who had feline leukemia. I don't know why I decided to adopt him - there were great fears that he could contract Blue Boy's disease - but I brought him into my life thoughtlessly, because he was affectionate in a bull-headed, oafish way, the opposite of Blue Boy's delicate grace.

Buster had a singular charm as a kitten - a leaky anus. Many a guest would find him on their lap & he'd leave them a small round surprise when he got up. He outgrew that (thank god) but there were several weeks there where I was cleaning up little brown rings on the carpet every damn day. He also discovered my roommate's weird collection of plastic bags & we found out soon enough by following the overpowering smell that he liked to urinate in plastic bags. Buster was a charmer.

Blue Boy was in good health that summer, but as he deteriorated, I had to separate him & Buster. The last month of Blue Boy's life, I kept Buster in a different room, & now, although I have been guilty about it for a long time, I do treasure the memory of the hour or hours I spent in that room to feed Buster & play with him & try to make up for confining him while Blue Boy was starting to fade. Buster was young & loved to fight & steal food - Blue Boy was dying.

Blue Boy died at a weird time in my life. I had changed focus at work, I had left KVRX, & I was about to move from the place where I had lived for almost six years - a place I lived in longer than any other place in my life. I had Buster tested again for feline leukemia a month or so after Blue Boy's death, but despite all the grooming & fighting & sharing (& stealing) of food, he didn't have the disease. I was very grateful - I wanted Buster to be with me for a long, long time.

I moved into a smaller place that December, & it was just Buster & me. I remember he would inexplicably hide from me, & I worried he had sneaked out of the screen door & out to the busy street nearby. I also remember, in those smoking days, in those smoking in the house days, I'd have the door open to the night & just be staring out into the backyard & Buster & I would marvel at the giant moths which would bat upon against the porch light. Buster was a very expressive cat, & he had a lot of things to say to anything outside, be it another cat, a bird, an insect, or a person, all through his life. He would often wake me up with shrieks at passing cats. As annoyed as I always was, it would be like beautiful music to hear it now.

I have one very strong memory of that time. The first time I tried e, I was alone at home, & he came up to me, purring, & I started petting him. It must've last a half-hour, the sensation of his fur was astonishing. It was a mutually beneficial heavy petting session on drugs. Subsequent times on e after that always included some touch-time with the kittens. Buster's fur was always best of all.

That summer I adopted another kitten, named Beatrice, & that was when Buster came into his own. For all his oafishness, for all his slight slowness of mind (I think now he wasn't so much stupid as deliberate, & he stolidly kept his own pace), he was a great big brother. Beatrice was (& is) a peevish cat, skittish & quick to defense, but Buster impressed me with his patience, his love, his inexplicable tolerance & care of this obviously irrational little white girl cat. He & Beatrice were closer than I was ever able to be to either of them, & Beatrice has let virtually no one but him & me touch her her entire life. The two of them wouldn't share the same space often, but they did come together & groom one another, & Buster hardly ever was at the claw end of one of Beatrice's hissy fits. When he was, though, he understood. He raised her!

I can't imagine how she misses him - but she surely must.

When Magda & I got together, she brought a dog into our life, & Buster made it perfectly clear that he ran the house. George the beagle was followed by Ringo the beagle who was followed by many fostered dogs (over ten, who rarely stayed longer than a month) & finally by Winston, & while there have been occasions when they've gone all doggie & chased Beatrice way, I have the image in my head of three hungry hounds wanting desperately to get into the kitchen to eat their dinner but whining instead because this tiny tabby - weighing at most twelve pounds - was standing in their way. Buster would often just mosey up to one of them - for some reason, Ringo particularly interested him - & swat him with a quick ninja cat paw. Just to make sure everyone his role was understood.

With a woman living with us, Buster revealed another endearing trait - he liked women's shoes. Not wearing them (that would have been freaky), but what Magda has called "making love" with them. If they were stranger's shoes, even better. It was always slightly embarrassing to see Buster roll himself over a shoe, like watching a dog hump a pillow.

Two years ago Magda brought home a black cat we call Bolan & Buster also raised him. They were fast friends, & Buster was just as patient with this child as he was with Beatrice, & this child grew to be twice his size.

Buster accepted all the changes because he was Buster. A more centered cat I have yet to meet. He loved food, he loved to sit in the window & watch the world go by, he loved to be next to humans (but not in their lap - maybe being shoved away because he was leaving poo stains conditioned him as a kit), he loved to be petted, &, as he got older, he loved to drool. Buster had a very sensitive head - rubbing him the wrong way always caused him to rattle his head - so if you were petting him, & if he started to drool, you had to be extra careful about scratching the head the wrong way, or else he'd bathe you in his drooly happiness.

It's ridiculous all the ridiculous things you miss when your pet's gone.

Buster was the patriarch of this house. We'd find him in the oddest places - on top of things or under things or in things like drawers - & we had no idea how he got there. He knew the place like no one else. Him being gone is not only like a part of me being gone - like a heart attack kills a part of your heart, the death of Buster has killed a part of what makes me me, what makes me love - but also like something's been stolen from this place, like some part of it has disappeared & it seems incomplete. This house is broken & can't be fixed any more.

So this motherfucking virus came & Buster stopped eating & despite everything - despite Magda reading about European treatments, our friendly neighbor forcing him (because we couldn't, we always felt we were hurting) to take steroids & antivirals & interferon, arguments with the vet about a feeding tube (we felt he might be able to live with the virus if we kept his weight up) - despite all our attempts to feed him all kinds of crazy meats & cat treats - despite long conversations I had with him, as he got more shaky & his meows became strained & his purr sounded like it had pitch-shifted, these long discussions we had with me telling him how much he meant to us & how he was supposed to live much longer - it just happened so fucking fast! - he succumbed to that bastard virus & now he's gone.

It's Memorial Day & this is also blog entry four hundred, & it certainly wasn't planned, but I am glad I have a place & time to honor Buster with some small remembrances. There's a poem Kinky Friedman quotes when he talks about the death of his cat which I thought about when Blue Boy died, & I think about now, nearly nine years later: "We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle..." Kinky Friedman adds, "People may surprise you with unexpected kindness. Dogs have a depth of loyalty that we often seem unworthy of. But the love of a cat is a blessing, a privilege in this world."

I probably didn't deserve Buster's love, but I am glad I was able to know him & love him & let him live a lot longer on this planet than he would have if he had been feral. I'm glad he was able to interact with so many people & be a big brother to Beatrice & Bolan. & I'm glad he got to be the first cat to soil so many clean new litter boxes. & I'm glad he got to live in more than one place, to escape outside occasionally, to eat lots of really stinky food, to play with & sometimes kill lots of bugs, to be alive, in my life, asleep next to me on the bed at night, drooling on me in happiness, reminding me sometimes hours before when it was time to eat.

I love you & miss you Buster. If there's a place beautiful pets go when they die, I'll visit you when I have left this world. If there's not, then I just want to thank you for sharing your life with me. It was a blessing & a privilege & as long as I'm able, I'll never forget how you honored me with your life.