However, my parents' new kitten is very active (and very obsessed with trying to pounce on Daisy while Daisy lay moaning in the corner, so we had to keep blocking the kitten's path and locking them in separate rooms whenever we couldn't keep a constant watch over them). My parents had not yet named the kitten despite having had her for a full week, so I spent much of my time suggesting names. It's quite difficult to find any names my parents can agree on. I brought the baby names book that my parents used when they named my brother and me, that I have since claimed ownership of for the purpose of naming fictional characters, and read off all the names in it whose meanings seemed in any way relevant. All the names in it were rejected by one or the other of my parents. I started naming standard pet names describing how the kitten looks, but the kitten is a very dark shade of not-quite-black brown mixed with little smudges of beige that is extremely hard to describe in any way other than the official description of "tortoiseshell," and this narrowed down the options considerably. The only standard pet names of this type that neither of my parents disliked were names that were already taken by my parents' neighbors' pets - my parents live in a neighborhood with an extraordinarily large number of dogs everywhere - and my parents didn't want to have to worry about having the neighbor's dog Patches come running every time they try to call their cat due to them both having the same name. I suggested "Cinder," but my parents both insisted that if they named her Cinder they would really end up calling her Cindy, which might be odd in view of the fact that I was always called Cindy until I was 14, when I asked them to start calling me Cynthia (and then later of course I started going by my middle name, Gayle, online). I suggested "Ash," which someone changed to "Ashley," but then someone else pointed out that a kitten named after ashes would be expected to be grey rather than dark brown, so this was rejected. Then I got out two of my parents' gardening books and started looking through the names of types of trees, hoping to find a tree whose bark resembles the kitten's color and that could be shortened into a good cat name. The closest match to the kitten's color was Black Oak. "Here, Black Oak!" No, that didn't quite work. Next I started looking through my parents' art books in search of famous painters who painted in styles vaguely resembling the kitten's coloring. "Rembrandt is famous for painting in browns! Call her Rembrandt!" But that's a boy's name, my mother protested. Someone suggested Jackson Pollock on the grounds that he painted random splotches and the kitten is randomly splotched. Someone else shortened Pollock to Polly, and that seemed like it might work until someone else pointed out that my brother's name is Paul, which might get too easily mixed up with Polly. So then I got out the cookbooks and searched them for food names resembling the kitten. Everyone agreed that the food that bore the most resemblance to the kitten's coloring was German Chocolate Cake. Sadly, this did not make a good cat name. "Here, Cake!" I called her. Nobody liked it. "Here, Germy!" my father called. Even worse. What then? My mother was willing to name the kitten Taffy, but we already had a cat named Taffy before who was white with a few dark spots. Hmm . . . how about caramel? Caramel was shortened to Carrie, but then it bore too much resemblance to my mother's name, Carol, so that was rejected. Besides, caramel was really the wrong color. What was the right color? I said she looked very much like the colors of Bear Claw flavor ice cream. But my parents have another neighbor with a dog named Bear, and when I suggested Grizzly, my father judged the kitten insufficiently ferocious enough for such a name. Arrrgh! Are there any other foods the right color? I kept looking through the cookbooks. Molasses! Yes, molasses is the right color. Can you name a cat after molasses? Perhaps more to the point, can you name an extremely energetic kitten that never stops running around the room all day long after Molasses? Well, apparently you can. Someone shortened it to Molly (why must my parents keep shortening every weird name I come up with into something deeply normal???) and the name Molly was finally agreed upon all around.
Molly is quite a confident, fearless and headstrong kitten. Despite never having met me before, she displayed no fear of me and immediately started purring loudly the first time I picked her up. However, she absolutely will not let anyone hold her unless she consents to be held. She wriggles around like no cat I've ever known before - and I've known quite my share of cats - and manages to escape from even the most determined of grips in less than 30 seconds every time. This was inconvenient considering that we were trying to keep her from pouncing on Daisy and this kind of required us to make efforts to hold her down, at least at the moments when our more successful tactic of merely distracting her from Daisy by giving her other things to pounce on failed to keep her adequately distracted. For a while I took her outside, which was when Molly's fearlessness truly revealed itself in its full glory. See, my parents have a dog who is a German Shepherd mix, who is quite a large dog indeed, and who, at the sight of the kitten, goes absolutely insane with excitement or jealousy or something or other and starts jumping up and down all over the place at a speed of about 60 bounces per second and he doesn't stop for the next two hours, and despite my very major efforts to protect Molly from him, with numerous bounces he managed to lick Molly (with his tongue which is the same size as Molly's entire body) until she was absolutely soaking wet with dog slobber.
Now, I know that any of you who have much experience with cats are at this point wondering just how much skin I have left on my arms at this point, after terrifying a tiny kitten with a gigantic slobbering dog tongue as big as she is. But Molly absolutely didn't appear even the tiniest bit disturbed by this. She stretched out calmly (this was during one of her rare moments when she had actually consented to being held) and permitted herself to be slobbered upon just as much as the dog felt like slobbering upon her. The only sign she gave of having been even mildly inconvenienced by this was that after I took her back inside, she spent a good long time licking all the dog slobber off herself with her own tongue.
But enough about the animals. On to the presents. Wait, first an unconventional aspect of the presents: after having bought my mother the Philip Glass symphonies based on David Bowie's Low and "Heroes" albums, I was sufficiently pleased by her appreciation of them that I wanted to give her the original versions of the instrumental songs collected on David Bowie's All Saints: Collected Instrumentals 1977-1999. Unfortunately, the next holiday at which I was due to give my mother anything would be Christmas, and I didn't feel like waiting that long. No matter; I bought it anyway. The next time I saw her was on Father's Day, but I couldn't give it to her then because that might detract from it being supposed to be the day for giving things to my father instead. After that, the next time I saw her was my brother's birthday, but this posed the same problem. So, the next time I saw her was my own birthday, and if I feel like giving other people presents on my own birthday, other people will just have to put up with that because it's my birthday and I can do what I want. :p So I gave her that. And she revealed that she watches Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, because she said the picture of David Bowie on the cover of the CD I gave her looked like the "before" picture of some guy who had been on that show and about whom, after they completed his makeover, everybody exclaimed that he looked just like David Bowie. So apparently really he looked just like David Bowie beforehand too - just a different version of David Bowie, that's all. So anyway, then I opened my own presents.
- a bread machine! Sorry, rhekarid: machines have now rendered my dependency upon you obsolete. Oh wait, except for the moviegoing functions. Damn. I guess I'm not free after all.
- Betty Crocker's "Best" Bread Machine Cookbook. (Does the title indicate that there are also other bread machine cookbooks for sale titled "Betty Crocker's Not-So-Good Bread Machine Cookbook" and "Betty Crocker's Disgustingly Awful Bread Machine Cookbook"? I have no idea.) I had just asked for the bread machine, so I could have special superpowers like rhekarid. My mother is the one who decided I needed a cookbook to go with it, probably because she knows me well enough to accurately surmise that I probably do not possess rhekarid's magic cooking fingers that make food come out delicious without needing careful step-by-step instructions.
- two books of R.E.M. sheet music: Automatic for the People and Up. Of course, before I can actually play them - or more accurately, mangle them, since I have no actual musical talent, formal training, nor skills of any kind - I will have to go purchase the correct MIDI adapter to make my keyboard playable again. My keyboard has been sitting around nonfunctional since last November. I should probably get around to that.
- the latest Morrissey CD: You Are the Quarry ("America/the land of the Free, they said/and of opportunity/in a Just and a Truthful way/but where the President/is never black, female or gay")
- the latest Placebo CD: Sleeping with Ghosts ("Corporate America wakes/Coffee republic and cakes/We open the latch on the gate/of the hole that we call our home/Protect me from what I want")
- one last CD: The String Quartet Tribute to David Bowie
- Truman Capote's novel In Cold Blood (a novelization of a real-life murder committed in 1959, which according to the back cover "generates . . . astonishing empathy" for everyone involved)
- John Irving's novel Setting Free the Bears (a "historical novel of the Nazi takeover of Austria and the Soviet occupation of Vienna" in which "the 'liberation' of the Vienna Zoo [after all the animals had already been eaten by the starving citizens of the city so there were none left to liberate] is reenacted by two Viennese university students in 1967")
- Jerzy Kosinski's novel Being There ("It is the story of Chauncey Gardiner - Chance - an enigmatic but distinguished man who emerges from nowhere to become an heir to the throne of a Wall Street tycoon, a presidential policy adviser, and a media icon. Truly 'a man without qualities,' Chance's straightforward responses to popular concerns are heralded as visionary. But though everyone is quoting him, no one is sure what he's really saying. And filling in the blanks in his background proves impossible.")
- Chuck Palahniuk's novel Choke ("Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be 'saved' by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for victor's life, send checks to support him.")
- Lorrie Moore's short story collection Birds of America
- Julian Jaynes's strange theoretical manifesto The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (which I strongly suspect I will completely totally disagree with, and which it's also quite likely I may be deeply bored by, but no matter, I asked for it anyway because, quite simply, David Bowie recommended it highly and I have a firm policy of always reading everything David Bowie tells me to. Hey, sometimes this policy introduces me to worthwhile things I wouldn't otherwise have read.)
- the textbook Advanced Spanish Grammar: A Self-Teaching Guide, which I requested because during the 12 years that have passed since I completed my five years of Spanish classes, a very considerable amount of my former near-fluency in Spanish has badly faded, and I need to brush up on it in order to be able to converse halfway capably with chisparoja in Spanish, and to hopefully enable myself to more successfully make sense of chisparoja's Spanish journal entries and quamono's, vi_kka's, and huasteca's as well. (Wait, huasteca hasn't really written any entries entirely in Spanish. Well, to read the occasional Spanish portions of huasteca's journal entries, then.)