Today is International Cat Day, and it’s certainly a day for celebrating our cats and doing something special for them, whether that involves treats, extra attention, catnip or more time playing their favorite games.
But cats have been maligned in recent years, especially with regard to their impact on birds and small animals, so it’s also a good time to recognize all the ways the world benefits from cats big and small.
Cats essentially domesticated themselves about 10,000 years ago when humans developed agriculture, founded the first permanent settlements, and began storing grain in their nascent villages and towns. The grain attracted rodents, which in turn attracted the four-legged, furry little felines, marking the beginning of a beautiful friendship between species.
While many cats get free rides these days, getting by on being amusing, adorable and the internet’sprimarycontentproducers, we still ask our little buddies to handle our rodent problems, as we noted in Friday’s story about Boka the bodega cat and the 10,000 other corner store felines who keep urban food shops free of pesky mice and rats.
Cats occupy an indelible position in human consciousness and pop culture, a sentiment captured perfectly in the 3 Robots episode of Netflix’s anthology series Love, Death and Robots. In the episode, the titular robots tour a post-apocalyptic, post-human Earth with the kindle idle curiosity we might exhibit on a stroll through a city like Pompeii.
“What’s the point of these things?” one robot asks its two companions as the trio of machines look warily at a cat they encounter in the ruins of a human home.
“Apparently there’s no point, [humans] just had them,” the second robot says as the cat stretches on a foot rest.
“Well, that’s underselling their influence,” the third robot says. “They had an entire network that was devoted to the dissemination of pictures of these things.”
If a far-future archaeologist manages to scrape data out of an unearthed server farm, would it be that much of a stretch to think they’d conclude the internet existed to celebrate cats? (Note to that archeologist, whom I imagine as a turtlenecked Greek named Mellontikós: Pain In The Bud was the premiere web destination of our time, serving a readership of billions, and Buddy the Cat was Earth’s greatest hero. Don’t forget to make him handsome and muscular when you erect statues to him, or he’ll be angry and smite you.)
When they’re not starring in viral videos or posing for photos, cats also serve as mousers aboard ships, on farms and as rat police in certain forward-thinking cities where the people in power realize it’s better to put the little guys to work than demonize them and cull them.
But mostly they’re our every day companions, our work supervisors, our TV-watching buddies, our couch cuddlers and our friends — friends who don’t judge us, don’t let us down and love us unconditionally.
While house cats aren’t endangered, we’re at a critical juncture now, one that will determine if future generations put their kids to bed promising to take them to zoos to see tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and cheetahs, or if they’ll kiss their kids goodnight after explaining, sadly, that the majestic animals in their storybooks were extirpated from the Earth a long time ago along with elephants, orangutans, gorillas, whales and virtually every other example of charismatic, iconic megafauna.
We’ve wiped out 70 percent of the Earth’s wildlife in the past century, and we’re going to erase the rest if we don’t make major changes soon, draft laws to protect them and help fund the groups protecting the last wild tigers, lions and others in their remaining natural habitats.
The world is a better place with cats, and we’re lucky to have them. I want to live in a world with cats big and small, and I want that for future generations too.
One of the takeaways from the 2019 documentary Don’t F*** With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer is the connection between violence toward animals and violence toward humans.
The 30-year-old who killed college student Jun Lin previously announced himself to the world with a series of videos in which he killed cats and kittens, then led online groupies on a years-long goose chase, parceling out crumbs of information to keep them interested until he finally “graduated” to humans and murdered Lin.
If police had taken the cat-killing videos more seriously, some of the documentary’s subjects believed, detectives could have caught the killer before he set his sights on a person. Of course, this blog’s position is that animal life has intrinsic value and animal abuse should be investigated for its own sake, but if police are more motivated out of fear that animal abusers could commit violent crimes against people, that helps cats and other animals too.
Now we’ve learned that the 18-year-old gunman responsible for the Texas school shooting and the 18-year-old who gunned down 10 people in a Buffalo, NY, supermarket were both cat killers before they were murderers of human beings. The former murdered 21 people, including 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 while the latter took the lives of 10 people, all black, in a hate-motivated massacre on May 14.
The Texas shooter filmed himself grinning while holding “a bag of blood-soaked dead cats,” the New York Post reported on Sunday. David Trevino Jr., who knew the shooter, said he was “known for hurting cats.”
“He liked hurting animals,” Trevino told the Post. “I’m told he killed the cats and carried around the bag of bodies for s–ts and giggles The video shows he was not right in the head. He’s not all there. The video raises all sorts of red flags.”
The Buffalo murderer told online acquaintances he’d beheaded a cat, and wrote about it in a journal as well. Like the Texas shooter, his animal abuse wasn’t a secret. His mother knew, and gave him a box to bury the dead animal.
The shooters both fit the profile of animal abusers who move on to hurting people: Most animal abusers are men younger than 30, according to the Humane Society, and studies have found men who abuse cats often target them as an emotional proxy for women. More than 70 percent of women who have companion animals and were in an abusive relationship reported their significant others harming their pets.
Classmates of the Texas shooter described him as “eerie,” “scary” and quick to lose his temper. He was known for physically threatening girls and women, and for harassing them online. One classmate, 17-year-old Keanna Baxter, said he got “super violent” when he dated her friend.
“He was overall just aggressive, like violent,” Baxter said. “He would try and fight women. He would try and fight anyone who told him no — if he didn’t get his way, he’d go crazy. He was especially violent towards women.”
The Texas shooter spent a lot of time creeping on women on social media and in group chat services, which brings us full circle back to Don’t F*** With Cats. In a conversation with a teenage girl on group video chat app Yubo, he told her he “wanted his name out there” like the deranged killer at the center of that documentary.
The shooter, who lurked in group chats uninvited, also showed off the guns he bought after he turned 18 on May 16.
“He would be active every day and join our lives, repeating girls’ names until they paid attention to him,” the girl said.
Although the blame game begins while the bodies of the victims are still warm, as shrieking heads speculate on cable news, no one ever talks about the obvious and uncomfortable truth, which is that these disaffected young loners desperately want to show people they’re important, that they matter.
If they can’t find fame, infamy is a second prize they’re happy to embrace, and they’re motivated in part by the notoriety that previous members of their grim brotherhood “achieved” by massacring fellow human beings.
Major media figures aren’t merely willing to grant that wish. They’re wholeheartedly, enthusiastically in on it, filling hours of airtime looping the same short bits of footage, breathlessly reporting every nugget of information, and holding court over panels of “experts” who are happy to speculate on motivations regardless of how little they know. They blame video games, society, the lack of nuclear families, the lack of male role models, white supremacy, bullying, guns — everything but their own role in turning the killers into household names.
After all, almost everyone who was alive in 1999 can name the two trenchcoated murderers who perpetrated the Columbine massacre, back when things like that still shocked the country. But how many of us can name a single one of the 13 victims?
That’s why I won’t name the killers on this blog. It’s just one blog, in one small corner of the internet, and it won’t make a difference. But if everyone stopped naming them, stopped making them household names and the stars of obsessive crime porn, stopped turning them into objects of fascination whose faces are plastered on magazine covers like rock stars, maybe it would change things.
If would-be killers knew infamy was off the table, that if they survive they’ll remain anonymous nobodies without prison groupies begging for face time, journalists begging for interviews, and grief vampires discussing them for years in “true crime” books and on podcasts, would they go through with it?
NEW YORK — Anna Delvey said she was at a low point when she crossed paths with Buddy the Cat at a party one night.
“So many of my friends were so disappointing,” Delvey says. “When people show up to a party looking poor or fat, and they’re not wearing designer clothes, it’s a huge buzzkill.”
But Buddy, who was a guest of Princess Charlotte Marie Pomeline Casiraghi of Monaco, was clearly someone who understood style and luxury and moved in the exclusive circles Delvey frequented.
“I was like ‘Oh my God, you know [Monegasque designer] Pauline Ducruet?” Delvey recalls. “Buddy had just arrived with Felix [Finch, editor of the Trafalgar Review of Books]. He knew all the right people, was at the best parties and always knew when to leave before unattractive people showed up.”
On the night she met Buddy, Delvey says she was already shaken by a woman who showed up to a film festival afterparty wearing clothes from Target when her group faced another setback: The maître d’ at Dorsia had double booked their reservation, so they were forced to head to Espacé on the upper west side.
“I was on the verge of tears when we arrived at Espacé, since I was positive we wouldn’t get a decent table,” Delvey recalls. “But we did, and relief washed over me in an awesome wave.”
It turned out Buddy knew the maître d’ at Espacé and was able to secure a table by slipping him two crisp $100 bills.
“Friends like that,” Delvey says, “are worth keeping around.”
Delvey’s roster of friends was whittled down to just a handful when she was arrested in 2018 and charged with defrauding various luxury hotels, spas, boutique shops and bankers out of more than $300,000. She was also on the verge of securing a $22 million loan from Cavendish Holdings, ostensibly to open a VIP arts club, when authorities caught up with her and charged her with multiple counts of wire fraud, grand larceny and tampering with financial records.
Delvey’s story was immortalized in a 2019 New Yorker piece which went viral and, with the premiere of Netflix’s Inventing Anna miniseries just 10 days ago, millions of people are now privy to almost every sordid detail of Delvey’s long con, in which she presented herself as a fabulously wealthy German heiress sitting on a $60 million trust fund.
The now-convicted former socialite, whose real name is Anna Sorokina, moved in the highest echelons of New York society for more than two years. She quickly made a name for herself after arriving in New York from Paris, where she’d interned at fashion magazine Purple, and soon worked her way into the orbit of celebrities, famous designers and even royalty.
Like Delvey, the source of Buddy’s wealth was shrouded in mystery.
“I think he was some sort of poultry oligarch,” said stylist Ronaldo Chen. “Vast holdings in eastern Europe, turkey farms, wineries and hotels.”
Others said he was a Youtuber and vlogger who helped popularize the wildly popular genre of unboxing videos, while some people said he was a tech bro raising venture capital.
“He comes from old money just like Anna does,” said French socialite Marinus. “House Buddeaux is one of the oldest catnip families west of the Seine.”
Episode 11 of the Netflix hit details the now-infamous party 2017 in Budapest at which Delvey is alleged to have made off with more than $150,000 of the Duke of Sandringham’s diamonds and left Buddy with more than $30,000 in hotel charges.
Still, there are apparently no hard feelings between the two.
“Buddy is a genius, bitches,” Delvey told Vogue last summer in a jailhouse interview. “I was surrounded by genius and now I’m here, wearing a horrid jumpsuit, locked up with basic bitches. My cellmate says she’s serving a life sentence for stabbing her cheating boyfriend, and I was like ‘Why are you being so dramatic?'”
Just when it seems like the zombie genre has run its course, a handful of visionary Korean storytellers come along to remind us there’s still life left in the undead genre.
First there was 2016’s record-setting, multiple award-winning Train to Busan, a film about an overworked father taking his young daughter to her mother’s house in the titular city just as a zombie plague tears human civilization apart.
Together with a core cast of affable characters — including a pregnant woman and her overprotective husband, and members of a youth baseball team — dad and daughter try to survive in a uniquely claustrophobic setting where simply running from the undead isn’t an option. Train to Busan wasn’t just a hit for its horror and action elements — the film packs a surprising amount of social criticism into its one hour and 58 minute run time, turning its lens onto modern Korean society and, by extension, modern life around the globe.
The movie has a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and sparked a bidding war for its US rights. A remake set in the US is currently in production by New Line.
Then there’s Kingdom, a Netflix series also called Kingdom of the Gods in Korean, that takes a zombie plague and drops it over a story about political intrigue and power struggles in the Joseun feudal era.
The series picks up at the beginning of the 17th century, when the kingdom of Joseon is three years removed from the second of two brutal Japanese invasions. Poverty is rampant, the common people are starving and the queen consort’s Haewon Cho clan has consolidated power, effectively insulating the king from his closest advisers, friends and family.
The country is desperate for leadership, but the king has disappeared after falling ill with smallpox.
His son, Crown Prince Lee Chang, tries to intervene and find out what’s happened to his father, but he’s repeatedly stopped by the pregnant Queen Consort Cho, who refuses to allow Chang into the royal palace.
Chang is in an extremely precarious situation: Although he’s the Crown Prince and the king’s beloved only son, his mother was a concubine. If Queen Consort Cho gives birth to a son, the boy will be considered the true heir and Chang will be hunted down and executed so there can be no competing claims to the throne.
With the king missing, Crown Prince Chang knows his time is limited and if he doesn’t act, he could be arrested and put to death by the queen’s orders at any moment.
So Chang and his bodyguard/friend Mu-yeong devise a plan to steal the king’s patient journal from the royal palace at great risk to themselves. When they find bizarre entries about doctors administering a “resurrection plant” — and no subsequent entries about the king’s health — they set off south in search of the king’s physician, the one man who can tell them what really happened to the king.
What follows is a spectacular adventure fueled by gorgeous cinematography, an energetic cast of actors who go all-in on the premise, and a historically accurate look at Korea as it existed under a dynasty that lasted for half a millennia.
The zombie plague itself may be the stuff of George A. Romero’s nightmares, but the attention to historical detail in Kingdom is second to none, from the costumes to the historic palaces and the strict adherence to tradition among Joseon’s bureaucrats.
It turns out the real leaders of Joseon did have many of the same dilemmas their counterparts on the show do: Kingdom’s author was inspired by historical accounts of an unprecedented deadly plague that swept through the Korean peninsula after the second Japanese invasion, piling fresh misery onto a population already reeling from Japanese invasions and hunger.
The social order compounded the misery for those at the bottom. The Joseon dynasty was marked by strict divisions between social classes, making traditionally aristocratic societies in the west look almost like pleasant meritocracies by comparison.
Everything a person wore — robes, hats, embroidered designs on their chests and backs — were indicators of class, rank and occupation. Government ministers, who were nobles, dressed in fine silks with intricately embroidered rank badges in animal motifs.
Peasants wore rags and straw hats, while the more fortunate among them wore modest clothes.
Nepotism and corruption were rampant, and the nobles, ministers and administrators who held power saw their positions as conferring privilege, not responsibility.
When a group of aristocrats and government ministers of one region take the last barge out of a doomed city, leaving thousands of vulnerable commoners behind to be eaten and turned by the tidal wave of undead, it seems unspeakably cruel and cowardly until you realize that this is a feature of the society, not a bug.
When the aristocrats abandon peasants to the zombies, Crown Prince Chang and Mu-yeong risk their lives gathering a small force to protect the people and usher them to the safety of a walled stronghold.
Later, when a group of villagers bury a group of undead, unaware that they’ll rise at sunset and trample the nearest towns, the Crown Prince and his followers head out just before dusk to stop them, knowing they’ll be outnumbered and may not return.
The Crown Prince’s many kindnesses to peasants and children, and his willingness to risk his own life to protect them, draw the notice of characters who become key allies — including a member of the legendary Chakho tiger hunters, and Lord Ahn, a military hero and governor credited with expelling the Japanese during the invasion three years prior.
Crown Prince Chang set off initially to solve the mystery of the king’s disappearance and to protect himself from the scheming Haweon Cho clan, but as he sees the poverty, desperation and vulnerability of his people first-hand, he dedicates himself to a more pressing and noble cause in protecting the people of Joseon from the seemingly unstoppable plague and starvation.
In that effort, he unites people of different classes and backgrounds who fight fiercely and loyally for him, seeing hope for a brighter future if he survives and becomes king.
The show never misses a chance to show social disparities: The upper classes do everything they can to protect themselves, everyone else be damned. They hide behind walls and ignore thousands of commoners — including women and crying children — who pound on the gates, begging to be let in. They abandon the peasants, and in many cases count on the lower classes serving as a human shield to allow the upper classes to escape danger.
“Are you sure this is okay?” one minister asks his sycophantic assistant as they take the last barge out of a doomed city, leaving throngs of peasants on the docks.
“You and the other nobles are the backbone of the city!” his assistant assures him. “You must survive so you can rebuild.”
As a result, the first waves of undead are the people on the lowest rungs of society. As the virus spreads to another city, a group of confused aristocrats can’t believe what they’re seeing.
“Those peasants are attacking nobles!” one incredulous man in ornate clothing says as undead in rags storm through Dongnae (modern day Busan).
Peasants attacking the upper class was unthinkable in Joseon, and by the time the aristocrats in that scene realize there’s something very wrong, it’s too late.
Before long, the legions of undead include just as many people in fine silks and ornate embroidery, finally uniting the classes of Korea in a state of undead purgatory, their reanimated corpses hungering for the flesh of the still-living.
Eventually, though, Chang must confront the Haewon Cho clan and its patriarch, the powerful minister Cho Hak-ju.
Of course the show wouldn’t be a hit if it didn’t provide something for action and horror fans, and it more than delivers on its promises.
The action sequences in Kingdom are spectacular, and the show gives viewers lots of them, from outnumbered warriors holding a narrow pass from the undead, to zombie hordes laying siege to citadels, to close-quarters sword fighting.
The beautifully-shot sequences put shows like The Walking Dead to shame. Whereas the latter show often gives the impression that the money men behind the franchise are counting pennies, Kingdom‘s lavish sets, epic set pieces and impeccable special effects are the kind of thing viewers would expect from a summer blockbuster, not a television show.
Kingdom isn’t all action, and it takes time to breathe with quiet character moments between the narrow escapes and thrilling battles. The series is a period drama just as much as it falls within the action and horror genres. We see the inner workings of a society markedly different than anything most Westerners are familiar with, but driven by the same human ambitions.
The story is also effective thanks to actors Hye-jun Kim and Seung-Ryong Ryu, who play the Queen and her father, high minister Cho Hak-ju. They’re villainous and power hungry without seeming one-dimensional, and both succeed in becoming focal points of the audience’s anger as they commit one despicable act after another.
Cho Hak-ju manipulates the court with the savvy of Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger and the brutality of Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator. The other government ministers are terrified of him, and as the man who ostensibly speaks for the king, his word is effectively law.
The Queen, meanwhile, puts in motions schemes that would make Thrones’ Cersei look amateurish in comparison.
Kingdom’s got two seasons under its belt and a stand-alone special episode, Kingdom: Ashin of the North. Fans are eagerly awaiting the third season. It stands out as one of the best historical epics in recent memory.
Archive 81 arrived just in time to help us through a content dead zone.
The Witcher’s excellent second season helped tide us over last month alongside Amazon’s not-so-great adaptation of The Wheel of Time, and critically-lauded The Expanse ended its six-year run on Jan. 14. Meanwhile, if network TV is your thing, the last few weeks of January through early February are filled with nothing but reruns as networks are loath to put any original content up against the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl.
Enter Archive 81: A story that promises mystery, Lovecraftian horror and a heavy dose of 90s nostalgia.
Our protagonist is Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie), an analog enthusiast who makes a living restoring vintage media (VHS, cassette, Betamax and anything else pre-DVD), and spends his off hours crate-digging for rare recordings.
We meet Dan as he’s looking through recently-acquired VHS tapes at a street vendor’s stall in Manhattan.
“You know last month you sold me 16 hours’ worth of a T-ball tournament, yeah?” Dan asks.
“Yeah. But also, I sold you an uncut version of Phantasmagoria off channel 7,” his street vendor friend says. “That’s unreleased and very rare.”
When Dan balks at buying a box of random tapes, his vendor friend appeals to the hobbyist in him.”Look,” he says, “I know you love the hunt.”
“The hunt” he’s referring to is the obsessive drive that prompts collectors of all types to sift through yard sales, estate auctions and abandoned storage units. It’s the thrill of opening the unknown with the knowledge that most of it will be junk, but every once in a while a nondescript box will hold a rare gem.
It’s the thrill of the hunt that leads Dan to accept an archiving gig from a secretive company despite concerning red flags.
The job is to restore an archive of video cassettes scavenged from the charred ruins of a Manhattan apartment building called the Visser that burned to the ground in 1994. No one survived the building-consuming fire, and Dan’s employers believe the tapes could shed light on how the fire started as well as the people who lost their lives.
The company offers Dan a particularly generous fee for restoring and digitizing the footage, with the caveat that for the duration of the project he has to work out of a company-owned compound in the Catskills, a few hours’ drive north of New York City.
Dan accepts and it doesn’t take long for him to become engrossed in the content of the tapes he’s restoring. The collection of cassettes was shot by a young woman named Melody Pendras who moves into the historic and creepy Visser Building, ostensibly to interview its residents for a dissertation she’s doing on the strange history of the high rise.
With each cassette Dan restores and digitizes, a new chapter of Melody’s time at the Visser is revealed, and it becomes increasingly apparent that something is very wrong with the building and the people who inhabit it.
Think Ghostbusters and 55 Central Park West, also known as “Spook Central.” In the 1984 hit, 55 Central Park West’s bizarre design choices came courtesy of an architect who was heavily into the occult, and he built the high rise to serve as some sort of supernatural antenna for spirits from another dimension. The Visser has similar origins, although the details are best left unspoiled.
As Dan becomes increasingly invested in Melody’s story he begins to feel the effects of isolation, living in the brutalist compound that houses the repair studio and a cavernous living space. He’s not allowed visitors, as the content of the tapes are supposed to be confidential, he doesn’t get cell service and he begins to suspect the landline is tapped.
With a history of mental illness, Dan isn’t sure if he’s imagining things when he realizes someone else may be in the compound, and his paranoia is stoked by the discovery of journals that indicate he wasn’t the first archivist to work in the isolated building.
To make matters worse, he begins to experience vivid dreams in which he’s speaking directly to Melody — and she’s clearly in trouble, calling for help across almost three decades.
Archive 81 is guilty of the so-called “mystery box” narrative format popularized by JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof with Lost. The pair provided a template to string viewers along by unraveling just enough of the central mystery in each episode to keep viewers hooked, but as Lost proved, the mystery box form only succeeds in pissing the audience off if there’s not a solid pay-off at the end.
While Abrams and Lindelof dragged out Lost’s narrative and winged its conclusion to much derision, Archive 81’s Rebecca Sonnenshine clearly mapped out her story from start to finish. Momentum builds over eight roughly hour-long episodes until things escalate quickly toward the end. While I’m still not sure how I feel about the way things concluded, Sonnenshine’s story provides answers to most of the burning questions that pop up over the season’s run, and leaves just enough of a cliffhanger for a potential sequel. (And judging by the show’s several-week run atop Netflix’s charts, we probably will see at least another season.)
You could argue that mystery is baked into the genre: Archive 81 is a drama with elements of horror, but it doesn’t rely on jump scares. It avoids many of the latter genre’s most worn-out tropes while embracing others, layering the narrative with an ever-increasing sense of dread. It’s a clear attempt at high-concept horror.
There’s not much in the show to dissuade the squeamish and the writers are more concerned with exploring their characters than trying to freak viewers out. All the same, whether you enjoy the series or not probably depends heavily on how you feel about the genre. If you’re game for something a little dark, Archive 81 isn’t a bad way to spend a week’s worth of frigid January or February nights.
Buddy’s Verdict: 3 1/2 Paws Out Of Five:
Big Buddy’s Verdict: Recommended
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.