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October 17, 2007

Chic Pet Furniture

Like all good design, there's more than meets the eye to getting cat furniture right. In my quest for great-looking and functioning furniture and objects, as well as to make my critters happy, I am trying out some new pieces. I already know a few things I would design differently than what's readily available.

Chic Cat Furniture

Lab technicians are busy road-testing this scoop-topped pedestal (available at The Cat Connection). It has a sisal rope pole and another soft rug section to claw (good for their nails and to keep them off furniture you don't want clawed) at the bottom. Two cats can use it at once and it's better looking than most of what I've seen out there. Pedestals and cat trees need to be very sturdy so cats can jump and scratch and really wrestle with them. This tends to make them quite heavy.

Rug parts, I have learned, are almost always made from remnants, which means you can't usually get very interesting colors. This "country blue" was the nicest choice for this product from among other pedestrian options. Standing scratching posts also have to be tall enough for a cat to stretch his/her entire length or they probably won't be used. One thing I find frustrating is that these are just too high to look good in my living room near either a couch or chair. I wonder if they couldn't be a few inches shorter and still work. Cats like to be high up but the few inches wouldn't be very different, I don't think, from a cat's viewpoint. The wide base also makes them hard to maneuver and lay out with tasteful human pieces. I'd be interested to see if a skillful facility or designer couldn't streamline some pieces and still make them work well.

October 16, 2007

Windows to the Soul

There is debate over the origins of the phrase, "the eyes are the windows to the soul." Some credit Immanuel Kant. Max Beerbohm, the fantastic, quote-worthy writer and illustrator, author of "The Happy Hypocrite," said, "I do not need a book of quotations to know that the eyes are the windows to the soul."

The feline's windows to her soul are shining above. Anyone who ever doubted whether animals have souls has only to look at this intelligent, soulful, volumes-speaking gaze to know that animals have, if anything, more soul than we do. They generally dance better too.

October 14, 2007

Favorite Spots & Expanding Horizons

My friend and client, Peppy, has been on a long, adventurous road trip as she makes her way (with her equally intrepid husband, Eric) to San Diego, moving from New York. I design her website and set up her travel blog for her and love following their trail. It has made me think about places to be and visit.

When I close my eyes, my favorite places to imagine look something like the image above — gracious spots where you can wile away time, alone or with a friend — in a garden-type setting that has both wild growth and cultivated aspects to it. I hope to have my own garden that looks like this some day. There's a small beach at the end of my block that I and many of my friends love deeply too. It's not kept up well but it has a magnificent view of three bridges, a usually gentle ocean (being on the bay side of the island which is calmer), picturesquely run-down slabs to sit on and a light breeze coming off the ocean. This is a good place to reflect and take a break from the hustle bustle in which we can get so caught up. Trips like Peppy's open our eyes and minds to how much the world has to offer. Sometimes we get stuck in one way of seeing and being. It's great to get unstuck and breathe a little.

October 11, 2007

The Quest for Understanding

Most people have a deep-seated desire for understanding — understanding the people we care about and ourselves, how to do things we want to do, why things are the way they are and uncovering new insights into familiar topics. As Plato said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

The Book of Knowledge

Knowledge and understanding are not always the same. I guess you could say that controversies as big as wars are the results of huge misunderstandings, although that sounds a bit simple.

Last night, a friend helped me to see another friend's viewpoint in a way that I hadn't before. Complicated issues can be unravelled piece by piece and from different angles, like taking instructions for putting something together step by step, patiently. Skip one step and the next one might not make any sense. We are not all the same and our minds do not all work the same way. Some people jump to one sort of reasoning while others automatically draw a different conclusion. If you care about people who don't necessarily jump to the same ways of reasoning that you do, it can be frustrating. But it is also rewarding when you gain insight into what another person cares deeply about which you had previously not been able to see. The metaphor of seeing is an interesting one in this case; to me, it's more like seeing than knowing. You finally "see" with your mind or heart. I am very grateful to have friends willing to take the time to help me see more of a panoramic view of human nature.

October 9, 2007

Late Night Bocce Ball Fun

Over in Park Slope, Brooklyn, there's a great place to go called Union Hall. Their elegant, spacious interior houses, among other amenities, two bocce ball courts.

Bocce Ball at Union Hall

A less-interested sportsperson than me there could not be, however, someone was nice enough to ask me if I felt like playing and it was a great atmosphere and looked intriguing so I did. Boy, did I have fun, not to mention that my team won, which was just me and a nice guy I met named Chad. I've never seen bocce before, let alone played it and I can see why it draws a crowd here. I read a bunch of online reviews of this place and while most people like it, there are complaints too. I went late on a Monday holiday evening so perhaps I'd have to see it under varied circumstances but I had an extremely favorable impression.

Union Hall, Brooklyn

Union Hall is a beautiful place — exceptionally spacious, elegant calm lighting, a library that lives look and feel. Park Slope is filled with restaurants and interesting spots in which to spend time — The Tea Room offers something similar and really nice too at 837 Union Street. I guess I'm not as jaded as I used to be. But I can't stand bad service and overly crowded, noisy places. Last night, Union Hall got a top rating from me. I applaud them for offering not just another restaurant or bar but a place that gives you a calm, enjoyable unique experience. They also offer live music downstairs, which looks like a great room (can't vouch for the sound) and interesting lectures.

October 8, 2007

Autumn Adventures

The necomer is shown here still getting used to her new surroundings. Never was there an easier cat to love.

Autumn Introductions

The foster kity at left is being pretty cool with her already, as shown above, although my first reigning kitty has flipped out a few times pretty badly. So I'm still taking the introductions very slowly and the baby is spending most of her time in my bedroom. Angel that she is, she's behaving perfectly while this slow process has to take place.

Bookish Kitty

Sasha took a break after studying hard yesterday.

Cat Reading

You can't see it in this picture but the book he's reading is about cats. He went right over to it when it was left open on the floor, as if he knew there might be some useful tips inside.

October 7, 2007

The Good Life

"The good life" is a phrase that intrigues me. It gets my imagination going. What do you think the "good life" is? I think it's many things, both material and immaterial and striking a delicate balance in focus on both. On the material level, to me, it connotes gorgeous luxury (because there's an aspect of indulgence implied) objects that serve their purpose well.

Salviati Wine GlassesSalviati Blue and Green Glasses

Two lines of luscious stemware and drinkware by Salviati — left to right, water and wine glasses in their Fenice grouping in blue/green and orange/black combinations plus highballs (tall) and old fashioned (short) glasses in their Stringa offering — work together well

Good design should enhance your life. Glasses should fit well in your hand, feel smooth and satisfying on your lips and allow the beverage(s) for which they are intended to breathe or maintain their flavor as best as possible. There is both a scientific and an artistic element to this undertaking, as people will always have differing sensibilities — and that's as it should be in a rich and varied world. Still, designers who create objects that delight our senses are to be applauded. Thank God for the "good life!"

Kittens in My Underwear

Once again, I've got kitties in my underwear.

Kittens in My Underwear

Here is Autumn making herself at home in my underwear drawer, which is actually a shelf in a large cabinet. The kitties can't resist jumping in there when they get a chance, which isn't too often, as I know what they're up to when they're nearby and the door is open. That mess of black socks and stockings in the back is Autumn's handiwork too. I can't say I blame them since it's a soft pile of fabric and holds the added allure of being somewhat off limits. You can't even see her back there, as it's dark but the camera lit her up with its flash, revealing her lackadaisical yet mischievous attitude. I'm very glad she's making herself at home so quickly and can't believe she was out in the alley just a little over a week ago. She has adjusted completely to in-home life, instantly. Next thing I know, she'll be trying on my evening sandals and charging midnight deliveries from Murray's Sturgeon Shop. Sounds like fun to me.

October 6, 2007

Kitty Kung Fu — Noble Warriors

Here's a snapshot of my kitties doing some Kitty Kung Fu, my friends and my name for this air battling kitties do.

Kitty Kung Fu

I'm going to keep trying to get more shots of them when they're actually standing up and going at it with paws flying fast. It doesn't last long so it's hard to capture. I am not sure how much is play and how much is aggressive but it's very funny, as it has a sort of Asian art form peaceful warrior feel to it. You kind of expect them to bow to each other when they're done.