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October 11, 2008

Men Get Catty

In this week's edition of "Guys Are Sensitive", a disturbing new trend: Dudes, And The Cats Who Love Them:


If the New York Times' Sunday Styles were a hairdo, it would be a wig. If it were on the menu, it would be a meringue. If it were a retail outlet, it would be Spencer's Gifts. As a mélange of fashion notes, celebrity reporting, personal essays, and piffle, Sunday Styles resembles the old-fashioned supermarket tabloids in that it knows that it's a stinking pile of entertaining trash and makes no apologies for it.

So bestowing a "Bogus Trend of the Week" award upon Sunday Styles is a tad like berating Slobodan Milosevic for tracking mud across your nice, clean linoleum floor. The section exists to advance the bogus. Yet sometimes Sunday Styles promotes premises so flimsy that somebody must shout stop, if only to restore the section to its honest awfulness.

That moment arrived last Sunday (Oct. 5) in "Sorry, Fido, It's Just a Guy Thing," in which writer Abby Ellin revealed that more and more guys—single, straight guys!—are digging pussycats. Here's the nut graf:

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.

Full disclosure: while the denizens of Villa Cassandranita could not be accused of having a bad cattitude, neither The Unit nor the blog princess are personally owned by a cat.

There could be many reasons for this. One may well be that the Resident Canine is himself, although quite feisty, no larger than a cat himself: a mere 15-16 pounds soaking wet. For this reason, he could be expected to take an Extremely Dim View of opening up the house to recklessly unsanctioned occupation by a foreign power one suspects would have the ardent approval of the EU. Also there is the Sneeze Factor. The Princess, though not unfond of felines, is also allergic to them.

But the Princess loved the Fray's deft lampooning of the NY Times' patented "statistical" approach to trendspotting. One only wishes journalists were so adept at Noticing this kind of thing when it comes to subjects like the war in Iraq, where the Times employs exactly the same kind of "analysis" to arrive at spurious "conclusions" the folks over at Slate find much more to their liking:

How to write a bogus trend story: Start with something you wish were on the rise. State that rise as a fact. Allow that there are no facts, surveys, or test results to support such a fact. Use and reuse the word seems. Collect anecdotes and sprinkle liberally. Drift from your original point as far as you can to collect other data points. Add liberally. Finish with an upbeat quotation like "My cat takes priority over the new relationship. Realistically, unless there's something absolutely amazing about [the woman I'm dating], he wins."

It works so well with things like the violence in Baghdad, or casualty reports.

Pick any arbitrary point on a 4 year time line at random ... say the lowest monthly casualty rate! ... even though it happens to be at an odd interval.

Choose as your other endpoint the highest casualty rate ... even though that month's fatalities include 9 soldiers killed as the result of a truck running off the road and into a ditch.

Conclude that the "trend" is a 40% increase in "violence" (now traffic accidents are "violence"? Don't traffic and training accidents, tragic though they may be, happen even back in the United States?

Fail to provide any charts that allow the reader to see what you have done, to assess the rise and fall of "violence" over the entire 4-year span of the war, or that provide any context whatsoever.

Don't bother to factor in how many troops we had in country (sure this matters when assessing the casualty rate - citing unnormalized casualty rates results in an inherently skewed analysis if what you're trying to report on is individual "risk" - which the Times proceeded to announce was "worse than it has ever been").

Above all, don't even think about reporting on our soldiers and Marines purchased with their deaths. After all, when you report on a football game, an unbiased reporter only reports half the score, right? That's how you know which team is winning. It only stands to reason that the unbiased reporter reports only how many Americans are dying.

Not how many weapons caches we've secured, how many insurgents we've killed or captured, how many provinces have been turned over to Iraqi control, etc.

Half the score. And timely updates like that important classified memo from Thomas Ricks that let us know Anbar Province was "irretrievably lost".

That worked out so well. Well worth the price of breaking the law to bring truthiness to the American people.

Posted by Cassandra at October 11, 2008 11:45 AM

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Use and reuse the word seems. Collect anecdotes and sprinkle liberally.

I got a better idea. Have the New York Times publish your stringer report of Rumor A. Have celebrity rumor mags do the same.

Make the claim that trend A is on the rise and then use as your support the New York Times report. Make no claim that you and the New York Time's source are the same.

That worked out so well. Well worth the price of breaking the law to bring truthiness to the American people.

Well, it is simpler, Cass. And simplicity is the Watchword of the MSM isn't it?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 11, 2008 07:21 PM

"La Casa de Camo" (my rambling estate) is delightfully devoid of pets...

Posted by: camojack at October 13, 2008 01:40 AM

"My cat takes priority over the new relationship. Realistically, unless there's something absolutely amazing about [the woman I'm dating], he wins."

Single? Yeah -- and likely to remain so.

Heterosexual? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

Posted by: BillT at October 13, 2008 08:02 AM

Yanno... I mostly posted this b/c I was taunting you guys :p

I expected a LOT more pushback on this - I figured posting something about men and cats was sort of like waving a red flag in front of a bull!

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Leopard Print bikini at October 13, 2008 09:20 AM

I live out near a forest preserve. I have a dog because ... I've always had a dog, ever since I was 6 months old. Life does not seem normal without a dog. I have a cat because I like animals in general, cats can be affectionate on their own terms, and they keep the vermin population inside the house under control. Every so often there's a loud yowl, I investigate, I find a dead rodent in a prominent place, I dispose of the corpse and praise and reward the cat. It works for me.

Posted by: RonF at October 13, 2008 10:17 AM

We grew up with cats in my parents house because my father (having grown up on a farm) liked animals to begin with, but didn't care for the whole "jumping up on you" thing that dogs are so fond of. I now have dogs because my wife grew up in a dog (English Bulldog) house, and I moved in with her. But I basically just love animals.

Mind you, I wouldn't trust someone who didn't like cats OR dogs, but I understand only liking one or another. Cats are not inherently feminine, dogs not inherently masculine, but that dude quoted in the article as having the cat come first may just have some identity issues.

Posted by: MikeD at October 13, 2008 10:38 AM

Bingo, Mike.

Posted by: BillT at October 13, 2008 11:19 AM

My folks and I've always had barn cats or strays hanging around. Walkin' Boss and my girls have always had a cat or a few around too. Walkin' Boss currently has two part bobcat cats and we're temporarily providing room and board for the youngest daughter's cat who has a serious medical affliction. Walkin' Boss is a better care taker than the youngest, so the cat lives here.

IMO barn cats are good examples of independent souls who rely on little more than their own skill and effort to survive. I like that and the pest control service they provide.

Personally I seem to appreciate dogs more than cats, but I suppose that's only a quirk in my value system.

Of course I like deer too. So much so that I've been supplying them with fifty pounds of feed corn every couple of weeks. We now have a whole herd of them dining on the corn and mast out under our oak trees. Ok, maybe I like the deer for other reasons. =8^}

Posted by: bthun at October 13, 2008 11:34 AM

For all my childhood and youth, I grew up with cats. I learned how to charm them and stroke them at an early age.

As an adult, I now know that ladies also like to be charmed and stroked. Several have told me they had had no better lover.

So guys, the benefit of having a cat about the house makes you a better lover. What's not to like? :)

Posted by: DWMF at October 13, 2008 12:19 PM

I thought the primary use of a cat was so that when it is dark and you can't find the light, you can navigate by the cat's eyes?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 13, 2008 03:21 PM

Cats are also good for this.

I figured posting something about men and cats was sort of like waving a red flag in front of a bull!

Well, cats are good training for men cause if you watch the tv or are on the computer too much, a cat will train you to understand how a woman will respond to your inattention.

This may save you a lot of angst, especially since you'll have to be able to detect minute cat signals before the cat jumps over the keyboard/remote and what not.

So the bull's already been dazed by now, Cass.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 13, 2008 03:25 PM

Since a cat can't talk to you about what is really bothering them or what they really want you to do, Cass, isn't that the perfect training?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 13, 2008 03:27 PM

I like my cats, but that article is weird.
I’m pretty sure the MSM is always going to get to print how many of our troops die and never print the insurgent/bombs/guns count since the DoD has a policy against score boarding a war.

Sometimes it makes sense, but sometimes it won’t. Since we could score lives vs a lot of things;
On Omaha Beach:
American lives vs. yards of beach gained?
No matter what the outcome of the war that battle looks like a loss framed that way.
Those of us in the know just have to remember this 'unpopular war' is popular with those whose lives and families were destroyed by Saddam and his government.

Posted by: Mount Zion at October 13, 2008 03:33 PM