Caturday felid trifecta: Aleppo’s Cat Man returns, cat-themed ad for specs; a California museum features Ceiling Cat

This BBC article (click on screenshot) tells the story of the “Cat Man of Aleppo,” Mohammad Aljaleel, who used to take care of the feral and displaced cats of Aleppo. Then he had to leave the city when it was occupied by Syrian government forces.

Here’s a video of his earlier work:

Then trouble:

Just weeks after the video was filmed, Mohammad Aljaleel (known to everyone as Alaa) watched helplessly as his cat sanctuary was first bombed, then chlorine-gassed, during the intense final stages of the siege of Aleppo.

Most of his 180 cats were lost or killed. Like thousands of other civilians he was trapped in the eastern half of the city under continuous bombardment from Russian and Syrian fighter jets.

As the siege tightened, he was forced from one Aleppo district to another, witnessing unimaginable scenes of devastation. Yet throughout, he continued to look after the few surviving cats and to rescue people injured in the bombing, driving them to underground hospitals. [He helped cats as much as he helped people.]

He left, but now Mohammad is back saving cats in another town:

When the city fell in December 2016, he left in a convoy, his van crammed full of injured people and the last six cats from the sanctuary.

“I’ve always felt it’s my duty and my pleasure to help people and animals whenever they need help,” Alaa says. “I believe that whoever does this will be the happiest person in the world, besides being lucky in his life.”

After a brief recuperation in Turkey, he smuggled himself back into Syria – bringing a Turkish cat with him for company – and established a new cat sanctuary, bigger and better than the first one, in Kafr Naha, a village in opposition-held countryside west of Aleppo.

The new sanctuary has expanded to include an orphanage, a kindergarten and a veterinary clinic. Alaa and his team resemble a small development agency, providing services that government and international charities cannot or will not. He strongly believes that helping children to look after vulnerable animals teaches them the importance of kindness to all living creatures, and helps to heal their own war traumas.

“Children and animals are the big losers in the Syrian war,” he says. “It’s the adults who so often behave badly.”

Rescuing a child from the rubble. (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s a lot more about him and his work at the site. Just one more bit from the article:

“Our Prophet Muhammad was good to everybody. He spoke with all Christians and Jews. I believe in Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, because all of them had a noble aim. I’m a Muslim, but I am not a fanatic. I just take from religion everything that’s good and that I can learn things from,” Alaa says.

Despite the difficulties he has endured, Alaa has always maintained a wicked sense of humour. At the new sanctuary, a tabby called Maxi the Marketing King is chief fundraiser, soliciting “green kisses” in the form of dollar bills via social media accounts.

Maxi, the chief fundraiser:

Alaa wears a T-shirt with “Maxi’s Slave” written on it, and gets ticked off for smoking too much or for not cooking gourmet meals. He admits his shortcomings. “We submit to Maxi’s authority as the ruler of his kingdom. But even with Maxi’s leadership it wasn’t easy to launch the new sanctuary,” he says.

Read more at the site.

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Reader Kevin, who sent this, notes that “Specsavers is a chain that tests eyes and sells cut-price frames and lenses.” At first I didn’t get this, but I wasn’t looking closely during the last bit of the commercial.

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From the Washington Post (click on screenshot below), a report on an art exhibit that features—wait for it—Ceiling Cat!

From the piece:

At the end of the exhibition “Snap+Share,” visitors to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will see a small cat staring down at them from a crudely cut rectangular hole in the ceiling [see above]. This is “Ceiling Cat,” a 2016 work by Eva and Franco Mattes, who have used a taxidermy kitty to re-create one of the Internet’s most popular and persistent memes: an image of the feline accompanied by variations on the phrase “Ceiling Cat is watching you . . . ”

The original Ceiling Cat meme emerged more than a decade ago, with the tag line “Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate.” But it has morphed and evolved with the usual rapidity of online culture. Among the many iterations is Ceiling Cat as God the Creator, speaking in the “lolcat” meme translation of the Bible: “At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.”

THEY USED A DEAD CAT! That is reprehensible!

But of course this is art criticism, so they also have to explain Ceiling Cat with some gravitas:

Like several other works in the show, the Mattes sculpture makes physical something that exists primarily in the weightless, substance-free environment of the Internet. It captures both the playfulness of the culture that has evolved around snapping and sharing images, especially memes, even as it suggests the darker side of surveillance and control latent in our social networks. It’s also the main marketing image for the exhibition, and perhaps one of the few missteps in the curation of this otherwise thought-provoking and enlightening exhibition.

. . . Just in case you might miss “Ceiling Cat” (which is small and above eye level), the museum has a little note on the wall: “See the artwork in the middle of the ceiling in this gallery. Photographs are not only permitted but encouraged.” With that, a bit of critical distance breaks down, and the thing that was otherwise being examined dispassionately — how our habits of transmitting images have evolved over the past century and a half — suddenly feels more like a game we’re required to play. The invitation to participate, to snap a picture of “Ceiling Cat,” doesn’t feel right, especially given the fundamental tension that develops in this show — between participation and conformity.

Screw that. It’s Ceiling Cat, who will punish Eva and Franco Mattes for using one of His poor deceased creatures as a form of pompous jouer.

h/t: Michael, Ken

19 Comments

  1. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    SpecSavers ad: I got there in the end [3rd watch] – very funny. I’m saying nuthin’.

    • merilee
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Still don’t get it..

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        What was the tradesman [who needs specs] installing & where is it? 🙂

        • merilee
          Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:01 am | Permalink

          Catflap😻

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 21, 2019 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      Then there’s the other cat-themed Specsavers ad:

      cr

  2. Alex Zukerman
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    The story of Mohammad Aljaleel makes me so sad…

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    SFMOMA snap+share, Ceiling Cat:

    Another good report on it at The NYT inc this great reaction photo during a press preview – the ArtyFarts stare up at “Ceiling Cat”

    07-SFMOMA-SNAP-h-superJumbo

    Photo credit, Jason Henry, NYT

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      I like the Ceiling Cat exhibit – it’s quite clever and I don’t see why it’s “pompous” either. As to why it’s bad(or disrespectful?) to use taxidermy in an art exhibit I don’t know.

      I do think it completely undermines it to have a big sign saying ‘look up at this exhibit’ underneath it though. The whole brilliance of the idea is that you’d be wandering through the place and casually look up and see Ceiling Cat looking down on you.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        I agree with all wot you wrote 🙂

  4. Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Ceiling Cat is dead! Nietzsche lives.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      That will put the Ceiling Cat among the pigeons.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      So that’s where Schrödinger’s cat went!

  5. BJ
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “I’ve always felt it’s my duty and my pleasure to help people and animals whenever they need help,” Alaa says. “I believe that whoever does this will be the happiest person in the world, besides being lucky in his life.”

    That’s so beautiful. What a hero!

    Meanwhile, artists and art critics and “experts” are being the same aloof, ridiculously verbose, pretentious pseudointellectuals.

    • BJ
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      I meant to add the words “they always are” at the end of that last sentence. Without those words, it sounds like I’m comparing them with our new hero, Mohammad Aljaleel.

  6. Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    “They used a dead cat!”

    Fear not, for he is rizzen.

  7. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 21, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    To be honest, I’ve always taken the “Ceiling Cat” image as actually being of a cat looking up from a power outlet or wall socket cut in gypsum wall sheeting. The sheet looks too thick to be the stuff they normally use to do ceilings.
    It’s a Necker Cat!


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