Sunday, April 01, 2007

about Nora the cat

Microtrends: Piano-playing catsTom Whitwell

Mean vs Cute: While the mean internet was working itself into a frenzy over Britney Shears's haircut, the cute internet was all about Nora, the piano-playing cat. In one weekend, half a million people watched her on YouTube as she played something halfway between Philip Glass and free jazz. She's now been watched more than 1.5 million times.

The cult builds: If you thought that YouTube was only used by happy slapping 13-year-olds, you'll be delighted to learn that Nora's owners, an artist called Burnell Yow! and his partner, piano teacher Betsy Alexander, are rather different. Nora, for example, was named after the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. Mr Yow! and Betsy have been quick to capitalise on her fame, opening an online shop selling fridge magnets, signed photos and "Practice makes Purr-fect" hoodies for $26.99. Almost a thousand blogs have linked to the video. Intellectual discussions started over at and, the website for cats and synthesizers: "Detractors of atonal music often argue that 'their five-year old could do that' but perhaps the fact that it captures childlike and cat-like innocence is part of the charm."

The wannabes: Suddenly, the floodgates opened and YouTube was deluged with dozens of piano-playingcats from France to Argentina. The heir to Nora's throne is Merlin, an enormously fat ginger cat who sits on all the keys while his owner plays.

The dark side: Obviously, the mean internet hasn't gone away. Cult New York history site Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society uncovered the cat piano from 1650, when an Italian musician "selected cats whose natural voices were at different pitches and arranged them in cages side by side, so that when a key on the piano was depressed, a mechanism drove a sharp spike into the appropriate cat's tail".

Extras: The motherlode of all cute animal action is Cute Overload, with it's hideous evil twin Ugly Overload (don't click that link if you're put off by giant praying mantises and really nasty-looking bats). Still want more? There are a great many more cat stories and videos in this post at Boing Boing.

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