Oh, Katie, what is it now?
Ingemar Holm, Jim Johns, and Dale Johnson (and a few others) thought the newspaper columnist was coming out to interview them for a human interest story about their retirement hobby: restoring vintage aircraft. Their current project is a CG-4 military glider. According to Johns, it was the only military aircraft made in Minnesota (although, I believe, Bombardier made Hurricanes, and perhaps other planes, too, for the RAF and Canadian Air Forces in Thunder Bay just to our north).
It could have been a nice story about some WW2 airplane buffs getting together for the camaraderie and some historical preservation. They probably didn’t reckon that the columnist in question, Katherine Kersten, would use them as a prop in yet another chapter in her life-long polemic, You’re All Just a Bunch of Layabouts! But now, at least, they know.
Kersten cannot tell a story — or at least try to anyway — without beating us over the head with its Larger Meaning.
When Katie doesn’t have a group of Muslims (surprising, given the date), gays, or other minority group to scold, she’ll turn to video games or the sloth of some people as a subject, just to stay limber.
Here’s Katie’s lede:
On a typical evening we flop down, flip on the 36-inch flat screen, click the mouse, text, tweet, or feast on Facebook. The more adventurous among us grab virtual swords and enter the explosion-filled, fantasy universe of games like World of Warcraft, where we achieve instant superhero status.
We're megaconsumers of passive entertainment, spoon-fed by faceless folks in Hollywood or at companies like Sony. It's fun. It's relaxing. But when we log off, we often have a nagging question: Have we just wasted a lot of time?
And Ingemar, Jim, and Dale thought this story was going to be about them! Holm gets introduced in paragraph three, and we do learn some tidbits about the glider and the restoration effort along the way:
The CG-4 has an 84-foot wingspan, and is largely "glued, taped and tied" together, requiring 15 miles of cord and 10 miles of electrical tape.
Doesn’t that create a vivid picture in your mind? Such writing craft. If you’re a fifth grader.
But no Katie story is worth telling unless someone can be made to feel guilty about it:
What differentiates these men's hobby -- inspired by childhood games and projects -- from our electronic playland? Unlike our frenetic digital amusements, their use of leisure time requires patience, resourcefulness, self-discipline and perseverance.
It just makes you want to take up scrimshaw, doesn’t it?
Katie always like the big, wistful finish and a question left unresolved, and she doesn’t disappoint today:
In 25 years, how many of us will be equipped to take on the kind of creative project these men are engaged in? When we get drawn into our passive, seductive electronic world, are we just indulging in a few hours of misspent leisure time, or is there something more at stake?
This is the point in a Kersten column where I often feel sorry for her kids, because this is a woman who lays guilt with a trowel.
Or, as one local wag put it in describing the column, “Because every time you go online, a puppy dies.”