Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ready for a break, boys and girls?

Spot is. How about a little Katie, just for old time's sake?

Yesterday, Katie had a post on her "blog" with the title: Do we love ourselves too much? When Katie gets existential, she produces some of her best dreck.

So with a title like that, and with Spot's gathering sense of dread, he read the post. Turns out, it was a previous column that she had "lightly edited." Spot says you should have been more brutal with it, Katie.

Katie opens with how self-absorbed "we" (don't be fooled by the ecumenical use of the word "we" by our Katie, boys and girls; she really means you) are:

We Americans seem to be in the midst of a love affair with “our bodies, ourselves.” Stroll through the supermarket - each can has a label announcing its fat and sodium content, and “me-focused” publications jam the magazine rack. Stop on the way home for a massage at the spa, or a close encounter with a Nautilus at the health club.

But then, Katie turns to the real subject of the column, John Wesley Powell:

We might, for example, consider the predicament of Maj. John Wesley Powell, who spent the afternoon of July 7, 1869, clinging with one arm to a cliff high above the Colorado River.

Katie tell us what a bunch of layabouts we are compared to Powell, who on the afternoon in question was rescued by another man's underwear. Spot isn't making this up, or rather if he is, Katie is, too.

Katie is full of little vignettes about Powell's expedition down the Colorado: it lasted three months, the food was bad, the men were both hot and cold, there were scorpions and rattlesnakes, etc. and etc. Spot figures Katie must have just finished a biography of Powell and was eager to do a report just as she used to do in the sixth grade; maybe she did a book report on Powell in the sixth grade and that's where she got her material.

After telling us that Powell was heroic - he was admirable, but not more than a lot of people doing dangerous and heroic things today - Katie reaches way back to Aristotle for a definition of the heroic:

A true hero, Aristotle wrote, is ready to abandon comfort, possessions, and even honor “to take possession of the beautiful.” The man who is great of soul “would choose to live nobly for a year rather than to pass many years of ordinary life, and would rather do one great and noble deed than many small ones.

So cancel your People Magazine subscriptions, boys and girls, and try to figure out a way to go back in time as far as you can. Try out for Survivor. Whatever.

When Katie gets in one of these moods, Spot often finds himself humming the tune to "Am I Alone," from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Patience. It's sung by the character Reginald Bunthorne, identified as a "fleshy poet":

No. 6. Am I alone and unobserved?
(Recitative and Solo)

(Up-stage, he looks off L. and R.)
Am I alone,
And unobserved? I am!
(comes down)
Then let me own
I'm an aesthetic sham!
(and walks tragically to down-stage, C.)
This air severe
Is but a mere
This cynic smile
Is but a wile
Of guile!
This costume chaste
Is but good taste
Let me confess!
A languid love for Lilies does not blight me!
Lank limbs and haggard cheeks do not delight me!
I do not care for dirty greens
By any means.
I do not long for all one sees
That's Japanese.
I am not fond of uttering platitudes
In stained-glass attitudes.
In short, my mediaevalism's affectation,
Born of a morbid love of admiration!
(Tiptoes up-stage, looking L. and R., and comes back down, C.)
If you're anxious for to shine
in the high aesthetic line
as a man of culture rare,
You must get up all the germs
of the transcendental terms,
and plant them ev'rywhere.
You must lie upon the daisies
and discourse in novel phrases
of your complicated state of mind,
The meaning doesn't matter if it's only idle chatter
of a transcendental kind.
And ev'ry one will say,
As you walk your mystic way,
"If this young man expresses himself
in terms too deep for me,
Why, what a very singularly deep young man
this deep young man must be!"
Be eloquent in praise of the very dull old days
which have long since passed away,
And convince 'em, if you can, that the reign
of good Queen Anne was Culture's palmiest day.
Of course you will pooh-pooh whatever's fresh and new,
and declare it's crude and mean,
For Art stopped short in the cultivated court
of the Empress Josephine.
And ev'ryone will say,
As you walk your mystic way,
"If that's not good enough for him
which is good enough for me,
Why, what a very cultivated kind
of youth this kind of youth must be!"
Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion
must excite your languid spleen,
An attachment a la Plato for a bashful young potato,
or a not- too-French French bean!
Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank
as an apostle in the high aesthetic band,
If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy
or a lily in your medieval hand.
And ev'ryone will say,
As you walk your flow'ry way,
"If he's content with a vegetable love
which would certainly not suit me,
Why, what a most particularly pure young man
this pure young man must be!"

"Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle in the high aesthetic band." A better description of Katie's aspirations has never been written.

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