What's Up Chuck
Words. At High Noon...
Thursday, February 14, 2002
I''m one of those liberals that no one can like: not even other liberals. I''m the kind who believes that guns don''t kill people, people kill people. That banning guns to save society is akin to dabbing mercurochrome on a sucking chest wound. That the causes that lead to violence are too deeply rooted to be cured by treating the symptoms. But let''s not get into all that. Let''s just stay on the surface of the issue, where pro-gun slogan-slingers ply their shotgun craft, where it''s embarrassing to support responsible gun ownership.
Let''s ignore Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Association. Their half-baked bon mots on gun rights, fueled by an annual budget of $168 million, get enough play. Besides, the NRA seems absolutely rational compared to the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
Somehow, many years ago, the Weekly got on the CRPA''s mailing list and we''ve been receiving their monthly magazine, The Firing Line, ever since. I''ve always found its barely literate content a source of bleak amusement. But the January issue of The Firing Line contained an item that turned my stomach.
An anonymous contributor submitted a three-question litmus test. The questions were of the straw-man variety, including "Are you of the belief that someone else should risk great bodily injury or death to protect you, so that you avoid that responsibility?" If someone answers yes to any of the questions they''re invited to join COWARDS, (the acronym for Californians Opposing Widely Approved Responsible Defensive Strategies). The slogan of the fictional group: "Cowards are not for guns. Guns are not for Cowards." If, on the other hand, a reader passes the test s/he is invited to join BRAVE (Be Ready Armed Vigilant Empowered).
Well, hell. Two can empty that clip. Seems to me the author of that quiz (along with others of his tribe) should join the organization known as Absolutists Supporting Social Harmony by Opposing Liberals'' Empty Slogans.
You figure out the acronym.
Blue Collar In An Ivory Tower...
I take the populist position that the greatness of an artwork may be judged by the number of people who are moved by it. On the other hand, I know this argument can lead to a proliferation of velvet paintings depicting sad-eyed children playing poker with anthropomorphized dogs. With a quaint cottage puddling light in the background.
Somewhere there must be a balance between great art and crass commercialism, even though it''s hard to define.
That''s why I''m a little muddled about the whole Maya-Angelou-signing-with-Hallmark-greeting-cards thing. For those who haven''t heard, there''s a whole line of Angelou''s sentiments now available on greeting cards, wall plaques and little satiny pillows.
My initial reaction was as snotty and elitist as that of U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, who raked Angelou over the coals for "trivializing" her work. But then my blue collar started chafing me.
I suspect there''ll be a whole helluva lot more people reading Angelou''s greeting cards than ever pick up Collins'' poetry--or even Angelou''s own full verse and novels. And maybe that''s where to find the balancing point.
Angelou''s watered-down work doesn''t detract from her accomplishments. She''s still creating great literary art and she''s doing the greeting-card stuff. It''s almost like an artistic outreach program. Maybe some of the people who read one of those wall plaques will be intrigued enough to venture deeper into Angelou''s works. And, if they do, they''ll find plenty of meat to chew on.
And that''s what makes Angelou different from the hacks who can''t make or won''t risk doing great art. She isn''t trivializing her work, she is adding another level on top of it. Or below it.
Don''t Do It...
It''s true. I''m such a disaster in the romance department that no one should turn to me for love advice. But even I know that any Valentine''s Day recipient of Jack In Box Restaurants'' Chocolate Banana Shake will receive the gift with nothing but hostility--at best. It doesn''t matter that Jack is trying to market the shake as an appropriate V-Day alternative; remember, this is the guy who broke into some poor schmuck''s house, dragged him to the ground and forced him to eat a Jack Burger (or whetever the hell it is). Trust me on this: Any guy who shows up on the doorstep bearing a Jack Shake with a red ribbon is going to leave with chunks of banana and chocolate oozing down his face. And I guarandamntee it won''t be the result of kinky foreplay.
Chuck Thurman firstname.lastname@example.org