News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Patriotism - another Mark Twain knock-off. I haven’t changed the original story (“Political Economy”) much at all really. Just run through it with a rake and clippers, pruning verbs and adjectives and grafting my own on. Hard work for my brain’s not in the habit of manufacturing metaphors and off-color verbiage on demand like this. But practice makes for perfection… Sort of like practicing rap. After a few weeks of mumbling to yourself in step as you clip down the sidewalk, it becomes second nature to speak in rhyming couplets. I prefer creative stuff, building from scratch, to this spade and shovel drudgery, but it's got to be done as I see it... Biff Cappuccino

Patriotism is the basis of all good citizenry. The ablest men of all ages have brought to bear upon the subject the...

[I was interrupted and told that a stranger wished to see me down at the door. I went and confronted him, and asked to know his business, struggling the whole time to keep a hold on my thoughts, which were wriggling mischievously and ready to bust loose at any point and flock off to the netherlands. Privately, I wished the stranger would be sullied by a mob of pariah dogs and chased away to hell which, given the heat these several days, was reasoned to presently be due north. I was all hot and bothered; he cool as a cumquat. He was dreadfully sorry to have disturbed me but on passing by the premises he ventured that I'd profit from the satellite TV dish paradigm. I said, "Yes, yes good man -- go on -- what about it?" He said there was nothing about it, nothing in particular -- nothing but that he would like to install one for my education and edification. I was new to housekeeping, sojourning in hotels and boarding houses all of my life. Like most anyone else would in my station, I try to appear (to strangers) to be an old housekeeper; consequently I said in an offhand way that I had been wanting for some time to have a parcel of TV dishes planted, but -- and the stranger started, and looked inquisitively at me, but I was tranquil. I thought that if I chanced to make any mistakes, he would not catch me by my countenance. He said he would rather have my bidness than any man's in town. I was warmed by his enthusiasm and said, "Well all right then," and went off to do battle with my great subject again, when he called me back and noted that it would be important to know exactly how much "flatware" I wanted put up, what parts of the home I wanted adorned, and what quality of gear I preferred. He threatened to catch me out at this point, given my unfamiliarity with the customs of domiciles in these parts; but I went through creditably and he probably never suspected that I was new around here. I told him to put up eight "pots," and plant them all on the roof, and use the best quality of ceramic. He said he could furnish the "plain" article at 20 dollars; "glazed," 25 dollars; "Teflon-coated all-weather coaxial cable," at 30 dollars, that would fetch a signal at any time, no matter where it was emanating from, and "persuade it that further wandering was surplus to requirements; plus a decoder to dephlogisticcate and domesticate it." I said dephlogisticcate was no mean designation, emanating from a man of his professional persuasion, but, the study of pragmatics aside, I liked the Teflon-coated all-weather coaxial cable and would take that model. Then he said he COULD make do with two hundred and fifty feet; but to do it proper, and make the best job in the borough of it, and entice the admiration of the vulgar and profane alike, and compel all audiences to admit they never saw a more shambolic and hyperborean display of TV flatware since they came into this world, he supposed he really couldn`t get along without four hundred, though he wouldn’t hold it against me if I was squeamish, and trusted he was willing to try. I said, go ahead and use four hundred, and engineer any kind of project he pleased out of it, but let me get back to my work. So he was off my hands at last; and now, after half an hour spent in getting my train of patriotic thoughts coupled together again, I am ready to go on once more.]
gallantest lights of commutarian sensibility, their empirical wisdom, and founts of learning. The mystery-workers of deep folk-feeling, the mighty protectors of anointed realm, and the sacred apostles of chauvinistic multiculturalism, of all ages, all civilizations, and one nation undivided, from Confucius down to Mao Zedong, have --
[Here my train of thought was uncoupled, and I was required to go down and confer further with that TV flatware man. I hurried off, bubbling and frothing with precocious mind-pictures swaddled in words of such grace and fascination that each one of them was in itself a rolling juggernaut of polysyllables that might be ten minutes passing by an applauding audience, and once more I confronted him -- he so mild and phlegmatic, I so roiled and agitated. He was standing erect with the reflective composure of a face in Mount Rushmore, with one shoe amidst my orchids, and the other steady among my poinsettia, his palms fixed akimbo, his hat-brim tilted forward, one eye shut and the other contemplating critically and admiringly the jungle of excrescences embellishing my rooftop. He said now THERE was a state of things to make a man glad to be alive; and added, "I leave it to YOU if you ever saw anything more deliriously picturesque than eight co-axial dishes on the southwest corner of a building facing northeast?" I said I had no present recollection of any artwork that transcended it. He opined that nothing in heaven or earth but the Buddhas carved into the living stone of the Three Gorges was superior to it by way of natural scenery. All that was needed now, he verily believed, to render my house a balanced esthetic was to kind of touch up the other corners a little, and thus "add to the generous coup d`oeil a soothing uniformity of spiritual propriety which would harmonize the excitement naturally consequent upon the first coup d`etat." I asked him if he learned to talk out of a book, and if I could borrow it anywhere? He smiled amiably, and instructed me that his rhetorical form was not taught in books, and that nothing but familiarity with the mysteries of applied science could prepare a man to manage his style of palaver with impunity. He then calculated an estimate, and said that about a dozen more pots distributed about my roof would about do me proper, and he guessed five hundred feet of cable would serve the purpose; and added that the first eight had got a head start of him, so to speak, and he’d used up a mere trifle of material more than he had figured on -- a hundred feet or round abouts. I said I was in a fearful rush, and I wished we could get this project configured once and for all, so that I could get on with my proper business. He said, "I could have put up those eight pots, and be done with it -- some men WOULD have done so. But no; I said to myself, this man is new around here and I will perish before I do him wrong; there ain`t pots sufficient to their appointed purpose on that rooftop, and I for one will never sleep proper again unless I`ve done as I would have done to me, by the Lord’s eternal grace, and told him so. Stranger, my obligation is fulfilled and I breathe easier but for a tightness due to a pang of unavoidable regret; now if the satellites should suffer seasonal rearrangement for the peregrinations of the magnetic north pole or daylight savings time, leaving your signal beyond the pale, and if --" "There, now, there," I said, "plant the other dozen -- add five hundred feet of coaxial cable -- do anything and everything you feel is wanted; but calm your intimations and premonitions, and try to keep your feelings where they remain accessible to the dictionary. Meanwhile, if we have achieved an understanding, I shall return to my work again."

It took a full painful hour this time just to resuscitate the frame of mind frustrated by the last interruption; but I had accomplished it at last and ventured to proceed again.

…scrapped with this wondrous subject, and the worthiest among them have found it a great opponent, and one that always comes up fresh and smiling after every knockdown. The great Confucius said that he would rather be a patriotic philosopher than a congressman. George Washington related that professional patriotism was the grandest profession that the patriot was worthy of professing; and even our own GW has said obscurely, but manly-like, that "Patriotism --
Biff: That's as much as I can stomache for now. Off to try my hand at working up something completely fresh story-wise by my own hand, but which operates in a similar vein to tickle both fancy and funny bone... (judging by that last infelicitious phrase...haha...this is going to take a few more days...)

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