Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging -- Comedist Style

There are many bloggers, led by Atrios, who despite some fascinating commentary and interesting analysis the rest of the week, regularly post pictures of cats on Fridays. I've never been tempted to join the party before, but thanks to brother Hanno here is a link to cat pictures. The site is called, "Cats that look like Hitler" and features, yes, photos of feline fascists.

In a vain attempt to pull philosophical content out of cats that look like Hitler, consider the discussion about turning our cultural champions of virtue into icons from Monday. The claim was that there is a two step process to elevating someone into the cultural pantheon -- first, the person is abstracted from their real life and refitted with a more perfect embodiment of a societally celebrated virtue; second, that artificially constructed life, meant to inspire us to exceed ourselves, is then flattened into an icon, a bumper sticker with a single iconic image and a single iconic slogan that is incapable of actual motivation to true transcendence.

Interestingly, we do this flattening not only to our heroes, but our villains as well. Think of Nikita Kruschov -- red face, bald head, "We will bury you." Richard Nixon -- big smile, bigger nose, "I am not a crook." Adolf Hitler -- little mustache, "Final solution" or "Heil Hitler." We turn them into cartoon characters, perhaps for propogandistic reasons, perhaps to insulate ourselves from having to seriously consider their actions or meaningfully contextualize them.

But I suppose one real loss in this process that we don't discuss is to fashion. After Hitler, the little mustache patch has become verboten. This is a shame. Hitler, of course, was not innovative here, that moustache was worn well by other famous people, Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy, for example. Why not focus on Hitler's hair? If anything should be demonized, surely it should have been the back to front come-over that makes you look like you were just going very fast in a convertible with the transmission stuck in reverse. But no, it was the moustache.

And it is a shame. For those readers who are pre-menopausal women or pre-pubescent males and thereby have little experience with facial hair, let me explain the process of shaving off a beard. After you (or, more likely, your love interest) have grown tired of a beard, you stand in the bathroom with scissors and a razor and take it off, but not all at once. Beards come off in pieces in order to see what alternative arrangements of facial hair would look like.

The first move proceeds in one of two directions. Occasionally, you take off the lip hair first to see if you could pull off the C. Everett Koop/Gorton's fisherman/Amish farmer look, but usually, it is the small patch on the jowls leaving the mutton chop sideburns. After a quick chuckle, the sideburns go leaving the Van Dyke -- the moustache/goatee combo. This is the most dangerous point in the process because it is well known that the Van Dyke instantly increases the coolness of the wearer. If the process of beard removal fails, it is usually at this point.

Those who successfully move beyond the Van Dyke then shave the chin, leaving the long moustache reminiscent of the leather-clad, hairy chested biker from the Village People or Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap. A good smirk later, you trim it down to the standard moustache and think, "You know, if I ever decide to change jobs, I could be a cop."

Then, finally, you are left standing in front of the mirror with the little Hitler moustache. I'll admit it isn't a look many guys can pull off anyway. Yeah, it's dated, the bell-bottoms of moustaches. But the shame of it that Hitler, with all his evil, has made it a complete non-starter. He closed the off-ramp from the facial hair highway. No getting off with the little moustache. Not now and not for the foreseeable future...unless, of course, you are a cat.