Monday, September 8, 2008

Moderation Kills

I am not a moderate person. In fact, I'm delighted when I discover someone else who is over the top about anything, like the guy who writes The Borowitz Report. He does not go in for subtle, moderate humor.

This morning's newspaper reprinted The Borowitz report from Aug. 31, which I hadn't yet seen, about how "the world's foremost expert in the cinema of Goldie Hawn, Davis Logsdon," said that "in choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, Sen. John McCain is taking a leaf from an unproduced Hawn vehicle from 1984 titled Contestant in Chief" in which "an evil presidential candidate chooses the American he thinks is the least likely to catch on to his nefarious plans to destroy the country...enter Goldie, a former beauty-pageant contestant, small-town mayor and hockey mom. She turns out to be smarter than she looks and exposes her running mate on national TV, becoming president herself in the process."
"Logsdon cautioned that, in the case of this year's GOP ticket, life will probably imitate art only up to a point: 'In real life, if Gov. Palin becomes president, she will most likely ban abortions, destroy wildlife habitats and blow up the world.'"
I laughed at this immoderately, not least because I'd just come from the letters to the editor page, which had a reference to Sarah Palin as "Caribou Barbie." Also there was this tag paragraph: "Elsewhere, Palin said she is looking forward to the vice-presidential debate, or, as she called it, 'the talent competition.'"—Andy Borowitz, New York online humor columnist, who in his satirical reports includes commentary from University of Minnesota professor Davis Logsdon, a character he made up. (There's a newer Borowitz report from yesterday here).

I've been having what I hope is an amicable, but certainly not a moderate, disagreement with Mythusmage over Sarah Palin (he disagrees that she will blow up the world). And thinking about not being moderate made me think about David Kirby's poem "Moderation Kills," which I discovered recently in the book version of Poetry180 (Kirby's poem is no longer on the site, but it does still include Tom Wayman's "Did I Miss Anything," which richly deserves its continual rediscovery by academics at this time of year.)

Moderation Kills (Excusez-Moi, Je Suis Sick As A Dog):

I'm tackling this particularly chewy piece of sushi and
recalling the only Japanese words I know,
"Fugu wa kuitashii, inochi wa oshishii," meaning,
"I would like to eat fugu--but live!"
which, I've read, is something Japanese executives say
when contemplating a particularly risky

course of action, because whereas the testes of the fugu
or blowfish are harmless
yet highly prized as a virility builder, the liver,
which is almost identical
in appearance to the testes, is toxic, so that
a less-cautious individual,

a fisherman, say, who thinks himself as skillful
as the chef who has actually been
educated and licensed in the preparation of fugu,
might eat the wrong organ and die,
face-down in his rice bowl, chopsticks nipping
spasmodically at the air.

Coming in from the vegetable patch, the fisherman's wife
sees him cooling in the remains
of his meal and shrieks, and I don't know
the Japanese for this,
"You have eaten fugu--and died!" True, though
for anyone other than the new widow,

why should his death be exclaimed upon as though
it were a failure or defeat,
since the fisherman had finished a good day of work
and was not only enjoying his tasty snack
but also looking forward to the enhancement
of his powers of generation,
this being therefore a fine moment in which to expire
and certainly preferable to
countless moments of life as a fumbling drooler
(since fugu liver can paralyze
as well), a burden to his loved ones as well as
the object of their contempt.

Then someone across the table from me says he's heard
of a state of mind called boredom
but never actually experienced it, and I wonder,
Can a mind that never sinks
into the cold gray waters of boredom ever rise to
the blue-and-gold heavens of ecstasy?

Then someone else shouts, "Excusez-moi, je suis sick
as a dog!" and disappears
laughing, but that's okay because "ecstacy"=
"ex stasis"= "get off the dime"=
"fish or cut bait" = "lead, follow, or get out
of the way," does it not?

Besides, who's to say the fisherman didn't hate
his wife, couldn't stand her?
And had to eat fugu testes in order to be able
to countenance her and
therefore is better off dead and unknowing than
alive and fully sentient of such misery?

Or hated himself and therefore is better off dead, etc.?
And therefore who is
more admirable, the executive who fears death
or the fisherman who actually dies?
Does the former feel brave merely because
he has talked of taking a risk?

Would the doughty fisherman have said "Fugu wa kuitashii,
inochi was oshishii" and taken pride
in his temperance? Certainly not--
offered the same challenge under identical
circumstances, he's have said, and I don't know
the Japanese for this either, "Moderation kills."


mythusmage said...

Of course she's not going to destroy the word. You ever try to oppress a planet sized ball of dust and debris.

Besides, given the choice I'd much rather my hope get destroyed by somebody competent.

And just to stir things up a bit more ...

Do you know the difference between Barack Obama and a sorority pledge?


Polly said...

Do you know The Borowitz Report?

Jeanne said...

Yes, Polly-- there's now a link to The Borowitz Report on my sidebar for this blog.