Thursday, July 26, 2007

But is it any GOOD?

From time to time it's useful to undergo a fresh look at things that are considered to be classic. Classic movies are a fine way to start, because it is undeniably true that the passage of time changes our perceptions of art and entertainment, even when we believe our opinions of them are firmly cemented in past experience.

For example: Who among us has NOT detected the streak of mean that exists in Mary Poppins when we view her magickal antics from the adult perspective? The "oh wow" factor of all her spit-spotting and job's-a-game that we had as children will likely change into "oh good Lord" when we, as adults with a goodly portion of living behind us, see her neat-freaky rigidity and prissiness for what it really is; except, notably, for when she's in a colorful cartoon world populated by dancing penguins and eerily evocatively-similar-to-their-rider merry-go-round horses, at which time she does lift a skirt and flirt with Bert in a coquettish fling of technicolor. Where's the spit-spot THEN, Mary, hmmm?

What kind of example is THAT for our children? Is real life not enough for this woman? Is real life meant for tuppences to be wrested out of unwilling hands and placed in the creaky died-up bones of a good-old-boys financial institution, and only in your imagination (and, it should be noted, with the help of some colorful powdered substances) can you feed the birds (ostensibly only the flightless Artic sort that also speak and know how to tap dance) like you truly want to?

I submit that it is not, but only on revisiting this classic child's movie as grown-ups can we delve deeper into the true meaning of Mary P, her garish world of entertainment, and her jiggy chimneysweep back-up dancers. How odd that she should only be able to get her groove on with a bunch of dirty athletic boys, no? Think on it, and be amazed at what the metaphor implies......

Leaving M. Po alone for now, what really started this jag of revisionistic cogitation was a quote of poetry that accompanied the "word a day" e-mail that was waiting for me in my inbox this fine July morning (and it IS fine too, BTW. This is one day that I'm glad my office does not have a window. Sitting here in my little cave I can imagine that it's horible outside and that it's better that I'm here at work, doing, uh, work (after posting! I promise!)).

Here are the few lines of poetry that got me to thinking on what makes a classic:

If I can stop one Heart from breaking / I shall not live in vain / If I can ease one Life the Aching / Or cool one Pain / Or help one fainting Robin / Unto his Nest again / I shall not live in Vain.

Oh-Kay! How nice! It's lovely that by helping ONE fainting Robin (capilatized, no doubt, to underscore the importance of the beleaguered creature in question) one's life shall not be lived in vain.

But really....fainting Robin? FAINTING? How do you know? Does it throw one weak little wing over its tiny gray head and wearily chirp "I've got a case of the vapors"? Does it stagger for a moment, do you see its shiny eyes turn glassy before they roll, are you able to detect pinpoint-sized beads of sweat on it's feathered brow before it keels over?

Fainting Robin indeed. What a noble aim. And just ONE! Help one fainiting robin and one's life will not be in vain. Gads, this sound like the kind of thing I would have scribbled down in a lined notebook in bright pink ink when I was an overwrought 13-year-old girl in the throes of yet another boy crush or metaphysical argument with myself over the nature of God and Life.

Also, apparently it's just BOY Robins (must remember the capitaliization) that are to be helped if one's life is not to be in vain. What utter nonsense. What about the fainting GIRL Robins? Don't THEY need help (or, is the reason they DON'T that they're smart enough to KNOW where the nest is because they have directions)?

In addition, the aching and breaking of lives and hearts in the first few lines is an obvious reach for rhyme, and when coupled with the impertinence of making the cessation of such activities the hallmark by which one achieves significance for one's own life serve only to illustrate to me the self-centeredness of the author's small existence. Where are the sweeping gestures? Where are the big dreams? Where are the grand hopes? Why is ONE thing sufficient?

And why does the rhyming rhythym completely fall apart at the end? That last line just comes at the reader like a lead brick, thumping down the tail end of a yet another gust of self-importance.

My question then is this: Why is this classic? WHY? Who the heck WROTE this piece of drivel? They must have been pretty daggone famous to have a hackeneyed mess of words like this be considered classic literature. It's the dangerous trap that fame brings, in that once fame is achieved, the remainder of the output of the person who has achieved it is automatically considered to be as worthwhile and well-crafted as that which brought them fame to begin with.

My feeling is that fame is not a single hurdle to be surmounted, with the remainder of life's race laid out in a wide plain of easy going (much like riding a cartoon carousel horse across the verdant Englsih countryside). Rather, I would suggest that comtinued high-quality output should be neccesary to continually reach higher. Coasting along on early success should be disallowed, like doping in the Tour de France, like brass knuckles in a boxing match, like taking the rubber tip off an epee during a fencing match.

Obviously I KNOW who wrote the offending bit of "classic" literature above. Do you? If you know who wrote it, comment thusly. Googling is allowed.

Once you know the answer, feel free to construct a poem of 5 lines or less that speaks to the miracle of life and its value to you as a person. Put it in the comments, where we will all congratulate you on your sheer insightfulness and tremendous talent for wordsmithery. I'll just bet that 5 minutes of effort on your part will result in something better than the re-nesting of staggering Robins.


Speaking of wordsmithery, if you haven't checked lately, the July Wordsmiths challenge is ready for you to write. You get 500 words to play with, which should be plenty of room in which you can stun the interwebs with your extraordinary creativity.

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