Wednesday, August 09, 2006

postal scrotum: Hitler/dog redux

Nathan writes:

Hi, Kevin,

I saw your latest post. I think that, in philosophy, Hitler is often used because he represents something extreme. However, in the land of "Hitler bars," I think he likely doesn't carry the same connotation here. I wonder what would happen if you substituted for him the name of a notorious Japanese occupying soldier or officer?



I was thinking much the same thing, and after reading your email, I came close to asking my students about that today. I might actually ask them tomorrow.

I suppose one could also substitute "Hitler" or "Hirohito" with "the man who just killed your entire family."

Charles writes:


Just read "Hitler... or a dog?" and I couldn't resist writing...

What if it was a choice between a dog and a cat--but the cat looked like Hitler?!


And for what it's worth, I would save the dog (in the original scenario, not the dog and cat scenario--although come to think of it I'd save the dog in the dog and cat scenario too). I suppose this makes me evil, since according to my world view Hitler will rot in hell for all eternity whereas the dog doesn't have a soul. I know I should feel compassion, but somehow I just can't muster it. Not for Hitler. This is a moral failing I suppose I will have to live with.


My emailed reply to Charles (edited for privacy, brevity, and clarity; some typos corrected):


Yeah, I recently blogged about the Hitler cats. Someone sent me a link.

[NB: Actually, the link came off Jelly's site. Follow the above link and you'll see.]

In the cat/dog scenario you mentioned, I'd probably choose the dog, too, but I'm no longer the cat-hater I used to be. Damn, I used to hate cats. Prissy, arrogant, cowardly little shits. But a lot of that changed when our family acquired Mozart, our current cat. The previous two cats were duds: Patches, the first cat, was given to us after his family (some Vietnamese friends of Mom) could no longer keep him-- at a guess, because the cat was an asshole. Patches hated us as much as he hated his previous owners, and he ran away. Good fucking riddance. Then we had Whiskers, who was adorable, but we all think he was mildly retarded, and yes, I did find that funny.

Mozart, however, is a true "people cat." Far from stupid, gifted with his own weird sense of humor and feline dignity, Mozart started out thinking he was the king of the hill. He went around the neighborhood and got his ass repeatedly kicked by all the other cats, which eventually taught him some humility (he lost an eye in the process, too).

And he loves hanging with (and being handled by) people. My brother Sean can grab Mozart's feet, swing him over his head and then plop the animal on his shoulders, like an Irish scarf or a feather boa. Mozart loves this for some reason (or used to-- he's pretty old now, and Sean's been in Toronto a while): his response to such abuse is loud purring and a slow-blinking, contented expression.

The cat's also an awesome hunter-- something I began to appreciate about cats in general, because hunting is related to how they show affection to their owners. I loved the sight of mangled bird and rabbit carcasses on our back porch: it meant Mozart thought he was providing for the family. One rabbit in particular was hilariously slaughtered: I went out on the porch and nearly stepped on what appeared to be a rabbit skin: upon closer inspection, I saw that the carcass was lying on its back. Above the line of the ribcage, everything was intact-- fur in place, ears unmolested, face unchewed. The hollowed-out abdominal skin and forlorn-looking hind legs were also there... but where were the guts? Gone. Not a centimeter of intestine, not a scrap of stomach or bladder. The subcostal body was completely empty. I went around the house loudly telling everyone that the cat had eaten the rabbit's ass from the inside.

Dad spoils the cat rotten. Even though many cats are lactose intolerant, they all love milk, and Mozart is no exception. Dad pours a wee bit of milk into a flat-bottomed bowl, warms the milk for 10 seconds in the microwave, and then places it on the floor for the cat. Sometimes Mozart waits for Dad to bring the bowl right to his (Mozart's) mouth: the cat has Dad very well trained. When I'm home, I usually sneak the cat a can of tuna from the cupboard, much to Mom's consternation. Like many Koreans, Mom's never been a fan of cats (one day, someone will have to explain to me why this cat-hating country has so MANY cats), but she likes Mozart well enough. I guess we've been well trained by the cat, too.

Mozart's greatest love, though, is used Q-tips. He gets off on the human earwax and will chew those things to oblivion. Don't bother mentioning this to [your wife]: if she's anything like my mom, she'll be so revolted by the notion of a cat chewing human earwax that she'll lock herself in a room. Mom hates it when Dad and I throw the cat our Q-tips, but the cat doesn't care-- he's in heaven.

Dad thinks Mozart is about 18 years old now. It's true we've had the cat a long time, but I can't verify his age. Back when our dog Velcro was alive, the cat had a bizarre prison-bitch relationship with him. Velcro was an outdoor dog-- a smallish terrier/spaniel mongrel. He would spend his days outside, but we'd chain him up in our laundry room at night, otherwise he'd bark at the entire neighborhood.

Velcro would wait until Mozart got close, then he'd jump on the cat and vigorously ass-rape him. We would accuse the dog of being an interspecies homosexual perv, but Velcro ignored us and kept right on raping the cat. Mozart would get irritated, meow, and eventually extricate himself, but this scenario recurred with such disturbing frequency that we began to suspect that the cat liked the attention. The dog was chained, after all, and the cat wasn't. What brought the cat so reliably into the dog's orbit? I can only guess it was the hot luvin'.

Not long after the dog died, we'd utter Velcro's name and Mozart's ears would perk up. The dog is (perhaps illegally) buried in our backyard; he's been in the ground since-- what-- 1998 or so. I imagine there's nothing but bones at this point: he's given up his carbon and nitrogen for the good of all the surrounding life forms. My inner biologist wants to dig the dog up and examine his bones, but my inner religious studies major replies, "Let the poor little beast rest."

Mozart's greatest achievement was also a failure, in part thanks to me. One fine day, I looked down an exterior stairwell that led to a below-ground entrance to our basement, and there was the cat, holding something huge and brown. The brown thing was easily as big as the cat, if not bigger, and I was sure he'd tackled some sort of fur pillow. I said "Hey!" and the cat looked up at me, startled. His grip must have loosened, because the brown thing began to struggle ferociously, then shot up the concrete stairs, right at me.

I admit I freaked. The thing was going so damn fast I that had no clue what it was at first. I shouted, "Whoa!" and backed away, but the thing zipped right past me, and in the super-clarity that comes of finding oneself in one of those predator/prey moments, I saw that the monster was a gigantic, dark brown rabbit. Powerful fucker, too, given its speed. Mozart had trapped that thing despite being middle-aged and having only one eye. Hats off to a badass kitty. I apologized to the cat, but I doubt he's forgiven me. That rabbit could have been Mozart's greatest kill. Had it not been for my mistake, the stairwell could have become a delightfully bloody abattoir.

re: Hitler

I suffer from the same moral failing as you: Hitler is far lower than a dog, and if there's a hell, I hope his balls are being shredded by cat claws dipped in Hell's version of Tabasco sauce.


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