June 24, 2014

Saturday night at 11, I was torqued into my broken recliner and sound asleep. I had been changing channels because “Saturday Night Live” was a rerun with Seth Rogen as the host, and Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, who made some wickedly funny coming-of-age movies, are no longer coming of age and no longer funny.

I woke up to loud meowing. I came to, thinking something was wrong with Scout the Cat. I was right. She was watching television.

Specifically, she was watching a show called “Cute.” It depicts kittens in different houses, narrated by an annoying, cloying voiceover. Scout was on her hind legs and propped against the TV screen and pawing the kitten images. OMG.

And then some dogs toting cats by the scruff of the neck appeared on the screen and Scout got all shivery, as cute and funny as a younger Seth Rogen, with her torpedo shaped torso elongated and uh, orgasmic.

“Cute,” to put it simply, is porn for cats. It’s pure treacle for humans but I suspect the producers know their audience. There is no underestimating the tastelessness and lack of culture of homo sapiens. (That’s right, we’re all homos. Deal with it.)

I was faced with an ethical dilemma. Ask any cat shelter, what is your duty regarding felines. The answer is, attend to the needs of and play using the $100 worth of toys—only one of which the pet likes—and endure the howling of and feed and clean the litter box of and endure the indifference and breathe in the pounds of shed fur of . . . Felis silvestris catus. In short, the cat.

So, “Cute” was on a commercial break and Scout the Cat was scolding the screen. I wanted to go to bed—I know, selfish. Discreetly, I reached for the remote and the power button. I heard a blood curdling, guttural, postprandial growl. I saw claws extending in a line, like Radio City Music Hall dancers synchronously fanning their legs. The cat . . . knew what a remote was. The cat . . . was warning me: Do . . . not . . . f***k . . . with my show.

“Cute” came back on and my satanic, striped pussy turned to jelly, obscenely humping the screen. The show ended and I reached for the remote . . . and another episode of “Cute” came on. And Scout settled in and I was doomed to myopia and restless leg syndrome. And . . .

Wait. Oh, oh oh oh oh, look at that widdow widdow kitty jumping over its sistows to suck mommy’s teat. Oh der’s dat shy widdow boy cat looking lost and mewling wike a widdow babee. Oh, duh tum-tum kitty splays its back wegs on duh arm of duh sofa. And and and! Kitty scratches doggy’s nose, him node bweed. And der’s a catty cat riding the vacuum—ha ha ha ha! And Mom! Gathers up the kids and lowers her fuwwy body on dem and duh kitties all seepy. Awwwwwww.

My friend the painter Mary Burke is the master of baby talk to cats. The above is how she talks to her cat Frankie. “Fwankie! Schnukum-schnukum-schnukums!” Mary talks like that in public. Good thing for her she’s an amazingly gifted artist. It’s a fine line between an artists’ studio and a loony bin.

My cat has not seen another cat since she was a wee baby in a cat shelter. How does she process what she sees? Does she have a memory?

Newton Minow, on the 50th anniversary of your celebrated ‘TV is a vast wasteland’ speech, do you like “Cute?”

And why does “Cute” make me think of a meowing, naked Jennifer Lawrence with her legs splayed over my love seat and her heaving, taut tummy all scratchable?

Does Schrodinger’s cat like “Cute?”

We’ll never know.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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