Today, I accompanied a friend of mine to a court hearing. He was charged with “maliciously voting” (a form of vote fraud), because he went to the polls using what was once his home address – after the city had used “Imminent Domain” to seize the trailerpark in which he lived, throw out all 200 residents, and bulldoze the whole shebang to make way for a Yuppie-style housing development. He was, you see, technically homeless not a resident and, therefore, not entitled to a say in how things are run. He argued that the law allows him to vote at his former address if he intends to return to that address, which he does. However, the judge knows my friend is deluded, that he will never return because the very street where he lived no longer exists. My friend was found guilty and now has something he never had before, a criminal record.
But that isn’t the real subject of this blog posting. Instead, I want to talk about something I realized today. As we waited in the courthouse hallway and then as we sat in the courtroom I noticed this, specifically: All the court officials and myself were, what for lack of a better term I would call “dressed-up” in business-like clothes (ties, suit jackets, solid-soled shoes), while all the people being processed by the court wore clothes that made them look like urchins in an old ” Little Rascals” comedy.
I takes me back about ten years, to when I worked as airport limousine-driver for the city’s largest hotel. The head of the hotel’s valet department (which encompassed my job, the bellhops, and the parking valets) was an older black gentleman named Dwight, who was always immaculately dressed in the finest suits. He was constantly infuriated by the propensity of the younger employees to dress as what he referred to as “ragamuffins.” Time and again he tried to explain how droopy pants, backward hats, oversize shirts, and all other accoutrement of modern youth fashion served to undermine the wearer’s career. “Nobody’s gonna respect you when you look like that!” he’d try to tell them.
Dwight was correct. Wardrobe has a tremendous effect upon how we are perceived by others. Few persons in authority will take seriously the opinions of one who looks like a five-year-old who did a bad job dressing himself. And even more importantly, and I think Dwight knew this on an unconscious level, few persons who dress like said five-year-old would be able to look into a mirror and take himself seriously. In other words, dressing like an adolescent fresh off the sandlot baseball field will likely undermine one’s deep-down self-esteem, self-limit one’s thought processes, and cause one to settle for less in life.
And now to the paranoid part of my discourse: I wonder, is it possible that the powers-that-be in our society, what we would have once called “the establishment,” have purposely sold the lower class youth on these ridiculous fashions in order to further marginalize them? It would be a pretty neat way to keep the poor in their place.
Please note – In this essay, I am speaking of the males looking like urchins. I haven’t addressed the females, who all looked like streetwalkers. Everything I say about the effect of the males’ clothes goes for the females’ clothes, with the addition of causing the females to be “sexually objectified,” which leads to a host of other problems.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m cranky. Myrtle and I sat down to watch a video we rented. It was the wretched 2006 remake of the 1963 “Pink Panther” movie starring comedy genius, Steve Martin. It’s unlikely that an unfunnier film exists in the history of cinema. Although the rental was free (we got it from our local library), I still felt cheated– if only of the one-and-a-half-hours of my life spent watching it.
After the movie, I went to bed. Sleep was difficult in coming. I lay there pondering Hollywood’s propensity to remake classic motion pictures as third-rate “bombs.” We’ve seen so many of them: “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Psycho,” and “The Nutty Professor,” to name just a few.
Eventually, I dropped off into a fitful slumber. And I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat, fresh from a nightmare wherein, like Scrooge visited by the ghosts of Christmas, I saw visions of our entertainment moguls “re-imagining” some of our dearest classic films- mutating them into monstrosities beyond all recognition. I vowed to reform by never again watching obviously bad remakes. And I want to write this down while it’s still fresh in my mind, if only to warn the world before it’s too late:
First, I saw Adam Sandler announce his update of 1967′s “Cool Hand Luke” which starred the irresistibly charming Paul Newman as a southern chain-gang member rebelling against authority. We remember it for Strother Martin’s sadistic warden, who utters the menacing line, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Any possibility of wit or subtlety was abandoned by Sandler, the most witless and unsubtle man ever to grace the big screen, as he surrounded himself with a cast composed of his usual no-talent sycophants performing phony tough-guy strutting punctuated with toilet humor. The southern chain-gang storyline was updated to a modern-day Los Angeles prisoner roadside-litter clean-up program. This allowed the crude action to be accompanied by an ear-splitting hip-hop music soundtrack (available from Sony BMG Music) along with Hispanic-characature jokes. Keven James (of “King of Queens” fame) reached new lows as Luke’s buffoonish sidekick.
Next, the new version of Woody Allen’s sophisticated 1977 romantic comedy, “Annie Hall,“ was butchered by the replacement of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton by flavor-of-the-month celebrity couple (insert their names here). The new romantic duo exhibited no on-screen “chemistry,” no intellectual rapport, and no acting skills beyond the range of a “Scooby Doo” cartoon. And they could not breathe life into a script that had been dumbed-down to the level of an eleven-year-old adolescent. The icing on the cake is that the off-screen romance of (insert their names here) fizzled-out before the movie could even be released.
Then, Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 satirical masterpiece of the Cold War, “Dr. Strangelove” was ruined by magalomaniac Eddie Murphy. Murphy chose to top Peter Seller’s three role tour de force by playing eight characters in the updated movie- three of them women, and all eight in horrendous “fat-suit” makeup. Murphy’s delusions of grandeur caused him to jettison the passe nuclear holocaust theme in favor of a weak story about a global warming cover-up. Hard-edged sarcasm was deemed too challenging for today’s American audience, so toothless ribbing, gross-out humor, and swearing are substituted. Iconic actor James Earl Jones debased himself by taking over George C. Scott’s former role as General Turgidson. Although the world and all human life was destroyed at the end of the story, plans were quickly announced for a sequel starring Steve Martin.
There you have it. Frightening as it was I have no doubt that the Hollywood braintrust plans remakes that are even worse than these. So be prepared and please don’t save me an aisle seat.
Myrtle and I took care of our granddaughter for the last three days while our daughter was out- of- town. She’s at that energetic age (nearly four years old) when she can go non-stop from morning until night.
As part of keeping her entertained, we took her to a nearby free waterpark. We just recently learned of its existence, seeing it from afar while I was video-taping the local July 4th parade for the public access TV station. I felt an immediate magical sort of fascination: in the blazing summer sun, sitting on its concrete pad filling the middle of a grassy picnic area, surrounded by benches, and huge quantities of glistening water spewing every direction- blasting up from holes in the ground, shooting sideways from big colorful pipes, overflowing from small overhead buckets. And happy, screaming people splashing all through it. I didn’t have time for it that day, but I knew (to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur) I must return.
And so I did, with Myrtle and granddaughter in tow. To experience the pure joy brought by hours of dodging between the spraying streams of cold water. Laughing giddily as I chased my granddaughter and she chased me. And the crowd of people around us, everyone participating in the same way but with their own loved ones, detached from the others who were strangers, but all sharing exaltation in being happily together.
I’d come out of the frigid water, once in a while, for a few minute’s warm-up in the sun. I’d stumble to the bench where Myrtle sat reading a book, refusing to get in the spray. During one of those times, I recalled a long-ago visit to the mansion built by the Wright brothers (airplane inventors extraordinaire). In one of the bathrooms was a large shower, designed by Orville Wright, that featured spray jets shooting in something like fourteen directions.
During another warm-up, I looked around me absorbing the positive vibes and I said to Myrtle: “Look how happy these people are! What a wonderful place. What a great thing for families the city has done by building this waterpark- this is what “family values” is all about. How much better-off we’d be if more of our tax money went for these sort of positive things and less for harming people. And maybe if more of our “foreign-aid” went to building complexes like this overseas, people in other countries would love America instead of wanting to blow us up.” Ah well, most of the time it even sounds like a silly, impossible dream to me, too.
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