There was a natural sort of progression in my thinking the other day and that, by itself, was a bit unusual. The subject was satire and I began wondering what percentage of us has an appreciation of the art form. There has been all manner of commentary about the use of ridicule, sarcasm and irony to make observations about foolishness with, perhaps, the most cogent uttered by George S. Kaufman. The playwright, no slouch in the utilization of satire, once observed in cautionary fashion that "it's what closes on Saturday night."
Little heed was paid Kaufman by Terry Southern when the brilliant satirist began concentrating on film writing. His subjects: the military (Dr. Strangelove); the funeral business (The Loved One); alienated youth (Easy Rider); and the corrupting effects of money (The Magic Christian) were dark and absurdest. Tom Wolfe insists Southern invented New Journalism.
While Strangelove, written with director Stanley Kubrick and Peter George, is probably the greatest film putdown of war, the original script was a straight political thriller based upon George's Red Alert. It was Southern who turned it into a devastating masterpiece of satire. Peter Sellers, originally cast to play four characters (he performed three), had put Southern in touch with Kubrick by sending him a copy of The Magic Christian, Southern's first novel.
The Magic Christian (Guy Grand, played by Sellers in the film version) is a very uneven black comedy about how some people will do anything for money. The book is much, much better largely because the Britcom places too much emphasis on getting everyone vaguely associated with comedy into it. Such diversities as Rachel Welch, Ringo Starr, Lawrence Harvey, and Roman Polanski are among them. The result is a series of practical jokes played on venal people who, because of the money, resist realization of the obvious: the game is rigged. Go for the book.
The Magic Christian, were he around, would have fun with Bellingham. Right off the bat he would seize upon the disaster awaiting Regal Cinemas as it builds a 16-screen operation immediately west of Barkley Square ignoring completely the hard times confronting Subdued City in addition to the rising costs of a night out; film tickets are now approaching 10 bucks here and then there are those home screens not getting any smaller as they receive streamed product whose one month cost is about that of one Regal ticket. Those nights out often include dinner, popcorn and the noisy kids seated immediately behind who take out their boredom by kicking seats.
The Magic Christian would buy out Regal with his incalculable wealth. Ah, yes, but what to do with the Barkley screening rooms? Aware of the importance of education, The Magic Christian would create something much-needed here: The Subdued City School of Sophisticated Social Skills & Other Stuff. Classrooms, free to all 'hamsters, would be devoted to such subjects as: "The Cell Phone & Other Calamities," "How to Fake Cell Phone Calls for Fun & Profit," "Award-Winning Facebook Comments," "Don't Be An Ordinary Twit," "Perfecting Your Twitter Vocabulary," "Never Litter Your Twitter," "The Affect Those 124 Characters Will Have on Yours," and "JFK Couldn't Spell, Either." In all likelihood, deprived and depraved Bellingham will warm to such additional classes as "I've Grown Accustomed to the Moss," "How Green Is My Valley of Moss," "Moss: A Forgone Confusion," and "Moss is Boss, So Get Used to It."
The Magic Christian, in an early assessment of Bellingham, doubtless would take note of the many eccentric and rude drivers in our fair city and include in the Social School a much-needed classroom devoted to The Control & Execution of the Left-Hand Turn. While relieving drivers of excessive timidity through preparation for challenges at intersections including Sunset & Orleans, Lakeway& Woburn and Harris & Finnegan Way, such education would instill the kind of confidence prompting advancement to big-time left-hand turn locations, Guide Meridian & Bakerview among them.
The left-turn is not the only challenge facing 'hamster drivers as proven by the remarkably low percentage of red-lighted right hand turns granted by earliest arrivals at such corners. Typical major intersection lights provide left hand arrow turn lanes plus two offering drivers a choice; the very reasonable know right hand lanes represent the red light right turn escape from disasters like Guide Meridian. "Such considerations are not comparable to mastering Sanskrit or successfully twisting Rubik's Cube," according to Dr. I.B. Spacey, Bellingham's world-renowned master of all that is technical and then some.
According to Spacey, Subdued City drivers lacking the ability, while facing heavy oncoming traffic, to inch up on green lights "have little in common with right turn blockers other than stupidity. It's one of those left/right brain things." Warming to his subject, the eminent scientist and all-around smart ass opined that left/right turning challenges might be dealt with successfully in a Magic Christian Subdued City School for Sophisticated Social Skills & Other Stuff. Admission would be free with attendees paid bonuses for perfect attendance.
Speaking of making turns, sometimes a restaurant makes a questionable one in terms of a marketing strategy erroneously based upon assumption rather than reality. The Magic Christian would make certain that The Hearthfire at 7 Bellwether Way, gets a makeover so that profit may be maximized. While it is no secret that the best pizza in town is served at The Hearthfire's outstanding 3:30-6:30 p.m. happy hour (Beefeater martinis are $5 and personal pizzas $6), it is becoming more clear with each passing rainstorm that the restaurant's full potential is not being realized.
The Magic Christian to the rescue. Employing munificent minions, he would distribute $100 bills to incoming diners with instructions that all who accept the money can keep the change if they order pizza and only pizza. Beefeater martinis would be legal. Such a public relations gesture, typical of The Magic Christian, would quickly turn The Hearthfire into probably the world's most magnificent pizza parlor compete with glorious views of boats, the setting sun beyond the San Juan Islands and a waterfront never to be completed.
Also of considerable consequnce to the Social School would be instruction in The Art of Throwing the Finger in such a way that the kind of overt gesticulation presently offered by 'hamsters would be reduced in the name of good taste. With so many of foreign extraction moving to the Fourth Corner, perhaps it's time to create a new means of expressing unhappiness. Because digitus impudicus is so universal yet often misunderstood, The Magic Christian would devise a signature movement whose inspiration might very well be Britney Spears, she of the one finger salute that peaked 10 years ago in Mexico. The singer (or whatever it is she is?) has always had difficulty explaining that her birds in flight (often made airborne while in convertibles) were really attempts to touch her nose as the hated paparazzi, largely responsible for her success, fired away.
Inspiration comes in many forms and it's easy to imagine The Magic Christian's Spearsian ruminations producing a new obscene gesture call The Britney. Bellingham and the world need a non-threatening use of body language and the touching of one's nose is almost exclusively associated with Santa Claus who, according to Clement Clarke Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas, always plants a finger on his proboscis before going up the chimney. Such a nose gesture, certainly non-threatening, might produce misinterpretations making Italians and Jews feel ethnically singled out but we'll let The Magic Christian deal with that one.
There is so much obscenity being flung one way or another from so many 'hamster cars these days that we owe it to ourselves to blaze new trails in the lessening of obscene gestures. It was 15 years ago when a U.S. News & World Report cover story revealed that one-third of a focus group admitted using hostile gestures while in the car. That fraction, if applied here, undoubtedly would be increased esponentially today as civic leaders continue to proclaim a long-term vision to become The Santa Barbara of the North.
As with all communications, there is a decided need for improvement. Call it a venom reduction as we adopt The Britney and throw fingers in wise and reasonable fashion. Unfortunately, we always seem to be stroking, rubbing or tapping some form of quick communications often producing severe fumbling when it comes to such multi-tasking in cars. Flashing The Britney will not result in complete understanding, but it will be an improvement. Indeed, there are increasing numbers of people from foreign lands who do not necessarily understand what all this flailing about really means. The Magic Christian Social School will make certain that Britney finger throwing will be done in a chaste fashion easily understood by foreigners eager to become part of the Bellingham experience. Perhaps, there will one day be an Epicene School of the Obscene with limp wrists a qualifying factor. This is an ever-changing world.
Were The Magic Christian to work his wonders on Bellingham, a likely project would honor the famous people most associated with Subdued City and it won't be easy. The inglorious fact is that no one of any consequence, once you get past actress Hilary Swank plus three or four musicians and comedians not recognized beyond Sedro-Woolley, has come from Bellingham.
The really major people, who once called 'hamsterland home, were page one killers with the good sense to dine often at The Waterfront Tavern where the modestly-priced fish and chips remain the best in town. For the unaware, Ted Bundy, Kenneth Bianchi (one of two Hillside Stranglers) and Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammad were all 'hamsters at one time. We weren't always the City of Subdued Excitement.
The Magic Christian, aware that Christ the King Church, blessed with a very large congregation yet functioning in something physically less than The National Cathedral or Notre Dame, needs new digs. With wealth beyond that of Mark Zuckerberg, The Magic Christian could build a cathedral of such magnificence that Bill Maher might feel compelled to speak kindly of it in the New Rules segment of his HBO show. Further, the church's tag line, written by The Magic Christian and running along the lines of: "It's Sunday, So Let's Hear It for Ted Bundy," is likely to attract attention. That line may offend the deeply religious and require a little re-working.
Cross-dressing in a blue collar town is rarely popular. However, The Magic Christian, ever wily and aware that 'hamster shortcomings go beyond the challenges of left and right-hand traffic turns, might use baseball as a means of bringing a social phenomena to the Fourth Corner. By purchasing the Bellingham Bells from the current owner for probably no more than $675 and $500 worth of Monday shopping at a Bellis Fair store of choice, The Magic Christian could change the name of the team to Bellingham Belles and introduce a box office enhancing cross-dressing threat to the social norm. Don't miss Sensational Strumpets of the Sometimes Sterling Silver Screen Night when it plays at the ballpark near you.
As public services, The Magic Christian might very well install enormous umbrellas for each of Bellingham's 25 rain-besotted neighborhoods, take all the noise out of Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, and rid our community of tattoos. Just as the Supreme Court has made it possible to buy elections in the name of freedom of speech, so it would be with The Magic Christian who would pay large amounts of money to rid ourselves of epidermis graffiti in the name of freedom of sight.
Even larger sums of money could be utilized to eliminate nose rings and piercing paraphernalia in more specific locations of Subdued City disfigurement. Way to go, Magic Christian.
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