Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monkey Butler vs. Robot Butler (and Oompa-Loompas)


Humanity is a string stretched across an abyss between monkey and robot.

To the extent humans dream, likely in vain, of taming both the animal nature from which we have evolved and the immortal machine-people we are almost inevitably destined to become, they may entertain fantasies of turning the twin archetypes of monkey and robot into mere servants — butlers.

As it happens, my girlfriend Helen (a traditionalist conservative) strongly prefers (aesthetically) the idea of having a monkey butler, while my libertarian sci-fi comics-creator friend Paul Pope is perhaps best known for depicting a robot butler character, powered by the chemical THB. I can sympathize with both sides, having marveled at a chimpanzee bartender on either That’s Incredible or Those Amazing Animals decades ago and dreamt often of a world where robots relieve us of all physical labor.

Perhaps a debate on this topic between Helen and Paul is in order (it would at least afford an opportunity to advertise a “Rittelmeyer vs. Pope” clash and excite Catholics) — but instead we’ll discuss other divisions on the right at Lolita Bar on Feb. 19, so come see that.


Before that, though, we must celebrate the 200th birthday of Darwin tomorrow, and in the meantime…

…today is the eighty-third birthday of the man who should appear next to the entry for “deadpan” in the dictionary: Leslie Nielsen (reportedly a Republican, by the way). Among the numerous Vaudeville-flavored bits of silliness on the hilarious and short-lived 80s sitcom Police Squad, which spawned the Naked Gun movies, was an introductory shot of Nielsen as Lt. Drebin driving a squad car with a chimpanzee in a cheap suit in the passenger seat, with Drebin’s voiceover informing us that he’d been investigating a murder at the zoo and was now returning to headquarters to question a suspect. That’s comedy (and speaking of deadpan comics in their eighties, kudos to the casting genius who hired notoriously not-dead actor Abe Vigoda, one of my fellow Upper East Side residents, to be the voice of the Grim Reaper in a new H&R Block TV ad — subtle!).

Another random Police Squad moment I loved was Drebin’s shoeshine boy informant telling him that if he goes up against the local mob leader, “you’d better watch out for his goon Luka,” to which Drebin, deadpan as always, asks, “What’s a goonluka?”

Perhaps the moment on the series that makes me laugh most, though, is Drebin unexpectedly drifting into a reverie about his gay lover of long ago (after a crying widow asks him if he knows what it’s like to live with a truly good man), ending with his glum recollection, “They ran him out of town like a common pygmy.” And that brings us to the Oompa-Loompas…


I’m not sure the Oompa-Loompa part of this Drudge-linked article from last week about sorority hazing at Cambridge fits into the article’s overall moral outrage. Do the British think there’s something shocking or wrong about “frolicking with Oompa-Loompas” (or rather, dwarfs dressed as Oompa-Loompas)? I can understand the traditional aversion to sex antics in public, but what do they have against little people per se?

Of course, some politically-correct people will claim they’re concerned for the Oompa-Loompas’ sakes, that they’re being exploited or something. But that’s ridiculous. Being “exploited” in this way is sometimes your best ticket to the party. If you’re seven feet tall, you make a good Chewbacca. If you’re four feet tall, you make a good Oompa-Loompa. The world would be a far better, more rational place if we were all comfortable admitting that.

Some, I suppose, will lament working conditions for the Oompa-Loompas and so forth — though if they seem happy enough to sing on the job, how bad a life could it be? The Oompa-Loompas just need a prosperous economy, not politically-correct, Marxist nonsense and identity politics. If I were a dwarf, though, I’d dress like I was from Middle Earth and make people listen to my theories on mysticism and dragons. Instant spiritual-leader cred, and women at Renaissance fairs would probably have sex with me.

But to get back to the primatology stuff for a moment: I hear they’re remaking Conquest of the Planet of the Apes as a stand-alone movie — about the first hyper-intelligent ape-slave in the near future to say “No!” to his human overlords and start a rebellion. There’s your revolution if you’re looking to liberate cinematic slaves.


Todd Seavey said...

Speaking of mythical little people, the last thing I need (being nerdy enough already) is to turn into a Renaissance faire guy — and I agreed with my friend Dave Whitney who once said he turned to punk after abandoning prog rock because “eight-minute-long songs about gnomes are just wrong” — yet a seven and a half minute song about elves (literally) may be one of my favorite things from the songs Helen put on my iPod (“Tam LinĂ¢€ by influential folk rockers Fairport Convention, more Led Zep than hippie-protest, albeit via the Middle Ages):

Sean Dougherty said...

You’re friends with Paul Pope? That’s cool.

Meredith said...

And just when I thought I had completely conquered the Ape ouevre.