THe Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: A Word About “The N Word”

January 11, 2011

Thank God civility is returning to literature! Thanks to some faceless editor at New South Books and alleged Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben new sanitized versions of “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” will be published! The “word so offensive that it can’t even be printed here” has been removed! All is safe! Dr. Gribben is afraid that the language in the book has stopped people from reading Twain. I am sure this brilliant move will encourage students everywhere to put down the video game controller and pick up a book! It will also save overworked teachers from actually having to teach the context of the use of the word. In order to do that they might have to do some research and, heaven forbid, read the books themselves! What teacher has time for that when there are condoms to be distributed and prayer circles to be broken up?

Of course elitists who have jumped up to abhor this censorship! Movie reviewer and social gadfly Roger Ebert made the mistake of using “the word that shall not be spoken or written” in a tweet opposing the new edition. He thought because of his lifetime of liberalism and marriage to an African-American woman he was on the “white guys allowed to use the word which shall not be spoken or written,” list but alas he was not and was roundly “critweeted.”  (This is a new word I have invented to describe the criticism of a tweet by tweeting.)

Now that the looming “Huck Finn” controversy is finally behind us we can get to the business of creating jobs! Think of all of the unemployed and underemployed English majors we can busy doing the task of politically “correcting” the rest of the great and not so great works of literature. We could hire half a Bryn Mawr class just to edit the works of Toni Morrison!

Just by editing “the word which may not be spoken or written” out of  “To Kill a Mockingbird,” The Heart of Darkness,” “Go Tell it On The Mountain,” “Lord of the Flies,” and a thousand other works of literature we could drop the unemployment rate a point or two. Then we could start on other ethnic insults which are more subtle. I see full employment on the horizon!

The real problem is when we get to books like Dick Gregory’s autobiography.  Its title is “The word that shall not be spoken or written: An Autobiography.” Maybe we should ask him? He has said that “the word that shall not be spoken or written,” should not be censored nor should euphemisms be used. He finds it intellectually dishonest. The same sentiment has been expressed by Professor Randall Kennedy, a Harvard Law School instructor and writer of books and essays on the use of “the word which may not be spoken or written.”  Ahhh, what do they know?  Vive la censorship! Vive la revisionism!


The Vast Right Wing Conspriacy: Top Gear USA

January 2, 2011

 

There is a long history of cultural exchange between British and American television. Sometime the American results are better than the British versions like Sanford and Son. Some are wildly successful without making major changes like American Idol. Some are carefully adapted taking into account the cultural differences of two countries separated, as Winston Churchill said, by a common language, like Law and Order: UK. Others are humiliating failures because the producers didn’t have a clue what made the original great. All three American versions of “Fawlty Towers” would fall into this category.

Unfortunately for the Americanized version of the long running BBC hit “Top Gear” it is trending into the third category. The show is lacking three elements; originality, chemistry among the hosts, and humor. That’s a shame because it has a lot going for it. The best asset of the show, after the cars, is comedian Adam Ferrara. I will readily admit that I have a bias towards my fellow comics doing well but the problem is that the producers of the show seem to lack the humor gene. In the six episodes I have seen thus far they haven’t let Adam loose. The closest they came was when he got a ticket for speeding on the causeway to Key West.  After watching the rest of the episode I wasn’t sure if this was an actual event or staged for the camera.

More on that in just a few minutes. Let me back up and admit I am a huge fan of the British version or the show. The three “presenters” as they are called in the U.K. seem to have a real friendship and mutual respect for each other even though they constantly “slag” on each other. I realize that relationship has been built over the years but even when I go back and look at older seasons of Top Gear on DVD that chemistry seems to exist. The two other hosts of the American show, Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood  seem to be a little out of their element as hosts, despite the fact that Mr. Wood has experience as a reporter for NASCAR and Speed Network.  I don’t want to be too negative about Mr. Wood. He has a “good old boy” hominess that I think could work to his and the shows advantage but it seems that the producers haven’t figured that out just yet.  Secondly the British version is anchored by Jeremy Clarkson; though one of the three hosts he obviously the boss and the center of the show.  I believe having a “boss” on screen would help give the American show some definition and Mr. Ferrara would seem to be the natural choice.

The problems of Top Gear USA are greater that the hosting duties. Thus far every “challenge” given to the hosts is a direct rip off from the BBC version. Car vs. skiers, seen it! Boat, car and plane race to a destination, been there. Many of the shots seem way too staged to have been just captured by the roving camera. It the episode where the guys race from Miami to Key West there is a beautiful shot of all three modes of transportation in the same frame as they race South. What are the odds?  This is the scene which called Mr. Ferrara’s traffic citation into question. Call me crazy but I think a realty show should be realistic!

They also use the “Star in A Reasonably Priced Car” segment from the original series. This features a celebrity driving an underpowered car around a European style formula one track.  

This feature of the show could have been easily “Americanized” by using a typical “NASCAR” banked loop track, (Perhaps the producers failed to notice how popular NASCAR has become?).They could have also used a drag strip, the most American form of racing.

Despite its faults I am watching Top Gear USA; it is set on my DVR. I am hoping the show matures and finds its stride because like millions of Americans I love cars! When the host gets behind the wheel of a Bugati-Veyron, McLaren, or some other supercar I will never own I can’t help but thinking how cool that would be. When they take a challenge in a “beater” I can identify with that feeling of hoping my car makes the next exit after driving several of the POS I have owned in my life.  I hope the show runs long enough for them to get so far down the list that I might get invited to take the reasonably priced car around the track because I know I could leave Jay Leno in the dust!