Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Pinocchio: a fine little boy
There are not many films that make me emotional, but I confess that I sobbed like a lovesick clown the first time I saw Pinocchio. That little puppet-boy was so terribly touching in his innocent desire to be a human child. Although he is led astray by unsavoury characters – and finds himself in unspeakably hot water for his sins – he learns from his mistakes to return to the blissful pursuits of a normal little boy.
Well, actually, he may not have been normal in all respects. We live in a cynical age, and on leaving the cinema I heard some ill-mannered children singing alternative lyrics to the most charming song in the film:
I’ve got no dick
To call my own
To play with when I’m all alone
I’m made of wood
So I don’t pee
There is no dick on me
Their observations may have been anatomically correct, but it’s absolutely not the sort of thing one wants to hear after watching a timeless classic of animated film. Had my wits been sharper, I would have pointed out that a boy with a nose like Pinocchio had no need of a dick. To get an erection simply by telling a fib may be inconvenient for a young human male, but it would save him a small fortune in Viagra tablets in his later years.
The one character in the film that is difficult for a gorilla to take seriously is the chirpy little cricket who acts as the boy’s conscience. I’ve seen millions of insects in my time and never once did it occur to me to ask for their advice on any ethical question. Frankly, they are continually scuttling from one place to another and never seem to pause for reflection, let alone apply their minds to the weightier moral issues of the day. Had Pinocchio been an infant gorilla, that cricket would have lasted about ten seconds before finishing up as a light snack, and no amount of warbling about “giving a little whistle” would have saved him.
Delightful though the story of Pinocchio is, it does raise a serious question. Does the fantasy of creating a child through magic suggest that humans have some deep dissatisfaction with the fruit of their own seed? I sense that many human parents expect their children to appreciate them as their benefactors. If so, they expect too much. No infant will ever accept that it is indebted to anyone for the pure fact of its existence, or even for the sustenance it requires in its early years. A mother may describe the trials of her labour in excruciating detail to her child, but the most likely response she will get is a rather bored resentment. The child, after all, did not ask to be born.
So if you want to be liked by your kids, you’re just going to have to work at your relationships as you might with other humans. Offer them impartial advice, tell them good jokes and take them to the circus. That seemed to work pretty well for most of the humans I knew. And if you are lucky enough to get a magical little boy like Pinocchio, don’t show him any less consideration just because he’s grateful you’ve removed his strings. People who trifle with the feelings of such a pure-hearted cherub are liable to wind up with a big hairy gorilla sitting on their faces.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Crocodile Dundee: great human
Mr Dundee’s path to fame and fortune begins when an attractive American journalist accompanies him on a field trip in the Australian wilderness. They clearly fancy each other, although the woman is reluctant to yield to her passion out of loyalty to her absent fiancé, an effete New York lawyer. Nevertheless, it would have been easy for Mr Dundee to press his advantage when comforting her in his arms after saving her from a crocodile. He chooses not to, but before falling asleep that night he asks his companion to forgive the (now deceased) crocodile for trying to eat her alive:
“I wouldn’t hold that against him: the same idea occurred to me a couple of times,” says Mr Dundee laconically.
This is the classic behaviour of a dominant male. He tells the female he wants her body, while demonstrating that he’s in no particular hurry – and if she proves to be unwilling he won’t take it personally. A true alpha male has no fear of rejection: he just shrugs his shoulders and looks for a female who’s more amenable. Mr Dundee does end up mating with the journalist, of course, but not until he has visited her home territory in Manhattan.
When Mr Dundee arrives in the great metropolis, his hosts worry that a rugged bushman such as he might find it difficult to cope in the urban jungle. These fears prove to be unfounded, largely because our hero applies himself to his unfamiliar surroundings with confidence, commonsense and considerable vigour. He tolerates no bad language, apprehends petty criminals with well-aimed soup cans, and develops an easy rapport with the “blackfellas”. When a street hoodlum attempts to threaten him, Mr Dundee looks at his flick-knife in wry amusement:
“That’s not a knife!” he scoffs, while removing a fearsome machete from his belt.
It has to be admitted that such a scene, if enacted in certain parts of England, would be highly vulnerable to satire of the “Ooh what a big knife you’ve got!” variety. In New York City, however, it makes the telling point that Mr Dundee remains the master of his environment.
Dazzled by these exploits, the journalist jilts her fiancé and weds the Australian bushman. As she is the daughter of a wealthy man, Mr Dundee acquires both an attractive spouse and lifelong financial security. But much to his credit, he does not gloat over his good fortune or punch his fist in the vulgar fashion of the celebrating sportsman. To meet the inevitable triumphs and calamities of life with a dignified restraint is the hallmark of a true gentleman. That, and the wearing of a hat.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Ronald McDonald: fallen clown
All the same, I must admit having a soft spot for the McDonalds hamburger chain. This has nothing to do with their product, which is pure hog-swill as far as I’m concerned. No, it’s entirely because of those famous TV commercials starring Ronald McDonald in a clown’s costume, making an ass of himself with a flock of frolicking infants. Call me a sentimental old ape, but this takes me back to my circus days, when making the kiddies laugh was very much a way of life – not to say an economic necessity – for me and my workmates.
So it came as a huge shock when I heard, a few years back, that Ronald McDonald was suing a man and a woman for libel. Apparently, this pair of troublemakers had been handing out leaflets alleging that Ronald’s restaurants were serving the diners a concoction of deadly toxins that had been cunningly disguised as food. On the veracity of these accusations, I have no knowledge and offer no opinion. What I can’t understand is why Ronald would do a sissy, cry-baby thing like taking those guttersnipes to court.
It’s amazing the number of humans who don’t understand the elementary concept of retribution. The principle is set out very clearly in your holy books. If people circulate malicious pamphlets about you, your response should be to circulate equally malicious pamphlets about them. There was plenty of mud that Ronald could have thrown at that incongruous pair of upstarts. He might have made the point that they were uncommonly ugly and very slovenly in their dress. And why had a man and woman who spent so much time together not mated and produced offspring? It seemed very suspicious to me. Did the man have erectile dysfunction? Did the woman suffer from vaginismus? The facts are unclear, but there would have been no harm in drawing attention to these possibilities in a crisply worded prospectus. Once a million of these had been circulated and read, I’m sure that everyone would have forgotten about the scurrilous charge of poisoning the customers.
But Ronald chose to put his faith in a High Court judge, perhaps believing that a man wearing a wig would instinctively sympathize with someone in a clown’s costume. How mistaken he was! The last person on Earth to whom a British judge would show partiality is another bewigged entertainer who might steal his limelight and upstage him in front of the jury. The judge pored over documents; he pretended to listen to arguments; he hummed; he hawed. And finally, many years later, he issued an inconclusive judgement that allowed the unkempt pair of vagabonds to claim the most famous, against-the-odds victory since David felled Goliath with a projectile to the noggin.
Ronald MacDonald’s fast food business has limped on to the present day, with a modified menu to counter the unproven allegations made in court. But the zany man in the clown’s costume has never been the same enchanting spectacle for the earnest little burger-munchers of today. What a sad tale of lost innocence!
Monday, February 06, 2006
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
I see termites hatch
I watch them grow
They’ll taste much better
Than they’ll ever know
And I think to myself: what a wonderful world!
Yessir, I’m a pretty cool gorilla who’s totally at one with creation. My mental state is a-okay without any of your LSD or magic toadstools – and if it ain’t broken, I don’t fix it.
I won’t deny that we gorillas use natural remedies to cure our ailments, though. There’s a fungus that grows on the bark of the Uapaca tree which is excellent for getting the bowels moving if you’ve been eating too many yams. It also produces the most pleasing side-effects. I once took some after feeling a bit constipated, and I remember floating upwards until I had a birds-eye view of the neighbourhood. It gave me a terrific vantage point to see what the cheeky monkeys were doing, although their fur was an unusual colour that day. I also saw a purple elephant having sex with a rhino, which is the kind of rare jungle event that would make a human zoologist cream his jeans. It’s a pity I didn’t have a camcorder on me. But I’ve said enough to demonstrate the wholesome nature of our jungle medicines. Your so-called “acid trips” mean nothing to an ape who enjoys such simple pleasures.
The guru of the psychedelic movement was an eccentric human called Dr Timothy Leary. It seems he was a well-respected professor until he ate some stuff that made him realise he was living the life of a soulless robot. Whereupon he embarked on a mission to persuade the human race to blow its collective mind with regular doses of LSD, in order to bring forth a new age of hedonism, space travel and loud shirts. “Turn on, tune in, drop out” was his famous slogan, heard by millions of impressionable college students. Most of them seemed to react by turning up, getting laid and passing out.
But I give Dr Leary credit for the manner of his death. After contracting a terminal illness, he rashly made a will leaving his head to a cabal of mad scientists, who wanted to freeze it and bring it back to life in the future. But as Dr Leary neared death, he realised that being resuscitated as a talking head by those white-coated fiends would be a fate worse than oblivion. So he amended his will to specify that his body should be cremated and that any scientist approaching it with a hacksaw should be tarred, feathered and run out of town by the local posse. As an ironic final gesture, he spent his last days on Earth with his head resting next to the bosom of a buxom nurse, which was a far better place for it than the deep freeze.