Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's in Amherst

The student papers had their predictable fun today.

At Hampshire College, the Climax rather heavy-handedly poked fun at President Ralph Hexter as a presumed megalomaniac (or something). Not sure what was funny or clever there (or even what the point was), though there was something vaguely amusing in the Photoshopping of the President's face into a picture of Che Guevara. (the current issue is not online, so I can't link to it yet)

The UMass Collegian was funnier in its premise and broader in its reach, delving into town politics as a whole before succumbing to the weak parodying of some unidentifiable hick dialect not known to this region (or any other; northeastern condescension remains alive)
Town of Amherst Select Board votes 5-0 to approve new “goddamn kids” bylaw

By: Collegian News Staff | April 01, 2010 |

The Amherst Select Board voted unanimously, 5-0, on Wednesday night to approve the “Get Off My Damn Lawn, You Little Punks” bylaw, or as it is informally known, the “goddamn kids” statute.

Hundreds of concerned Amherst citizens showed up to have their voices heard, with a line of individuals riding electric scooters stretching around the block as they waited to enter Town Hall.

“Every day, I wake up, go outside, and what do I see? A buncha damn hoodlums makin’ more mischief out on the sidewalks,” said 92-year-old Amherst resident Myles Hutchinsgoode. “I’ve been living on this block for longer then these little pukes have been alive, and yet every weekend, just when I’m trying to sit comfortably in my living room and watch a color television program after Gertrude gets done making a TV dinner, right next door they are always blasting that damned hippity hop music and making a gosh darn racket.”

“My bowels get quite irritable, with all the hootin’ and the hollerin,’” continued Hutchinsgoode.

Select Board Chair Stephanie O’Keeffe noted that the bylaw will allow the town to “finally get control over dem hooligans runnin’ around our town.”

“There needs to be law and order in our here community, which is quickly descending into pure anarchy,” said O’Keeffe. “Now our police will have the tools they need to do what they do best: Whuppin’ ass.”

The bylaw includes new enforcement tools for the Amherst Police Department, such as the ability to spank rowdy students with a belt, or force them to shovel manure for hours at a time when they are caught slacking off in public.

“Kids nowadays think they know everything, which is exactly why we need this law,” said 107-year-old lifelong Amherst resident Cynthia Rockefeller, who was wheeled-in to Town Hall by her 85-year-old daughter, Claudia Rockefeller Hastings. “They ain’t never gonna learn nothin’ through their thick skulls unless we beat it into them. The only way – that’s whut my daddy always told me.” (read the rest; yes, it goes on)
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On balance, Wikipedia's piece on the history of wife-selling in England (posted already last night) was one of the better contributions to the genre, because, rather than presenting mere satire, it actually fooled some people. Whether it will one day be ranked among the great April Fool's hoax stories is, of course, a judgment that only posterity can make.

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My personal selection for best local satire this year goes, however, to Larry Kelley's blog (when he's good, he's good; when not, well . . . ).

The first story poked fun at one of his favorite targets, the Select Board, which I have just joined:
The Amherst Redevelopment Authority will take historical Town Hall in downtown center by Eminent Domain and sell it to private local developer Barry Roberts.

One of the main goals of the ARA is to stimulate the economy and reduce blight. Since not much happens at Town Hall this action falls well within the ARA purview. Although the Amherst Select Board, who meet weekly in Town Hall, also possesses the power of Eminent Domain and is chaired by Stephanie O'Keeffe, daughter of ARA Chair John Coull.

Next Thanksgiving should be interesting in that household...
(Note: Larry is a member of the ARA.)

The premise is actually not as far-fetched as it might sound. Well, actually, it is, so what I should have said is: this being Amherst, the far-fetched almost inevitably finds someone to propose it sooner or later. In this case: sooner.

Back in 2007, the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) was debating the use (1, 2) of its funds for the restoration of the masonry on our historic Town Hall. Political activist Vladimir Morales, who, although a member of CPAC, somehow never understood the legal obligation to spend a portion of the funds on historic preservation, denounced the entire project as elitist and wasteful. Explaining that he was more familiar with locales in which the town hall was a sort of quonset hut on the edge of town rather than a grand building in the center, he proposed selling the Richardsonian Romanesque structure in order to raise money for human services (the rather laconic minutes do not capture the surreal quality of this intervention).

Back to Larry's blog. He posted a number of spoof topics, but the best was this one. It's funny and it could legitimately bear the testimonial: no human beings or human feelings were hurt in this blog posting. Poking fun at both the distinctive local pronunciation of the Town's name and our reputation for contentiousness, he ran a picture of one of the generic hospital signs (similar to this one, though his seems to have come from a semi-tropical setting):

with this caption:
After 250 years of proudly silencing the h in Amherst--thus exposing carpetbaggers, rookies and ne'er do wells only migrating here for the money or cute co-eds, town officials unanimously approved a by-law requiring the maligned letter of the alphabet be given full rights and respect when it comes to pronouncing the People's Republic of Amherst.

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