Garden-variety kidnapping 

The Kids in the Hall once did a sketch called "The Editors," which showed two such types in their office doing their job of editing copy, and then showed them walking down the street and "editing" the street. They changed things like the colors of the flowers. They saw a couple kissing in a park and said, "Like the guy, hate the girl," and two stagehands promptly replaced the female. Their favorite phrase was "Get RID of it!"

I think about "The Editors" a lot when I'm out and about. What wouldn't I give to be living in that sketch. Next time I was sitting at a traffic light next to one of those deaf drivers who has their crrrrrrrrappy music playing with the bass so loud it makes the hula girl on my dashboard dance like a T. rex is strolling through the lanes, I could turn him into a Weeble driving a Tonka truck. I'd spend entire days turning strip malls into streets. If I heard one more person say, "Whazaaaaaap," I'd strike it, and make them talk like John Cleese for the rest of the day, just to piss them off.

These little acts of domestic beautification are just fantasies for me. I don't have it in me to actually do anything about ugly stuff. The French, on the other hand, have looked at what they see as "the situation" of bad taste and gone radical over it. Hence we have -- or they have -- Mouvement d'Emancipation des Nains de Jardin, which translates as the Movement for the Emancipation of Garden Gnomes (

Statue of limitations

The gnome liberators, according to the Utne Reader, consist of seven wily French folk fed up with what they consider to be schlock. They run around "abducting" the figurines from people's yards, take them to the forest (from whence one would imagine gnomes spring) and repaint them to look like -- God knows what. There are no "after" pictures in the story or on the website. The story also doesn't say whether the little ornaments are ransomed, left to fend for themselves "Blair Witch"-style or returned to their owners. It does say that a German group just had to go the French one better (who'd have guessed?): They take the stolen gnomes on travel excursions to "landmarks around the world, photographing them and sending the photos to the gnomes' former owners." The French group sneers at these shenanigans, considering them "acts of terrorism." All they want is to turn gnome-andy back into Normandy.

Until I read about this, I was one of those people who didn't think much of the French, mainly because they have a reputation for not thinking much of us Americans, and I automatically don't like people who don't like me. Then there's the fact that the only damn movies that have ever made me cry were French ones: I've been resenting them for 10 years for "Camille Claudel." Basically I figured the French were droopy, elitist party poopers, heavy on the attitude, light on the deodorant, probably not a helluva lot of fun.

The French correction

This little foray into thorough goofiness, however, has made me re-evaluate the Norms. They feed their kids wine, which one wishes some parents of mad-eyed screamers at Kmart would do. They made a big stink about not wanting Disney cluttering up their hillsides, which is something plenty of locals here do, but they don't get international attention for it. The French run expensive schools for seduction and are on the forefront of birth control, so they like sex and take responsibility for it, instead of wishing it would just go away, like we've done with so many states dropping birth-control discussions from school curriculums. ("Keep 'em stupid," that's our motto.) And radicalizing a practical joke like gnome-stealing is the icing on the éclair. (Not that I have anything against the gnomes; I just appreciate taking a stupid project way over the top.) So they're not so bad after all.

Actually, this gnome-napping goes nicely with the trend of inanimate objects making the news. Several puppets are currently involved in lawsuits. The dog (or his lawyers) is suing Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (or his creator, Robert Smigel), who appears on Conan O'Brien's show, for "defaming" the former's reputation. Howdy Doody is the object of a custody battle between the family of his puppeteer and a Detroit museum. Hopefully soon puppets will be involved in general elections, murders and celebrity romances, and then maybe the news will be as interesting as TV.

And perhaps the garden-gnome liberators will show up here and start the Society for the Emancipation of Tacky Nylon Flags for Every Holiday, as well as the Army for the Eradication of Stickers Showing Calvin Whizzing. They gave us the Statue of Liberty. We could use their help one more time.

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