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Chapter 7
Alternate Arts and Culture

Cruel and Unusual – The Musical

by SASKATCHEWAN KOLONOSCOGRAD, Alternate Reality News Service Existentialism Writer

Imagine yourself walking down a dark alley late at night. A –

“What are you doing in a dark alley late at night?” famed defense attorney Minnie Marquetta asked.

That’s not important.

“It could be important,” Marquetta insisted. “Please answer the question.”

Okay. You…you live downtown. You’re taking a shortcut from the bus stop to your apartment. Now imagine a big, tough guy with a very sharp knife walks out of the shadows and demands that you hand over all of your money.

“Can you see his face?” Marquetta interrupted.

No. It’s dark and he’s wearing a hoodie. The interesti –

“Are you implying that your assailant is a man of colour?” Marquetta dramatically asked.

Oh, for chrissakes, this is just a hypothetical opening paragraph to set the scene for the reader! Besides, you haven’t even really become part of the story yet! Can I please get on with it?

“Just trying to make sure things are clear,” Marquetta stated reassuringly. “If you don’t want my help, well, it’s your funeral.”

Okay. Dark alley. Late at night. Tough guy. Sharp knife. Demands you hand over your cash and valuables. Before you have an opportunity to give them to him, however, he starts singing “Maria” from the hit Broadway musical West Side Story.

“It doesn’t have to be ‘Maria,’” famed penal theorist and medical sadist Hans-Jerrold Bentham pointed out. “It could be ‘Everybody Ought to Have a Maid’ from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Even ‘Luck Be a Lady’ from Guys and Dolls would do in a pinch.”

Bentham has applied for government funding for a pilot project in which computer chips are implanted into the brains of hardcore criminals. The chips will monitor their behaviour and, if it appears that they are about to commit a criminal act, force them to break out in song.

“It could even be ‘Stranger Than You Dreamt It,’ from The Phantom of the Opera,” Bentham continued. “I’m not an Andrew Lloyd-Webber fan, myself, but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make…for science.”

The proposal is currently being considered by the state of California. However, some Californians are opposed to the project. For instance, Jean-Claude Stromboli, famed founder of SoCal Libertarians for Better Public Schools, argued that forcing criminals to sing show tunes interfered with their free will, which constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

“Have you ever heard a hardened gang-banger try to sing ‘Luck Be a Lady’ from Guys and Dolls?” Stromboli asked. “That’s exactly what the framers had in mind when they banned cruel and unusual punishment in the Constitution!”

“Look, it could be ‘Pinball Wizard’ from Tommy or the title song from Mamma Mia,” Bentham countered. “Through experimentation, we can find out what the least cruel songs are. It may turn out that different songs will work for different criminals. Serial killers may be deterred best with ‘Topsy Turvy’ from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, while ‘Springtime for Hitler’ from The Producers may work best against petty thieves.

“It would be a shame not to explore this exciting possibility for law enforcement just because some people are prejudiced against musical theatre.”

“He has a point,” agreed famed Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian. “Some people are prejudiced against musical theatre.”

Stromboli insisted that his opposition to the project did not stem from the fact that he was repeatedly exposed to the soundtrack of Hair from a very young age. He pointed out that chip implant technology was in its early stages, and the risk of accident was very high.

“What if the chip that was supposed to make a pickpocket sing ‘What’s the Buzz’ from Jesus Christ, Superstar instead created in his mind a compulsion to run for mayor?” Stromboli mused. “Well, okay, except for a lack of ambition, voters might not notice a difference from the usual crop of candidates. Still, you see my point.”

Representatives of MedCrimTech Inc. were unavailable for comment. However, the company’s Web site has a page which states, “We have had great success testing the CrimMed 5000. When exhibiting antisocial behaviours, laboratory rats that had the chip implanted in their brains started squeaking what musicologists have tentatively identified as the song ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music.”

“Suck on that, Jean-Claude Stromboli!” the Web page added.

Famed defense attorney Minnie Marquetta was now unavailable for comment.

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