Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Life, Liberty, Property and Sharpie Parties

When it comes to property destruction, it comes in all shapes and sizes. These two stories are on opposite ends of the spectrum. However, the humor that can be seen in both is all in the eye of the beholder.

The first story is about a man who is infamous in is own neighborhood for the defacement of his own property.  Rian White is known to his neighbors because he has long battled the town over property maintenance issues. Now he is back in court over his attempt to get revenge in the name of artful expression.

If White's cottage in Maidstone Park  (New York) looks like someone threw a bucket of paint at it, that's because a lot of people did. At White's invitation, via a hand-painted plywood sign out front of his house, passers-by obliged Mr. White. The sign reads: "Help paint a starving artists [sic] home. Throw a pint."

Neighbors are furious over the effect that Mr. White's antics have had on their own property values. This is not his first brush with the law. The court will have to decide whether Mr. White's freedom of expression prevails over the neighbor's right to quiet enjoyment of their own property.

Where have we heard this story before?

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the story of people who damage someone else's property. Although there is as yet no indication that the vandals intend to hide behind a claim of freedom of expression, I would not be surprised if it came to that. Instead, these types of low-life simply ignore the justice system, which in this case could impose civil as well as criminal penalties, and then leave town to avoid paying for their misdeeds.

First, it is ridiculous to call these people "victims." They were tenants, and their landlord lost the title to the house they were renting. So the new owner has the right to not renew their leases. So what did the hoodlums-in-residence do?
The tenants invited their friends and passed out Sharpies to write on the walls, and the party only devolved from there, according to a report by a local CBS affiliate. By the time the realtor came by to check out the home, the home had been completely trashed: there were holes in the walls, X-rated drawings and the carpets were soaked in urine and vomit.


This story reminds me of an old movie that always makes me cringe at how unjust the law can be when it comes to landlords and tenants' rights. Pacific Heights stars Melanie Griffith and Michael “Batman” Keaton, and it is sure to get your dander up if you watch it.
Griffith and Matthew Modine play a young couple who buy an old home in Pacific Heights in San Francisco. Intending to live upstairs and rent the two downstairs apartments, the couple find an Oriental couple to live in one apartment. Keaton appears as a would-be tenant for the other apartment, but while they are checking out his references, he weasels his way into the apartment and establishes himself as their unwanted "tenant." Liberal landlord-tenant laws that favor the tenant keep the couple from being able to evict Keaton. He proceeds to wreak havoc on their lives and their relationship. In the end, only one of the parties can survive.
If ever there was a case for justifiable homicide, I think this movie lays out the blueprint!

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