Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Legend of Lightning Rodriguez, the Speedy Gonzales of Tiny Toons

The gist: Your Tiny Toons experience was incomplete.

a rainbow of toon diversity... notably minus the color brown

Now that I’m an adult, I can look back on Tiny Toon Adventures and scratch my head at the fact that anyone ever decided Looney Tunes wasn’t kid-friendly enough and therefore needed to be reconfigured into a “new generation.” But that’s what Warner Bros. did, and damned if eight-year-old me didn’t eat up that Acme-brand cartoonage. For what it’s worth, the goal of re-creating all the Looney Tunes was achieved: Bugs had his spirit split into Buster and Babs (thereby eliminating the need for cross-dressing), Pepe Le Pew had his sex energies turned on their head with the introduction of the female loveskunk Fifi La Fume, and Elmer Fudd begat Elmyra Duff, a developmentally disabled lass who, like Lennie from Of Mice and Men, loved animals so enthusiastically that she endangered their lives. The show’s unlikely breakout star, Elmyra became popular enough that she nearly got a spinoff focused on her family — Tiny Toon Adventures featured two backdoor pilots for such a series — and that in itself is worth a hearty, declarative “huh.”

To its credit, Tiny Toon Adventures didn’t stop with the main Looney Tunes cast. No, rather unfamous characters got “junior” versions too. The space alien dodo birds from “Porky in Wackyland” got Gogo, the chronically drippy Sniffles got the equally congested Li’l Sneezer, Beaky Buzzard got the grape-colored Concord Condor, and even Cecil Turtle got an analogue in the Tiny Toon Tyrone. Hell, even Shirley the Loon — the valleyspeak-spouting psychic waterfowl who was the subject of one of the first-ever “pop culture minutiae” posts I wrote here — is a bizarre hybrid of the actress Shirley MacLaine and an extremely minor Looney Tunes character, Melissa Duck.

But you know who’s missing, of course: Speedy Gonzales.

It isn’t news to anyone who knows anything about Warner Bros. cartoons that Speedy went M.I.A. for a long period. And while the most know the reasoning — negative stereotypes of Latinos — most don’t understand that it’s not Speedy himself that people were objecting to: It’s the other mice, who lack his energy and craftiness and whose sombreros droop over their eyes all drowsily. Hell, there’s even a mouse named Slowpoke Rodriguez. Somehow, in the effort by Warner Bros. to exhibit racial sensitivity, Speedy Gonzales lost out and all of his shorts were dropped from syndication. It was only in 2011, with Cartoon Network’s The Looney Tunes Show, that Speedy zipped back into the spotlight and interacted once again with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in a way that showed that Warner Bros. wasn’t ashamed of the character. And that’s good. I mean, if we’re talking about depictions of Latinos in pop culture, Speedy is positive. He’s smart and good-natured and as quick-witted as his is fast-footed. Who could argue with that?

Unfortunately, Tiny Toons premiered when Speedy Gonzales was trapped behind a barbed wire fence of censorship, and he only made a single appearance on the show. Here’s how Tiny Toons creator Tom Ruegger explained the lack of any sort of Speedy analogue:
We already had a fast character in Little Beeper [the Roadrunner anaglogue], so having a young Speedy wasn't a high priority. The 50s and 60s Speedy Gonzalez cartoons were already encountering some trouble as far as the character’s ethnicity goes, and we were not about to create any problems for ourselves. A Latino character was certainly viable, but we weren’t in the market to create any ethnic stereotypes, especially potentially negative ones.
The thing is, such a character did exist, at least in a very preliminary sense: Lightning Rodriguez.

In the same interview, Ruegger noted that the name was “jotted in as a possibility only,” but today it’s how people refer to this would-have-been. And while he didn’t have a role to speak of in any Tiny Toons episode, he actually appeared in one:

Granted, it’s just for a second and it’s a static image of him and he appears among a scroll of basically every other Tiny Toons character, but he’s there. I know it’s bad form to read authorial intent, but I kind of like thinking about this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as some artist’s means of rebelling against an embargo that didn’t make any sense. Well, that or his way of giving grown-up nerds something cool to find twenty years after the fact.

That’s it — just an explanation for why one major Looney Tunes character didn’t seem to have a counterpart on Tiny Toons, but why he also actually did, however invisibly.

Things you didn’t know were things, previously:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Summer’s Breakout Star? Archery

I’ve said before that Joel McHale makes a good point, but it’s especially remarkable this time because the point was offered without sneer, snide or snark. Said the McHale today:

Yes, he obviously left out the biggest archery-centric movie of the year, but seriously — what the hell? What bug got into the collective mind of the moviemaking community and said “Hey, aren’t bows and arrows really cool?”

I’m happy that The Avengers, Brave, Snow White and the Huntsman and The Hunger Games can combine forces to make kids nationwide convince their parents to shell out big bucks for top-of-the-line bows and arrows and archery lessons. No, really. I am, because those parents all need to learn a valuable lesson about how their uncoordinated children, when placed in certain contexts, can imperil the lives of other children. But it does seem odd that there’s be such an spike in archery representation in mainstream cinema. Is it the fault of the Olympics?

For what it’s worth, McHale did eventually recognize that he’d left one movie out.

And for what it’s worth (non-famous person edition), I’m betting that this autumn will be the shotput’s moment to shine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Re: Moonrise Kingdom, Potential Paper Topics Therein

Wes Anderson’s latest offered a perfect moviegoing experience. And while you have every reason to just sit there and enjoy it for the magic that it is, you could also attempt to break it apart with your cruelly analytical English major mind. Personally, I don’t have the time. But in case you do…

Representations of animals (literal and metaphorical, real and artificial)

Mythologies and storytelling — “real” stories like Noah’s Ark and Ivanhoe vs. ones invented by characters themselves to explain unknown circumstances

Eyewear and associated other visual equipment

Types of vanishing (could be related to eyewear and vision)

Light — lightning, blackouts, lighthouses, faux lighthouses (could be an extension of the previous two)

What does the title mean? (The moon never appears, unless I’m mistaken. Is it a reference to rising tides and the island’s tidal rivers? Or is the moon another eye/source of light?)

Protagonists named Sam and Suzy — intentional reference to “Muskrat Love?” (seems less unlikely when you consider Wes Anderson’s previous movie)

This is all for now. However, if there’s not a band named The Francine Odysseys by the end of the year, I owe you a Coke. It’s the most marketable of all Suzy’s books. The more daring band, of course, would go with The Return of Auntie Lorraine.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Penis Where You Would Not Expect One

When you’re riding in the waybackseat and it occurs to you that English has two looms — the noun for the thing your weave on and the verb that dark clouds and scandals do — you really have no better opportunity to look up the etymology on your iPhone. Because when else would the two looms seem more pressing?

The two words have nothing to do with each other, in the end. You could have guessed that, maybe, but you know for sure when the etymology identifies the verb loom as being Scandinavian in origin and perhaps being related to the word lame. The noun loom, meanwhile, comes from Old English and would seem to be related this Old English word andloman, meaning “apparatus” or “furniture.”

But then there’s the penis.

The second sentence of the entry for the noun loom throws a curveball. I quote: “Originally ‘implement or tool of any kind’ (cf. heirloom); thus, ‘the penis’ (c.1400-1600).”

No explanation of that. Just “thus, ‘the penis.’”

See? And you thought looms were boring.

In closing, I would like to say that no discussion of looms — penile or otherwise — would ever be complete without this throwaway joke from The Simpsons.

It’s Marge demonstrating to Bart how she took loom in school, and it represents everything about Marge Simpson as a character.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Less Boxy Vintage

To me, it’s like that one picture of Mr. Rogers drunkenly backhanding a group of schoolchildren or that one old Superman comic where he exposes himself while making racist comments: Franzia, the drink that puts the revolted derision in everyone’s pronunciation of the term box wine, only in a bottle:

To think — a glass bottle! It’s almost like a real drink! Granted, it’s a tiny, airplane-sized bottle, but it’s more importantly not a little box.

When you think about it, the term box wine isn’t fair. A box is involved, sure, but the wine is most specifically contained in a temperature-sealed mylar sack. And wouldn’t sack wine more quickly communicate the message that this product is gross and shouldn’t be consumed by people that no better?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mortimer Snerd Had a Bowel Movement

This week, I’m ignoring my every verbose instinct and just cutting to the chase: This word sounds funny.
sherd (sherd) — noun: an historic or prehistoric fragment of pottery. 
Yes, that’s sherd as opposed to shard. A shard, for your records, is the same irregular, jagged shape as a sherd, it’s just that the latter is made of stone or glass. A sherd — short for potsherd — has to come from old, broken pottery. It’s just an added bonus that sherd sounds like a regional accent pronunciation for the past tense of “shit.” Even if the distinction is type that diehard archeologists would come to blows over, why make it? I mean really — would’t it be easier to just have shard cover your bases for all manner of broken knickknacks? Of course not. Because there’s actually a third term to throw into the mix for when the broken piece has writing on it: ostracon.

Archeologist fights are the best, of course, because they all carry bullwhips.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finally, Definitive Proof That Caligula Is Creepy

Here is a bust of Caligula, history’s greatest superfreak:

A noted incestoid, Caligula puts to shame your modern-day despots in the departments of sexual indecency (he proudly used the Roman nobility as his personal harem), abuse of power (he built a pontoon bridge from Baiae to Peteoli to prove wrong a soothsayer who once told Caligula that the chances that he would become emperor were on par with the chances that he would ride a horse across the Bay of Baiae), and sheer batshit craziness (he demanded that his horse be appointed consul — yes, same horse from the pontoon bridge). Caligula also stands out at the looniest character ever portrayed by Malcolm McDowell in a film, and that’s saying a lot.

However, it’s not Caligula’s legacy of depravity that makes this bust creepy. No, it’s something far less significant.

Do you see it?


Okay, here it is:

Yes, Caligula, mad though he may have been, was coherent enough to realize that he would look especially fierce with the visage of demonic Cabbage Patch Kid emblazoned on his breastplate.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Mongers and Mongering

Recently I learned that a coworker has a side-career as a cheesemonger.

This was surprising news to me because I forget cheesemongering is still a profession, for one, and also that I had quietly decided that a monger of anything, cheese or otherwise, couldn’t monger as a side-career because the thing they monger must — must! — have that thing they monger dominate their entire life. A cheesemonger could only know cheese and nothing else. He’d smell of cheese and speak only of cheese and when he adjusted his coat, bits of cheese would fall out. He’d live in a cheddar-yellow house and sleep on a bed of ricotta and make love to a mushy cheese wife, Brie.

Apparently some of these beliefs don’t accurately represent the private life of a modern-day cheesemonger, but I know better now.

The funny thing about cheesemongers, aside from the name of their profession, is that they are one of the few types of mongers who aren’t associated with something that society generally perceives negatively. Think about it: What other kinds of mongers can you think of? All the obvious ones are bad:
  • gossipmonger
  • hatemonger
  • rumormonger
  • warmonger
  • whoremonger
  • fleshmonger
  • fishmonger
Yes, my epiphany about cheesemongers notwithstanding, I feel like fishmonger just strikes a sour note with me — a sour, fish-stenchy note that the fishmongers can never wash off, no matter how desperately they try. (I actually may not know better yet.)

But why should warmonger be so much more familiar to me than peacemonger, which Wiktionary asserts is a word? For that, I have no answer — only two guesses. First, because I read news and watch television, I hear people insult each other more often than compliment each other, and it’s more of a headline-maker to accuse someone of being a warmonger than it is to stand up and authoritatively say, “This is a man who traffics in the business of peace and civility!” Second, monger just sounds bad. It calls to mind the marauding Mongol hordes and mungbeans and mongrels and mungo and cruel British children mocking the developmentally disabled and people dropping the first syllable in among in a vain attempt at folksiness Monger strikes the ears like a raw potato, hurled across a kitchen at an incompetent sous-chef.

Wiktionary, it should be noted, also suggests that a great variety of mongers exist, from the pleasant (lovemonger), to the unlikely (miracle-monger), to the suspicious (pupil-monger), to the confusing (barbermonger — it means “fop”), to the mean-sounding (cockmonger — barnyard sense but why limit it?), to the nerdish-sounding (questmonger — someone who encourages petty lawsuits), to the outright un-pretty (pearmonger — is there an uglier word in the English language?), to the what-I-am (wordmonger).

Were we all mongers, maybe we’d think better of the term.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

With “It” Being the Look of a Woman Who Knows Something

I’m kind of surprised it doesn’t come up more often, especially with the tendency for pop culture put everything in terms of “X is the new Y,” but doesn’t Nicki Minaj look a hell of a lot like Chaka Khan?

Nicki Minaj looks like Chaka Khan

No little joke here. I just think these two are one wig swap away from looking like sisters. I’ve noticed this before watching video footage of Minaj. I’d see a flash of Chaka Khan in there, just for a second. But in this side-by-side in particular, I think the resemblance is pretty dead-on.

Who Wore It Better?, previously:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So Five Minutes Ago

Being a person who writes about pop culture and tries his damnedest to elevate it beyond the level of “OMG, can you believe [unremarkable thing] happened?”, I had to be proud of this past weekend. Basically, for a brief, 140-characters-or-less moment, I got to engage in dialogue with a guy who represents what I think I should want my career could be. Earlier this month, cool guy writing person Rich Juzwiak of fourfour fame tweeted about the linguistic legacies of Clueless, noting one ism in particular as having crept into everydayspeak.

I starred it. I thought about it. And eventually I had the time to look into whether that was true. It’s not. Although linguists aren’t sure exactly when five minutes ago starting coming out of the mouths of the snide and snobby as a put-down for anything that once rocked but now sucks, they claim It’s not actually Clueless that popularized the phrase. It’s the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie that did it, and William Safire himself said so. (He was neither the first or last wordy nerd to point out Buffy’s effect on linguistics, it should be noted.) And while that’s a feather in Joss Whedon’s “I directed Avengers” headdress, it also proves that you don’t have to be Shakespeare to be a driving force in language. Current-day pop culture invents and popularizes language too. Hell, the OED entry for much — in the sense of “Way to trip. Walk much?” — cites Heathers, Buffy (the TV series this time) and a Gilda Radner-era Saturday Night Live sketch.

I tweeted a response to Juzwiak — almost a month later, fully in the spirit of five minutes ago, I should point out — and he responded:

Acknowledging my point while also tactfully pointing out the garbagey nature of the ovie I’m giving credit to. See, this is why people read him.

All that said, I figured that five minutes ago made as good a launchpad as any for a certain strange and wonderful word:
nudiustertian (noo-dee-uhs-TUR-shun) — adjective: of or relating to the day before yesterday.
Yep, so much build-up for useless vocabulary. I’m just happy this word exists, for the same reasons that I like bissextile and perendiate, and no, it’s not because they sound like sex words. If five minutes ago is what the popular girl says to dump on someone else’s style (and, in fact, that’s just how Hilary Swank’s character uses it in the Buffy movie), then nudiustertian is what the awkward, bookish girl tries to use in a similar circumstance, only to have the popular kids take her book and hit her with it. It comes from the Latin phrase nudius tertius, which in turn is a contraction of nunc dies tertius est — literally, “today is the third day.”

I guess it would be a little on-the-nose to point out that any dictionary that actially bothers to include the word nudiustertian notes it as being obsolete. I’d like to think that it was rendered so five minutes ago by so five minutes ago.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Doll of Wax, Doll of Sawdust, Doll of Metaphor

In writing about the accidental ode to oral sex, “Les Sucettes,” it was pointed out to me that another France Gall song merits a mention: the one whose name translates, unfortunately, as “Doll of Wax, Doll of Sawdust.” Believe me, the actual song skews a lot more epic than that title might suggest.

So why is it notable, aside from the stirring sound of it? The Serge Gainsbourg-penned song works on two levels, just like “Les Sucettes” does. On one, Gall is just singing about a doll — a wax-cased doll filled with sawdust, as French children played with back in the day. (Did they? Those poor French children!) However, the French title is Poupée de cire, poupée de son, with son translating as both “sawdust” and “sound.” And even cire, “wax,” is suspect, in that it could be a reference to old-timey waxen records. Thus, even before Serge Gainsbourg demonstrated that he was a masterful behind-the-scenes manipulator with the whole “the song about lollipops is actually about mouth sex” foofaraw, he was feeding his protégé songs that hint at the true nature of their relationship.

Well, that and the fact that he’s one of the few pop songwriters who actually bothered to have fun with the language he was setting to melody.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reactions I Have to Learning Someone Actually Saw Battleship

In no particular order:

“Oh, did you have a relative who was in it?”

“Did you, like, win a radio contest and the tickers were non-transferrable?”

“Did you have to see it for a class or something?”

“Are you a member of the Milton or Bradley families?”

“Was Avengers full?”

“Did you wander into the theater thinking you were going to see Avengers but then the movie started and you were already in the middle of crowded row and you felt awkward getting up and stepping over all those people, so you just stayed?”

“Were you mad at yourself that day?”

“Did someone post a Craigslist missed connection about you at the movie theater and you were trying to re-create the situation and Battleship just happened to be the movie that best fit in time-wise?”

“Were you on a scavenger hunt that tasked you with finding someone lacking any modicum of good taste or good sense?”

“No, but seriously — what did you do this weekend?”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good Night, Haunted Lantern

After bouncing a few different ideas in my head all day, no interlocking parts snapped into place and formed a good idea. It happens. However, I can show you what drinking did. Perhaps you’re a more upstanding, more put-together and more clicked-into-place type of person and you won’t relate, but it occasionally happens that my nights ends boozily, with me aimlessly clicking around the internet. That happened last night, which meant that this morning was an archeological expedition into what my drunk mind is like. But I can’t for the life of me remember what led me here or why it was decided that it should be the last thing I looked at before I dinosaur walked off to bed. Oh wine, you old rascal.

Here is the image:


Isn’t that disturbing? It’s by Hokusai, who, it turned out, didn’t just draw pretty Japanese landscapes. My reaction is… complex. It’s horrifying, sure, but the immediate association I made with this painting is summer — a warm summer night. Isn’t that strange? It makes me think of Hausu, too, what with its angry ghost ladies and unhappy-to-be-animate furniture.

The story behind the illustration, per Wikipedia: It’s what it looks like. It’s an evil spirit taking over — or coming out of — a paper lantern. The specific spirit belongs Oiwa, a woman who was deformed as a result of a cursed facial cream sent to her by a rival. (No, really.) She’s too ugly to bear, so her husband leaves her, but her ghost ultimately comes back and prevents her former husband from finding any measure of happiness or peace.

So there you go. May you sleep as well as I did last night.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Drew Does a Close Reading of the Zoobooks Commercial From His Childhood

Flipping through channels tonight, I saw an ad for Zoobooks. No, scratch that. I saw the ad for Zoobooks — the one that I distinctly remember seeing during the cartoons I watched when I was a kid. I’ll place my experience with it around 1991, during the Tiny Toons and Darkwing Duck days. You may likely remember it as well. Please, watch it and then report back.

Now, a few thoughts:

Zoobooks are still being advertised. Therefore, Zoobooks still exist. No, really, they do — I checked. So newspaper circulation may be plummeting and Encyclopedia Britannica may cease publication, but Zoobooks somehow endures. Zoobooks apparently has a spinoff publication, Zoobies. See?

I don’t understand what Zoobies are, but just based on the name, I’d guess it features exposed cow udders and floppy simians mammaries. Yes, I realize that it’s probably about something else. I’m just saying: That’s what it sounds like.

Jungles or no jungles, I would not encourage my children to visit anywhere that the adjective steamy had been affixed to. That’s just me.

What the hell is wrong with the boy in this ad that he’s reading a copy of Zoobooks when he has a monkey perched on his couch?

Nothing in any issue of Zoobooks ever will be as interesting as a monkey in your house. Nothing. Either the commercial lies or the boy is blind and cannot see the monkey, in which case WHY IS HE READING ZOOBOOKS IF HE’S BLIND?

Let’s talk about the kid. How old you do you think he is? Twelve? Fourteen? If I am remembering correctly that I saw this commercial back in 1991, then he today would be easily old enough to have a child who could be old enough to be reading Zoobooks on his or her own. That makes me feel ways.

On a similar note, most of the animals pictured in the Zoobooks issues featured in this commercial are long dead by now.

Is it to the elephants’ credit that their issue is free? Is it, like, “If this isn’t a tempting enough offer, we’re throwing in a special issue on a species so great you just can’t say no: ELEPHANTS. Come on, prospective buyer — trunks and tusks and shit!” Or is it kind of insulting to elephants that they’re a free throw-in offer?

Also, after all these years, the elephants issue is still the special offer? Doesn’t the passage of twenty years render it significantly less special?

Did you own the complimentary tiger poster? Did you have it up in your room? If your answer is yes, then I either would have really wanted to be friends with you or I really would not have wanted to be friends with you, depending on the year we’re talking about.

I would also discourage my child from interacting directly with the mailman. That’s just me, but then again the juxtaposition of this thought at the “You must be 18 years or older to call” warning adds up to something sinister.

Note: I will be re-reviewing this commercial when I see it again in twenty years. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beyond the Perils of Pauline

In 1914, actress Pearl White starred in the film serial The Perils of Pauline, which we all know today (whether we realize it or not and whether its accurate or not) as the thing that gives of that image of the silent film damsel tied to the train tracks by some mustachioed villain and about to be squished by an oncoming locomotive. White followed up The Perils of Pauline with a sequel series, The Exploits of Elaine, but the pattern ended there. I say this should have continued until the franchise was run into the ground in the following manner:

The Perils of Pauline

The Exploits of Elaine

The Hazards of Hazel

The Travails of Trixie

The Deeds of Deirdre

The Anecdotes of Adelaide

The Errands or Earline

The Bank Transactions of Bettina

The Squirrel Sightings of Silvia

The Dress Fittings of Dorcas

The Naps of Nadine

The Tedium of Teresa

The Jigsaw Puzzles of Jacaranda

The Catatonia of Camilla

The Aging of Agnes

The Stares of Starla (Who, It Turns Out, Was Dead the Whole Time)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Everything You Know and Cherish About Mr. Belvedere Is About to Be Dropkicked Like a Jacket

It’s a story as old as 1985: Someone dropkicked his jacket as he came through the door… and no one glared. Yeah, it’s glared, not cared. To think, you’ve been karaokeing the Mr. Belvedere theme song incorrectly all these years! But stop hitting yourself, stupid, because this is the least of what you probably don’t know about Mr. Belvedere.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at Shirley Temple’s filmography in hopes of finding that one movie in which she has her hair in ringlets and sing-talks all adorably. A 1949 film title jumped out at me: Mr. Belvedere Goes to College. “What I coincidence!” said I, “Surely this cannot be the same Lynn Belvedere of my childhood!” But it totally was. Almost forty years before the 80s TV series began, Clifton Webb had portrayed Lynn Belvedere, persnickety butler, in on the big screen.

But that’s not all: Mr. Belvedere Goes to College is, in fact, a sequel to a 1948 film, Sitting Pretty, which had paired the butler character with a different family unprepared for his snooty sort of British love. There was even a third movie, Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell, and on top of that, the character originated in a 1947 novel, Belvedere, written by F. Hugh Herbet, the guy who wrote The Moon Is Blue. TCM has some clips that show some footage of Webb in the role:

As you can see, he’s very much so that type of effete Lord Autumnbottom character that makes you ask, “Is he just very particular about everything, or is he supposed to be gay?” — sort of a forerunner to Niles Crane, and look how that turned out. Mr. Belvedere's ambiguous sexuality may well have resulted from the fact that Webb himself was gay. The version of Mr. Belvedere that Christopher Hewett played on the TV series had fewer queeny tendencies, but it’s probably worth noting that it’s speculated that Hewett — per Wikipedia, “a devout Catholic and lifelong bachelor” — was also gay, and not in that trite “OMG, I heard [Attractive Young Actor] is gay, OMG” way but in the sense that he fairly obviously was gay but was also just too religious and too publicity-wary to be open about it. To Hewett’s credit, he did play Carmen Ghia’s lover in The Producers, and I totally didn’t realize that until I wrote this post. And that counts for something.

Clifton Webb, meanwhile, was visited by and posed for a photo with Marilyn Monroe on the set of Sitting Pretty, during which he apparently did the what came naturally to a man who had no sexual interest in her whatsoever: crammed her mouth with food.

on the left: moderately famous person laurette luez (less famous but far longer-lived than marilyn)
Webb died in 1966, meaning he did not witness Hewett’s take on his character. (I’m sure he would have disapproved, in classic, Niles Cranesian style.) Had he lived through the early 90s, however, Webb would have seen two echoes of his film work on mainstream American TV. There was Mr. Belvedere — which ran from 1985 to 1990, which is about ten years less than I feel it should have run, based on how often I remember watching it as a child — but there was also Twin Peaks, which ran from 1990 to 1991, which is about thirty years less than you might guess, based on how often film studies types talk about it today. Twin Peaks featured a bird named Waldo and a veterinarian named Dr. Lydecker, and the two combined to form a nod to the 1944 film Laura, in which Clifton Webb played Waldo Lydecker, the man who unsuccessfully tries to kill the title character, after whom noted Twin Peaks floatie Laura Palmer was named.

And that, friends, is all I have to say about Mr. Belvedere, save for one last thought: Remember Angela? The Kimmie Gibler-type who’d visit the Owens family and mangle Mr. Belvedere’s name? In case you wondered if anyone had attempted to compile all the things she’d erroneously called him, rest easy knowing that the internet is already on it. Thanks, internet!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Points in Favor of and Against the Common Sawhorse

You should already know, really, but here is a sawhorse:

In favor:
On one hand, it’s remarkably quaint that we speak about this thing like it’s any kind of horse. It’s a holdover, I guess, from a time when people encountered horses on a daily basis, and I wonder if there’s something deeply rooted in the way we think that we see something that has four legs, more or less, and that’s used for work and say “ooh, horse!”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Slight Against the Drews and Andrews of the World

Hello. You may be new here. If so, you should know that my name is Drew.

It’s actually not Andrew, as my parents had no intention of ever calling me anything other than Drew, so they just named me that. Wise of them, I say. Still, I tend to get lumped in with the Andrews, and people occasionally try to call me Andy — not a lot, but probably more often than you get called Andy, so long as your name isn’t Drew or Andrew. I’m not sure where my parents got the idea for my name, but I at least know that it wasn’t Drew Barrymore, because E.T. didn’t come out until a week after I was born, and I doubt my mom and dad would have had any reason to know about her before that. It’s a decent name, overall, even if it rhymes with too many problematic words (poo perhaps foremost among them), can be substituted too easily into love songs in a mocking manner (“I’m Saving All My Love for Drew,” “Nothing Compares to Drew,” etc.) and makes for unfortunate associations with Nancy Drew (no comment). I’d actually thought I’d heard every possible way someone could make fun of my name until just recently, when I found a new one.

It’s my word of the week.
merryandrew (meh-ree-AN-droo) — verb: to play like a clown.
It’s seldom-used, sure, but if the OED says it’s a thing, I’ll believe it. It’s ever-so-slightly less rare than the noun merry andrew, a clown, but when I say that do understand that next to nobody ever uses this word, and the handful of weirdos who do use the noun. I just like that the noun spawned a verb, hence my pick for the week. Merriam-Webster weirdly defines the word as “a person who clowns publicly,” and I have to wonder: Is a person who clowns privately actually a clown? Or are they merely awkward and clumsy and perhaps fond of wearing bright colors?

public clown or private sinister weirdo? you decide.

Of course, I wondered why Andrew would get attached to being a dumbass instead of any other person’s name. Etymonline claims that no one’s ever figured that out. Wikipedia suggests that it could have been Andrew Borde, the man with sisyphean task of being Henry VIII’s doctor. Borde frequently addressed crowds of people, imparting medical knowledge in an entertaining way, and those who imitated his style were called merry andrews — and rightly so, because how could you compete with a guy who has intimate knowledge of the king of England’s digestive tract? And while there does seem to be some history of merry Andrew referring to the guy who assisted those old-timey quack physicians who staged shows to sell bogus medicine, but that doesn’t prove a connection between merryandrew and Andrew Borde, who, given the level of health that Henry VIII’s appearance projects, probably wasn’t that merry.

In closing, I’ll tell you one more bit that I’m placing at the end of the post just because I couldn’t figure out where else to fit it in: Obscure and little-understood though the term may be, merry andrew is nonetheless used in the Meg Ryan romcom Kate & Leopold and the cartoon Ed, Edd and Eddy, and that, friends, is the only time these two works will ever be mentioned in the same breath.

Previous words of the week after the jump.