Almost the Most Fun You Can Have in the Dark

Ted Mosby: That's it. I'll have to move to another country, one where they're not showing The Wedding Bride.
Robin Scherbatsky: Good luck, Ted. That movie has gone worldwide. It's huge.
Lily Aldrin: Maybe North Korea.
Robin Scherbatsky: No, I heard Kim Jong Il saw it and it's his second favorite movie, right behind one of him running in slow motion in a field of turnips.

How I Met Your Mother, “The Wedding Bride” (5/17/10)

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It’s often fun to go to the movies, if only for the immersive experience that they provide. Plus, there’s the popcorn with the butter-flavored grease (or, if you went to the Senator when Kiefaber was running the place, “real creamery butter”). What I don’t like about them is the excessive hype. You really get the idea sometimes that the guys who are making the ads are being creative about what they pull out of the reviews. For instance, this comes from a real review of The DaVinci Code:

Akiva Goldsman, otherwise not particularly inspired screenwriter, does a solid job with surprisingly faithful adaptation. This is probably due to Brown’s source material not being something exceptional. The novel is nothing more than rehash of secret histories like THE HOLY BLOOD AND THE HOLY GRAIL, neatly packed with some New Age ideas and rather generic conspiracy thriller plot. Goldsman kept most of novel’s flaws, but he, thankfully, didn’t succumb to the usual Hollywood standards of sacrificing exposition in order to provide audience with more brainless action. The exposition is actually the best and most valuable part of the film, providing viewers with more food for thought than they were accustomed to expect from a Hollywood blockbuster. (draxblog movie reviews, draxreview.wordpress.com)

This becomes:

Akiva Goldsman…does a solid job…surprisingly faithful…something exceptional…the best and most valuable…film, providing viewers with more food for thought…a Hollywood blockbuster.

Sprinkle in a few exclamation points and you get the idea. So that gets to be a drag, so I’m pretty careful nowadays about the films I see, and more often than not I just wait until it’s on video or cable. Nice life for a former Communications major, huh?

Some films do manage to rise above the hype by living up to it, however. And we’ve all seen a bunch of the “One Million Greatest Films Of All Time” or whatever kind of lists, and they all bring something to the table, I guess. But they don’t necessarily convey what it is that makes the movies named so special. So herein, I present to you, in no special order, a list of Movies That Changed The Way Movies Are Made.

Kane MirrorsCitizen Kane (1941)

Kane is one of those films that gets an awful lot of credit for a lot of things, and rightly so, which is probably why it’s tough to remember that it was a box-office flop the first time around despite the good reviews it received. During its initial run, Citizen Kane lost about $150,000, which was roughly 20% of what it cost to make. And it’s not even that Orson Welles invented the techniques used in the film; in fact he didn’t. What he did do was use them to such effect that they became staples of filmmaking: deep focus (sometimes using special lenses, sometimes using in-camera mattes); curtain wipes, miniatures, J-cuts (when the audio transitions ahead of the picture in a scene change), flashbacks and montages. It almost doesn’t matter that the movie begins with a huge hole in the plot. I’ll also concede that it’s not such a compelling movie that it’s an automatic stop if I catch it while channel-surfing, but I’ll usually stick with it for awhile just to bask in the awesomeness of the film techniques.

Here’s a weird little Kane story: when I was in college and taking the “Art of Film and TV” course, we were assigned to go to the library and view the opening scenes of Citizen Kane so that we could discuss it in class next time we met. During the scene where Kane dies (not a spoiler, it’s at the beginning), the nurse comes in and pulls the sheet over Kane’s face. As she does so, the soundtrack for the clip we were viewing encountered a glitch, so that as the sheet came up, the music slowed and ground to a halt, so that we had a moment of silence in the film. It synchronized so well with the action on the screen, that those of us who hadn’t seen it before thought that that was supposed to happen, and we all marveled at this cool audio technique. It wasn’t until the next day, when the teacher showed the clip again as a means of review, that we saw something wasn’t quite right. “Hey! That’s not what happened in the library!” The teacher didn’t realize that the clip was bad and qsuestioned us about it. It made for a great discussion.

seven-samuraiSeven Samurai (1954)

Wife hates this film, because of the subtitles (she doesn’t dig any film that’s mostly subtitles), but I love Seven Samurai. And I don’t understand a word of Japanese, but I like to listen to the actors speaking, so I’ll actually keep the volume up even though it isn’t really necessary. Most people know by now that it’s the inspiration for 1960’s The Magnificent Seven, but the biggest contribution by that film was its theme. Seven Samurai was probably the first film to bring a disparate bunch of characters together to achieve a common goal (cf. Ocean’s Eleven or The Dirty Dozen). It’s also the first film to give us the very end of the main character’s previous adventure before moving into the current one (cf James Bond and Indiana Jones). Part of the success of this story is that director Akiro Kurosawa wrote an entire backstory for any character who had a line. It clocks in at 207 minutes, but it’s worth the trip. Fun fact: the Japanese language has no definite article (“the”), so translation of the title into “The Seven Samurai” is idomatically correct, but not a literal translation.

godfather11 (1)The Godfather (1972)

At the top of so many lists because of its compelling story, The Godfather improved upon the Gangster Movie genre in two important ways. Prior to this film, mafia films in the late 1950s and early 1960s were not doing well at the box office, despite all the star power they poured into them. Paramount head Robert Evans decided that the problem was that none of the people making these films—on either side of the camera—were Italian. Consequently they suffered from a certain lack of verisimilitude. It was at his insistence that most of the actors in the film were Italians. (Can you imagine Ryan O’Neal as Michael Corleone? It almost happened.) It’s a well-known story that Evans, upon seeing the first cut of The Godfather, sent Coppola back into the editing room to make the film LONGER. Evans was looking for “the spaghetti”, the family end of the story that ties the whole thing together. Later mafia films did the same: length plus a family of some sort. If The Godfather hadn’t happened, GoodFellas wouldn’t have come along to improve on the model.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001ZGTThis is another film in the realm of Citizen Kane for me: it’s not necessarily an automatic stop, but it’s so beautifully shot, and some things are done so technically well that you have to admire this piece of work. 2001, like Kane and most of the titles here, is where we get to say “film” rather than “movie”, if you catch my distinction. Part of the attraction, again, is verisimilitude: silence in space, the design of the spaceship Discovery, the little mundane touches like the phone call home. Perhaps the only scene that’s deliberately funny involves Heywood Floyd nervously studying the detailed instructions on the Zero Gravity Toilet. What’s cool is that those are real instructions; it’s not as though Kubrick put some placeholder text on the sign because nobody could read it anyway. Click on the picture to get the full text. Sure, things like Pan Am and Bell Telephone don’t exist anymore, but those companies weren’t the point of the story.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

shawshankOne of the things I really enjoy about this film is the “slow burn”. It’s a movie that takes place over a long period of time, and offers all kinds of tiny little clues with regard to the way the relationships are developing, what could come along later in the story, and so on. People who are easily bored could conceivably tune out quickly, but for those who manage to hang in there, the payoff is fantastic as the story picks up speed and refuses to let up. I don’t think that this film affected other films so much as it did the television industry. Shawshank paved the way for shows such as The Sopranos and The Wire, which took a long time to set the table and then knocked you on your back with the resolution. The plot line also gave us a denouement that we didn’t necessarily need, but allowed us to breathe a little and see the “ending beyond the ending”.

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

great train robberyHow did a film from 1903 change moviemaking forever? Because it was the first film to have a plot. It was a series scenes, laid out in a specific order, that together told a story. And if you don’t think it’s had any influence on modern-day film, consider the scene in the picture at left. Justus D. Barnes shoots directly at the camera—and therefore the viewer—in a scene that appears either at the beginning of the film or the end, (it was up to the operator where it went; all of the known prints have it at the end). It was a scene that terrified audiences, who weren’t used to the “language” of film yet, and reportedly got out of the way. Both Goodfellas and American Gangster did the same thing; Goodfellas does it right before the closing credits and in American Gangster it happens right after the credits. You could also argue that the idea of rounding up people in a public place and taking their money (rather than stealing from the train) had its influence on the diner scene in Pulp Fiction.

Incidentally, some people would put Pulp Fiction on a list like this one, but I’m not inclined to, mostly because while the nonlinear narrative was groundbreaking in its way, it’s not something that’s influenced the way other movies have been made, which is the criterion for this list. Oh, and Kane did it first.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Blair WitchTruth be told, I kept going back and forth on this one because I didn’t really like the film that much. But whether or not you like it, I think it has to be conceded that this film had two major influences on film making: first, they demonstrated that you can make a decent film on a very small budget and still manage to make a few bucks ($20,000 to make, $250,000,000 in earnings). Second, and perhaps a little more controversial, was the extensive use of the handheld camera. Now, in Blair Witch Project it makes sense, since the camera is proving a specific point of view throughout the movie. But this also inspired many other directors to take a similar approach to their own films, perhaps in order to give their movies a kind of cinéma vérité feel that they haven’t necessarily earned (Public Enemies, I’m looking at you). So there’s good and there’s bad in this one, but I don’t think anyone can argue that this one has had its effect.

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Not the whole film, but the one scene that takes place on the Odessa Steps. In this scene, the Czar’s soldiers march down a huge flight of stairs, firing into a crowd of people. At the bottom of the stairs are Cossacks, marching upward. People are shot, people are trampled, and a baby goes sailing down the stairs in his carriage. There are multiple points of view presented, numerous instances of parallel action, close-ups that emphasize the horror of what is going on, and ultimately we are lulled into feeling exactly what director Sergei Eisenstein wants us to feel. It’s a brilliant piece of propaganda that’s so good, it hardly matters that, in this otherwise historical film, the events in this scene never actually took place.

 

 

 

I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, and I know a few of you are also former Communications majors. What would you add to the list, and why?

Peas in an iPod

Scott: Alright, well then maybe you’re not her type. She’s into stuff like old school Elvis Costello, she listens to obscure podcasts, she reads Dave Eggers. You know, she’s deep, man.
John Tucker: Dude, I’m deep. I’m dating the poetry club.

John Tucker Must Die (2006)

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I'm so glad to have a reason to post this picture again. This is going to have a little bit of a “me-too” feel to it, but that’s all right with me. Pretty much everything that happened to me this past week is more all right than it looks on the surface.

The reason this feels “me-too”, however, is that in this post I’ll be sharing some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to lately. As it happens, I’ve been with most of them for awhile but it feels like they’re really starting to swell in popularity lately. So, not to get all hipster on you, but some of these were cool to me before they were cool for everyone else. There are a few others I listen to, but not as closely or as often. And two which bailed out on me before I gave up on them, the bastards.

In no particular order (click on the pictures to go to each show’s website):

This Week With Larry Miller

This one is the newest to me and, in fact, the newest of the bunch. Larry Miller takes a topic or two and just appears to spout off the top of his head for a half hour. There are still different elements of the show which are evolving, and Miller carries us through that evolutionary period by explaining its genesis, sometimes repeatedly. This show has been running for nearly a year and is starting to hit its stride. The stories that Miller tells are generally a warm brand of funny, and since he and I both grew up on Long Island, some of them are perhaps a little more relatable to me than they might be to others, but non-LIers will enjoy them nonetheless.

The Mike O'Meara Show

This isn’t the oldest of the bunch, but it’s got the biggest back catalog because they produce five shows each week. This podcast grew from the Mike O’Meara radio show, which I don’t think ever aired in Baltimore. But I was a fan of the original Don & Mike Show (which did air in Baltimore), ever since they first aired in New York City. I discovered the podcast quite by accident only a few weeks after it began. The show runs for a little over an hour, and is edited to be broadcast-friendly, as the show does have a radio affiliate. This is a show that you need to listen to a few episodes to, in order to get into the swing of things, but once you do it’s a daily romp.

WTF with Marc Maron

WTF with Marc Maron seems to be the one that’s really exploding onto the podcast landscape lately. It’s part interview and part therapy session, and once in awhile there’s a pure comedy show (the “Live WTF” shows). Maron generally hosts the shows out of his garage, and while most of his interviews have been of comedians, you can’t expect the entire show (which runs anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half) to be a Laff Riot. On the other hand, it’s not a Deconstruction of Comedy session, which would be incredibly dry. The interviews are fascinating, and I think many times the guests themselves wind up discussing things they had no intention of bringing up. Some of the more famous interviews include Judd Apatow, Louis CK, Carlos Mencia (during which he actually cops to some of the stuff he’s been accused of), and of course the infamous Gallagher interview, which ended a little earlier than originally planned. With this podcast, I’ve been playing the new ones and playing catchup with the old ones in reverse order, so while the interviews themselves aren’t especially time-sensitive, the introductions he does will delve into his personal life. Consequently I’m following both Maron’s evolution and de-evolution at the same time. He breaks up with a girlfriend, then later on she’ll move in with him.

The Tobolowsky Files

Actor Steven Tobolowsky is one of those guys who, when you see him in a movie, you’ll say, “Hey, it’s that guy!” because he’s been in something like a couple of hundred movies and similar number of TV shows, including Heroes, Glee, and Californication. Probably his best-known role was that of Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, but I really liked him as the Klan leader in Mississippi Burning. Tobolowsky tells “stories about life, love and the movie industry”, and if I have any complaints about this one, it’s that he tends to over-prepare and read his stories from written scripts. It’s a shame only because when he goes off-script, or when I hear him in interviews, he’s great at telling stories extemporaneously. Having said that, this series, which runs in “seasons” and takes occasional breaks, contains personal accounts which are funny and touching. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Tobolowsky manages to choke himself up a little, bringing back these memories. This series I’d recommend listening to in episode order, since there’s a bit of a running narrative thread going on. You know, sort of, how the story ends, and you still root for it to go in a different direction.

While I’ve linked to the shows’ websites, all of them can also be found via iTunes. Just type the show’s name into the search bar and they should come up without any problem.

What about you? Heard anything fascinating lately?

When Did I Sign Up For This?

Jay Pritchett: Where’s my good underwear?
Gloria Delgado-Pritchett: The question is, why isn’t all your underwear good, Jay? You make a nice living.

Modern Family, “Family Portrait” (5/19/10)

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I remember when JC Penney had this logo, and a store in Smithtown, NY, that had one-and-a-half floors and sold only apparel. Saturday was the day that Wife decided that it was time to go shopping for back-to-school outfits for Wee One. She specifically wanted to go to JC Penney in order to take advantage of a sale, and since only I have a Penney’s card, that meant that I was coming along, too.

We left early in the day, in order to arrive shortly after the mall opened. It’s bad enough I have to be at the mall; worse still that I have to be there on a weekend. With any luck we can pretty much get in, get clothes and get out.

I was so naive , then.

We did get to the mall early, no problem. The first issue cropped up when it turned out that, in addition to school clothes, Wee One needed to get some underwear. Specifically, she needed to get a couple of new bras. Having me there would clearly be too traumatic (for her), so I decided to just get the hell out of there and told Wife to just call me when they were done and ready to pay. I headed down to Borders Books to take advantage of their merchandise sell-off.

I was in Borders for a little while, to the point where a sales clerk offered to take my books behind the counter while I continued shopping. It was at that point that my phone rang. “I think this means I’m done shopping,” I said, and I was right. I paid for my books ($80 for about $115 worth of stuff) and headed back to JC Penney.

Unfortunately, they weren’t done. They’d gotten the bras and a couple of other pieces, but Wife thought I wanted her to call when the bra shopping was done. We (and by “we” I mean “they”) looked through a bunch of other stuff, and then Wife decided that this would be a good time to hand me the stuff they’d picked out so that they could go pick out some more stuff. This, of course, meant that I was going to be carrying the bras, still on the hanger. Being the Good Dad that I am, I immediately walked over to a nearby window and showed them, plus the other stuff that we were purchasing, to the parking lot outside. Naturally, nobody was really within sight of this window, but it was enough to freak her out: “DAD! Get AWAY from there!”

Wife, of course, was much more practical with her “The more you freak out, the more he’s going to do it” argument, but Wee One was beyond that point. “He doesn’t have to show it to the whole store!”

“I wasn’t showing them to the store,” I protested. “I was showing them to the parking lot.”

Naturally, the longer we shopped, the busier the store got until it was just so many mothers and their tween daughters, I'm absolutely convinced that they're laughing at me. These guys are in Provincetown and are probably in a gay bar, and they're still having a manlier time than I was. just milling about. I really hate it when people are milling about. Usually it means that I’m not getting to where I need to go, because there are so many people just…MILLING. And they’re milling IN MY WAY. Note also that I was surrounded by mothers and daughters. The other dads were clearly much smarter than I am, having gotten their wives their own JC Penney cards and they were all, no doubt, over in Buffalo Wild Wings, eating manly foods and washing them down with huge quantities of beer, scratching and burping and, no doubt, laughing at their memories of the guy they saw standing there in Penney’s, forlornly holding his daughter’s underwear.

I will say this: the sales staff at JC Penney, at least in the White Marsh Mall, were quite pleasant that morning. They usually are. In fact, I often to go the jewelry counter at this store for two reasons: one is the sales staff, who are invariably helpful and polite, and the other is because it doesn’t seem to matter what I buy there, there’s usually some kind of sale on the item I’m buying. I rarely go to that counter to take advantage of a sale, but when I go, whatever I pick out happens to be on sale. That’s tough to beat.

I’ve already made the call to JC Penney’s credit department. Wife’s own personal card is on its way. And I’ll be eating wings and drinking beer next time they want to buy underwear there.

Two Years Down

Bill Maher: CNN, to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, is going to be replaying their original coverage of that day. Let’s just hope that President Bush doesn’t tune in and go "Oh, my God. They’ve done it again."

Real Time With Bill Maher, episode 4.13 (2006)

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A couple of years ago (two, to be a little too exact), Wife and I were doing our annual Pig Roast thing in the back yard. At that time, Wife was still GF. About midway through the festivities, I turned down the music that had been playing through our speakers and turned on a microphone I’d planted for the occasion.

I thanked everyone for coming and noted that I had an announcement for everyone. People have been asking about this, so we wanted our guests—friends and family, don’t you know—to be among the first to know that GF and I had gotten engaged, and that we’d set a date for the special occasion.

“And,” I continued, “we definitely expect all of you to be there. The date we’ve set is July 11, 2009.”

There was a moment of silence, and a little confusion. And then finally someone way in the back of the yard (to this day nobody knows who) piped up, “But…that’s today!”

That clock hasn't been correct since about an hour after we bought it. “Yes, it is,” I confirmed, and I stepped down off the deck and onto our patio. Pastor Lisa Arrington, who was at St. Luke’s Church nearby, had joined the party following the Saturday afternoon service and performed the ceremony right there.

Only a few people knew about the secret purpose of the party, and after the vows were spoken and several people had gotten up to say a few words of support, the party resumed. Go figure, we all got a little polluted that night.

There were several positive side effects of doing our wedding like this. First and foremost was having the happy presence of our family and friends without the bother of a Big Deal ceremony, or the pressure on the guests to dress up, or bring gifts, or anything else. We just went and got it done, and we did it for only a few hundred bucks total. If you count the cost of the patio and the pergola we’d installed (not specifically for the occasion but they sure came in handy), we were still under $3000 altogether. Money well spent.

Another plus was the ability of the party to bring our families together, not just for that day but for subsequent events and visits as well. Family members are making more of a point of coming to the Pig Roasts, so it’s turning into a multi-day event for the families involved.

Looking back, it's all good. On a related note, something that struck us as interesting was the level of commitment that our friends attached to the day. There are a lot of people out there who don’t necessarily commit to this sort of thing. Now, of course, some of them have distance issues, and others have scheduled events that they simply can’t miss (a friend of mine was also getting married that day—she got a pass). But for some people it was clearly a matter of “maybe we’ll come” with the unspoken subtext of “if something better doesn’t come up.” I don’t necessarily hold that against them; this is the way people are. But here’s the weird part: the people who heard about what happened at the party later on and who said to us, “Oh, if we’d know that you were going to do that, then we’d have come!”

I was going to turn this into a bit of a rant about people’s priorities, but I think I’m going to let that last one stand on its own.

Jockomo Feena Nay

My spy boy told your spy boy
Sitting on the Bayou
My spy boy told your spy boy
I’m gonna set your flag on fire

Talking ‘bout hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko iko ah nay
Jockomo feena ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay.

—“Iko Iko”, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, 1953

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I got spoiled because I couldn't remember Harley's name and I wanted a picture of Harley and Annie together. I’ve really been enjoying Treme, the series created by David Simon and Eric Overmeyer. Locals may remember David Simon as the guy who came up with The Wire and Homicide: Life in the Street, both of which were set in Baltimore. In addition to the music—and there’s a lot of music, even if you don’t necessarily hear most of the songs in their entirety—there are lots of stories going on that don’t necessarily intersect to any great extent.

(And let me just say that in doing some of the research for this piece, I accidentally spoiled myself for the most recent episode, which is still in my DVR and I haven’t seen yet. I’m going to blame you for that, for the time being.)

Among all this music, a specific phrase keeps popping up in lyrics. For the slower-witted among you, it’s “Jockomo feena nay”. Now I’d heard it many times in the song “Iko Iko”, of course, and as long as I’ve heard the song I figured that it was a bit of nonsense lyric, a chunk of filler; kind of like singing scat in jazz. Or, as my high school friend Joe put it recently, “I just thought it was a cool song!” (Joe was the guy who turned me on to The Doors. Yeah, he was that guy in high school. Anyway, he gets a pass because of this.) The song “Iko Iko” (as noted above) was written in 1953 by James Crawford, and at the time was just called “Jockamo”.

But as I started hearing the lyric popping up in other songs, it slowly dawned on me that this phrase might actually mean something. So I did some research, from which you now get to benefit. Everybody wins!

In addition to being a great dramatic show, Treme also has the advantage of being educational. One of the things I learned is that, come Mardi Gras, there isn’t just one parade in town, the way there is on, say, Thanksgiving in New York City. It’s more like a whole series of them all over town, and they go on forever. The whole city is a parade.

Albert Season 1Among the paraders are the Mardi Gras Indians, who are actually several groups (which call themselves “tribes” or even “gangs”) of African-American Carnival revelers. They dress up in very elaborate outfits that are heavily influenced by Native American ceremonial garb. There are nearly 40 of these tribes, and most of them belong to one of two groups identifying themselves as “Uptown” or “Downtown” Indians. Once dressed, they will march out on the streets on Super Sunday, which for them is the Sunday prior to the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19).

About a hundred years ago, competing tribes who encountered each other in the street could conceivably erupt into violence, however this has generally reduced to verbal taunts about the quality of each others’ costumes. But as a result of this violence, certain paraders were given specific roles. The first one out is the Wild Man, who wears a horned hat and literally acts wild. His job is to clear the crowds in advance of the others. (This character wasn’t seen in Treme because he’d died in the storm; we did see his memorial service.) The Spy Boy goes out next, and literally spies out to see if other tribes are in the area. Next comes the Flag Boy, who is always in visual contact with the Spy Boy. The Flag Boy literally carries the tribe’s flag, and is the standard-bearer of the group. Last is the Big Chief, who always far outdoes the others in costumed elaborateness.

From all this we get the story behind Iko Iko. Most people know the version by the Dixie Cups, but it turns out that they were mostly just fooling around and didn’t realize they were being recorded. The producers added backing tracks and bam! Instant hit. But this is why the lyrics they’re singing don’t make a whole pile of sense (“My grandma said to your grandma…”). The song itself is about a collision between two Mardi Gras Indian parades, during which the Spy Boy threatens to burn the Flag Boy’s banner.

Bitch, please. I'm Bob Weir. Part of the problem of deciphering the phrase “Jockomo feena nay” is that all spellings are approximate, and that there are numerous interpretations. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead once said that “Jockomo” derives from a Swahili word meaning roughly, “If you don’t like it, that’s your problem”, or possibly even “Go to hell”. Some have theorized that it’s a corruption of the name “Giacomo”, which they then suggest is Italian (or French) for John or Joseph. Unfortunately, it’s Italian for “James,” so that’s clearly wrong.

The fact is, the words have been used for so long that they’ve become more or less meaningless, since the original words have been swallowed up in time and repetition and garbling. The two strongest theories that follow from this take a broader meaning from the phrase itself rather than an attempt to break down individual words. Thus, “Jockomo feena nay” can mean (loosely), “It doesn’t matter what the Big Chief says” (i.e. “it’s all good”), or, perhaps more appropriately—especially in context of the song—“Don’t mess with us”.

As it happens, offBeat Magazine interviewed Crawford in 2002 and asked him about “Iko Iko”. During the interview, he said:

Crawford: It came from two Indian chants that I put music to. ‘Iko Iko’ was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle. I just put them together and made a song out of them. Really it was just like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” …a phrase everyone in New Orleans knew.

Interviewer: Listeners wonder what ‘Jock-A-Mo’ means. Some music scholars say it translates in Mardi Gras Indian lingo as ‘Kiss my ass,’ and I’ve read where some think Jock-A-Mo was a court jester. What does it mean?

Crawford: I really don’t know. (laughs)

So now, if you’re like me, you’re even more confused than you were when you thought it was just
a nonsense lyric.

Ah, well. Jockamo feena nay.

S’meeps? P’ores?

Burton “Gus” Guster: I have peeps, Shawn.
Shawn Spencer: You have two peeps. And one of them is made out of marshmallow.

Psych, “He Dead” (8/14/09)

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Wife and I were looking through the Sunday newspapers this morning. I was reading the comics first, then moving on to the rest of the editorial copy; Wife was reading all of the sales supplements, what I like to think of as Porn for Women. Because I’m progressive that way.

Wife happened to notice in one circular that Marshmallow Peeps were on sale pretty cheaply. She wanted to get some to send to Daughter up at school. For whatever reason, this got my mind running: Peeps are made of marshmallow, but all we ever seem to do with Peeps is eat them. We never toast them up, or put them in cocoa or anything else; why is that?

I said to Wife, “You know what we should do? We should make Peeps s’mores.”

She gave me that look that most people would interpret as “What the hell is the matter with you?” but I choose to read as, “My god! That’s brilliant!”

Better yet, she actually went out and bought me the stuff to make Peeps s’mores. The bad news is that she came back with the Peeps bunnies, not the chicks, but that’s OK, it still worked out. In fact, it may have worked out better because of the bunnies’ flatness as opposed to the overall roundness of the chicks.

Here’s what I did. I’ve included pictures to help you keep up.

Bunnies, prepare to meet your Maker.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

Then I put some aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. I put them on foil in case of accidental meltdown, just to keep some of the mess down. It’s a typical s’mores setup: graham cracker, then a piece of Hershey bar, then the Peep bunny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blinded by my science experiment.

 

The bunnies spent exactly three minutes in the oven. Two-and-a-half minutes might have been better, since the chocolate was pretty runny.

It’s tough to tell, but the bunnies poofed up a little from being in the oven.

If you look closely at the picture, you can see where the bunnies’ eyes and nose dots dissolved into brown puddles.

 

 

 

 

Peeps 3

Finally, of course, I took another piece of graham cracker and pressed it down on the Peep. In the s’more closest to the camera you can see the chocolate oozing out, which is not really what I wanted to have happen, but for a first effort it’s not disastrous, it’s just a little messier than you expect. Especially when you actually bite into the thing and then the chocolate runs in pretty much every direction.

So that was my little foray into Fun Food this week. My next mission is to find something interesting to do with jelly beans.

Eatin’ Doggy Style

Homer: Well crying isn’t going to help. Now, you can sit there feeling sorry for yourself or you can eat can after can of dog food until your tears smell enough like dog food until your dog comes back, or you can go out there and find your dog.
Bart: You’re right. [Gets up and leaves]
Homer: Rats. I almost had him eating dog food.

The Simpsons, “The Canine Mutiny” (4/13/97)

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OK, so here’s the scenario:

It’s time to feed the dogs. I know it because of the time of day, and also because the dogs have this obnoxious habit of flipping over their empty food bowls when they want me to feed them. They know it because…well, as far as they’re concerned, it’s always time to feed the dogs. Because they’re dogs, right?

The dog bowls are in the kitchen, but the food is in a closet in the next room, because I buy the big honkin’ bags from the Big Box Warehouse Store. I have this big plastic scoop that I use, and it holds enough food for the both of them. So I typically put the bowls up on the counter, which of course is cause for celebration on their part: “WooHoo! It’s supper time! We’re gonna get fed! Yay!” and they start jumping about and getting all excited and such.

Now I go into the next room and oh, boy, they’re all about that too. "Oh boy oh boy oh boy it’s SUPPER TIME! Food’s a-coming!” They actually start crowding me, as though I’m going to feed them directly from the scoop, or perhaps this is going to be the magic day when I’m just going to overturn the bag and let them have at it.

I have a scoopful of food and I’m heading back into the kitchen. Invariably a couple of bits of kibble will fall out and hit the floor. Or, perhaps more accurately, it would hit the floor if they weren’t there to intercept it. At this point, if they had guns, they’d be firing them into the air because this is the only way left to express their sheer joy. Manna from heaven! Can you stand it?

Finally, I dose out the food into their bowls. They’re practically peeing themselves with excitement. “Oh boy oh boy oh boy, here comes supper! This is the best day ever!” They actually follow my hands with their snouts as I put the bowls down onto the floor.

And that’s when they look at the food, and then up at me, and the attitude is, “Dog food? Really? What the fuck. man?”

And more often than not they actually SNUB their food for at least a half hour. Kills me every time.

I’ll Be Here All Week

Toby Ziegler: In my day, we knew how to protest.
C.J. Cregg: What day was that?
Toby Ziegler: 1968.
Josh Lyman: How the hell old were you when you were protesting?
Toby Ziegler: My sisters took me. [a beat] Anybody got a problem with that?

The West Wing, “Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail” (2/28/01)

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So I was westbound on Erdman Avenue the other day, on my way to visit a school engaged in an activity that had nothing whatsoever to do with my job, when I reached the point where Erdman terminates at Harford Road.

There was a bunch of traffic there, because of roadwork going on on Harford. For those of you unaware, they’re tearing out the median strip on Harford. Whether they’ll replace it with something else, like a planted strip (as they did in the Lauraville/Hamilton area), I don’t know. But the bottom line is that Harford is temporarily one lane in each direction in that area, so it’s creating some bottlenecks.

At the third iteration of the traffic light, I was able to see that it would take me forever to safely make the left turn onto Harford Road, so I opted to turn right and simply go around Lake Montebello to get to my destination. Other cars would surely be going that way, too, but it would still be faster than the other way.

So I turned right, then I grabbed an early left turn onto Dobler Avenue, which I knew would take me down to the road that circles the lake. And when I got to the stop sign, I saw this, just beyond:

I'm just glad that there were no cars behind me while I was creeping my car back and forth to frame this shot.

Look, as the saying goes, the inconvenience is temporary but the improvement is permanent.

Now, I realize that everyone is entitled to their opinions and such, but I don’t understand the point of these protestors. Don’t they want us to have nice roads? What is the matter with some people?

Cue and Hay.

Rev. Steve Newlin: All I want from you is a couple of answers and than I’ll be happy to feed you a nice hot breakfast and send you on your way.

True Blood, “Release Me” (8/2/09)

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Holy Moley! It’s time for another edition of or Mister Answer Guy, who takes the tough questions and manages to turn them into puzzles that would make Rubik cry.

This dog is so bright, his mother calls him "son".

Q: Did Nick ever supply the answer to that trivia question from the last Q&A?

A: Yes. Let me recap: In the comments section, he asked, “What do the following musical groups have in common? Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, J. Geils Band, Dave Clark 5, and Paul Revere & The Raiders?” I had to give up and ask him; everything I could come up with had an exception. The answer is that all of these bands are named for someone other than their lead singer.

Q: Have any oddball searches led people to Baltimore Diary?

A: One day not long ago, I got hits from people searching for “horny housewife blog” and “clarence tom sawyer inscription”. As it happens, I’m the top search return on Bing for the second one; I’m not sure where I stand oGive us the nice bright colors, Give us the Greens of summern the first. Also, my most popular post by far is the one I did a few months back about the original “Hawaii Five-O” show.

Q: They stopped making Kodachrome film back in 2009. Who developed the last roll of Kodachrome?

A: It was Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kansas. They did it on December 30. RIP, Kodachrome. .

Q: How many people were burned at the stake as witches during the Salem Trials?

A: None! Almost 150 "witches" were arrested, but only 31 were tried in 1692. All 31, including 6 males, were sentenced to death. Nineteen were hanged, 2 died in jail, and 1 man was slowly pressed to death under heavy stones. The badass part is, it’s recorded  that the last words of the guy who was pressed to death was: “More weight”.

Q: Do you have any new stories of sports-related deaths?

A: Glad you asked. Frank Hayes was a jockey who was in a race at Belmont Park in 1923. During the race he had a heart attack and died. The horse, named “Sweet Kiss”, not only finished the race but won. This makes Hayes the first (and so far only) jockey to win a race posthumously.

Q: How old is the universe?

A: It’s 11,200,000,035 years old.

Q: How did you get a crazy number like that?

A: Simple. When I was 13, my science teacher told me that the universe was 11.2 billion years old. That was 35 years ago, so I just added on.

Also, it apparently makes a difference which heel goes into which end. Q: What do they call that gizmo that they use in shoe stores to measure your feet?

A: It’s called a Brannock Device. Do they still use these things? I’ve got to get myself into better shoe stores; I don’t think I’ve seen one since I was a kid.

Q: What’s with the airport abbreviations? I can get “JFK” for John F. Kennedy Airport, and “EWR” makes sense for Newark, but why is Chicago abbreviated as ORD?

A: It’s because the old name of the airport is “Orchard Field”. The crazy part is that it was changed to “O’Hare” long before the three-letter abbreviation system came along.

Q: What else can you tell me about Chicago airports?

A: So far as I can tell, Chicago is the only city in America with more than one airport whose names derive from World War II: Midway was named after the Battle of Midway, and O’Hare was named after a WW2 flying ace.

Q: What do Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia all have in common?

A: Tennessee.

I can't be the only adult who STILL bites off the heads first. Q: Why do the boxes of Barnum’s Animal Crackers have the string on them?

A: You’d think it’s so the kids can carry it easily, but that’s the other reason. The first reason that the string was first put on the box (in 1902) so that it could be hung from a Christmas tree. This was also the first year that they were called “Barnum’s Animals”; in the 30-odd years prior to that they were simply called “Animals”.

Q: Most people know that Vatican City is a country located entirely within another country. Are there any others?

A: Yes, there are two. One is the Kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa. The other one is the Republic of San Marino, which—like Vatican City—is also in Italy.

And that’s it for this time around! Feel free to email me or post in the comments if you have questions of your own!

Unplugged

Icarus: Thank you, you've been a wonderful audience. And now I will play something from my unplugged set. Could someone unplug me?

Hercules, “Hercules and the Prom” (12/21/98)

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This past weekend, Wife and I went over to Holden’s Lair for a house concert. The house involved is the home of another Baltimore-based blogger who I probably could identify but I’m not positive if it’s OK, so I’ll just leave you with the house concert’s link here. At any rate, Baltimore being a small town posing as a big city, our paths have crossed now and again but I’ve never been to his house concerts before. This week, Wife and I needed some down time, so I decided to pull the trigger.

This photo was totally nicked off of her website. It's a shame it's not more up-to-date. The artist performing was Patti Rothberg, who has been to the Lair before, about two years ago. Of course, that was in Holden’s other Lair, before he moved, but while the place was a bit on the small side, a bunch of people were there and we all had a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s more fun in the close quarters.

In addition to singing songs from her albums, she took some requests and we did a bit of sing-along. I don’t think anyone in attendance knew all of the words to ANY of the songs we sang  (the guy looking up lyrics on his smartphone notwithstanding), but a great time was had by all, although I have to wonder what was on the neighbors’ minds as her amplified voice & guitar mingled with us acting as her backup singers.

Patti’s merchandise was available for purchase that night, but I’m not an impulse buyer (plus, we didn’t have a lot of cash with us). So I’ll probably be going to Amazon in the next week or so to add some of her stuff to my collection. I was particularly taken with the songs from her first album, although I love the sense of wordplay she brings to so many of her songs.

Before the show, and at the end of the first set, there was a lot of mingling and sharing of food that most of the attendees brought. I did a baked ziti and brought along some cookies I’d baked with Wee One. I’m pretty sure the cookies were more popular than the ziti. I’ll have to share that recipe here soon, although I nicked it from the Washington Post.