Monday, Apr 21, 2014
by Ned Wazowski
Beam me up, Scotty. Play it again, Sam…How can it not be in the film if we know the catchphrase so well?
Pop culture is full of famous catchphrases, and our conversations around the office here at Curio & Co. are littered with movie quotes and old advertising slogans. We can have whole conversations about everyday topics just using favorite lines.
For most of us, these catchphrases become part of the stock repertoire of expressions that we use in normal conversation, so that we may even forget where they originated. I guess then we have to admit that we’re not really quoting anymore – those phrases (and the products they might be promoting) become part of our subconscious. And with over 150 years of recorded speech to draw upon, we have a lot of material available.
Take the film And Now a Word from Our Sponsor, released in 2013 (and it’s title, a well known phrase). In that film, an ad executive wakes up in the hospital and is only able to speak in ad slogans. You might not thing he has much to say, or that his catchphrases don’t allow him to carry on a meaningful conversation, but you’d be wrong. Not only is he able to keep the plot going but he changes the lives of those around him.
But if these catchphrases are such a meaningful part of pop culture, how did we manage to conjure up some of the most famous ones out of thin air? Because some of the most memorable (Just the facts, ma’am/Elementary, my dear Watson/You dirty rat!/Do you feel lucky, punk?/We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!) were never actually spoken in film, TV or in literature.
In the case of “Play it again, Sam,” the closest any of the characters get is to say “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By.” So it must be a case of listening between the lines. We don’t hear those exact words in that exact order, but we know that’s what the characters are saying, perhaps. Or maybe, in the case of “Beam me up, Scotty,” we’re hearing a kind of shorthand: since it varies every time the characters get close to the line (“Scotty, beam us up…Three to beam up, Scotty…Beam me out of here, Scotty!”), our brains try to approximate what the average between all the versions could be.
It all just goes to show how much pop culture becomes a part of our lives and our social DNA. Our favorite characters and films really do take on new life as we experience them, and continue to live on in catchphrases.
Monday, Apr 14, 2014
by Ned Wazowski
There are plenty of people famous for rather dubious talents on television, with “nice guy” perhaps the most dubious.
With the recent news that Stephen Colbert will be taking over when David Letterman retires next year, we’ve been thinking a lot about the backgrounds of TV celebrities. Although he started his career as a newscaster, Letterman caught the attention of the studios through his stand-up comedy. His successor Colbert also has a background in comedy, having got his big break with Chicago improve troop The Second City.
While most late night hosts share similar backgrounds, there are plenty of daytime hosts with more dubious histories. Some of them are journalists, certainly, but many blur the line between “famous on television” and simply being (thanks to reality TV) “famous for being on television.” Celebrity rosters filled with “reality stars” is kind of a recent phenomenon, but television (and radio before that) has always given us celebrities we didn’t quite know how to categorize – we called them “personalities.”
TV personalities sometimes hosted or presented shows, such as Bob Barker, Chuck Woolery or Dick Clark. But many were famous simply for being charming, witty and good sports, like Ed McMahon or Shadoe Stevens (from the center square).
Art Linkletter is one TV personality who parlayed his good-naturedness into an interesting career. He started rather straight-forwardly in radio (KGB in San Diego) doing some acting but mostly presenting programs. His most well-known programs – Kids Say the Darndest Things and People are Funny – started on radio and continued on television, even expanding into books and comics. Known for his approachable demeanor and his witty repartee, Linkletter made his personality a household name, even licensing his name and likeness to Milton Bradley to endorse their ‘Game of Life’. (Does your version in the family game closet have his picture on the money? Ours does.)
Since it’s being reported that Stephen Colbert will leave his larger than life fictional persona behind when he moves to network television, it’s hard to know what to expect from him as a real-world host. Perhaps he too will make the time-honored transition from comedian to simply, “personality.”
Monday, Apr 07, 2014
by Ned Wazowski
For parents, experiences with sweet candy can tour sour pretty fast.
Candy companies seem to be especially out to get parents. It’s bad enough that they get kids sugared up to the point that they’re practically bouncing off the walls, but some of the stuff is just downright obnoxious. Gummy worms. Gummy boogers. Gummy earthworms in a chocolate ‘dirt cup.’ Yuck.
The stuff I ate as a kid was just as bad, and some of it I probably liked only because my parents thought it was gross – after all, as Shakespeare might have said, “a gummy candy in any other shape would taste the same.” Parents were always trying to serve us food that we thought was disgusting: broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts. It was fun to gross them out for a change.
Of course, candy from our parents’ generation wasn’t any better. I think it’s fair to say that they must have had a very different palate, because there are certainly some questionable flavors from back then: a lot of black licorice, chalk-like Necco Wafers, and whatever those Circus Peanuts were made of (Styrofoam?).
However, the most obnoxious candy – hands down – had to have been Rooty Toots Candy Blast.
I bought some this weekend at one of those specialty candy stores selling nostalgia sweets popular in days gone by. Rooty Toots look innocent enough – little candy horns, what could go wrong? Well, those candy horns are real horns, and they don’t toot as much as they squawk, like off-key noisemakers. Loud, off-key noisemakers. Through some magic of their sugared construction, they retain their ability to pierce ear drums even as they get smaller and smaller as you suck away their shape. In fact, you can get one last squawk out of a Root Toot just before you finally crunch it to nothing.
And this must have been the final nail in the coffin for parents in the past: to get all of those horribly loud squawks and screeches out of the candy, you’ve got to hold them carefully. This means melting candy-covered sticky fingers. Seriously sticky. I dropped one on the kitchen floor and despite my best scrubbing, that spot is still attracting every fly for a ten-mile radius. If you were a supermom in the 1960s – Rooty Toots were your kryptonite.
I’m not going to tell you exactly where I bought my Rooty Toots, because there are some things that should probably stay in the past. Heaven help us if today’s sever-year-olds get their hands on a box of Rooty Toots!