Every so often, my brain gets a burr under its saddle. Some question or puzzle that I can’t answer, no matter how hard I look or ponder. For example, when I read Infinite Jest I kept a (lengthy) list of words David Foster Wallace used that I didn’t know, which I would then look up. Twice he used the word “ascapartic” to describe characters, and I could find this word nowhere I looked. Literally every time I went into a library, I would find the hugest, oldest and most comprehensive dictionaries I could locate and search for it, to no avail. It drove me nuts, until finally someone on some online word forum suggested it was a term Wallace coined based upon an obscure giant of medieval European legend. (Wallace remains one of my two favorite authors, but sometimes his preening intellectualism got on my nerves.)
“Simpsons” fans, today I turn to you in helping me figure out something that has defied all my attempts to decipher it for over a decade. Those of you who can figure out the answer when Burt gives you a longitude, three dates and a set of Roman numerals as clues, I implore you — help me figure out this joke!!
It’s from the episode where the teachers all go on strike. Marge is complaining to Homer that the kids aren’t doing well since the school has closed. She looks out the window and says “There’s something about flying a kite at night that’s so unwholesome.” The shot cuts to Bart flying a kite in the front yard, at which point he looks up at the window and says “Hello, mother dear” in this creepy, sinister voice. Here’s the screen shot:
What does this mean??!???
Unlike “Family Guy” and all these new cartoons with their mania for randomness as humor, “The Simpsons” (at least when I was a fan of religious proportions) never had throw-away jokes that didn’t either make internal sense or refer to something else. Since this just doesn’t make sense as a stand-alone joke (unless I’m missing something about kite-flying during the nighttime), this must be a reference to something, right? Right?? Surely there’s some cheesy, obscure “demonic child stalks hapless adults” horror flick that this comes from. But nobody I’ve ever asked and nowhere I’ve ever looked has had any answers.
I implore you, readers. This has been bugging me for years. I will come to your house and wash your car/mow your lawn if you can please explain this reference to me. [Disclaimer — I will not actually come to your house.]