Stupid Tuesday questions, Waffle House edition

elephantschildIn the High and Far-Off Times your Blogger, O Beloved Readers, was a child.

Lo those many seasons ago, the choices for road-trip entertainment were not as they are today.  In the days of the Apple II, the iPad was a rumor of a whisper of a gleam in an afrit’s eye.  The Walkman that auto-reversed (thus sparing users the tedium of flipping over the cassette tape) was a marvel.  Choose Your Own Adventure books were much prized, though your humble Blogger was an inveterate cheater at them.  (“Yes, book.  Yes, I did pick up a magic ring in the forest and will thus turn to page 47.”)

It was a different age.

In those days, when a family was confined in a small mobile space for days on end, maintaining a delicate balance regarding listening choices was of paramount importance.  A strict rotation was enforced, from Father’s to Mother’s to your Blogger’s to Blogger’s Brother’s and back.  This led to a rather eclectic playlist, ranging from bagpipes and the 5th Dimension (Father’s) to Weird Al (Brother’s).  Mother’s usual choice (“Could we just have some peace and quiet for once?”) is not quite so memorable.

It is because of this system that I, perhaps unique among my peers, can sing by heart Peter, Paul and Mary’s song “I Dig Rock and Roll Music.”  (A “Best Of” collection of P, P and M hits was another of Father’s usual selections.)  The other day I happened to be noodling on the Web, and I decided to look up “Too Much of Nothing” (another song on the album).  (I was curious to see if the references to “Valerie” and “Marion” in the chorus meant anything.  I still don’t have a clue, but I find the chorus haunting anyway.)  And for some reason I looked up “I Dig Rock and Roll Music,” too.

O Beloved Readers, I was much astonished by what I learned.  Humming along and learning the lyrics as a boy, I had no idea that the song is actually making fun of rock and roll music, as well as such bands as The Mamas and the Papas, and The Beatles.  The whole song is ironic, and I didn’t know it until just the other day.  (It does explain lyrics like “They’ve got a good thing going when the words don’t get in the way.”)

Imagine my surprise.  It turns out Peter, Paul and Mary really didn’t dig rock and roll music.  It actually makes me enjoy the song less, since it’s apparently kind of snarky in the proper light, and I happen to like both The Mamas and the Papas and The Beatles a great deal.  It’s catchy and well-written, but now it seems mean, too.  (I’m sure Paul McCartney is still weeping himself to sleep atop gigantic piles of cash.)

So that’s this week’s Question — what did you, long after you first heard or read or watched it, learn something about that changed your impression of it entirely?  What, with experience, is not as it appeared to you in relative innocence?  What do you like more or less now that you know more about it?

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67 thoughts on “Stupid Tuesday questions, Waffle House edition

  1. There is an episode of “Roseanne” where DJ discovers masturbating. Only they never quite say that. They talk about how much time he spends in the bathroom, always with a big guffaw from the audience. When I first saw this episode (Wiki tells me it came out when I was 10, still a relatively innocent time for me), I didn’t really get it. I thought they were making poop jokes. Which was still funny to me! “Heh… the kid won’t stop pooping.”

    A few years later I caught that same episode on reruns. Initially, I was 10-years-old again… “Heh… the kid won’t stop poo-… WAIT A MINUTE!!! HE’S JERKING OFF!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

    Earlier that same year, I was in 4th grade (I remember specifically because I was still in Catholic school) and I caught an episode of “Blossom”. In it, Joey was dating a pregnant girl. This did not compute in my little, innocent, Catholicism-filled 9-year-old brain. “How could she be pregnant? They’re not married. God doesn’t put the baby in you unless you’re married.” Now, I wasn’t a total waste. I knew sex was a thing. I knew it had something to do with pregnancy. But I still thought there was some magically religious mechanism whereby one physically couldn’t get pregnant until they were married. So this episode with the teenage pregnant girl who wasn’t married to anyone really bothered me.

    A few days later… I’ll never forget the moment… my mom and I were driving in the car. I said, “Mom… I was watching TV the other day. There was a girl on the show and she was pregnant. But she wasn’t married. How is that possible???” Once my mom stifled her laughter (she won “Mom of the Year” the following spring) she explained that one COULD get pregnant before marriage but they weren’t supposed to.

    I never watched “Blossom” again.

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  2. There’s one really huge category for me, and it’s not easy to write about. Or even to conceptualize.

    In my inner life, it stands out like you wouldn’t believe. But if I try to express it, the whole thing sounds trivial. Or maybe sort of autistic. Here goes:

    As a young person, I didn’t readily connect expressions of heterosexual love to the desire for heterosexual sex.

    Love songs? Not about sex. Love poetry? Also not about sex. Marriage and dating? Not at all about sex! Not even a little!

    Why not? A combination of two things — first, I had a very conservative upbringing; and second, I was and remain 100% gay, a Kinsey 6, with zero sexual interest in women.

    The result here was that I grew up thinking that sexual feelings could just be actuated, or dismissed, as easily as one might choose to sing or to hop on one foot. That I didn’t know how to feel that way was only an indication that I wasn’t old enough yet. When the day arrived, I would be able to (I hoped), and in that event, all would be completely subject to control.

    Not subject, in other words, to the compulsive dominion of love. Sex was a capacity, not a desire, and expressions of love weren’t pointing in that direction at all. Love was pure, platonic, and non-carnal. Irresistible, of course: The songs said so. But that it might lead to sex? No. Not at all.

    And yet there were all these inexplicable things happening in my dreams and my unbidden thoughts. But they were not about love, because love was a pure thing, and a mental, spiritual, non-carnal thing between a man and a woman.

    Hard to explain. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded.

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    • This is fascinating, Jason.

      Because for women, it’s sort of this weird thing of you’re supposed be sexy, but it’s like really, really bad if you act on that. And music mostly reflects that, too; Good girls don’t, it’s about the romance. Damned shy on the thrill of a good romp; like women don’t get off or something. Perhaps that a shade of what getting at?

      I do think it’s changing, slowly; but the prudish claws are dug in pretty deep.

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    • I had a very liberal and secular childhood so sometimes I find stories from people with very conservative childhoods to be fascinating in a kind of alien anthropologist way.

      My parents thought that Dungeons and Dragons encouraged imagination and creativity so it is odd when I meet people whose parents thought it encouraged evil devil worship.

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      • A certain best friend and co-blogger (who has FINALLY blessed us all with a new post) still finds it staggering that I was raised to believe that such things were, literally, the work of Satan. Also how much of my adolescence was filled with the message “For the LOVE OF GOD (literally), don’t have sex!!!!”

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  3. I read Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy in high school, along with the rest of his stuff, and I loved it because it’s funny and snarky and sarcastic, like all his best books. It wasn’t until I reread it many years later than I realized that its main point is that fighting WWII was a bad idea, because the only ones who gained from it were the Communists and the homosexuals (not that they were, overall, different people.) Yecccch.

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  4. One just happened. Went out to go to my knitting circle, a sacred Tuesday afternoon thing, it’s my meeting time with my professional peers.

    My care turned over, the engine engages, and then turns itself off. “Immobilization active” warning message.

    This is the antitheft system; happens with all keys, so it’s not the key, it’s the RFID reader in the ignition column. Waiting for a tow truck now.

    Apparently this is a potential flaw with all newer (approx. 2000 and later) cars, further back for luxury cars, more recent for economy.

    Modern antitheft systems are not good when they can randomly stop functioning, not be reset, and leave a woman stranded. And require expensive towing for a simple electronic problem that has nothing to do with the cars actual road function. Just saying.

    I think I’d like a late 1990’s Passat right about now.

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  5. What did you, long after you first heard or read or watched it, learn something about that changed your impression of it entirely? What, with experience, is not as it appeared to you in relative innocence? What do you like more or less now that you know more about it?

    I’ve gained a greater comprehension – if not necessarily enjoyment – of Shakespeare’s comedies since being corrupted by the Internet: I can now recognize some of the dirty jokes that were just incomprehensible Elizabethan english to me in high school.

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  6. “Harrison Bergeron”, the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, is actually a parody of the dystopian schi-fi most people think it’s an example of. Based on the timing, I suspect it’s meant to be a parody of atlas shrugged.

    The point of the story isn’t “These are the horrors we might unleash in our pursuit of equality”. It’s that those who imagine such horrors are being ridiculous. The mid-century equivalent of Stephen Colbert claiming that if two men can marry, next thing you know we’ll have cats marrying dogs.

    We read that story two or three times in high school English class, but it was only in college that I was clued into what the story was actually about.

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  7. I think I was in my twenties before I realized that Belloq knowing Indiana Jones at school meant that Belloq knew Marian, and thus his whole “there is nothing you cannot possess that I can not take away” thing applies to Marian as well, which explains a lot, later in the film.

    It also really changed the dialogue between the two characters when they’re in the tent and she’s drinking him under the table. It just didn’t occur to me the first ten or fifteen times that I saw the movie that her casual familiarity with Belloq was because she knew the guy. It makes her whole approach to the scene different; it’s not an utterly improvised escape attempt, she knows him probably about as well as she knew Indy and she’s working him the whole time.

    The whole thing was just like, “DUH, you dumbass, you never realized that before?!??!”

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  8. The song that stands out for me is Norwegian Wood.

    I listened to it all through my childhood. At that tender age I knew nothing of sexual frustration (let alone arson), so I always thought of it as a nice, sappy but lovable love song. That way of hearing the song was so ingrained in me that even when I would sing it out loud an an adult, the actual meaning of the song never hit me. I think I actually had to read someone talking about the meaning of the song in an essay (Klosterman? Eggers?) before the penny dropped.

    It seems weird, but I like the song much more now than I did before. There are countless mushy love songs in the world when I need them, but there’s only one that I’m aware of about a guy who torches a girl’s flat because she wouldn’t sleep with him.

    I’ll also add this one, because it just happened the other day as I was re-discovering Paul Simon: Mother & Child Reunion, another childhood fave which I had always thought of as a happy song about a mother and child being re-uninted. I totally just got that it’s a song about the feeling of hopelessness a guy feels when he loses custody of his kid.

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  9. Regarding Peter, Paul, and Mary, my mom had this group of hippie friends when I was young. One of the couples were Peter and Paula. While visiting a different hippy couple in the Berksheres, who were also friends with Peter and Paula, we went to go see a show at a local music venue, Tanglewood. I remember hearing that we’d be seeing Peter, Paula, and Mary. “Cool! Pete is always such a nice guy. But who’s Mary? And where are they? And why are they singing about a dragon?”

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  10. Today’s news reminded me of an actual answer to the original question (and one that doesn’t involve masturbation)

    Reading The Hunt For Red October as a teenager, then reading it again after receiving your fish, results in very different opinions of its verisimilitude.

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  11. Chronicles of Narnia. In retrospect, I should have gotten this at around book 7 (I hadn’t read the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and figured it would be boring since I already knew the ending).

    … I didn’t realize this was a Christian story.

    Also, I read Animal Farm, and took it as a sci-fi novel about what America was going to become [to be fair, I was still in elementary school]. It really disturbed me.

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