Saturday, January 12, 2008

Read the Book While You See the Movie

Every now and then I get tired of the foofaraw in the Atheosphere and just like to relax my mind, not burdening it with any details. Yesterday was my birthday, so I didn't want to have to trouble myself with the usual atheistic minutia like how many fundamentalists can dance on the head of a pin, or what caused the strange disappearance of DaVinci (the blogger, not the genius).

Instead, Mrs. Exterminator and I spent some time reminiscing about the good old days. The good old days — which, really, weren’t that great unless you liked French-cut canned stringbeans — were back before the Atheosphere, back before the Internet, back before laptop and desktop computers. In those days, people found information by reading books. I’m not kidding. We turned pages with our — yuck! — fingers.

Of course, that’s an outmoded procedure nowadays, but Mrs. Ex and I are kind of outmoded ourselves. So, even though each of us can Google with the best of them, we still often find ourselves racing to our bookshelves whenever we’re in search of tidbits of information. You can’t teach an old dog new research methods. That’s why it takes us about a week and a half to get through a 90-minute DVD.

To be more precise about the reason it takes us so long: It’s because we’re Lookies.

The original Lookies were a couple of friendly question-mark-shaped children in the 1950s who urged kids to nag their parents for the World Book Encyclopedia. Their motto, as I remember it, was: "We never guess; we look it up. 'Cause we're the Lookies!"

I've been a Lookie all my life, and so has Mrs. Exterminator. Years ago, when we first combined living quarters, we sat our two reference collections down and promised that we'd show no favoritism. But now, ages later, we still don't trust each other's books.

"What does 'heuristic' mean?" she might ask, looking up at me from a magazine article.

"I’m not sure. Let's look it up."

"Use my dictionary."

"Mine's better."

"Well, it's my word."

Our Lookitude really flourishes, though, when we're watching a film. Like we were last night.

"What city is that?" asks Mrs. Ex, as the camera pans down on the opening shot.

"I'm not sure it matters to the story," I answer, scanning Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, an edition of which I always grab before pressing Play. You never know what kind of film-knowledge emergencies might come up.

"Of course it matters,” she says. “It’s not just some vague place. We're supposed to recognize those buildings. What does the book say? I see palm trees. It's probably Miami or L.A., don't you think?"

"There's a street sign," I point out.

"I missed it. Stop and hit reverse. Let's see it again."

Meanwhile, the film's narrator is telling us, "The sun rose that morning over ..."

"Stop that damn thing for a minute!"

"C'mon," I complain. "He just said it was Minneapolis."

"I don’t care what he said, but I think you’re hearing things. There aren’t any palm trees in Minneapolis. Even you know that, right? Go look up 'palm' in my botany encyclopedia."

"Maybe it was an unusually warm summer," I suggest. "Let's just watch the movie."

Mrs. Ex leans over and grabs the remote from my hand, frantically hitting pause. "Wait a second. Wait a second. What else took place in Minneapolis? I'm thinking of something but I can't zero in on it."

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show,'" I say.

"Oh, yeah, right." We both sing “Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take ..."

“You know when Mary Tyler Moore really made me smile?" Mrs. Ex gets up to walk over to one of our 3,000 bookcases. "I wanna find something in Total TV. Just bear with me a second. Go pee or something"

"I don’t have to. Can't it wait till after the movie?" I ask.

"This is gonna drive me crazy through the whole thing. When we were singing about Mary Tyler Moore, it reminded me of when she was married to Dick Van Dyke. And I suddenly can't remember their last name. Aha! Here it is! Petrie!"

"Yeah," I say, "like the dish we used to make gunk in during high school biology. Now you've got me curious. Who's that dish named for? You think it'll be in one of the desk encyclopedias?"

"I bet it's in mine."

"Mine's better. Hold on, while I check in my office."

“I’ll go look in mine.” Both of us call out, almost simultaneously, "J.R. Petri, German bacteriologist." Then, as she heads back to the living-room, she hollers, "OK, I'm ready to watch the movie now."

"No, no. Not yet," I holler back. "I wanna see something. I'm checking Nobel Prizes for Medicine in The World Almanac."

"What year?"

"I don’t know. I graduated from high school in '65, so it had to be before that. Just shut up and let me do some serious research here."

About fifteen minutes later, I march into the living-room, triumphantly.

“Did you find out if he won a Nobel Prize?” Mrs. Ex asks.

"No, I got sidetracked. But y’wanna hear something weird! We were just talking about Dick Van Dyke, and I was looking up awards given out in 1965, right?” She nods. “Well, guess who won the Miss America Contest in 1965!"

"No clue," she says.


“I can’t. Now you’re holding the movie up.”

"Vonda Kay Van Dyke!" I say. "Isn't that a strange coincidence?"

"What the hell kind of name is Vonda?"

"It's a variant of 'Wanda' and it means 'wanderer.' I knew you'd want to know, so I looked it up."


"In What to Name Your Baby."

"What are you doing with that?"

I shrug. "It was on sale at Barnes and Noble. I couldn't resist. You never know what kind of information ..."

"That reminds me," she says. "Remember ‘The Wanderer’?"

"Yeah, yeah. I figured you'd ask so I looked in The Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll. Dion sang it in 1962."

"Not that wanderer," she says. "A different wanderer. I was thinking of some opera character. Where's my opera handbook?"

"I'll go look in mine, too," I suggest.

Five minutes go by.

Siegfried," she calls. "By Wagner," I respond. "The Wanderer is Wotan," she calls. "Leader of the Norse gods," I answer.

"Yeah. By the way, my stylebook right here says not to confuse 'Norse' with 'Norwegian."

"You know who I picture when I think about Norwegians?”

“Garrison Keillor," she answers.

"Hey, that’s amazing," I shout. “Minnesota.”

"Minneapolis!" we both cheer.

Finally, having come full circle — at least for the time being — we head back to the couch to unpause the movie. And to breathe a sigh of relief after a job well done.

Nobody ever claimed that being a Lookie was gonna be easy.


Anonymous said...

I take it you've never watched Wager's Ring Cycle on DVD (is it even available on DVD?). I imagine it would take you two a month or so to get through all of it. If you're patient, though, you'll eventually get around to Siegfried and you won't have to look him up anymore.

Anonymous said...

I know you've never watched Wager's Ring Cycle. How about Wagner's? I hear his is pretty good. :)

The (Parenthetical) Atheist said...

At my house (me, wife, two teenagers) we play a dinner table game. We have no idea when it will come up, but when it does, it is very hard to stop. It runs along the same lines, except we use free association, puns and mild mispronunciations to make truly bizarre connections. The 'winner' is the one who comes up with an association that either no one gets (the more esoteric the better) or no one can continue, or, even better, gets us back to the initial statement which started the whole thing. Our kids friends think we are brilliantly crazy. I can live with that.

I did have a recent experience similar to the one you describe. About two years ago I was interviewed on camera for about three hours for a PBS documentary about immigration. Somehow I became an expert in the subject. Luckily my reading is so diverse that I was able to pull it off without sounding like an idiot.

The film, called "The Extraordinary Journey: Eastern Europeans of Northeastern Pennsylvania" wa finally broadcast on our local station (WVIA) and I had the odd experience of seeing myself on the TV. While I was speaking, I said something I didn't remember saying and wasn't sure whether what I said was right when I said it (I know, confusing (though not as confusing as Wager's Ring Cycle I's wager)). I found myself with "Timetables of History," "Timetables of American History," and a few other books piling up on my desk while I watched myself. The part I couldn't remember was, who were/are the Ruthenians? I found it, but missed about 15 minutes of the program. Luckily, they sent me a DVD, so I can watch it in short bits and figure out what I said.

Sounds like a fun household. Do you ever do this in a movie theatre?

PhillyChief said...

Note to self: Never accept invitation for movie night at the Ex household.

My wife sometimes asks questions while we're watching a movie about something that wasn't shown yet or explained at all. I usually say, "I'm watching the same movie you are, honey bunny". The honey bunny part I've found usually saves me from being punched. I had to find a girl who could punch. Just my luck.

John Evo said...

If anyone thinks The Exterminator is just making up an amusing anecdote, let me say that I believe this all happened – verbatim! I’m going to reveal a personal moment that I'm pretty sure he won't mind. (If you do, for some unknown reason, Ex, just delete this comment).

Recently my wife and I were in a disagreement with a third party over an English language usage. I told her I had a friend who could probably answer our question.

I ran it by Ex. He was mildly perplexed (at least it was good question!), gave a tentative response and then said, "Wait, let me check with Mrs. Exterminator"!

She had a similar response to his, at which point he says "Hold the line, Evo. I have a couple of books I want to check".

After about 10 minutes I had a fairly definitive answer.

You two are a type of crazy. Fortunately, it's the good type. And it explains why you are a great couple, and why you know a whole lot more shit than I do. Sounds like you and Billy should live next door to each other. Just let Philly and me know the address – so that we can stay away and watch our movies, with our honey-bunnies, in peace.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! My wife would kill me. She gets mad if I even open my mouth to predict what is going to happen in the movie (I'm usually right).

Sounds like you two are real soul mates.

Unknown said...

Robert Fulghum once lovingly described marriages as two people falling into "mutually exclusive weirdness," and that sounds like you and Mrs. Ex-- you two sound like a hoot!

Sorry, unintended "owl" reference.

Speaking of references, however, I think it's interesting how you're Mr. Ex, she's Mrs. Ex, together you're the "Exes," yet, unlike most Exes, you two are happily married.

Then again, I detect a strong contrarian streak at work in your personality.

And check out the Ring Cycle.


EnoNomi said...

I'm never watching a movie with you people EVER.

I just heard about the Ring Cycle on Radio Lab. If I had the money I'd go to Seattle to see the next one. I can't imagine the DVD experience would be the same. Sounds really interesting though.

I'm curious, what movie were you and Mrs. Exterminator actually trying to watch?

The Exterminator said...

I'm not familiar with Wager's Rig Cycle, but if it's anything like Wagner's Ring Cycle, I know I'd rank it right up there with the most glorious music ever composed.

By the way, though: Watching opera on DVD is like listening to tennis on the radio. It's good only if all you care about is the score.

Do you ever do this in a movie theatre?

We just make notes to ask each other later. Sometimes our discussion lasts three or four times as long as the movie did. And it's often far more interesting. At least to us.

I love that game at your house, and I'm hoping for a dinner invitation. I'll eat anything but French-cut canned stringbeans.

My wife sometimes asks questions while we're watching a movie about something that wasn't shown yet or explained at all.

What I love is the couple that always manages to sit right in front of Mrs. Ex and me at the movie theater. Maybe it's more than one couple. But whoever they are, she'll give him a blow-by-blow description of what's happening on the screen.
SCREEN: (Character opens a door.)
SHE: He's opening the door now.
HE: Yeah, yeah, I can see that.
SCREEN: (Character enters an apartment.)
SHE: Uh-oh. He's going in.
HE: Shhh. I know that. I'm not blind.
SHE: Don't shush me so loud. He's going toward the refrigerator now.
HE: No, he's heading for the microwave. He's going to find that head.
SHE: What head?
HE: That dead guy's head.
SHE: Which dead guy's head? The tall one?
HE: No, the one with the mustache. He used to shtup that girl.
SHE: Which girl? There was no shtupping in this movie.
HE: In real life I mean.
SHE: I still don't know which guy you ...

That's like the Bizarro version of the conversations my wife and I have when we watch a flick.

I’m going to reveal a personal moment that I'm pretty sure he won't mind. (If you do, for some unknown reason, Ex, just delete this comment).

OK. I've deleted that comment.

Sounds like you two are real soul mates.

Except that neither one of us has a soul.

Robert Fulghum once lovingly described marriages as two people falling into "mutually exclusive weirdness" ...

I don't know how many times we've asked Bob not to write about us any more.

I'm curious, what movie were you and Mrs. Exterminator actually trying to watch?

You know what? I forgot. Now I guess I'll have to look it up, so give me a few months, OK?

PhillyChief said...

Speaking of bizarro worlds, my wife has a really good memory for reality but can't remember movies sometimes the very next day. I remember movies but often forget what happened yesterday. We're completely depended upon each other's memories.

Lynet said...

My Mum's a 'Lookie' -- though perhaps not quite in such a dramatic fashion as you! I'm more of a 'Guessie' if that makes sense. I wouldn't usually dream of looking stuff up in the middle of things. I hate interrupting a train of thought. Wherever possible, I just go with my best guess, which is right more often than not. If I can't do that, I sort of make up a fuzzy conceptual idea of what it might be, and use that as a placeholder. The latter technique is a great way of getting half a handle on mathematical concepts before someone hands you the horribly peculiar definition.

My mother and I have both been known to read the dictionary for entertainment, though.

Anonymous said...

I agree that live performances of opera are superior to televised or recorded versions. Don't bother seeking out Wager's cycle. If it's out there somewhere, it's certainly not worth your time and energy. Spend those on Wagner instead. He's always a good bet.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid about the only thing besides music that I liked about school was library period. I would get at the huuuuuuge dictionary and just sit enthralled at it's stand. I actually knew that a Yale was a heraldric beast as well as a school, a lock, and a place of incarceration for persons with certain speech impediments.

When we were in Etheopia for some reason the only books which accompanied us were our set of Britanic. If you wasnted to read, guess what was there for you.

About ten years ago my wife gave me more than a swat. We'd gone to my harp lesson and we were at her work place, she about to go to work, me about to catch the bus home. It was a cold winter day and I had on my heavy coat and a thick sheepskin hat. Luckily. This is how I discribed it to my youngest son when he called next time.

She said, "Can I kiss you goodby?" As she is a central Pennsylvania girl (a vintage girl, now, but a girl to me nonetheless) it came out, "Canna kisha gubbai?"
S,artmouth me says, "Hell, you can even kishakaquillis!" (A valley also in the area)
Son: "What did she say?"
Me: "Nothing. But she DID narrow an eye, pull a corner of her mouth down, draw back, and smite my head, luckily well protected by my hat."

Most people who know us say I got off light. She should have probably shot me years ago.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday belatedly.

Yep, you'd drive me certifiably insane if I watched a movie with you. But Matt and I drive people crazy too. Usually it's by reviewing the movie to each other while we're watching it. That's why I think we both love bad movies.

We do a lot of looking about when we're watching boxing though. It's a lot of fun to wade through the stats and history.

JP said...

Do you guys do parties? weddings? You'd be a blast.

"or what caused the strange disappearance of DaVinci"

I wonder myself, not even a goodbye. His last post before his exit, I believe, was trying to defend his blog/views. Not sure who he was talking to.

Babs Gladhand said...

I'm a Lookie, too. And an easily side-tracked one, as well. I could definitely hang with the Exes on movie night.

The Exterminator said...

We're completely dependent upon each other's memories.
Well, my wife and I can each function separately -- except when we've both forgotten the name of some actor. Then we play a zeroing in game.
MRS. EX: The first name begins with an S-H, I think.
ME: I'm seeing her in my mind in a Tennessee Williams movie.
MRS. EX: Sheila, Sharon, Shemp, Shaniqua ...
ME: Glass Menagerie? Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? I know it's not Streetcar.
MRS. EX: Maybe it's not S-H. Maybe it's a J. Joan, Jane, Joanne, ...
ME: Who else reminds me of Tennessee Williams? Some Southerner. Not Faulkner. Not Capote. Carson McCullers?
MRS. EX: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter? Member of the Wedding? Reflections in a Golden Eye?
ME: Josephine? Julia? Julie?
BOTH Julie Harris! Member of the Wedding AND Reflections in a Golden Eye.
ME: Now why were you trying to think of her?
MRS. EX: Wait a minute. I thought you were the one who ...

I think being a mathematician and being a "Guessie" are mutually exclusive. You're probably more of a "Solvie."

Smoooooth wordplay there. Nice.

She should have probably shot me years ago.
But then who would have been around to tell all your stories?

Somehow, you've never struck me as the pugilism type. But then, Dr. Joyce Brothers never struck anyone as a boxing type, either -- until she won the maximum, as an expert in that very category, on The $64,000 Question. Anyway, I hope you and Matt wrestle a lot more than you box.

Yes, we do parties and weddings, but we'll probably have to quit now. DaVinci was our opening act.

I could definitely hang with the Exes on movie night.
Well, if you bring your own set of reference books, you're welcome to join us any time.

Anonymous said...

"I’m not sure. Let's look it up."

"Use my dictionary."

"Mine's better."

"Well, it's my word."

Boy, can I imagine this conversation taking place.
There's no doubt that sitting at the keyboard and requesting information from that fire hose of information called the Internet is faster. But holding a book in one's hands (after so many years of doing so in the past) is a warm and rewarding experience whether it's for research or pleasure.

Anonymous said...

The Deacon still has a tendency to look up things in books. I search Google for everything.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I look things up, but I usually wait for the movie to be over. Unless I've seen it before, of course.

bullet said...

What's funny is that you married the woman my friend Pockets is destined for. Does she have a sister?

The Exterminator said...

Boy, can I imagine this conversation taking place.
And we can imagine you imagining the conversation. And that makes Mrs. Ex and me chuckle. But, please, don't call me "Boy."

Well, Deacon is welcome to attend our movie night, but you can come only if you bring a laptop.

I look things up, but I usually wait for the movie to be over.
So you're saying you're a Loo? That's half a Lookie.

Sorry, but Mrs. Ex and her sisters have been taken since long before Pockets was born.