The Simpsons “You Only Move Twice”‘ with Hank Scorpio

A couple of things I learned while reading Alan Siegel’s piece for The Ringer about the nearly twenty-year-old(!) episode.

Albert Brooks improvised a lot of his lines as villain Hank Scorpio:

“Albert Brooks is a brilliant, insane ad-libber,” Weinstein said. “We knew that we didn’t have to get the jokes perfect.” During the marathon recording session, Brooks was hard on himself in a way that may sound familiar to those who know his work. “No, that’s not good,” Weinstein recalled him saying. “That’s not funny. Let me try something else.” Weinstein, who has a fantasy of finding the two-hour tape of Brooks as Scorpio and making an extended version of “You Only Move Twice” with it, said that 80 percent of the lines the actor came up with were funny.

“By the end of that session, I don’t think I had another comedy thought in my head for a month,” Brooks said in 2012. “I said every funny thing I had as Hank Scorpio.”

Brooks delivered an all-time great performance, but what made it even better was that while he repeatedly went off script, Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, riffed off of him in character. So in the episode, Homer’s reactions to Scorpio are real.

Secretive, possibly mythical Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder is on Twitter. (He’s the guy behind so many of those classic early episodes.)

Swartzwelder’s frame of reference often fell outside of the television age. His comedy was informed by all sorts of old-timey entertainment — W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Preston Sturges, radio crime dramas. In a New Yorker article published in 2000, fellow Simpsons writer George Meyer described one great Swartzwelder joke as “a horrifying idea juxtaposed with something really banal — and yet there’s a kind of logic to it.”

A Swartzwelderian juxtaposition can be found early in “You Only Move Twice.” After Homer is offered the job from Globex, he shows his family a short film promoting the company town of Cypress Creek. The movie begins with shots of dilapidated buildings and a man saying, “Somebody oughta build a town that works!” The narrator then responds with, “Somebody did!” At that moment, parking meters magically become trees, four different storefronts transform into coffee shops, a dumpster morphs into a coffee cart, and finally — and most disturbingly — a homeless man turns into a mailbox.

Everything’s coming up Milhouse

Mallory Ortberg celebrates (?) Milhouse Van Houten for The Toast:

There is a well-known scene on Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson describes his coworker Jerry thusly: “A schlemiel is the guy who spills soup at a fancy party. A schlamazel is the guy he spills it on. Jerry is both the schlemiel and the schlamazel.”

Milhouse, too, is both the schlemiel and the schlamazel. Even his best friend’s dad refers to him as “that little weiner kid.”

Vaguely sinister, possibly offensive nonsense

1: How new words are born

As dictionary publishers never tire of reminding us, our language is growing. Not content with the million or so words they already have at their disposal, English speakers are adding new ones at the rate of around 1,000 a year. Recent dictionary debutants include blog, grok, crowdfunding, hackathon, airball, e-marketing, sudoku, twerk and Brexit.

But these represent just a sliver of the tip of the iceberg. According to Global Language Monitor, around 5,400 new words are created every year (Oxford Dictionaries Online, evidently using different criteria, reckon 1.8bn). It’s only the 1,000 or so deemed to be in sufficiently widespread use that make it into print. Who invents these words, and how? What rules govern their formation? And what determines whether they catch on?

2: Passweird

This website will create for you a password that is not only secure, but is also so utterly repulsive that not even the most hardened criminal, identity thief, NSA agent, or jealous boyfriend would ever want to use it.

3: Sarah Palin’s English

In fact, a lot of what Sarah Palin says sounds like it’s been poorly translated from the Latin. With her “he who” and “one who,” she’d sound almost Ciceronian if it weren’t for the holes in her logic and the way those complicated sentences sometimes dribble off into vaguely sinister, possibly offensive nonsense.

See also The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth, an excellent book about turning the perfect English phrase.

4: Everything About Everything: David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’ at 20

“Infinite Jest” is a genuinely groundbreaking novel of language. Not even the masters of the high/low rhetorical register go higher more panoramically or lower more exuberantly than Wallace — not Joyce, not Bellow, not Amis. Aphonia, erumpent, Eliotical, Nuckslaughter, phalluctomy! Made-up words, hot-wired words, words found only in the footnotes of medical dictionaries, words usable only within the context of classical rhetoric, home-chemistry words, mathematician words, philosopher words — Wallace spelunked the O.E.D. and fearlessly neologized, nouning verbs, verbing nouns, creating less a novel of language than a brand-new lexicographic reality. But nerdlinger word-mongering or “stunt-pilotry” (to use another Wallace phrase) can be an empty practice indeed. You need sentences to display-case the words, and here, too, “Infinite Jest” surpasses almost every novel written in the last century, maintaining a consistent and mind-boggling descriptive mastery, as when he portrays a sunset as “swollen and perfectly round, and large, radiating knives of light … It hung and trembled slightly like a viscous drop about to fall.”

5: The Fermi Paradox is not Fermi’s, and it is not a paradox

Two big ideas often come up in discussions about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. One is the Drake Equation, which estimates the number of civilizations in our Galaxy whose signals we might be able to detect—potentially thousands, according to plausible estimates. The other is the so-called Fermi paradox, which claims that we should see intelligent aliens here if they exist anywhere, because they would inevitably colonize the Galaxy by star travel—and since we don’t see any obvious signs of aliens here, searching for their signals is pointless.

The Drake Equation is perfectly genuine: it was created by astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake. The Fermi paradox, however, is a myth. It is named for the physicist Enrico Fermi—but Fermi never made such a claim.

6: From Berlin’s warehouses to London’s estates: how cities shape music scenes

Most modern music is an urban animal. Cities regularly birth music scenes, and artists often claim to be inspired by “the streets”, or by their neighbourhood. Yet the actual link between the music they make and the built environment where they do so is generally underplayed – spoken about as a matter of mood, or a source of lyrics. Music historians generally cite a critical mass of musicians as being crucial to the birth of a scene: classical composers in 18th century Vienna, for example, or modern metal bands in Helsinki. But the city itself? Well that’s mainly just credited as a convenient place for the musicians to hang out – though David Bowie’s residency in Berlin, for one, took that relationship to particularly intimate levels. But what if a city’s role isn’t quite so one-note?

7: Frinkiac

Frinkiac has nearly 3 million Simpsons screencaps so get to searching for crying out glayvin!

8: Winona, Forever

 Like [Holden Caulfield], teen Ryder was the smart, ambivalent outsider searching for a place in a society that opposed those very things. Even into her twenties, in Reality Bites and Girl, Interrupted, she was more of a delayed adolescent than an adult. Ryder was unable to move on because of what moving on meant. And we weren’t either. Our Nonistalgia keeps her cloistered to this day in adolescence, alongside then-boyfriend Johnny Depp, before he cashed in on his eccentricity. But despite our attempts to resuscitate the past—Beetlejuice 2, Heathers: The Musical, Marc Jacobs—and as young as Ryder continues to look, she is no longer that ‘90s ingénue. In that sense she and Holden really are a team. “[Caulfield’s] central dilemma is that he wants to retain a child’s innocence, solipsism, and clarity,” wrote Harold Bloom, “but because of biology he must move into either adulthood or madness.”

Nothing to do with abdominal glandular organs

1: Timelike

Another time-travel based short. Because why break the habit of a lifetime?

Madeline and her boyfriend are enjoying a quiet evening at home when they are interrupted by a visit from a stranger bearing a message from Madeline’s future self. (An explanation of sorts?)

2: How London’s terminal stations got their names

St Pancras International: The international part is fairly obvious, given that this is the London home of Eurostar services to the continent. But who was this St Pancras? London’s most magnificent station and the surrounding area take their name from a Roman teenager, who was beheaded for converting to Christianity at a time when this was outlawed (c. 304 AD). Young master Pancras had probably never even heard of Londinium, and it’s unclear exactly why the founders of the first church on the site should choose him as their dedicatee. It may be that Pancratic relics found their way to the region, or perhaps his memory was promoted by members of a nearby Roman camp, established at a date when Christianity was more widespread within the Roman Empire. Either way, this is thought to be one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in the country. The name has nothing to do with abdominal glandular organs.

3: 2 kinds of people

There are only 2 kinds of people in this world, those that find this blog hilarious and those that have no sense of humor whatsoever.

4: Something fishy

The true story behind four curiosities of everyday sushi.

5: Design a cover for the twentieth anniversary edition of Infinite Jest

There are two routes to literary immortality:

  • Slave for years—if not decades—over a work of fiction so searingly sui generis, so well and truly fused with an authentic zeitgeist, so deeply attuned to life’s vicissitudes and the mysteries of the soul, that establishment and nonestablishment figures alike have no choice but to revere you and send you soaring toward the firmament, never to be forgotten.

  • Hitch your wagon to David Foster Wallace’s star.

6: Time is a privacy setting

John Herrman on the ephemerality of Twitter and Facebook posts. Social networks change with such frequency, and the passing of time removes context and meaning from our posts. How do we deal with this? Herman deletes things after a week.

Facebook’s Timehop-esque feature was interesting to me at first until it started showing me things from my early days on the service that made me shudder and squirm. I initially used it as a prompt to delete old stuff that was just awful. Now I can barely use that feature. Seeing the ‘You have memories’ notification is enough to send waves of undiluted cringe flowing through my body.

7: Inside the manipulative world of film color correction

Professional colorists reveal their secrets—and a neuroscientist explains why they work.

8: All hail the Ned Flanders-themed metal band Okilly Dokilly

Nekrogoblikon, a band with a goblin mascot, once famously sang “We Need a Gimmick.” Phoenix band Okilly Dokilly have found one, and it’s blowing up the internet. The five-piece band are entirely inspired by and about Homer Simpson’s neighbor Ned Flanders. They’re hardly the first band to be inspired by The Simpsons (hello, Fall Out Boy), or even the first metal band to take their name from the show (what’s up, Evergreen Terrace?), but the world’s only “Nedal” band are fully committed to their shtick. All five of them dress like Homer’s nemesis (green sweaters, gray pants and spectacles, and three of them even have mustaches.