Obvious things about a creative work you realize after the millionth time (OPEN SPOILERS POSSIBLE)

The doctor may have been actually talking about love rather than using it as a euphemism for sex.

I’ve wanted to post this years, but what the hell.

The Minnie The Moocher sequence in The Blues Brothers.

So perfect, so well done.

There’s little doubt that he did. Have a look at The Annotated Christmas Carol , with notes by Michael Patrick Hearn. The section on the Cratchit’s Christmas Dinner fairly bristles with references to Dickens’ own family.

The thing about A Christmas Carol that suddenly struck me some time ago was Scrooge’s line that “Any fool who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips ought to be boiled in his own plum pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!”

That seems like a pretty clear reference to the way we kill a vampire – at least the stake through the heart part, if you’ll allow Dickens a shot of humor for specifying a stake of holly for a Christmas touch. If so, it’s the earliest example of a reference to a stake through the heart to kill a hateful creature that I know of in English literature.
There were literary vampires before this in English and other non-Eastern European languages – Goethe’s The Bride of Corinth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s *Christabel (*arguably), Polidori’s The Vampyre and the play and opera based on it. In none of these is the vampire killed with a stake. The idea isn’t even mentioned. The guide books and collections of Balkan legends that Bram Stoker would rely on for his vampire lore hadn’t even been written yet. I think the idea shows up in Dom Calmet’s 1746 book on vampires and other occult creatures, but that’s not exactly a book you read for fun. Dickens’ using the idea in an offhand joke in the 1843 Christmas Carol shows that the notion was, however, well-known in London by then (if it weren’t, the joke would make no sense).

Varney the Vampyre, the penny dreadful that popularized a lot of vampire lore well before Dracula, didn’t appear until two years later. It did include staking the vampire. So did Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla. But that didn’t come out until 1872.

I don’t believe a stake through the heart was intended as a means of killing a vampire. I believe its purpose, in folklore of Dickens’ era, was to keep a ghost from leaving the body. It apparently was something people did when somebody was executed for witchcraft (which was certainly a part of English history) or died by suicide. This was apparently common enough that King George IV outlawed the practice in 1823.

Dickens was aware of the practice. He had written about it in The Old Curiosity Shop, which was published two years before A Christmas Carol.

The body of Quilp being found - though not until some days had elapsed - an inquest was held on it near the spot where it had been washed ashore. The general supposition was that he had committed suicide, and, this appearing to be favoured by all the circumstances of his death, the verdict was to that effect. He was left to be buried with a stake through his heart in the centre of four lonely roads.

Actually, a stake through the heart is an traditional way of stopping restless spirits from rising. It predates Dracula and Dickens by hundreds of years. It was frequently used in the case of suicides.

Searches in Google books turn up a few references between 1800 and 1840.

“stake through the heart” (3 items)

“stake through his heart” (5 items)

Some are duplicates or reprints of articles.

From the Atheneum, 1807:

Extract from the Gentleman’s Magazine

From Medreyga, in Hungary, we learn, that certain dead bodies, called Vampyres, had killed several persons by sucking out all their blood. The commander in chief and magistrates of the place were severally examined, and unanimously declared, that about five years ago a certain heyduke, named Arnold Paul, in his life-time was heard to say he had been tormented by a vampyre, and that for a remedy he had eaten some of the earth of the vampyre’s graves, and rubbed himself with their blood. That, twenty or thirty days after the death of the said Arnold Paul, several persons had complained that they were tormented, and that he had taken away the lives of four persons. To put a stop to such a calamity, the inhabitants having consulted, their hadnagi took up his body forty days after it had been dead, and found it fresh and free from corruption; that he bled at the nose, mouth, and ears, pure and florid blood, that his shroud and winding-sheet were all over bloody, and that his finger and toe-nails were fallen off, and new ones grown in their room. By these circumstances they were persuaded that it was a vampyre, and, according to custom, drove a stake through his heart, at which he gave a horrid groan. They burned his body to ashes, and threw them into his grave. 'Twas added, that those who have been tormented by vampyres, become vampyres when they are dead; upon which account they served several other bodies in the same manner."

I’m not saying it wasn’t printed before that, or that it wasn’t used for things besides vampires. But this is still the first instance I know of it in popular fiction, and it indicates that the use of the practice waswell-known.

Most of those examples cited above aren’t from fiction, or from casual reading.

They are from casual reading. Magazines had a huge number of readers, probably far more than novels. Most of Dickens’ works were published in weekly instalments in magazines before being collected as books.

Cheap chapbooks with all kinds of sensational and gothic fiction were also very popular in the early 19th century.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that novels were the only popular form of fiction.

I watched Taxi Driver again the other day and just realized I used to live on the same block where they filmed the finale.

Volstagg is a supporting character from the Thor comics. He’s a pretty obvious pastiche of Shakespeare’s Falstaff. I’ve been reading comics with him since the early 80s. I only just now realized, after typing those names in another thread:


Volstagg’s name is just Falstaff, with the “F” switched for the similarly pronounced “V”, the first vowel switched for a vowel that in a lot of English dialects is practically indistinguishable in that position, and the last letter alphabetically shifted by one place.

Kirby was a genius at coming up with situations for his action comics and a superb comic artist, but he wasn’t great at coming up with names*. “Volstagg”, with its obvious roots in “Falstaff” was about the best compromise between his naming of characters and his tendency to lift them from other sources. It’s just disguised enough so that it isn’t immediately obvious.

  • I know that Stan Lee got the writing credit for the Marvel stories, but the Kirby-Lee collaboration was an odd one, with Kirby evidently driving both the story and the art most of the time, and Lee coming up with the dialogue and narration afterwards, and I think the trailblazer Kirby came up with the names.

I’ve seen the movie Bridesmaids over a dozen times, at least. And by “seen”, I mean I saw it in the theater when it first came out and then any number of times on tv since then. I only mention it because I honestly don’t recall if I connected the following the first time I saw it; all subsequent viewings have been more like “it was on tv while I was doing something else at the same time”.

The carrot cake Annie bakes for Officer Rhodes harkens back to the carrots they shared when they ran into each other at the market.

Seems like a really obvious thing that I couldn’t possibly have missed the first time around, yet I don’t remember ever making the connection. It added a bit of “awwwwww” to my latest viewing.

Slight correction: The “dai” in “dai-ichi” is what makes the number an ordinal, it has nothing to do with the number one. Ichi means one, dai-ichi means first (just as dai-ni means second).

So the puns with Dai-Con were that it was big (dai) and also that it sounded like a common root vegetable (daikon). “Number one” doesn’t come into it.

I love that scene too, but what did you realize about it?

Does a major video game with a serious storyline count? I think of these as “interactive novels” so I will go ahead. Spoilers yes, but the game is 6+ years old: Bethesda’s Fallout 4.

In the main story line quest, your protagonist eventually catches up with his/her long lost son Shaun. He is not quite what you expect, and there is a lot of explanatory dialogue to answer the inevitable questions the player has. Not only is your son a 60 year old man–not the infant you were originally looking for, or the 10 year old your revised data led you to believe. He’s also the leader of The Institute, a group of hidden scientists manipulating and experimenting on the surviving population of the Boston area, 200 years after an apocalyptic nuclear war. They were the biggest and most terrifying mystery to the people of Boston.

200 years after the war, scientists at The Institute had been searching for un-contaminated human DNA to use in their development of artificial humans called Synths. Very similar to Replicants in “Blade Runner,” these Synths are seen by The Institute as the future of humanity. You and your son were frozen for 200 years inside a vault, deep underground. The Institute learned of this, and sent a team to recover the baby. His DNA was used as the basis for all the humanoid synths the Institute made from then on.

You were unfrozen long enough to see the kidnapping, then refrozen, only to be thawed out later and begin your search for your son. When finally face to face with Shaun, when you hear the explanation for why he was taken by the institute–so they could have a pristine DNA sample–your character says

“That makes all the sense in the world.”

Replaying the game and running past this dialog once again, I just noticed that what your character says could also be interpreted as

“That makes all the synths in the world.”

…and still be correct.

Ah, sorry. They seemlessly switch from standing around in street clothes to matching Tux and a fancy bandstand/stage, then back again as the crowd cheers.

I drink a lot.

Which do the subtitles indicate main-character said?

Sorry, don’t know…I don’t play with subtitles on.

It ocurred to me the other day that Life of Brian may have been parodying Spartacus in the scene at the end (“No, I’m Brian!”).

The Hunt for Red October has been mentioned a few times, but do you remember the scene in which Alec Baldwin’s character has some kind of realization while he’s showering? He’s bending forward, as if he were washing his feet or maybe his butt. This looks like the scene:
The Hunt For Red October - F-14 Crash (4K UHD) - YouTube If I’m interpreting it right, its’ an interesting detail because showering is somehow conducive to deep thought.