What is so great about “the bee’s knees?”
Well, there must be something, mustn’t there? Many excellent things have been proclaimed to be “the bee’s knees,” while little, if anything, has ever been accorded the honor of being equated to “the bee’s thighs.” Yet, as we all know from our eighth-grade civics class, the knee-bone’s connected to the thigh bone. Go figure.
The entire hugger-mugger concerning the knee of the bee (Apis mellifera), came to pass in the bucolic village of Wooster, Ohio, when the bee’s ill-tempered cousin, the hornet (Vespa bellicosa), always resentful of the former’s honeyed reputation as, not only a cross-pollinator, but a wordsmith, of all things, began to exact a terrible toll of revenge. If only we humans could have had the foresight to throw those angry insects a bone (or whatever it is they like to gnaw on) and called the events, “spelling hornets,” so much of this trouble could have been avoided, for, if the truth were to be known, hornets spell precisely as well as the vaunted bees, which is to say, not at all.
In any case, vengeance became the order of the day, and swarm after swarm of hornets set upon all the hapless bewildered bees they could find and “kneecapped” them. As a result, the bees were suddenly incapable of pollinating or gathering honey, and bespectacled nerds throughout the town suddenly found themselves unable to spell the simplest of words. One former contestant, when asked to spell the name of the city, replied, “W-o-o-o-o-s-t-e-r, right?”
The townspersons were in what was then known as a dither. With virtually all of the bees out on injured reserve, the crops were all going to go to seed that year, and what of the third-runner-up in the statewide spelling bee semifinals? Who was going to defend that?
Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse (mind you, this was the 1920s), along came a fellow who introduced himself as Dr. Winthrop W. Peabody, arthroscopic entomologist extraordinaire. Although he did bear a passing resemblance to the bald con artist, Clarence Watkins, but for the moustache, spectacles and long hair, he seemed to have the very solution to the peoples’ most vexing problem.
“For the merest token of a payment,” he assured them, “I’ll transport these poor, crippled insects up to my fully-equipped laboratory in Stark County, and I’ll fix all their ginglymuses, brand-spanking new! And, just to show I’m no phony baloney quack, I’ll only take twenty-five grand now, and the other fifty when I bring the bees back, all patched up. Deal?”
The city fathers partook in a collective wince, but as daunting as the payout of $75,000 may have been, a countywide crop failure, coupled with the ridicule of a last-place finish in the upcoming regional spelling bee was an unthinkable alternative. With palpable pain they handed Dr. Peabody his retainer.
The good doctor did keep his word to the extent that he drove the gimpy bees to Stark County, where he tossed the crate of them into the woods and left them to their own devices. His state-of-the-art “lab” turned out to be a beekeeper who sold the doctor a like number of fresh, whole, brand-new insects for the princely sum of $3.50. Of course, Dr. Peabody did not make the buy until two weeks after he’d tossed the old bees out and caroused in and out of every speakeasy on the Lake Erie coast. After all, delicate surgery like that, on such a large scale no less, takes time.
The people of Wooster were delighted when they saw that the skilled doctor had managed to restore each and every one of their bees to perfect mobility. It was a miracle! They cheerfully handed him the rest of his fee and, in addition, staged a grand celebration for him that night in the Knights of Columbus hall.
“Say, who’s the big-shot?” asked a sharp salesman who was in town on a visit from the big city: Akron.
“Yeah,” wondered another visiting urbane sophisticate from East Liverpool, “what’s he done, everyone’s gone ga-ga?”
“Are you kiddin?” their host replied. “He’s the bees’ knees!”
Why do people shout at movie screens?
Or television sets, for that matter. Don’t they know that their heated instructions and imprecations are not going to make the slightest impression on the performers to whom they are typically addressed? I suppose at some point, well after the composition of this modest little essay, it may be possible for viewers to bend the performers on the screen to their will, but, as I write, what you see on your movie or television screen is still beyond your power to alter. Yet you still attempt to do so. Do you somehow imagine the director is going to come running up the aisle, shouting, “Stop the projector! Stop the projector! Just sit tight folks, my crew’ll be here any second with the alternate scene this guy wants.”
The desire to affect the outcome of an ongoing show is perfectly understandable. It is the ones who yell at their TV when it is turned off who perhaps should seek help. The people who exhibit these filmed performances are trying to elicit the maximum emotional impact from us they possibly can. In the case of television, that emotional impact should ideally take the form of getting us to buy vast quantities of the sponsors’ products, but our yelling at the actors is a nice by-product and a sign that the network executives are on the right track.
Sometimes yelling at the screen can take on a life of its own, the classic case being The Rocky Horror Picture Show. These days, when one attends a midnight showing of the movie, the actors are doing well to get a word in edgewise.
If Mr. Tom may stray a bit from the subject, (WHAT? Mr. Tom stray from the subject? What is this world coming to?), he had the enjoyable experience of being the assistant director for a stage production of The Rocky Horror Show (Note: stage production, hence no “Picture Show”). Once the rehearsal process was finished, Mr. Tom served as a planted “heckler” in the movie tradition, the difference being that the actors could actually hear what I was saying. Of course they were prepared for my remarks, which were all scripted, every bit as much as the show itself, but anything the rest of the audience wanted to add, once I had “primed the pump,” they were going to have to take in stride.
It is interesting to note that, in the picture show, whenever the show’s patsies, a pair of naïve young suburbanites named Brad and Janet, say their names, the hecklers always yell out the same insult, as I did in the stage version. In the case of the Brad character, played in the film by Barry Bostwick, the epithet was: “Southernmost part of the alimentary canal (or word to that effect)!” and maybe two or three audience members would join in, the third time around.* When it came to the character Janet, it was a different story altogether. Janet was played in the movie by Susan Sarandon. Now, as to the political outspokenness for which she is noted, I am not going to make any comment on Ms. Sarandon’s case, especially since, while I may not entirely be philosophically congruent with her, I would hardly need a pair of binoculars to find her on the political spectrum. The point is, she has managed to get a lot of peoples’ attention. So, whenever the unfortunate young lady playing Janet mentioned her name, nearly half the auditorium enthusiastically joined me, yelling, “Slut!”
This brings up another point. Rocky Horror aside, we yell at the screen, be it television or movie, because we can. Such behavior at a live show will surely and abruptly get you “injected from the jernt,” as my old friend, Benny the Bouncer used to say. His grandson, Benjamin the Courtesy Dispersal Representative, might put the term differently, but with the same result. In any event, that can still happen in the case of a filmed show, I imagine, but it is a lot less likely to occur if there are no live actors on stage whose concentration you can befuddle. To that end, I suppose you would be on reasonably safe ground shouting at mannequins. Mr. Tom suggests you hasten to an upscale department store of your choosing and try your luck.
In closing, I should note that not all verbalizing in the presence of a screen is necessarily directed at the people on it. I remember, during the 2008 vice-presidential debate, (the actual debate, not a later lampoon of it), saying out loud, “Stop laughing, this isn’t funny!” I was not talking to the debaters, I was talking about the debaters, or, specifically, one of them, but, out of common decency, I will not mention her name. I was talking to myself.
Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?
In addition to being a knower of all things, great and picayune, Mr. Tom, as it turns out, is a master of suspense. Note how I have fiendishly led you on through page after page of the irrelevant, the immaterial and the indefatigable before finally allowing you the realization of your penthoused anxieties by addressing this most vexatious of all questions, beside which, “What is the meaning of life?” is but another card in the stack of a Trivial Pursuit game.
Sad to say, there is no quick and easy answer, but, perhaps, not all that sad. Suppose the quick and easy answer were “Yes.”? The national spike in the suicide rate would be too terrible to contemplate.
To make a proper determination, there are a number of variables we need to take into consideration, such as the flavor of the gum. Many consider spearmint to be the standard-bearer, although I am not altogether sure why. I once made the mistake of attending the Las Cruces Biennial Spear Tasting Jamboree in nearby Albuquerque, and noted nary a hint of mint, but who am I to judge? On the whole, though, in the chewing gum field, your sweeter flavors, such as nectar of the gods, tend to peak sooner than your more pedestrian flavors, such as bean soup.
Then too there are several minor factors to keep in mind if one actually wishes to make a correct determination, among them, the ambient temperature, the composition of the bedpost, the apogee of said bedpost from the floor, and the ABC quotient of the gum. And, if the sleeper has determined to leave a window open, then wind velocity comes into play as well. For the benefit of the very few of you out there who somehow managed to disremember your childhood, it stands for Already Been Chewed.
But the most important single factor in the equation is, how long does the sleeper plan to sleep? A light sleeper or dedicated insomniac has far less to fear than a neo-hibernator, and you can take that to the piggy bank with a ball-peen hammer.
Of course the most extreme case of dozing off was that of Mr. Rip Van Winkle, who nodded off sometime in 1769 and did not come to for twenty years…or so Washington Irving would have us believe. Keep in mind, this Van Winkle fellow was no spring bird when he commenced his snooze and was even more crotchety when he ended it. And he was a guy. What Mr. Irving neglected to tell his readers was that Van Winkle had to get up for, let us say, a few “European vacations” in 1770, 1772, 1773, 1775, 1778, 1781(twice), 1783, 1784, 1786, 1787 and 1788. But, that aside, his chewing gum, not only lost massive degrees of flavor, it became so hard it was nigh indistinguishable from a pebble. A pretty darn tasty one, as pebbles go, but a pebble, nonetheless.
In the end, it all boils down to a simple formula you can find in any physics textbook worth its salt, where the flavor is represented by the symbol S (as in savory). To determine its value one multiplies the gum (g) by the square of the time(t), then divides the product by two to account for the finagle factors. This leaves you with the concise configuration of: S = ½gt²
If that handy, dandy bit of mathematical razzamatazz will not prognosticate the amount of flavor left in your choon gum, then it will surely tell you how soon it will hit the ground after you give up and drop it out the window.