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April 21, 2007

Rhyming “retina” with “et cetera”
Posted by Teresa at 04:46 PM * 57 comments

To begin with, there’s the Lake District, a lovely area that’s been cosseting tourists ever since the Romantics discovered Landscape. (We’ve been there. It really is that pretty. Even their sheep are kind of cute.)

The Cumbrian tourist board is ever mindful of the two big names associated with the area—William Wordsworth, as in Daffodils, and Beatrix Potter, as in Squirrel Nutkin—and “reaching out to a wider audience” undoubtedly sounded like a good idea at their meeting where it was first proposed. I can just imagine the checklist of components they settled on: Wordworth, check. Beatrix Potter, check. Photogenic bits of the Lake District, check. Attempt to appeal to younger and more modern demographic, check.

Thus (or so I must suppose) was born the promotional M.C. Nuts video, in which a person in a Squirrel Nutkin costume awkwardly wanders through Lake District scenery while delivering “Daffodils” as a rap number. Pretty much by definition, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Comments on Rhyming "retina" with "et cetera":
#1 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 09:28 PM:

I heard this on Wait Wait... and it filled me with joy.

#2 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:08 PM:

"MC Nuts" is actually the mascot for some local team. It's synergistic marketing!

#3 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:10 PM:

When we were in the UK for the Worldon we made a vacation of it, taking some time in London and Dublin, then took the train from London to Glasgow. The three of us chose three places in the British Isles we'd like to live. Jim loved London totally. I loved either the Lake District or Dublin. Margene loved Dublin.

And we have an aquaintance who has a farm in one of the Irish counties where she decided she wants to run a granny farm... hmm. Travel back and forth was so easy. hmm.

#4 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:15 PM:

I think my very favorite part of that entire wonderful piece is the melodic flute in the background.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:34 PM:

I was in the 'Wait Wait..' studio audience when Roxanne Roberts read this story, and she kept breaking down in uncontrollable laughter.

#6 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:57 PM:

The best part of that marketing meeting must have been the part when the suits sitting around the table decided that Wordsworth's language needed improving.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 11:09 PM:

If they had the desire to 'respect Wordsworth' they wouldn't have tampered with the poem.

#8 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 11:15 PM:

Paula @ 3:

A granny farm?

Is that a major Irish export, then?

Plant several blocks apart in partial sun; keep well-watered and apply occasional gin and tonics

#9 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 11:44 PM:

They probably knew enough not to disrespect Shakespeare that way. Geography aside, the curse on the grave on Avon has yet to be tested in court; I'd bet that causing the Bard to spin in his grave counts as "disturbing the bones."

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 11:58 PM:

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers #9:

The verse on Shakespeare's tomb reads:

Good friend, for Jesus´ sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here!
Blest be ye man that spares thes stones
And curst be he that moues my bones.

Not quite 'disturbing'.

#11 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:21 AM:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er dales and hills
A Voice told me, "Bill, be not proud!
Your words will be recast by dills
Intelligent as brewer's yeast -
No, ten points stupider, at least."

Now oft upon my couch I lie
And cast on Derwent air my moans,
And contemplate Posterity
When those less clever than their phones
Shall prosper thus. I know! I'll call
For copyright perpetual...

#12 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:47 AM:

Try listening to the same tourist board's sheep's chorus.

These are the people who planted swathes of artificial daffodils so that American tourists would find daffodils at Dove Cottage this Easter when global warming meant they had gone over weeks before.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 01:23 AM:

Paula Helm Myrray @ 3...Off-topic, but how is Margene doing?

#14 ::: Dr Paisley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 01:56 AM:

8: Sarah, no, apply Bushmill's 16 y.o. or Middleton Old and Rare as needed. It is Ireland, after all (and we have standards).

13: Serge, I'm answering for Paula, as she's in bed downstairs. Margene is doing fine, and has started learning new Irish dances. Her first lesson was she needs to do more exercises to strengthen the rebuilt knee, but she can do it. Thanks for asking.

#15 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 01:57 AM:

Urk...wuh...clearly it is WAY past my bedtime.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 02:04 AM:

Dr. Paisley @ 14... Glad to hear things are going well.

#17 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 03:31 AM:

Fragano way back @ #5: You were in the Wait Wait... audience? Oh, I am jealous. When I heard this story on the podcast last week, I was shocked/appalled/amused. Flabbergasted even!

Going to a Wait Wait... show is on my list of things to do in Chicago. Along with a few museum visits and other excursions as appropriate.

#18 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 03:35 AM:

Wait! Wasn't that video on an episode of 'Have I Got News For You' that I burned to DVD for you when Patrick was over? Is that where you encountered this?

It certainly is a, ah, singular creation. I remember watching it and saying "This has to be a gag." It isn't, of course. And so far as I'm aware, those who came up with it weren't under the influence of powerful hallucinogens.

#19 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 04:11 AM:

A few months ago, some Lake District activity - walking tours, I think - was deemed unworthy of government help because the participants were mostly middle-aged and white, therefore not sufficiently 'diverse'. Then again, Gordon Brown (soon to be UK Prime Minister) recently admitted to reading Wordsworth and was immediately dumped on for being boring and elitist, so now he tells everyone he that he likes the Arctic Monkeys. The Lake District tourist people have a political hill to climb, and I guess they think the M.C. Nuts video will help.

#20 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 04:50 AM:

The Now Show had a recreation of the meeting that led to this - something like "We already have plenty of walkers, ramblers and tourists, but what the Lake District really needs is more rappers."

#21 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 08:03 AM:

Actually, the creation of this advert is just simple nepotism, M.C. heard there was some money left over in the marketing budget and figured that he could use it to spread his image a bit, and so prevailed upon his brother in the council planning office - I.M Nuts.

This was thought to be foolish and possibly an invitation for worldwide ridicule by their sibling R.U. Nuts, however.

#22 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 10:31 AM:

If "MC Nuts" is the mascot for a local team that means that the costume would have already been available. Even lower budget than previously supposed.

#23 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 10:45 AM:

It features MC Nuts in the leading role – better known as Sam - the Lake District Red squirrel mascot for Ullswater Steamers.

I assumed that was the local Football Club, but Googling around, "Ullswater Steamers" seems to be the local tour boat company. Anyway, it is a case of 'synergistic marketing', and the costume was already in existance.

#24 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Darn, Sarah @ 8 beat me to it by a night or so - although I was thinking more along the lines of cruelty-free granny farms. After all, if you confine them in to small a space, they start to peck at one another . . .

I can't remember what blog it was where someone in comments mentioned planting tofu. Well, good luck to 'em - it never works for me, must be the climate or something. Perhaps if I start it indoors - although it may just be too dry, since its natural habitat seemed to involve floating in tubs of tepid water . . . .

I always liked Fforde's use of Wordsworth in whichever of the Thursday Next novels, though
- And is it just me, or is that semi-animated scene in the recent Beatrix Potter movie (you know they were counting on a certain percentage of folks just hearing 'Potter' and assuming it involved a certain boy wizard) - after she hears the bad news - remarkably disturbing?

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Oh...my...God.

Well, if their aim is to keep away white tourists who know some Wordsworth, all I can say is that in my case they have accomplished their mission.

#26 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 11:56 AM:

They couldn't get the licensing rights to Bullwinkle's version?

#27 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:00 PM:

"Respect Wordsworth"

I wonder if it was a sense of guilt that persuaded them to put that on at the end...?

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Tania #17: I was at a professional conference in Chicago, and my wife cleverly arranged for us to be put on the list to get in to hear the show taped. It was a lot of fun.

If you go, book a place before you get to Chicago as the show sells out. It's taped on Thursday nights, btw.

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Lila #25: Well, they may also have succeeded in keeping out non-white tourists who know some Wordsworth, such as myself.

#30 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:11 PM:

When I saw that bit about modernizing, my first thought was "a host of golden diet pills." But that would just appeal to another bunch of middle-aged white folks, wouldn't it? Pity daffodils can't get the same respect as Amaryllis do from (most of the) posters on the other thread.

#31 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:17 PM:

Breakdancing. Squirrel.

My brain goes wubba-wubba.

#32 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 01:09 PM:

<small voice>I rather liked it.</small voice>

The great works have an essence that survives translation. It's easy to find Wordsworth airy-fairy and a bit spineless (I did, as a teenager), and in the process miss something important. I thought it took the heart of the poem and opened it to an audience that might never have listened to the original.

Essentially, we are not the target audience. I'd want to see what an urban teenager thought of the soundtrack.

(I admit that the rodent suit doesn't really work, unless the target audience is actually an urban teenager who is also a Furry.)

#33 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Captain, the cognitive dissonators canna tayke it.

About 10 seconds had me laughing, then I just gave up and turned it off.

#34 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 02:13 PM:

I really dug the video. The wife took her proofreading into the other room and slammed the door. What's funny about it is that I like the Romantics and she's not a poetry reader.

#35 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 03:46 PM:

Abi, I, too, almost enjoyed the rap, but that's probably because I'm not over-fond of the original poem. I might get apoplectic if they did that to John Keats.
The squirrel thing was just peculiar. So were the blatently fake daffodils. I'm not sure how long it will take to get those images out of my head.

The good thing about the Lake District is that although the Wordsworth/ Potter heritage industry is insane, it is fairly localised and easy to avoid its worst excesses. Even in Grasmere, it's perfectly possible to spend a week meandering around on the fells and going to the pub without encountering rapping squirrels etc.

It's just occured to me: surely, of all the Romantic poets, Lord Byron would have been a rap star in the present age? He was definitely fond of mind-bending rhymes and wild living (and not all that fond of Wordsworth)...

#36 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 03:49 PM:

PS: Dave Luckett, I like your poem at #11.

#37 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Speaking of reinterpretations of great works, have I mentioned the persistent crossover I have running in the back of my mind?

Frodo the Explorer.

In particular, I hear Map's voice saying, "Rivendell, Lothlorien, Cracks of Doom. Rivendell, Lothlorien, Cracks of Doom."

Somebody make it stop. Please.

#38 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 05:12 PM:

abi, it's been done...

Hooray for Frodo Baggins

#39 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 07:07 PM:

I wonder what John Mortimer could make of this. Alas, we will no longer be able to hear the part of Horace Rumpole played by Leo McKern.* **


* Actually, when I read one of Mortimer's Rumpole stories, I do hear Leo McKern.

** Of course, the art of CGI zombification (the re-animation of the dead) continues to advance. No actor is safe in death.

#40 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 07:47 PM:

Frodo's being sent to explore Sauron's Hell,
he's got quite a company, there's Sam
the faithful one who truly gives a damn,
who makes it all the way from Rivendell
and returns to find his horse is well.
There's Aragorn, who's silent as a clam,
Legolas and Gimli, who the orcs will slam,
Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, and Boromir the swell.
The journey's long, and the map's not enough;
Gollum will guide them up an evil path,
but they must make the journey in the end.
Only two make it, for the trip was tough,
at the very margin they raise Sauron's wrath,
but still the quest's completed -- why pretend?

#41 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 08:05 PM:

IANARLUT*, but what familiarity I do have with rap leads me to suspect that the reaction to this among rap aficionados would be very similar to the reaction from Wordsworth aficionados. This is authentic rap to about the same degree that it's authentic Wordsworth.

In other observations, I'm a bit miffed to realize that my daffodils never bop along with the beat when I hang out and rap in my Squirrel Nutkin costume. Am I doing something wrong?

*I Am Not A Rap-Listening Urban Teen

#42 ::: hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 10:37 AM:

I thought that was funny. Admittedly I'm not much of a poetry reader, so it doesn't bother me that they used a Wordsworth poem. It's not like it's holy or anything. That video really inspired some vitriolic comments elsewhere, though. I find myself wondering if Wordsworth took himself as seriously as his fans do.

#43 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 10:53 AM:

I didn't mind the rap lyrics. I actually got a kick out of hearing rap with that accent. No, it was the costume. And the breakdancing. Because not only did someone think, "We need to have a squirrel doing this," but someone else said, "And he should breakdance!" and a bunch of other people said, "Okay."

If those people want this to take off, they'll need to stop bogarting whatever was at that council meeting.

#45 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Dr. Paisley @ 14:

You're right, of course. It's our local varietals that need the G&T.

The main problem I've found is figuring out a safe way to dispose of the advice they produce - Waste Management considers it hazardous.

#46 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:25 PM:

I rather liked it.

To paraphrase "Thou Shalt Always Kill", "Thou shalt not put [poets] on ridiculous pedestals no matter how great they are or were." The squirrel was a bit much and the breakdancing was WAAAAAAY!!! over the top, but just close your eyes and listen to it.

As one commenter said, "At least it's not about gats, bling and hos."

#47 ::: Madeline Kelly sees more pretty spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 06:33 AM:

#47 I'm glad I don't know what any of it means, so that I can just enjoy the shapes. The 4th symbol from the right looks like a house on stilts, or a perky little robot.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Jeff, AOL.

(Not that I've any objection to music videos packed with nubile young women, but I loathe the language, and less obvious sub-texts, attached to such women.)

Possibly if it were an attempt to fake a furry rap video, they'd have involved Doug Winger.

Or possibly not.

#49 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 09:59 AM:

It's the most enjoyment I've ever gotten out of Wordsworth. I leave, as an exercise for the reader, the assessment of how *much* enjoyment that might actually be.

Here's a better product from the Lake District. Ginger fans will not be disappointed.

#50 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:09 AM:

I've never been all that enamoured of "I wandered lonely as a cloud". Now if they'd messed with "Tintern Abbey", it would be another matter...

#51 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:36 PM:

Scene: Another part of the forest. Enter Stanley and Wilson, criticising.

Stanley: Alas, poor Wordsworth. Contemplate his fate:
He wasn't always young. In's dotage, he
Was overtaken by conservacy -
Something about a ribbon. Riband, I mean;
Whatever that may be. So to be sure,
He'd have abhorred that rodent spouting - what?
What was that stuff again? What? Rap? The knock
Of doom, that Scottish porter heard?
What, no? A pebble flung by lover's hand
Against the casement? No, not that. What then?

Wilson: A tumult of torrential words that rhyme
As doublets off the rack do fit - that is,
Where'er they chance to touch - and being off
The rack, stretch'd longer than they ought to be.
Rap is such stuff as dreams are made on: all
The dross and pother of the daily moil
Our minds do well discard, amid affright:
The load that burns the bearer in the night.

Stanley: This rap be less than rapt, but hardly rape!

Wilson: Say not so. Whate'er his words be worth,
They're best if they're unmixed with bling and whores.

Stanley: That's "ho's".

Wilson: Just so. Alike, their innocence
Is lost, their verdant springtime turned to dust.
Where have all the flowers gone? Why, they
Were brought to town and sold, because it paid.

Stanley: You make too much of this. They have renewed
A poet who was always something dry.

Wilson: Nay, there you wrong him. He was wet.
From out his lines you hear the rush of streams
The drift of clouds, the dear, dear tinkling sound
Of ice Spring-thawed, the rain, the river's flow.
His power's water. What is rap's? Machines
And hard-edged beat, the stamp and go
Of heels on paving.

Stanley: Well, the squirrel suit
Was nuts.

Wilson: God strike me if I seize on that!

(Exeunt, chased by a daffodil.)


#52 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 07:40 PM:

Dave @ #51: Wild applause!

#53 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 09:01 AM:

We visited Tintern Abbey when I was a child and the following bit of business occured:

Dad: Where are we?
Mum: Tintern Abbey
Dad: [Looks around] 'Tis an Abbey
Mum: 'Tisn't
Dad: 'Tis so

... and so on for quite a while.

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Fragano @ 10

Ah, come on, give me a little poetic license, please!

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 09:37 AM:

elise @ 31

My brain goes wubba-wubba.

Yeah, it boogies the mind.

#56 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 39

We may be getting Leo McKern back. As I mentioned long ago in some faraway thread*, I was sure that Bob Hoskins was channeling McKern in the recent TV production of "Wind in the Willows."

And of the two, I suspect Hoskins would be the one more likely to take the part of M. C. Nut. Either way, though, I really would like to hear a rap addressed to "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

* Orthographia, god of spreadsheets, help me to keep all my nattering straight.

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #54: You'll have to see Shakespeare about that.

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