– [p. 151/126] “A rock on the head may be quite sentimental, […], but diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” In the 1949 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sings: “A kiss on the hand may be quite continental But diamonds are a girl’s best friend” – [p. 154/129] “What’s it called?’ ‘Laddie,’ said the handler.” Laddie is the Discworld counterpart to our world’s famous movie collie, Lassie. In the movie Son of Lassie the protagonist was in fact called Laddie, but was played by Pal, the dog who had previously played Lassie in the original movie Lassie Come Home.
Interestingly enough, Pal had a real-life son who was called Laddie, but this Laddie was only used for stunt and distance shots since he wasn’t as pretty as his brother, who eventually got to play Lassie in the CBS TV show, and who was the only dog ever in the role to actually be called Lassie, or rather, Lassie Jr. Lassie was always played by a male dog, mainly because a bitch tends to go into heat, during which time she becomes unphotogenic because of severe shedding.
It also gets bothersome to have to deal with the constant disruptions on the set caused by various male dogs in the area wanting to, um, propose to her. Finally, two odd little coincidences.
First, the Lassie dogs often had small dogs as companions.
Second, Pal/Lassie’s trainer was a man by the name of Rudd Weatherwax… – [p. 158/132] Film studio names. Untied Alchemists is United Artists.
Fir Wood Studios is Pinewood Studios.
Microlithic Pictures is Paramount (tiny rock vs.
Big mountain), and Century Of The Fruitbat is Twentieth Century Fox.
Terry says: “I’ve already gone electronically hoarse explaining that Floating Bladder Productions was just picked out of the air […]” – [p. 159/132] “[…] we’re doing one about going to see a wizard. Something about following a yellow sick toad,’ […]” That’s a yellow brick road, and the reference is of course to The Wizard of Oz. Terry’s pun also reminded a correspondent of an old joke about an Oz frog with a bright yellow penis who hops up to a man and says: “I’m looking for the wizard to help me with my ‘problem’.” The man answers: “No problem, just follow this road until you get to the emerald city.” The frog thanks him and hops off along the road.
Shortly afterwards, Dorothy and Toto come along and she also asks the man where she can find the wizard, and then he says: “Just follow the yellow dick toad”. Well, I thought it was funny. – [p. 165/137] “It was about a young ape who is abandoned in the big city and grows up being able to speak the language of humans.” The Librarian’s script is of course a reversal of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan story.
Since Tarzan is supposed to be one of those five or so cultural icons that are so truly universal that everybody in the world is familiar with them, I expect this may well turn out to be the APF’s Most Unnecessary Annotation of all… – [p. 172/143] “It sounded like ‘I want to be a lawn’, I thought?” Ginger echoes movie star Greta Garbo’s famous quote: “I want to be alone”. Garbo later claimed, by the way, that what she had actually said at the time was “I want to be let alone”, which is of course not quite the same thing at all… – [p. 174/145] The Necrotelicomnicom. On the Discworld the Necrotelicomnicom (see also the entry for p. 111/109 of Equal Rites) was written by the Klatchian necromancer Achmed the Mad (although he preferred to be called Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches).
In real life, horror author H.
Lovecraft assures us that the Necronomicon was written by the mad Arab Abdul al-Hazred. – [p. 178/148] “It’s fifteen hundred miles to Ankh-Morpork,’ he said. ‘We’ve got three hundred and sixty elephants, fifty carts of forage, the monsoon’s about to break and we’re wearing…
Sort of things, like glass, only dark…
Dark glass things on our eyes…” Paraphrases a well-known quote from the Blues Brothers movie, fifteen minutes before the end, just as the famous chase scene is about to begin and Jake and Elwood are sitting in their car: — Brutha here repeats the last words of Captain Oates, who walked out in a blizzard on Scott’s unsuccessful Antarctic expedition, in order to try and save food for the remaining expedition members.
He was never seen again.
It didn’t work. – [p. 249/179] “The scalbie took no notice. […] It had perched on Om’s shell.” Resonates with the B.C.comic strip, which occasionally features a bird of indeterminate species standing on a turtle’s shell.
They don’t get along very well, either. – [p. 254/182] “Got to have a whole parcel of worshippers to live on Nob Hill.” Nob Hill is an affluent section of San Francisco (which in turn got its name from ‘nob’, a British term of derision for upper-class people, especially those who are a little ostentatious with their wealth). – [p. 259/186] “Something that’d open the valve if there was too much steam.
I think I could do something with a pair of revolving balls.” Urn’s steam engines are more or less identical to the ones that were described by Archimedes and used in ancient Ephebe—I mean Greece.
These engines also used copper spheres as heating vessels, and these spheres did, in fact, have a regrettable tendency to explode, which is what limited their use until some bright person thought of adding overpressure relief valves. These steam engines never really caught on, because of various practical problems and the greater cost-effectiveness of slave-power.
See also the James Watt annotation for p. 175/153 of Reaper Man. The contraption with revolving balls Urn is thinking of in the sentence quoted above was identified by several readers as something called a speed governor, invented by James Watt.
This consists of two balls spinning on two opposite movable arms around a rotating central axis.
When the centrifugal force gets large enough to lift the balls up, the movement opens a safety valve that lets off the steam, causing the rotation to slow down and the balls to come down again, closing the valve, etc.—a simple but ingenious negative feedback device. – [p. 264/190] “There was a city once […] there were canals, and gardens. There was a lake.
They had floating gardens on the lake,[…].
Great pyramid temples that reached to the sky.
Thousands were sacrificed.” This description evokes Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the capital of the ancient Aztec Empire.
Tenochtitlan was built on islands in a lake (now drained) and was crossed by canals, and the floating gardens may still be seen, as may ruins of many pyramid temples on which thousands were indeed sacrificed. – [p. 277/198] “About life being like a sparrow flying through a room? Nothing but darkness outside? And it flies through the room and there’s just a moment of warmth and light?” This story appears in the Anglo-Saxon historian St Bede’s account of the conversion of England to Christianity in the year 625.
A noble relates this metaphor for human existence to King Edwin of Northumbria, and concludes, “Of what went before and of what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.
If therefore this new faith [Christianity] can give us some greater certainty, it justly deserves that we should follow it.” The original meaning of the parable was to describe the human condition, with life as a moment of light between two dark unknowns; it’s a nice twist of irony that Terry here uses it to describe the divine condition instead. – [p. 286/205] “Like many early thinkers, the Ephebians believed that thoughts originated in the heart, and that the brain was merely a device to cool the blood.” In our world this idea was originally proposed by none other than Aristotle.
Aristotle got almost everything to do with natural history dead wrong, although in his defense it must be said that it was not his fault that later cultures took his works to be Absolute Truth instead of trying to experiment and find things out for themselves. – [p. 287/206] “[…] promises in his head.” The Small Gods’ offer that “All this can be yours, if you just worship me…” parallels the Temptation of Christ in the desert, during his forty days’ fast before starting his preaching. The offer of food is similar, but more closely related to St Peter’s vision in Acts 10:11, in which a blanket is lowered from heaven, containing all sorts of ritually unclean food, notably Pork (the Roast Pig which is proffered by the Small Gods). – [p. 289/207] “The wheel had been nailed flat on the top of a slim pole.” St Simon Stylites (or Simon the Elder), a Syrian Monk, spent the last 39 years of his life living atop a pole.
There are quite a few accounts of pole sitting in Syrian Monasticism, and a variety of other hermits and extremely pious lunatics also lived this way. – [p. 290/208] “My parents named me Sevrian Thaddeus Ungulant, […]” The hero of Gene Wolfe’s science fiction novel Book of the New Sun is called Severian.
Like Brutha, Severian has a problem with forgetting things. St Ungulant’s sidekick Angus resonates with the breed of cattle of the same name (the Aberdeen Angus), which in turn may not be entirely unrelated to the fact that an ‘ungulate’ is a hoofed mammal. – [p. 307/220] “A nod’s as good as a poke with a sharp stick to a deaf camel, as they say.” A reference to the British saying “A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse”, meaning that no hint is useful to one who does not notice it, implying that a hint is currently in progress.
Terry combines this in typical fashion with the saying “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”.
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