Tag Archives: Peanuts

Charlie Brown Christmas thoughts

Christmas time once more. I’m still working on getting completely into the swing of things. A week of chaos related (but not exclusive) to changing ISPs has not helped. On the other hand, I’m organized; I’m well along with most of my shopping, lights and decorations are up, Christmas Ale is purchased, my brother’s latest drawing commission is (finally) done, and my cards are underway. Though that last was a trial this year. May post more about this at my design blog, later…

For the moment, though, a thought or two about the timeless Charlie Brown Christmas special. I do like this little cartoon, certainly. (In fact, I may actually buy the DVD just because ABC positively butchered it this year with how many scenes they cut to squeeze in more ads…) Mostly because of tradition, and the inherent endearing character of Peanuts in general, I suppose. I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but it has been around for generations now, really, and it feels like it never gets old. So many scenes and lines and images feel like solid, reassuring cultural reference points.

That said, there are… one or two points of interest, as the great one would say. Particularly related to the last act. For years, now—probably ever since I resumed viewing the CBC after a sort of hiatus from Christmas in my 20s—I have puzzled over Charlie Brown’s disappearance from the stage just before the final scene. Chuck moans “I’ve killed it,” etc., walks offstage, his peers amble up and perform their miracle with the Saddest Christmas Tree Ever, start caroling, and he returns for the big finale. What does he do in the interim? Obviously, this is trivial as can be, and yet every time I watch now, it feels as mysterious and tantalizing as the 18-minute tape gap.

It isn’t difficult to come up with a simple explanation. Chuck goes inside, slumps down in a chair in despair for a moment… then sees and/or hears activity outside, and goes to investigate. But… does he take off his coat and boots, then put them back on, in that short time? More to the point, does anything else happen? He sees the day’s mail, maybe? Catches something on TV? Grabs a snack? Ponders the meaning of life? Stands on the porch listening to his parents argue (wa-wa-wa)? It just feels like there is something missing here. Maybe it’s poignant, maybe not, but the way the star of the show vanishes at that crucial moment without explanation just haunts me. I suppose “the world may never know.”

This year, meanwhile, another little oddity struck me for the very first time.

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New word RFP (wuah wa wah)

I’ve decided we could use a new term. Inspired by a couple of recent, typically empty corporate “responses” to being busted for scummy behavior, I feel like we need a word for this particular variety of noise.

It’s tricky even to describe this, precisely. Time Warner’s comments here are a prime example, as are nearly any “response” from any large telco to anything. Apple’s response to default snooping through Spotlight in OS X Yosemite, in context of their recent crowing about respecting customers’ privacy, captures something of this phenomenon. It isn’t exclusively corporate behavior, either; you hear plenty of this in politics.

It isn’t “derp,” though. Nor is it “FUD.” In both cases there is probably considerable overlap, but I’m trying to define something more basic. It’s little more than noise, but “noise” alone does not capture the element of insult, almost contempt, that sets this apart. I recall Peter King once speculating that Bill Belichick favored the phrase “it is what it is” so that he could move his lips without actually communicating with media; I think now that King was probably approaching a similar concept. Belichick (in King’s portrayal) feels some obligation to go through the motions of “responding” to questions, but no real obligation to account for himself or engage with questioners, whom he probably considers impertinent nobodies who should buzz off. So he makes noises that humor them, in form, while insulting them in (the noises’ absence of) substance. That comes very close.

I think the best explanation of all, though, might be borrowed from Judge Judy’s classic admonition: “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” The “telling you it’s raining” part is exactly what I would like a word for: comments by one who has caused injury, following confrontation about this fact, that are so absolute in their refusal to engage in any legitimate conversation of the issue that the insult rivals the original injury. There’s really less engagement than even a dismissal; it’s mostly noise and almost non sequitur.

Can we come up with a word for this?

My thoughts gravitate toward the iconic grown-ups sound from the Peanuts animated cartoons. I haven’t been able to find a sound clip, but I’m guessing most people know what I mean. That worst-PA-system-of-all-time wa-wuah wa wuah waugh wa. Some brief shorthand for this would be a good term for what I’ve been describing. I thought of “wuah” because so many other renderings seem to have familiar, unrelated usages attached to them. This doesn’t seem to have a lot, though it has some, and Duck Duck Go suggests that “wa wa wa” is the most popular conclusion of typing “Peanuts cartoon wa.”

So, I don’t know for sure. I welcome suggestions. I’m not too particular about the details, I would just really really like some kind of term for this to take hold. I realize that naming it probably won’t change the world, but being able to call this out quickly would at least feel like a small way to push back.