head in the clouds

For no particular reason, this Themed Things Thursday list is about clouds.¹

A Cloud List

  1. Little Cloud. A picture book by Eric Carle about a cloud who likes to change shapes.
  2. Sector 7, by David Wiesner. A Caldecott Honor-winning picture book with no words about a boy’s remarkable encounter with some clouds.
  3. Winnie-the-Pooh. In the first chapter of A. A. Milne’s classic book, Winnie-the-Pooh attempts to pass himself off as a small dark cloud in order to sneak some honey away from a beehive in a tree. Eeyore, for that matter, is often depicted as having a cloud hanging over his head. (In this case, though, it is not Pooh.)
  4. head in the clouds. An expression meaning “having a poor grasp of reality” or “not paying attention.”
  5. on cloud nine: an expression meaning “extremely happy.” (So what if you are on cloud one? Are you only marginally happy?)
  6. every cloud has a silver lining: a saying suggesting that there is always something good to accompany the bad. (And an irritating thing to hear if you are a pessimist.)
  7. head under a cloud: means “in a bad mood,” typically either gloomy (eg. Eeyore, above) or cranky (eg. me, sleep deprived).
  8. (storm) clouds on the horizon: an expression meaning that trouble of some sort is foreseen.
  9. The Simpsons opening sequence: The parting cumulus clouds from the opening to this cartoon are quite memorable.
  10. “Little Fluffy Clouds,” a song by the Orb. (video on YouTube)
  11. “Cloudy,” a song by Simon & Garfunkel. (listen on YouTube )
  12. “Cloudbusting,” a song Kate Bush. The video is a short narrative film featuring a machine that manipulates clouds. (YouTube)
  13. Cloud Jumper: a free flash game you can play online that primarily involves jumping from cloud to cloud.
  14. Cloudscapes stamps: a 2004 series of stamps from the US postal service. You can learn more more about the cloud types depicted in the stamps from this National Weather Service page.

  15. If you find yourself hankering for more clouds and cloud trivia, you could consider joining the The Cloud Appreciation Society. Those people love their clouds.

¹Sometimes, I just need to write about a light and fluffy topic. What could be lighter and fluffier than clouds?²

² Actually, I’m really quite partial to clouds. I recently had a little conversation with YTSL on this topic when she posted about her own affinity for clouds, along with a cool photo of a dragon-shaped cloud. And I found myself thinking: “I should do a cloud list.” So I done went and did it.

a sopping Thursday

It’s raining here today. Lots of rain. It’s a good day to bring out some umbrellas, so I give you a ThThTh list of umbrella things.¹

a selection of umbrellas

  • The Sopping Thursday, by Edward Gorey. This is one of my all-time favorite Gorey books. John and I have been known to send each other messages that are quotations from the book:
  • I have lost my umbrella.
  • I do not find my umbrella
  • I have been poked in the eye with an umbrella
  • None of these umbrellas will do
  • And perhaps our favorite:

    The child has somehow got shut inside its umbrella

  • Mary Poppins: The famed fictional nanny of books, stage and screen uses her wind-propelled umbrella as a mode of transportation. (I think that’s how it works, at least. I confess that I haven’t read the books, and this horror trailer recut video is the most I’ve seen of the Disney movie.)
  • John Steed. A character from the 60s British spy show The Avengers. Carrying a finely crafted traditional British umbrella is one of his trademarks.
  • James Smith & Sons, Umbrellas Ltd.: An umbrella store in London, established in 1830. A place to go if you would like to buy a finely crafted traditional British umbrella .
  • The Correct Way to Kill: An episode of The Avengers. The plot involves a lot of umbrellas, as well as an umbrella store. Also spies with bad fake Russian accents. A favorite quote, which must be spoken with a bad Russian accent is:

    What would a chiropodist want with a case of umbrellas?

  • Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964). A musical starring Catherine Deneuve, featuring an umbrella shop.
  • Chatri Chor/The Blue Umbrella (2005) An Indian movie based on the children’s book by Ruskin Bond. About a poor girl who gets an umbrella, which is then stolen by a shopkeeper.
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952): The famous scene where Gene Kelly dances around in the rain with an umbrella (though generally not held over his head) singing “Singin’ in the Rain.”
  • Umbrella, a song by Innocence Mission (also the album title):

    You dance around with my umbrella.
    You dance around the obvious weaknesses.
    Around the room with my umbrella.
    You dance around the room with me.

  • let your smile be your umbrella: an expression meaning something like “let a good attitude keep your day from being totally crappy.” It’s probably good that the meaning is metaphorical, because let’s face it. A smile is pretty ineffectual at keeping you dry in the rain.
  • “Under the Umbrella of the United States”. This was a song that I remember singing in my Junior High chorus class as part of a series of jingoistic patriotic songs about America.²
  • umbrella superstitions: It is considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors. Or give an umbrella as a gift. There are a few others, too.³
  • a Haitian riddle:

    Q: Three very large men are standing under a single little umbrella. But, not one of them gets wet. Why?⁴

  • little paper umbrellas: What can I say about them? They are little umbrellas. Made from brightly colored paper. Often used in tropical-esque cocktails. I really liked them when I was little.⁵

  • ———————-
    ¹ I’ve had this list in mind for a while, but I was saving it for a rainy day…

    ² The song was pretty awful, and I can’t find a record of it. Anyone else ever heard of it? (I fear it may have been written by the chorus teacher himself. And someday he may find my scathing review.)

    ³ My own superstition, if you want to call it that, is that carrying an umbrella with you will prevent the rain. At least, it rarely rains when I bring an umbrella, and I rarely have an umbrella with me when it does rain.

    ⁴ A: It’s not raining.

    ⁵ The umbrellas, that is. I didn’t so much get to try the cocktails…

    bucket list

    Late last year, a movie came out called Bucket List, which then inspired a bunch of people to write their own “bucket lists”. Somehow I missed all of it. However, having seen the movie poster hanging in a video store window a few days ago, I’ve had that title running through my head. Running through my head and collecting things in a little bucket, as it were. Things about buckets as it turns out. So I present to you a ThThTh list of buckets.

    A Bucket List

    1. kick the bucket: an expression meaning “keel over”, “bite the dust”, or “buy the farm”.
    2. bucket list: a list of things one hopes to accomplish before one’s death. (As in before one kicks the bucket.) The term may have originated with the screenplay from the movie (below).
    3. Bucket List (2007): a movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. About 2 men who write a bucket list and work on accomplishing the items on the list. Said to be a tear-jerker. You can watch the trailer (YouTube).
    4. “There’s a hole in my bucket”: a folksong, possibly with German origins.
    5. mercy buckets: an English distortion of the French merci beaucoup, meaning “thank you much.”
    6. a drop in the bucket: an expression meaning “an inconsequential amount in relation to a larger quantity”.
    7. sweat buckets: an expression meaning “perspire copiously”
    8. Mr. Bucket: a game/toy (by Milton Bradley) from the early 90s. The commercial, (which you can watch on YouTube, if you like) had lyrics which apparently raised a few eyebrows:

      I’m Mr. Bucket put your balls in my top.
      I’m Mr. Bucket, out of my mouth they will pop…

    9. Buckethead: a musician noteworthy for performing with a bucket on his head.
    10. bucket drummers: percussionists, typically street performers, who use upended buckets (usually plastic paint buckets) as drums. Buckets are often supplemented with pots, pans, and other improvised instruments. There’s a blog on bucket drummers. You can also find a bunch of short clips on YouTube of some very impressive bucket drummers, like these guys:

    11. lolrus: A pinniped, usually a walrus, featured in a lolcat-style image. The captions of these typically feature commentary about buckets, especially the loss of buckets and the seeking of buckets. (Or, in the language of lol, buckits or bukkets.) To explore lolruses and their buckets (and to see the original), i can has cheezburger has the tag “bucket” for your convenience.

      funny pictures

    The picture at the top of the page is Phoebe with her bucket. Well, it’s small for a bucket. Really more of a pail, by comparison. (I’m sorry. I had to say it.)

    having my cake

    I got to have me some cake this week.¹ I ate it, too. And this cake-having inspired me to think about cake. So I’ll be serving up a list of cake-oriented things for this week’s ThThTh.

    Bon appétit!

    A Cake List

    1. Cakes are used for lots of holidays and celebratory events in many cultures. Some examples include birthday cakes, going away cakes at office parties, French bûches de Noël or German stollen at Christmas. Also…
    2. Wedding cakes. Usually elaborately decorated multi-tiered cakes meant to serve all the guests at a wedding. They can be quite tall, and easily knocked over or smashed for comedic effect in movies or sitcoms.
    3. stripper in a cake. A tradition (if it really happens outside of TV and movies) of having an exotic dancer jump out of a large cake-shaped container. (You can make your own, if you like.) (I toyed with making a list of movies/shows where you see a stripper cake, but could only remember “Under Siege,” where the stripper fell asleep in the cake. Anyone have any others?)
    4. sexy cakes. A sketch on Saturday Night Live with Patrick Stewart as a baker of cakes decorated with erotic images. That is, erotic if you have similar ideas to the baker as to what’s “sexy”. (The video seems not to be up on the SNL website, but you can read the transcript. Come on, go read it. It’s funny. Especially if you imagine Patrick Stewart’s dignified stentorian voice for the baker’s lines.)
    5. “Let them eat cake!” A phrase attributed to Marie-Antoinette, reflecting her insensitivity to the hungry masses who could not afford to buy bread. It was likely not really said by her. (And certainly not in English.) Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote of someone using a similar phrase under similar circumstances in 1767, several years before Marie-Antoinette even arrived in Versailles.
    6. the icing on the cake. An expression meaning an additional bonus, benefit, or other desirable thing. As in something good on top of something else that’s good.
    7. cupcake. A small individual serving-sized cake. Also an endearment.
    8. babycakes. Another, even cutesier, endearment. (Want to see something creepy? Check out this YouTube video of someone making a realistic sculpted baby cake. Perhaps not as deeply unsettling as bread made to look like dismembered body parts, but creepy nonentheless.)
    9. Pat-a-cake. (or Patty-cake). An English nursery rhyme. Also used for a clapping game.

      Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
      Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
      Pat it and roll it and mark it with “B”
      And put it in the oven for Baby and me.

    10. a piece of cake. An idiomatic expression meaning “easy.” As in “eating up all that chocolate was a piece of cake.”
    11. have your cake and eat it, too. An expression describing a desire to have things 2 different ways that are not compatible. More along the lines of “save your cake and eat it too.”
    12. takes the cake. An expression meaning “the most extreme example,” such as the winner of a contest or other comparison. As in “I thought Martin was a geek, but his brother Andy really takes the cake.”
    13. Cakewalk. A game, set to music, where the winner gets win a cake. I hadn’t realized it had origins as an actual dance:

      Cakewalk is a traditional African American form of music and dance which originated among slaves in the Southern United States. The form was originally known as the chalk line walk; it takes its name from competitions slaveholders sometimes held, in which they offered slices of hoecake as prizes for the best dancers.[1] It has since evolved from a parody of ballroom dancing to a “fun fair” like dance where participants dance in a circle in the hopes of winning a free cake.

    14. Cake. A band. My favorite song of theirs is probably their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive.”


    ¹ Actually, what I technically had was a celebratory fresh fruit tart, with a preamble of a couple of donuts holding some candles. But these were symbolically cake:

    flower power

    Today is the first day of May, or May Day. Since I haven’t found an opportunity to dance around a maypole, I’ll present this flower-themed ThThTh to you as a sort of virtual May basket.

    a bunch of flowers

  • “April showers bring May flowers.” An expression that makes reference to the frequency of rain in the month of April (in the Northern hemisphere, at least), and the Spring flowers that benefit from the watering. It has the meaning “Some unpleasant occurrences bring about better things.”
  • Flower children: a term for hippies, based on their tendencies to wear flowers as symbols of peace and love.
  • morning glory

  • Victorian Language of Flowers. A means of sending messages during the Victorian era. Specific flowers or colors of flowers had specific meanings attached for the recipient to decode. For example, a lobelia meant “malevolence” and a morning glory meant “love in vain.”
  • (s)he loves me, (s)he loves me not: a tradition of plucking the petals off a flower to determine whether one is loved. For each petal, the plucker alternates saying, eg. “he loves me” and “he loves me not.” The final petal, and which of the two phrases is slated to be spoken as it is plucked, establishes or refutes the love being questioned.
  • “Roses are Red.” A short poem (with many variants), sometimes used in Valentine’s Day cards. For example:

    Roses are red, violets are blue
    Honey is sweet, and so are you.

    I like this one better:

    Roses are red, violets are blue
    Some poems rhyme
    But this one doesn’t

  • American Beauty (1999) A movie with Kevin Spacey, which features rose gardening. It also has the famous dream scene with Mena Suvari in a pile of rose petals. (Why did I think it was Heather Graham? I guess it’s been a while.) American Beauty is also the name of a variety of roses¹
  • “Edelweiss” A song about the small white Alpine flower that is widely believed to be a traditional folksong, but was actually written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical “The Sound of Music.”

    Edelweiss, Edelweiss
    Every morning you greet me
    Small and white, clean and bright
    You look happy to meet me

  • blue bonnet poppycarnationsunflower

  • El Seed from the animated Tick series. A megavillain who is an anthropomorphic sunflower. (The name is a play on El Cid.)
  • Certain poppies are used to produce opiates (opium and heroine). Poppies also have a drugging effect in the field of poppies from the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and her companions (at least those that are mammals) are drugged to sleep when they enter a field of poppies. (Here’s the corresponding book chapter.)
  • The Orchid Thief: A non-fiction book by Susan Orlean about a man who illegally collects rare wild orchids. The movie Adaptation (2002) is in part about this story, and in part about the process of adapting a book into a screenplay.
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Gregory Maguire‘s second novel for adults². This reinterpretation of the Cinderella fairytale is set in 17th century Holland during the peak (and then crash) of the tulip craze.
  • Carnation: In the Avengers series, Steed would typically wear a carnation in his buttonhole. Characters in various fictional stories, especially spy stories, will wear a red carnation in order that they may be identified by someone who doesn’t otherwise know their appearance.
  • “Dennis Moore,” the Monty Python episode where a bumbling Robin Hood-type character steals lupins from the rich to give to the poor. “Your lupins or your life!”

  • ——
    ¹ There are so many rose-related things out there, including several fairy tale rose references, that I could easily do a list just of roses. I probably will at some point down the line. Consider this a token rose for now.)

    ² He had written several young adult/kids’ novels before writing Wicked.)

    flower images: source

    Is it hot in here?

    Okay, I was all set to whine again. I came down with the flu a few days ago, and spent many of the last 24 hours feverish and miserable. But it got me thinking about fevers. Now, suddenly, I’m feeling much better. My fever is all gone. But I still have this fever list I came down with, or came up with for ThThTh.

    A Few Feverish Bits

    1. feed a cold, starve a fever (or is it feed a fever, starve a cold?) an expression about folk remedies. Said to be based in part on an idea written in 1574: “Fasting is a great remedie of feuer.” Of course, they probably would have set leeches on you then, too.
    2. the brainfever bird, a nickname for the common hawk-cuckoo inspired by its repetive song, which sounds to some like the bird is saying “brain fever.”
    3. the origins of the fahrenheit scale. I remember a story my high school chemistry teacher told about how Fahrenheit made his temperature scale. According to this story, Fahrenheit wanted 100 degrees to be human body temperature. So he took his wife’s temperature to use. It turned out she had a lowgrade fever. (This tale is likely apocryphal, as people have offered up various other stories.)
    4. Fever is used quite a bit metaphorically to mean “high levels” of some thing: eg. fever of activity, fever of enthusiasm, fever of interest, fever of work. (Mind you, Google showed me no hits for either “fever of pants” nor “fever of bananas.”)
    5. cabin fever: an expression describing the feeling that one has been stuck inside for too long. Also the title of a movie
    6. jungle fever: A slang term for interracial relationships. Also a movie directed by Spike Lee
    7. fever pitch: intense levels of excitement or other emotions, often said in reference to crowds or other masses of people. Also the title of a book by Nick Hornby, and a movie based on the same.
    8. Saturday Night Fever (1977). John Travolta’s famous disco dancing movie. I don’t believe he actually had a fever in that movie.
    9. But speaking of fevers and dancing movies, did you ever hear that Gene Kelly had a high fever (103° f) during the famous scene where he dances (and sings) in the rain in the movie Singin’ in the Rain?
    10. Fever, or the metaphorical hotness it invokes, has also been the inspiration for lots of songs, such as Suzanne Vega’s “99.9 F°“, a lowgrade fever, and also the album title. (Video on YouTube.) And here are a few more from our iTunes library:
      Fever Few, Throwing Muses
      Fever Moon, Mission of Burma
      Fevered, The Stills
      Stray Cats Fever and Electric Beach Fever, Puffy AmiYumi
    11. Of course, any feverish list couldn’t be complete without Fever, the song made famous by Peggy Lee, and which has been stuck in my head much of the day:
    12. There’s also this version performed by Rita Moreno, as accompanied by Animal. Because many things are improved with the addition of muppets.

    feeling the burn

    Okay, I admit it. I’m feeling a tad burned out. What with the trip for the conference, the conference itself, the prep for the conference, the hard drive failure, and the various illnesses of the past couple of weeks, I feel like I’m due for a break. But sadly, I’ve got to get cranking on the next poster for the conference in Brazil, which is now (most startlingly) less than 3 weeks away.

    And not that you wanted to know this, but I am now plagued by heartburn. I had this problem when I was pregnant before, especially as I got huge. I thought things might be better this time around, but either the timing was coincidental, or the stomach bug I got pushed me out of the comfort zone, and into the fire.

    Hello zantac, my old friend,
    I’ve come to look to you again,
    Because the acids softly creeping,
    Left my stomach while I was sleeping,
    And the fire that was planted in my throat
    Really blows
    Giving the burn of reflux.

    Anyhow, I owe a ThThTh list, but I’m not feeling sufficiently fired up to do a thorough job. But here are a burning bits to toast your marshmallows. (Please feel free to fuel the fire, too.)

    • Phoenix, a mythical bird who burns and is reborn out of the ashes
    • Quest for Fire, a 1981 movie base on a 1911 French novel. About prehistoric people. Who, um, want fire or something like that.
    • Out of the the frying pan and into the fire, an idiom meaning “leave a bad situation for a worse one.”
    • Firestarter. A 1984 movie starrying Drew Barrymore as a pyrokinetic kid. Based on a Stephen King novel.
    • The Human Torch, a comic book character. Who gets all fiery.
    • Spontaneous Human Combustion. I don’t really have anything to say here. Poof.
    • Flame war or flaming: “the hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users”
    • And here, how about a whole bunch of songs I like with a fiery theme.
        Burning down the house, Talking Heads
        Beds are Burning, Midnight Oil
        Fire on Babylon, Sinead O’Connor
        London’s Burning, The Clash
        Firestarter, Prodigy
        Light My Fire, The Doors
        Ring of Fire, Johnny Cash (also Social Distortion)
        Who by Fire, Leonard Cohen
        Dig for Fire, Pixies
        It’s a Fire, Portishead
        Into the Fire, Sarah MacLachlan
        Keeper of the Flame, Nina Simone