Living Shel Silverstein photo series
The Fitnessgram Pacer Test
Elbows off the table
Episode 61: Jumping Rope, Ridiculous Rose – Shel We Read a Poem?
British Voice: Shel We Read a Poem.
Russ: Hello all and welcome to Shel We Read a Poem. I’m Russ.
Lauren: I’m Lauren.
Russ: Well, karaoke was fun.
Lauren: It was really fun, wasn’t it? We did Baby Ketten Karaoke when Russ and his partner came down to Portland to see me.
Russ: Man, that was worth the trip. But golly, what a trip it was. For those of you looking to cross the US/Canada border, fates be with you?
Lauren: Why did you drive?
Russ: Well, because I had to make every terrible mistake in my life one time and now I’ve made that one and I can rack it up there with you know, touching the iron and pulling a television set on my head and you know, all the rest.
Lauren: You pulled the television set on your head?
Russ: No, but it sounded good, didn’t it?
Lauren: Yeah, it did. But then you would have to share that story, if you had. Well, I’m really glad you had a good time in Portland. Enjoyed the food and the company.
Russ: Yes indeed. And that weird motel, The Capitol Hill Motel. Shout out to a little family run operation out there. And damn, that place was time locked in 1947. I was a fan.
Lauren: Each hotel room has—well most of them have—a garage attached to them. I don’t think the guests actually get to use the garages but they exist.
Russ: My air conditioner was the size of a Titan V rocket and it sounded exactly like one.
Lauren: And somehow that is just white noise singing you to sleep.
Russ: That is a five star automatically in my book. The louder your air conditioner is the bigger of fan I am. BRRRRRRRRRRR. Boat engine over there in the corner. Now that we’ve discussed random Portland locations, since I think half our listenership comes from Portland—what are we talking about today?
Lauren: I am doing “Jumping Rope.”
This started out as a
You prob’ly think that
I’m a dope
But this started out as a jumping rope
And now I fear there is
But this started out as a
And without the illustration, I think this could come off as rather sinister.
Lauren: What happened? What happened with this jumping rope? Was it enough rope to hang yourself with?
Russ: Yes, yes, indeed.
Lauren: Or maybe somebody tied you to a chair. But it just has this girl looking very sad and she is completely tangled up in the rope. And not in like any interesting kinky way just sort of like… It’s like she stepped on one end of it and then like twirled around in circles.
Russ: It loosed itself like a bolo trap.
Russ: Now we’re down to our last, what, three poems, I think.
Lauren: Something like that. I think there might be two more after this.
Russ: Were you going to talk about Brandon Hill?
Russ: Brandon Hill did a photo series based on Shel Silverstein poems.
Lauren: What? I didn’t know this.
Russ: On their website: Brandon Hill has designed books, branding identities and has photographed commercially for clients nationwide for over 15 years. He’s always on the lookout for clients who are a dynamic fit. The photo series is called Living Shel Silverstein. And I have just dropped a link to it in Google Chat. “Jumping Rope” is featured prominently.
Lauren: Yes, it is. Aw. I mean, it really looks very similar to the picture. They even did this lady’s hair in a similar part. It does look a little more shibari when you put an adult woman in there. Also in this series is “Invention,” which we read last week. And “Band-Aids.” Well, no, what I was going to talk about is how there are maybe a few sports that you could design that I am more ill-suited for, than jumping rope. I am just so incredibly clumsy, trying to coordinate my arms and my feet at the same time—It’s not happening. And also there’s something about my physiology that just makes jumping not that great. For some reason when I jump, I don’t tend to like have a springy foot thing. I just kind of ended up stomping. So when I would jump rope, it would be really noisy. It would like DOM Dom, Dom DOM Dom.
Russ: You didn’t have the toe touching down?
Lauren: No. I think it’s in part because of the way my feet are. I don’t have any… and it would hurt also. I don’t really have any padding on the balls of my feet.
Russ: That’s interesting.
Lauren: It’s bone. Russ laughs. It’s really painful. They would make us do these silly Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser things.
Russ: Oh my god. I did that, too. Yes.
Lauren: Oh man, I was awful at them. I always got like up to three before I like, hit myself really hard in the toe. It was like, ouch, and screwed up.
Russ: I remember jump rope being part of one of the big field day events in my elementary school. Everyone would start jumping rope at the same time and then the winner was the one who was still jumping rope and hadn’t smacked themselves yet.
Lauren: Right. And I did that in like three. Were you any good at it?
Russ: I was not. I could do it. Ish. But only the simplest one. The trick that I never got the hang of was hula hoop.
Lauren: Yeah, I’m not great at that either. And then you can do the jump rope with the hula hoop. Have you ever jumped… like, skipped, a hula hoop?
Russ: No. Laughs. Not that I’m aware of.
Lauren: Well, you can jump rope with a hula hoop, too. Yeah, so it was just not fun times for me. I, like most children are, was a cocky thing. And so I always thought I was gonna be great at anything before I tried it. I was just such a bad jumper.
Russ: That was the British in me. I was certain I was gonna be a failure when I started.
Russ: This has some in some core memories because I don’t remember touching a jump rope, like, after fifth grade.
Lauren: So I think like the fad of jumping rope isn’t like… I know Jump Rope for Heart started, I think, in 1983. And so it was probably in the early 90s when we were doing this. And I think jumping rope went out of fashion at some point. Russ laughs. I really think it did. I don’t see kids doing it anymore.
Russ: So when I was the assistant principal of an elementary school, we had them but they weren’t the most popular recess toy.
Lauren: No, but probably no one made them jump rope like they did in gym class when we were kids.
Russ: These days, it’s The FitnessGram Pacer Test.
Lauren: What is that?
Russ: Oh man, so 20 years from now that’s going to be the hottest meme on the Outernet, I guess, or whatever it is that replaces the internet but… yeah. No. The FitnessGram Pacer Test. Look it up it is a meme amongst our grade school ages these days.
Lauren: FitnessGram Pacer Test?
Russ: Yes, there are remixes.
Lauren: So is this a real thing?
Russ: Yep. It’s like a standardized fitness regimen just like they have standardized tests.
Lauren: Okay. So what does one do?
Russ: Various exercises.
Lauren: Okay, well, I mean, when I was a kid, we had to do, like, a chin up, which I never could do; some push ups; which I wasn’t great at; sit ups, which I was okay at. And then the whole, like, stretching, where you have your feet against the block and you try to double over a meter stick, which, by the way, is very unfair to tall people. And I was bad at all of them except like sit ups. Oh! And run the mile, which I was neither good nor bad at.
Russ: When you Googled FitnessGram Pacer Test, you just got slammed with the meme, but I’m not sure you recognized it.
Lauren: No, I don’t… I don’t. Here’s the issue: I don’t even know what I’m looking at because I’m on a PC right now.
Russ: Well, The FitnessGram Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues. The 20 meter Pacer test will begin in 30 seconds. Line up at the start.
Lauren: I’m still confused.
Russ: Oh, that’s the opening line from… ugh, god.
Lauren: What? What is this? Okay, this is a joke, I guess. Right?
Russ: No. It’s real, but it’s a meme.
Russ: I’m quoting. It’s as though I’m singing Rick Astley at you right now.
Lauren: I’m really confused.
Russ: It’s okay.
Lauren: I really don’t get it.
Russ: The Millennials will love it.
Lauren: I don’t understand. What’s going on?
Russ: This isn’t gonna make for good airtime. So what it really is, is a standardized fitness test where you have to, like run a certain amount and do a certain amount of sit ups and that kind of thing. But the reason it’s a meme is because it’s narrated by this very monotone kind of goofy sounding guy. And it’s apparently very memorable. And, I didn’t think it so, but school aged children seem to and so the meme is…
Lauren: So when you say Millennials will find it funny, you mean Gen Z, of which we have no listeners.
Russ: I’m so sorry. Yes. It’s just like the opening block of text of The FitnessGram Pacer Test. And so just hearing it summons the funny.
Lauren: Okay. …if you have been in an elementary school, in the past 10 years, which I have not.
Russ: Okay. Or watch TikTok.
Lauren: Which I don’t.
Russ: Which I do, a lot. This is unlistenable,
Lauren: I know. We are so awful. That is me jumping rope; I’m not good at it. The other thing about jumping rope or skipping rope is that there are all sorts of cool things that I saw people doing, but never actually in real life, where you’d have two ropes going…
Russ: Oh, yeah. Double Dutch.
Lauren: … and, like, rhymes and stuff. Nobody actually was able to do that that I ever saw. But, you know, supposedly people could.
Russ: I’m sure I attempted it. I don’t know.
Lauren: Yeah, I think we attempted it and we just hit each other with ropes.
Russ: My jam was the parachute.
Lauren: Oh, yeah. I recall that. I think… What was that? You just kind of like, got in it, and people like, waved it around at you.
Russ: Yeah, you could do games with it. Like you could run around in a circle. And you know, it was basically running around in a circle. Lauren laughs. And variations on running in a circle. Oh, those are the good old days of gym class. “Run to that tree. Run to that bush. Run back. Run to the bush, again.”
Lauren: Hit yourself in the shin really hard jumping rope.
Russ: Here’s a basketball that was last inflated 1947. Go hit each other with it.
Lauren: It’s made of fiberglass and it’ll get stuck in your fingers. I don’t know what it was about basketballs, but I did have basketballs that were so old that I got fibers stuck in my fingers. I don’t think it was fiberglass.
Russ: I’m pretty sure that my… This might be an invented memory, but I think my elementary school gym floor was made of, like, poured rubber.
Lauren: That sounds fun.
Russ: But like it was hard. You could bounce a ball marginally higher, but you couldn’t spring off of it. No way to prove that I suppose. Well, I have a poem.
Lauren: All righty, Russ.
Russ: This is “Ridiculous Rose.”
Her mama said, “Don’t eat with your fingers.”
“OK,” said Ridiculous Rose,
So she ate with her toes!
Lauren: What a brat.
Russ: What a brat.
Lauren: What a brat.
Russ: As though eating… But, like, her mom, shame on her, as though eating with your fingers is bad.
Lauren: Oh, well, it depends on what you’re eating.
Russ: Or what culture you’re in.
Lauren: True. Very true. That’s a good point.
Russ: Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, basically most of Southeast Asia. And Rose. She is a brat, but she is pointing out that the criticism is silly and she can make the situation so much worse if she wants to.
Lauren: Yeah, I was trying to think about eating with one’s fingers when one wasn’t supposed to. And I, for the life of me, can’t remember what I would be trying to eat with my fingers that I wasn’t supposed to. I suppose everything.
Russ: Spaghetti. Soup.
Lauren: Why wouldn’t you eat cake with your fingers?
Lauren: Spaghetti. You know, I think I talked about this earlier, but any, like, wobbly, drapey foods are difficult to eat with one’s fingers.
Russ: As is a nice hot bisque.
Lauren: Laughs. You could just put the bowl up to your mouth and sip. It’s kind of like eating with your fingers.
Russ: What other customs are there that make no sense? This one, I’ve had to explain to some people recently. It’s almost to the point where you can tell I’m getting old because silly stuff is turning my spine to glass, where it’s like, “How are you doing?” “Fine, thanks.” Okay. If it’s a scripted answer, why are we asking you the question? I get it. We’re just establishing where people are in the room. That’s the only purpose: Who’s here and where is everyone? I get it. I get the purpose. But can’t we do something that doesn’t require like, “Blah blah blah?” “Blah blah blah.” Like, just make a beeping noise when you come in.
Lauren: What does it even mean, when you’re like, “How are you?” “Fine, thanks.” I guess it’s sort of a “We will continue to do what we’re doing unless you have some serious pressing problem.”
Russ: This weird non interaction. God, I hate it so much. It’s like if we’re recording the podcast or something like “So how ya doing?” Well, it’s usually because some juicy shits gonna follow. Or, I mean, it’s us, so it’s never really juicy. It’s like “My cat pooped in a place cats don’t poop.” But you know Your cat’s pretty well behaved.
Lauren: Well, my cat is not well behaved, but she doesn’t poop where she’s not supposed to. Occasionally her long fur gets caught and then she drags it somewhere.
Russ: That’s amazing. Lauren laughs. There you go. At least we turn it into something diverting. I started doing a thing years ago, where, if I’m on a phone conversation and the conversation is over, I just hang up.
Lauren: I like that.
Russ: What other eating ones? What about elbows on or off the table?
Lauren: I don’t really understand elbows off the table. When you’re eating with your hands, it often makes a lot of sense to have your elbows on the table. So like. if you’re eating a sandwich…
Russ: Yeah. Ribs. Hot wings. Sorry, Lauren.
Well, most of them are meat, yes. But like, I don’t know, mozzarella sticks or whatever. Whenever you’re eating with your hands, it makes a lot of sense to have your elbows on the table.
Russ: That one actually kind of got me curious, so I did some flipping. This might—again, no definitive proof of this—but the elbows off the table thing… Elbows off the table might have originated in England in the Middle Ages, because tables might have been closer to kind of trestile-y looking things. And all the food would be piled on one side and diners would be seated on the other side at feasts, traditionally. And if you put your elbows on the table, it might be easier to tip it. But that’s really all I can find.
Lauren: I was like, maybe people start nodding off and fall asleep at the table and it’s just rude to fall asleep.
Russ: I don’t know. I feel like falling asleep would be okay, but wasting food? Yeah that would get you in trouble.
Lauren: I used to hear as a child, “Mabel, Mabel, keep your elbows off the table,” but it didn’t make any sense why you wouldn’t have your elbows on the table. What does that come from?
Russ: Also, who’s Mabel?
Lauren: I don’t know.
Russ: There’s no one in your house called Mabel.
Lauren: No. Or anybody’s house.
Russ: Laughs. There is on Gravity Falls.
Lauren: That’s true. So it looks like the… Goddamnit I hate trying to be work on a PC. Oh, what have I done? Help. I don’t know what has happened. I think I have summoned Cortana.
Russ: Laughs. Run in the bathroom. Turn the lights off. Say her name three times in the mirror.
Lauren: I won’t stop. It won’t stop.
Russ: Oh god, you have to know her true name to send her back to…
Lauren: How do I get back to where I was? Okay. Oh, god. I… Nope. Everything’s fucked. Everything’s real fucked.
Russ: As long as we’re still recording.
Lauren: Okay, I think I dismissed the demon. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Russ: Anatroc, I seal thee away!
Lauren: I can’t. There’s nothing I can do. All right. Well, I can’t look at the internet anymore. There was something about Mabel Mabel. It was like a rhyme and you know what? It’d be really funny if it were a skipping rope rhyme.
Russ: Well, I can look it up.
Lauren: Yeah can you look this up? It’s all for naught.
Russ: Huh. It seems to be… The first thing that comes up is an unusually—I don’t know—patriotic website. “Mabel Mabel strong and able: songs and rhymes from the USA.”
Lauren: Is it a skipping rope rhyme?
Russ: This one is.
Lauren: “Mabel Mabel, keep your elbows off the table” is a skipping rope rhyme?
Russ: “Mabel Mabel, strong and able, take your elbows off the table. We’ve told you once we’ve told you twice. We’ll never tell you thrice.” Another version: “Mabel, Mabel strong and able, keep your elbows off the table. This is not a horse’s stable, but a fancy dining table.” And a modern adaptation: “Mabel Mabel, strong and able, keep your cell phone off the table. Lauren laughs. That is a full circle that is.
Lauren: We did. We did it.
Russ: Also, why do we say “bless you” after a sneeze but not a fart?
Lauren: Well farting doesn’t normally mean you’re sick.
Russ: What about vomiting? That should get an extra big “bless you.”
Lauren: That’s a whole production. They’re usually saying… Instead of “bless,” you’re, like, saying “Oh, I’ll get some water!” or “I’ll go get a mop!” Or whatever.
Russ: And while we’re at it, fist bumps look cooler than handshakes
Lauren: And you get fewer germs.
Russ: And while we’re at it, why do we spend so much money on weddings?
Lauren: I don’t.
Russ: Ridiculous rose you had a point. Long pause. Fuck the establishment. Both laugh.