al funcoot

leighlemon  asked:

What do Count Olaf's last words mean? Especially the part- "Get out as early as you can and don't have any kids yourself." ?

Hello, @leighlemon!

Olaf’s parting words are a direct quotation of Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse” (Link). One of the reasons the poem isn’t quoted in full is that it contains profanity.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.  
They may not mean to, but they do.  
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,  
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

[Philip Larkin, “This Be The Verse” from “Collected Poems”]

I would argue that Olaf chooses this poem for two purposes.

One is to contradict the false narrative that the Baudelaire orphans (and the “noble” side of V.F.D. in general) have built up in their heads: that education automatically leads to moral progress, and that evil people are usually ignorant.

“I know that having a good vocabulary doesn’t guarantee that I’m a good person,” the boy said. “But it does mean I’ve read a great deal. And in my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil.”
[The Slippery Slope, Chapter Five]

Of course, there is not usually a lightbulb hovering in the air when someone has an idea, but the image of a lightbulb over someone’s head has become a sort of symbol for thinking, just as the image of an eye, sadly, has become a symbol for crime and devious behavior rather than integrity, the prevention of fire, and being well-read.
[The Slippery Slope, Chapter Eleven]

“Well-read!” she repeated in a particularly nasty tone of voice. “Being well-read won’t help you in this world. Many years ago, I was supposed to waste my entire summer reading Anna Karenina, but I knew that silly book would never help me, so I threw it into the fireplace.” She reached down and picked up a few more pieces of wood, which she tossed aside with a snicker. “Look at your precious headquarters, volunteers! It’s as ruined as my book. And look at me! I’m beautiful, fashionable, and I smoke cigarettes!” She laughed again, and pointed at the children with a scornful finger. “If you didn’t spend all your time with your heads stuck in books, you’d have that precious baby back.”
[The Slippery Slope, Chapter Twelve]

Although the “villainous” side of V.F.D has a strong anti-intellectual stance, Olaf’s actions contradict this ideology (many of his plans do require a strong dose of research and literary knowledge). He goes as far as writing his own plays under a pseudonym (”Al Funcoot”), probably because he doesn’t want people to realize he actually enjoys literature.

So Olaf’s decision to prove he can recite poems is a fantastic case of duality. On one hand, he’s getting back to the days of his education by V.F.D., with a strong emphasis on the love of literature. On one hand, he’s such a wicked person that it’s a criticism of V.F.D.’s ideology at the same time. None of the endoctrination seemed to do him much good. But it’s possible he does look back fondly on his past appreciation for poetry as it’s strongly tied to the happy memories he had growing up with Kit.

“‘The night has a thousand eyes,’” Kit said hoarsely, and lifted her head to face the villain. The Baudelaires could tell by her voice that she was
reciting the words of someone else. ’“And the day but one; yet the light
of the bright world dies with the dying sun. The mind has a thousand
eyes, and the heart but one: yet the light of a whole life dies when love
is done.’”
Count Olaf gave Kit a faint smile. “You’re not the only one who can recite the words of our associates,” he said, and then gazed out at the sea. The afternoon was nearly over, and soon the island would be covered in darkness. ’“Man hands on misery to man,’” the villain said. “'It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can–’” Here he coughed, a ghastly sound, and his hands clutched his chest. “'And don’t have any kids yourself,’” he finished, and uttered a short, sharp laugh.

[The End, Chapter Thirteen]

Although the “villainous” side of V.F.D has a strong anti-intellectual stance, Olaf’s actions contradict this ideology (many of his plans do require a strong dose of research and literary knowledge). He goes as far as writing his own plays under a pseudonym (”Al Funcoot”), probably because he doesn’t want people to realize he actually enjoys literature.

The second purpose of the poem is to cast a cynical, uncomfortable light on Olaf’s own life. As we learn in “The Penultimate Peril”, Olaf was orphaned at an early age by the Baudelaire parents, an event which may have been the triggering event on his path to villainay. Olaf’s response was to make Beatrice and Bertrand’s children orphans in turn and to inflict every misery he had suffered on to them. So he’s effectively become the very kind of person he hates. There’s a strong parallel with Larkin’s poem, which speaks of the incapacity to become a “proper” parent even though you’ve seen and experienced bad parenting while you were a child. It’s an ontological cycle of violence from which there is no escape. Olaf’s nefarious nihilism is strongly tied to this horrible realization.

It’s of course no wonder that the adoption of Carmelita Spats is what causes the Esme/Olaf break-up. While Esme is delighted to obtain a child to shape into her own image, Olaf seems extremely uncomfortable around Carmelita. The fact they apparently plan to steal Carmelita’s inheritance anyway only makes it worse. Anything that resembles parenting creepsout  Olaf. So it only makes sense that he utters this poem with one last maniacal laugh, as the woman he once loved dies giving birth to the child he could have raised with her.

There is something so profoundly real and true about Count Olaf as a villain, and I think it’s something which is perhaps overlooked and under-appreciated because people are wont to dismiss children’s literature as inferior (which it is not). As Daniel Handler has said, Olaf is terrifying until he’s ridiculous until he’s terrifying. He’s got this fabulous duality to him – which, incidentally, I would imagine makes him a hard role to perfectly grasp, because this double-nature is ever-present, ever changing – and this duality of nature is such a real thing which we can observe in some of the scariest villains in the world. People like, and I hate to type his name, Donald Trump. He is terrifying because he has the potential to hold enormous power and because he works people up until he has them in the palm of his hand. Conversely, he is ridiculous for any number of reasons – his beliefs are idiotic (and idiotically cruel), he is vulgar and brash, his hair looks like it crawled on to his head and died there, he gets into ludicrous scrapes because he opens his big fat mouth and spews out bile which the world, naturally, condemns him for. He’s ridiculous because he has such an inflated sense of his own importance. We laugh at him because he’s so ghastly it’s unbelievable.

Olaf is just like this – he holds power and potential power over the Baudelaires’ heads constantly (the power because he is dangerous, violent, ruthless and an adult whom other adults believe and trust – and also because he was temporarily their guardian. The potential power because he holds this constant threat of regaining guardianship over the children, this constant threat that he will triumph and do away with them.). And he is so ridiculous because he too has this inflated sense of his own worth, because he brags and boasts and because the Baudelaires and we, the readers, can constantly catch him out on his ludicrous assertions. He adopts ridiculous disguises and ridiculous expressions and accents and develops a ridiculous laugh. He gets away with ridiculous things. And maybe at first glance people don’t realise how incredibly cleverly he has been devised as a villain, but I tell you he really has. He is SO. REAL. I just marvel at A Series of Unfortunate Events, honestly. It’s such intelligent writing.

Come one, come all to The Marvelous Marriage, a play by the talented Al Funcoot! The performance will be held in Count Olaf’s backyard, and please be sure to bring all your valuables - I mean, flowers to throw on stage. 

yjttdc  asked:

Hi sleuth! Why did the woman(disguised as a pretzel vendor) want a picture of the Baudelaires?

Good evening, @yjttdc!

For reference, this woman appears in Lemony’s recollection of the afternoon the Baudelaire family took a bath in the Fountain of Victorious Finance. This happens just a few months before the fire:

With the morning sun blazing overhead, and the sea sparkling at the edge of the coastal shelf, their surroundings seemed as far from trouble and treachery as that afternoon in the Fountain of Victorious Finance. But trouble and treachery are rarely as far away as one thinks they are on the clearest of days. On that faraway afternoon in the banking district, for instance, trouble could be found in the corridors of the towered building, where the Baudelaires’ mother was handed a weather report and a naval map that would reveal, when she studied them by candlelight that evening, far greater trouble than she had imagined, and treachery could be found just past the fountain, where a woman disguised as a pretzel vendor took a photograph of the laughing family, and slipped her camera into the coat pocket of a financial expert who was hurrying to a restaurant, where the coat-check boy would remove the camera and hide it in an enormous parfait glass of fruit that a certain playwright would order for dessert, only to have a quick-thinking waitress pretend that the cream in the zabaglione sauce had gone sour and dump the entire dish into a garbage can in the alley, where I had been sitting for hours, pretending to look for a lost puppy who was actually scurrying into the back entrance of the towered building, removing her disguise, and folding it into her handbag, and this morning on the coastal shelf was no different.
[The End, Chapter Five]

The woman disguised as a pretzel vendor seems to give her photograph to Esme (a financial advisor), who later gave it to playwright Al Funcoot (Count Olaf’s pen name).

As recalled in the un-Authorised Autobiography, V.F.D. is constantly watching the children of its members for future kidnapping/recruiment. This is important as both sides of the Schism frequently steal apprentices from one another (this notably happens in “All The Wrong Questions” and kickstarts the entire plot).

So I would argue that Olaf and Esme were already planning to capture/adopt the Baudelaire children and use them for their own ends. This is heavily implied by Dewey:

“Once there were safe places scattered across the globe, and so orphans like yourselves did not have to wander from place to place, trying to find noble people who could be of assistance. With each generation, the schism gets worse. If justice does not prevail, soon there will be no safe places left, and nobody left to remember how the world ought to be.”
“I don’t understand,” Violet said. “Why weren’t we taken, like you?”
“You were,” Dewey said. “You were taken into the custody of Count Olaf. And he tried to keep you in his custody, no matter how many noble people intervened.”
“But why didn’t anyone tell us what was going on?” Klaus asked. “Why did we have to figure things out all by ourselves?”
“I’m afraid that’s the wicked way of the world,” Dewey said, with a shake of his head.
“Everything’s covered in smoke and mirrors, Baudelaires. Since the schism, all the research, all the observations, even all of the books have been scattered all over the globe. It’s like the elephant in the poem your father loved. Everyone has their hands on a tiny piece of the truth, but nobody can see the whole thing.

[The Penultimate Peril, Chapter Eight]

The fact that Olaf ended up with the children of his worst enemies had everything to do with the organization, allthough instead of brainwashing them into his minions he seemed more concerned about stealing their money. That was his big mistake. To prepare this, he would have needed photographs of the family.

Lemony Snicket Challenge Day 11 - Arthur Poe

Favourite allusion in the books?

There are so so many and without trawling through them all to find the best ones I’m just gonna go with one of the most obvious. Mr Poe.

Obviously Mr Poe is a reference to the very famous poet Edgar Allan Poe, and his sons are called Edgar and Albert (after Edgar Albert Guest) and that in itself is funny. But there are also many other things to think about in relation to this:

  • Mr Poe as a banker. The fact that Mr Poe is a banker in ASOUE is ironic, because Edgar Allan Poe repeatedly had to struggle and beg for money throughout his life, as he tried to support himself using his writing alone.
  • Mr Poe and Orphan Affairs. Mr Poe’s position as the VP in charge of Orphan Affairs or whatever it is, is also a reference to the real Poe. Edgar Allan Poe was an orphan too, having lost both of his parents early in life and been sent to live with the Allan’s. His foster father also wasn’t a great guardian (though he did stay with them for a long time).
  • Edgar Allan Poe as a literary critic. In life, Edgar Allan Poe was probably best known as a literary critic, and a very, very critical one at that. Is this a nice parallel with Eleanora Poe, who crushes Lemony’s caustic review of the Al Funcoot play for being too insulting about the lead actress?
  • Mr Poe and his cough. Of course, Mr Poe’s trademark cough. All of the important women in the real Poe’s life died from TB, including his real mother, foster mother and his wife Virginia.
  • Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia. This one is a fun fact for the first book; speaking of his wife, she was also his cousin, and they married when she was about 14 and he was an adult. The Marvelous Marriage indeed?
  • Edgar Allan Poe as the father of the detective story. Lastly, the fact that the real Poe was so central to the creation of the detective story is an irony in itself. Edgar Allan Poe created C. Auguste Dupin (yes, Detective Dupin!) but Mr Poe is one of the least observant and most completely useless people in the whole Snicket-verse.

I genuinely think Edgar Allan Poe’s life (which was completely depressing), as well as his influence on the gothic genre, might have provided some significant inspiration for the series as a whole, and I love the many many ironies in Mr Poe’s character when you look at his namesake.

“The Play is called the Marvelous Marriage and is written by the great playwright, Al Funcoot. We will give only one performance, this friday night. It is about a man who is brave and intelligent, who is played by me. In the finale he marries a young beautiful woman he loves, in front of a crowd of cheering people.”

— Count Olaf, THE BAD BEGINNING

Art by Brett Helquist

Anwhistle Aquatics: Things You Didn’t Know About

Hello, volunteers. Well, the truth came out. And despite a few disappointed players (again, we’re so sorry), most responses to us being fans were positive. However, I thought I’d share with you some of the stuff that happened which we kept to ourselves. We took on this role where we were in this weird limbo between player and game-maker. There were times when we questioned our role in things and I finally understood the paranoia and borderline fear that Lemony Snicket seemed to be in a constant state of. It was interesting and, in retrospect, brings a whole new appreciation to Snicket’s writing.

Warning: if you’re one of the many who like the idea of Anwhistle Aquatics being shrouded in mystery, then I wouldn’t suggest reading. Our main complaint was that we didn’t just leave it with the fire picture. But you guys have to understand that we couldn’t remain silent. There were too many questions and we didn’t want people to stop playing just because we did.

That being said, here are a few things you didn’t know happened:

1. The timing of the other accounts worked out to our advantage twice. When Eleanora changed her voicemail to Sebald code, I had already been working on our coded letter to the editor. It was pure and brilliant coincidence. The second time things worked out was when Jacques apparently died mid-sentence while asking about Esmé. We already had the Esmé line up and recorded at that point. 

2. PJ had full control of the Anwhistle line and I had full control of the Esmé line. PJ also did most of the online posting and, even though the messages were being posted from A, everything was actually being posted by him. The only exceptions were the few people I texted as Esmé after we came out as being fans and one tweet about always carrying horseradish.

3. Speaking of the phone lines, it’s interesting to note that Eleanora was the first to text the Anwhistle line and Jacques (post-death) was the first to text the Esmé line. Whoever they are, they are adept at cracking codes. This, however, only confirms (to me) that this was every bit of intense for them as it was us, as they had to of been watching our account like hawks.

4. I revealed myself out-of-game to Eleanora. By doing this, it gave her something to hold over us and was a subtle acknowledgment that she was in charge. We had no idea who she was, but she knew who I was and could out me at any time. I did this by posting a chart I had made, seemingly trying to connect the dots between the accounts. Under the Eleanora’s Twitter section, I wrote: “$9/month” and under that “in cahoots”. These were direct references to the conversation she was having with the Anwhistle line. I tagged both her and the Anwhistle twitter, saying something like they were going to drive me insane. It had been posted less than a minute and she favorited it, so we assumed she got the message. The funny thing is that it had several favorites among the Snicket fans and no one picked up on those words being out of place.

5. Jacques is incredibly clever and pegged me as being involved. Though I was involved with Anwhistle, I was also playing as ‘R’. I was right with the rest of you in decoding the Morse and trying to figure out Jacques’ location. At some point after we posted the “where is Gregor and who are these impostors” puzzle, Jacques texted me and said he suspected me of knowing where Gregor was and outright asked if I was with Anwhistle. I told him I was investigating Anwhistle and hadn’t seen Gregor since I was a little girl and went to visit the marina. When he texted the Esmé line, he began it with “This is Jacques Snicket (deceased).” Since he was out of play at that point, I texted him from my personal phone (the same I used when talking to him before) and said: “Jacques Snicket (deceased). Message received.”  He texted back: “I thought it was you!”

6. We had plans to do a drop. In fact, the original plan was to do three drops: one with a pair of glasses, one with a ribbon, and one with a whisk. Each would have a part of the Esmé line’s number. We decided to do one drop and PJ had begun contacting book shops for a safe location to leave it. However, this was when all the questionable accounts starting popping up and everyone began wondering who was safe and who wasn’t. At this point, we knew we wanted out of the game because we didn’t want to be associated with these people if they ended up soliciting the numbers or doing anything illegal. I’d like to note here that PJ and I have run ARG’s before and all personal information you trusted with us is safe and will be deleted. Not wanting to prolong our involvement or make anyone feel uncomfortable about going to pick up a drop, we decided against doing it.

7. We had plans for Fernald (The Hook-Handed Man) to send a message to P revealing that A was captured by Olaf and most likely dead. He goes on to tell P that the fire-starters are coming for him and to run with the sugar bowl. However, it was written in an unfamiliar code which P does not understand. Of course, the players could figure it out, but it would have been too late and P perishes in the fire. In the books it is stated that Fernald returns to the fire-fighting side after burning down Anwhistle Aquatics and possibly being the one to kill Gregor. We were going to play out this change of heart, but couldn’t make it work right. So, P became the canon unknown volunteer who threw the sugar bowl out of the window.

8. There were going to be three voicemails on the Esmé line, but we decided to go with two and leave the ending open to interpretation. The first was Esmé as a front for Al Funcoot Productions, mentioning Anwhistle’s Agony and setting a trap for A, who took this to mean they were keeping him safe and wanted her to meet them. The second, which is currently still up, is Esmé apologizing and stating that the shows are booked full. There are a few seconds of silence and then she addresses the volunteers, stating that Anwhistle Aquatics has been reduced to ashes and declaring that they will find the sugar bowl. She goes on to say that it’s safe to assume P perished in the fire and that A wasn’t expecting Esmé‘s “handsome fellow”. Then she finishes by telling the volunteers to read between the lines, that it all ends in fire and to cease investigation. The third voicemail was going to be from A, who was being held hostage and escaped with Esmé‘s phone. She was going to leave a message to the volunteers that she was still alive, but not for long, and to run because they were coming with fire.

9. Most of the voicemails left on the Esmé line were fangirl/boy screaming and a good amount of the texts were declarations of love. It made me want to be Esmé in real life! Except not really because she’s awful, but, you know, it was fun. My favorite voicemail by far was: “Esmé, darling, vast fortunes are in and orphans are out.” (The good news is that I now have a solid weight loss goal because I WANT TO COSPLAY HER SO BAD AFTER ALL THIS. Except not with the stiletto knife stilettos. Because I will accidentally kill someone/myself for real.)

So, where does that leave us? We have our own thoughts on Eleanora, but we’re keeping it ourselves to maintain her mystery. We never did get to the truth of her, though, so keep investigating, volunteers!

Thank you for this wild ride. I will gladly follow back any of you crazies! And I say that with absolute adoration. This fandom is breathing again thanks to your paranoia and suspicions.

- Aurora/Rory/A/R/Esmé

PS: Random fact about PJ and me. When we were little, we wanted to be Duncan and Isadora. We kind of still do.