Triangle Man feels confident picking on Particle Man, who is tiny, and Person Man, who is weak-willed, but he won't mess with Universe Man. I like that. Thirtysilver 03:34, 13 May 2009 (UTC)
I think the song is talking about life. Particle Man is the little, normal people in the world, but no one cares about him. Human Man are the troubled people in the world. Universe Man, however, are the celebrities of the world. The line that says "He has a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand" are like the fancy watches. "Usually kind to smaller men" is how celebrities help people in need. Triangle Man are the people who glorify Universe Men by making celeb magazines and stuff. -Verb
In my mind, the song is about how different people view the world, and the conflicting views about where we came from, what we are made of, and what we're here for. The most important part of the song is the rivalry between Particle Man and Triangle Man.
Also interesting is the presence of Universe Man. Universe Man is set apart from Particle Man because it represents one of the greatest problems in modern science. In science, two major theories exist...
The problem is that General Relativity and the Quantum Theory conflict at many points, and it is now generally accepted by scientists that while General Relativity is watertight, the Quantum Theory is filled with holes. In the song, this is represented by the sheer ovrepowering nature of Universe Man.
Note: This is false, and exactly the opposite of current scientific view. While it is true that general relativity and quantum theory (the standard model) are incompatible with each other, it is the quantum theory that is accepted as "watertight", and general relativity that must be revised to mesh with quantum mechanics. --Hemightbeaphysicist 21:59, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm still not exactly sure about the purpose of Person Man, but I think if anything he represents how confused society is.
I've always loved the joke - "when he's underwater does he get wet, or does the water get him instead?" He's so small, maybe the water gets wet off him, rather than the usual way round.
John Linnell has said on a few occasions that Robert Mitchum was the inspiration for Triangle man. Robert Mitchum has been described as the Original Bad boy of Hollywood. After a lot of looking, I have found enough evidence to state my interpretation of Particle Man.
Particle Man is George Sanders. George Sanders was in a movie called the Falcon Takes Over. The first remake in 1943 was entitled Murder my Sweet. The second Remake in 1975 was called Farewell my Lovely. It stared Robert Mitchum, and was the final and most famous remake. The original was not well known, and thus had to be remade twice before well noticed. Particle was used to describe it, because particles have to be magnified to get noticed. The line, "When he's underwater does he get, or does the water get him instead?" is refereing to the reasons for the remake. It has been said by many that the original movie was wonderful and the best version. This poses the question, was the movie remade because it was too small to be noticed, or was it remade because it was so great? The only struggle here is whether Robert Mitchum did a better job, or George Sanders of the original. General opinion says Rober Mitchum did. Here's a song snippet reworded. "Triangle man, Triangle man. Triangle man replaces Person man. Who did better? Triangle did. Triangle man."
Person man is Dean Martin. He was in a movie called Rio Bravo. The movie was remade with Robert Mitchum being cast as Dean Martin's character. Dean Martin's character is an alcoholic (is he depressed, is he a mess, does he feel totally worthless?) who has lost all self respect (degraded man). His friend John Wayne comes back into town and knocks some sense into him(hit on the head with a frying pan). Robert Mitchum replaced this character in the Remake called El Dorado(1967). Once Again, the struggle comes to who did better, Robert Mitchum (Triangle man), or Person man(Dean Martin). Robert Mitchum was better known, and usually is said to have done the better job.
Universe man is John Wayne. John Wayne is pretty much a household name. He has earned his place in Hollywood. He is said to be an immortal Hollywood icon. He has played beside Robert Mitchum in El Dorado, and was one of, if not the only, time Robert Mitchum was overshadowed in a movie by a bigger star. The description of a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand is stating that there are three layers to John Wayne. His body (minute hand) which fades the fastest, his films (millennium hand) which will eventually be overshadowed or lost. And his reputation(eon hand) which will be around for a very long time to come. There was never a conflict with Mitchum and Wayne because Mitchum never was able to replace Wayne. John Wayne was still young enough to replay his own character from Rio Bravo in El Dorado.
There you have it. What I'm hopping is the closest Interpretation of Particle man. Brought to you by John Linnell's own comments, and an hour and a half of study, and typing. Thanks to Google for helping the search, and my brother Klimdeeni who got me hooked on TMBG. -chapmanbobby
This page is totally worthless, much like Person Man, but I felt it was my duty...(220.127.116.11)
The first character we meet is Particle Man, simply a guy who is able to perform the same activities as a particle, though his personality is irrelevant to our purposes. One might ask, if he is a particle, what is his shape or form? Is his body dot-like or more similar to that of a speck? If one was grasping for more information on this enigmatic fellow, one could even ask, when immersed in water, would this minuscule being even be affected so much as to become sodden with said water, or might, in fact, *he* overcome the liquid? One would then be given the unsatisfying response that the answer has not yet been discovered.
Then along comes Triangle Man, who inexplicably loathes this mysterious atom. We can then infer that Triangle Man is a very narrow-minded individual; after all, if nothing is known of Particle Man other than that he acts like the very molecule from which his namesake is derived, what grounds could Triangle Man possibly base his abhorrence on? Triangle Man, we learn, is involved in a duel with the very man he detests, and emerges victorious. We can only assume that the tussle was unprovoked.
After a melodious yet comical instrumental break, Universe Man enters the picture. One could presume that this is a moniker for the Lord Himself. "Size of the entire universe man" could very well be a hasty metaphor for God's omnipresence. "Usually kinder to smaller man" describes The Almighty's stance towards his children, in that kindness is rewarded but sinners are punished. The idea that God is around for a long time (indeed, for ALL time) is echoed in the line "He's got a watch with a minute hand, millennium hand and an eon hand." "When they meet it's a happy land" describes our tendency to celebrate madly after a long period of time passes, such as a millennium. Universe Man's verse closes after a reminder that He is a "Powerful Man."
The last new character in this heavy song is Person Man. We are given some background information on Person Man, in that he had been smote with a cooking device and now makes a can filled with discarded objects his home. One wonders if such a turn of events would lead Person Man to become dispirited or just plain screwed up, even convinced his life is devoid of meaning. This brings up a very good point: Who was it that created Person Man? The song cryptically responds, "Degraded man, Person Man," leaving us to wonder if this means that the author of Person Man was himself reduced far below ordinary standards of civilized life and conduct, or if the question was rhetorical, and Person Man is still the subject.
Triangle Man, still fresh from his struggle with Particle Man, arrives on the scene. His reputation as one who abhors people without a proper explanation is continued, for Person Man is still desperate for the answer to his existence and certaintly has enough problems on his hands without having a belligerent polygon take him on. Triangle Man again defeats his opponent.
The song repeats the catchy solo that is so out of place in this strangely violent ditty.
Man, I love this song.
This song is one big joke, but you have to listen hard to hear it. It's simply this: Triangle Man only hates those he can beat up, which is of course everyone except Universe Man. (He both hates and beats up Person Man and Particle Man.) It's also a parody of the Spider Man theme song.
Person man, lives his life in a garbage can, is probably a reference to "Endgame" by Samuel Beckett
NO! NO! NO! This is a scheme the Johns Had! Because they knew they had incredibly dorky fans (me for example), they wrote a nonsensical song with silly, childish lyrics, so their fans would sit around together, like philosophers pondering the meaning of this "metaphoric" song. I'm sure John and/or John did not sit around thinking of deep, deep meanings and themes for a song. They just wrote a childish song which complemented the rest of Flood. THERES NO MEANING TO THIS SONG! ~Michael Curtin
I don't know if it's entirely meaningless. It's nonsensical, sure, and it warrants no great deep interpretation, but it does have a founding in something, however irrelevant it might be. Linnell has, on at least one occasion, commented that Triangle Man was inspired by actor Robert Mitchum (a thought which actually adds a great deal more humor to the song, if you know of any of Mitchum's stock roles). - Charlie Coniglio
At the risk of beating a dead particle: this song reminds me of the drawings and chants/songs that many kids (especially little boy geeks, where I came from) fill their grade school days with -- using the Spider-Man theme song as a jumping off point, and having no appreciable artistic skill (depending on how you look at it), two kids in 5th grade might just make up these guys on a sheet of paper: a dot, a triangle, a little stick figure, and the piece of paper itself. "Hey, that's Triangle Man!" "My guy can beat up your guy." The fact that Triangle Man only hates and beats up people smaller than him is just the way the grade school power structure would find expression in two little downtrodden geeks (not unlike myself, I hasten to add). And the Person Man part is a direct echo of "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man / I live in a garbage can", something I and my compatriots used to chant when we were in grade school.
See also School Is Hell and Childhood Is Hell by Matt Groening.
In a March 1995 interview with the Cornell Daily Sun, Linnell said of Particle Man, "There's no code to that song. It's just about a character that is for no moral reason sort of over the weaker things. It's just a story about unfairness wins out." There you have it.
I agree with the above, but the question is not what is the story about, it's what is the story. I believe that particle man is a bit more literal than most people seem to think. Particle man represents particles, universe man represents the universe, person man represents humans, and triangle man represents time.
I've always thought that triangle man must represent time intuitively, and have never been able to pinpoint exactly why or how. Perhaps it's the triangles made on clocks, perhaps it's the shape of the time travel device from back to the future, but in any case it works with my interpretation so that's what I'm going to use.
The story is about the unfairness of the universe. Time defeats everything (except the universe itself which defeats time when it's hands meet and the universe comes to an end and with it time). It's like the lyrics in Don't Let's Start: "Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful"
It may seem that the final word is to be had by the artist, but I'm not always so sure...
Particle Man is about the conflict between science and religion. Particle Man represents science. He's the smallest building block of matter, there are many questions about him that are yet to be answered. Each fact we learn about him provokes many more questions.
Triangle Man, then, is religion -- specifically fundamentalist Christianity as practiced in the US. The triangle references the Trinity. He hates Particle Man, 'cos he sees science as anti-religion. He's also more inclined to use force to enforce his ideals. This is an unfortunate frequent by-product of fundamentalism. This fight is won by religion because science is inclined towards exploration, unknowns, relativism, and hypothesis. Moral absolutes are more alluring to humanity.
Universe Man is, well, the universe. He is what he is regardless of what science or religion think. Science has it's theories, religion has it's traditions, but Universe Man exists unperturbed, indifferent. Usually kind to smaller man, because on the balance, things endure, somehow. (At least on the scales that we operate in.)
Person Man (that's you and me, kids!) is presented as ludicrous, even grotesque. He's a mass of nonsense and ennui. The real editorial crux is in the statement that Triangle Man hates person man. Fundamentalist Christianity teaches that people are born in sin and that our motives and desires are sinful, if not evil.
They have a fight, Triangle wins. Fundamentalism and intolerance again triumph over reason and humanity.
But remember that the universe carries on.
About the above interp... It seems to me recently that perhaps the Johns, dont like religion. If this interp is correct, which to me i always believed it was about science and religion too. Look at the song spiraling shape, religion makes sence there too, and once again in a negative sence. Or Whistling in the Dark! All the people that approach him also sond like it could be some kind of religion! What do you think? firstname.lastname@example.org
It's probably also worth mentioning the book "Flatland" by Edwin A. Abbott (subtitle: "A Romance of Many Dimensions", which you can find at http://www.alcyone.com/max/lit/flatland/index.html.
It's a the story of a two-dimensional world inhabited by various polygons, narrated by a square called A. Square. Many of the characters (specifically middle-class men) in it are triangles. It's a combination of mathematical aid to thinking about 4+ dimensional spaces and political/social satire. It's a little hard to summarise; read it!
"Particle Man" always resonated strongly with it in my head; the different characters are of different dimension (i.e. Particle Man = 0, Triangle Man = 2, Person Man=3, Universe Man= 4? infinity?).
It's explored in depth in the book "Flatterland" by Ian Stewart.
Actually, for someone who read "Flatterland", I'm suprised that you didn't put 10 dimensions for Universe Man. (see "string theory") And you can even use that to connect it to Cut The Strings. Though that might be a stretch. Either way, it would make Universe Man much larger than previously thought. Dimensionally speaking, that is. - Kfarnstein
Well, in response to what Crankysysadmin said much earlier, I kind of think it's a bit like an elementary school playground.
Here's Particle Man. I envision him as one of the tiny geeky kids that get picked on all the time (I was one of them; I'm currently having to endure the high school version of this-- gossip, anyone?). Quite comically, "When he's underwater does he get wet, or does the water get him instead?" sounds like the swirlies that the boys in my class were always giving each other. No one cares what he's like, he's just the puny nerd.
Along comes the bully. That's Triangle Man, obviously. He beats up Particle Man because he can. That's a lot like my school, actually.
Universe Man, one quite the other hand, is most likely the older kid, like a high schooler or someone's older brother. "Usually kind to smaller man" says that this guys pretty nice. "He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand" may refer to the fact that he's so much older than them that it seems like he's been around forever, seen everything, etc. "When they meet, it's a happy land" talks about how even the bullies want the "big kids" to think well of them, so they try to just look cool, and if the big guy's nice, well, he's not going to think that beating up other kids is cool.
Lastly, we have Person Man, this guy who's probably not the brightest bulb in the box. "Hit on the head with a frying pan" is sort of similar to childhood taunts like "His momma musta dropped him when he was a baby," which are not normally said about the smart kids. Triangle Man beats him up, and if I remember correctly, bullies used to say stuff like "It's trash day!" and then stuff them into one of the knocked-over trash cans nearby, then stand them upright and put on the lid so they couldn't get out without hurting themselves. Fun, huh? Aurora Hawthorne
A side note: Seeing the music video for this song on Tiny Toon Adventures was how I discovered TMBG in the first place. But I can't hear this song ever without thinking of the video's wrestling motif, which frustratingly robs this song of any supposition of meaning. So, yeah. That annoys me. email@example.com
Science and religion. There you have it. I've thought this since one odd peach-schnapps-oriented night freshman year of college and here it is in its Wikiness - and I'm upset someone else came up with it first, but it IS kinda obvious. I mean, look at Particle Man - he has amazing properties, but yet no one knows them all. But before one can discover whether the water gets him instead, Triangle Man - the Trinity, in all its Galilean-Catholic-era glory - HATES Particle Man, and they have a fight, and Triangle wins. ("But it DOES move," mutters Person Man...) Meanwhile, here's Universe Man, waiting in the wings - and when they meet, not just the millennium hand and the eon hand, but Particle and Triangle and Person Man as well, it's a happy land. That's yet to come, though, as Person Man struggles through his trials and tribulations, including living his life in a garbage can - here I think of pre-Renaissance feudal serfdom as Triangle Man, the Church, hates Person Man, inducing him to live out his earthly life in squalor in exchange for a possible heavenly reward, and of course Triangle Man wins, and poor Person Man gets hit on the head with a frying pan, which may or may not have been invented yet.
Damn, overeducation can sure ruin a perfectly good song. :) - Delaney
Triangle man is change. (in science equations the triangle is used to symbolize change.) particle man represents quantum (sub-atomic) particles. universe man is, go figure, the entire universe. person man is us, poor us, stuck in the middle. triangle man defeats both particle man and person man because that's what change does. the universe is simply the sum composite of all these changes taking place -- which renders irrelevant the question of who would win between triangle man and universe man.
particle man - our hero. he's somewhat of a mystery ("is he a dot? or is he a speck?") but no one really cares to solve it ("what's he like? it's not important..."). and i think that's how particle man would like to be. left alone, unsolved.
universe man - universe man represents pretty much the life to me. simple as that. "usually kind to smaller man" means we aren't all worthless. i also think "smaller man" can be particle man. the universe, or life, is kind to particle man because he doesn't bother anybody and he's just doing whatever a particle man. good for him. and whenever i listen to the song and i hear the line about the watch and when they meet it's a happy land, i think it's a reference to how happy and proud everyone is when it's a new year or a new century, etc. not like it's a reason to be proud. i mean, it's not like we invented time or help it move along or anything. you jerks.
person man - person man represents the people who struggle in the human race. only bad things seem to happen to him ("hit on the head with a frying pan/lives his life in a garbage can/person man/is he depressed? or is he a mess?/does he feel totally worthless?") and he's basically just weak, tired, and pathetic and will just get weaker, more tired and more pathetic.
triangle man - triangle man is, as said before, a bully. he destroys anything weaker than him because it makes him feel powerful. he goes after particle man, beats him up, does a little dance, (decides to leave universe man alone) and then goes after person man. if person man represents the struggling people in the human race, triangle man represents the rich and powerful guys who get richer and more powerful by making the weak weaker and more tired and more pathetic. simply, he's a dick.
when it's all said and done, "particle man" is really just a fun song. there's not much to it except what you build around it. (I'd like to mention i thought the idea about kids drawing characters to fight each other was great.)
Has anyone considered triangle man to be God, representing the trinity, universe man being his perfect creation, and and person man and particle man being his failed creations? (mankind...)
~Caleb Astey Duquesne Universty firstname.lastname@example.org
Particle man = The common man, there are many of us, we make up the world. Person man = The downtrodden, out of luck, time, and money common man. Triangle man = Big business, beats on the common man Universe man = God, who normally looks out for 'the smaller man', Ie. The common man
I thought this song was about evolution. Particle man - First small organisms. Triangle man - The evil of the world Universe man - Time passes, creatures develop Person man - Us, blundering about
I think someone hit the nail on the head when talking about religion. I'm not sure what exactly you'd call Particle Man or Triangle Man (Satan?) but I can assure you that Universe Man represents God, looking kindly down on the Smaller Man, occupying the entire universe. Also, when the Minute Hand, Millennium Hand and Eon Hand meet, that's presumably the Judgment Day. Okay, not happy land for the satanists, atheists and alla them, but.... For the Christians it is. Person Man is humankind, crappy as we are. Most of us have had the experience of breakup, figuratively and potentially literally as well being hit on the head with a frying pan. The world we live in is full of trash, no matter where you go. Sometimes you have to wonder what kind of crazy sadist made these poor freaks. And then along comes Satan (Triangle Man), beating the hell out of us (literally) and dragging a good many of us off (implied, never mentioned in the song). Then the happy instrumental solo comes in and makes us all laugh.
When I was very young, I always thought it was about fighting superheroes. ~Bluething
I doubt if this song is a heavy-handed religious allegory, either pro-religion or anti-religion. Probably it is just a simple story about cute characters, as Linnell says it is. I do think, however, that Universe Man is some sort of God figure. His watch recalls the "watchmaker proof" of the existence of God, which was popular in the eighteenth century. The basic idea was that the universe was so intricately designed and well put-together, like a watch, that it must have a Designer.
While I doubt either John had any deep meaning concealed in the song's lyrics, it is nonetheless fun to speculate. The song is about Everything. The entire universe. From it's smallest, core elements ("Particle Man") to the enormous sum of all things ("Universe Man"), which is comprised of the former. It explores the dimensions (literally) of space. It also deals with the internal conflict within the universe (wars, supernovas, combustion, entropy, natural selection) that make it run. Now, if the song went from smallest to biggest, Person Man's verse would come third. It comes fourth, suggesting that humanity is an afterthought of the entire universal process. Which is why Person Man is so messed up. Just my thoughts. And, for the record, String Theory postulates the existence of eleven dimensions. Not ten.
I was pretty sure it was a song about fighting superheroes and basic story structure, too... It makes the most sense. In every superhero comic book or show, you have "particle man", the main character--the character we know the least about, but put up with anyway. During the first encounter with the bad guy, "Triangle Man" (and when you think about it, an awful lot of villains are triangular in general shape), "Particle Man" always loses. "Triangle Man's" motivations are not always clear, though...
Then, we have "Universe Man". "Universe Man" can be typically seen as that "omnipotent", Deus-ex-Machina badass who will occasionally step in to help "Particle Man", but is nowhere around when he could really be of assistance. Since "Triangle Man" wants none of what "Universe Man" is serving, he doesn't screw with him.
Then, there's the matter of "Person Man". We all know "Person Man". He's the guy who's not the main character, but because we know about him, we can relate to him. He doesn't come from the greatest background, he's obviously not invincible, and he has a little bit of that edgy angst that just about anyone can identify with. Unfortunately, he's unable to stand against "Triangle Man", and is defeated.
However, in most superhero stories, this is the point where "Particle Man" comes in and kicks "Triangle Man's" butt...
Looking at the song as being about superheroes, perhaps Person Man represents the innocent bystanders who are affected by the actions of the villains(Triangle Man or otherwise). Or maybe Person Man could be the comic relief to counterbalance the hero Particle Man; there is a comical nature to the frying pan and garbage can lyric. Although, as could be the case with such a character, if one looks at the situation seriously, one can't help but wonder about Person Man's mental and emotional state.
"Particle man, particle man" (subatomic particle)
"Doing the things a particle can" (fission and fusion)
"What's he like?" It's not important (microscopic speck unable to be seen even with high quality scientific instruments)
"Is he a dot or is he a speck" (Synonyms-Atom:bit, crumb, dot, fragment, grain, iota, jot, minimum, mite, modicum, molecule, morsel, mote, ounce, particle, scintilla, scrap, shred, smidgen, speck, spot, tittle, trace, whit. call it what you like)
"When he's underwater does he get wet?" (Things at subatomic size never touch so, no, it does not get wet)
"Or does the water get him instead?" (something falls into your glass of water, your water just got something in it. yes the water got him)
"Nobody knows, Particle man" (I do)
"Triangle man, Triangle man" (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
"Triangle man hates particle man" (Religions are taken to extremes to the point where anyone who has a different opinion is wrong, in all situations)
"They have a fight, Triangle wins" (Science tries not to waste its time with close minded fundamentalist Christians, and would rather be out discovering new sciences)
"Universe man, Universe man" (The universe)
"Size of the entire universe man" (duh)
"Usually kind to smaller man" (We were created and able to live, until we die hint the usually)
He's got a watch with a minute hand, "Millennium hand and an eon hand" (plain and simple time, its been around for 15 billion years)
"When they meet it's a happy land" (When science and "religion" discover that they infact are the same there will be peace on Earth)
"Powerful man, universe man" (Has the power to create, destroy, made up of massive amounts of energy, Created by "God" and sustained by "God's" energy)
"Person man, person man" (us)
"Hit on the head with a frying pan" (the close mindedness i was talking about)
"Lives his life in a garbage can" (the shithole we make for ourselves through war caused by close mindedness)
"Is he depressed or is he a mess?" (Depressed? Some are, some are not. A mess? Definitely, when you look at the situation the world is in)
"Does he feel totally worthless?" (Some do, some do not. Do you think you can make a difference in this world?)
"Who came up with person man?" ("God", a massive condensation of energy, using the big bang, spread the energy out, creating the universe, giving all the essentials for life, and so here we are.)
"Degraded man, person man" (to be degraded, one would have to be graded first, "Garden of Eden", everything was perfect until sin, and now look at us)
"Triangle man, triangle man"
"Triangle man hates person man" (They hate all who do not full heartedly agree with their views, even if they do not disagree with them)
"They have a fight, triangle wins" (It's just the way its turned out so far, hopefully one day people will realize that there is no such thing as organized religion, and will start believing things because they know them to be true and not because they were told to)
"Triangle man" (I agree with all "religions" not as religions but as philosophies because a religion is what that one person believes for themselves, philosophies are just ways to live your life. I believe in both Scientology and Christianity, both Darwinism and creationism, for it was only thanks to "God" that we were able to evolve)(If you would like to tell me about your views and hear more about mine, email me at email@example.com)
Ok guys, I just think it's a bizarre song. Randomness is what I call it. Yeah, maybe some of their sogns have meanings, but this is just whatever comes to mind I guess. They're weird guys. That's why everybody likes 'em so much.
I think it has to do with types of people. Particle man is the scientist. There are 4 unanswered questions used in his stanza. He is an inquisitive, analytical person, who may be of small stature. Triangle man is a brute and bully. He is shaped like a triangle, which is the torso shape of body builders. There are no questions about him. He is just an angry, hateful guy who likes to beat up weaker people. Person man is the philosopher type of person. He asks existential questions, which make him miserable. The last person is the boss type. He is the boss of all of them. He may be older or richer or bigger. But he has the watch to control when everybody can be happy. And he doesn't have any questions in his stanza either, which makes either pretty sure of himself or not inquisitive, or both. Yet he is in charge. The social dynamics can be applied to various settings: school, work, family, religion etc.
Ok. I posted something before I had a username, and now I've thought this over again. They're saying how powerful Particle Man, Triangle Man, and Universe Man are, just to build up that people today have some... problems. Person man is the stereotypical, unhappy, human. Just my interpretation, don't mind me. =) --Lemita 15:29, 23 Mar 2006 (CST)
Okay, so Particle Man is a guy whos the size of a particle. Triangle man is shaped like a triangle, and he's more then likely quite a bit larger then Particle man, so he fights him and wins. Okay, so Universe Man is as big as the entire universe, man. He owns a really expensive watch (I assume it's expensive, but I have no evidence to prove it), that has some feature that forces people to be happy. Uh...Person man is just some guy who has a social disorder caused by a concussion. Once again, Triangle Man beats another guy that's less powerful then him...perhaps stabbing him with his sharp triangular edges.
Okay, I'm sorry guys. That was totally dumb. I don't know what I'm talking about. This song freaks me out. You guys have much better interpretations then I do. I'm gonna just go and interpret "The House at the Top of the Tree" or "Cowtown" or something. I need to stay in my league...Children's books. I mean SONGS! DAMN IT! These are SONGS not books!! GOD!! WHY AM I SO STUPID!!!!!
Ok. Listen here all of you who are complaining about there being no meaning. Shut your faces. I believe that 90% of TMBG songs have some kind of meaning with some level of deepness. I also believe that the deepness of the song is inversely proportional to its seriousness. That is to say, the sillier and less serious the song, the deeper of a meaning it has. Take Cowtown for example. I suggest you go look up the interp. I nearly shit myself when I read it. I think TMBG are brilliant. They take these messages and embed them into their songs and people hardly notice because the songs seem to be merely silly tunes. The, my friends, is poetry in its truest state. Furthermore, why bother writing and interpretation entry when all you have to say is "this song is just silly, it has no deep meaning." That is not an interpretation. That's like writing someone a note in your own made up language. It is waste of everyone's time.
as for my interpretation:
He's got a watch with a minute hand, Millennium hand and an eon hand When they meet it's a happy land
I think "they" refers to the millennium hand and the eon hand. I don't know what happy land refers to. Maybe heaven. Maybe it refers to the end final end of particle man and person man. When time ends then triangle man will have no one to fight and will be happy. Which makes sense if triangle man is God and God wins against everything else.
This doesn't sit right with me. I always thought the Johns were not the type for Christianity.
This is clearly a song written spontaneously. I don't think Linnell had much in mind before he started writing. But this is why the song is likely to have a deep meaning to it. Consideration of the demanding technical aspects of the songwriting, rhythm, meter, melody and so forth, caused the words to be pulled from a sort of subconscious grab bag. While the words might not be very coherent, I reject the idea that they are simply the random output of a strange mind: writing something truly random is very very difficult, possibly impossible. Your thoughts are bound to seep in somewhere, and "random" thoughts can sometimes reflect the deepest truths.
Therefore I think an analysis of the subconscious undercurrents of the song would be more fitting than an analysis.
1) So Linnell sits down to write. What does he say? Particle Man, Particle Man. Perhaps at this time Linnell felt small and insignificant, like a particle. Or, far more likely, he was thinking to a time not long ago when he felt small and insignificant, and reflecting on all people who consider themselves as such. Is anything small and insignificant?
2) In speaking of submergence perhaps he is considering his fans. Looking at each individual fan. Yes, that would fit very nicely, and would be something on the mind of a star. Lets think about how a star regards one of his fans. What's the fan like? doesn't matter. In becoming a fan, in being part of all those other fans (or particles, of water, in this analogy), does he lose himself, degrade himself, or does he gain something? This is also the essential question of the meaning of life. In the world we are all invisible specks. Does this make us worthless in some way?
3) Triangle Man. Why Triangle Man? Fits the meter, of course, and emphasizes the abstract way in which Linnell is thinking. A triangle is the simplest polygon. Triangle man and particle man seem to embody the social universe, the upper and lower classes. Perhaps triangle man hates particle man because he resents the freedom borne by particle man. Perhaps the particle men are triangle mans fans. The relationship between stars and fans has been known to get ugly.
4) Universe Man. Here's where it gets interesting. The opening line embodies the concept that the universe has a collective consciousness. Universe man is kind to those within him. If this is so, than why do all of the other characters in the song seem to be unhappy? This brings to mind a film, RAN, by a vary famous director named Akira Kurosawa. The film is set in Japan, and tells of a kingdom which breaks out in war after a king divides his kingdom among his sons, who led their soldiers into war against each other, fighting for wealth and power. At the end every last son is dead, and the king dies in greif, in the arms of his court jester, and buy the side of his only faithful soldier. The clown yells to the heavens, is there a god, is there a Buddha? Do you enjoy watching us suffer? and the soldier scolds him, saying that people bring suffering upon themselves.
5) Time often seems to trudge on minute by minute day by day, but I find that there are many moments where time is transcended. Once, waiting for my mother to pick me up at school, I stood by the side of the road, and the trees were swaying gently, and the birds were singing, spring was emerging from winter. And I stood and, for a while, I just was. It seemed to me that that time I spent there could have lasted a minute, or a millennium, or an eon. It is at moments such as this that one feels the Universe, and feels that he is part of it, even that he is it.
6) Person Man. How is person man different from particle man? Perhaps particle man and triangle man are both different parts of Person Man. Perhaps Triangle man is the sense of self, of purpose, and Particle man is the sense of being a tiny part of a larger universe. Most likely though, Linnell was not thinking of such things at the time he wrote the first two stanzas.
7) This is the quintessential question of life: why am I here? To be, or... etc... These questions remind me of a piece of music by the composer Charles Ive's called The Unanswered Question. It starts with a slow and peaceful melody from the strings, the emotion of the harmonies slowly changing as several voices play counterpoint to each other. And than a harsh, faster melody is played on the horns, representing mankind questioning his existence.
9) Here triangle man finally defeats person man. Poor person man. Perhaps this is the sense of purpose of society, which has no need for inner nature and is fixated on superficiality? Maybe this represents how society destroys part of us, the important part? How it degrades us by turning us into a number, an unpredictable component of a larger, predictable whole?
Well, food for thought, anyway.
I've heard a "yo momma" joke of that "wet" line. As in, "Yo momma's so fat, when she jumps in the water, she doesn't get wet, the water gets her." I have no idea if this was what John was going for, but it seemed likely given the similarity of the gags. Quite possibly it's both the subatomic particle thing and the momma joke. - 18.104.22.168 05:49, 27 May 2006 (CDT)
i think triangle man is America, universe man is Canada, and particle man is Iraq. think about it while you listen to the song
Nope. This was recorded in 1990, before the first gulf war. --Jnelson09 12:55, 21 Jun 2006 (MDT)
ty for the info jdc
An interesting thing I noticed is that, in support of all these religious theories involving Triangle Man, his name is the only one out of four that is repeated three times in a row:
Particle Man, Particle Man, Doing the things... (2x) Universe Man, Universe Man, Size of the... (2x) Person Man, Person Man, Hit on the head... (2x)
Triangle Man, Triangle Man, Triangle man hates so and so (3x)
Even if this isn't religious and the song is nonsensical, it's interesting that the three-sided character is referenced thrice per opening. -Visitor to site
Particle man-a normal, insignificant, down on his luck man, being taunted(the questions) and turned down ("Got in a fight, Triangle wins" & similar lines) Triangle Man-the rich, snooty CEOS and similar figures Universe Man-symbolic, hopes(minutes), opportunities (millennium), actual events(eons), when they meet, it's an awesome life! Person man-a dysfunctional slacker type. He gets fired, hence the hate-fight-Triangle part.
This one's really good: It's a Venn diagram! Particle & Person are the two oval things, Universe is the backdrop, and Triangle is the place where they meet. Logically, with the better aspects of both, and a "base" between the two, Triangle could easily beat either one in a fight! However, since Universe is the backdrop, none of them could even try to attack him!
The line "When he's underwater does he get wet, or does the water get him instead?" seems to be related to the Chuck Norris joke "Chuck Norris doesn't get wet when he's underwater, the water gets Chuck Norris." I'm not sure which came first, the song or the joke.
You want a longshot? Here's a longshot.
They're the characters from Watchmen. Yes, the comic book.
Dr. Manhattan seems to fit aspects of both Universe Man and Particle Man. He has no personality ("What's he like? It's not important"), his symbol is the hydrogen atom, etc. He's also a godlike figure, and, even better, is constantly connected with watch imagery. Also, the line "when they meet, it's a happy land" is a horrifying description of the ending, where the "doomsday clock" running through the series strikes midnight, and the villain's scheme to cause world peace, through killing a massive amount of people (it makes sense in the story, I just don't want to spoil it), goes off, creating a "happy land" through fear of a greater enemy. Universe Man could also be that "threat," as it is both enormously powerful and more directly tied to the "watch hands" motifs, and being unspeakably large.
Triangle Man is Ozymandius. OK, screw the spoiler thing, he's the villain. First, he is paired consistently with the pyramid, which is what, everybody? A TRIANGLE! Good, children! He also kills our apparent Person Man (Rorschach, I'll get to him) and causes Particle(/Universe?) Man to go away forever. He "wins" in the end, i.e. beating everybody.
Person Man, as noted, is Rorschach. He lives most of his life as a bum, i.e. "in a garbage can," and is depressed, a mess, and generally feels totally worth-less. (Yes, you have to type it that way, captures the inflection). Hell, he's downright insane in a lot of ways. And, of course, they have a fight, and Triangle wins.
It sounds weird, but it fits nearly every word of the song in some way, so it does make you think.
Probably there are bits (or should I say 'particles') of truth in most of these interpretations, but like others are saying, I'm sure that TMBG did not set out to write such a complex song. I think Linnell probably started with an image or theme, and wrote whatever came to him along that theme (Mitchum movies/Science vs Religion).
To me the song has always been about human suffering, and specifically the eternal question of why God allows it. Triangle Man and Universe Man both represent God, and God always 'wins' because he's all-powerful. The watch means he controls time, or is eternal. I like the 'happyland' = heaven interpretation. Perhaps it's a mockery of religion.
At a Toronto concert once, Linnell started singing Kumbaya in the middle of the song. People were laughing nervously but Linnell seemed to be serious. This confirmed my interpretation for me, because Kum Ba Yah is, in part, a prayer for God to respond to suffering.
It used to be just a fun song for me; now I find it depressing!
- Mr Fussyfont
there are some really great interpretations here. this may be a little out there and it's certainly nothing like anything else, but this is what i think of Particle Man:
particle man is one man out of the 7 billion on earth. just a guy. no one really cares, when looking at the big picture, about one little dude, or what he's like. does he get wet? who cares, there are 6,999,999,999 other people like him! that's particle man, just one itty-bitty peice of the masses.
triangle man is a mountain, or a huge pile of all the problems that humankind has made for itself. when faced with such an overwhelming amount of bad stuff that needs to be fixed, particle man, our single litte guy, is defeated. triangle wins, all the problems are just too overbearing for the small dude.
universe man is the opposite of particle man. EVERYONE is universe man. all the people on earth. we measure time on our clocks and are usually nice to individuals and animals, who we consider below us, or smaller. there are so many of us that we could fill the universe. maybe not now, but one day maybe... triangle man doesn't cross universe man. this could mean that if we all worked together we could solve everything, or all these problems the masses don't even bother with.
finally, we have person man. what an idiot! obviously politics. they're rough, dumb, immature, live in a garbage can, which can mean that we don't have much of an opinion of them. and of course all the worlds problems are too much for politicians and so are also defeated.
so there you have it. the individual who is overwhelmed by all the wrong in the world, the mountain of all the problems we face, all the the people on the planet, and politics which is also at a loss with the mountain of problems.
then again, it could mean nothing at all :)
-banana lover :P
The way I always interpreted it, Triangle Man is the endless circle of birth-life-death. No matter whether you're a human (Person Man) or a tiny one-celled organism (Particle Man), you can't escape it. Universe Man is God, all-Powerful and usually kind, but he measures time in millenniums and eons. It's not that he doesn't care about our miniscule lives, it's just that he's looking at a much, much bigger picture, so we're all at the mercy of Triangle Man.
Of course, I'm probably way off base with that, but it works for me.
Like so may of TMBG's songs, this one is about how our brains get in the way of directly perceiving reality. This song is specifically about abstraction and personification, two of our most basic cognitive tools. Although each can be useful on its own, when they are mashed up, the results are unexpectedly wacky and zany.
- Ernie Bornheimer
1. Particle Man represents the scientific world of the very small. Cells, Atoms, the Quantum world. "Doing the things that a particle can", not that anyone truly understands it completely.
2. Triangle Man represents religion in the trinity. Triangle man hates Particle man, for the obvious reason that explaining the natural world, like any science, destroys the supposed miracle and power of God. Religion and Science fight, Religion wins. It's easier to understand and been around longer in our minds.
3. Universe Man represents the scientific world of the very big. The cosmos. Universe Man controls time and space and could destroy any Man if he so chose, but seem to be relatively non-intrusive despite his power.
4. Person Man represents the middle world, where we live. Humans hit on the head with a fying pan (stupid), living a garbage can (polluted earth), is he worthless? Who came up with person man?
Triangle Man (religion) hates Person Man, too. Constantly asking questions like "Who came up with with this?" "Is life worthless?" etc. Triangle Man doesn't like such intellect. He fights with Person Man, and wins.
The moral: Religion beats out human intellect and science, as it still does today. But the universe still has more than enough power to destroy Triangle Man, Person Man, and even Particle Man to a degree.
If you spend enough time reading about physics and cosmology (as I'm quite sure Mr. Linnell has), you are struck by the gulf between the vast scale of the universe on the one hand and the very tiny, infinitesimal particles that make it up. In fact, the modern understanding of cosmogenesis is intricately wedded to the properties of these nearly-non-existent bits of matter. We can barely comprehend mankind's lack of significance in the face of this great scale of things. Stuck in the middle, we are at the mercy of the top and the bottom of this scale, and of the indifferent, inflexible laws that control everything at all the levels. That's why I think of triangle man as the 'laws of nature', defeating all comers. The symbol may be inspired by the prominence of triangles and the proofs related to them in high school Geometry class. --Nehushtan 20:27, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Particle man is exactly what it says. He's a fundamental particle, an atom.
The fundamental state of being is a molecule, so 'triangle man' appears to hate particle man, overcoming its natural desire to be itself, and forces particle man to join 'triangles'. Think about what the artist's conception of an H20 molecule looks like, fer instance.
Okay, then, there's universe man which is not at war with anybody, because they're all just part of him, including particles, triangles, and persons. He's just benignly hanging out there, not really part of the drama.
Then, person man. When persons (or any organisms) break down, what do they break down into? Ding, ding! Molecules, of course, so when 'triangle wins', that is the natural state of affairs.
It really depends on how you look at it. Chances are it is just a parady of the spider man theme, and the others just came up -Man who points out the ovious
So, an interp somewhere in this page suggests that this song is about the graphic novel, Watchmen. Whether or not it actually is, the interp still blew my mind with how well it fits. I disagree with part of it, though. So here's my slight re-working of the original interp:
**Beware of major spoilers for the graphic novel!**
**Beware of major spoilers for the graphic novel!**
The song is a retelling of Valve Software's videogame "Portal". Sure, the song was written long before the game, but since when do I let logic and common sense get in the way of awesomeness?
Warning: Major spoilers for Portal ahead. Read on at your own risk!
-- - - - - -
Okay, let's get this from the bottom. Person Man is Chell, the protagonist. She is "living in a garbage can" and "hit with a frying pan", she feels "worthless" etc. which all refers to her unkempt body and screwed-up psychology (she was kept in suspended animation for how long?). "Who came up with Person Man?" might be a reference to GlaDOS' taunts about your upbringing near the end of the game, or a meta-reference: a lot of players state that Chell is very ugly and they don't like to identify with her.
Particle Man is the mysterious "Rat Man" who keeps leaving clues and crazy messages on walls. You never learn what he looks like or who he is or where he came from - thus, all the confused questions in his stanzas. He "does the things a particle can" - that is, he seems to keep ending up in hard or impossible-to-reach places.
Triangle Man refers to the gun turrets, if only because they stand on three legs. They are hostile both to Chell and Rat Man. In a direct confrontation with a turret, Chell would most likely die; thus, "Triangle wins" against Person Man. As for Triangle's victory against Particle Man, it might be a hint to Rat Man's final fate: he was shot and killed by a turret.
And finally, Universe Man - GlaDOS, the insane AI. The Enrichment Center is basically the game's entire universe, and since GlaDOS stretches all over the facility, she "the size of the entire universe". She's "usually kind to smaller man", at least in the early part of the game where she keeps making nice, gentle announcements to Chell while putting her in deadly danger. Finally, the "watch" might be a metaphor for GlaDOS' big scheme which culminated in her singing: 'it was a triumph...' - thus, "happy land" when the scheme clicked together and Chell 'killed' GlaDOS, unknowing that this was all foreplanned.
Here's another theory: the four "Men" are four genres of literature. Particle Man is science fiction. Sci-fi asks a lot of questions about the future of mankind, thus the lots of questions in his stanzas. The "what's he like? it's not important" line might refer to the fact that "true" sci-fi doesn't focus on surface things like cool starships or flashy rayguns, but asks philosophical questions about human nature and civilization.
Universe Man is fantasy. A fantasy novel is typically set not on Earth, but in an entire different universe - thus, each fantasy book basically contains an entire universe within itself: thus, "size of the entire universe". "Usually kind to smaller man" might refer to how fantasy (usually!) features plots about underdogs rising in power and defeating the evil mighty foes. The "watch" and "happy land" is unclear, but might refer to magical powers typically featured in fantasy, or perhaps that fantasy novels often feature their own mythology which tells about the former/coming Golden Ages.
Person Man is mainstream. He's less interesting than the other men; while the others have cool powers or fight a lot, Person Man is just some boring sad guy. Just like mainstream novels, which do not feature any over-the-top, pop culture interesting stuff. They often tell stories about people who live in sadness, poverty, depression, low self-esteem etc. Even the narrator dislikes reading such books, and asks bitterly "Who came up with Person Man?"
Triangle Man is action. He fights a lot, and fighting and violence are what makes action books/movies so popular. Also, he beats up Particle Man - the sci-fi fandom; school bullies often consider such kids "boring nerds" and prefer action movies/books instead. Why the bullies beat Person Man (mainstream) but not Universe Man (fantasy) is the only weak point in this theory. Why a triangle? Well, a triangle is very much like a blade.
Particle man is the dust, plants, animals etc. Person man is humans in general. Triangle man is satan. And Universe man is God.
Triangle man hates everything and everyone, and beats on everything. Except Universe man because he know he can't beat him.
Universe man is "usually kind to smaller man". And his watch with the minute hand, millenium hand, and an eon hand. Which that to me seems like he's eternal. When they meet it's happy land, or as I see it the rapture/Heaven.
But this is just my interpretation, take it with a grain of salt.
Through my psychedelic experiences, I have understood that particle man is you and me. A living breathing being made of particles. As naked as it gets. Triangle man, to me, represents the divine. As a believer in sacred geometry, it is not a far stretch to interpret the triangle man as this figure. The intricate being divided into the most basic shape extending into infinity. However, the man who encompasses both the human and divine spectrum is Universe man. And his wrist watch symbolizes the divine unification in celestial happening. So with the human (particle man), the divine (triangle man), and the universe (universe man), what are we missing? Person man. Or in other words, the ego. The particle man who has made a person for himself is not a happy man. Is he depressed? or is he a mess? Does he feel totally worthless? But more importantly, "Who came up with person man?" The ego came up with person man. -anonymous