Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Best Worst Names in Superhero Comics

Superheroes and supervillains can literally be named anything — for better and for worse. Bands can also be named anything, I realize, and this has done nothing to prevent terrible band names, so I suppose it follows then that more than a few characters on comic book pages have been dealt some clunkers, name-wise.


I list these not to mock them. After all, I love crappy superhero names. Instead, I make this list just to give us a moment to ponder the fact that someone had an idea and everyone else down the line just nodded and said, “Sure, that seems good enough. I can’t think of anything better.” Some of these are outright lame. Some transcend clunkiness to become kind of backwardsly awesome. Some are intentionally dumb. Some intend to be funny but fall short. These are just the ones I thought deserved a shout-out. And yes, they’re all real.
Of course, I’m curious to know who I’ve left off and why I’m an asshole for dinging one or another character that you love and cherish.

“Sure, that seems good enough. I can’t think of anything better.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Twenty Things About Bones That You Didn’t Know and Also Probably Don’t Care About But Here I Go Anyway

There’s this funny, quirky thing I do where I watch Bones. Isn’t that hilarious? Aren’t I such a unique little diamond?

I started watching it for reasons I can’t quite remember, and now I just continue to watch it. I won’t say that it’s on the level of the great shows that everyone’s always suggesting have created a New Golden Age of Television. In fact, it’s a weekly procedural, which a lot of TV people would probably say makes it the opposite of deep, universe-building dramas such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. But as far as procedurals go, Bones is at least better than your NCISes and CSIs and SVUs and the rest of the letter shows that have blank slate law enforcement officers solving crimes without enough room to allow actual character growth.

But I assume you don’t watch Bones, and I also assume you mentally shut down when your parents try to talk to you about it, so I figured I’d do you a solid and tell you twenty things that I think you should know about the show.
  1. Bones takes place in a bizarre universe where people are almost never murdered with traditional weapons. It’s always something irregular or makeshift — the propeller blade from an antique motorboat or a scrimshaw fishing knife — that delays the investigation. I don’t know why I skewed maritime with my examples, but you get the idea.
  2. The show takes place in the greater D.C. area, generally, but the vast majority of wilderness locations look remarkably like Griffith Park.
  3. And while the central setting of the show is the Jeffersonian Institute, the exteriors of this supposed building are actually the L.A. County Natural History Museum. (The staff are not amused if you ask where Bones is.) This creates the neat situation where Dr. Temperance Brennan works in the same building as where Sally Draper got her period for the first time.
  4. Despite what you might initially guess, the show is not a spin-off of Small Wonder and the central character is not a grown-up version of V.I.C.I. the robot girl. No, despite the way she talks and acts, Dr. Brennan is a human woman. (Though like Small Wonder, weirdly few people suspect that the person who talks and acts like a robot actually is a robot.)
  5. Dr. Brennan is played by Emily Deschanel, the sister of Zooey Deschanel, who appeared in a Christmas episode as Dr. Brennan’s equally deadpan cousin. (“On Planet Deschanel, Emotion Is Forbidden.”) This character seems to suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder rooted in Benjamin Franklin trivia. Shortly thereafter, Zooey Deschanel scored the lead in another Fox show, New Girl. So there you go.
  6. Despite the fact that Dr. Brennan has trouble expressing and understanding basic emotional motivations, she is also the author of a best-selling series of books. That seems strange but also prescient.
  7. To expand on a tweet by Jules Klausner, the show is called Bones because Dr. Brennan specializes in analyzing bones and also everyone calls her Bones and also she has sex with multiple partners.
  8. Even though the show is chiefly concerned with the analysis of dead bodies — and we’re talking about humans reduced to bug-ridden glop here — every single major character falls in love with someone who works in the office. Even Cam’s daughter dated one of the interns for a while, until the writers were all “No, not that anymore. No.”
  9. One of the characters is named Angela Montenegro, and she is an artist who is magic and owns a magic computer that can do anything. Like, Cam will say, “Angela, can you show what it would look like if a ferret ate the victim’s genitals and then burrowed through his genitals-hole into his chest cavity and then exploded out his face?” And then Angela is all “beep beep boop” and then she makes a computer animation that looks early 2000s of that thing happening. She is magic.
  10. No one ever just tells anyone anything. They say something like “I need to show you something,” and then the whole cast assembles in their room — it’s usually Angela’s office — and then they explain everything.
  11. In the show’s third season, they had a recurring villain whose name was Gormogon, which is a slightly better name than TKTK Weird Serial Killer Name Will Fix Later TKTK.
  12. There was an episode where Stewie Griffin was a guest star.
  13. Patricia Belcher (perhaps best known as the ineffective psychic in Jeepers Creepers) plays Caroline Julian, a criminal prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office who has appeared in 39 episodes of the show and who has exactly two personality characteristics: (1) gruff but loving and (2) calls people “cher” and “cherie.”
  14. Bones and her team are assisted by a rotating cast of interns that basically functions like the lesser members of Super Friends — personality types and ethnic types not represented in the main cast. We’ve got a white guy, a black guy, a depressed white guy, a Muslim, a rednecky white guy and exactly one woman. No East Asians or gays yet, but hey — Bones got renewed for another season.
  15. That female intern, Daisy Wick, is noted in the IMDb trivia for the show: “Daisy Wick is the name of one of the secondary characters. Daisy Zick is the name of a real-life murder victim from Battle Creek, Michigan in 1963. The crime remains unsolved.” So that’s fun.
  16. There was a kinda-sorta-but-notta Veronica Mars reunion in a 2010 episode that featured both Enrico Colatoni and Francis Capra. They did not get to interact, sadly, to say nothing of them getting to wink at each other.
  17. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons has a recurring role on the show, playing himself — and Angela’s father. I want there to be a “She’s Got Legs” joke in an episode about a corpse who had her legs sawed off.
  18. It’s possible that Bones currently takes place in the future. The fifth season ended with the major characters departing D.C. for a year and then reuniting at the start of the sixth season. If the show took place in the current year when it started in 2005 — and why wouldn’t it? — that time jump means that Booth and Brennan are solving crimes in the year 2015 already.
  19. I frequently watch Bones while I’m doing other things — say, washing dishes or cooking or exercising but not eating anymore. I have a good reason. One specific episode, “The Gamer in the Grease,” featured a decomposed human body being found in a grease reclamation truck. It took glop to new levels and I actually had to stop eating for the night. The episode, oddly enough, was directly inspired by the documentary The King of Kong, which was weird for a number of reasons.
  20. Finally, the staff psychologist, Lance Sweets, is played by John Francis Daley, whose post-Freaks and Geeks existence is proof that puberty, like Angela’s computer, is magic.

Get it? Bones? BONES?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Abstract Sunset

I made this today, for reasons I am not clear about. I actually don’t feel like going into it, but I have to say that this might be more meaningful if interpreted on its own, free of its original context, which I’m not telling you about anyway.

In my head, this sounds something like this. This concludes an unusually busy week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Vision of Howling Death to Kick Off Your Monday

Modified an image from the Wikipedia page on the Gardens of Bomarzo:

The unpleasant restaurant customer depicted is Ocrus, an early Roman death god, whose name shares an etymological history with ogre, orc and orca. That last one is especially interesting, considering the movement to use call these sea mammals orcas rather than killer whales. The former may sound less predatory, but on the etymological level, it's just as bad.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fire Flowers

This is what I do when I’m bored, when I’m suffering from writer’s block, when I’m waiting for programs to download, when I’m wanting to see something I should have seen back when eight-bit graphics were considered very of-the-moment.

Pixel art, previously:

Friday, April 11, 2014

How This National Geographic Cover Came to Be (A Work of Fiction)

First, the cover in question:

And now the scene: an editorial meeting in the main office of National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington D.C. All relevant departments direct their attention to the editor in chief, who asks what species could most deserve the cover of the long-awaited exotic pets issue. The room immediately erupts into frenzied suggestions. “Lions!” “Antelopes!” “Perhaps a lemur wearing a dog collar?” “I like ibexes!” But eventually, the rumble dies down, as each attendee realizes that his or her idea doesn’t perfect capture the spirit of the issue. A timid voice from emerges from the back of the room.

“What about hedgehogs?”

The rumble returns, but with a different focus. “Oh, there she goes again.” “Sit the fuck down, Nedra.” “She’s always talking about fucking hedgehogs.” “Who hired Nedra, anyway?” The editor-in-chief indulges her: “What is it about hedgehogs that makes you think they deserve the cover, Nedra?”

Right hand tugging nervously at her left elbow, Nedra begins. “Well, I’ve always thought they were neat. They are kind. They are clean. And I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but there’s more National Geographic could be doings for them…”

The editor-in-chief nods cautiously.

“And also my hedgehog’s name is Mrs. Bananas and she eats bananas and I have to keep the lights off in my house so she feels safe and she also likes peas.”

The rumble begins again. “Fuck this idiot.” “She’s insane!” “I think she’s simple.” “I’ll bet she doesn’t even own a fucking hedgehog, this dumb, crazy liar.” Realizing she’s losing her chance, Nedra gives it one last shot, her voice no longer timid.

“And also sometimes Mrs. Bananas rolls into a ball and it makes her sneeze and it’s cute and also I disposed of all the photo files.”

The room quiets. The EIC: “What did you say, Nedra? You got rid of our photos?”

“Umm. Maybe.”

“Young lady, are you saying you got rid of each and every photo that National Geographic has or ever will run of a wild animal?”

“… Yes. I threw them all into the Potomac last night. Mrs. Bananas and I broke in. No one notices us. You have no other options now.”

“But why would you do that?”

“Well… because now you have no choice but to acknowledge Mrs. Bananas. And hedgehogs everywhere.”

The editor-in-chief looks sternly at Nedra for a few moments before once again nodding his head. “Well-played, Nedra. Mrs. Bananas shall have her day.” And then the rest of the National Geographic begins a begrudging slow clap. As the EIC walks over and puts his hand on Nedra’s shoulder, she scoops Mrs. Bananas out from the pocket of her olive-green blazer. She cuddles the little critter next to her face,weeping tears of joy. And in a voice almost too quiet to be heard, she says, “We did, Mrs. Bananas. We did it.”

{ FIN }

And that, my friends, is the only way I can imagine how anyone thought that the wildest, most exotic animal National Geographic could put on the cover of this issue was a fucking hedgehog.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Encyclopedia Drew and the Confounding Cleanser

Below appears an advertisement for soap. I’m not sure when it comes from, and I’m not sure where it began its second life online as a quaint, re-postable novelty. (I first saw it on Tumblr, and the original Tumblr-er didn’t see fit to include details.) The advertisement is a rebus that I think I’ve solved, though I’m not sure. Your input is appreciated.

The mystery crew’s best stab at it: “Trying to be wise, you / don’t at once succeed / You won’t be long before you do if you this information read / All use Davids Prize Soap, for thus they save in many ways / They use no other / Finding that no one other pays.”

Of course, that doesn’t entirely make sense, though we can maybe forgive the demands of the rebus for some of the more awkward constructions. I’m bothered by that dented “U” in the second line. It seems like it should actually represent the word it, but I can’t for the life of me imagine what that symbol is supposed to be.

Also mysterious? That brand name: Davids Prize Soap. Thought apparently spelled with the apostrophe elsewhere, searching online for more info on the subject may in fact lead you to the Wikipedia page for King David, where it describes a very unusual sort of prize. “Saul made David a commander over his armies and offered him his daughter Michal in marriage for bringing one hundred foreskins of the Philistines but David brought back two hundred, saying ‘God was with me.’” So there you go. David’s prize was foreskins. Maybe you can use this old-timey soap to clean your two hundred foreskins.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Hootbot’s Big Adventure

You may remember that some time ago I did what many high-rollers do and purchased a robot owl. It’s been perched on my dining room table ever since, spying on me with its glowing, red eyes. In my post about Hootbot, I expressed some frustration about how he doesn’t perform most of the activities I associate with owls. He doesn’t hoot or screech, but just kind of dumbly whistles. He doesn’t fly so much as flutter this plastic wings. And he surely doesn’t impart wisdom, which I could really use, seeing as how I spent money on a robot owl. It turns out I’d sold Hootbot short, however, because he can do one thing I wasn’t aware of.

A comment on the previous post alleged that Hootbots could scuttle around if removed from their pedestals. I immediately tried. This would have explained the wheels on his bottom, after all, but he didn’t act any differently on the floor than he did on the pedestal. It was only when someone else tried did he bop about aimlessly, Roomba-style. I felt betrayed, to be honest. It was a reverse Michigan J. Frog moment, initially, but I eventually figured out Hootbot’s hang-up: He needs perfectly smooth surfaces, for his wheels are a little jacked, a little needy, and he simply can’t navigate the subtle grooves of my floorboards.

So here, then, is Hootbot doing his thing, charging toward the camera at a leisurely pace but with menace in his heart nonetheless.

Trigger warning: Robots, owls, robot owls, death as a result of antiquated technology, atonal whistling. I won’t say it escalates quickly, but it does escalate over the course of two minutes.

It goes without saying, but now I can appreciate the joys of parenthood.