Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Destroy Your Toe

I have ten toes, like normal. I used to think I had nice-looking feet, as far as guy feet go, but that’s not really the case anymore. Now I have one big toe with one little toenail.

This is the story of how I did this thing to myself.

This summer, I moved into a house, and the house had several trees that badly needed pruning. I found a guy to do this, and he eventually brought in his team of dudes to shape the trees as well as do some other work that I couldn’t do myself. This situation caused some feelings of insecurity for me. I’ve generally tried to do all the house chores myself, but I lacked the tools to trim trees, to say nothing of the know-how.

When the workers got to my house, the head tree-trimming dude pointed out that the cement paver path that runs through my yard would make it difficult to push wheelbarrows in and out of the yard.

“Can they be moved?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve moved them myself before.”

He seemed surprise by this. “You moved these yourself?”

“Yeah, I can move them. It’s actually pretty easy.” (This was a lie. It actually isn’t easy.)

“Oh, okay, then. I was going to sic the guys on it, but yeah, it would be helpful if you could get these out of the way before we get started.”

And so I felt better, because here was something I could do, to be helpful and to demonstrate that I had agency and man-strength enough to move these cement squares that the foreman presumed were too heavy. As the workers start hauling in the sharp, lobster claw-looking tools they use to chop branches, I started prying up the pavers, then rolling them end-over-end and out of the way.

Did I mention I wasn’t wearing shoes at the time?

Yeah, you see where this is going.

I rolled the final paver out of the way — not easily, I should admit, because they’re heavy as hell — and when I finally got it where I wanted it, I let it drop. And it fell corner-first onto my right toe.

I didn’t make any noise. I didn’t give any reaction at all, I don’t think. I just picked up that one side of paver and slid my foot out from beneath it and then hobbled inside, leaving a trail of blood behind me. It didn’t gush blood. It wasn’t like getting punched in the nose. But it bled for about an hour — after I washed it and poured rubbing alcohol on it and swaddled it in paper towels. And so there I sat — on my couch, with an ice pack resting on my discolored, leaking toe as I watched Hallmark Channel reruns of Golden Girls and tried very hard to concentrate on anything other than how badly my toe hurt.

There’s irony here. I injured myself because I’d wanted to prove that I was strong enough, and I only ended up sitting on my couch, watching Bea Arthur waltzing around in a weird cape dress as I tried not to cry. (I also am not strong enough to wear a cape dress.)

Subsequently, the toe manifested all manner of colors — from red to yellow to purple to black to clear, when it just stopped existing. It’s coming back, slowly, but now my big toe is more skin than toenail, so it just kind of looks like Melissa Gorga. The good news is that I will eventually have a proper toenail again. I just need to wait, and meanwhile every time I glance down at my bare feet I have this horribly asymmetry to remind me that pride truly does goeth before the fall — of the cement paver, directly onto my toe.

The bad side, of course, is that this probably won’t prevent me from hurting myself, physically or otherwise, in an effort to prove my worth as an able-bodied human.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Country Roses: A Lesser-Known SNL Sketch You Should Probably Watch

Here is the latest in an ongoing series of bygone Saturday Night Live sketches that haven’t gotten their due. “Country Roses” comes from a 2004 episode hosted by Jennifer Aniston, and it’s a faux commercial for a compilation of old country songs performed by female artists. It’s amazing, and one of the better all-female sketches in the show’s history. Tragically, it’s hard to find online. There are still chunks of SNL’s recent past that just do not exist online in glossy, hi-def format, so I had to yank this couple from a Russian YouTube wannabe that seemed darkened back alley-level sketchy.

But because I love you — yes, you — I’ve made it just a little more accessible. Enjoy.

Despite being relatively forgotten, this episode has introduced a lot of key phrases to my vocabulary, including “Ain’t nothing cuter than a fat country baby eatin’ peaches off a hardwood floor,” “When I told my husband to take out the trash, I sure as hell didn’t mean you,” and “Mama, why are there snowflakes?”

I hope Dana Jean Harley makes as lasting an impression on you.

Fun fact, BTW: Since I originally saw this sketch, I found out that the first performer featured in it, Lynn Anderson, used to be friends with my parents. I actually own the record single of her singing “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” though that’s not the most spectacular piece of Lynn Anderson history that I own. That, of course, would be this.

And you have to admit, it’s a glorious thing.

Weird SNL sketches, previously:

Monday, November 03, 2014

That One Bizarrely Twin Peaks-y Episode of Darkwing Duck

Seeing how last month was bookended by posts about the second coming of Twin Peaks and unusually scary sitcom episodes, this seems like a logical place to kick off November.

Nearly a year after the last episode of Twin Peaks aired, the Disney cartoon Darkwing Duck aired an episode inspired by the David Lynch series. Given how cartoon production works, I’d imagine that this episode “Twin Beaks” was conceived at the height of Twin Peaks mania — and a point when the Darkwing showrunners figured Twin Peaks was a shoe-in for a third season. As it stood in 1992, however, “Twin Beaks” arrived a little late to ride the Twin Peaks bandwagon, as the wagon’s wheels had fallen off long beforehand.

Its lateness probably didn’t make much of a difference to its target audience — kids like me, just ten years old at the time — didn’t get the references, and just reacted with, “Oh, okay, This episode is a little weird. Yay, cartoons!” I had only the scantest awareness of Twin Peaks at the time, as I was forbidden from watching it. All I ever saw was the bits advertised on ABC. In fact, I didn’t actually watch Twin Peaks until college, after the religious experience of watching Mulholland Drive in the theater. When I finally did, I thought about this Darkwing Duck episode and how all of its weirdness made sense — or as much sense as you can make when you’re springboarding off David Lynch.

Today, I’m impressed this episode got made. It’s defiantly weird, even for a cartoon like Darkwing Duck, which skewed edgier than most Disney fare, and there’s something noble in doing a genre parody that will fly over the heads of most of the people who watch it. In case you have never seen it — or in case you just remembered it as that inexplicable Darkwing Duck with the strummy guitar for no apparent reason — I’ve made a condensed version of it, with all the Twin Peaks-y moments and a rough semblance of the plot. It’s like Cliffs Notes — for nostalgia! Because this is how we live now!

Highlights and notes after the jump.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Tree Bears Deadly Fruit

Things don’t tomorrow travel from my Tumblr to this blog, but I am making an exception for this. Can we talk about the loaded symbolism of this comic book cover for a moment?

On second thought... let’s not.

DC’s Unexpected, May 1972. Cover art by Nick Cardy. Originally posted by Rainy Day Recess.

Also, while on the subject, Unexpected, December 1867. Cover art by Jack Sparling.

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A Scary Horror Movie Scene in Which Nothing Explicitly Scary Happens

If pressed to name the scariest movie scene I’ve ever seen, I’d probably go with one in Lost Highway that introduces Robert Blake’s menacingly grinning character. Lost Highway isn’t technically a horror film, but David Lynch delves into the mystical, otherworldly, soul-shattering stuff often enough that it doesn’t need to be. It’s scary just as a neo-noir art film.

Dario Argento’s 1980 film Inferno features a completely G-rated scene that has always unnerved me and that I would like to offer for your consideration.

Give it a spin. It’s fairly brief.

Some context: Inferno is Argento’s sequel to Suspiria, which pits an American ballerina against a coven of German witches hiding in a dance academy. Much of Inferno concerns American music student Mark Elliot leaving Rome for New York to help his sister, who believes her apartment building may home to a second cluster of witches. The above scene takes place early in the film, before he arrives in New York.

Inferno is not as visually spectacular as Suspiria — and if you don’t know how beautiful the latter movie is, please have a look at this post, which offers a few dozen stills of the movie in all its color-saturated glory — but it has some good scary moments. The classroom scene, however, is the one that has stuck with me most, and for just one reason: It is the movie scene that best re-creates what it’s like to have a dream, at least for the kinds of dreams I have.

I have nightmares every now and then, but more often than not, I have these less outwardly scary dreams in which I’m trapped in a familiar setting where events are unfolding in an unrealistic manner that causes me gradual, increasing concern. The Inferno scene has Mark in an innocuous enough environment, a college lecture hall, but as he listens to the music, it becomes increasingly apparent that something is wrong.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Graveyard Hyperbole

You might suspect a little hyperbole when reading the marker for Mickey Rooney’s resting place in the walls of the new Hollywood Forever mausoleum.

However, just a few slots about Rooney on the mausoleum totem pole-o’-eternal peace is another man, whose chief claim to fame seems to be coin-collecting and whose marker is the ballsiest in the entire graveyard.

It’s hard to read, stretching toward the heavens and above everyone else’s graves, so here’s a close-up look at that text.

Yep, “The Greatest Man the World has been blessed with.” Suck on that, everyone else in Hollywood Forever and also Mickey Rooney. For what it’s worth, it has prompted me to remember this guy... if only for his epitaph.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Appropriate Appositions for Meghan Trainor

Apposition: a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to identify the other in a different way.


Meghan Trainor, that girl you remember from your freshman year English class

Meghan Trainor, your old babysitter

Meghan Trainor, your older brother’s date for junior prom, if you’re remembering correctly

Meghan Trainor, manga enthusiast

Meghan Trainor, someone who subleased from your friend Casey

Meghan Trainor, owner of an excitable dog named Peaches

Meghan Trainor, that girl who did a weird version of “Janie’s Got a Gun” at your middle school talent show

Meghan Trainor, assistant manager

Meghan Trainor, the person from whom you bought a used box spring back in 2006

Meghan Trainor, someone who maybe added the “h” to her first name in a hesitant attempt at a show business name

Meghan Trainor, mother of four

Meghan Trainor, the assistant pastry engineer at that bakery that was opened up a few years back by your mom’s friend, Mrs. Rosen

Meghan Trainor, the one who was trying to start a dace party at the bar last night

Meghan Trainor, fanfictioneer

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Sexy Is Stupid

Maybe you’ve done that exercise where you write or say the same word over and over, around a hundred times or so, until you start to find the word strange. It’s kind of like stumbling over the oddness of words like judicial or comfortable while stoned, only you can do this entirely sober. You’re actually inducing jamais vu, déjà vu’s contrarian stepsister. Whereas déjà vu has you imagining that an unfamiliar thing is familiar, jamais vu tricks you into finding the peculiar in something you’re certain you have experienced before.

I experienced this world recently when I had to complete a writing assignment that had me using and re-using the word sexy. In doing so, I realized two things: for one, I don’t use the word sexy very often, and for another, I hate it.

Not to jump back to getting stoned and talking about words, but have you ever noticed what a weird, stupid word sexy is? It’s just the word sex — you know, doin’ it — plus the adjective suffix -y, meaning “related to” or “associated with” or something thereabouts. So at least etymologically, the word sexy just means sex-ish or sex-related. In practice, this makes the word sound rather odd.

For example:

“Hey, what did you think of Sofia Vergara’s dress at the Golden Globes?”


See how that’s weird? Do you agree with me that it’s odd how this clunky, obvious word won out when English had a wide variety of more poetic words to describe the sexually appealing? (Among them: sultry, fetching, seductive, flashy, dazzling, sensuous, dishy, alluring, beguiling, bewitching, intoxicating, enrapturing, enchanting, charming and foxy. I’m leaving off toothsome no matter what the Merriam-Webster thesaurus says.)

In practice, we use sexy to mean more often “sexually attractive” than “sex-related” or “sex-adjacent,” but even that seems strange to me. In the United States, we have so many hang-ups with sex that we feel awkward saying the word, hence the gradual replacement of sex in the “male or female” sense with the grammatically rooted (and therefore decidedly unsexy) gender. Now we talk about people having gender rather than having sex, just so we don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable by reminding them of the primary process of human reproductive and nighttime-enjoyment. And yet sexy has nonetheless become our go-to for describing visual appeal that it’s even crossed over to a generic sense of “is a thing that is good,” as in “a sexy idea” or “this season’s sexiest new car.” To me, this is baffling.

According to Etymonline, sexy has been in use since 1905 and was first documented as meaning “sexually attractive” in 1923 — in reference to Rudolph Valentino.

For example:

“Well, hey there, Mabel. Did you get an eyeful of Valentino on the beach?”

“I’ll say, Ida. That Rudy’s so swell he makes me think about sex. He’s got it, and by ‘it’ I sure mean sex-relatedness. I could see his sex-parts in those trunks, and I enjoyed that, because of the sex. Peckers!”

Etymonline also notes, however, that in this sense sexy replaced the now-discarded word sexful, which is just the most awful thing ever.

For example:

“I am full of sex. I need to let some out. Interested?”

So yes, there are worse alternatives to sexy.