Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pre-emptive Answers to Your Questions About My Apparent Wheat Allergy

A fun fact about me that readers may not know is that for the last few years, I haven’t been consuming wheat. Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, I developed a stubborn rash. Several months and several doctors later, the only method we found to make the rash go away was to not eat wheat — no bread, no pasta, no beer. This hasn’t been so difficult, since hippy-dippy Los Angeles is probably one of the easiest cities in the nation to find gluten-free food. However, my flagrantly anti-wheat lifestyle seems to be a matter of curiosity for everyone else. Here, then, I’d like to preemptively answer any of the questions you might have about it.

wheatless wednesday everyday (via)
Isn’t it very L.A. of you to go gluten-free right after you move there?

I suppose. This city does have a lot of people who avoid gluten for other reasons — they think it’s inherently unhealthy or that it will make them lose weigh to cut wheat out of their diet. I’m not doing it for those reasons. I’m doing it a cuz that rash I mentioned.

Wouldn’t you be kind of screwed if you had moved to, say, Omaha?

For this and so many other reasons, yes.

I’ve read about celiac disease. It affects a much smaller portion of the population than people think, and what you’re describing doesn’t sound like celiac disease. Why are you being such a stupid faker?

First off, you’re a terrible person. Second, I don’t have celiac disease, at least according to the way I have understood that disorder. I suppose you could say that I have a gluten sensitivity, but I think it’s more accurate and much clearer to simply explain that if I eat wheat products, I get a rash, and I’d rather not eat bread than be Scabbly the Rash Man. It’s that simple.

Could it be something else in those products that’s causing the rash?

Yes, totally. The process of going to doctor after doctor was an ordeal, and since not eating these products solves the problem, I’m just going to stick with it, regardless of whether it’s the wheat or something else that’s actually causing the rash.

What happens if you eat this piece of bread?

Jesus, get it out of my face. As near as I can tell, I will get a rash that’s more or less in proportion to how much wheatiness I eat.

What about gluten-free bread?

What about it?

Well, couldn’t you get by on gluten-free products?

Here’s the thing: In my opinion, gluten-free versions of typically gluten-full products suck, much in the same way that soy-based fake meats suck. These things aren’t meant to be sourdough or chorizo or whatever we’re trying to gussy them up as. You can kind of make it work, but the end product will always be an inferior substitute for the real thing. Essentially, I just don’t eat bread anymore. It’s not that hard.

Did you lose weight as a result of giving up all those wheat products?

Yes, but not for the reason you’re thinking. Essentially, I cut bread and pasta and pastries and beer out of my life. Those are things that make you fat. Because I just stopped consuming them altogether and didn’t replace them with gluten-free versions of them, I did lose weight. But people who simply switch to gluten-free foods probably would not. Gluten-free food is not inherently healthier, just more expensive. Also, in general, paying more attention to the composition of everything I eat has helped me make healthier food choices.

No beer, huh? Wait, didn’t you go to UCSB?

Yes, and I did consume a superhuman amount of beer there without any negative skin conditions resulting.

What about gluten-free beer?

As someone far pithier than I once put it, gluten-free beer tastes like someone came in a mud puddle.


Yes. I drink wine now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

“Megan Is Fat.”

Why do people own birds as pets? Aren’t they annoying more often than not? And less so with the cuddly? I don’t even understand the appeal of the ones that can talk. It’s a neat parlor trick at first, but wouldn’t you get sick of having a not-so-fuzzy, peck-y, claw-y pet who can seize upon a single word and then repeat it endlessly?

At my new place, I have a neighbor who has birds. (It’s actually the same neighbor who told me the “She everywhere” story, in case you’re compiling my anecdotes into some sort of master timeline.) They don’t speak so much as make shrill, inhuman noises at each other all day, to the point that I have wondered if it’s actually an incapacitated relative that my neighbor has chained up in the back room. It may be, honestly. It may also be two incapacitated relatives or one incapacitated relative and one bird, having a “fwaaargh”-off. Really, that’s the story I should be writing.

But no. I write instead about something I remembered when I drove through my old neighborhood today. I passed a house where there is always a caged parrot on the front porch. It whistles. It makes cell phone ringtone noises. Sometimes it sounds like a truck backing up. That’s about it, and really, were I its owner, I’d also keep the damn thing outside.

One day, while walking by, I saw two young boys crouched outside the cage. They were repeating the same phrase over and over, and it was simply “Megan is fat.”

“Megan is fat. Megan is fat. Megan is fat. Megan is fat. Megan is fat.” In unison, the two of them.

That’s the story.

I laughed, but not for the reasons you might think. No, it’s more a laugh about how funny it is that some people think of children as these pure-souled little angel beings who represent the promise of a better tomorrow, when children are actually heartless little shit-monsters. I don’t know who Megan was or what Megan did, but can you imagine being Megan and trying to un-teach a parrot from calling you fat? All day? Constantly? Repeatedly?

Best case scenario: The parrot bit those kids, and Megan saw it happen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Little Heartache Before the Weekend

You don’t have to thank me. I was happy to.

Twelve Alternatives to Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Scrawled 

Murder, She Sighed 

Murder, She Slurred 

Murder, She Weaved 

Murder, She Painted 

Murder, She Guessed 

Murder, She Ignored 

Murder, She Fantasized 

Murder, She Requested 

Murder, She Committed 

Murder, She Gloated 

Murder, She Blamed on Someone Else in Cabot Cove, and Holy Shit, Have You Ever Thought Maybe Jessica Fletcher Is a Serial Killer and She’s Pinning All These Murders on Innocent Townspeople?

Fletcher-faces via here, here and here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Red Before Red Was Red

I sped through two seasons of Orange Is the New Black before I realized why Kate Mulgrew's performance as prison mamochka Galina “Red” Reznikov rang a bell somewhere at the back of my mind. The reason? Batman.

On Saturday, September 5, 1992, the first-ever episode of Batman: The Animated Series aired. Titled “The Cat and the Claw, Part 1,” it introduced Catwoman (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau) and pitted her and Batman against a villain created specifically for the series, Red Claw, a terrorist of unspecified eastern European origin. But come on — just barely post-’80s? Eastern European? Terrorist? Children’s show? Red? She was obviously supposed to be Russian. Mulgrew voiced the character, and she returned for two more episodes: the second part of “The Cat and the Claw” and then “The Lion and the Unicorn,” in which Red Claw kidnaps Alfred.

I created the above supercut of Red Claw’s appearances on the show, chiefly to give people a chance to hear how much Mulgrew’s “vague, threatening east Euro” accent sounds like Red’s. (I actually have no idea how close Mulgrew gets to an actual Russian accent, but I’d nonetheless like to think of Red Claw as training for Red.) However, unlike many other great female characters who originated on the show but later transitioned to the comics — Harley Quinn, Renee Montoya, Roxy Rocket, Livewire and Mercy Graves — Red Claw has remained in the animated continuity only. So far, this is literally all we’ve seen of her, bad-ass tattoo, asymmetrical jump suit and fashion sash notwithstanding.

One quick thought, though: Are we past the point of naming Russian characters “Red” yet?

Another: I think the freckle-faced female henchwoman who shows up around the six-minute mark may be a rarity in Batman: The Animated Series. She may not have lines, but she’s one of a few female toughs to play B to a major villain’s A over the course of the series.

One last one: “And people wonder why no one takes Britain seriously anymore.”

Superheroes, previously:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Useless New Word and a Picture of a Duckling

I honestly love English. I love the breadth of its vocabulary. Dozens of synonyms exist alongside each other, but often one word can encapsulate the exact concept you have in your head. It’s messy, as far as languages go, but it’s rich — like a tangled jungle where all manner of wild things can grow. English doesn’t have the largest vocabulary of any language in the world. (As The Economist points out, that’s… just not a thing, when you think about it logically.) But it does offer some options to its speakers, and I’m proud to specialize in the language that affords speakers not just purple and violet but also indigo and magenta and mauve and lavender and freaking palatinate.

Still, sometimes it fails us. There are the autoantonyms. On the subject of color, there’s sinople, a word that basically no one ever uses but can refer to either red or green, depending on the context. There’s shelled, as in shelled pistachios, which you think would work in a straightforward fashion but I found does not, necessarily, when I asked a clerk at Trader Joe’s about them.
Him: Shelled pistachios? Like, pistachios with their shells on?

Me: No. Shelled pistachios as in pistachios that have their shells removed.

Him: So they’re shelled if they don’t have their shells on?

Me: Yes, they’ve been shelled.

Him: That’s confusing.
It’s not confusing to most people, but when you approach the expression shelled pistachio like you’d never heard it before and instead along the lines of a clothed person or a covered bridge, yeah, it seems counterintuitive. (And yes, the Trader Joe’s clerk must have been new.)

And then there’s the trouble with describing time. It’s maybe one of English’s greatest failings, simply because we need to describe yet-to-occur events quite often, and English sucks at it. Biannual is probably the biggest offender, simply because an event could just as likely occur every two years as it could twice a year. Because biannual can mean either, you can almost never be sure in the context of any sentence which meaning was intended. Bimonthly can mean either twice a month or every two months, and I suppose events could occur on either schedule. You’d think that biweekly wouldn’t post such a problem, since we can’t evenly divide our seven-day week and therefore events would be less likely to occur twice a week, but no. When I ran the opinion desk at the college paper and hire regular columnists, I had to ban the word biweekly from all the ad copy, just because every single applicant asked whether they’d need to write two columns a week or one column every two weeks. The modified copy read every two weeks, even thought that’s less succinct. (Fortnightly was rejected on grounds of sounding affected and quaint.)

This is the ambiguity that people are attempting to solve with oxt, an invented word that means “not this coming one but the next one,” as in “We’ll kill them this weekend and then bury the bodies oxt weekend.” Despite having its own promotional website, I’m guessing oxt will go the way of Esperanto and the interrobang, even if it does solve a longstanding problem has resulted in too many people being all dressed up with nowhere to go.

And it’s with all this that I present a strange and wonderful word — the first new one in about a year.
hebdomadal (heb-DOM-uh-dul) — adjective: 1. taking place once every seven days. 2. a weekly magazine, newspaper or other publication.
Like I described it in the post title, it’s useless. Most people won’t know what hebdomadal means, and besides we already have the word weekly, which may be one of the English words that doesn’t benefit from a synonym. In fact, the Etymonline entry for hebdomadally calls it “pedantic humor.” But in its favor is the fact that this word — which comes from the Greek hebdomas, “the number seven; a period of seven days” — is perfectly exact. It will only ever refer to something that happens every seven days.

As useless as hebdomadal may be, a related word could actually solve the biweekly ambiguity. If oxt is being dangled out there, then hell, why not dekatesseral?

“We’d need columns from you on a dekatesseral basis, and if you can’t figure out what that means, we don’t want you.”

I suppose that might discriminate against the non-Greek applicants. So it goes.

And here, as promised, is that picture of the duck.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Strangest SNL Sketch You’ve Never Seen

People don’t know about Yvonne Hudson, generally. She’s the first black female performer in the history of Saturday Night Live, but she has become hard to remember, probably because she had mostly low-profile roles on the show during her tenure (between 1978 and 1984) and because she seems to have retired from acting since. I actually often make the mistake of saying that Danitra Vance was the first black female performer on the show, but it’s not true: Vance was only the first main player, while Hudson was a featured performer.

The latest installment of Splitsider’s “Saturday Night’s Children” reminded me about Yvonne Hudson and also picked out one sketch in particular where she got to play a significant role: “Bad Clams,” from a Buck Henry-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live that originally aired on November 10, 1979.

I’d never seen it, but I hunted the episode down. And it’s weird as hell.

It’s not exactly hilarious, but to me there’s something compellingly bizarre about it. Really, what was the pitch for this? “Let’s have Gilda do Lucy and then we’ll force her to eat rancid clams on morning TV”? At a time when a lot of alternative comedy skews dark — from “Wait, what’s going on?” to “Oh, this is more strange than funny” to “Wait, this is just a low-budget nightmare sketch” — there’s something about this sketch that seems ahead of its time.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just funny watching a national treasure being force-fed spoiled shellfish by the most disturbingly pleasant TV hosts in history.

But hey — Breaking Away!

Weird SNL sketches, previously:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Weird Walk Through the Mushroom Kingdom

Hi. Here’s the third and final part of my little series on that obscure Super Mario anime from 1986. (Or, as the non-video game-giving-a-shit-about portion of my readers consider it, a last deep dive into geekdom before I resume writing about funny old people I meet at the grocery store.)

In the first post, I wrote about how The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! probably caused the rumor that Toad used to be a girl. In the second post, I wrote about all the other elements from the movie that later appeared in Super Mario Bros. video games. In this one, I’m just posting all the spare images and videos that I didn’t reason to post anywhere else.

Looking without reading! Fun!

As if the movie didn’t feature enough musical sequences, there’s also one where Mario fantasizes about wearing a tuxedo and waltzing with the princess. You know — for the dreamy-eyed romantics in the audience.

I have Mario dressed like a Mexican bandito. See, because he felt angry, so he just transformed into this costume. See?

And here is Bowser attempting to woo Peach by dressing in drag.

Screenwriting at its best! I actually don't get why these would be the subtitles here, honestly. Jugem is Lakitu’s Japanese name, but I have no idea why these subtitles would be in English when most of the rest are not, at least per the video from which I got this still.

You can tell by Mario’s eyes that he’s overwhelmed by the prince’s flagrant disregard for gender norms.

“Don’t come back!”