Friday, May 26, 2006

The Drowning of Ten Cigarettes

Quickie before I'm gone on second annual Memorial Day-in-Las Vegas drunken spectacular.

Old Roommate Adam visited last week. (Granted, Friend in L.A. Hilly did as well, but she didn't provide me with linky goodness, so this post goes in commemoration of Adam's stay, not Hilly's.) Short but simply, click here. As if you needed any further proof that Nickelback is the worst band ever.

[ next time it's yours, hilly ]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Soot Dumpling

Why must even Google fail to locate an easy, automated system that can tell me whose MySpace Top Eight I am on?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Not the Guy From "Almost Famous"

Other MySpace goings-on: A man named David J. Martin contacted me recently as well. He apparently is affiliated with the (former?) band The Notorious Head of S.M.E.R.S.H. — which may or may not officially go by the name "The Notorious Head of Smersh," which I like less even though I couldn't possibly think of what S.M.E.R.S.H. could be an acronym for. The note, which had the subject line "I'm the man who wrote 'Tempus Fugit.'" went as follows:
Our drummer found your blog somehow and saw we're on a CD of music you burnt. I just thought I'd drop you a line and say thanks and i'm glad you like the song.

Anyways, take it easy.
To the point, but still slightly thrilling for me. The blog post he's writing about is this one, in which I recommended a few songs to readers who might want to listen to something they hadn't heard before. And if you like the kind of music I like, then the song "Tempus Fugit" is still a great song and worth the effort it takes to find it.

This marks the second occasion a musician whose work I enjoy has contacted me after reading something I wrote about him on my blog. (The first would be Mike Lebovitz, the man behind the band Father Bingo and the song "Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple." That interaction is detailed in this post, by the way.) And that's great — not only to help me get in contact with cool people but also to help me realize that these cool people are willing to spend time Googling themselves in an effort to find anybody, somebody who cares about what they've done.

You know, because that's what I spend half of my day doing.

The lesson we should all learn: blog about people you think are cool.

Oh, and for the Drew-Explains-It-All aspect of this little subject, the band the The Notorious Head of S.M.E.R.S.H. probably refers to a fictional James Bond Russian spy group, which itself was a take-off on the actual Russian counterintelligance agency, Smert Shpionam. Also, tempus does in fact fugit. Dig it.
[ link: David J. Martin's MySpace profile ]

Septopus

This is a photo of a horrifying spider.



Horrifying, isn't it?

Anyway, it's drawn much attention on Flickr — an undue amount, I say, especially because the only tags I've associated with it are "australia," "vacation," "spider," "large," "scary," "colorful" and "horrifying." Odd how Flickr works.

Last week Bookstore Chris sent me a MySpace email telling me the following about my horrifying spider friend:
Your Horrifying Spider (as big as your fucking hand, no lie) is a Nephila Maculata, of the Tetragnathidae family. Spiders in this genus (Nephila) are also called "golden orb web" spiders, named so because of the yellowish color of their silk which happens to be the strongest in the entire Araneae order (spiders).
Good to know.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rabbit Troop Sucks!

Everybody who links to me, as far as I know.

People I know:
People I don't know or have contacted online briefly but have never met:
People I link to but who do not link to me:
For the record the above four don't really permalink to anybody, so I guess it's a matter of principle rather than a slight against this here Cereal Box. So I can forgive them. Still, withholders notwithstanding, it's a nice little network I have here.

A Thousand Eyes Turning Blue

What I look like — according to Google, anyway.
  • Drew looks like he got lost on the way to playing in a high school basketball game and Drew looks like he'd have trouble getting into an R-rated movie by himself and Drew looks like he has more grocery store bagger in him than basketball star. (All in one article!)
  • Drew looks like any other backpack-toting teenager. Yet he is a survivor of a secret war waged behind the doors of silence and shame.
  • Drew looks like a good bet for NL Rookie of the Year, with Carlos Beltran, of Kansas City, a strong candidate in the AL.
  • Drew looks like a souped-up Priest Holmes coming out of college.
  • Drew looks like Wyatt Earp on Flickr and Drew looks like a tool and Drew looks like a muppet after his bath. (All on one page!)
  • Although new to dance, Drew looks like he's done a good job of picking it up and leading his partner.
  • Drew looks like Boston's Shubert Theater.
  • And my own personal addition to the "Drew looks like" catalogue: Drew looks like a Kentucky fried mess.
Previous Google ventures:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Legend of the Jolly Invalid

Some of you have seen the MySpace page I made for my friend Jill. I consider it some of my finest work, and if you haven't yet seen it, then I encourage you do to so now.

In any case, I finally remembered the password for her account tonight and logged in. There, not surprisingly, I found a whole load of unread MySpace messages, friend requests and profile comments. Most notably, I found a message from what I think may be the worst person alive. Allow me to re-create the for you the surge of every bad emotion I had when I read her little note.



What's wrong here?
  1. This little twat has stumbled across FauxJill's profile and decidedly to rudely evaluate Jill's attractiveness in such a manner.
  2. She forgot the apostrophe in "you're" as well.
  3. She used the expression "fuck ugly," which generally shouldn't be used.
  4. Her MySpace handle is "DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME I WON'T BE iGNORED." Note the lower case "i" in the last word. Apple should sue.
  5. She appears to be suffering from some palsy, judging by her default photo.
So I check out her profile to see how this girl is. Her profile, which you can see by clicking here, shows me that more is amiss.
  1. Her MySpace address includes the words "hollister" and "cutie" in conjunction.
  2. She is from Beverly Hills.
  3. She is seventeen years old.
  4. Her background image looks like the recycling bin behind some fashion magazine's printing studio.
  5. Her "heroes" section. Just fucking look at it.
  6. Her interests: "CHiLLEN WiTH MY FRiENDS / LiSTENiNG TO MUSiC / CHiLLEN WiTH MY GiRLS /TALKiNG ON THE PHONE / WATCHiNG MOViES." She should add "idiosyncratic capitalization of the letter 'i'" to the list.
  7. But she likes movies, at least. But what kind of movies? "i LiKE SCARY MOViES, DRAMATiC MOViES, COMEDY MOViES..PRETTY MUCH ANY KiND OF MOViE..." Well fuck! She's a cinema afficianado! She's a regular fucking Lisa Scharwzbaum over here!
  8. Under the section books: "i DONT LiKE READiNG LOL." Funny, I actually hate reading "LOL" as well.
  9. She lists her occupation as "cheerleader."
  10. And, finally, if I'm to believe what I see when I look at her other pictures, she has some dental issues.
I'm sorry. This little trollop — whose name also seems to be Jill — could have just minded her own business and let me have my joke all privately and nice, but she had to make a rude comment. One, notably, that she may not have a right to make. So I had no choice but to add her as a friend. And then add everybody in her top eight. Trashy Teenage Other Jill from Beverly Hills just made a new best friend.

Then I showered and wondered if I felt bad for this poor, stupid girl. Then I realized I didn't. Then I logged back onto MySpace as Jill and contacted everyone on her top eight with the following message:
Oh my god! I'm so looking forward to meeting all y'all. I'm Jill's cousin from Arizona! And yes, my name is also Jill! Your friend Jill was actually named after me!!! People used to tell us we look alike LOL! Anyway, I just think it's swell that you're friends with her. You know, what with her condition and all. She's told me everything about you! I just can't wait until she's out of school so I can drop by and see just how cute you really are! And don't worry. I'm just so excited! Please, write back and tell me more about yourself! And watch out: Because Jill and Jill are hitting the town together!!!
I mean really — she said I shouldn't ignore her.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Golden Diva

I'd explain, but then I'd just sound crazy. Just rest assured knowing it's the Golden Diva. And that's all you really need to know.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Of Myths and Monsters

Meg Horexjhxi — Meg! — wrote me with a reminder of a new bit that will be of interest to Nintendo die-hards like her and me.
You probably already heard this, given your capacity for arcane information, but Pit from Kid Icarus is going to appear as a playable character in the next version of Super Smash Bros. It's called "Brawl."
I realized when she wrote that this news is also of interest to Back of the Cereal Box readers, for
I think many don't understand the origins of this blog's address and my AIM screenname. You see, "Kid Icarus" is a wonderful side-scrolling game Metroid-esque I played when I was wee. And played. And played again. In fact, I can still hear the tinny, early 8-bit theme song in my head. It stars a winged little guy with a bow and arrow. His name is Pit and he is on a never-ending mission to defeat Medusa and rescue the fair goddess Palutena. (Much later in life, I found out that this name was a Japanese corruption of “Parentha,” which is one of the names of Athena. Go figure.) Anyway, the game combined my love of video games with Greek mythology, as Pit had to fight characters like Cerebus and such. A good, long-standing childhood memory.

Now Pit is being updated for the next entry in the “Smash Bros.” franchise, “Smash Bros. Brawl.” The game pits old and new Nintendo mascots against each other in hand-to-hand combat, for no real reason other than to make a fun game. And seeing Pit re-imagined for a high power system makes me happy.

Here's Pit as I remember him from my childhood:



And here he is, computer generated and looking much more like the hero of Greek legend he was supposed to be. That is, of course, Greek mythology by way of anime.



Small victories. You take what you can get. I honestly can wait to wail upon the likes of Mario, Pikachu and Princess Zelda with arrows of pointy justice.

There's Got to Be a Morning After

I saw “Poseidon.” First, I’m going to deal with the question that I know you’re asking. Then I’m going to take a slight detour. Then I’ll get back to the movie.

Keep that in mind.

First off: Yes, Fergie dies. No, you don’t see it, really. No, it isn’t particularly violent. Yes, she sings. No, you haven’t heard the songs before. Yes, she does a pretty good job. No, she doesn’t look particularly bad at any point.

And now, a quick detour:

Hey — do you remember that show “The Rerun Show?” The one where they took scripts of old sitcom episodes, cut out the filler and jazzed them up with improv and funny accents? It was on NBC a while, I think. And then it was on VH1 or something.

Okay, back to “Poseidon.” I bring up “The Rerun Show” because it and this remake of the “The Poseidon Adventure” work on essentially the same principle. Take a core story that people are familiar with, remove the boring parts, then jazz up the whole thing with stuff that you couldn’t do when the original came out. It’s a good idea, really. Productivity without creativity. And if you do it right, profit should follow.

But that’s the question, I suppose: Have they remade this movie well enough to warrant your money and attention?

This “Poseidon” movie hasn’t been doing especially well at the box office this past weekend, and I’m a little sad for it. Although “Poseidon” is far from a great movie, it’s not a bad one. It does a lot of things right, and I think it’s the ideal kind of movie to go see on some Saturday afternoon when you don’t have anything better to do.

Here’s my nutshell summary of the film: You meet the ten main characters. They have names. Or maybe they don’t. Anyway, you’ll recognize them. You don’t need to worry about anybody else, really, because the ship flips over about twenty minutes into the film and just about everybody is fish niblets, expect for Andre Braugher and Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, but you know they’re totally dead from the get-go and they die eventually anyway, because he’s black and she’s not really an actress and situations like this generally favor experienced actors and white people. Then people escape the ship. Some die en route.

The audience learns so little about the characters that I feel it actually benefits the film. This isn’t “Titanic,” and it isn’t framed in some epic story about the human spirit. It’s about a boat. The people just happen to be on it. Wolfgang Peterson and whoever took half an hour to write this film don’t bother with the little details of human interaction just because that’s not what people going to see this movie want. They want a great disaster — and man, the CGI ship looks good when it turns over — and they want to gawk and people getting flung all over this formerly nice vessel before they meet their watery graves.

Simple as that, this movie succeeds.

A lot of reviews of this film have noted that it has the air of a TV movie because the actors in it are either formerly big-name stars or faces more recognizable from TV shows. I guess this is true. The film seems to have an appreciably high budget to me, but I’ll give these reviewers that the cast does seem scoured from various TV shows: Jacinda Barret from “The Real World,” Mike Vogel from “Grounded for Life,” Mia Maestro from “Alias,” Kevin Dillon from “Entourage,” Freddy Rodriguez from “Six Feet Under,” and Braugher from “Homicide.” But it’s fine. Turns out any of these folks trained for the TV screen look just as good drippy and screaming on a large screen.

Do any of these people have any characterization? Well, Jacinda plays a mom. You know this because she’s always standing next to this kid and being all worried and stuff. Richard Dreyfuss is in the movie too. He’s gay. You know this because he leaves a message for his boyfriend and he wears this ugly fucking earring that only a gay man in a mid-life crisis would wear. Um. Mia Maestro is a Latina, I think. And she’s Catholic. Probably. That’s about it. These aren’t broadly drawn folks like Belle Rosen and Mike Rogo and Nonnie — Nonnie! — but that’s probably because they’ve already made that movie.

It’s short. It looks good. And it’s as light as a disaster movie can be. And it’s entirely representative of the kind of movies people watch as summer draws near.

My only real complain is that I think the movie would have been improved twenty times over if they had had a table at the New Year’s Eve banquet with all the people from the first movie — Belle and Rogo et al. And you get introduced to them along with all of the real characters from this movie. And then when the ship flips — wham! — they all get crushed by a chandelier. Or something.

Well, I think that would have been good.

Linka-dinka:

What's This About Clown Business?

Saw two movies this weekend — one in the theaters, one through Netflix. I’m telling you this so you know why the next two blog posts will consist of movie reviews.

This post concerns “The Devil’s Rejects,” and how I really, really, really liked it. Really. Yes, the Rob Zombie movie. Yes, the one with his girlfriend in it. Please, let me explain: This movie is good because it holds the current record for the most uses of the word "fuck" per minute of any movie ever made. I'm shallow, I know, but that is enough for me to decide a movie's worth seeing. Don't worry, rest of world that is not me. My endorsement of this film runs a bit more deeply than its varied and creative uses of "fuck."

I use Netflix as a means of getting my hands on movies that I would never walk into a video store to rent. It’s so private. I like knowing that I can get a movie like “Isla, Harem-Keeper of the Oil Sheiks” and not have to meet the disapproving gaze of the person working behind the rental store counter. That counts for a lot, really. Sure, a few friends can see my rental queue — Jill? Josh? Hilly? Geo? Jardinebloister? Adam? Do any of you read me anymore? — but I don’t worry about the opinions of the people who already realize that I like watching trash.

On that note, the lucky DVD that’s most recently graced my Phillips-brand fun box is “The Devil’s Rejects,” the sequel to Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, “House of 1000 Corpses.” I actually saw this first movie in the theaters. I think I was one of the only ones, in fact. Me and a friend — Jardinebloister? You there? — drove down to Ventura on a night when there was nothing else to do and saw it just for the sheer curiosity of what a movie Rob Zombie made might look like. We left the theater pretty disappointed. And sticky. Damn dirty theater.

The short of it is that “House of 1000 Corpses” was just too much — to surreal to focus on anything, to wacky to be scary, and to gross to be fun. It could have been a good, old-fashioned schlockfest, but the introduction of a ridiculous character named Dr. Satan just took the whole thing to a level of such implausibility that I couldn’t give a shit about what happened to the characters.

The reviews for “The Devil’s Rejects,” however, led to be interested in it, despite my indifference to the first movie. Various critics, Roger Ebert among them, cited the movie as having a real plot, character development and more focus than “House of 1000 Corpses.” I got excited, especially when I read that the filmed starred folks like E.G. Daily, Danny Trejo, Brian Posehn and P.J. Soles. I can actually remember trying in vain to get someone to go see “The Devil’s Rejects” in the theaters here in Santa Barbara. I’m actually surprised it even hit local theaters, considering the reputation of the first film and the tendency for all our movie houses to appeal to the most mainstream, Matthew Broderick-watching people this side of Omaha.

So I actually watched the movie Friday night. Because when you don’t go out and you have work to do, you have to watch explicitly violent movies. But I was really happy that the movie worked out for me. Whereas the first one rides like a rickety roller coaster at some backwoods county fair, this one drives more smoothly, like some 70s-era muscle car or something. It’s not goofy. It’s retro, but not so much as to make it silly. And it’s not horror, exactly, either. It’s a revenge film. And if “Kill Bill” taught us anything, revenge films make for good, violent entertainment.

The film concerns William Forsythe, the brother of a character killed in the first movie, who leads a bunch of police officers on a raid of the Firefly House, the expansive but dilapidated shack where the murderous rednecks of the first film live. In fact, it’s the structure referred to in the title “House of 1000 Corpses.” The police nab the mother — played well enough by Leslie Easterbrook that I forgot Karen Black played the role in the first film — but two siblings, Otis and Baby, escape. While Forysthe’s character tries to locate the escaped killers, they cut a swath through whatever sunbaked state they’re escaping through, looking for a safe place to stay. The whole movie through this point has a very “Natural Born Killers” vibe, but manages to fit the action into a much shorter and entertaining span of film that Oliver Stone’s picture did.

The remarkable thing that “The Devil’s Rejects” pulls off is that it eventually makes you identify with Otis and Baby, the homicidal pair that so heinously butchers four young people in the first film and a hapless country-western band in this one. I’m not sure when exactly it happens — whether it’s Baby stopping to buy ice cream as they flee the police or William Forsythe’s character speaking to himself in the mirror in a moment of pitifully exaggerated machismo — but you eventually start seeing the killers as a little more human and their pursuer as so fixated on revenge as to become a villain.

He eventually captures them in a brutal ambush at a whorehouse, returns them to the family homestead and horrendously tortures them — even nailing photos of their many, many victims to their chests in a way that seems unfit for even psychopaths. Baby escapes and runs away in a scene that parallels the death of the last of the main four kids in the first movie. That dead girl was in a bunny suit, while Forsythe chants “Here, bunny, bunny” as a wounded Baby limps around the family corrals before she gets nabbed.

It all goes to the credit of Rob Zombie. It’s supremely twisted to make the viewer shift their allegiance so dramatically — especially if the viewer’s someone who sat through the first movie and watched the Firefly family’s relentless evil. But he makes it happen so seamlessly that I can’t even recall when I started liking these awful people.

The movie ends with a slow-motion shot of the final surviving Fireflys driving their car into a police blockade, and getting shot to death in the process. It’s all played out to “Free Bird” in a way that reminded me of the last shots of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” It was sad and beautiful and fitting — everything you can expect out of a movie, really.

I’d wager that Zombie’s best decision in making this second — and presumably final — film in the Firefly family story is the complete elimination of the Dr. Satan bullshit. In a movie like this, almost a revenge flick period piece, it would have stuck out even more miserably than it did in the first. It helps elevate the movie overall.

Weird, I know. But trust me on this one.
[ link: IMDb and Netflix ]
[ like going to summer camp! everyday! but different sometimes! ]

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dammit, You Know I'm Forgetful

Spencer has a blog. This link is long overdue.

[ yeah, that's right ]

Anna et Rana

I hijacked Kristen's computer and stole some of her photos from the trip. While we were at my Aunt Judy's house in Townsville, we made friends with a tree frog, which thankfully wasn’t one of the poisonous ones. Kristen got some good pictures of me and the frog.

Here they are.







I liked this one so much that it bumped out "Drew and Kangadrew" as my MySpace default
picture. Also, I know I look like shit in these — that is, if shit could be sunburned and sweaty — but keep in mind that Townsville was as humid as jockstrap and that these were taken a good five weeks into my trip. You should be looking at the frog, anyway.

One Less Blonde

Last week, I was freaking out about the prospect of “Lost” losing Libby, the angelic clinical psychologist who graced the shores of some unnamed island in the Pacific for a brief period this season. As you’ll recall, last week’s episode, “Two for the Road,” concluded with long-missing survivor Michael putting a bullet in the gut of both Libby and Ana-Lucia.

My rationale was that Libby couldn’t die because she hadn’t undergone the spiritual redemption that corpses like Boone, Shannon and Ana-Lucia had. True enough, Libby wasn’t dead when the following episode began. She was just vomiting blood. In the end, Libby did die, though. She lingered long enough to have quasi-boyfriend Hurley apologize for sending her down into the hatch rather than going himself and then whimper out “Michael.” Her friends, of course, didn’t put it together that Libby was naming her murderer and merely told her that Michael was fine. She shot a look of outright horror, then passed away.

Just like last week with Ana-Lucia’s offing, Michael Ausiello of TV Guide posted an explanation of the death of Libby on his blog immediately after the episode aired. Apparently, the writers put Libby on the wrong end of a gun simply because they had run out of ideas for her. They knew they would be killing Ana-Lucia, but because her character is more or less unlikable — and let’s be honest, she was a bitch — they killed Libby in an effort to make the act all the more appalling.

I’m slightly irritated that a show that banks of the fact that the writers have a plan — a show that would like us to think that every small move is building to something — would kill a character they recently introduced merely because they couldn’t think of something to do with her. And I don’t like that poor Cynthia Watros didn’t get to act in her flashback, as every other major character has, and therefore only got to appear all dirt and bedraggled.

The fact of the matter is, however, that I genuinely like “Lost” and couldn’t stop watching if I wanted to. For the moment, I’m going to assume that Libby’s death is acceptable because by breaking the rules of death — first redemption, then the dirt nap — the writers pulled a fairly decent surprise on all us viewers. Also, Ausiello writes that Libby’s not gone for good. Cynthia Watros may be on a new sitcom next season — and God bless you in that endeavor, Cindy — but she’s still appearing in future “Lost” installments in the flashbacks of others. Notably, she’ll be appearing in this season’s finale in the flashbacks of long-missing Desmond. So it’s not like I’m Libbyless for eternity.

This season’s penultimate episode airs Wednesday, and I just made a new “Lost” buddy this weekend. I’m still on board, but you need to watch yourselves, guys who write “Lost.” If this whole thing turns out like the last half of “Twin Peaks” I’ll be pissed.

The Methuselah of Gaucho Blogs

Sometimes the life drains out of me, for one reason or another, and I can’t bring myself to make the words in my head become words on the screen. That’s been the case, lately. I’m hoping I can amend the situation soon. In lieu of a regular stream of posts from the past few days, please accept another flurry of posts in a 24-hour period, in old-fashioned Back of the Cereal Box style.

Most notably, I thought I’d mention that Jonathan, a guy I knew from a few classes at UCSB — quite a few, if I’m not mistaken — as well as some overlapping involvement at the Nexus. He apparently random stumbled upon this blog through a Google image search of Neko Case. Clearly, he opted to look at the Neko Case image that showed her nipples. Naughty Jonathan. Anyway, he had some nice words to say about the Cereal Box — even going as far as to call it “the Methuselah of Gaucho blogs.”

Check out Jonathan’s blog, It's a Definite Maybe, here.

Also, I’m planning on updating the blog template at some time in the future, a remodel which will include a shuffling out of some of the permalinks in the sidebar to the right. Some of you, who shall remain nameless, haven’t been updating your blogs in months and months and I thin the list could use some new blood.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ragetini

Ages and ages ago, in a different life in a different place — high school, I think — I saw a lady walking a dog. When I say dog, I don’t mean a golden retriever or a bulldog or anything else that looks reminiscent of the proud, noble beasts that patrol mountains under the moonlight, howl and lick their bottoms with authority. When I say dog, I mean some malformed little creature looking half-rodent, with a pushed-in face and a profile that couldn’t eclipse a housecat’s. It had short, stubby legs and groomed hair and that expression — the glazed-over, dumbly happy expression that you can only associate with the domesticated animal. A look that says too many generations have passed since this thing new what being an animal actually meant. Indeed, this little dog was a no animal. It was an aminal.

I saw this poor creature and simply couldn’t reconcile it with the thing that we had made it from: the wolf, the jackal, the fox. Hell, it wasn’t even a coyote. And realizing how far this little shitburger of a pooch had been unnaturally selected, I couldn’t help but tell myself: “We really fucked up dogs.”

When I started college and suddenly had to go to the grocery store on my own, I was walking down the aisle that has all the stuff that I like to call “addition and subtraction.” It’s what we use to keep clean and pretty; things that either take away the bad parts or accentuate the good parts. I needed toothpaste, and that seemed like a simple need to fulfill. Goo that tasted like some kind of mint or something, to rub on my teeth in an effort to prohibit my oral real estate from housing any more metal.

In short order, I’d realize that, like the noble dog, human kind has also fucked up toothpaste. See, when I was young, we had toothpaste. That’s it. You had Colgate and Aquafresh and a few other brands that don’t leap to mind at this midnight hour. And you bought the brand you liked and that was the end of it.

But no. No no.

Today, the toothpaste aisle is a richly textured tapestry of choice — horrible, horrible choice. You can get toothpaste with bleach, with non-abrasive bleach, with micro-scrubbers, with fluoride, without fluoride, with calcium, with various other minerals that I hadn’t realized belonged in my mouth to begin with, with baking soda, with cavity protection, with plaque fighting enzymes and with special mini-capsules that break up sulfide deposits that can cause the foul horror called halitosis. And even worse, you can get flavors. Lemon. Apricot. Cinnamon. Even a choice between peppermint, wintergreen and spearmint. (I can’t tell the difference.) I was overwhelmed. Every choice seemed to be at the expense of another possibility.

Bastards, all of us. “We really fucked up toothpaste.”It didn’t seem to me that anything could get so bastardized as dogs and toothpaste. Of course, I wasn’t thinking hard enough.

Last week, we went out for Spencer’s twenty-first birthday party. The rest of the group arrived a little late at the restaurant, which gave Spencer and I a lot of time to look over the drink menu, which offered a special martini section.

Ever since I came of drinking age, I’ve had a soft spot of martinis. They just look so cool. Sophisticated glass, clear sloshy stuff inside. And you even get a little representative of the fruit and vegetables section of the food pyramid to remind you that you’re eating healthy. At first, I crutched by on dirty martinis, with the olive juice masking the overall alcoholic taste. Now, I go for the real thing, as I’ve learned that the best martinis mix the liquors in a perfect harmony that takes the bite out.

Oh, and you get hammered way fast.

To me, martinis represent the elite of drinking. It’s James Bond and monocles and people who know how to hold their liquor and don’t water it down with the sugary extras.

Now, I’m at the restaurant and perusing this menu of alleged martinis and I realize that the place only actually offers one full-on, indisputable martini. The rest: sham martinis, with the punch mitigated by fruit juice and sugar and color — color! in a martini! — and things that make the whole experience palatable for people who don’t actually like to drink. These are drinks for people who think the glass will lend them a slimmer silhouette. These are drinks with names like “Flirtini,” “Mangotini,” “Tartini,” “Babe-tini,” “Winitini,” “Femme-a-tini,” “Ladytini,” “Off-Violet-But-Not-Quite-Magentatini.” It's a parade of increasingly awkward verbal portmanteaus, each representing a drink that should not exist, much less be drunken.

And, for the third time in my life, I stop and shake my head. “We really fucked up martinis.”

(Oh, and I suppose we’ve done a number on the environment as well. Some might say that goes without saying. But really! “Mangotini”?)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Closest I'll Ever Come to Naturally Dancing

Found something worth noting.

One of the features I enjoy most about my Flickr account is that the server can rank your pictures by interestingness. Exactly how Flickr comes to determine the level of interest a certain image presents has repeatedly baffled me, and I said so in an earlier post. What I didn't like is that the system only allowed a user to view his or her pictures in this order. The casual observer couldn't. Anyhow, I've determined a post the pictures in an automatically generated account that opens on a separate site. So I can now present to you my photos, as Flickr ranks them by their interestingness.

See them!
[ link: the interesting photos of Drew! ]
And a big congratulations must go out to Puta Dina: you made the top three. Puta. Also, I really hate the word "interestingness."

EDIT: And while we're at it, let's see the most interesting photos of Sanam, Nate, Kristen, Hilly, Dina and Spencer. Fun for all!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Casino Night Zone

Based on the appearance of the front gate alone, I decided that Sydney’s Luna Park looked like a stage from Sonic the Hedgehog.

luna park 1

luna park 3

luna park 2

In addition to Sonic the Hedgehog: creepy in its unrelenting cheerfulness.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wee Sing Shitty Songs

A familiar ditty played through my head through most of the NZ/OZ trip, mostly because Kristen didn’t pack enough warm clothes for the former half of the trip and my Aunt Jeannie had to lend her a wool jersey. Thus, Kristen had a new jersey. I spent the whole trip trying to remember what the further verses of “What Did Della Wear?” might have been, but couldn’t.

You know the song: It puns a bunch of different state names into really awkward sentence patterns. The answer to the question about Della’s clothes is that she wore her “new Jersey.” That one works well, and there’s a reason people sing that one first. The later puns don’t work nearly as well, and I can’t actually remember hearing any of them before. Here, for better or worse, are what a Google search has yielded as the further verses of “What Did Della Wear?”

According to the Perry Como version, which is apparently the most famous version of the song:
Oh, why did Calla phone ya?
Oh, why did Calla phone?

She called to say “Oh, hi!” Oh!
She called to say “Oh, hi!”
I admit it: I made up the response that puns “Ohio.” The original version, as noted on this transcription of the lyrics and many others, answers instead with “She called to saw ‘How are ya?’ / She called to say ‘How are ya?’” I hate this response, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what state “how are ya” is trying to pun. Hawaii? Some state I haven’t heard of. Total ass.
Oh, what did Mrs. sip, boys?
Oh, what did Mrs. sip?

She sipped a mini soda, sir.
She sipped a mini soda.

Oh, where has Ora gone, boys?
Oh, where has Ora gone?

She went to pay her taxes, sir.
She went to pay her taxes.
I feel bad for Ora, but worse that “taxes” is being passed as a substitute for “Texas.” An alternative version of the response apparently claims that Ora went to her Okla-home.
Oh, how did Wiscon sin, boys?
Oh, how did Wiscon, sin?

He stole a new brass key, sir.
He stole a new brass key.
If you name your son Wiscon, you deserve to have him become a petty thief with little regard for the value of various metals.
Oh, what has Tenna see, boys?
Oh, what has Tenna see?

She saw what Arkan saw, sir.
He saw what Arkan saw.

Oh, how did Flora die, boys?
Oh, how did Flora die?

She died in misery, sir.
She died in misery.
This is easily the best one. Also the darkest one. This should come first, I think. But this is as far as the Perry Como lyrics have gotten me, though I did find a bit more elaboration on some other pages.
Oh, how much did Io weigh, boys?
Oh, how much did Io weigh?

She weighed a washing ton, sir.
She weighed a washing ton.
I think I like this best, not just because Io is fat, but because Io is a cool name that you don’t hear often enough anymore.
Oh, what did Ida hoe, boys?
Oh, what did Ida hoe?

She hoed her merry land, sir.
She hoed her merry land.

Oh, how did Connecti cut, boys?
Oh, how much did Connecti cut?

He cut with his arkan saw, sir.
He cut with his arkan saw.
These are my sons, John, William and also Connecti, whom we hate and named Connecti. And finally:
What else did Della wear, boys?
What else did Della wear?

She wore her north da-coat, sir.
She wore her north da-coat.
Most of these alternative verses I found here, where other people apparently can’t shut up about this song. Some theorize that the idea was to have a verse for every state in the union, though what I’ve assembled here falls way short of including all fifty states. However, stopping here also spares us from verses like “When did Ver gin ya?” and “Why did color ado, boys?”

Funny to me that all of these versions seem to be avoiding the obvious pun of “I don’t know — I’ll ask her,” which could be used as a response to any question, really. Even better: know that I’ve collected the bits of everybody else’s transcription of this miserable song and put it all here, this spot know has more variations on the song than any other place on the internet — or at least under the all-seeing eye of Google. And yes, that’s a rather dubious honor, I know. But how many people other than me can say that?

A Few Words in Defense of Poor Libby

Another quick thought regarding "Lost," then I promise I'll shut up about it at least until next week.

Also, this post will make a whole lot more sense if you first have a look at the previous post.
Libby can't be dead because she hasn't come full-circle in any meaningful, emotional way. The first castaway, Boone, died shortly after we learned through his flashbacks that he had been engaged in a quasi-incestuous relationship with his stepsister, Shannon. He broke of the relationship, found his independence and the shortly died. Next, Shannon, who has previously been a spoiled, selfish sort decided that she had for too long depended on others. We get her flashbacks, then she thinks she sees the long-missing Walt. She dashes out into the jungle looking for him — the sole selfless act she ever did on the show — and bam! She bumps into Ana-Lucia, who instinctively shoots Shannon. Finally, we have Ana-Lucia, who had quit her job as an LAPD officer and fled to Australia after gunning down a smalltime thug who had shot her and caused her to miscarriage. On the island, Ana-Lucia gets attacked by the hostage — one of the Others whom we’ve been calling Henry Gale even though that’s not his name — and nearly killed. She walks into his cell, points a gun at him with every intention of firing, but finds that she cannot again take a human life. Bam! Immediately after she clears up her central personality flaw, Michael shoots her.

But what of poor Libby? We haven’t got her backstory at all. All we know is that she spent some time in a mental institution where Hurley also stayed. The two haven’t yet put this together, and I feel like bumping the poor dear off before that revelation would leave too loose of a plotline hanging. Give her a flashback episode first — one at least, to clear the air up a little — and then you can talk about shooting her in the stomach.

Funny side note: The name of the fictional author behind Bad Twin, the book that was supposedly written by a victim of the Flight 815 crash, is a perfect anagram for “purgatory.”

The Death of Girl Number Two

(Apologies to fans of “Lost.” If you haven’t seen the new episode, beware: this post spoils some major plot points. Get on iTunes and spend the $1.99 it costs to catch up. If you don’t watch “Lost,” then you should. But read on anyway as I attempt to make this unknown show nonetheless entertaining for you.)

I’d like to think I’m not often surprised. I guess that’s probably true, but when something does actually catch me unawares, I’m happily put in my place.

Just a few days ago, I was bouncing from one website to another and found the site. Part of a larger site promoting the work of author Gary Troup, this page explains a little about a book called The Valenzetti Equation. I honestly can’t remember what I clicked to get here, but I gave it a once-over and left without looking at the rest of the site. Later, Spencer told me that the bookstore is now carrying a new book by Troup: Bad Twin. It took me a few seconds to realize that the author of this new book was the same as the one for the Valezetti Equation. The more remarkable thing is that Gary Troup is allegedly one of the people who disappeared on Oceanic Airlines Flight 158 — the unlucky airplane that the television show “Lost” is based around.

I like meta. For example, I loved being temporarily fooled a few years back by the Evan Chan mystery that ended up being ten times cooler than “A.I.,” the movie the game was designed to promote. And there’s evidence that suggests these kinds of tie-ins click rather resoundingly with consumers. For example, the show last season featured a scene in which a character was shown reading Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman. Sales of the book have been up ever since. I think that is neat.

So I have to like the idea that this Gary Troup had emailed the manuscript for a P.I. novel called Bad Twin to his publisher shortly before boarding his flight to Los Angeles. The wise guys behind “Lost” have slipped the manuscript — which seems to have survived the crash, even if Gary himself didn’t — into two episodes of “Lost.” In one, Hurley can be seen leafing through it. And in last night’s episode, “Two for the Road,” Sawyer had just gotten within ten pages of the end when Jack snatched the papers from him and tossed them into the fire. (Sawyer’s a jerk, you see, and had it coming. Long story.) But even the subtle presence of this unseen character can’t match the even bigger surprise I got at the end of the episode.

You might remember earlier post, “I Love Television, But Television Doesn’t Love Me Back,” in which I bemoaned the death of Shannon on “Lost.” I still maintain that Shannon was a worthwhile character, even though the show has managed to keep my interest in spite of her absence. Last night, in the final moments of the episode, the newly returned Michael — who has spend the bulk of this season lost in the jungle, looking for his missing son — betrayed his nice guy exterior and shot two regulars, presumably to death.

You see, the widely hated meanie Ana-Lucia had just failed to bring herself to shoot the group’s current hostage, a member of the longtime inhabitants of the island called “The Others.” Michael said he could shoot the hostage, as he now hates the group responsible for taking away his son. Ana-Lucia have him the gun. Michael looked down for a while, then said he was sorry. When Ana-Lucia asked what he had to be sorry for, Michael turned and hot her in the stomach. Fellow castaway Libby then walked in, looking for blankets needed for a picnic with Hurley. She could barely get out a shocked “Michael?” before the newborn traitor shot her twice.

That’s basically how the episode ended. If I’m to believe my eyes and ears, Ana-Lucia is for sure a goner. The preview of the following episode shows a character saying “She’s dead.” If that weren’t enough, TV Guide’s Mike Ausiello put a column online immediately after “Two for the Road” aired on the west coast. It explains that Michelle Rodriguez, who played Ana-Lucia, signed on for the role with the condition that she’d only be on the set for a year or so.

No one as yet is sure what has happened with poor Libby, played by Cynthia Watros. You might remember Watros from supporting work on “Titus” or as the Christa Miller replacement during the last season of “The Drew Carey Show.” She’s an understated actress who I think is better suited to dramatic work than comic stuff, and I think I like her more and more every time I see her. Unfortunately, we viewers know next to nothing about her. While last night’s episode marked the second one to feature the pre-island life of Ana-Lucia, Libby hasn’t had a single flashback episode yet, so we know next to nothing about her. And to lose both Ana-Lucia and Libby — both of whom were introduced earlier this season to the show as survivors of the long-missing tail section of flight 815 — would seriously knock the show’s gender ratio out of whack.

There’s a chunk of gossipy goodness in this possible double homicide that’s especially worth noting. Both Rodriguez and Watros were arrested near the show’s Hawaii set earlier in the year for drunk driving. And though ABC officially denies that Ana-Lucia’s death and Libby’s wounding/possible death have nothing to do with the actresses’ extracurricular activities, it’s hard for the shows me or, apparently, other “Lost” viewers with internet access, to see the act as a stern public service announcement against DUI: do it, and die. Sometime later. By being shot. By the guy who played Mercutio in the Baz Luhrman “Romeo + Juliet.”

Really, whatever keeps people sober behind the wheel, I suppose.

In short, even me, a guy who follows the show very closely and occasionally peeks as spoilers was shocked by this twist. For a show to eliminate a major character like that — not during sweeps and not during a season finale, even — is daring. You assume that being park of the shows central love quadrangle — Ana-Lucia, Sawyer, Jack and Kate — would protect you, but the producers disagreed, much to their credit. I can usually smell a foreshadowed death coming a mile away, but this one left me with my jaw on the floor.

Good on you, people who make “Lost.” You made a TV junkie re-evaluate your whole game plan with the show. You’ve got me on the edge of the seat to see what will happened with the two remaining shows left this season. What’s most impressive: you’ve warranted yourself a post.

Also: In light of the episode’s events, “Two for the Road” is a darkly wonderful title.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Bird That Looks Like Mr. Burns From The Simpsons

The title says it all. The resemblance is striking, isn’t it?

bird that looks like mr. burns 2

Excellent, indeed.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Toilet Paper That God Must Use

The Sydney Opera House wants you to enjoy your visit, and it reminds you of this in many ways. The one that meant the most to me was the dramatic lighting behind the toilet paper.

backlit toilet paper

Because the toilet paper in my bathroom just isn’t striking enough.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Google Says I Need It

A new twist on an old game: Google your name plus the word "needs" in quotes. Here's how I fared.
And a previous Google venture.

I've Been Down So Long (It Looks Like Up to Me)

While stumbling around on iTunes some time back, I found a song called “Some Velvet Morning,” the meaning of which escapes me but the tune of which can take hold in my head for days at a time. It climbed up my most-played list until it reached the very top, where it’s hovered ever since. “Some Velvet Morning” was initially sung by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood back in the 70s. Several different artists have covered it — like Lydia Lunch and Nick Cave or Evan Dando and Sabrina Brooke — but I somehow doubt anyone reading this now would recognize any of the versions of it. Too bad, really: The original is especially good in that neither Sinatra nor Hazlewood has what you’d consider a traditionally good singing voice, so they kind of song-speak their way through the song. It’s odd, but it works.

I’d bet Hazlewood had a hand in writing a lot of the songs he sang with Sinatra. Each has a something quirky about it, like “Big Red Balloon,” which involves a man escaping from his shrewish wife with the titular floatation device, or “Down From Dover,” which explains childbirth with the lyrics “At any time a tiny face will show / The wait is almost over.” (Shudder.) Nothing too weird, though, just a little off.

I make this claim about Hazelwood authorship because Spencer and I recently stumbled across the man’s personal webpage, on which he discusses much of his life. Most prominent among featured bits: an excerpt from his autobiography, The Pope’s Daughter, in which he talks about his relationship with Nancy Sinatra, the child of one of the most powerful figures in the recording industry. I’m almost keen to read the book, based on this passage alone.
What’s it like to work with a Nancy Sinatra? They ask it, and ask it, and when you have answered, they ask it again. And the ‘ahs’ and ‘ers’ come pouring from your mouth like so many miles of frozen string melting from each desperate tug of a left hand filled with warm adjectives. And because you will not free your sinful right hand (so happily engaged in mental masturbation), and swim for shore, you drown in a sea of sometimes kind, seldom clever, never interesting and mostly biased anecdotes.

So perhaps in our little story it is best we stay with feelings, failings and fantasies, shying away from graffitied walls of truth where someone has bothered to engrave it all, just as it happened, but didn’t!

What’s it like to work with a Nancy Sinatra? It’s a visit to Disneyland, only your father owns all the rides. It’s an evening in the medicine cabinet of Edgar Allen Poe’s mother. It’s a trip on Superman’s cape and you are too frightened to look down for fear you’ll discover your real identity. It’s a Sousa march and the phallic cymbals are playing melody. It’s a plastic palace where all that glitters is gold. It’s a Las Vegas stage, sitting on a two-dollar stool in front of a fifty-two-piece orchestra, next to a lady in a five thousand-dollar gown; you’re singing a little flat and wondering if the fly is open on your eight-dollar ‘jeans’. It’s Beauty and the Beast selling a ‘fix’ to the Mickey Mouse People. It’s frustrating, foolish, Falstaffian, freaky, fucked-up and fun.
Easily the best writing I’ve seen in a celebrity autobiography, and you’re hearing it from a guy who spent twenty minutes reading Adrienne Barbeau’s There Are Worse Things I Could Do.

Let Da Vinci Rest in His Tomb, You Monsters

Since I’ve been peddling books for these last six months, I’ve had occasion to examine certain books and videos that I would have never given a second thought to otherwise. For example, I didn’t realize such a genre as Amish fiction existed until a woman asked me where we keep ours. Same with gay Christian fiction, the covers of which imply that the archangel Gabriel has a whole life outside heaven that I don’t remember learning about in school. Whether it’s “The O’Reilly Factor for Kids” or the novelization of “The Incredibles,” there’s just a lot out there that you all are probably overlooking.

Since I’ve been back, however, I’ve noticed a strange genre of books and videos popping onto shelves: namely, the anti-Da Vinci Code genre. People — zealous Catholics and uppity historians, mostly — have been pumping out all manner of media in retaliation to Dan Brown’s book, which most of them regard as an all-out assault on their religion. It’s odd. When I was the opinion editor at the Nexus, I employed a certain columnist, Joey, who wrote political pieces that generally fell on the Israeli side of the Israel-Palestine conflict. And he got letters from very upset readers — and, often, I suspect friends of readers who had never seen a copy of the Daily Nexus — who claimed that Joey’s column offended them as Muslims and made the campus unsafe for them. We ran the letters whenever we could. I noticed that they often contained a very specific vocabulary of words like “attack,” “deception,” “outrage” and words like these. And I can understand why they did — Joey was writing about real events with a certain bias. These pieces were, after all, opinion columns that ran in the campus only daily free newspaper.

I’m reminded of that specific vocabulary again as I read the backs of the books and videos denouncing The Da Vinci Code. These people are treating Brown’s book as if it had deliberately accused all Catholics of a role in a murderous cabal that sought to effectively hide half of Christian history from humanity. They’re forceful and angry. And they’re writing these books in droves. Even a cursory glance at Amazon.com yields scads of these anti-Da Vinci Code books.
And that’s just the first two pages of the search results. I’ll bet they’ll write another as soon as they come up with a new twist on that tile. (My version: The Da Vinci Code is Whack, Yo: Dan Brown Ain’t Got Shit on Jesus.) All these books, all written my people with boring-sounding names, and all up in anger over a work of fiction — a breeze of a read that I finished in a weekend and that I read with the same gravity I’d take to a James Bond movie. I don’t remember this happening when “Sister Act” came out when I was a kid, though I wish it had. (Official Vatican statement regarding the film: “Most nuns are not, in fact, lounge singers on the run from the mob. Most do not know the lyrics to Motown hits and most approach church not with levity and joy but with deadening somberness. Whoopi Goldberg is not and has never been an ordained sister, therefore she, Dame Maggie Smith and Kathy Najimy are charlatans whose ruse cannot fool the watchful eye of the papacy.”)

The big difference between these people and the people who wrote in response to Joey’s columns is that the former group is complaining about something that they should have rightly disregarded. Seriously, The Da Vinci Code never makes any pretense of defaming Catholicism. It just merely sets a rather gripping thriller plot in the context of history, art and religion. It’s a hodge-podge of real and fake, much like any paperback mystery novel would be. Not every writer is Tolkein and not every book builds an entire universe from the ground up. It’s easier to pull together pieces from real life. Dan Brown merely picked the pieces that had to do with a religion that has seen more than its share of bad publicity. Like a lot of the statues in Rome, the outer veneer of the Catholic church is crumbling in light of the series of child molestation accusations made against various diocese throughout the country. What’s more, few people with a hesitant attitude toward the religion were trilled with the selection of Ratzinger to the papacy last year. These are legitimate problems, but ones that lay people can do nothing about. To me, it seems like their only course of action was to rail against Dan Brown, who will probably read these anti-Da Vinci Code books as soon as he’s finished counting all the money he’s made.

Maybe the most interesting facet of this reactive literary movement is that it may, after all, be needed. I know more about Catholicism than the average person. Twelve years of religious education saw to that. For that, I’m glad. However, most people don’t know squat about religion, much less the lesser-known corners of the labyrinthine maze that is Catholicism. Maybe people in their relative ignorance of Christian history do believe what the Da Vinci Code purports. Maybe the idea of Jesus fathering an heir seems as likely as anything else the religion puts forth — or if not as likely, then at least no less implausible. And maybe even the Catholics who know a thing or two are so disillusioned with their faith today that they’d buy the notion that the higher-ups would hide things from them, would manipulate them and would even make decisions that, in the end, do not benefit the general public.

Yes, there’s a host of books and DVDs out there defaming a fictional book as fictional. On a religious level, I think it’s sad, but I suppose I’m okay with the notion that these people are just sniffing out a market and throwing something into it an a genuine capitalist bid for success. People will buy them. People will get a different perspective. And hopefully everyone will learn to read with a more critical eye. People will forget about the sacred feminine and what fluids may or may not have been put in the Holy Grail, whatever or whoever that may have been. And life will continue like normal for Catholics.

The funny part is that the one good thing The Da Vinci Code did for the religion is that, for a few brief moments, it made it exciting and steeped in history and mystery, like how I think it may have been when people first began secretly practicing it in darkened halls and basements. For just a moment, Dan Brown helped make a tired, old religion seem fun.

Now You Feel Weird, Too

So one of my recent Flickr uploads — and one that has mysteriously drawn a lot of traffic — is this one, which depicts one of my feet, one of Kristen’s and one of Dina’s. We’re at the zorbing platform in Rotorua. It’s a pretty sucky picture, and it’s suckily tagged with only the words “feet” and “New Zealand.” Nonetheless, a lot of people have been looking at it since it’s gone up.

Just recently, a Flickr user has picked the photo as one of his favorites. I was curious why and so I looked at his favorites page, to get an idea of what he thought made a good photo.

He has a certain aesthetic preference, all right.